Lesson 11 - 2 Peter 1:12-21 - REMEMBERING THE TRUTH
INTRODUCTION: Last week, in 2 Pet. 1:1-11, we heard the apostle encourage Christians to live godly lives so that they became 'partakers' of God's divine nature who would escape the 'corruption' of this world. He listed eight virtues that began with 'moral excellence' and ended with 'agape love.' He warned that spiritual growth is a choice that doesn't happen automatically or inevitably, but is something that requires strenuous effort on the part of a believer. The failure to add these virtues would result in dead faith. But He assured them that if they did add them, they were certain to receive a well-done when they entered the eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ.
Today, in 2 Pet. 1:12-21, we'll hear Peter address the problem of false teachers who had denied Christ's second coming and accused the apostles of spreading 'cleverly devised fables.' This heresy would remove an important incentive for Christians to live moral and ethical lives. If, as the heretics falsely claimed, that Christ wasn't coming again and there was nothing beyond this life, why would anyone feel led to live the kind of godly life that Christ represented. To refute these claims, Peter called these Christians to remember all the things about God and Christ that they already knew by virtue of truth established in them (vv. 12-15), like the eyewitness testimony of the apostles (vv. 16-18) and the prophetic Word of God about the return of Jesus, which is overwhelmingly confirmed in the Scriptures (vv. 19-21). Instead of refuting the false teacher's claims directly, Peter told his readers to look at the truth of the apostles' witness and the prophetic word about Christ confirmed by OT Scripture. With this, Peter's readers would be able to see the truth for themselves: the false teachers had twisted the meaning of Scripture to fit their own agendas.
Read 2 Pet. 1:12-15 - REMEMBER THE THINGS YOU ALREADY KNOW
12 Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. 13 I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind.
v. 12a: "Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them," - Peter is saying that this isn't new instruction but a reminder of what he has already covered in this second epistle, e.g.: (1) That they have received the "same kind of faith" the apostles received from Jesus Christ (vv. 1-2); (2) that they have the divine "power" God grants to all believers at the point of salvation (vv. 3-4); (3) that they must incorporate all of the eight godly "virtues" into the way they live so that they will become mature Christians who are able to avoid the corruption of the world (vv. 5-7); (4) that believers who fail to add these godly virtues to their life will end up with dead faith, which is "useless" (vv. 8-9) ; and (5) that believers must be diligent to add these things so they (a) will not "stumble" through this life and (b) receive a praiseworthy welcome in the next when they enter the kingdom of God (vv. 10-11).
v. 12b: "and have been established in the truth which is present with you" - The phrase, "established in the truth," reminds readers of all the divine resources they received from God at the point of their salvation: (1) the "power" of God's Spirit; (2) the "revelation" of Scripture containing all of God's "promises"; and (3) the teachings of Christ from the first-person "witness" of His apostles. We only have to look around us today to see how many churches have allowed their members to sink into apostasy and error because they have departed from the truths of divine revelation contained in the Bible. We see from this, that Peter's primary stratagem was not to refute the false teachers but to remind his readers of the spiritual truths they had been taught-to know truth from falsehood.
v. 13a: "I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling," - Peter uses the term "earthly dwelling" as a metaphor for his physical body. Somehow, he believed that his mortal body would separate from his Spirit sometime soon. He was likely in his early 60s by then, maybe older.
v. 13b: "to stir you up by way of reminder," - But as long as he lived, he would continue to "stir" them with reminders. He was 'feeding' the flock to keep them strong. We need this, too-often.
v. 14: knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me." - Jesus had previously revealed to Peter that he would die as a captive in some way (John 21:18-19), and church historians (not the Bible) report that he was crucified in Rome sometime in 67 A.D., not too long after this epistle was written. Tradition suggests that he was crucified upside down, but there's no definite proof of this.
v. 15: "And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind." - This is his chief reason for putting his reminders in the form of a written letter-so that his readers would "be able to call these things to mind" long after he was dead. Because he did this, Peter's letters have been shedding light on the paths of men and women for over nineteen centuries and indeed, will continue until our Savior returns. This and the two preceding verses have special value to us-the modern church-because they show what is important to a man of God who is living in the shadow of death. And we might ask ourselves what we're leaving behind-how will we be remembered? Will people see the revelation of Jesus Christ in our lives? Think about it.
APPLICATION 1: Preachers and teachers of God's Word are duty-bound to remind church members of the basic truths of the Christian faith. They need to be firmly grounded in what is true so they can readily identify what is false. We only have to look around us today to see how many churches have allowed their members to sink into apostasy and error because they have departed from the truths of divine revelation contained in the Bible.
Read 2 Pet. 1:16-18 - EYEWITNESSES OF HIS MAJESTY
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, "This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased"- 18 and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.
v. 16a: "For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" - A "tale" can be a story that, while not historically accurate, still imparts an important truth, like the story of young George Washington and the cherry tree; or it can be a complete fabrication, like Goldilocks and the three bears. The false teachers were accusing the apostles of the second type-of inventing a complete myth about the deity of Jesus.
v. 16b: "but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty." - Eyewitness testimony is the strongest form of evidence of a happening, especially if there were multiple witnesses present whose testimony agrees. The apostles had seen Jesus' power as the anointed Messiah in action and their testimony was based on historical events that they had observed personally. "Majesty" is Jesus' shared nature with God.
v. 17a: "For when He received honor and glory from God the Father," - Here, Peter is testifying to what he, James, and John had seen and heard when they accompanied Jesus to the Mount of the Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-10; and Luke 9:28-36).
v. 17b: "such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, 'This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased'" - They not only observed Jesus when He radiated in all His glory and spoke with Moses and Elijah when they appeared with Him, but heard the audible voice of God from heaven confirm that Jesus is His "beloved Son." In terms of eschatology (future events), the Transfiguration should be seen as a foreshadowing that gives us a preview of Jesus' Second Coming.
v. 18: and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. - This is an important evidentiary conclusion: Here we have the testimony of three qualified witnesses who testified that they (1) all were physically present; (2) all saw the same events reported; and (3) all heard the voice of God speak the same words, all of which was later substantiated and recorded in all three synoptic gospels. Based upon this overwhelming evidence, Peter could confidently 'rest his case' against the spurious claims of the false teachers.
APPLICATION 2: The foundation of our faith rests on the apostolic witness to Jesus Christ. As Peter demonstrates in the preceding three verses, the Transfiguration of Jesus as the Son of God and the anointed Messiah foretold by OT prophecy is a fact conclusively established by the first-person witness of three apostles. I might also mention that this witness was re-confirmed when the resurrected Christ appeared to the eleven disciples in the Upper Room (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36-43; and John 20:19-23), to the eleven disciples on a designated mountain in Galilee (Matt. 28:16-20), and finally to the apostle Paul on the Road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-19).
Read 2 Peter 1:19-21 - WE HAVE THE PROPHETIC WORD
19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
v. 19a: "So we have the prophetic word made more sure," - The meaning of the term "prophetic word" is susceptible to several interpretations, all valid, but the majority view, in the specific context of this verse, is that the prophetic OT Scriptures confirm the witness of the apostles. And the "prophetic word" was "made more sure," in other words, confirmed, by the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ as witnessed by the apostles.
v. 19b: "to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place," - Peter is saying they would be well advised to give attention to the prophetic word, which he likens to a lamp that illuminates the dark places and reveals the falsehoods that could cause them to stumble.
v. 19c: "until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.' - The "day" is the eschatological Day of the Lord, when Jesus returns to establish His earthly kingdom (Rev. 19:1-21). Once this day dawns, the lamp is no longer needed and the Scriptures will be fulfilled. In Rev. 22:16, Jesus says, "I am the root of the offspring of David and the bright morning star." To paraphrase Peter, when Christ returns, He will fully illuminate every Christian heart and all waiting will be ended, over.
v. 20: "But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation," - An often-repeated verse about the divine inspiration of Scripture. The preface "first of all" means this is vitally important. The word used here for "prophecy" (Gk. prophéteia [prof-ay-ti'-ah]) literally means to reveal and communicate the truth of God, which can be extended to comprise all Scripture, both OT and NT. The science of biblical interpretation-hermeneutics-dictates that Scripture must be interpreted with Biblical knowledge guided by the Holy Spirit. There is no validity in any private interpretation of Scripture performed outside of this standard. While there's room for true Bible scholars to disagree, their interpretations are never private. In Peter's scenario, the false teachers had twisted the interpretation of Scriptures to fit their own agendas-heresy.
v. 21: "for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." - The clear standard Peter states here is that Scripture did not originate in the minds of men but in the mind of God. The central truth that Peter establishes is that false teaching springs from the minds of men and women, whereas Biblical truth flows from the heart and mind of the living God. In short, valid prophecy isn't something that human beings can invent.
APPLICATION 3: The foundation of our faith is authenticated by the inspired Word of God. We decisively believe that all Scripture originated in the mind of God, not men. We believe that all the words-from Genesis to Revelation, penned over the ages by the various authors--were verbally inspired by God and guided by His Holy Spirit.
End Note: God inspired and led men to write the very words of the Bible, yet He didn't remove the individuality or style of the various writers. For us, as 21st Century Christians, it is critically important for us to stand firm for the verbal, plenary inspiration of the inerrant Word of God. Verbal inspiration means the words as originally penned by the Bible writers were "God-breathed" (inspired, see 1 Cor. 2:13), in that the words they wrote were given by the Holy Spirit. Plenary means that all of the Bible is equally God-given from Genesis to Revelation. And finally, we believe it is inerrant, by which we mean that the resulting Word of God is completely without error in the original (as opposed to as being paraphrased), not only in doctrine, but in history, science, and chronology.