Reading Sermon by Rev. Ronald Hanko
A MORE SURE WORD OF PROPHECY
Text: II Peter 1:19-21
Scripture Reading: II Peter 1
Psalter Numbers: 368, 215, 322, 334
In II Peter 1:16-18, the verses that immediately precede our text, Peter is talking about Jesus transfiguration. The holy mount referred to in verse 18 is the Mount of Transfiguration, and the honor and glory referred to in verse 17 is the change in Jesus appearance that took place on the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter reminds us that he was an eyewitness of the transfiguration along with James and John. We were with Him, Peter says, in the holy mount. We were eyewitnesses of His majesty.
Have you ever thought about what it would have been like to have been there at the transfiguration with those three disciples, or even to have seen Jesus and walked with Him during the days of His earthly ministry, witnessing his miracles and hearing the Word of God from His own mouth?
Do you ever envy His disciples who were with him during the whole of His ministry and think that if you could have been there your faith would be ever so much stronger? Have you ever thought that if you could have seen Him and been with Him as the disciples were, that you would never again be troubled with doubts that you would then be certain of all that you know from Gods Word? Do you think that if you could have been an eyewitness of His majesty as Peter was that you would be more certain of His coming?
If you have ever thought anything like that, you were wrong, as wrong as you could be. Peters point in our text is that we have something better than seeing Jesus in the flesh, better than walking with Him along the roads of Galilee, better than witnessing His miracles, better even than seeing Him in all His heavenly glory on the Mount of Transfiguration! We have, Peter says, a more sure word of prophecy. That word is more sure than anything else.
When Peter wrote these words he knew that he would soon be leaving this life. He speaks of that in verses 13-15. Jesus Himself had showed Peter that the time of his death was near. Peter tells us that he wrote this second epistle so that after his death those to whom he had written before and preached would not forget what they had been taught. He wanted them to have those things always in remembrance (verse 15).
Peter wanted them to remember what they had been taught because, as he says, it was not just cunningly devised fables, not just stories, but the testimony of God concerning the power and coming of Jesus Christ. Thats what we read in verse 16.
Peter himself knew that what he and the other apostles had taught was not lies because he himself had been an eyewitness on the Mount of Transfiguration. Thats why he talks about the transfiguration in verses 17 and 18. There, he and James and John had seen Jesus in His heavenly glory, the glory with which He will be clothed when He comes again at the end of the world. Peter knew what he was talking about when he spoke to the people of God about the power and coming of Jesus Christ!
But Peter knew that those to whom he was writing would immediately ask, But what about us? How can we be sure? What proof do we have? We werent there at the transfiguration? We werent eyewitnesses of the majesty of Christ. How can we know that what you have told us is the truth?
In our text Peter answers those questions. He says in answer to such questions, You have something better than seeing Jesus transfigured, something better than being an eyewitness of His majesty. You have a more sure word of prophecy. You have the inspired and infallible Scriptures and they are better more sure than anything else!
It is to that more sure word of prophecy that I call your attention. We are going to look at three things as we study this passage together and learn that the Scriptures are indeed a More Sure Word of Prophecy.
We must look first at what Peter means when he calls the Scriptures a more sure word of prophecy. We have to look, in the second place, at the reasons why Scripture is sure. Those reasons are given in verses 20 and 21. No prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation thats the first reason. And, the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost thats the second reason. Finally, we have to see that what Peter says about the Scriptures has consequences for us. As a more sure word of prophecy they are our only light in this dark world of sin and death. They are a light shining in a dark place until the day dawn and the day star arise in our hearts. Therefore we must give heed to them. We do well, Peter says, to take heed to them!
I call your attention therefore to: A MORE SURE WORD OF PROPHECY
I. What It Is
II. Why It Is Sure
III. Our Calling To Heed It
I. WHAT IT IS
When Peter describes the Scriptures as a more sure word of prophecy, he is talking first of all about the infallibility of Scripture that the Word of God is without fault and without error in every part. Not only are its teachings and doctrines without error, but so are the historical, scientific and geographical information. If you could find just one fault with Scripture or one error in it, no matter how small, Scripture would no longer be sure. It is sure only because it is the infallible Word of God.
But Peter is also talking about what we call the sufficiency of Scripture. Because it is infallible, Scripture is sufficient for all our needs. It contains all the doctrines of salvation everything we need to know for salvation. It is a safe and sure guide for all of our life. It is a solid foundation for our comfort, our hope and our assurance. We have everything we need for this life and everything we need to prepare us for the life to come in the Scriptures. Scripture is not only sure in itself as the infallible Word of God, but it is sure for us. Thats what Peter means when he calls the Scriptures a more sure word of prophecy. Thats also what he means when he says in verse 19 that they are a light shining in a dark place. They are a lamp for our feet and a light on our pathway to heaven.
When Peter says that it is more sure, he means more sure even than seeing Jesus with ones own eyes in all the glory of His second coming, and therefore more sure than anything else. It is more sure than the revelations and words from God that people claim to have received more sure than feelings.
That needs a great deal of emphasis today. Many, if you ask them why they are following a certain path in their Christian life, say, I feel that its the right thing to do. And if you ask, But what about the Word of God, doesnt it say that what you are doing is wrong? then their answer is, I know in my own heart that what Im doing is right and you are not going to talk me out of it!
Others, to justify their actions, say, God told me to do it; or God showed me that this is what I must do. But if you ask them, How did He show you? their answer is almost always that He showed them through circumstances or through some special revelation that was just for them. The testimony of the Word of God will not change their minds. They believe that they have something more sure and better than the Word of God.
Peter tells us that they are wrong and that we are wrong if we follow that path. Dreams, visions, revelations, feelings and messages from God are not sure. Feelings change. Revelations, even when God did give them, faded from the memory. Experiences cannot be used as safe guide. We do not even always understand our feelings and experiences. They are all uncertain and unsure in comparison to the Word of God. Depending on them we will surely go astray or build our confidence and lives on an unstable foundation.
There are those, too, who base the assurance of their conversion and salvation on dreams, visions and other revelations from God. That, too, is an unsure foundation. The only thing we have that is sure in this uncertain and changeable world is the infallible word of God. That means that we must base our assurance not on feelings of special revelations, but on a comparison of ourselves to the Word of God and what it says about the marks of conversion and salvation.
Some, pretending to give heed to the Scriptures, allow their Bibles to fall open and put their fingers randomly on a verse, and then claim to find in that verse the guidance and help they need, as though God had spoken privately to them in the verse theyve found. Not only does that practice take verses out of context, but it is a misuse of the Word of God. The Word must be carefully read and prayerfully studied and its doctrines and precepts diligently learned if it is to be our guide and help. Only then does it become our light.
Peter calls these infallible Scriptures prophecy. All of them are prophecy. Did you know that? Not only Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and the 12 minor prophets, but all of Scripture. Psalm 23 is prophecy. II Peter 1 is prophecy. Genesis 1 and Revelation 22 are both prophecy. The stories of the Old Testament are prophecy. The poetry, the epistles, the historical books are all prophecy.
To understand that you must realize that prophecy is more than just predicting the future. Thats the idea of prophecy most of us have and thats why its difficult for us to see that all Scripture is prophecy. Actually, less than five percent of Scripture foretells the future, but that doesnt change the fact that its all prophecy all 66 books and all 1189 chapters.
Prophecy is not prediction of the future but Gods light shining on ALL THINGS, past, present and future, so that we see them as they really are. When Gods Word is a light shining in a dark place, shining into this dark world, then it is prophecy. Having that Word we do not walk in darkness, not understanding what is happening, but we walk in light.
When, for example, Gods Word shows us that the increasing wickedness of the days in which we live is part of the coming of Christ, it is prophesying. Having that light, we do not fall into the despair, but look for Christs coming. When it shows us that the history of the nations in the Old Testament is the history of God using them for the coming of Christ, then it is shedding light on all those years of history light that enables us to understand what was really happening during those four thousand years before the first coming of Christ.
When the Word shows us that homosexuality is Gods judgment on a world that hates Him and His Word, then it is prophesying causing the light of God to shine on current events. And having that clear light of Gods Word we do not walk in darkness as much of the church world does and begin to say that homosexuality is not sin. They say such things, you understand, because they have abandoned Gods Word and have no prophecy to give them light and show them where they are wrong and where they are going astray.
That the Word of God is prophecy is part of its sureness. It is never wrong in what it says about homosexuality, about creation, or about the present or about the last days, and therefore it is absolutely trustworthy. Believing the sureness of Gods Word and desiring its light, we must be like Luther who showed his trust in the Word of God when he said, Show me from the Word of God that I am wrong, and unless you show me from the Word that I am wrong, I will not recant. Here, on the Word of God, I stand. I can do naught else. So help me, God. They had said to him, The Pope says you are wrong. Tradition proves you wrong. Well burn you at the stake if you do not recant. Luthers confession was that only Gods Word is sure.
But let us note too, it is one Word! It is not many words of prophecy, but only one. Did you notice that the text calls it a more sure word? Thats a reference to the unity of Scripture, that it is from beginning to end the one Word of God. It has one author and it all says the same thing and never contradicts itself. Thats part of sureness. If the Old Testament said one thing and the New Testament another, it would not be sure. If Paul contradicted James or Peter, it would not be sure. If Scripture had different authors, all with different ideas, it would not be sure.
It is one Word because it comes from God and because the Holy Spirit is its author, but its unity is in Christ. Its one message, the message that unites the Scriptures and makes them one word is the message, the good news concerning Gods only begotten Son. It isnt so much a collection of stories and poetry and prophecies and letters, as the one revelation of Jesus Christ, the only Savior. Spurgeon put it this way: Wherever you cut the Scriptures, he said, they flow with the blood of the lamb.
Thats part of its sureness. Testifying of Christ and only of Him it gives hope and peace to those who heed its message. Speaking of salvation through the blood of Christ, it gives us a firm foundation in this world that is falling to pieces all around us. As the one Word of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, it is a light shining in a dark place.
We have, then, in this reference to Scripture as a more sure word of prophecy, proof of the infallibility, the sufficiency and the unity or Scripture. But there is more.
II. WHY IT IS SURE
Peter tells us that the primary reason why Scripture is so sure is its inspiration. It is infallible, a safe and sure guide, because it is inspired by the Spirit of God. We have here, therefore, in II Peter 1:19-21 clear proof for the doctrine of inspiration proof as clear as II Timothy 3:16, 17, even though the word inspiration is not used here in II Peter 1.
Peter teaches the inspiration of Scripture, first of all, by telling us that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. Thats Peters way of telling us that the Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture. He is, Peter says, the only one who can interpret it, and He is the only one who can interpret it because He is its only author.
We talk at times of this or that interpretation, or if we are arguing with someone we say, Thats your interpretation, suggesting that our own is better. Peter says there are no private interpretations of Scripture. There is only one correct interpretation and thats not yours or mine, not the interpretation of a particular denomination or church, but the interpretation of the Holy Spirit. He gives that interpretation in the Scriptures themselves
Did you know that that the Scriptures are self-interpreting? That has all sorts of practical application. That means that if you want to know what a word means in Scripture, you dont go to a dictionary or make an educated guess, but you look up all the passages where that word is used and so find out what Scripture itself means when it uses that word. It means that you and I never say, I think this is what the verse means, but say Heres another passage or passages that show what the Holy Spirit meant when He said this.
Thats true because the Holy Spirit is the sole author of the Bible. He is the author of Scripture through His work of inspiration. The word inspiration means God breathed and refers to the fact that the Scriptures are the record of the voice of God Himself and of His Word, thought the work of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.
Peter doesnt use the word inspiration here in our text, but He is speaking of inspiration and explaining it when he says in the last part of verse 21, For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Thats inspiration.
That Scripture did not come by the will of man, does not mean that men were not used to write the Scriptures, or that they were used as a person uses a typewriter, without themselves knowing what they were doing or understanding it. There are those who accuse us of believing in a typewriter theory or a mechanical theory of inspiration that makes the human writers of no account. That isnt true. There is a clear and unmistakable difference between the writings of Paul and the writings of John. Psalm 23 could only have been written by David who was a shepherd in his youth, and not by Paul the tentmaker.
The Word of God in the text itself suggests that these human writers are important when it calls them holy men of God and says that they spoke and later wrote what we have in the Scriptures. Nevertheless, they were prepared by God Himself and used in such a way that the Scriptures are the Word of God and the Holy Spirit their author.
When Peter calls them holy men of God, he is talking about what we call organic inspiration, that God both in eternity and in time prepared each of the authors of Scripture. When the time came for one of the books of Scripture to be written, God did not just look around for someone He could use to write the book, but he ordained each writer and all the circumstances of that writers life, and then guided and directed all those circumstances, so that when he was ready to use Paul or David or Peter or John or Isaiah, that person was exactly the person He wanted and needed. Then, through each of them, prepared and molded by Himself, He gave His Word.
Thats what the sovereignty of God means in relation to the Scriptures. It is necessary to believe in Gods sovereignty in order to believe in inspiration. Part of inspiration is that God eternally ordained and sovereignly prepared the authors of Scripture. You can see, then, why many dont believe in the inspiration of Scripture any more. They dont believe in Gods sovereignty, and therefore the doctrine of inspiration makes no sense to them either.
We have an example of Gods sovereignty in the giving of Scripture in Jeremiah 1:4-6, where Jeremiah complains that he is only a child and unable to bring the Word of God. Gods answer to him is: Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. Thats organic inspiration and an example of what Peter is saying, when he talks about the holy men of God through whom God gave the Scriptures.
The result of organic inspiration is that though those men knew what they were doing when they wrote the books of the Bible, and though they did it willingly and eagerly, their own desires had nothing to do with the contents of what they wrote. Their wills did not determine the time of writing, the content of what they wrote, or the finished product. Gods will determined it all.
This is stated very strongly in the last part of verse 21, Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. That comes very close to teaching a mechanical view of inspiration. The word moved is the same word that is used in John 21:18: When thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. The word carry is the same word the Holy Spirit uses in II Peter 1:21 to describe the way in which the Spirit used the men who wrote the Scriptures. He carried them as an elderly person is carried by others from place to place when he can no longer get around by himself.
That same word is used in Acts 27:17 to describe how Pauls ship was carried across the Mediterranean Sea by the storm that drove the ship to the Island of Malta. It was driven by the winds and the word driven is the same word thats translated moved in our text. In the same way that Pauls ship was driven by the winds the Holy Spirit moved the men who wrote the Scriptures.
That moving of the Holy Spirit was the power that brought about the writing of each book of the Bible and that guided the actual writing, so that what was written was without error and was the Word of God and not the word of man. That moving of the Holy Spirit in the human writers of Scripture is what we call inspiration.
It is inspiration that guarantees the infallibility and sufficiency of Scripture. Only because prophecy came not by the will of man; only because holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, is Scripture without error and sufficient for all our needs. For this reason we avoid speaking of the men through whom God gave the Scriptures as its human authors. There is only one Author of Scripture, as Peter shows us here, and though men like Peter were not used unconsciously, they are nevertheless not the authors of Scripture. Their wills did not determine anything concerned with Scripture and they wrote only as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
III. OUR CALLING TO HEED IT
Because Scripture is the inspired and infallible Word of God we must give heed to it. Our confession that Scripture is the Word of God means nothing if we do not use it. Giving heed to Scripture means using it, obeying it, trusting it and loving it. We give heed by reading, studying, and searching Scriptures, and by doing those things in faith.
All too often we make a pious confession of Scriptures divine origin and of our belief in its infallibility while our own Bibles are little used. There are Christians who have never even read the Scriptures through, Christians who cannot find the books of the Bible or tell you whether a particular book is in the Old or New Testament. I trust we are not so ignorant of the Scriptures, but how many of us spend any time at all studying Scripture, even in preparation for our weekly Bible studies? How many of us neglect the reading of Scripture for personal devotions and for family devotions? If we are not diligent in our use of them, we are not obeying the command to give heed.
Peter says it is not just required that we use the Scriptures, it is for our advantage and profit that God has given them to us. We do well, he says, to give heed to them. The Scriptures are not just given by God, but given for our salvation. They are, as the translators of the King James Version wrote, the wells of salvation out of which we draw living water. That follows from the fact that they are inspired and infallible and therefore also a light Gods light of prophecy shining in a dark place.
That dark place is this present world. And I do not have to tell you that it is growing darker, especially for us as Christians. Wickedness is increasing. The true church is smaller and smaller. The truth is not only neglected but hated and rejected. Nor will this present darkness be dispelled until Christ comes again. Indeed, as the night is darkest before the dawn, so we can only expect that the darkness in which we now find ourselves will only increase. Wicked men will wax worse and worse, apostasy will abound, the love of many will wax cold, and evil days will come for the church and for Gods people the like of which the world has never seen.
In that darkness, the divinely inspired and infallible Word of God is our only light. Do you understand that? Without the Scriptures you and I are in darkness. They are no light to us when their covers remain closed and they are never read and studied!
When we have the Scriptures and give heed to them, then their light illumines all that is happening in the world. Then we are reassured that all the horrible things that are happening are signs of Christs coming. Then we know that God has not forsaken His church and never will. Then we will walk safely even in the worst of times and will come finally to that everlasting kingdom of light and peace in which there is no need for sun or moon that kingdom in which there will be no night nor even the possibility of night any more.
So, beloved people of God, take up your light and walk safely through this dark and threatening world. Continue your pilgrimage with that light in hand! Dont look for visions and revelations to guide you! Dont trust your feelings! Dont desire to go back to the days of Jesus earthly ministry and be an eyewitness of His majesty in the hope that then you will be certain of your final destination. You have a more sure Word of prophecy, a steady and sure light that will never be extinguished until Christ returns the light of the world.
Be assured too that the darkness which makes this light necessary will not long continue. Soon the dayspring from on high will visit us again. Soon the day will dawn and the day star arise in our hearts. In speaking of the dawn and the day star, Peter is describing the second coming of our Savior. His coming will bring the new day of righteousness and peace. When He comes we will be received into that kingdom in which there is no night. He will come as the day Star, the bright and morning Star, the rising Sun of righteousness who comes with healing in His wings.
Peter describes His rising as the rising of the sun in our hearts, not because He comes in our hearts Hes done that already but because His coming will cause everlasting hope and joy to rise in our hearts, the joy of seeing Him again and the hope of being with Him forever. Then, and only then, will you and I no longer need the light of Gods Word. Then we will walk in the light of His presence forevermore. AMEN.