Some times it can be hard to define theology. Theology is literally the study of God. Although on a broader scale when we delve into Theology we don’t just study God himself, but the things of God like the church and salvation and the end times. There are specific fancy words for separate studies like ecclesiology and soteriology and eschatology, but for the most part they all come under the larger umbrella of Theology.
I believe theology is very important for us. Growing up in the church I believed in Jesus and knew the basics of the Bible and belief, but I had not really thought much about theology. And basically I just took in whatever the church talked about and never really took the time to consider what I really believed overall about God and the things of God. It wasn’t until much later in life that I started to consider what I believe at a deeper level. And I don’t think that I am alone in that.
So we are embarking on a new sermon series. In order to provide a framework for this series, we will be using the Statement of Faith of The Christian and Missionary Alliance. If you are interested you can find a link to this statement on our website. The statement is made up of the different aspects of theology that our denomination decided were important enough to use in outlining what we believe. So we will be focusing in on those areas as well as maybe a few other areas that they didn’t cover, to provide the framework for our theological discussion.
So I think it will be really good for us to go through this sermon series and along the way consider what we personally believe. Actually, I think a really good assignment for this series would be for each of us to begin to formulate our own personal statement of faith. So as we talk about these things, you might want to consider jotting down your thoughts on these areas and consider if you were to write your own statement of faith what would it look like? What would you include? What would you not include? And why? Maybe at the end of this series we will take the time and ask about those things. And along the way, if questions come up, please email or text me or Nathan so that we can address those in sermons or one on one.
With all of that in mind, Please turn with me in your Bibles to the book of 2 Peter, chapter 1. Now it probably makes sense for a study on theology to begin with talking about God, but as Nathan and I were discussing where to go with this series, we decided to start with Scripture. We decided to do this because the Bible is going to be our resource for this sermon series. We are going to figure out what we believe about God, the church, salvation and all of those other things, by digging into Scripture. So it makes sense for us to consider what we believe about the Bible if we are going to use this as a source for the rest of our discussions.
So that is why we are beginning with 2 Peter. The book begins by saying that it was written by Peter. Now I want to point out that some Scholars doubt that authorship. There are a variety of reasons for their concerns. Some point to how closely it resembles the book of Jude, others point to how different it is from I Peter. But the arguments they make, while reasonable, also have reasonable explanations. If you would like to talk more about that or look it up on your own, there are some great commentaries that dig into it. After the research that I did, I would put myself in the camp that accepts the authorship of Peter.
So that leads to my next question. Who was Peter? He was probably the most well-known of all the disciples. There are lots of stories in the Gospels and in the book of Acts that include Peter as a character.
Next, who is Peter writing to in this book? The opening of this chapter tells us that he is writing to other people who have this faith in Jesus Christ. In the verses leading up to our passage for today Peter talks with them about their faith and how they should be growing in their walk with the Lord, adding knowledge and virtue and self-control.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at our passage, beginning with verse 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.”
When Peter says “we” he is referring too himself and the other apostles who knew Jesus and are now spreading the Gospel.
He says they did not follow cleverly devised myths, which are fables or stories that are not true. Stories like these are made up.
Instead of simply believing made up stories, they trusted their eyewitness accounts. Peter and the other disciples were literally there with Christ. They saw his life and ministry. They were not spreading urban legends that they had heard second hand. They were literally testifying about what they had personally witnessed.
Think about this, Peter had a front row seat to all the miracles like the feeding of the 5,000, the walking on water, the raising of Lazarus, and all of the other amazing things that Jesus did. He also had a front row seat to listen to Jesus’ teachings, his parables, the times in the synagogues, or in front of crowds or even arguing with the Pharisees. And then Peter was also there after the crowds had left when Jesus took the time to break things down and make sure they understood what he was saying. Peter also got a first row seat for the triumphal entry and Holy week and Jesus’ arrest, trial and death. And then he was there on Easter morning at the empty tomb, seeing the linens where Jesus was laid, but the body gone. And he was there in the locked room when Jesus popped in. And he was there when Jesus ascended to Heaven after giving them the Great Commission.
So when he told people about Jesus, he was literally telling them what he saw and heard and experienced. He was making known to them the power and majesty of Jesus that he saw firsthand. He was truly an eyewitness to all of it.
We also know that Peter suffered for telling people about Jesus. If it was a lie or something he had made up, it would have been silly to keep up that façade. But apparently he was so adamant about sharing these words that he eventually faced the same death as Jesus, with one exception. Peter was crucified upside down, because he did not believe he was worthy of dying in the exact same way as Jesus.
It is important for us to understand who these people are who were testifying about Jesus? It helps us understand the reliability of Scripture. When we read the Bible we are reading the accounts of eyewitnesses like Peter who are telling us literally about what they saw, heard, and experienced and we know that they are trustworthy authors because they were willing to die for what they were sharing. Peter was telling the truth. He was not spreading myths.
Let’s keep going. Take a look at verses 17 and 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,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.”
He is referring to an event from the life of Christ called the transfiguration. That event is recorded for us in Matthew 17, Mark 9 and Luke 9. On this day, Jesus took his inner circle, Peter, James and John and went up to the top of a mountain to pray. And when they got up there Jesus was transfigured. His appearance changed right before their very eyes. His face shown like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And then Moses and Elijah joined him and they just hung out and talked with Jesus. It must have been quite a sight. But why does Peter mention this here? Why did they get to witness it?
Because it shows Jesus’ connection with God and his honor and glory. They literally hear from God in that moment that this Jesus is the Son of God. And so when Peter talks about Jesus’ power and majesty, he knows what he is talking about because not only did he see all of Jesus’ life and miracles and everything, but he was also there on that mountain for that transfiguration moment when God Himself testified about who Jesus is.
So let’s move on to verse 19,
“And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,”
What is the prophetic word a reference to? The Scriptures. While prophecy does mean talking about future events, it also refers to communicating revealed truth. The Scriptures are reliable and true. Like the Psalmist writes, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” The Scripture is like a lamp shining in the dark. I love how Peter warns them to pay attention to the light.
In this letter Peter references Christ’s second coming. The day dawning is probably a reference to that second coming, while the morning star is probably a reference to Christ. One day we will see Christ face to face for all eternity but For now, we rely on the prophecies of Scripture.
Okay with all of that in mind then let’s look at verses 20-21,
“knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 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.”
Notice that Peter uses the words “first of all”. It is like a little pause for effect. What he is about to talk about is foundational for believers. He then goes on to speak to us of the divine nature of Scripture.
What makes the prophecy of Scripture different than just something that someone says? It does not come from someone’s own interpretation. What this means is that the prophecies of Scripture are not just made up from a person. The prophecies of Scripture come from God.
And this follows a process which is, “Men were carried along by the Holy Spirit” who told them what to say or what to write. What we have recorded for us is not just the words of people, but God chose men and then carried those men along by the Holy Spirit, revealing to them what they were to say or write and helping them throughout the process.
The word translated here as carried is actually a Greek word from which we get our word ferry. So the Holy Spirit ferried them along, bringing them to a particular place.
Not that they were just robots or dictation machines. He used their own unique personalities and writing styles, but make no mistake about it, He carried them along through His Holy Spirit.
That means that this book is different than other books. Not just different than fiction or even regular non-fiction books. But different also than commentaries about the Bible or books or sermons written by good Christian men and women. Those things are still their words. Hopefully the Holy Spirit is leading them and they are writing things that are good and helpful to our lives, but the Bible is on a different level than those kinds of writings.
When people talk about the “Inspiration of Scripture” that is what these verses are addressing. God inspired men to write this book. He worked through them in an unusual way to give us His Word. There is an authority and reliability in this book that is different than every other book in this world.
Now along those lines, there were other books and letters written around the same time as some as these.
The word canon refers to a rule or measuring stick. In the early church the decision was made for a list of criteria to decide on which books would be included in the Bible. They were trying to figure out which books should be considered inspired, and which ones should not. In order for a book to be included in the canon of Scripture it had to measure up to those criteria that had been decided upon.
Those criteria were things like: the book had to conform to orthodoxy of what the church already believed. It was still early in Christianity, not long since Christ had ascended to Heaven, and so they knew what they believed and were not going to water it down with things that took them away from those foundational beliefs. Another rule was that the book had to be from either a prophet or an apostle or someone closely connected to them. They didn’t want books written by others who were farther removed.
There were other rules, but you can get the gist of the process. Over the years different councils of church leaders discussed which books to include and eventually in 397 A.D. the canon was closed.
There are some other good books that can help us in understanding God. For instance the Roman Catholic Church includes the apocrypha, which is made up of some books that are not included in the Protestant Bible. There are reasons they were not included. For instance, the Jews do not consider those books inspired. There are even many catholic scholars that reject the books. There are other reasons you can get into if you are interested. There are also other letters from great leaders in the early church that are not included. These can be helpful, but we should not treat them the same as the books that have been canonized.
Ultimately, God superintended the process of the writing of Scripture, carrying the men along through his Holy Spirit, why would he then stop once it was written? I believe that he continued to carry along the process through the early church as they decided on which books to include and which ones not to include and then in the translation work along the way and everything that has transpired to bring us this book. The same God who took care of the process early on, I believe continued to provide the way to bring us what we have.
We will continue this next week to talk about the Word of God from 2 Timothy 3. But for now I want to end with the realization that this is the Bible that God wanted us to have and so we should embrace the Scriptures and let God use them in our lives to help us know him. And that is what we are going to do as we continue through this series.