************ Sermon on 2 Peter 1:19-21 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 12, 2004
2 Peter 1:12-21
2 Peter 1:19-21
"Pay Attention to Scripture"
In December of 1983 an English auctioneer sold what he claimed was the world's "most valuable book." The book was auctioned off for eleven million U.S. dollars. The actual manuscript was painstakingly crafted or lettered by an artistic hand sometime in the 12th century. Scattered throughout the manuscript are original hand-drawn pictures, some illustrating the major events of the Gospel story, others depicting the daily life of an average 12th century crusader-knight. Protecting the entire manuscript is a beautiful 16th century binding made of the finest beaten leather and embedded with a variety of precious stones and jewels.I have to agree with the auctioneer's claim that this is the "world's most valuable book." I agree not because someone paid eleven million dollars for it, nor because it is such an old book, nor because of the beautiful binding, nor because of the hand-drawn pictures or the beautifully crafted script. I agree this is the world's most valuable book because it is a Bible.
I The Bible is Inspired
A What makes the Bible a special book? Why is the Bible the world's most valuable book? Verses 20 & 21 of our text tells us:
(2Pt 1:20-21) 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.Contained in these two verses is that beautiful doctrine known as the "inspiration of Scripture." These verses tell us that the Bible is special, that it is the world's most valuable book, because it comes from God and is His Word.
B Let's take a closer look at what these verses tell us. Peter says to us and to all God's people,
(2Pt 1:20) Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation.None of the prophecies of Scripture were spoken or written by a prophet on his own behalf or on his own authority. Nor did any of those prophets make up what they said. John Calvin can say, "they did not blab their inventions of their own accord according to their own judgments." Peter joins himself and the other apostles with these prophets of the Lord when, in verse 16, he says,
(2Pt 1:16) We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ ...According to the prophet Jeremiah this was typical of false prophets who "speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord" (Jer 23:16). Peter's first point, then, is that none of the true prophets whose writings are in Scripture, nor the apostles, made up their message.
C This is not all that Peter has to say on the subject. We read that he also says,
(2Pet 1:21) 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.Peter uses a fascinating image here. The Greek word for "carried along" is the same word used for a sailing ship carried along by the wind. A true prophet, such as those we meet in Scripture, is blown along by the breath or Spirit of God. The Spirit fills them and directs them in their prophetic task so that they speak only what God wants them to speak. In 2 Timothy 3:16 the Apostle Paul has a similar image in mind when he says, "All Scripture is God-breathed." With His breath or Spirit God breathed His thoughts and words into the apostles, prophets, and other human writers of Scripture. Peter's second point, then, is that the prophets of Scripture – and he would include himself and the other apostles in that group – spoke God's message, on God's behalf, and with God's authority.
The Bible, then, is the world's "most valuable book" because it comes from God, not from man. God is its author. What the Bible says, God says.
II Pay Attention to the Bible
A One of Peter's main concerns in his second letter is false prophets and false teachers. He says:
(2Pt 2:1-3) But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves. (2) Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. (3) In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up.
Peter is right, of course. There are so many false prophets and false teachers in the world today. New cults and sects seem to spring up every week, many of them blending features of Christianity with Far-Eastern mysticism. So many get sucked up into these because they sound and look like they are Christian. Also, many TV and Radio preachers proclaim a false Gospel – of money and success, instant healings, and positive thinking – while they hold out their hand and defraud lonely widows out of millions of dollars. And, even within the institutional church there are false prophets and teachers who would lead God's people away from the truth.
B How can any church or believer protect themselves from these false prophets and teachers? Very simple, really, says Peter: "you will do well to pay attention to it" (i.e. to Scripture) (vs 19). To stay in the truth, to avoid heresy and falsehood, we must pay careful attention to the Bible. Don't forget, it is God's holy, inspired Word.
This is not the only time we are given this message. In the book of Hebrews we are told, "We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away" (Heb 2:1). It is only by paying careful attention to Scripture that we do not drift away from the truth into destruction and ruin.
Topic: Bible"We do well to pay attention to it" (i.e. to Scripture), says Peter. We do well to pay careful attention to Scripture lest we drift away from the truth by false prophets and teachers and also get swept to our doom the way the father and his two sons were.
In 1967 a father and two sons were in a boat fishing on the upper portion of the Niagara River. They were so intent on their fishing none of them noticed how close they were coming to the Niagara Falls. The roar of the Falls startled them into an awareness of their danger. They started the motor and tried to move away but the current was too strong and they were swept over the Falls – a drop of some 160 feet – to the rocks and whirlpool below.
C "You do well to pay attention to it (i.e. to Scripture)." What does Peter mean by "pay attention?" He means we have to read, hear, and study God's Word. We have to spend time with God's Word.
As all of you know, we have two worship services every Sunday where the Word of God is proclaimed, explained, and applied to the lives of God's people. We are thankful for every member who faithfully comes twice each Sunday. We are disappointed that some of God's people don't see the need or have the desire to attend both our services. "You do well to pay attention to God's Word," says Peter. Or to put it another way, "You do well to attend both services every Sunday."
There is also much to be thankful for in terms of the many Bible study groups and societies that exist in our church. Yet, some members are not part of any group that studies God's Word. And, some members don't think it is necessary or important to send their children and youth to Sunday School, Catechism, or youth programs.
... many members are not hungry for doctrinal instruction. While acknowledging that receiving such instruction would be "a good thing to do" many just don't give it priority over work or entertainment. Particularly disturbing is the low percentage of men who participate in Bible study or society discussion meetings. The results include ignorance of the basic teachings of the Bible and the Reformed confessions, a failure to struggle seriously with the application of those teachings to the important practical issues of daily life, and an inability to meaningfully express the Christian faith in the daily contacts with non-Christians and members of one's own family.When God's people don't know God's Word because they don't study God's Word they are in serious difficulty. It is so easy for them to drift away from the truth to their doom and destruction. Through the prophet Hosea the Lord cried out, "my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge" (Hos 4:6). When God's people don't know and don't study God's Word they stop being God's people as they drift into heresy, falsehood, and immorality. God's people must know and must study God's Word. "You do well to pay attention to God's Word," says Peter. Or to put it another way, "You do well to join a Bible study group or society and to send your children to Sunday School, Catechism, Cadets, GEMS, and youth group."
(A New Creation, page 8)
Finally, let me also mention personal and family devotions. To pay attention to Scripture means that we spend time with Scripture not only as a church, not only as small groups in Bible study or Sunday School, but also as individuals and families. "You do well to pay attention to God's Word," says Peter. Or to put it another way, "You do well to have regular personal and family devotions."
"You do well to pay attention to it (i.e., to the Bible)." This, by the way, applies to every age group: children, young people, young adults, young couples, the middle aged, and the elderly. We all do well to pay attention to God's holy, inspired Word.
D Did you notice what Peter adds to this? You do well to pay attention to the God-inspired Scriptures, he says, "as to a light shining in a dark place" (vs 19). This calls to mind the words of Psalm 119:105, quoted in the children's message:
Your word is a lamp to my feetAn ancient lamp was vastly different from a modern one; at best it gave only limited light. However, it did provide sufficient light for the bearer to make his way through dark streets.
and a light for my path.
This image of the lamp or light tells us two things about Scripture. First, it is a light shining in darkness. In a world darkened by sin there is no knowledge of the truth. Only in God's Word do we have the light of the knowledge of the truth. Only in God's Word are we told the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. No wonder we do well to pay careful attention to it.
Topic: BibleBecause of sin man is like those blind skiers. The only way he can make his way through life is by depending on the Word of our all-seeing God. It is only His Word which gives us the direction we need to finish the course. So we do well to pay attention to it, "as to a light shining in a dark place."
This reminds me of a television program preceding the Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta. The program featured blind skiers being trained for slalom skiing. Paired with sighted skiers, the blind skiers were taken to the slalom slope, where their sighted partners skied beside them shouting, "Left!" and "Right!" Only when they obeyed the commands, depending solely on the instructions, were they able to successfully ski back and forth between the flag-topped poles and cross the finish line.
Second, the image of the ancient lamp tells us that Scripture provides only limited light. Yes, it does give us enough light to get by, to find our way. It sufficiently teaches us all that we need to know about our salvation in and through Christ. So we do well to pay attention to it. But it does not give us complete light. It does not tell us all that we may want to know, for instance, about our's and the earth's beginnings, about election and providence, about the end times and the future life. Scripture is sufficient, but it is not complete.
I say this because I have noticed two errors among Christians in the use of Scripture. The first, which we find among liberals and liberal churches, is to say less than Scripture when it comes to many issues. The second, which we find among fundamental or orthodox Christians and churches, is to say more than Scripture. Too many times these sincere, Bible-believing, Christ-serving Christians do not confine themselves to the boundaries established by Scripture. They are very uncomfortable with a Scripture that is sufficient but not complete.
Both errors – either taking from or adding to the Biblical record – are reprehensible to the Lord. He says,
(Rev 22:18-19) I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. (19) And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
Scripture is God's inspired Word. It is the only light shining in our sin-darkened world. So we do well to pay careful attention to it lest we drift away from the truth.
III Pay Attention Until the Second Coming
A There will come a day when the Bible is no longer needed by God's people. Peter speaks of that when he says, "You 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." The dawning of the day and the rising of the morning star naturally refer to Christ's second coming.
The Bible is our light, but only on this earth and in this life. We must pay the most careful attention to it only right now while we live and walk on this sin-darkened earth. So right now, today, we do well to pay careful attention to Scripture. Right now, today, we must spend time studying, reading, and hearing God's Word.
B But when Christ comes, then the Bible is no longer necessary or needed. At that time, He Who is the Light of the world will chase all darkness away:
(Rev 22:5) There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun (or, we can add, the light of the Bible), for the Lord God will give them light.Or, as it is written by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:
(1 Cor 13:12) Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.On the day that Christ returns our sight as well as our knowledge will be made complete. On that day Scripture becomes unnecessary, perhaps even irrelevant.
C What we have to realize, congregation, is that right now, today, we are on a pilgrimage through a sin-darkened world. For this pilgrimage God has graciously provided us with a lamp, the Scriptures, so that we can find our way. If we pay attention to them for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16) we shall walk safely. If we neglect them we shall be surrounded and overcome by the darkness and will drift to our doom.
Scripture is God's holy, inspired Word, a light shining in a dark place.
"You will do well to pay attention to it."
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