We Can Be Sure about Jesus Seminarian Joel Prange 2-23-2020
2 Peter 1:16-21 116 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 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.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. 19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, 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 of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Why did Peter want to stay on that mountain? Was he expecting to see more? Was he so awestruck at everything going on that he just didn’t know what to do or say? And those are the words that came out of his mouth? Was he thinking logically, here they were, with the glory of God shining around them, why leave? Whatever his reasoning was we can be sure that Peter, James and John never forgot the events of the Transfiguration. If there was any doubt in their minds about the validity of Jesus, I’m sure the events of that day reaffirmed the truths that they had been hearing from Jesus all this time. For the rest of their lives, as they were proclaiming the beautiful gospel message, they would look back at this event and see it as proof of Jesus’ validity.
The people alive at the time of Christ and the apostles were living in a world of uncertainty, just like the current world. Our world today likes to think that truth becomes truth only when the individual wants it to be. If you’re having a conversation about spiritual things with people, they often just dismiss our teaching as our own interpretation, or our own truth. There don’t seem to be any elements of certainty in this world. This can cause us to have doubts and questions, especially when our teachings are challenged.
Peter’s letter addresses the idea of uncertainty; through his words he tells us that:
We Can Be Sure about Jesus
The Father testified about Jesus at his Transfiguration
The Holy Spirit testifies about Jesus in the Scriptures
Peter wrote the section of scripture that we are considering today in a letter for a group of Christians who are unknown. The evidence in the book suggests that he was writing to a specific group of Christians who were dealing with a specific group of false teachers. These false teachers appear to have been attacking some of the apostles’ statements about Christ.
These false teachers caused Peter’s readers to feel uncertain about what they were taught. They were questioning the second coming of Christ. Pointing to the world around them and saying things along the line of, “See how the world hasn’t changed since the time of Abraham; why would it all of a sudden change now?” They were really doing was denying the validity of the OT prophecies, which meant that they were denying God.
Not only were these false teachers denying the scriptures’ validity, they were denying the validity of the apostles. Willfully trying to entice away the Christians that Peter was writing to! They crafted their teaching to lead weak Christians astray, by proclaiming a freedom that the apostles weren’t offering. They also appealed to the weak Christians’ sinful flesh with teachings that were sexually depraved yet intriguing.
All the teachings of the false teachers made the Christians feel uncertain. Peter is writing to reassure his readers of the validity that Christ has. He wants them to be sure of the truths that they, the apostles, proclaim because he knows that he won’t be around in this world forever. That is where the reading for this morning begins.
Peter states that the apostles have not reported cleverly devised stories. It’s not like, after Jesus died the disciples got together and decided upon the stories that they were going to tell and crafted this religion which is called Christianity. They couldn’t possibly have crafted these stories out of thin air! They were actual witnesses of the events that they preach and teach about.
The apostles weren’t alone. The Emmaus disciples saw Jesus after the resurrection. In fact, around 500 people saw Jesus after the resurrection. Matthew reports that the dead rose from their tombs and went back into the Holy City, and they appeared to many people! These weren’t just 12 fanatical apostles who had no proof. If someone wanted to, they could go interview the people in Jerusalem who had seen these amazing things! The power of an eyewitness account is unmistakable, and that’s what the Apostles were teaching.
What did they see? Peter shows the first proof by focusing in on their witnessing of the Transfiguration. They saw Christ’s majesty!... Majestic, glorious power emanating from the man whom they had been following around and learning from for years. They saw his glory beaming brighter than anything they had ever seen before. And you want to talk about witnesses… how about Moses and Elijah! Two great prophets from the Old Testament, standing there conversing with Jesus about what he is going to do. On top of those two witnesses, how about God the Father himself? Who Peter records him saying, This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. What amazing witnesses to Jesus’ validity! And Peter, James, and John saw it all with their own eyes, and heard it with their own ears. God’s words, proclaiming the validity of his son, met their ears that very day. They were proclaiming the objective truth.
Peter wanted his readers to be certain that the message about Jesus is true and trustworthy, so they could stand strong against those false teachers. We can be certain that the message about Jesus is true and trustworthy, so we can stand strong against the false teachers in our life.
What are those false teachers, which cause us to doubt? How about those teachings that tell us there’s something we need to do in order to be saved? We would love nothing more than to have achievable goals set before us. False teachers know this about the human nature, and they exploit it, creating an appealing false teaching, which can lead us astray.
Sometimes the false teachers in our life are friends or close relations. They can cause us to doubt the certainty that we have in the scriptures. You can be so confident about the validity of Christ and his work, then your friend or family member asks you a question or brings up a point that seems to go against scripture and makes Christ’s work invalid. Then you begin to question what the scriptures say.
The devil is another false teacher at work, he has so many snares to employ which bring our attention off Christ and his work. Or he twists God’s word through his various ways which cause us to doubt God. The sinister, sneaky serpent systematically puts doubts into our head about God, and his love for us. Christ’s validity is challenged by the devil, and he is restless in his pursuit.
The way to combat these false teachers is found in Peter’s words about the objective events that happened on that mountain. Luke records that Moses and Elijah talk to Christ about his coming passion. The passion that would be for the salvation of the whole world. The passion that actually happened, for us.
God the father himself testified to the validity of Christ and his work. The Gospels record the Transfiguration, Peter recounts it in his letter. The eyewitnesses have testified to Christ. They told of his glory, and his majesty. No false teacher that we face on this earth can pierce the glorious radiance of Christ’s work. The Transfiguration shows us that nothing can darken the power and validity of Christ. He is God, who saved us from our sins, by his death and resurrection. All of this was affirmed by God before Peter, James, and John. They recorded it for us. It is for us to have confidence in the validity of Christ. We can be sure of Christ. Because God the Father himself testified about Jesus at his Transfiguration.
In the rest of the verses, Peter shows us that, not only do we have the voice and actions of God the Father backing up this truth about Jesus, but we also have the prophetic message, all the scriptures, backing up this truth.
Peter then switches to another proof of validity, the proof of scripture. He says, we have the prophetic message as something completely reliable. He is talking about the Old Testament scriptures. From Genesis to Malachi there is prophecy about the coming Messiah.
People in the Old Testament believed that these prophecies were valid. Simeon trusts in God that he would see the Messiah. The apostles, especially Peter, preached from the OT in their sermons. Stephen had faith in God and trust in his promises, while he was being stoned to death.
Why is it important, why does Peter say you will do well to pay attention to it…? Because it is a light shining in a dark place. And he adds that this is a special and extraordinary light; it is the light of the morning star, the brightest star in the universe. It’s important for his audience because these words enlightened them. Human beings are born in darkness and God works through his word to bring light to them. Human beings were in pitch black darkness and the prophecies of God were a light shining in that darkness, leading people to the source of that light, the saving work of Christ.
When the prophets wrote down or spoke these prophecies, they weren’t giving their own interpretation of things. That is not the way God works through his prophets, or through the writers of the scriptures. Peter says that the prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. He is talking about the teaching of inspiration.
Inspiration is a term used to describe how God wrote the Bible. God worked through human authors to write down the truths that he wanted to be written down. This wasn’t through a mechanical dictation, where the author sat down at his desk with a new parchment and fresh ink and God began saying the exact words that he wanted written and the person wrote down those exact words. Sometimes God worked through a prophet to say words directly and we have record of some of those words in the Bible.
What it most often is, is a miraculous communication from God through chosen authors to proclaim the truth of salvation. God guides or reminds men writing down the truths that he wants them to write down. Moses wrote down the first five books of the Bible. God worked through the memory and mental faculties of Moses to have his words recorded in scripture. Think of the Gospels. They are eyewitness accounts of what happened in the life of Christ, but the Holy Spirit worked through these authors in a miraculous way to relate the truths about Christ.
So, the words of scripture are correct, and valid. And they attest to the validity of Jesus Christ, and his work.
What does the second proof that Peter uses mean for us? When those false teachers come our way, it can be easy to buckle under the pressure of false teachers. This can lead to many bad things. It can lead to a loss of faith. A very serious warning is presented by Peter in his letter telling us to watch out so that we are not led astray and fall from the faith. Buckling to false teaching can cause us to doubt the validity of God’s word. When we doubt, we don’t stand firm on the truths of scripture. We can easily give in to the false teachings around us and sin instead of staying true to scripture. The other side of the coin would be to add to scripture, which is what false teachers often do. We would think that we have a better way of explaining God’s salvation that the way that he chose to do it.
When we buckle, we lose focus on what God’s word really is for us. The scriptures enlighten believers to the coming of Christ, they enlighten us. They take away the shadows of unbelief and open our eyes to the brilliance of God’s love. His radiant glory. We stay connected to God’s word through our daily devotions, our spiritual conversations, our meditation on the truth of scripture. That is how we fight the false teachers, that is how we pay close attention to the words of God!
God’s word is what renews our hearts and minds. It shows us the light in this dark world. Jesus knew the power of the scriptures when he was talking with the Emmaus disciples. He walked with them and explained what the Messiah had to do based on Moses and the prophets, and that opening of the scriptures brought them to see the Messiah and his saving work. When Jesus left, they said, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
God’s word is valid. It is the word of God. The Bible says so; the prophets and apostles testify about the Messiah and about the words they are speaking being the very words of God. Christ says so, he used it while here on the earth and he says that his work here was to fulfill what is written in the law and the prophets. Also, the Bible proves its divine power in our hearts. The very words that are true create faith in our hearts to believe that they are true, what an amazing miracle. The scriptures themselves and our own reaction testify to the validity of Jesus Christ.
The events of the transfiguration point toward the passion of Jesus. What he did for us. As we begin the season of Lent this Wednesday, you can be sure that the scripture stories being read and talked about are true valid fact. You can be sure that Christ is the son of God, you can be sure that he died and rose again, based off the testimony of many eyewitnesses. You can stand confidently and courageously with Jesus when you stand up for the gospel. You can stand with Jesus in your battle with false teachers. You can stand with Jesus as you shine his glory to a world living in darkness. Amen.