We began to look at 2 Peter a couple of weeks ago when I explained that Peter was writing this letter to warn his readers about certain false teachers who had started to teach what Peter refers to as ‘destructive heresies’. And he also wanted to write to his readers about the coming of the Lord and about the way we ought to live our lives while we wait for Christ to come again. And in the opening passage, he reminded his readers of how God has provided us with everything we need to live a godly life while we wait for the Saviour to come again. And so, since he has provided us with everything we need — giving us the faith to believe in Christ and the Holy Spirit to renew us in the likeness of Christ — then we need to make every effort to grow in faith and in goodness and in knowledge and in self-control and in perseverance and in godliness and in brotherly kindness and love. We need to make every effort to grow in these things, because if we possess these virtues in increasing measure, then we won’t be useless and ineffective in our Christian lives, but we’ll be able to live useful and fruitful lives which are full of good deeds and which bring glory and honour to our Saviour. And, of course, whoever possesses these virtues in increasing measure can look forward to the day when they will be welcomed into Christ’s eternal kingdom.
Verses 12 to 15
In verse 12 Peter goes on to explain to his readers how he wanted to remind them of these things. What things? Well, the things he’s just been writing about: how God has given us everything we need to live a godly life while we wait for Christ to come again. Even though they already know these things, and even though they’re firmly established in the truth about God, he wanted to remind them of these things again and to keep doing so, so long as he remains alive. And if you look at verse 14, you’ll see that Peter believes that his life on earth was coming to an end and he’ll soon have to put aside what he calls here ‘the tent of this body’. So, since he believed that his life on earth was coming to an end, and that he would soon die, he wants to make every effort to see to it that after he has departed from this life his readers will always be able to remember these things.
Think back for a moment to the last chapter of John’s gospel. Do you remember it? The Lord had risen from the dead; and he met his disciples who had been out fishing; and he’d prepared them something to eat. And then, when they had finished eating, the Lord spoke to Peter. And do you remember the conversation? Three times the Lord asked Peter if Peter loved him. Why did he ask him three times? Well, because three times Peter had denied knowing the Lord. Three times he had failed his Lord; but now the Lord was giving him three chances to profess his love for the Lord and to erase, if you like, and to rub out those three occasions when he had let the Lord down. But as well as asking Peter if he loved him, the Lord also said to Peter: Feed by lambs. Take care of my sheep. Feed my sheep. The Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd of his people, was commissioning Peter to be his under-shepherd and to take care of his people. And he was to take care of them by feeding them. And since man shall not live on bread alone, but on God’s word, the way to feed God’s people so that they come to faith and grow in the faith is by teaching them God’s word.
So, the Lord was really saying to Peter at that time: If you really love me, as you say you do, then I want you to demonstrate your love for me by teaching my people. And if you teach my people, you’ll show your love for me. Well, years later, whenever Peter was coming to the end of his life here on earth, we discover that he was still doing what the Lord commissioned him to do; and he was still demonstrating his love for the Lord by taking every opportunity and making every effort to teach God’s people and to remind them of the things he had already taught them.
This is what makes the job of the minister and the elders — who have been commissioned by Christ to shepherd his people today — so straightforward. You know, you go into your work and your boss has some new idea, some new scheme which he wants you to implement. The old way of doing things is out of date; and we’re going to change what we’ve been doing and do something completely different. So, new ideas. Or new technology. Some new scheme for the business. I used to listen to Gerry Anderson on the radio when he was still alive; and he used to complain about the way the BBC kept changing his equipment. Just when he was getting used to one set of equipment in the studio where he recored his show, and just when he had worked out all the bugs and problems in the system, and had everything set up just right, someone would replace it all with something new. And he had to start all over again and learn to use new equipment. So, you go into work, and that’s what happens.
But here’s Peter and he knows he doesn’t have to introduce anything new or to do anything new or different. Yes, there were new challenges which he had to deal with, because there were new false teachers to contend with; and there were new problems in the church to tackle and to sort out. But the solution was not to introduce anything new, or to do anything different; the solution was to go over the old ground and to remind his readers and to refresh their memory of what he had already taught them and of what they already knew about how to live their lives while they wait for the Saviour to come again. You see, the job of the minister and the elders — the shepherds of God’s people today — is straightforward and simple: it’s about teaching God’s word to God’s people; and once they’ve done that, then it’s about reminding the people of what they’ve already learned. And so, to the elders among us, I say: Like Peter, if you want to demonstrate your love for the Lord, then teach God’s people God’s word. That’s how you prove your love to him: by feeding his flock.
Verses 16 to 18
In verse 16 Peter says to his readers that, when he taught them before about the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in power, he didn’t use cleverly-invented stories. No doubt some of the false teachers were saying that about what Peter and the other apostles had taught. You know: Don’t listen to Peter. All he’s teaching you are myths and legends and fairy-tales.
And that’s what we hear today, isn’t it? That’s what people say about what Christians believe. They say that the Bible is full of myths and fables, made up stories and fairy-tales. Jesus is the Son of God! What nonsense! Jesus died for sinners! What nonsense! Jesus was raised from the dead! Rubbish! The dead don’t rise. It’s a fairy-tale. Jesus is coming again! It’s all nonsense. It’s all myth and legend and fairy-tales. That’s what people are saying today; and it’s what people were saying in Peter’s day. You know: there’s nothing new under the sun. We like to think that we face new challenges today and the world is very different today compared to what it was like in the past. But there’s nothing new under the sun; and just as people doubt God’s word today, so they doubted it in Peter’s day — which, of course, is another reason for teaching God’s word today, because believers today face the very same problems which believers faced in Peter’s day when the New Testament was written; and what we need to remember when we face the sceptics today.
And so, what do we need to remember when we face the sceptics today? Well, Peter insists that they weren’t teaching the people cleverly-invented stories when they told them about the coming of the Lord Jesus in power. They weren’t teaching made-up stories, because what he had told them was based on his own eye-witness testimony. Do you see that at the end of verse 16? These are not made-up stories, because ‘we were eye-witnesses of his majesty’.
In the following verses Peter refers to the Lord’s Transfiguration. Do you remember the Transfiguration? The Lord Jesus took Peter, James and John and led them to the top of a high mountain. And there he was transfigured before them, so that his clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone could ever bleach them; and his face shone like the sun. And Moses and Elijah appeared and they talked with him. And then the disciples heard the voice of God the Father who spoke about how they ought to listen to his beloved Son. And so, as Peter says here, the Lord Jesus received honour and glory from God the Father, because God the Father said about him:
This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.
And in verse 18, Peter underlines how he and the other apostles were eyewitnesses and earwitnesses of this, because they heard the voice of God the Father. The apostles heard the voice of God when they were with the Lord Jesus on that mountain.
So, these false teachers were saying that Peter and the other apostles were making up these stories. They were saying that what Peter was teaching the people was only myths and legends and fairy-tales. But, says Peter, what I’ve been teaching you is not something I made up, but something I saw with my own eyes and something I heard with my own ears. And this Lord Jesus — who was transfigured on the mountain, and who received honour and glory from God the Father — is coming again one day. And when he comes again one day, he’ll come with honour and glory and power to bring salvation to his people who have believed in him; and to judge and to condemn all those who have doubted him.
So, people today say that the Bible only contains myths and legends and fairy-tales which we should not believe. People today scoff at the Bible and what it says, and they’ll say that no serious thinker will believe what the Bible says. People today dismiss the Bible as only made-up stories. But that’s not right, because what the Bible contains is the testimony of men like Peter who saw the Lord Jesus with their own eyes and who have written down what they saw and what they heard about the Lord Jesus who is the Son of God who died for sinners and who was raised and who is coming again in glory and power. And so, instead of dismissing it as cleverly-invented stories, we ought to believe God’s word and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Verses 19 to 21
What Peter is referring to in verses 16 to 18 is the witness of the apostles in the New Testament. But in verses 19 to 21, Peter goes on to refer to the Old Testament and to what it says about Jesus Christ. You see, when Peter refers to the ‘word of the prophets’ in verse 19, he’s referring to the Old Testament prophets who foretold the coming of the Lord Jesus into the world.
And Peter tells us that we have the word of the prophets ‘made more sure’. Now, that’s a puzzling expression, isn’t it? After all, how can we make the word of the prophets more certain? Surely we believe that what they said is certain already? Well, I think what Peter meant is that the word of the prophets is more certain because much of what they said about the coming of the Saviour into the world has already been fulfilled. The Old Testament prophets were looking forward to the day when God would send his Special Servant into the world to save his people from their sins and to set up his kingdom on the earth. That’s what they were looking forward to; that’s what they were expecting; that’s what they wrote about; and that’s what has happened, because Jesus Christ came into the world and he suffered and died on the cross and he rose again in order to save God’s people from their sins; and right now, through the preaching of his word, he’s building his kingdom on the earth. The word of the prophets is more certain, because so much of what they prophesied has already been fulfilled.
And in the verses which follow Peter explains that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. Perhaps some of the false teachers were telling Peter’s readers that there was no need to pay attention to the Old Testament, because, once again, it was full of made-up stories and myths and legends and fairy-tales. You know, men like Moses and David and Isaiah and Daniel were only making it up. You can’t believe what they said, because they’re only spinning cleverly-invented stories.
Just as an aside, it’s interesting that were reading Daniel 11 today, because lots of the Bible commentators can’t believe that Daniel was able to foretell what would happen in years to come; that can’t believe that he was able to describe with such accuracy the career of Alexander the Great and Antiochus IV. Daniel can’t have written it, they say; someone must have written these things after they happened and then pretended that Daniel had foretold these things in advance. Some of the Bible commentators are saying it’s all made up and can’t be trusted. Once again, there’s nothing new under the sun, and what people are saying today to dismiss the Bible is what people were saying in the past to dismiss the Bible.
But Peter is saying: that’s not right; the prophets didn’t make these things up; they didn’t invent these things. So how did Daniel write what he wrote? How did the other prophets write what they wrote? Look at verse 21:
For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God….
So, men spoke from God. This is what makes the Bible unique among books, because the Bible is both the word of men and the word of God. Men spoke and wrote: men like Moses and David and Isaiah and Daniel. They spoke and they wrote. But what they spoke and wrote was also, at the same time, the word of God. And it was the word of God, because what they spoke and wrote came from God.
You see, there’s never been another book like the Bible, because even the best books in the world are nothing more than the words of men and women. But the Bible alone is the word of men and the word of God at the same time. And because they’ve never come across anything like this, the sceptics can’t accept the Bible; they assume it must be like every other book in the world; it must be the product of a someone’s imagination. But no: the Bible is unique, because it’s both the word of men and the word of God.
But how did these men — Moses and David and Isaiah and Daniel — how did they manage to speak the word of God? Well, Peter tells us:
men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
In other words, it was the Holy Spirit, sent from God above, who enabled those Old Testament prophets to speak God’s word. People today talk about this writer being inspired and that writer being inspired. What inspired you to write this book? What was your inspiration? But when people today talk about a writer being inspired, they simply mean that the writer has shown great skill and has written with brilliance and imagination. But Christians mean something entirely different when we say that the Old Testament prophets were inspired, because we mean that God the Holy Spirit came to them and enabled them to speak and to write the very words of God.
There’s never been another book like this one, because what is true about the Old Testament prophets is also true about the New Testament writers. All Scripture, said the Apostle Paul, all Scripture — the Old and the New Testaments — is God-breathed; it’s inspired by God.
So, these false teachers were saying that the things Peter and the other apostles were saying about the Lord Jesus were only cleverly-invented stories. They’re only myths and legends and fairy-tales. But no, said Peter. Everything the Apostles said about the Lord Jesus were things they saw with their own eyes and things they heard with their own ears. And the Apostles, and all the Old Testament prophets with them, were men who spoke from God, because the Holy Spirit came along and so inspired them so that what they wrote was in fact the very word of God. So, when people come to us today and say that we should ignore the Bible, because it’s just a man-made book, full of mistakes and errors and myths and legends and fairy-tales, we must not listen to them, but must remember and believe that the Bible is God’s word, written by men who were carried along and inspired by the Holy Spirit to write for us the word of God. And they wrote for us the word of God so that we might believe in Jesus Christ, who died for sinners and who rose again and who is coming again one day. We must believe in him; and we must live holy and godly lives while we look forward to his coming again.