The Bible is one of the most controversial books ever written. There are all sorts of opinions about what the Bible is. Is it trustworthy? Should we follow what it says? Is it just a bunch of stories that did not really happen? Is it just a made up book? Is the Bible the word of God or is it just the words of people? Is Jesus really coming back for a second time? Is that just a made up story or will there be a second coming? We turn our attention to the apostle Peter who addresses these questions and more.
12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. (ESV)
Peter says he is writing to remind his audience about these qualities of virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. We learned earlier that if we have these qualities and are increasing, we will never fall and we will have entrance into the kingdom of God abundantly provided. We will not be found ineffective or unfruitful. However, if we are not increasing in these qualities, Peter said that we are nearsighted to the point of being blind because we have forgotten the sacrifice of Jesus. So Peter is writing to remind us of these qualities so that we will are established in the truth that we have.
Peter has warned against complacency three times concerning these spiritual truths. We need to be regularly reminded about our spiritual intensity and the need to make every effort and increase in our faith. Peter’s admonition teaches us that we need reminders. We need shepherds to remind us of what we need to do. We need evangelists to teach us how to improve and grow. We need our fellow Christians who see our lives and remind us of how to act godly and righteously.
Peter says that he is reminding them in this way so that they will be able to continue to be reminded even after he is dead. Peter knew he was about to die. He says that our Lord Jesus Christ made it clear to him that this was the case. This could be referring to special revelation, that Jesus showed him in a vision or in words that his time of death had now arrived. We read about the Holy Spirit doing similar things in the book of Acts, revealing the future through prophets or through direct visions and messages. But Peter may also be referring to the words that Jesus spoke to Peter while Jesus was on the earth before his death. Recall what Jesus told Peter,
18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:18-19; ESV)
I have the tendency to think that this is what Peter is talking about. Jesus told Peter that there would be a time where he would be taken where he does not want to go. When that happened, it would signify that his death was impending. Peter may be under arrest or imprisoned in Rome and so he knows that his time is short.
Peter writes this letter so that they would be able to consult and revisit his teachings. We see why God’s words are written down for us. The purpose is that we would go back to these words and learn more. The intent is that we would remind ourselves about what we need to do. The apostles were not going to live forever, yet they were receiving the very words of God through the Holy Spirit. They wrote those words of God down so that they would not be lost, but that we could recall these things at any time.
16 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. 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,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, 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, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 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. (ESV)
Peter now wants to ensure that his audience remembers these things about the word of God that the apostles received.
Did not follow cleverly devised myths. First, Peter says these are not stories that they chased. They were not gullible. They did not hear a cleverly devised story and believe it. People are still making this charge today. How can we know that these things are not stories? How can we know that this is all just a cleverly devised myth from the hearts people because they need religion? Peter says that they were eyewitnesses. One of the most valuable pieces of evidence is to have an eyewitness. We see it on the news all the time. “Tell us what you saw.” Based upon what they saw, we have proof of the event. The event that he says should seal the deal for us is the transfiguration. Peter says that he was there and he saw when Jesus received glory and honor from God the Father. They heard the voice from heaven that Jesus is the beloved Son when they were on the mountain. The transfiguration is recorded for us in Matthew 17:1-8.
We saw who we was! We heard the voice! We saw the majesty, glory, and honor placed upon Jesus. This is your proof that you are not following cleverly devised myths. They were eyewitnesses.
Now carefully look at the text — what is the myth that these false teachers are trying to foil upon these Christians? It is found in verse 16, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ….” Now catch this, Peter is not talking about the first coming of Jesus but the second coming of Jesus. The word translated “coming” is parousia which is always used in the New Testament to describe the second coming of Jesus or the coming of Jesus in judgment. It is not used to describe the first coming of Jesus to the earth. The question is not about doubting the first coming of Jesus, but doubting the second coming of Jesus. Peter is saying that they are not following some cleverly made up story about Jesus coming for a second time. The proof that he is coming back, in the mind of Peter, is the transfiguration. The reality of the hope of the second coming of Jesus is the issue. They beheld the glory and honor of Jesus on the mountain and they heard the voice from heaven that Jesus is the beloved Son of God. Verse 17 says that Jesus received glory and honor on the mountain. This is evidence that he will return in glory and honor. The transfiguration is a view into the future coming of Jesus with power and glory.
The second coming of Jesus is not a cleverly made up story to try to get people to do what is right. It is a reality. Peter says we are eyewitnesses of his majesty and Jesus is going to return. The angels made the very same assertion in Acts 1:11,
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)
The prophetic word of God.Not only this, but we have the prophetic word of God, that is the Scriptures, which gives us confidence in the powerful coming of our Lord. We have the scriptures to which we must pay attention. Do not neglect to pay serious attention to the scriptures. The scriptures are like a lamp shining in a dark place until Jesus comes. The scriptures are your guide. The scriptures will fill your hearts with hope, faith, and confidence in the coming of Jesus. Oprah is not a light in this dark place. True spiritual wisdom is not found in her or her spiritual advisors. Self-help books and other religions are not the lamp that will give you light in this world. Nor are other writings like the Quran the light in the dark place. Peter said it is the writing of the apostles that were to act as a reminder for them. It is the words of the apostles which came from God through the Holy Spirit that are a lamp in the darkness of this world and a lamp for our lives.
But why can we trust the scriptures? How can we know that these are the very words of God that we need to follow? How do we know that this whole book is not made up stories and myths?
No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.The Catholic church distorts this verse to mean that you cannot understand the scriptures for yourself. Instead, the church must interpret the scriptures for you. But the context says nothing to that effect. There is nothing in this text about the church. Further, the interpretation of the Scriptures is not Peter’s message, nor is found in the context. Peter is not talking about how one understands the scriptures or interprets the scriptures. Peter is not talking about any person’s interpretation. Rather, he is talking about the one who is giving the prophecy. The prophet who speaks is not speaking his own interpretation of God’s words. Other translations reflect this meaning appropriately.
Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding… (NLT).
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. (TNIV)
Above all, you do well if you recognize this: No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination. (NET)
Peter is not remotely saying that you cannot understand the scriptures for yourself and you need the church to tell you what to believe. The church is not mentioned in this text and the context has nothing to do with how the readers interpret scriptures. Peter is saying that the writers of scripture did not write their own interpretation. They did not give their personal understanding of the scriptures. No scriptural prophecy ever came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of the prophetic phenomena that he received. No prophecy and no scripture is their own words, but God’s words.
For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man.Further, Peter is saying that they did not make these words up. They did not conjure within their minds and hearts what words to say. No prophecy and no scripture came from human initiative. No prophecy and no scripture came about by an act of human will. It was not the apostles or prophet’s decision to determine what God’s words would be or when God’s words would be given. A great example of this is Balaam. Balak, the king of Moab, wants Balaam to pronounce prophetic curses on Israel. Instead of curses coming out of the mouth of Balaam, three times blessings come out. Barak is enraged with Balaam. Consider Balaam’s response,
And Balaam said to Balak, “Did I not tell your messengers whom you sent to me, ‘If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the LORD, to do either good or bad of my own will. What the LORD speaks, that will I speak’? (Numbers 24:12-13)
Balaam says that all he can do is speak the words of the Lord. These are not Balaam’s words, but the words of God. This is the point that Peter is making. It was not the prophet’s words, but the words of God. It was not the prophet’s understanding or interpretation, but the very words of God. This is the final point that Peter ends with on this subject.
But men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.The prophetic words and the scriptures are the work of the Holy Spirit, not people. People did not come up with the words that we have in our scriptures. People spoke from God. They were carried by the Holy Spirit, not their own will or desire. It is difficult to put into English, but the word “produced” (ESV) and the words “carried along” (ESV) are the same Greek word phero. Therefore, no prophecy was carried out by human will, but humans were carried along by the Holy Spirit. Humans did not produce the words. The Holy Spirit produced the words in the humans.
In summary, Peter says that they did not follow cleverly devised myths. The prophetic word does not come from the speaker’s own interpretation or understanding. Further, they did not make up or create from their own will these words. Rather, they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
False teachers were saying that the second coming was just a myth, a made up story. Peter says they are eyewitnesses of Jesus’ majesty and glory which proves his coming in glory a second time. Further, we have the scriptures, which are not words interpreted by the writers nor made up by the writers. Rather, these words are the very words of God, as the Holy Spirit put the words into their mouths. They wrote those words down so that we have the very words of God preserved for us today.