I begin this step in our Walk Through 2nd Peter knowing that it’s going to make almost everyone angry, upset, or conflicted. The words themselves seem innocuous, a harmless reminder that writers moved by the Holy Spirit conveyed God’s words. That truth is understood and accepted by those following Jesus. But when we consider Peter’s warning it challenges all of our assumptions, presumptions, prejudices, traditions, and preferences. Looking closely at what Peter meant sets off a nuclear explosion of life-altering proportions.
Peter writes, “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:19–21, NASB95)
The first explosion regards prophecy itself. The context from previous verses is the transfiguration. That moment when Peter heard the audible voice of God. Peter is heading towards a warning concerning false-prophets. Which begs a question, if there are false prophets could there also be real prophets? Or do we take the cessations view that all new prophecy is false? If that were the case why does Peter, John, Paul, and Jesus provide instruction on how to tell false prophets from the genuine article?
Neither does this mean that all who speak as a prophet are prophets of God. They could be prophets of Satan, self, or other powers. Neither does it mean that current prophecy rises to the level of scripture but as Peter and others indicate it is to be measured by scripture. We’ll find other red flag indicators in coming weeks as we continue with 2nd Peter. But notice this – Peter doesn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Neither should we.
One point of clarification concerning prophecy. Biblical prophecy is not telling the future although it may be a part it is not the whole. Neither does prophecy control the choices of others. It is a declaration of God, sometimes leading, sometimes warning, but always moving the hearers towards God and not towards the one speaking.
Peter declares that the prophecy of the Bible is not subject to our interpretation. The scriptures say what they say, like it or not. The problem is that we’re all guilty of making the Scriptures subject to our desires. All of us, even hyper-literal fundamentalists subject God’s Word to a way of seeing things.
One day a friend noticed the famed comedian W. C Fields reading the Bible. Now old W. C.’s unbelief and atheism were well known to the friend. The friend asked W. C. what he was doing reading a book he didn’t believe in. “Looking for loopholes,” he replied in his unmistakable drawl. We may laugh at that but if we’re honest we tend towards the same thing. Looking for loopholes. “Surely God didn’t mean that!!!!” It must have been culturally specific for that time or it is the bias of the writer so that doesn’t count anymore.
To be clear. The literalist fails by making scripture into a law book of do’s and don’ts without looking for why God said what he said. The progressivist fails by reducing God’s word to suggestions subject to the whims of the age. The populist fails by seeking new meaning based on what will scratch the itch of the crowd. Then there are all of those in the various theological camps found in Christendom that interpret based on their predilections. Let’s humbly state that God’s Word is right and we are all mistaken about something.
Like it or not God’s word says what it says. I don’t enjoy detonating this bomb but it’s the most relevant way to make the point. According to God’s Word, homosexual acts are sin – period. So is lying, gossiping, favoritism, stealing, adultery, divorce, murder, abortion, coveting (jealously desiring something someone else has), anger, loving money or power, thinking about sex with someone other than your spouse, wishing or imagining the death of someone to make our lives better, worshipping anything or anyone other than God, saying God said something when He didn’t, following after false gods or demonic powers or godless ideas, discrimination in business (false scales depending on the customer), murmuring, prejudice, tale bearing, drunkenness, pride, and many many more are also sin. When we pick and choose which sins to wink at and which to stone (even if the stones are only verbal, emotional, or relational) we are making God’s Word subject to our interpretation. Neither winking or stoning is Christ’s desire.
The Good News
Peter wants to solidify the place of God’s Word in his reader’s lives. He concludes, “for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” The prophets before Christ looked forward to the coming Messiah. The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. Which includes everything listed and unlisted above.
How do we properly interpret God’s word? The Bible itself provides the answer, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Corinthians 2:14, NASB95) I believe that God intends for there to be a continuing cycle that draws us closer to Him. The cycle begins when we first accept that small seed of His Word by faith. We read the Word and in so doing hear God a bit clearer which draws us closer, which opens the door to the next thing we read which draws us closer, which opens another door to the next thing we read which draws us closer…. We know God through His Word, we understand the Word by knowing God.
Before I close let me go back to our incomplete sin list. None of us are sinless or ever will be short of death or the second coming. This doesn’t give us a license to do whatever we want but it should open up vistas of grace for all. Neither winking at or stoning sin. Yes, “that sin” is violating God’s will. Do you think God is ignorant of that fact? If they have accepted Christ things will change over time just as they are changing in you. Sometimes God instantly removes a sin habit from someone’s life, sometimes He doesn’t. If you see the proverbial log in someone’s eye are you praying for them? (Not for God to smite them but for God to grow closer to them.) Are you praying for yourself asking what your observation about their sin reveals about your own sin? (Pride? Unbelief? Prejudice?) Are you trusting God to lead them into the wholeness and freedom that you too have experienced? Bear in mind that you can’t see their other sins which God may desire to touch before He addresses the sin you can see. And if they don’t change – well, that’s between them and God. Trust the Holy Spirit to work in them as He is working in you.
Read the Word. Draw close to God and He will draw closer to you. “For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God .”