Today, we are continuing in 2nd Peter chapter 1. If you were here last week, you may remember some of what Peter has just written. In verse 16, he writes this, “For 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.” He’s been emphasizing how the apostles, especially, were there! That his readers should pay attention to them, not to these false teachers coming along claiming to know something different.
And if you remember, he even gives an example of what he saw with his own eyes, and that was the Transfiguration. This incredible recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke—where Peter, James, and John saw Jesus transfigure before their very eyes into the fully glorified and majestic son of God. And in this state, Jesus had a conversation with Elijah and Moses. What an incredible sight it must have been.
And that served as reassurance for those apostles, that not only was this is the true Son of God, but that He would come again in glory at the end of the age. So now, Peter, turns to something his readers can be even more sure of. Yes, the eyewitness testimony involved with the life and ministry of Jesus is unmatched and undeniable, even for readers decades, centuries, even millennia later. But there’s something else that we can find even more reliable than eyewitness testimony.
2nd Peter chapter 1:19-21. That’s our text for this morning. If you’re able, stand with me in honor of the reading of God’s Word.
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, 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.
This is the Word of the Living God. Amen? You may be seated. There are a few reasons we wanted to slow down and focus on only these three verses. One of the reasons is because these verses are infinitely important, perhaps especially in our culture in 2023. But the other reason is because there are a few difficulties in understanding what Peter is getting at. We’ll look at those as we work our way through these verses.
The main point of these verses is found in verse 19. Peter wants his readers to pay attention to the Word of God. He writes, again, “We have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention…” That’s the one exhortation we see. The one thing he wants to convince us of. So, to organize our time this morning, we’ll see four reasons to pay attention to the Word. Let’s start with number one:
- God’s Word is more reliable than our senses and experiences (19).
That’s a pretty good reason to pay attention to the Word of God, yes? But let’s see how we get this from Peter. Verse 19 may seem simple at first glance, but we actually have some difficulty in in the very first part. Peter writes, “And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed.” There is some disagreement among scholars on what Peter is getting at.
He just told them about this incredible sight of the Transfiguration. And so, the question is, is he saying that now, because they’ve seen this firsthand, that we can be that much surer that the prophetic word is true? Or is he saying that now, we have the prophetic word which is even more reliable than an incredible sight like the Transfiguration? Honestly, among all the commentators and language experts I read, the opinions are pretty split.
However, our takeaway from it, is kind-of the same either way! Either it’s because the Transfiguration confirmed their assurance that Jesus is who he said he was, and that the Old Testament points us to Him. In other words, the prophetic word is reliable. Or he’s saying we have something even more sure than the Transfiguration, the prophetic Word. In other words, our takeaway is the same either way: The Word of God is completely reliable.
And even if they were unsure of the prophetic word—maybe they had doubts. This Transfiguration proved to them that the word can be trusted! It was totally true all along. And this is where our takeaway comes from. God’s Word is more reliable than our senses and experiences.
What that means is that what we experience in life can be deceiving. Our experiences can make us think things that aren’t necessarily true. Psychologists for a while now have recognized that human beings almost constantly hide the truth from themselves, in one way or another. What we see with our own eyes– especially in 2023 with everything available at our fingertips through the web—can skew our thinking.
Professor Pieter Botha of the University of South Africa lists the following as examples of the self-deception that all humans are involved in: irrationality, wishful thinking, delusions, imperfect, memory, ignorance, avoidance, hypocrisy, maintenance of self-respect, and false belief. These are things, to one level or another, we all struggle with. This is why we cannot trust our own limited experiences, at least when it comes to ultimate truth. Instead, we have the Word of God.
“And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you would do well to pay attention.” Let me just say this. The more you open your heart and immerse yourself in the Word of God, the more you will see things as they truly are, including yourself. Why? Because this is the most reliable source for truth we have, even over our own limited, one-dimensional experiences. That’s why we must pay attention to the Word. The 2nd reason:
2. God’s Word is the only lamp we have in this dark world (19).
Verse 19, again: “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.” Peter uses this metaphor, the Word of God being a lamp. We see this language used everywhere in the Bible when it comes to the Word. Probably the best known is Psalm 119:105- “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
We’ve already established that God’s word is more reliable than our experiences. So, we know that this is where find truth. This is how we know what to believe. But it’s also more than that. This word answers the question, what are we doing with our lives? Why are we here? How are we to know where to go and what to do, even as children of God, believers in Christ?
We do not simply use our own best judgment. We let the Word give us discernment on what is wise and best. Why? Because it’s the only lamp we have in this dark world. I love that Peter employs this metaphor. We usually make our way down to Galveston each summer, and we try and go crab hunting at night. We don’t really hunt them; we just catch them and let them go. Our kids and nephews and nieces just love it. My sister’s usually the one leading the way—she fancies herself a professional crab-hunter.
Anyway, sometimes we have good flashlights, and sometimes we don’t. But very quickly, the one with the best flashlight is the most popular hunter of the night. Why is that? Because without light you cannot see. You certainly can’t tell if there’s a crab there. And you certainly can’t tell if you’re going in the right direction. This is what God’s Word does for us. This is why it is crucial that we pay attention to the Word.
Obviously, you hear the Word preached every week, and perhaps you’re in a small group that studies it together. But you need the Word like you need light. You need it every day, with every move that you make. Because whether you know it or not, we live in a dark world. There are lies everywhere, temptations everywhere, spiritual warfare everywhere. And without the Word of God, your eschewed thinking will lead you astray. We’re about to get into that.
Do not merely use your own best judgment. Turn on the light of the Word. Pay attention to it like it’s the only light, because it is. And pay attention to it every single day until Christ comes back. That’s what Peter says here. “Until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” That’s a reference to the 2nd coming of Christ. It’s more reliable than our senses, it’s the only lamp we have in a dark world—number 3, Why pay attention to the Word?
3. God’s Word is not skewed by man’s thinking and agenda (20).
Verse 20: “knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.” Funny enough, even though this may seem pretty straightforward, here is where we have another question of what Peter is getting at. I’m not going to get into the language details, but there are two feasible ways to translate this verse. In fact, both of these are probably represented in some of your translations.
Peter could be saying, “No prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation.” That’s one way to translate this. In other words, Peter’s giving a defense against false teachers who are likely saying something to the effect of, “well, the Old Testament is correct, of course, but these apostles are interpreting it incorrectly.” That’s what Peter could be saying.
Or…Peter could be saying, “No prophetic writing is a matter for private interpretation.” That’s another way it could be translated. Do you see the difference? In this case, he’s accusing these false teachers of interpreting the Word to support their own views. Here’s the beauty of these two different translations: the takeaway, once again, doesn’t change. God’s Word is not skewed by man’s thinking and agenda. And we should take this as a warning not to try and skew God’s Word to fit our agendas. Oh, how common this is not only in our culture, but in the church today. Let’s think of some examples.
Matthew 7:1 might be the best-known verse in the Bible today, even over John 3:16. “Judge not, lest you be judged.” Wonderful verse from the sermon on the mount. But how this verse is used today is so warped. Many will say these words from Jesus mean that no one has any right to make any moral claim whatsoever. In other words, we can’t say, “This is bad, sinful, even evil.” No one can say that because that would be judging. This is an example of twisting God’s Word to support our own views.
However, if you paid careful attention to the Word, which is what Peter is telling us to do, you’d figure out pretty quickly that that’s not what Jesus is saying at all! His point in Matthew 7:1-5 is that we are not hypocritical. Let me read verses 3-5: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye. You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Do you see that? Jesus doesn’t say, “Don’t worry about your brother’s sin.” He says, “Make sure you can see clearly, you hypocrite, so that you can actually help him with his sin.” Do you see how easy it is to let our own wishful thinking skew God’s Word? And yet, if we simply pay attention to the Word, we’ll see it exactly for what it is.
There are countless other examples of twisting God’s word to support our own views, instead of letting God speak for himself. Sexuality, gender, manhood and womanhood, the sanctity of human life, the exclusivity of Christ, the creation of the universe. The list could go on and on.
Even in the church, we conveniently leave out particular sins when discussing holiness. When was the last time we talked about gluttony? Homosexuality, sure! What about gluttony? Or greed? We know from earlier in this chapter that God has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness. So, what pet sins have you conveniently overlooked? Is it pornography? Is it drunkenness? Is it laziness? Is it selfish ambition? We must pay attention to the word of God. Why? Because it is not skewed by man’s thinking or agenda.
Listen church, God has spoken. God has spoken. And we better not dare to say, “Well, what he really meant to say was this…or that…” What a dangerous place to find ourselves– putting words in God’s mouth. The warning is explicit in Revelation 22, the last five verses of the Bible- “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” John’s writing about his revelation, but by extension, this certainly applies to all of Scripture. Let God speak for Himself. Do not presume that you know better what he meant to say. Reason number 4 we pay attention to the Word:
4. God’s Word came from God, not mere man (21).
Verse 21 is perhaps the most straightforward explanation we get as to how God’s Word came to be. Let me read verse 21 again: “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.” Here we have a very clear, though perhaps difficult to understand, explanation. How is it that this is God’s Word. And I am applying this to all of Scripture, not just to the Old Testament, though that’s certainly Peter’s emphasis. Why am I applying to all of Scripture? Because the New Testament writers apply it to all of Scripture, and even Peter implies.
Thomas Schreiner puts it like this: “Peter’s argument, then, is that the readers must pay attention to the prophetic word as it is interpreted by the apostles, for the Old Testament prophecies are not a matter of personal interpretation but have been authoritatively interpreted by the apostles.”
So, how is it that God wrote this Word? It’s right there in verse 21: “men spoke from God.” That’s the simplest way to put it. It’s not that these writers went into a trance and God took over their bodies and wrote what He wanted. No, that’s actually called “dictation theory.” That’s not how he did it! He used human beings, with personalities and culture and their own writing styles. “Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
It’s called concursus. You don’t have to remember the word, but it means that both human beings and God were both fully involved in the process of inspiration. B.B. Warfield explains it like this: “Concursus means that both God and human beings contributed to the prophetic word. Ultimately, however, and most significantly, these human words are God’s word.” I think that’s a great explanation of what Peter says in verse 21. These are not merely human words. They are God’s words written by human beings as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Verse 21 is a great one to memorize, especially when friends and family ask the question, “How can you trust a book written by man.” Here’s our answer. And certainly, this is why we must pay close attention to the words written here. More important than reading blogs, or articles, or books about the Bible, is reading the Bible. Going to the primary source. This is how we get to know Christ. This is how we know our purpose in this life. This is how we pursue Godliness. By paying close attention to the Word.
I remember in high school, when I first got my driver’s license, all I wanted to do was drive. So my mom and dad were generous with giving me opportunities to drive, even when we were all together. We took a trip one winter up to Colorado. I don’t remember if we were going skiing or what, but we were making the drive from Iowa Park all the way up to Colorado. And at one point, they let me drive. It was a great opportunity for them to rest, along with my brother and sister. The one thing my dad told me, though, was: pay attention! You have the map; you know where we’re going. Pay attention.
So, I get out on the open road, and just love it. To this day, I love driving. Maybe not as much in Dallas/Fort Worth, but driving a few hours, getting out of the city. I love it! So, I was enjoying it. Looking at all the cows, and the crops, and the hills and mountains. I was enjoying myself, but you all know what I’m about to say. Somewhere along the way, I missed an exit. A while later, my parents wake up and my dad figures out that we’re not where we’re supposed to be. And our little detour, if I remember correctly, ended up adding about 3 hours to our trip.
I denied it. I tried to convince myself that I went the way he told me. That I was on the right path. But the truth of the matter is that I wasn’t paying attention. Listen, we serve a gracious God, amen? He is so gracious. If we belong to Him and we get off track, there’s always a way back. And his arms are always open. But listen: he loves us enough that he wants us to pay attention. Don’t trust your senses, or even your own experiences. Don’t justify yourself and live in a fantasy land. Pay attention to God’s Word. In a dark, dark world, it’s the only lamp we have.