Trust the Word

Posted: March 21, 2010 in 2 Peter

2 Peter 1:12-21, “Trust the Word”
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Have you ever had someone shake you up in your faith because of something they said? Perhaps watching TV – or even as you’re witnessing to someone, they spout an idea about the Bible that you’ve never heard of before & aren’t able to answer. Pretty soon, you don’t know if what that person is saying is true or if the Bible is true. How do you know what to trust?

At one point in our nation, this may have been a theoretical question, but we’ve passed that point in our culture. Today, skeptics of Christianity abound & eventually you will be faced with some tough choices about the truth of the Scripture. So what do we do & how do we respond? We have to know who & what we can trust – and much of that is based about upon what we know about the ones we are listening to. IOW, what is the quality of the witness? Are they credible on the subject of which they speak? (Who’s more likely telling the complete truth about how something flies: a 5 year old or an aerospace engineer?)

When it comes to the promises of the gospel in Jesus Christ, we have an extremely credible set of witnesses! We can trust it! We have the witness of God the Father – the glory of Jesus – the witness of the apostles – the witness of the Scripture. What more could we ask for?

We pick up with Peter finishing out the previous section…

2 Peter 1:12-21 (NKJV)
12 For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth.

A. For which reason? Remember the context… Peter had just given a call to the Church to continue striving in maturity. Our walk with Jesus begins in faith & continues to build our character until it culminates in love. As we mature in Christ, we find that our call & election (our salvation) is assured – one confirmation that we belong to the Lord Jesus is that we’re growing in our walk with the Lord Jesus. Step by step, we abide in Christ as we continue to mature.

B. By bringing up the need to continue in maturity, Peter wasn’t questioning their salvation – he seemed to think their call & election was sure in that the church was “established in the present truth.” But in the end, the question of their election cannot be determined by Peter; it had to be determined by the people themselves as they examined their heart to see if they were in the faith. But that’s exactly why it was so important to continue to “remind [them] always of these things.” Believers are never to take our salvation for granted.
__a. Sometimes we treat our salvation so very casually & lose sight of what it is we have been granted: the undeserved grace & favor of Almighty God. When you put your faith & trust in the Lord Jesus for forgiveness from sins, you were granted a new spiritual birth – you were privileged to be adopted by God the Father – you were sealed for eternity with the Holy Spirit…words cannot begin to express the privilege you & I received! Don’t take it for granted…
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13 Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, 14 knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me.

A. Peter understands that he is going to die soon & he desires to be a good steward of the time he has left. The Lord Jesus had showed him the manner & approximate timing of his death at the end of the gospel of John (Jn 21:18). Peter is now old & is obviously expecting the death the Lord told him of. Legend has it that Jesus appeared another time to Peter as well. [Foxe’s Book of Martyrs – fleeing from Rome] (JUST a legend; take it with a grain of salt.)

B. BTW – note Peter’s perspective on death: it’s just a relocation – a move. Our bodies are mere tents… When we die we’re just “changing neighborhoods” (per a BDW song). [absent from the body; present with the Lord, 2 Cor 5:8] This ought to give every believer in Christ a glorious hope when it comes to the issue of death! After all, we’re going to be alive in the presence of Jesus!

C. Knowing that life is short, what is Peter doing now? Taking advantage of the time he has. He wants to “stir” up the church. The same word is used of a sea becoming agitated during a storm. Peter didn’t want the Church to become lazy – especially during a time of coming persecution & false teaching. The Church needed to be active & ready for the time to come – and that required continual maturity. Peter was willing to stir them on to that goal.
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15 Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease.

A. Beyond the present, Peter also desires to leave a legacy with the church – one that constantly pointed the Church back to the Lord Jesus & the Scripture…to continue to put their trust & hope in the promises of Christ. … Some scholars believe this is even a specific reference to the writing of the gospel of Mark. The writings of the Church Fathers tell us that Mark was a disciple of Peter, and that the gospel of Mark was a recording of Peter’s eyewitness accounts of Jesus – perhaps the book is the physical “reminder of these things” to which Peter was referring. Whatever the case – Peter left a tremendous legacy for the Church to find.

B. What do you want your legacy to be? Hopefully, every one will be included in the rapture (along with everyone who has faith in Christ & is alive when He calls), and the likelihood of that happening gets greater with every day that goes by. But if you do die 1st, what will your legacy be to your family – your friends – your unsaved loved ones? What will they say about your life? What would people say your 1st priority was & what you most wanted people to know? That’s your legacy. As a Christian, is your legacy pointing to Christ?
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16 For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.

A. Now Peter gets down to some of the meat of this letter. There were false teachers creeping into the church that brought in all sorts of wrong doctrine & deceptions (as we’ll see in Ch 2), but what Peter & the other apostles taught was not false; it was true! Their gospel accounts were not “cunningly devised fables” or myths or superstitions or old-wives’-tales or made-up legends about Jesus; they are “eyewitness” testimonies. The apostles saw these things come to pass, and the Bible is the written account of what they saw…it is the honest truth of what happened.

B. This is a common tactic of those trying to “disprove” Christianity (and apparently has been around since the founding of the Church!). In an attempt to discredit it, people will say, “You can’t really trust the New Testament – the letters there were written hundreds of years after the events took place. And all they write about anyway are just fairy tales that grew about Jesus over time…the Bible simply isn’t trustworthy on this stuff.” To put it mildly, the critics who claim this couldn’t be more wrong and willfully ignorant of the facts. Historical data supports the authenticity of the New Testament more than any other book in antiquity.
__a. Were the books written late over time? Not at all…the latest book in the NT is likely the book of Revelation, and that was still written in 95-96AD. The bulk of the NT started to be written in the early-mid 50’s…the gospel of Mark was written somewhere between 53-55AD…barely 20 years after the resurrection of Christ. Paul even gave an account in 1 Cor 15:3-7 of what he was taught regarding Christ – and his conversion happened within 2 years of the Cross. This isn’t “late” by any stretch of the imagination!
__b. Were the NT books embellished to try to make a legend out of Jesus? Absolutely not; there’s zero evidence for this at all. 1st of all, the books were written so early, there wasn’t time for a legend to develop. If lies were being told about Jesus & the resurrection, there would have still have been plenty of people who were alive at the time to dispute the account. 2nd, the books of the NT are so honest, that no one at the time would have seen it to be an embellishment. (Women were the 1st witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection – the disciples were painfully honest about their own failings, etc) 3rd, if it were all a lie, then almost all of the apostles would have been died for a lie knowing it was a lie. And that simply goes beyond credibility. …
__c. The Bible is true! Everything the Bible says about Jesus (or anything else for that matter) is absolutely trustworthy…which says a lot about the gospel. If the Bible is true, then Jesus really did go to the cross – He really did rise from the grave – He really did ascend to heaven – He really is God in the flesh – and He really does offer forgiveness to all those who repent from their sin & trust in Him… You can bank your eternity upon it!

C. What was it Peter & the other apostles made known to the Church?
__a. Jesus’ power: shown throughout His ministry through His miracles, but once and for all demonstrated through His resurrection. Jesus was raised from the dead with power, which is the declaration that He is indeed the Son of God.
__b. Jesus’ coming: the assurance that not only did Jesus come once as a suffering servant, He’ll be coming again as the King of Kings.
__c. Jesus’ majesty: the glory of Christ at the transfiguration
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17 For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 18 And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.

A. Referring to the Transfiguration here… [BIBLE: Matt 17:1-8]

B. What makes the Transfiguration so important? Many things – specifically here, Peter shows this was an act of testimony by God the Father. I.e. God the Father was witnessing to the ministry & authority of God the Son. [] What better witness could someone ask for? When people go to court, sometimes they are asked for character references. The more credible the reference, the better the testimony. Christ Jesus received a character reference from Almighty Creator God – Yahweh Himself!
__a. BTW – this is a great display of the Trinity. There are two extremes cults go to in their mistakes about the Trinity: (1) To deny Jesus’ divinity at all & make Him less than fully God, and (2) to claim that there’s only one God that appears in one of three different manifestations or forms at any given point in time (Sabellianism/modalism). Peter addressed the 1st heresy in Ch 1:1 when he declared Jesus to be God (“the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ”); Peter addresses the 2nd heresy here in vss 17-18. There was most definitely a voice that spoke to Jesus on the mountain (and at His baptism – and prior to His crucifixion per John 12:28)…who spoke to Jesus? God the Father. It’s not that Jesus was talking to Himself or throwing His voice – God the Father spoke to God the Son, thus demonstrating 2 of the 3 Persons of the Triune Godhead. Though the Bible doesn’t use the word “Trinity,” it clearly shows that we worship one God, eternally revealed in three Persons: Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

C. This is also an act of testimony upon Jesus Himself. Not only did His Father confirm Him, Jesus received “honor and glory.” They saw Jesus personally glorified by God the Father. When Jesus was clothed in shining white, it wasn’t just a change of clothing; it was a preview of Jesus in His glorified state – how Jesus appears right now at the throne of God & how He will appear throughout eternity. Just prior to the Transfiguration, Jesus had told the disciples that some would not taste death until seeing the kingdom – this had a direct fulfillment when Peter, James, and John saw Jesus with Moses & Elijah on the mountain. That’s exactly what Jesus will be like in the millennial kingdom in fulfillment of the law & the prophets. The point? The very act of the transfigured glory of Christ is yet another powerful witness to the truth of the gospel & goes straight to the heart of what Peter is passing on to the Church.
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19 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts;

A. In all of this, we have confirmation of the gospel – the “prophetic word [is] confirmed”! There are over 300 prophecies that specifically spoke of the 1st coming of Christ, and every one of them were fulfilled to a “T”. The witness of the Scripture concerning the Savior has been firmly established! Hebrew tradition & law called for every matter to be established by a minimum of two witnesses. Someone might be accused of murder, but before he was put to death, two witnesses had to be brought against him (Dt 19:15) – which is one reason the Pharisees & Sadducees had trouble bringing a charge against Jesus; they couldn’t find two witnesses to agree (Mk 14:56). The gospel has far more than two witnesses:
__a. God the Father: in proclaiming Jesus to be His Son & telling all those who heard to listen to Him.
__b. Jesus Christ: in receiving glory. He didn’t just proclaim the truth that He is the Messiah; He showed it by being glorified in His transfiguration & rising from the dead after His crucifixion.
__c. The Scripture itself: Prophecy after prophecy points toward Christ Jesus as being the very Son of God & the One in whom we can trust for forgiveness of sin. Every book from Genesis to Revelation proclaims the same message & gives witness to Jesus Christ.
__d. The testimony of the apostles. Only 2 witnesses were needed per Jewish law; there were 12 apostles & over 500 eyewitnesses of the risen Christ.
__e. This is a sure confirmation!

B. Because the word is confirmed, we ought to “heed” it – pay attention to it – take it to heart. Every word of prophecy that was supposed to come true of Jesus Christ HAS come true. Every prophecy that is yet to come true WILL come true. We can trust it & hold to it. As a result it is “a light that shines in a dark place.” The prophecies concerning the rapture and 2nd coming of Christ ought to give us glorious hope for the future.

C. How long do we heed the word? As long as it takes – “until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” Basically saying, “until Jesus comes back!” Never stop heeding the word – never stop trusting the prophecy of the Scripture – never stop holding fast to Christ Jesus. As we look with expectation for the coming of the Lord & His calling the church home through the rapture, we are to continually heed the word of God & we can have full assurance of the blessed hope it provides through prophecy. After all, prophecy was confirmed once through Jesus’ 1st coming, crucifixion, & resurrection; we can be assured that the prophecy will be confirmed again when our Lord calls us home.
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20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

A. One of the testimonies of the gospel is the word of God; is it trustworthy? You bet. It is the prophecy of God Himself. The Bible has it’s origins in none other than Almighty God.

B. This answers a third objection many critics bring about the Scriptures: “You can’t trust the Bible; it was written by a bunch of imperfect men.” Did men pick up pens to write the Scripture? Of course. But the words that were put down on the paper didn’t belong to them; they were “moved by the Holy Spirit.” This goes to the heart of inspiration – the very word means “God-breathed.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (16) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, (17) that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. [] The Spirit of God breathed His word into the men of His choosing, and they wrote the words God fully intended them to write, while keeping their own voice at the same time. They were “moved” or “carried along” by the Spirit in the writing of the Scripture. Thus the Bible is compiled by men, and given to men, but it is the very word, mind, and heart of God.

C. In addition, because Scripture came from the mind & heart of God, the interpretation & meaning of the Scripture belongs to God. Thus Peter says, “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation.” Many well-meaning Bible teachers will often say, “What did the Scripture mean to you?” That’s not really important. Don’t misunderstand me – it’s vitally important to understand how the Scripture applies to us. It’s also vitally important to understand what the Spirit might be saying to us individually as we read the Word. But when it comes to basic, straight-forward interpretation of the Bible, it doesn’t matter a hill of beans what the Scripture means to you, me, or anyone else individually. The real question is: what does the Scripture mean to God? I.e. What did GOD intend for the Scripture to say? …
__a. Three basic stages of Bible study: Observation – Interpretation – Application. Application always comes last! Otherwise, we’re imposing our application upon the interpretation, and our interpretation might end up wrong as a result.

D. So if no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, what does that do to the doctrine of “sola Scriptura” (Scripture being our final authority)? According to Roman Catholics & Eastern Orthodox, they would claim that this verse disproves sola Scriptura because every Protestant denomination individually interprets Scripture for themselves rather than relying upon ancient tradition. On the contrary, 2 Peter 1:20 affirms sola Scriptura! The Bible IS the final authority; not what man or tradition has to say about the Bible. “Private interpretation” here does not meant that individuals can’t interpret the Bible, and only the “official” Church council can; it simply means that human beings cannot make the Scripture mean whatever we want it to mean because the Bible didn’t come from human beings. The Scripture’s interpretation belongs to God alone because it originated from God alone…thus we continually go back to the Word to correct any misunderstandings we have. [] When there’s a conflict between 2 groups’ interpretation of any particular Scripture, the problem isn’t with the Scripture; it’s with the interpretation…and the Bible is the final authority by which to solve the problem.
__a. We’ve seen this throughout history – particularly in the period of the Reformation. When papal abuses had slowly crept into Christianity & the official church was teaching heretical practices like indulgences & worship of Mary & transubstantiation, then people like Jan Huss, Martin Luther & others were able to go back to the Word of God as the final authority & free people from that kind of deception. Once the Bible was translated into the language of the people & people could read the Bible for themselves, they were able to see all the “private interpretation” that had crept into the Church over the centuries – and then get back to a basic & true faith in the Lord Jesus.

E. Are you relying upon the word of God? What you hold in your hands is not some ordinary book. It is not some mere compilation of ancient writings. It is the word of Almighty God Himself!

Conclusion:
On the eve of Peter’s death, he wanted to ensure that at least two things were perfectly clear to the Church: the gospel of Jesus Christ is absolutely true & thus absolutely trustworthy!

A. It’s true: It is attested to by God the Father – by God the Son – by the prophecies & rest of Scripture – by the eyewitness testimony of the apostles…

B. It’s trustworthy: Because the gospel is so well attested, it gives us hope for our present salvation & hope for our future glory with Christ. There is nothing that can take the place of it – we are to hold fast in Christ no matter what critics & false teachers might say.

There are many who would say otherwise today. Some try to cast doubt on Jesus Himself (“What? You actually believe someone can rise from the dead?!”). Others cast doubt on Jesus’ promises (“It’s been 2000 years already – if Jesus were to come back, He would have done it by now.”) Others just try to discredit the Bible altogether. What Peter would tell us today is simple: what’s new? False teachers have been doing the same thing since the foundation of the church. They were wrong then, and they are wrong now. Our faith in Christ Jesus is not based upon legend or wishful thinking; it’s based upon solid historical fact. We have testimony after testimony – witness after witness showing that the gospel of Jesus Christ is absolutely the truth.

Christian, this ought to give us a sure foundation! There will be times in your walk with Christ (as you mature in Him) that you “feel” closer to Him – and other times you “feel” more distant. Praise the Lord that your faith is not based upon feelings. You are not saved from sin because you “feel” like you are saved; you have been granted eternal life because of the fact of what Jesus did for you at the cross & in the resurrection. So when you do feel further from the Lord, certainly use that as a prompting to seek His face – but be assured that if you are indeed in the faith, that your faith is based upon solid fact. We can rest upon that assurance with our hope entirely in Christ.

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Comments
  1. Ephrem Hagos says:

    Although omitted in the post, 2 Pet. 1: 12-21 is actually specifying what makes the Word trustworthy, viz.: the valid and reliable witness of the works of Jesus making known, on demand, his mighty coming, his greatness, honour and glory for personal viewing in his perfect and transfigurative death on the cross!

    I confirm that such prospect is real and sustainable!

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