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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Melville
 Melville, Australia
Title:It's not for you to decide what God's Word is!
Text:2 Peter 1:19-21 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)


2014 Book of Praise

Psalm 93:1,2,4

Psalm 119:22,40

Hymn 48:1,2

Psalm 25:2

Psalm 33:6

Read:  Luke 9:28-36;  2 Peter 1:12-2:3

Text:  2 Peter 1:19-21

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In a world that is full of claims competing for the truth and at a time when so many people are desperate to know what really is true, it is amazing how little the Word of truth, the Bible, is opened.  And, when it is opened, it is surprising how little of it is believed.

  We live in interesting times.  The world is changing and the things that almost everyone assumed to be true for so long are no longer accepted as self-evident or true.  There are changing views on marriage, changing views on sexuality.  There are even changing views on what it means to be a man or a woman – even who is a man and who is a woman.  There are new ideas about human life, where the sanctity or the sacredness of human life is rejected, where the distinction between human and animal is denied, where an unborn child in her mother’s womb is no longer considered a person to be protected and where an old – or not so old – person is expected to be able to hasten his impending death and to choose to have a doctor end his life for him.  But as our society grapples with the ethical questions that these matters bring up, not only is the Bible closed, but it is firmly shut and declared to be irrelevant, outdated, unhelpful and even harmful in light of our current debates.  And any person who dares to suggest that what the Bible says must still be followed is mocked mercilessly, is shouted down and even personally attacked. 

  But it is not just unbelievers who have turned their back on the Bible as the rule for faith and the basis on which to build our society: many people claiming to be Christians and many churches have effectively done the same thing.  As the norms and the beliefs of our society change, many Christians seem to be eager to change their reading of the Bible and to change their beliefs to agree with whatever the world wants to teach them.   But you can’t do that!  It’s not for you to decide what God’s Word is! 

“No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation” 2 Peter 1 says. “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

And so when the world tells us change what we believe, and when liberally minded Christians chime in with the world, telling us to rethink what the Bible says, we have to say No.  For the Bible is not simply a human composition of dated books and letters written for a different time and a different context, but the Bible is, what 1 Peter 1:23 says, “the word of the Lord [that] remains forever.”

And it is of utmost importance that we hold fast to the Word of God and that we accept what it says.  It is God’s Word that gives us knowledge of what is right and wrong, it is God’s Word that teaches us what is really true.  But more than that, God’s Word gives us knowledge of what is really true when it comes to our salvation in Jesus Christ.  It is, therefore, for your very salvation that you need to accept the Bible, in its entirety, for what it really is, the true Word of God.

I preach God’s Word to you under the following theme:

It’s not for you to decide what God’s Word is.

1. How God gave His Word.

2. How God wants His Word to be handled.

1.  How God gave His Word. 

When Peter wrote this second letter, he knew that he was about to die.  He wrote in 2 Peter 1:14,

“the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.”

And knowing that he wouldn’t be with them much longer Peter wrote that he would not be negligent but that he felt it necessary to warn his readers and to leave them with a reminder of the truth when he was gone.

The reason why Peter felt so strongly about this was because there were false teachers who claimed to know the truth but who had brought destructive doctrines in to the church.  2 Peter 2:1-3 says,

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.”

The heresies these false teachers were bringing in were destructive.  Heresies, chapter 3 tells us, such as denying that the Lord Jesus would ever return.  Heresies where they called things that God declared to be evil good.  And heresies that went so far as to “deny the Master (that is the Lord Jesus) who bought them.”  The false teachers spread these heresies and lured people to follow their “destructive heresies” through their “false words.”  And they exploited those who followed them, demanding their allegiance, taking their money and ultimately taking their lives as they dragged their followers down along with themselves.

But these false teachers were not only around in Peter’s day: we have them today too.  False teachers who deny that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.  False teachers who want to reinterpret the Bible and change your thoughts on what is truth.  And false teachers who claim to have a special word from God, a message, a vision, a prophecy that you are told to believe in and to follow.  But you need to understand that these false teachers are dangerous!  False teachers – even smiling and nice-sounding ones, those who pat you on the back and tell you that you are amazing, those who tell you that they have the secret to a wonderful life – false teachers are dangerous!  These people twist the clear meaning of God’s Word to say something that the Bible never said.  And they push the Bible to the side to preach their own ideas or the things that people want to hear.   We must beware of such people, have nothing to do with them and to stay clear of them.

But Peter does more than to warn his readers not to trust these false teachers.  He also explains why he and the apostles, could be trusted.  2 Peter 1:16,

“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”

 “We know that what we write to you is true” Peter writes, “and we know that the Lord Jesus will return in glory because we saw Christ’s power and we saw the glory that will be His when He returns with our own eyes.” 

  There are two things I want you to take note of here and the first thing I want you to notice is that what separates Peter and the apostles from the false teachers is that Peter and the apostles were eye witnesses of the things that they wrote about.  Whereas the false teachers followed “cleverly devised myths”, stories, figments of a man’s imagination, what Peter and the apostles – and the rest of the writers of Holy Scripture – wrote were clear historical facts.  This is emphasized in the Bible a number of times.  In Luke 1:1-4, for example, Luke begins his gospel by stating that he was in the position to write “an orderly account” of what those who were eyewitnesses had told him, and he wrote the gospel “that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.”

  And John 1:14 says,

“We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”

  Further, the apostle John wrote in 1 John 1:1-3,

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you . . .”

Notice how the apostle John goes to great pains to impress upon us that what he is writing about is something that was heard, that was seen with their eyes, that they looked at, handled and touched.  The Bible writes about real things and about clear historical facts.

The second thing I wish to point out with respect to 2 Peter 1:16 is that Peter

“made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

This is made clearer in verse 17,18 –

“For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.”

Peter is clearly referring to the time when he saw the Lord Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, which we read together in Luke 9:28-36.  And a careful reading of 2 Peter 1 explains why Peter referred back to this incident to demonstrate that his word could be trusted.  One of the things that the false prophets denied was the Second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:  they said that He was never going to return.  The return of Christ, however, was a central part of the apostles’ teaching, including Peter’s.  That’s what Peter referred to in chapter 1:16 when he wrote that

“we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

The coming that Peter refers to here is not Christ’s first coming when He walked on earth and eventually died on a cross, but His second coming, when He will be coming in all His glory.  But Peter knows that Christ will return just as He said, not just because the angels had said this when the Lord ascended into heaven, but Peter had witnessed Christ’s glory and honour.  When he accompanied the Lord Jesus up the mountain in Luke 9, Peter saw something of the glory that Christ had before he came into the world, and the glory that would soon be His again.  “His face was altered” verse 29 says, “and his clothing became dazzling white.”  And, after waking up from a sleep, verse 32 says, “they saw His glory”.  And later when the cloud came and overshadowed them, they were brought into the presence of the Lord of Glory, and a voice said, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; Listen to him!”  And so they saw his glory, and they heard the honour, the majesty that the Father gave His Son.  Peter, therefore, knew who the Lord Jesus is, and he knew about the glory that the Lord Jesus has received.  And he therefore also knew that it is necessary that the King of Glory, our Lord Jesus Christ, will return on the clouds of glory just as He said.  Peter wasn’t making this stuff up:  the LORD had revealed this to him so clearly that Peter was privileged to see something of that glory.

And that’s how God revealed His Word.  Neither the apostles nor, for that matter, the saints of the Old Testament, had to figure it out for themselves but God revealed it to them.  The facts that are given in the Bible are real and historical facts.  And, as we will see in our second point, the words were the words of God Himself.


2. How God wants His Word to be handled.

“And we have something more sure, the prophetic word”, Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:19.  “We’ve seen it with our eyes” Peter is writing here.  “We’ve heard it with our ears.”  When Peter writes in verse 19 that we have the prophetic Word as something “more sure”, he means, as the NKJV puts it, that it has been confirmed, proven to be true.  In writing this, Peter is referring back to the Old Testament and to how all the promises of the Old Testament reached their fulfillment in our Lord Jesus Christ.  A false prophet, Deuteronomy 18:22 says, might speak in the name of the LROD, but what he says would not happen since it was not the LORD who spoke.  But when it comes to the Old Testament Scriptures, these things were confirmed and so it is clear that the Scriptures are the true Word of God.  And therefore, 2 Peter 1:19 goes on to say, we would do well to pay attention to what the Scriptures say.  The words of the Bible is like a lamp shining in a dark place.  Or, as Psalm 119:105 says, God’s Word is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path.  His Word will not lead you astray but it will guide you “until the day dawns”, until the day that Christ, the Morning Star, returns.

The Bible and the Bible alone is God’s Word.  Indeed, it is not just that the Bible contains the Word of God, but it is the Word of God.  All of it.  Every word and every sentence.  As Peter went on to say in 2 Peter 1:21,

“For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

The Bible, therefore, is not just the word of some men in times long ago but it is the living and the abiding Word of God.  Although it was Moses or Samuel or David or Jeremiah who wrote the words, behind this was the Holy Spirit who made sure that every word that was written down was the Word of God Himself.  And Peter uses an interesting word to describe how this came to be:  men who spoke from God “as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”  In other words, they were inspired by the Holy Spirit.  The picture this gives us is of a sailing ship.  The ship has no power of its own – no engine, no oars to propel it forwards.  But the captain sets the sails and the ship is carried or blown along by the wind.  In a similar way, the writers of the Bible were moved or carried along by the Holy Spirit.  And so, as 2 Timothy 3:16 puts it, “All Scripture is breathed out by God.”  And therefore all Scripture is the Word of God.  And because God is true and because He can not lie, the Bible must be true and it does not contain a lie.

And that doesn’t only apply to the Old Testament: the New Testament Scriptures are just as much God’s Word as the Old.  In John 16:12,13 the Lord Jesus told His disciples,

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

And 1 Corinthians 2:12,13

12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit . . .”

And Galatians 1:11,12

11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

The Bible, therefore, is the Word of God.  All of it.  All 66 books.  Every chapter, every verse and every line.  We can not pick and choose what we would like to accept as the Word of God.  We can not think or act as though some words – such as what the Lord Jesus spoke when He was on earth – is “more” God’s Word than other parts of the Bible.  It is all God’s Word, because none of it came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke – and wrote – as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.  And therefore we must receive it as the Word of God, and be careful that we rightly handle the Word of truth.  We must know, therefore, as 2 Peter 1:20 makes clear,

“that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.”

It is not for you, the reader, to decide how to read and interpret the Bible.  It is not for us to look at our culture and how our world has changed and so re-interpret matters such as marriage and sexuality in accordance with the prevailing views that are now being spoken of as truth.  Rather, since the Bible is God’s Word, and since neither God nor His Word changes, we must receive it as God’s Word and simply accept what He has told us.  And in that sense the Bible is to be read literally.  The Bible contains true history and verified facts.  And what the Bible says and commands is true for us today just as it was true for God’s people in the days that Peter wrote this letter.  The Bible is true because God – the author – is true.

The false teachers that were there when Peter wrote his second letter did not have such a high view of Scripture.  These false teachers downplayed the truth and the certainty of Holy Scripture and they twisted what they used to say things that the Bible never intended to say.  And instead these false prophets gave their own Word, teaching their own version of knowledge, and by doing this blasphemed the way of truth.  (2 Peter 2:2.)

But what about you?  What is your hope and what is your faith founded on?  Where do you turn to find the truth?  How do you handle the Word of God? How do you see what is written there?  Do you recognize the Bible not as the Word of man, nor a dated book that contains the thoughts of certain men but rather as the inspired Word of God?  And when questions about life and faith arise – as they will – including questions about marriage and sexuality as well as questions about the respective roles of men and women, and even questions about the return of Christ, about heaven and hell, and when the world and even your own heart pressures you into a new way of thinking, are you prepared to hold fast to the true and unchanging Word of God as the final authority?  Will you accept it and will you obey it?

And not only that, but will you open God’s Word, will you read it, will you study it and will you come to hear it preached?  Faith, the Bible tells us, comes from hearing the Word of God.  And the Word of God can be found here, in the Bible.  It is a strange thing that people will often turn to charlatans, to false teachers, to so-called prophets and miracle workers.  People want a special revelation, a voice from heaven.  And the false prophets with their books and TV programs line up to tell people what they want to hear, holding out their hands for the money they want to receive.  2 Peter 2:3 is as true today as it always has been:

“And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.”

And meanwhile, these same false teachers will turn you away from Christ and away from the gospel.  Because their gospel is not the gospel at all.  And therefore the warning found in Second Peter is as serious and as relevant for us today as it was for the Christians to whom Peter first wrote this letter.  For our very salvation, it is imperative that we receive God’s Word as His Word, and that we hold on to the truth of the Bible.  Therefore thank God that in His providence and through His Holy Spirit He moved Peter to write what he did and He saw to it that this letter was included in your Bibles.  For although we too have been established in the present truth, we need to be reminded of the truth of God’s Word as well.  But we know that God’s Word is the Word of life.  And we know that God’s Word is true.  Therefore turn to the Scriptures and hold fast to the Word of Truth.  Believe it, confess it and live by it.  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2019, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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