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Second Peter (new series)

Stirring Memories

2nd Peter 1:12-21

Lesson Audio


    Peter begins his argument against apostasy in three points:

    1. His purpose is to stir you up with what you already know to be true.

    2. What he is stirring within you is not someone’s theory or another’s fairy tale; rather, it’s the plain truth.

    3. This is made more sure by prophecy – but watch for the false prophet.



    Stir You Up

    2 Peter 1:12-15 NIV So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. (13) I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, (14) because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. (15) And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.


    To remind you

    Peter is reminding us – and that carries with it some implications which are not always followed today:

  1. It implies that the faith exists – it’s not something we need to “discover” or expand upon; it’s already there.[1]
  2. This also implies that his listeners already know the faith. He is referring to the Gospels, of course, and other Scripture.
  3. We are “firmly established in the truth.” It is not something we devised but rather the firmness of our faith comes from the Holy Spirit.[2] We need to remember we are not inventors of the faith.
  4. In short, we are reminded of the importance of the faith that is – not what we want it to be. It’s a fact; indeed, it’s essentials are held in common by all Christians.


    Stir you up

    (Note: the NIV has this as “refresh your memory” – a very poor interpretation, not followed by most other translations. Peter’s intent is much more than a reminder list.)

    Peter knows his time is short; evidently Christ has made this clear to him. So he hastens to remind his readers of the faith they already have. It is convenient, then, to review the last lesson:

  5. 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.
  6. He also promises you eternal life.  Not just “later” but starting now, as Christ is formed in your heart.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. These things are worthy of reminder; indeed, “stirring up.”


    After my departure

    It is important for a teacher to recognize his mortality. You should not act like you are going to live on this earth forever, that there is plenty of time to get the message across. To the contrary: remember that your time is short. You may not get the privilege of finishing your lesson series. Redeem the time.

    Indeed, be diligent about it. Give some thought to how to make your lessons live beyond you. The best way is to train up one or more teachers in your place. With the new consumer Christianity, “emergent church” movement, Bible teachers are largely viewed as obsolete.[3] But one ought to try.

    The idea is simple: that at any time the teacher – you or your successor – can stir up the faithful. Not just intellectual remembrance, though that is important. (We used to teach kids their memory verses, remember?) We need to stir up the students emotionally, intellectually, in the will – and all of these with power.



    Cleverly Devised Tales

    2 Peter 1:16-18 NIV We 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. (17) For 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."[1] (18) We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.


    Mishandled Scripture

    It is important for you to know that the Scripture is under attack today in many ways – and by people you might not expect to do so. Here are three ways such an attack is made today:

  10. One is the “Apostles as myth makers” theory of how we got the Bible. The idea is that the apostles made up much of the New Testament in order to guide the church, particularly with reference to the Resurrection. Peter specifically denies this. This theory dates from the 19th century. New!
  11. A result of this which is now widely accepted even in “Bible-believing” churches is that the primary use of the Bible, along with devotional reading, is as a source of aphorisms and stories for the pulpit. It is, of course, properly used this way. But we now have those who hold that this is the only proper use. They usually don’t proclaim it because of the trouble it stirs up.[4]
  12. Even more commonly we now have many interpretations of Scripture which are “personal and private” – “I’m glad that’s true for you.” The reference point of truth is my personal experience, not the fact based faith Peter describes.


    The Apostle’s testimony

    Peter makes it plain that this is wrong – and he’s an eyewitness to the facts. In particular:

  14. He saw the glory of God (at the Transfiguration and Ascension).
  15. He heard the voice of God there.
  16. This happened at a specific time and place – not some private vision.
  17. In short, this is a matter of hard, cold fact – not somebody’s fairy tale.


    Criteria for becoming “Scripture”

    It may interest you to know the some of the criteria the early church used to decide (in the 4th century AD) just what books belonged in the Bible. Here are some they used:

  18. It had to be written under the authority of an apostle, if not by an apostle – one who was an eyewitness of the resurrection of Christ. That pretty much restricted it to first generation witnesses.
  19. It had to be considered inspired. Interestingly, there were many books that were considered inspired (for example, the letters of Polycarp, a student of John the Apostle) which were considered but eliminated as not being apostolic.
  20. Get this: it had to be of proven use in the pastoral work of the church. In short, where the church today would turn to pop psychology (or James Dobson) the church then used the Scriptures. This at least proves it can be done.
  21. That last tells you something. It tells you that doctrine is important in the daily work of the church – not just as an obscure reference point in a brochure somewhere. It also tells you that the church’s pastoral ministry, like all else, should be Christ centered, not “seeker-centered” or even pew-sitter centered.



    Prophetic Words

    2 Peter 1:19-21 NIV And 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. (20) Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. (21) For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.


    The Lighthouse Principle

    It is always dangerous to delve into prophecy, for any number of reasons. One in particular is that it often evokes strong divisive emotions in those who hear it. So why, then, does Peter encourage us to do just that? Because it makes us all the more sure of the facts of the faith. Consider, if you will, the “lighthouse principle:”

  22. Lighthouses are never built in the harbor of your destination – rather, they are built on the rocks you want to avoid. Likewise, prophecy is not an end in itself, but points to Jesus Christ.
  23. If you have a chart – as we have the Bible – the lighthouse tells you where you are. Likewise, prophecy tells you where you are in the grand scheme of things.
  24. No matter how bright the lighthouse or how good your chart, if you’re going to make it to the dock, the lower lights need to be burning. No matter how brilliant your interpretation of prophecy, it must conform to the rest of Scripture.

    No private interpretation

    There is a translational difficulty in verse 20. The word translated “interpretation” (in the Greek, epilusis) carries with it not just a technical meaning (as in, translate) but also the emotional impetus behind it. The warning is against those who “just know” what the right answer is, and become emotionally attached to it. The reason is simple: prophecy doesn’t come from man; nor should its interpretation. Indeed, you might consider the test of the Old Testament prophets:

    Deuteronomy 18:20-22 NIV (20) But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death." (21) You may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD ?" (22) If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.


    This, I submit, is both clear and in right proportion. Mishandling the word of God is a most serious matter.


    Modern False Prophets

    Do we have false prophets in the modern church? I submit that indeed we do. Some examples may make this clear:

  26. There are some who claim to be a prophet outright. Joseph Smith and his interpretation of the golden hieroglyphics[5]; Jehovah’s Witness founder Russell; 7th Day Adventists founder Miller – the list is a long one.
  27. There are those who don’t explicitly claim to be a prophet – but act like one. A good example is the current Episcopalian church. When asked how they could support homosexuality, one bishop replied that this was the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
  28. A third, more insidious version comes from those who tell us that the most reliable source of knowledge about God comes through our own experiences.[6] The idea is that the supreme arbiter of what is or is not truly the faith is the experience of the individual, not the word of God. This is rather subtle – and very widespread.
  29. All these folks are, in fact, Gnostic heretics. They preach the doctrine of “secret knowledge.” The primary difference today is that the secret knowledge is no longer said to be a revelation, but an effect of our own personal experience. There is absolutely no support for this view in the Scripture – yet it is common even in churches who used to declare themselves “Bible believing.” Now it’s Bible believing – if my own emotional experience validates it. Otherwise, I’m glad it’s true for you, because it’s not for me. But hear the word of the Lord[7]:

    2 Timothy 3:1-7 NASB But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. (2) For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, (3) unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, (4) treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, (5) holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. (6) For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, (7) always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.



    [1] This is very contrary to the “emergent church” paradigm in which believers pick and choose what to believe. If you think not, ask your group if people who don’t know Christ as Lord and Savior can be saved. You might be surprised at the results.

    [2] 2nd Timothy 3:16-17, for those who need the reference.

    [3] This teacher has been told for almost twenty years that Bible classes are anachronisms; within five years they will be completely gone. We just don’t know which five years, I suppose. Bible reading is now consigned to devotional reading only

    [4] Our preacher complains that it seems that the people who love the Bible the most, who study it most diligently, are the primary sources of disunity in the church. Perhaps it’s because we love so much and hate to see the meat give way to the meringue.

    [5] He evidently thought no one would be able to actually read them at the time. The Rosetta stone spoiled that.

    [6] “Trust your feelings, Luke. Use the Force!”

    [7] Especially verse 5



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