1:1 From Simeon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ, have been granted a faith just as precious as ours. 1:2 May grace and peace be lavished on you as you grow in the rich knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord!
Our God and Saviour Jesus Christ – ‘According to the Authorised Version this reads, ‘… through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ’. According to the New International Version it reads, ‘… through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ’. Again, the Authorised Version takes the passage as referring to two persons, the New International Version to one. The Granville Sharp Rule operates here with exactly the same force as in Tit 2:13 because once again we have two nouns linked by and covered by a single definite article. We find the opposite arrangement in verse 2, where there are two definite articles and where the New International Version rightly translates, ‘… through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord’. Incidentally, notice the importance of a knowledge of Greek grammar. The man who said it was the best preparation for death spoke even better than he knew.’ (McLeod, A Faith To Live By)
Believers’ Salvation and the Work of God, 3-11
1:3 I can pray this because his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence. 1:4 Through these things he has bestowed on us his precious and most magnificent promises, so that by means of what was promised you may become partakers of the divine nature, after escaping the worldly corruption that is produced by evil desire. 1:5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith excellence, to excellence, knowledge; 1:6 to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; 1:7 to godliness, brotherly affection; to brotherly affection, unselfish love. 1:8 For if these things are really yours and are continually increasing, they will keep you from becoming ineffective and unproductive in your pursuit of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ more intimately. 1:9 But concerning the one who lacks such things—he is blind. That is to say, he is nearsighted, since he has forgotten about the cleansing of his past sins.
Growth in the Christian life is made possible by two things: the power of Christ, v3, and the promises of God (v4) which make us aware of these divine resources.
His divine power…his glory – reminiscent of Jn 1:14.
Through these – that is, through Christ’s glory and goodness, v3.
He has given us his very great and precious promises – the theme of God’s promises runs right through the Bible, from Gen 3:15 onwards. Peter himself will dwell on the promises given to Noah and Lot in 2 Pet 2, and on ‘the coming he promised’ in 2 Pet 3. However, it is particularly Christ’s promises which are in view here, e.g. Jn 15 16, cf. 1 Pet 2:9.
‘Three things are called precious in the Scripture: the blood of Christ is called “precious blood,” 1 Pet 1:19; and faith is called “precious faith,” 2 Pet 1:1; and the promises are called “precious promises,” 2 Pet 1:4.’ (Thomas Brooks)
Through them you may participate in the divine nature – this is one of the most striking claims in the whole of Scripture. Although the phraseology here is unique, the thought is echoed in Jn 1:12; 1 Jn 3:2-3; 1 Pet 5:1, and Rom 8:23,29. Peter does not mean, of course, that we ‘become God’, but rather that we become ‘like God’. Calvin marvels that ‘it is the purpose of the gospel to make us sooner or later like God; indeed it is, so to speak, a kind of deification.’ ‘A baby shares the nature of its parents, and a person born of God shares the divine nature of God.’ (Wiersbe)
This verse has been central in the Orthodox doctrine of theosis, or divinization. This describes ‘the desired end result of the salvation process..Theosis is closely connected to the creation of humankind in God’s image. In attaining salvation in this fuller sense of being recreated in the image of God is a fulfillment of the Trinity’s original purpose in creating humans. This completion of the image finds biblical support in texts like Romans 8:29 and 1 John 3:2.’ (Stamoolis, EDT).
While we should not understand believers to partake of the divine essence, neither are we merely observers. We are, as this text teaches, participants: we we become through our union and communion with God, like him. Moreover, ”to share in divine nature is to become immortal and incorruptible’ (Bauckham). As for the means of this, note the emphasis on the words ‘knowledge’, ‘promises’, and ‘faith’.
‘Nature determines appetite. The pig wants slop and the dog will even eat its own vomit, (2 Pet 2:22) but the sheep desires green pastures. Nature also determines behavior. An eagle flies because it has an eagles nature and a dolphin swims because that is the nature of the dolphin. Nature determines environment: squirrels climb trees, moles burrow underground, and trout swim in the water. Nature also determines association: lions travel in prides, sheep in flocks, and fish in schools.
If nature determines appetite, and we have God’s nature within, then we ought to have an appetite for that which is pure and holy. Our behavior ought to be like that of the Father, and we ought to live in the kind of spiritual environment that is suited to our nature. We ought to associate with that which is true to our nature. (see 2 Cor 6:14ff) The only normal, fruit-bearing life for the child of God is a godly life.’ (Wiersbe)
Escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires – indeed, not only escape the corruption of the world but also escape the divine judgement on that corruption, 2 Pet 3:10-12.
v5 Growth should be proportionate, growth in one grace as well as another. Not only in knowledge, but also in meekness, brotherly love and good works. ‘As the beauty of the body consists in a symmetry of parts, in which not only the head grows, but the arms and breast; so spiritual growth is most beautiful, when there is symmetry and proportion, and every grace thrives.’
Make every effort to add to your faith excellence, to excellence, knowledge; 1:6 to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; 1:7 to godliness, brotherly affection; to brotherly affection, unselfish love – ‘As the beauty of the body consists in a symmetry of parts, in which not only the head grows, but the arms and breast; so spiritual growth is most beautiful, when there is symmetry and proportion, and every grace thrives.’ (Thomas Watson)
Knowledge – This, says Gurnall, ‘is the candle without which faith cannot see to do its work.’
1:10 Therefore, brothers and sisters, make every effort to be sure of your calling and election. For by doing this you will never stumble into sin. 1:11 For thus an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be richly provided for you.
Brothers and sisters – adelphoi. This is more than an expression of friendship. ‘Christians considered each other members of a large extended family and thus siblings with God as Father. That means that this expression is not simply a form of address indicating a fellow believer, but one that indicates that they considered fellow believers as kin, resulting in treating them as kin by sharing possessions and the like.’ (Davids)
Therefore – This may link what is about to the urged with what has just been written, i.e. ‘there is a danger of spiritual blindness; therefore be on your guard’. Or, it may link more generally with the previous section: ‘Because God has bestowed such wonderful gifts, therefore make every effort’. Green thinks the latter more likely.
Make every effort to be sure of your calling and election – Not for the first time, an inspired writer inseparably links divine sovereignty (‘your calling and election’) and human responsibility (‘make every effort’). Of course, in Peter’s teaching our ‘effort’ makes no contribution to our calling and election; but it does make us ‘sure’ of these things. But even such steadfastness can elsewhere be referred to as God’s work, 1 Cor 1:8; 2 Cor 1:21.
The effort that is required is not a gritting of the teeth, but rather a growth in virtue. (Davids)
‘Calling’ and ‘election’ are virtual synonyms.
‘This teaching may sit uncomfortably with some people’s theology, but it is the other side of the coin that has on one side that God makes us firm and on this side that we make our own salvation firm. And it is our side of the coin that the believers 2 Peter addresses need to hear, for they have among them some who think that their salvation is firm enough without their pursuing any of the virtues that our author recommends.’ (Davids)
‘Some are much troubled because they proceed by a false method and order in judging of their estates. They will begin with election, which is the highest step of the ladder, whereas they should begin from a work of grace wrought within their hearts, from God’s calling by his Spirit, and their answer to his call, and so raise themselves upwards to know their election by their answer to God’s calling. “Give all diligence,” says Peter, “to make your calling and election sure,” your election by your calling. God descends unto us from election to calling, and so to sanctification; we must ascend to him beginning where he ends.’ (Sibbes)
‘We can never know that we are elected of God to eternal life except by manifesting in our lives the fruits of election.’ (Warfield)
By doing this you will never stumble into sin – ‘into sin’ is not in the original, but may be implied. The whole expression may refer backward, so that the meaning would be: ‘If you practice the virtues, you will be without sin.’ But this (as Davids observes) would be tautological. Alternatively, it may refer forwards, making ‘you will never stumble’ equivalent to entering Christ’s kingdom. Davids favours the second interpretation.
You will receive a rich welcome – Michael Green illustrates this with reference to a marathon runner who, as he crosses the finishing line, is welcomed by the home crowd.
The welcome will be ‘rich’, ‘because [God] is lavishly meeting our needs for an eternity of serving him as our King.’ (Lucas & Green)
The eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ –
Salvation Based on the Word of God, 12-21
1:12 Therefore, I intend to remind you constantly of these things even though you know them and are well established in the truth that you now have. 1:13 Indeed, as long as I am in this tabernacle, I consider it right to stir you up by way of a reminder, 1:14 since I know that my tabernacle will soon be removed, because our Lord Jesus Christ revealed this to me. 1:15 Indeed, I will also make every effort that, after my departure, you have a testimony of these things.
People pass away, but the word continues, vv12-15
The foundation for our faith was laid by the apostles and prophets, Eph 2:20. We, coming after them, build on that foundation. So Peter, knowing that he would soon depart this life, was anxious that his readers would be reminded; have their memories refreshed; be able to remember these things.
It is good to ‘know’ the truth and to be ‘firmly established’ in it. Be we also need to be reminded (v12) and ‘refreshed’ (v13). This latter word means ‘to awaken, to arouse’, and is also used of the storm on the Sea of Galilee, Jn 6:18. We have a great tendency to forget things. We also have a tendency to grow so accustomed to the truth that we take it for granted. Php 3:1, ‘It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.’
I will always remind you of these things – ‘Preaching is very often reminding a man of what he already knows. It is the bringing back to his memory that truth which he has forgotten, or at which he refuses to look, or whose meaning he has not fully appreciated.’ (DSB)
‘They already knew all that he had spoken of in verses 3-11. They knew of Christ’s gracious provision. They knew they had been forgiven and saved. They knew that a response was required in the form of a godly life. They knew they had Christ’s power within to help them in day to day life. And they knew of the rich welcome and eternal kingdom that awaited them. All of this was standard gospel teaching and these Christians both knew the truth of the teaching and were also firmly established in it. Yet they still needed “reminding”.’ (Gardner)
Firmly established – Jesus had promised Peter that after the nightmare of his denial, he would ‘firmly establish’ the other disciples (same word, sterizo), Lk 22:32.
The truth – This emphasis on a fundamental respository of truth that is to be believed, obeyed, remembered and transmitted occurs frequently in the NT. See Col 1:5; 1 Pet 1:22; Jn 8:32; Jude 3.
Peter’s fear ‘is not that the second generation will codify and fossilise the truth, but rather that they will become so careless about it that they will forget it altogether.’ (Lucas & Green)
‘The lesson that Peter is applying from his own experience is this: no matter how close to the Lord we have been as Christians, or how long-standing our Christian commitment, or how central our position in the fellowship, that danger of wobbling still remains, and we should check ourselves constantly for the tell-tale signs. The only way to be sure of not wobbling is to remember.’ (Lucas & Green)
I think it is right to refresh your memory – ‘His teaching in this letter will be preventative, to stop the new teaching from so flooding their minds with novelties and wonders that they lose their critical faculties and become victims of a brainwash.’ (Lucas & Green)
The tent of this body – This expression underlines the temporary nature of this life. ‘He is not so tied to this world and its possessions that he cannot bear the thought of passing on.’ (Gardner)
‘A sense of the brevity of his tenure adds weight to his feeling of responsibility’ (WBC).
I will soon put it aside – This verse is apparently a reference to the prediction by Christ of the death of Peter as a martyr, Jn 21:18.
Clement, first bishop of Rome, wrote towards the end of the first century of Peter’s suffering during the time of vicious persecution under Nero. All the early records say that he was crucified, and some later records say that he was crucified upside-down.
v15 Peter knew he was going to die, but left something behind which will endure – his two epistles (not forgetting the Gospel of Mark), which are part of the divinely inspired Scripture.
‘No document would redeem the apostle’s promise so well as a gospel, and if a gospel is meant, the reference can hardly be to any other than that of St Mark.’ (Bigg)
Think of the game of ‘Chinese Whispers’ and you will realise how the Christian message would have been changed beyond all recognition if it had not been inscripturated.
‘We should always we wary, then, of people who arrive with a new of different Christian message, and look out for the danger sign that Peter’s basic lesson is being sidetracked in favour of a more attractive of “relevant” message.’ (Lucas & Green)
‘Peter calls us to go back to the original model, time and again. Although two thousand years of church history have elapsed, there is a sense in which every generation of Christians is only the second generation.’ (Lucas & Green)
‘The business of the church and of preaching is not to present us with new and interesting ideas, it is rather to go on reminding us of certain fundamental and eternal truths.’ (Lloyd-Jones)
Peter’s argument in vv 16-21 is: ‘the message we have brought to you is fully dependable. We can testify to it from our own experience. Better still, the Scriptures themselves testify to it. And the Scriptures are not the work of man alone, but come with divine authority.’
1:16 For we did not follow cleverly concocted fables when we made known to you the power and return of our Lord Jesus Christ; no, we were eyewitnesses of his grandeur. 1:17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father, when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory: “This is my dear Son, in whom I am delighted.” 1:18 When this voice was conveyed from heaven, we ourselves heard it, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 1:19 Moreover, we possess the prophetic word as an altogether reliable thing. You do well if you pay attention to this as you would to a light shining in a murky place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 1:20 Above all, you do well if you recognize this: No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, 1:21 for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
Experience fades, but the word remains, vv 16-18
We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you… – the assumption here is that Peter is answering some accusation of the false teachers. ‘Stories’ = ‘fables’ or ‘myths’. (cf. Tit 1:14; 2 Tim 4:4)
Baukham says that ‘mythos’ (translated ‘stories’) carried a number of connotations in NT times. On the one hand, ‘the old Greek myths, the stories about the gods, could be seen as stories which were not literally true but expressed religious, moral or philosophical truth in pictorial form.’ But, on the other hand, ‘there was a strong tradition of criticism and repudiation of myths, as morally unedifying, or as childish, nonsensical or fabulous. Here μῦθος can come, like “myth” in much modern English usage, to mean a story which is not true, a fable or fairy story (again in the derogatory senses).’
‘Peter is arguing that when he talks (as he has done in the previous verses) of the present power of the risen Lord to equip the Christian for holy living, and of the glorious future which awaits the faithful Christian, he is not guilty either of embellishment or of speculation. They are respectively the present and the future manifestations of the historical Jesus, to whose reality he could bear personal testimony’ (Green).
It may be that the false teachers explained away the future element of salvation in terms of what had already happened. The resurrection was explained in terms of dying and rising with Christ in baptism, (Rom 6:3-5; Col 2:12) and the return of Christ was understood in terms of the coming of the Spirit.
There are so many stories which have been ‘cleverly invented’ to buttress the claims of religion, that it is needful to assert that the story of Christ is based on sober, observable, truthful facts.
Davids cites Philo as frequently asserting that Scripture was not consisting of such stories/fables/myths. This was in deliberate contrast to the Greek-speaking world, where many of the stories told about heroes and gods were considered to be ‘myths’ or ‘fables’.
The power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ – this could be a figure of speech for ‘the powerful coming’. The word ‘coming’ (Gk ‘parousia’) was often used of an official visit by a king. It probably refers not to his first, but to his second, coming, as in 2 Pet 3:4,12 and the NT generally. It appears that the false teachers were distorting or denying the doctrine of the second coming.
‘”Peter and the other apostles have deluded you,” they seem to say, “by encouraging you to believe this silly nonsense. Instead of looking to a fairy-tale future, look to the present and enjoy the freedom of being a Christian.”‘ (Lucas & Green) Peter calls this heresy ‘destructive’, 2 Pet 2:1.
For the teaching of Jesus on his Second Coming, see, inter alia, Mk 13:26-27.
We were eyewitnesses… – this is the apostolic ‘we’. In contrast to gnostic leaders, who based their claims on their initiation into a higher ‘knowledge’, Peter says, ‘We know that what we say is true; we were there; we saw it.’ Cf Acts 4:20 1 Jn 1:1-3.
Majesty – a word which occurs elsewhere only in Lk 9:43; Acts 19:27, and in each case with reference to divine majesty.
The Transfiguration more than any other event during Jesus’ lifetime his power and majesty, Mt 17:1-8; Mk 6:2-8; Lk 9:28-36. It attested in advance both to his resurrection and his return.
Peter insists that the apostolic preaching is rooted in historical events. The Transfiguration is at once one of the most problematic, yet also one of the most significant, of these events.
Davids remarks of the Transfiguration: ‘Sometimes this event is interpreted in both modern and ancient works as a revelation of the glory of Jesus, as if the veil were pulled back and the readers get to see who Jesus really is. Sometimes it is viewed as a reassurance to Jesus, God reassuring him that he really is on track and really is God’s loved Son. 2 Peter, however, says that the Transfiguration was a view into the future of the coming exaltation of Jesus, a view of his second coming with power and glory.’
v17 There were probably several reasons why Peter chose the Transfiguration in order to rebut the error of the false teachers. It was the most obviously supernatural event in the life of Jesus; he had been an eyewitness of it; it pointed to the future coming of Christ; and God the Father gave his verbal approval of it.
Honour and glory – ‘Honour in the voice which spoke to him; glory in the light which shone from him’ (Alford). Cf. Dan 7:14. We are reminded by this that our Lord’s essential glory was to a large extent veiled during the days of his incarnation, yet from time to time shone forth with unmistakeable brightness. Jn 1:14, ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.’
“This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased” – this wording differs somewhat from that found in the Synoptics. This independence suggests an early (pre-Synoptic) date and authentically Petrine authorship for this epistle.
These words draw on Ps 2:7 (recognised as a Messianic psalm), and Isa 42:1, which speaks of the Suffering Servant.
We ourselves heard this voice…we were with him – this obviously has a bearing on the authorship and authenticity of the present epistle. Remember that only Peter, James and John were present with Christ at the Transfiguration. It has been argued that real author (not Peter) is trying too hard here to identify himself with Peter. It is further claimed that pseudepigraphy was commonplace and accepted practice in the ancient world. However, Guthrie (New Testament Introduction) has shown that the writing of letters in someone else’s name was not common practice. Therefore, the claim both in the address and body of this epistle that it was written by the apostle Peter should be taken very seriously.
‘This whole passage has a great interest in showing the impact made by the transfiguration upon those who were present. Peter uses the incident here to emphasise his authoritative knowledge of the historical Jesus (and therefore to rebut the false teachers’ talk of ‘myths’), to stress the solidarity between the Old Testament and the apostolic message (against false teachers who were twisting both), and to draw from the incarnate life of Jesus a positive pledge of the future coming in glory which the false teachers laughed at’ (Green).
Peter now turns from personal experience to Scripture for the support of what he has been teaching in vv3-11.
The world is dark, but the word illuminates, vv 19-21
‘So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed’ (NRSV)
The word of the prophets made more certain – There is no word for ‘made’ in the original.
‘The scope of prophecy here is uncertain: It may refer simply to the corpus of the writing prophets, or more broadly to the historical books of the Old Testament also, or indeed (as Warfield argues) to the whole Old Testament. Certainly it speaks precisely of the divine origin of that portion of Scripture to which it refers, and of the role of the Holy Spirit in “carrying along” the human writers, such that the “word of the prophets” may be “made more certain” (1:19).’ (EDBT, art. ‘Bible, Inspiration of’)
This admits of several different interpretations. Lucas & Green favour the view that ‘the Old Testament points to Christ’s second coming but the promise has been underlined by the transfiguration.’ They quote Calvin as saying, ‘the authority of the Word of God is the same as it was in the beginning, and then it was given further confirmation than before by the advent of Christ.’
As as alternative approach, we might ask, ‘More sure than what? Than experience. Peter was saying, in effect, that although the transfiguration was a wonderful experience, Scripture was a more trustworthy verification of his faith. Though he had seen no less than the Lord in his glory, Peter was certain that the Word of God recorded by holy men moved by the Holy Spirit was a more solid foundation for what he believed.’ (MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos, 41) ‘He is saying, “If you don’t believe me, go to the Scriptures”‘ (Green). ‘It is an amazing assessment of the validity of holy Scripture that Peter declares it to be more dependable than a voice from heaven heard with the natural ear.’ (WBC)
‘Peter was with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration, and nothing could shake Peter’s conviction that he had been there in the midst of that heavenly glory. And yet for all that, Peter says concerning the inspired word, “We have a more sure word of prophecy.” He felt that even the memory of that vision, which he had assuredly seen, did not always yield to him so much assurance as did the abidingly inspired Word of God. You ought to feel the same.’ (The Best of Spurgeon, 361)
‘What a mercy is it that God has not only acquainted us what his will is, but that he has made it known by writing! In the old times God revealed his mind by visions, but the Word written is a surer way of knowing God’s mind.’ (Thomas Watson)
The fulfilment of OT prophecies ‘had been his testimony on the day of Pentecost, in his subsequent teaching and in his first letter. (Ac 2:16-21; 3:16-21; 1 Pet 1:10-12) he is not replacing thr Old Testament with his experience, for chapter 2 depends on the Old Testament; but neither is he putting the Old Testament in a different league from his experience, which would undermine his whole case that it was God who spoke on the hilltop. Rather, he is saying that God has spoken again, confirming what he said before and giving partial fulfilment of it, increasng Peter’s expectation of the next stage in God’s plan. He had seen how the prophets had spoken not just about a glorious king, but about a suffering king; and, as a witness to the suffering, he had become even more certain of the glory.’ (Lucas & Green)
You will do well to pay attention – to apply their minds to understand, and their hearts to believe, the Scriptures. And this, because they are able to make them ‘wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus’, 2 Tim 3:15. Gardner emphasises that the Second Coming is part and parcel of the gospel message preached by the apostles. The Transfiguration, of which they were witnesses, testified to it, as do the OT prophets. The prospect of Christ’s return is not merely an item in the creed, but a spur to holy living, as we look for his coming, Rom 13:12-13; Php 2:15-16; look back also to 2 Pet 1:10f, with the link between ‘making your calling and election sure’, and the prospect of a ‘rich welcome into the eternal kingdom.’
As Bible-believing Christians we believe that Christ will return. but do we live in the light of this truth and let it govern our lives? (Gardner)
So, will our Saviour say of us, at the last day, “Well done”?
‘For those of us who do believe Scripture is without error in all that it affirms, there remains the great danger that our practice does not conform to our doctrine. Christian life is about being more and more conformed to the mind of Christ which we find in Scripture. But so often we are tempted to walk in an altogether different direction! Theoretical knowledge of the truth without obedience is never sufficient for Christian life and service of the Lord. We may make all the right noises about the authority of Scripture and we may stand up well against false teachers, but of what value is it to us personally if, knowing the will of God and his truth, we do not then obey it?’ (Gardner)
A light shining in a dark place – cf. Ps 119:105. The Scriptures are like a lamp shining in the dark places of this world. Our earthly home began as a lovely garden; it is now like a murky cellar. Note, without the Scriptures, we are yet in darkness. Yet the light of the Scriptures is as a lamp compared to the brilliant sunlight of heaven. ‘Though it be so, yet shall the Word give comfortable direction to all that follow the light of it, under all their crosses, confusions and difficulties. And those who make it a lamp to their feet and a light to their path may be sure to get at last such a clear and satisfactory sight of Christ as shall banish all darkness and doubts; and such a near union and fellowship with him, the bright Morning-star, gloriously present by his Spirit in their hearts and personally also in human nature, conversing with them for ever, that they shall have no more need of Word or ordinances; which is the condition here described by the Apostle, only to be expected in heaven, till which time we will never be above the direction of the Word and use of the ordinances, Eph 4:13 So 4:12′ (Nisbet). But the word should be permitted to shine in our hearts more and more. Prov 4:18f, ‘The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.’
The present world is aptly described as a ‘dark place’, ‘in which people are desperately trying to discover what the future holds. Horoscopes, the occult, New Age religions, strange religious sects are all symptoms for us of an age that still struggles in darkness. Christians, on the other hand, have revelation, God’s own word on the matter, and it is to be trusted and listened to.’ (Gardner)
The morning star – is Christ. Cf Num 24:17, another Messianic prophecy. When he returns, he will shine in his full glory. Until that day, we have the Scriptures as a light to guide our way.
In these two verses (vv20f) we find both a negative and a positive statement about the divine inspiration of Scripture. Negatively, ‘no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation.’ Positively, ‘men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.’
Interpretation – Gk ‘epiluseos‘ (unravelling), occurring as a noun only here in the NT. This passage may mean, (a) no prophecy arises from the prophet’s own understanding; i.e. it is from God; or (b) no prophecy is to be understood by private interpretation; i.e. it must be interpreted as the Church understands it. The first view is the more likely, since the whole issue in this passage is about authenticity, not interpretation. ‘Peter…is talking about the divine origin of Scripture, not about its proper interpretation’ (Green). The prophets did not invent their messages, but spoke the word of the Lord. This in contrast to the false prophets, Jer 23:16. ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.’
‘These men were not simply giving their own opinions: not even their own expert opinions. Nor did prophecy come ‘by the will of man’. (2 Pet 1:21) It wasn’t a case of a man saying, ‘I’m going to prophesy.’ The initiative did not lie with man at all. You see that so often with regard to such figures as Moses and Jeremiah and Jonah. We can almost say of them that they were dragged kicking into this particular ministry. It wasn’t their own choice. And when they spoke, the message they proclaimed wasn’t from themselves at all.’ (McLeod, A Faith to Live By)
Some, of course, take this passage in the sense of (b) above: ‘The apostle Peter has said that the Holy Scriptures are not of private interpretation, (2 Pet 1:20) and thus we do not allow all possible interpretations…Wherefore we do not despise the interpretations of the holy Greek and Latin fathers, nor reject their disputations and treatises concerning sacred matters as far as they agree with the Scriptures: but we modestly dissent from them when they are found to set down things differing from, or altogether contrary to the Scriptures…We do not permit ourselves, in controversies about religion or matters of faith, to urge our case with only the opinions of the fathers or decrees of councils; much less by received customs, or by the large number of those who share the same opinion, or by the prescription of a long time. Who is the Judge? Therefore, we do not admit any other judge than God himself, who proclaims by the Holy Scriptures what is true, what is false, what is to be followed, or what is to be avoided. So we do assent to the judgments of spiritual men which are drawn from the Word of God. Certainly Jeremiah and other prophets vehemently condemned the assemblies of priests which were set up against the law of God; and diligently admonished us that we should not listen to the fathers, or tread in their path who, walking in their own inventions, swerved from the law of God.’ (The Second Helvetic Confession)
v21 This is the fullest and most explicit reference to the inspiration of Scripture. Peter is not concerned with the psychology of inspiration; nor does he discuss the relationship between the divine and human elements in the production of the sacred writings. He simply asserts the divine/human co-operation.
Note carefully the two word-pictures here: that of the audience-room, and of the sailing ship, or ferry.
Note also the partnership between the human agents (‘men spoke’) and the divine agent (‘carried along by the Holy Spirit’), although it is clear that the Holy Spirit is the senior partner.
Men spoke from God – The picture here is of men who have had an audience with God, have listened carefully to what the Lord has to say, and then come forth as God’s spokesmen.
‘I wonder whence the Scriptures should come, if not from God. Bad men could not be the authors of it. Would their minds be employed in inditing such holy lines? Would they declare so fiercely against sin? Good men could not be the authors of it. Could they write in such a strain? or could it stand with their grace to counterfeit God’s name, and put, Thus saith the Lord, to a book of their own devising? Nor could any angel in heaven be the author of it, because the angels pry and search into the abyss of gospel mysteries, 1 Pet 1:12, which implies their nescience of some parts of Scripture; and sure they cannot be the authors of that book which they themselves do not fully understand. Besides, what angel in heaven durst be so arrogant as to personate God and, say, ‘I create,’ Isa 65:17, and, ‘I the Lord have said it,? Num 14:35. So that it is evident, the pedigree of Scripture is sacred, and it could come from none but God himself.’ (Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity)
Carried along by the Holy Spirit – Gk ‘pheromene‘, also used in Acts 27:15,17. Here is another picture: that of a sailing ship carried along by the wind. The prophets, as it were, raised their sails (were obedient and receptive) and were carried along by the Holy Spirit. There is both a human and a divine element in Scripture. We do well to acquaint ourselves with the human authors, their backgrounds, personalities, characteristics of style, and so on. They were not passive automatons in the production of Scripture. But the truthfulness and authority of their message comes from the fact that God was speaking through them. Cf 1 Pet 1:10-12.
‘The best interpreter of a book is generally the man who wrote it. The Holy Ghost wrote the Scriptures. Go to him to get their meaning, and you will not be misled.’ (The Best of Spurgeon, 361)
This letter was written against a background of false teaching. Peter’s point is that if the message of these teachers contradicts the teaching of the apostles and of the Scriptures generally, then it cannot be from God.
A case in point is the modern Charismatic movement. After an initial determination to test everything by Scripture, the charismatic movement, in an attempt to avoid legalism, has placed less stress on personal Bible study. This has left many unable to judge for themselves from Scripture whether something is of God or not. Leaders seriously misquote Scripture and the people believe that God is speaking. Howard-Browne says, ‘Don’t try to understand this. Don’t you know the natural mind cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God.’ But 1 Cor 2:14 refers to ‘the natural man,’ a clear reference to the unregenerate man. A ‘spiritual man’ is required to judge all things, v15. Other sayings include: ‘Don’t let the Bible get in the way of the blessing.’ ‘The Bible has let us down. It has not delivered the numbers we need.’ ‘You must not let your mind hinder the receiving of the blessing.’
Wake up, and remember! That is Peter’s message. ‘A sleeping church is the devil’s playground. It is while men slept that the enemy came in a sowed the tares. (Mt 13:24ff) Peter went to sleep on the Mount of Transfiguration and almost missed the whole thing!’ (Wiersbe)