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Second Peter (old series)

In Causa Mortis

2nd Peter 1:12-21

One of the more regrettable changes in my lifetime is that classical music, especially Baroque music, has ceased to be a part of the body of knowledge deemed necessary in an educated person. People who listen to rock find it fashionable to condemn such music. Permit me, therefore, to defend Bach – and enlighten you as to human nature at the same time.

In human life, there is a constant tension between the new and the old. In the old we find security; we find worthiness. But in the new we find growth, we break barriers in our minds. In our time we are told we must decide between the new and the old; there is no way to combine them.

But there most certainly is: the device is called rhythm. In Baroque music rhythm repeats the old as it introduces the new. Because this music weaves its themes in such a tight rope, those who know it love it. In particular, those who play an instrument often find Bach to be the most enjoyable to play.

There is a rhythm in the Scriptures as well; the old is repeated in new ways, so that we will not forget it. The new is woven into it, so that we might grow in it.

But there is a danger in this. If the new will not weave in with the old, what then? If the melody is misplaced in the fugue, the piece is ruined.

It is the same in Scripture. Those who come with distorted views find that they will not weave into the fabric; so they call for the fabric to be unraveled. Peter here enlightens us as to how the weaving is to be done, and why we are to reject that which does not weave in.

 

12So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.

16We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 18We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

19And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

2 Peter 1:12 through 2 Peter 1:21 (NIV)

 

Reminders

 

Why we need to be reminded

It’s an old gag: the sour old Vermonter is hauled into a marriage counselor by his wife of 50 years. The issue soon surfaces; he never tells her that he loves her. The counselor asks him why. “Told her once; ain’t changed my mind.”

Can you imagine that? Of course not. Even if we know something to be true, we still need to be reminded of it. Indeed, men need not so much to be taught as reminded. If it were not so, then Bible teachers would be few indeed.

 

Refresher Training

Let’s take a look, then, at what Peter is reminding them of (also known as last week’s lesson):

  • God has given us everything we need – for life, and for godliness. It is God’s good pleasure to do so, thus we have God’s supply for God’s purposes. He does this in many ways. For godliness, he has given us the Scriptures, that we might read them and meditate on them. He permits us to pray. He will have us praise him, so that we might know him. All this comes from God, the Holy One.
  • He also promises you eternal life. Not just “later” but starting now, as Christ is formed in your heart.
  • In response to this, the Christian is told to make every effort to bring forth the fruit of such a life. These are things like goodness, knowledge, self control, perseverance, brotherly love and indeed the divine love of all. If these are not shown in your life, you are fruitless.
  • If these things are not your life, then you are blind, spiritually. A curious fact about the spiritually blind – they usually have a blind leader, as well.

 

That last is particularly important, as we shall see.

 

Peter’s Last Stand

Peter knows that he is in his last few days. He knows the death he will die, and he is preparing himself for it. He is also preparing his followers for it. How?

  • First, he will make every possible effort on their behalf. It is not a life of gentle retirement; it is the life of straining to bring forth fruit for the kingdom of God.
  • He will do this in a variety of methods, all of which are intended for one thing: his followers will be reminded of what they were taught and know.

Let’s put it this way: if you knew for a fact that you were going to die within a month, would it affect the way you live? Would you, like Peter, have some things you wanted remembered?

Then hear this: who has promised you that you’ll be alive a month from now?

 

 

While I’m still here…

The time is short, and he knows it. So we may safely conclude that what we have here is the message that Peter thinks is most important. So just what is it that Peter thinks so important?

 

Eyewitness

He reminds them that he is an eyewitness to the Christ. Not just to Jesus; he is eyewitness to the majesty, the majestic glory (Shekinah) of God. This is not something he got second hand. Indeed, it is so important that he reminds them:

  • That he saw the glory of God.
  • That he heard the voice of God
  • That he did so in a specific place and specific time (not in a dream)

 

In short, he presents his eyewitness testimony to the central fact: Jesus of Nazareth, born of Mary, was and is God (Jehovah) in the flesh. Above all the other things Peter saw, this one stands out – for this one answers the only question of real importance: who do you say Jesus is? Any answer but, “The Christ, the Son of the Living God” must be opposed as heresy. The eyewitness knows this, and brings it to us.

 

What his testimony is not

Peter points out that he’s not exactly the fellow for clever logical arguments and careful, “it must have been…” arguments, as are so many “Christian” leaders today. He is neither clever nor inventive. Lovable, yes; impetuous, certainly – but a man who calls it like he sees it. Compare this to the great thinkers of our time:

  • They assume that miracles can’t happen – which, of course, leaves them with the New Testament to explain away. They do this by saying. “it must have been…” Against this is set the manuscript evidence which continually shoves back the time needed to produce this invented story. The theorists in this need many generations; Iraneus gives them three. He was a student of Polycarp, who was a student of John the Apostle.
  • They decide what Jesus said or didn’t based on their own notions (the “Jesus Seminar.”) This is greatly beloved by our press; it sells newspapers and relieves the conscience in the same article.

 

His testimony points to…

If he is concerned that you understand Jesus in his first coming, be assured he is equally concerned about the second. Jesus will return –

  • He will return in power – not to walk the earth and make disciples; rather, to judge the living and the dead.
  • For those who have distorted, twisted, and adulterated the truth, it will be, as advertised, the Day of Wrath.

 

Soon Gone

Peter knows he will soon be gone, so he brings to their mind the other evidences which will confirm his testimony.

 

The word of the prophets

We often forget, when reading such passages, that the Jews to whom Peter wrote would be very familiar with the Old Testament, called “The Law and the Prophets.”

  • He reminds us – the prophets saw the first coming of Christ, detailing minor events and major ones, well before the time of his coming.
  • These same prophets have much to say about the second coming of Christ; in particular, the day of Wrath.
  • Therefore, let the testimony of their witness of his first coming convince you of their revelation of the second coming.

 

Morning Star

But the prophecies of the Old Testament are not sufficient. They are indeed lights to guide us. But like every lighthouse, they are there to guide us, not to be our destination. Peter’s picture here is that of every Christian growing in the faith. At first the lights to guide us are few; this teacher, that book, those sermons. But all these things are just guides; lights to point the way. The goal is to have Jesus Christ himself within us, by the power of the Holy Spirit. The light of Christ, the morning star, is the mark of the mature believer.

 

Danger

There is a danger in all this. Someone might come to us, declaring himself to be a prophet of God, with a new message. (For example, Islam). Peter gives us the warning message, both to us and the prophet. No prophecy is by the prophet’s own interpretation. John, in Revelation, sees, writes – but does not understand. Daniel asks the angel what the vision means – and is told to go his way. The prophecy is from God; it is therefore above our thought.

This poses a danger for the self-proclaimed prophet of our day. The Holy Spirit is the one who carries the real prophet. There is no flaw in such prophecy. If you look to those who claim to be prophets today, ask if they pass the test given to the prophets of the Old Testament: their predictions must always happen. Even one error gets that man stoned to death. Only the standard of perfection can be used on the words of God.

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