2 Peter 1:20-21 ESV
There are few questions that are more important than the one stated by the title. A correct answer is crucial, both to this life and the afterlife. If the answer is, “There is no reason,” then a person must be prepared to also accept that there are no reasons behind human life, that we lack any significance, and that there is no hope.
If incorrect or insufficient answers are given, then the person will suffer a great deal of confusion at best or eternal ruin otherwise. Only the proper answer will lead to God’s intended purpose—fellowship with him and eternal life.
In the context, these verses supply Peter’s explanation of why we ought to pay attention to the prophetic word. His object is to furnish reasons why Christ is sure to come again. That fact is based on the testimony of eyewitnesses of his glory and on the testimony of the prophetic word.
I. If we are to understand what Peter is communicating in these verses, then we need to grasp clearly what he is saying in 1:20.
This is one of those verses in the Bible that has been greatly misunderstood because the connection between it and the surrounding context has not been maintained.
A. A survey of incorrect views
1.The church must determine truth—private judgment is excluded. This view claims that only the church can tell what the correct interpretation of any text is. It also takes the Bible out of the hands of the people.
2.Interpret one text in light of all. This is definitely good advice, but is it what this text is saying?
3.The inability of the prophets to understand their own writings. This is true to a certain extent (cf. 1 Pt 1:10-12), but it should not be pressed too far.
4.Prophecy must be understood in light of its fulfillment. Again, there is truth in this statement, but is it what Peter is saying?
5.The need of the Holy Spirit to interpret what you cannot understand – In other words, you can’t understand God’s book without God’s help. Yes, this is very true, but again, is this Peter’s meaning?
B.The correct view explained
1.All the previous views fail in one important sense: “They take the twentieth verse by itself and fail to consider it in the light of the twenty-first verse. But verses 20 and 21 must surely be taken together. The very word ‘for’ at the beginning of verse 21 makes that imperative.” [Lloyd-Jones]
2.When we consider both verses together in context, then we can see Peter’s point.
a.“His theme is the origin and reliability of the Christian teaching about grace, holiness and heaven. The same God whom the apostles heard speak in the transfiguration spoke also through the prophets.
b.“Thus the argument in verses 20, 21 is a consistent and indeed necessary conclusion to the preceding paragraph, i.e. we can rely on Scripture because behind its human authors is God. The prophets did not make up what they wrote. They did not arbitrarily unravel it.” [Green]
Illustration: In news reporting, we like to know the source of the information presented. Is it “an unnamed source, a reliable source, or an unimpeachable source”?
Quote: “The source of the Bible is not merely unimpeachable and reliable; the source is omniscient.” [Sproul, One Holy Passion, p. 72]
II. The source of the Scriptures
A. Negatively – it was not the production of men alone
1.The prophets were not a group of men who had some sort of superior insight into the human predicament. The apostle denies that such was the case.
2.The prophets, rather, wrote things that were beyond their insight and at times were against what they wanted. Consider some examples:
a.Jeremiah (Jer 15; 20:7-18)
b.Jonah (Jonah 1:3; 4:1)
c.Habakkuk (Hab 1:2-4)
B.Positively, the source is God speaking through the prophets.
1.Men spoke. We must maintain the human element of the Scriptures. God used about 40 different human writers in the revelation of his word. God made use of their various personalities, education, life circumstances, etc.
Example: When you read, you can discern the difference between David, Moses, John, and Paul.
2.Men spoke from God. Though men were truly speaking, at the same time God was speaking his words through them. Therefore, you can read the recurring words, “This is what the Lord says.”
3.The Holy Spirit was in control of the product, the written word. The Spirit made certain that when men spoke, it would be God’s word. It was the Holy Spirit “breathing out” the word of God (2 Tm 3:16).
a.This is the teaching of other Scriptures as well (2 Sm 23:2; Mk 12:36; Heb 1:1; Ac 4:25).
b.Illustration of being carried along (Ac 27:15, 17)
1. Since God is the author of the Bible, we are certain that it is both inerrant (“without errors”) and infallible (“unable to err”).
[A]You can be sure that the Bible’s information is always correct.
[B]This resolves authority crises for the Christian. Let all the world give their opinions, but God’s answer is final authority.
2. “Read the Bible with reference. Think in every line you read that God is speaking to you… Labor that the Word may not only be a lamp to direct but a fire to warm.” [Watson, A Body of Divinity, p. 35]
3. “Be exhorted to prize the written Word… David valued the Word more than gold. What would the martyrs have given for a leaf of the Bible!” [Ibid.]