STUDY SIXTEEN: 2PETER 1:12-21

© Rosemary Bardsley 2018

In 2Peter 1:12-21 Peter affirms the integrity and authority of the Bible in several ways. As we will see when we move into chapter 2, deceitful and destructive false teachers had infiltrated the church. They were a serious threat to Peter’s readers. So here in these ten verses, before speaking about the false teachers, Peter addresses the reliability of the true message. [Note: The presence of the false teachers and their corrupt morals is also the reason that Peter began his letter as he did with his strong encouragement to them to demonstrate the integrity of their faith by an eagerness to add various moral qualities to that faith.]

In verse 12 he states that:

He will always remind his readers of the truth.
His readers already know the truth.
His readers are already established in the truth.

In verse 13-14 he says:

He believes it is right to refresh their memory.
He knows that he does not have long to live.

So, as he says in verse 15:

He wants to make every effort to make sure they will always be able to remember the truth, even after he dies.

To Peter, our minds are extremely important. Several times in chapter 1 he has mentioned our knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ, and has exhorted us to add ‘knowledge’ to our faith. And now he says he is anxious to remind his readers of the truth, to refresh their memory of the truth, so that they will always remember the truth. It is not enough just to flippantly say ‘I believe’; faith has no significance if we are believing a lie. In fact, to believe a lie is worse than useless. It stops us from knowing and believing the truth. What we believe is just as important as that we believe.

A. PETER'S CONFIDENCE IN THE SCRIPTURES

Peter in his first letter has already made his confidence in the Old Testament quite clear.

Re-read 1Peter. Make a list of everything he says that displays his confidence in the Old Testament.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now read 2Peter 3:15-16. How does Peter affirm the apostle Paul’s writing as authoritative scripture?

 

 

Peter does not see the apostolic message as a contradiction of the Old Testament, but rather as a confirmation of the Old Testament, and as the reality towards which the Old Testament directs us. Nor does the New Testament fulfilment of the Old Testament render the Old Testament obsolete or redundant. While both its micro and its macro predictions are fulfilled, and therefore reach their goal, in Christ and his Gospel, its moral standards are not at all diminished be the arrival of the New Testament. If anything, its moral standards are intensified by the arrival of the fuller and more precise knowledge of God that we have in Jesus Christ.

Read 2Peter 3:1,2. How does Peter hold together the message of the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles?

 

 

 

 

B. THE FIRST ASSURANCE – 2Peter 1:16-18

Peter assures his readers, and us, that the message he and the other apostles preached is the truth.

Read 1:16-18. List all the things Peter says to affirm the truth of the Gospel.

 

 

 

Peter assures his readers that he and the other apostles did not make up the message they taught. It was not ‘cunningly made up stories’. It was the truth about the power and the coming of Jesus Christ. The apostles were, in fact, eye-witnesses. Not only did Peter, along with the other apostles, witness all of Jesus’ miracles, listen to all of his teaching, and witness his death and resurrection. Peter, along with James and John, personally witnessed the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration. They personally heard the voice of God affirming the identity of Jesus as his Son.

Read the report of this in the Gospels. What do you learn about Jesus from these reports?
Matthew 17:1-13

 

Mark 9:2-13

 

Luke 9:28-36

 

Read these verses. How did the apostle John express this same eye-witness certainty?
John 1:14

 

1John 1:1-3

 

 

C. THE SECOND ASSURANCE – 2Peter 1:19-21

Peter’s second confirmation relates to the Old Testament scriptures.

Read verses 19-21. How does Peter confirm the integrity of the Old Testament scriptures?

 

 

 

 

 

Peter makes several points:

The Old Testament scriptures, which Peter here refers to as ‘the word of the prophets’, are ‘made more certain’. That is, the events that have occurred in the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Christ, and in the establishment of the church, have vindicated the already certain Old Testament scriptures.

They were a ‘light shining in a dark place’, pending the arrival of Jesus Christ (the light of the world) and his gospel. They are worthy of our attention.

They were not the result of human thinking: the prophets did not work them out for themselves.

Rather, those men through whom the Old Testament was written were motivated and empowered by God the Holy Spirit. [The word translated ‘carried along’ is the word used to refer to the wind filling the sails of a ship and thus empowering it and moving it.] Without the wind, sails are useless. Without the Holy Spirit, the human writers of the Old Testament were nothing. They spoke from God and empowered and moved by God.

BB Warfield comments on 1:21 – ‘men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit’:

‘The term here used is a very specific one. It is not to be confounded with guiding, or directing, or controlling, or even leading in the full sense of that word. It goes beyond all such terms, in assigning the effect produced specifically to the active agent. What is “borne” is taken up by the “bearer”, and conveyed to the “bearer’s” goal, not its own. The men who spoke from God are here declared, therefore, to have been taken up by the Holy Spirit and brought by His power to the goal of His choosing. The things they spoke under this operation of the Spirit were therefore His things, not theirs.’ [The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, p137, BB Warfield, 1970, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company].

Peter has thus confirmed both the New Testament (the eye-witness of the apostles) and the Old Testament (written as the Holy Spirit empowered and moved the prophets).

 

D. THE AUTHORITY OF THE BIBLE TODAY

Peter has grounded the integrity and authority of the Bible in (1) the fact that the apostles were eye-witnesses of the Christ event, and (2) the fact that the Old Testament writers spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

Read 2Timothy 3:16. What did Paul teach about the nature of ‘all scripture’?

 

 

Paul teaches that all scripture is ‘God-breathed’. The Greek word is theopneustos. This word used to be translated ‘inspired’, but this English word gives a wrong impression. It infers that God breathed into either the scriptures or into their writers. But the word is not about God breathing into something, but God breathing something. In other words, God breathed out the scriptures. As Peter states in 1:20 they originated not in humans, but in God.

This raises an important question:

What about the different translations of the Bible today? Are they ‘inspired’ (breathed out) by God?

What Peter and Paul were affirming in their statements about the divine origin of the Scripture and the divine moving of its writers referred to the original writings and their original writers. It was those men who were empowered by the Spirit of God to speak the word of God, and it is what they wrote that was breathed out by God.

BB Warfield explains it this way:

‘The Greek term has, however, nothing to say of inspiring or of inspiration: it speaks only of a “spiring” or “spiration.” What it says of Scripture is, not that it is “breathed into by God” or is the product f the Divine “inbreathing” into its human authors, but that it is breathed out by God, “God-breathed”, the product of the creative breath of God. In a word, what is declared by this fundamental passage (2Timothy 3:16) is simply that the Scriptures are a Divine product, without any indication of how God has operated in producing them. No term could have been chosen, however, which would have more emphatically asserted the Divine production of Scripture than that which is here employed. The “breath of God” is in Scripture just the symbol of His almighty power, the bearer of His creative word. “By the word of Jehovah,” we read in the significant parallel of Psalm 33:6, “were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” And it is particularly where the operations of God are energetic that this term ... is employed to designate them – God’s breath is the irresistible outflow of His power. When Paul declares, then, that “every scripture,” is the product of the Divine breath, “is God-breathed”, he asserts with as much energy as he could employ that Scripture is the product of a specifically Divine operation.” [ibid p133.]

What we have today are translations of copies of copies of copies of copies (etc, etc). The question is: Are these translations of copies of copies breathed out by God in the same way that, for example, Isaiah’s original Hebrew manuscript was? And are the translators today controlled by God in the same way that Isaiah was?

And we have to answer. No. Not in the same way.

Isaiah, for example, was so taken up and moved along by the Holy Spirit that what he spoke from God and what he wrote was breathed out by God. The numerous people who copied his original, and copied those copies, and so on through the centuries, and the translators who translated those copies into other languages, were not borne along and empowered as Isaiah was.

What we can say is that:

[1] God has preserved the integrity and the truth of his word through all the years since Isaiah first wrote it. This preservation of the word of God is affirmed or assumed throughout the Bible. The passing of time and the on-going copying of the texts does not diminish or compromise the word itself.

Think about these texts. What do they say that affirms or assumes the preservation and permanence of the word of God?
Deuteronomy 29:29

Psalm 119:89,91

Psalm 119:160

Isaiah 40:6-8

Matthew 24:35

2Timothy 2:17-19

1Peter 1:25

[2] God’s words possess a powerful living and life-giving quality that transcends any supposed weakness due to the involvement of human agents in its copying, translation and proclamation.

Check these text about the intrinsic, dynamic power of the word of God.
Psalm 33:6

Matthew 4:4

John 6:63

John 6:68

John 17:17

Romans 1:15-17

1Corinthians 1:18-24

Philippians 2:16

1Thessalonians 2:13

Hebrews 4:12

James 1:18

[3] God’s word has this intrinsic permanence and power because God’s word and God himself cannot be separated. What God is, his word is.

Check these texts. How do they express this identity between God and his word?
Psalm 33:4 [remember that in Hebrew poetry, both lines express the same truth]

John 1:1-4

John 1:14
John 5:45-47

1John 1:1,2

Revelation 1:16

Revelation 19:13,15,21

[4] Because of the three above truths, we need to be careful that we do not trivialize or diminish the word of God by thinking it is dependent on the carefulness of the copyists or the accuracy or bias of the translators. The word of God prevails regardless of such human errors. The word of God is far greater and stronger than to be so jeopardized.

But just as we are forbidden to blaspheme God, and commanded to hold him in honour and respect, even so we, the humans, are obligated by the divine nature of the word of God, to hold it also in honour and respect. To fail to do so is to our detriment, never to the detriment of the word.

Check these texts. What do they command or expect about our attitude and use of the word of God?

2Corinthians 4:1-2

Galatians 1:6-9

2Timothy 1:13,14

2Timothy 2:14-16

 

Practical advice
Within these boundaries about our attitude to the Bible we can identify some practical advice in relation to the many translations that are available to some of us:


[1] Make sure your Bible is a translation, not a paraphrase.

[2] Make sure your Bible is a translation, not an individual’s personal attempt to simply rewrite the Bible in his own contemporary language.

[3] Choose a translation that is the work of a team, rather than an individual. This way it is less likely for individual bias to affect the translation.

[4] Choose a translation that is not directly connected to a specific denomination. This way it is less likely to be coloured by denominational bias.

[5] Choose a translation that has had access to the oldest Greek and Hebrew manuscripts available. These are closer to the original and therefore more likely to contain fewer copying errors.

[6] When studying a verse or passage of the Bible which is hard to understand, or about which there seems to be some disagreement, compare a number of different translations, if you have them.

[7] Be aware that ‘study bibles’ contain ‘study notes’ on almost every page. These are not part of God’s word. They are an attempt by one or more humans to explain or interpret the meaning of a verse or passage. They are affected by the denominational and theological perspective of the writer.

[8] Check the footnotes in your Bible – these are very brief notes that indicate if there is an alternate correct translation for the verse, or if some of the ancient manuscripts differ. [I do not mean ‘study notes’ mentioned in the previous point.]

[9] If you are able, read how Christians who have studied the Greek and Hebrew text explain the word or the texts in question.

[10] Trust the Spirit of God to take the Word of God about the Son of God to teach you, who by his regenerating power are a child of God.