It's True...All of It! (2 Peter 1.16-21)
2nd Peter is a letter that starts with two very important calls to action. The first of these is described in 1.5-8: “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue…”, and several other important attributes that Christians must exhibit. The 2nd call to action is found farther along in chapter one, specifically v.10: “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election…”. In v.12-15 (as was discussed in the previous article) we see Peter’s persistence in his reminding the brethren of these things they are already familiar with.
All of this can cause the reader to begin to question why he/she ought to do these things. Why should I “make every effort”? Why should I be diligent to confirm my calling? Why is Peter so adamant that the brethren be reminded of things they already know? The following passage in 2nd Peter serves to answer all these questions. In short, our efforts, our diligence, and our persistence in reminding one another are all motivated by one central fact: The Gospel we believe in is true.
2 Peter 1.16-21 is one of the most important passages in our scriptures because it describes to us why we can believe the words of those very same scriptures. Why can we believe anything we read in the Bible? This passage serves to give us three very good reasons why this is the case. Before examining these reasons, one must first focus their attention on v.19, which is the real cornerstone of the section in so many ways:
“And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1.19)
In this beautiful passage, we have our third call to action in this epistle: Pay Attention to God’s Word! We must pay attention to God’s word because that word has been “more fully confirmed”, which is a verification of the truth of this prophecy in the strongest terms (how that word is confirmed will be addressed shortly). We must “pay attention” to the word of God in a very special manner: “as to a lamp shining in a dark place”. In other words, we pay attention to God’s word not as a people drawn to one light among many, but as the ONLY light in a world of black darkness. This should call to mind the description of Jesus in John 1.4-5: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Lastly, we must pay attention to God’s word for a specific time: “until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts”. This phrase is perhaps the most beautiful in this verse: pay attention to the “light” of God’s word until the SUNRISE of the arrival of Christ, which will bring us into the eternal reward of Heaven where “They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22.5b).
So how has this “light”, this word been “more fully confirmed”? The verses that surround v.19 serve to cement the reader’s confidence in the things they have read, and as a result the life they are choosing to live as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.
First, verses 16 and 18 of 2 Peter 1 confirms the gospel message by way of eyewitness testimony: “16For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty… 18we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.” In short, the message of the gospel and the subsequent recording of that gospel was not founded on “cleverly devised myths”, but rather on the eyewitness testimony of the apostles themselves. These men were in direct contact with Jesus and seldom left his side unless instructed to do so (cf. Matthew 10). Their accounts would have been the best evidence available in any courtroom setting, and the Holy Spirit through Peter reminds the reader that they were present when such events as Jesus’ baptism and the Transfiguration occurred. (during both of which God declared His pleasure regarding Jesus: cf. Matthew 3.17; Matthew 17.5).
Secondly, the gospel message and the subject of that Gospel message were confirmed by God Himself. Twice during the life of Jesus, the disciples received the rare privilege of witnessing God’s unequivocal approval of Jesus Christ: following His baptism in Matthew 3.17 and during the Transfiguration in Matthew 17.5. Anyone to whom God declares that He is “well pleased” must be heeded, particularly when God the Father directly orders you to “listen to Him”, as is recorded at the end of Matthew 17.5. This level of praise from the Father Himself is hard to describe in any other fashion than Peter does in v.17: “For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased,’” (2 Peter 1.17). We can believe in Jesus, the teachings of Jesus, and the teachings of the men commissioned and sent to preach His message (the apostles) because God directly stated His approval of Jesus on more than one occasion.
Thirdly, verses 20-21 in 2 Peter 1 describe how the Holy Spirit’s role in the delivery of God’s word confirms the veracity of the message: “knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” In this passage, the Holy Spirit through Peter cites a key precedent in the delivery of God’s word: no true prophecy was ever of human origin. In fact, quite the opposite is true when you examine the Old Testament accounts of men delivering God’s message. Consider this sternest of warnings given to the nation of Israel in Deuteronomy 18.20: “But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.” Men that spoke on God’s behalf did not suddenly decide to do so, but rather they were called (and in most cases, rather unexpectedly) to speak God’s message. One of the best examples of this is the calling of the prophet Amos, described in Amos 7.14-15: “Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, ‘I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophecy to my people Israel.’ The fact that the inspired writers of the Bible have not written without being “carried along” by the Holy Spirit confirms the truthfulness of their message, and as a result the faith we have in Jesus based on that message.
Finally, what is the result of trusting in and heeding the words of the divinely-inspired writers? “…to which you will do well to pay attention…” (2 Peter 1.19). In short, we will do well if we pay attention to the things written in these inspired words. Absent from scripture are references to individuals or nations who have done poorly or worse because they decided to hold to God’s word, and nothing has changed for us today. Returning to Deuteronomy 18, we will close by reading God’s instructions concerning a Prophet (who we know as Jesus) who would come one day:
“I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.” (Deuteronomy 18.18-19).
May we strive to pay greater attention to the Light of God’s word. -Kyle Sanders