Authority of Scripture – 2 Peter 1:12–21
Read the Passage: 2 Peter 1:12-21
Death of Peter (1:12–15)
Peter begins this section with the phrase “For this reason” (2 Pet. 1:12). The reason that he is referencing is the sanctification of his readers (cf. 2 Pet. 1:10–11). In other words, the apostle is saying that because of his desire for his readers’ spiritual growth he wants to remind them of their duty to pursue Christ that they may be “established in the present truth” (2 Pet. 1:12). Note that the term “stir up” that appears in 2 Pet. 1:13 literally refers to waking up one’s mind to action. This, of course, highlights the duty of those in ministry—that is, to encourage spiritual growth among the members of the Body of Christ by pointing believers to the gospel and the truths of Scripture (cf. 2 Tim. 1:6; Heb. 10:24). Note, as well, that Peter uses the word “remind” three times in 2 Pet. 1:12–15. As he notes in this passage, Peter is clearly aware that his prophesied death was at hand.
In 2 Pet. 1:14 Peter refers to his impending death as he writes, “Shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me” (cf. 2 Cor. 5:1). Peter likely wrote these words around the age of seventy from a Roman prison. The church historian Eusebius tells us that Peter was crucified upside-down under Nero’s persecution in AD 68. Peter’s reference here brings to mind Christ’s words, which were prophesied almost forty years earlier, at John 21:18–19, “‘Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.’ This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.” Note that the term “decease” in 2 Pet. 1:15 is the Greek word exodos, perhaps used here to bring to mind the Jews’ exodus from bondage in Egypt.
Transfiguration of Jesus (1:16–18)
In 2 Pet. 1:16 Peter begins to give justification for his ministry and message. This passage serves as a foundation from which to warn about the false teachers Peter will address in the next chapter. Here Peter writes that his teachings about “the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” were not “cunningly devised fables” (2 Pet. 1:16). This is because Peter himself was an eyewitness of Jesus’ doctrine and ministry. While the false teachers may have claimed Peter’s teaching was incorrect, Peter held a more authoritative position than they. From Peter’s remarks here, it seems that eschatology was one of the areas that was particularly under attack (cf. 2 Pet. 3:3–4). False teachers usually attack four areas of Christian doctrine: the authority of the Bible, the deity of Jesus Christ, salvation by grace alone, and the return of Jesus. It seems that Peter’s opponents were attaching these areas.
In 2 Pet. 1:17–18 Peter is undoubtedly referencing the event recorded in the Gospels known as the Transfiguration of Christ when he, along with James and John, had briefly seen Jesus in His glorified state on a mountain as He was conversing with Moses and Elijah (cf. Matt. 17:1–6; Mark 9:2–8; Luke 9:28–36). Peter notes two facts about this occasion: first, Jesus had received honor and glory from God the Father; and second, that God had declared, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (2 Pet. 1:17). Peter seems to bring this particular event up because it shows that the Father had endorsed Jesus’ deity and ministry. It is likely that the false teachers were attacking the deity and/or humanity of Jesus. Interestingly, in all three gospel accounts of the Transfiguration the event follows Jesus’ promise of his coming Kingdom.
Nature of Scripture (1:19–21)
In closing this chapter Peter writes, “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word” (2 Pet. 1:19). The Scriptures are sufficient as a “light that shines in a dark place” and will guide until Christ, the Morning Star (cf. Rev. 22:16), returns to rule over his Kingdom. In order to make his point regarding the objectivity of Scripture, Peter writes that “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Pet. 1:20). The Word of God did not originate with man, nor can its meaning be informed by man. As Peter wrote, “Prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21). This, of course, does not mean that the writers of Scripture were mechanical dictators for God. Rather, the Holy Spirit used each author’s own personality and style as the Bible was written, yet superintended the content.
- How do you think Peter’s knowledge of his impending death, and manner of his death, shaped his ministry?
- Why do we need constant reminder of the gospel and the others truths of Scripture? How can we better stir up each other toward spiritual progress?
- In light of Peter’s comments in 2 Pet. 1:15, do you think Peter was aware that he was writing Scripture?
- How can you measure the credibility of a pastor or Bible teacher? How can we discern true from false teachers?
- What role does the Holy Spirit play in authenticating the Word of God to believers (cf. 1 Cor. 2:10–16; Heb. 10:15; 1 John 5:6)?