The Bible has always had its detractors, and it always will. And some of them have been quite significant people by the world's standard. Here are some examples. Voltaire, the French philosopher said, "Nothing can be more contrary to religion than logic and common sense." Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche who died in 1900, the German philosopher said, "People to whom their daily life appears too empty and monotonous easily grow religious.
Then there is a woman by the name of Elizabeth Katie Stanton who said, "The Bible and the church have been the greatest stumbling block in the way of women's emancipation." "The idea," said Luther Burbank, "that a good God would send people to burning hell is utterly damnable to me." Thomas Edison said, "What does God mean to me? Not a damn thing. Religion is all bunk."
Is Christianity bunk? Is the Bible a book of lies? It is a book for fools? Is our faith a cursed and damaging thing? Does the church retard humanity from otherwise reaching its intellectual achievements? Or is this book the truth? Is it a sure word?
Peter answers all this in 2 Peter 1:16-18, “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 18 And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.”
Next 2 Peter 1:19-21 says, “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”
Peter is echoing what the psalmist said in Psalm 19:7 when he said, "The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple." The testimony of the Lord the psalmist intended to say is trustworthy, it is reliable, you can bet your life upon it. Isaiah 55: 3 puts it this way, "Incline your ear and come to Me, listen that you may live."
In this letter Peter is writing to Christians, who are being tested by the teachings of false teachers. And what are these false teachers trying to do? They want to debunk the Christian faith. The same thing that people are trying to do today and have always tried to do, trying to discredit the Scripture.
It is not enough to know who they are, you have to defend yourself against what they say. And so Peter is building in this epistle three lines of defense and they're all built around knowledge. Number one is the knowledge of your salvation. Number two is the knowledge of Scripture. And number three is the knowledge of sanctification.
And now we are dealing with item number two, knowing Scripture. And Peter is dealing with this in 2 Peter 1:16-21. You have to believe the Bible is a true word because if you're hit by error, where are you going to go to discover that it's error?
What is the criteria? What is the basis for such a defense? If I'm not convinced that the Bible is unerringly the Word of God, then where do I go to defend myself? On the other hand, if I know that this is a sure word, then whatever comes my way I can measure it against the truth.
How are we to know that what other apostles write is true? How are we to know what the prophets in the Old Testament wrote was true? How are we to know we have a true word, there are a lot of voices, there are a lot of opinions, there are a lot of religions and there are a lot of teachers. Who do we believe and why?
Peter says I'm no false teacher. Because number one, I'm an eyewitness. This is not second-hand material. Secondly, the Scripture does not give you human wisdom; it gives you divinely inspired truth as the Spirit of God moved men to write it. So you have a sure word based on two accounts.
Supernatural experience is in verses 16 to 18 and supernatural revelation we find in verses 19 to 21. And together those two ideas tie an unbreakable knot around the sure word. Now for tonight, let's look at this matter of the supernatural experience first. In verses 16 to 18 Peter accredits himself by virtue of his experience.
In verse 16 he says, "Look, this is not something that came down the philosophical pike, this is not something I picked up in some mythology, this is an eyewitness account. What I say to you and what I teach you I am an eyewitness of firsthand." And so as he begins to lay the bedrock of trust in what he taught, he refers to his supernatural experience.
Peter starts in verse 16, "For we did not follow cunningly devised fables." Now the "we" here embraces the other Apostles too. He's speaking in a collective sense of himself and the other writers of the New Testament. Collectively, he says, all of us have experienced supernatural reality. We have all had personal verification from God Himself of the truth we teach.
Well cleverly devised simply means subtly concocted. It's a clandestine thing and a deceptive thing. It is cleverly devised to get your money, to have you follow someone, to gain from you whatever it is that they want. And, beloved, that is the ploy of false teachers. They are after your mind.
In the attempt to destroy people's trust in the Christian faith, they label God’s Word as a book of myths and a book of fables. This is so successful that there are even Protestant theologians in years past who felt it was their task to take the miracles out of the Bible.
Peter says when we gave you God's Word, when we gave you new revelation, when we opened up divine mystery which means something hidden now revealed, this was not some cleverly concocted myth.
And one of the truths those false teachers are trying to eliminate is what we read at the end of verse 16, “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” These false teachers particularly were after this issue of Christ's Second Coming.
These false teachers wanted to refute the second coming of Jesus Christ, which of course is the culmination of everything. If Christ doesn't come back, then all the rest is meaningless, right? If He isn't the end of history and the beginning of eternity, then the rest is a moot point and useless.
Peter says he is not surprised by this as he writes in 2 Peter 3:3-4, “knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”
In other words they teach that things will continue as they have been since creation, nothing will ever change. They were acting just like all the people that perished at the worldwide flood in Noah’s time. And that is also what is going to happen to all who reject Jesus now.
Peter says when we tell you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus, we're not giving you a fable or a myth; we're giving you the truth. Do you notice the word “power”? In His first coming He didn't come with power, He came with humility, right? He came born as a helpless little baby, humiliated until He was finally executed. But the day is coming when He will come in great power.
That word "coming," by the way, is the word parousia. When we say Jesus is coming, He's coming to stay. It's like 1 Thessalonians when He comes to gather His people, it says, so shall we ever be with the Lord. This word, parousia, when used of Jesus Christ in the New Testament always refers to His Second Coming.
Peter had been teaching the early Christians that Jesus was coming back. In 1 Peter 1:7 he mentions “the revelation of Jesus Christ” which means His second coming. And he mentions this again in verse 13. And in 1 Peter 4:13 he talks about the revelation of Christ’ glory.
Now it is true that all of the Apostles had been eyewitnesses of His majesty in some degree. They saw the majesty of His resurrection for He met them in His glorified resurrected body. They had seen the majesty of His ascension when He was caught up in the clouds and taken into glory.
Jesus predicted this would happen. Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 16:28, "Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom." What a statement, many liberals misinterpret this verse to say that some apostles would continue to live until Jesus would come back again.
But Peter further explains what it means to see “the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom.” In 2 Peter 1:17 he tells us, "For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance of this was made to him by the Majestic Glory, `This is My beloved Son with whom I am well pleased,' and we ourselves heard this utterance."
Whatever event Peter's talking about, whatever he's remembering, God was there. And God gave glory and honor to Jesus. Honor means exalted status, glory means radiant splendor. When did Jesus receive glory and honor from God the Father? Well it was at a time when such an utterance as this was made to Jesus by “the majestic glory.”
Do you know that the Jews refuse to say the name of God? They did not want to say the name of God for fear of it being inadequate and so they had many substitutes for the name of God and one of the most beautiful was they called Him "The Majestic Glory."
That narrows it down to three potential events. God said that at the baptism of Christ, in Matthew 3:16 -17, and God said it during the Passion Week in John 12:28, "This is My beloved Son." Those are two of the times, but those aren't the times Peter had in mind because he tells us in 2 Peter 1:18. "And we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him not at the Jordan River and not during Passion Week in the city but on the holy mountain.”
Peter says we were there. We ourselves, plural--he wasn't alone, heard this utterance made from heaven. Remember what happened during the transfiguration in Matthew 17? Jesus said beforehand that some of you are going to live to see Me in My glory. Jesus took Peter and James and John, his brother, and brought them to just a high mountain that would soon become a holy mountain.
They were the most intimate with Jesus, they knew Him the best, they were with Him the most, they understood Him and they were the spokesmen. Six days after Matthew 16:28, beginning in Matthew 17 it says they all went up to the mountain till the action started.
Jesus was transfigured before them. This means He was changed into another form. Here is a description, "His face shone like the sun." He was the brightness of the Father, the express image of His person, the transcendent glory, the Shekinah glory blazed out of His face. “And His garments became bright as light."
One thing is for sure: they knew this was no ordinary man. They knew they were seeing a supernatural being, splendorous revealed. Because He was radiant on the inside and that radiance began to show through His garments.
And then Moses and Elijah showed up. Wow, and they were talking to Jesus about His coming death. They represented the law and the prophets, Moses the great lawgiver, Elijah the great proclaimer of the truth of the law. And they're having a conversation with Him like they know Him and they do know Him because they've been with Him for a long time.
Then we read in Matthew 17:5, “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And then God added what was not recorded, “Hear Him!”
If you're wondering what it meant when the Father said, "This is My beloved Son with whom I am well pleased," you can look up the passages where He said it and read the fullness of it. But the statement basically means, "This is One in essence with Me," and the Father is affirming the deity of the Son.
God in one statement established the unity of the human and divine natures in Christ, established the perfect love bond in the trinity, because Jesus is sinless and therefore a holy God and a sinless Christ can be one in essence. God also established His complete satisfaction with everything Jesus said and did and thought because in Him He was well pleased.
You have the testimony of Moses; you have the testimony of Elijah, now would you like the testimony of God? Matthew 17:12 says, "My Son will tell you He will suffer and die, believe Him.” He will tell you He will rise again, believe Him. If He tells you He will come again in glory, believe Him."
And Matthew 17:6-8 says, "And when the disciples heard it they fell on their faces and they were much afraid." They were traumatized and frightened out of their minds. “7 Jesus came to them and touched them and said, "Arise and do not be afraid. And lifting up their eyes they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone." It was over.
You think they ever forgot it? No, that’s why Peter mentions this in his writings. And Jesus says in Matthew 17: 9, "When you go down the hill don't tell anybody until the Son of Man is risen from the dead." What you saw today isn't for now, it's not for His first coming, it's for His Second Coming.
So Peter says, "Look, when I tell you about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, I am not giving you some concocted, deceptive myth, I am telling you what I personally experienced." Beloved, when you open the pages of Scripture, you are hearing eyewitness accounts.
God wants you to be sure that everything in the bible is true. I’ll continue next Sunday on what else Peter says in this regard. Do you believe every word in the bible? Do you do what the bible says? Do you know that God is talking to you through the bible? Let us pray.