2 Peter 1:12-21
2 Peter • Sermon • Submitted
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2 Peter 1:12-21
I ran into Rod yesterday morning at McDonald’s. He mentioned a Bible he received as a child for memorizing fifty Bible verses. I asked if he still remembered any of those verses. He doesn’t think he remembers them. Just over a year ago I was working on memorizing Romans 8. I had over half the verses memorized when for some reason I stopped working on them. Last week I decided I’d review what I had memorized. I can’t remember a thing. Why is that? What I want to memorize I can’t remember, and what I don’t want to memorize I can’t forget.
How many can complete these lines?
Oh I wish I were an . . . Oscar Meyer wiener.
I am stuck on Band-aid cause . . . Band-aid’s stuck on me.
Plop, plop, fiz, fiz, oh . . . what a relief it is.
How many licks does it take to get to the center of a . . . Tootsie Pop
What kind of kids eat Armor hotdogs? Fat kids, skinny kids, kids that climb on rocks, tough kids, sissy kids, even kids with chicken pox eat Armor hotdogs.
Those ads came out in the 60s and 70s but we still remember them. Apparently, we never actually forget anything. It all stays stored in our brains. The problem is we just don’t know how to retrieve it.
Turn with me to the first chapter of 2 Peter. In the passage before us this evening Peter wants to remind the believers in Asia Minor to remember. He’s not talking about remembering names of people they’ve met or Bible verses they memorized as children, but he wants them to remember the basics of the Christian faith.
What about you, do you remember the basics of your faith? Do you remember what the Lord has done for you? Do you remember the commitment you made to the Lord when you were saved? These are things we don’t want to forget. Unfortunately, we often forget what we need to remember and we remember what we need to forget.
As a result, throughout the Bible God tells his people to remember. God sets up special days and special signs to help them remember. Once a week they were to rest, to help them remember that everything they have comes from God. There were religious feasts to help them remember the things God had done for them. There were pillars erected to help the people remember. And there was a rainbow in the sky. Similarly, Jesus gave us the Lord’s Supper to help us remember. God knows how easily we forget.
Peter reminds the believers that there is no new revelation to be learned, no new insight to be gained, nor any new technique which will make their Christian life different. He reminds them, and will continue to remind them of the truth which they are established in and about which they have a settled conviction. Peter knows that false teachers pose a great danger to the church, both in his time and in ours. And so, we need to remember the basics of the faith that we might not be led astray. What do we need to remember?
First, remember to be established in the truth.
2 Peter 1:12-15 12 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.
What stands out in verse 12 is the fact that there is a body of truth that Peter wants to be sure they remember. “I will always remind you about these things,” Peter writes. He acknowledges that they already know them and are in fact standing firm on them, but he wants to ensure they continue to remember them after he has died.
The apostles laid the foundations of the church through their preaching, teaching, and the letters they wrote. Paul reminded the Ephesians of this when he wrote:
Ephesians 2:19-20 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
The apostles laid the foundation upon which each successive generation has built.
Peter implies that there is a fixed body of truth that must be held to and remembered. Peter is not the only one to write about it. Jude, a brother of Jesus, wrote:
Jude 1:3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.
We receive the teachings of the faith as we are taught, but we need to hold on to them.
Why was Peter so urgent and emphatic about reminding them of this truth? First, because he knew false teachers would come in to distort the gospel they had received. Paul had told the elders from Ephesus about this very real danger.
Acts 20:28-31 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.
Both apostles were writing to church in Asia Minor and both knew how destructive the false teaching could be. So, they warned the congregations to hold on to the truth.
Second, Peter knew his death was near. In John 21 we read about how Jesus talked about the end of Peter’s life and the fact that it would be a violent death that would bring glory to God. Now, Peter is sure that end is near, a fact he says that Jesus has made known to him.
If you knew your time here was coming to an end, what would be your focus? What would you want to impress on the Christian family you would be leaving behind? What would you do to try to make sure they wouldn’t forget the important things?
As Peter contemplates his own death, that is not his major concern, but that they remember and hold onto the important teachings concerning the faith. He’s not concerned about himself, he’s concerned for them.
Peter didn’t fear death and neither should we. Peter compares this current body to a tent. It’s temporary. And he talks about shedding this body like taking off an old pair of clothes. Peter saw death, not as an end but as a taking off of the earthly and going out into the Promised Land of God. He was looking forward to the permanent dwelling and his new and holy clothes.
However, before his exodus from this life, Peter was committed to doing everything possible to establish the church in truth and to help the church remember these things after his departure. To use an educational term, Peter wanted his readers to “overlearn” the basic truths of Christianity. He didn’t that by repeating those things he was sure they already knew. How is it that we can still remember the jingles to ads we haven’t seen in over forty years? It’s because we saw them over and over and over again. We remember those things that are repeated. So Peter didn’t apologize for the repetition of these things. He acknowledged that they already knew them, but that he was going to go over them again to ensure that they wouldn’t forget. As Paul told the Philippians:
Philippians 3:1 Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.
Preachers rarely teach anything new, most of the time they’re just trying to find ways to remind their congregations of what they already know. Now, for new Christian, preaching may contain a lot of things that are brand new to them, but not the older, more mature Christian. But that is an important part of any preacher to help his congregation remember and to be inspired to never forget.
I’ll mention one final thing about Peter’s efforts to help us remember. What did Peter mean in verse 15 when he said he would work hard to make sure you always remember these things after he was gone? He was referring to this letter and his previous one. The letters of 1 and 2 Peter are a part of the New Testament and have been ministering to believers for centuries. It is also possible that Peter is alluding to the Gospel of Mark. Most Bible scholars believe that Mark received most of his information from Peter.
So, the first thing that Peter wants us to remember is to be established in the truth. As we read in Paul’s letter to the Colossians:
Colossians 2:6-7 6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Second, remember that many of the biblical writers were eyewitnesses.
2 Peter 1:16-18 16 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.
Why was it important for Peter to point out that the apostles did not make up clever stories, but that they were eyewitnesses? As we’ll see in the rest of this letter, Peter was combating false teachers with their false teaching. Those false teachers were not eyewitnesses and they had some cleverly invented stories.
The false teachers were trying to cause people to follow their lies, rather than depending on the truth of God. Peter calls their teaching “destructive heresies.” Some of these heresies had to do with Jesus and his life on earth.
Peter wanted to show the contrast between the apostles who are eyewitnesses and the false teachers who come talking about cleverly invented myths and speculative theories. Peter wanted them to understand that the Christian faith is based on historical facts. Peter wasn’t speculating, nor was he stretching the truth, rather he was simply telling them what he had seen. As the Apostle John wrote:
1 John 1:1-3 1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
Not only did the apostles testify to the truth of who Jesus is, Peter says God did as well. The incident that Peter is pointing to in these verses is the transfiguration of Jesus. Peter, James, and John went with Jesus up on a mountain.
Matthew 17:5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
Peter could have mentioned the five thousand who were fed with just five loaves and two fish. He could have mentioned the five hundred who saw Jesus after his resurrection. But God speaking at the transfiguration says so much more.
First, the transfiguration affirms that Jesus is indeed the Son of God. Peter, James, and John heard God declare that Jesus is his son.
Second, the transfiguration affirms the truth of the Scriptures. During the transfiguration Moses and Elijah both appeared with Jesus. These are the two greats of the Old Testament. Moses represented the Law and Elijah represented the prophets. Both delivered the word of God.
And third, the transfiguration points to the certainty of the second coming of Jesus. The heretics whom Peter was counteracting no longer believed in it. The second coming was so long delayed that people had begun to think it would never happen at all. Peter talked about the transfiguration not because it pointed to the resurrection of Jesus, but because it points to the triumphant second coming and our resurrection. Moses and Elijah are not dead, but are very much alive and we will live with them and be like them when Jesus returns.
So Peter declares that he was present for the transfiguration. He was an eyewitness of it and so much more. What Peter knew about Jesus and what Jesus taught came to him first hand. It’s wasn’t what someone else told him. There was no speculation nor was there a need for any clever invention.
When you think about it, so much of the Bible was written by those who were eyewitnesses. The Gospels of Matthew and John were written by eyewitnesses. As I mentioned earlier, Peter likely passed on the information Mark wrote about. Luke wrote his gospel based on eyewitness accounts and he was present for many of the events in the Book of Acts. Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, wasn’t a believer during Jesus’ ministry, but Jesus appeared to him personally after the resurrection and Paul became an eyewitness then. Many of the writers of the Old Testament we eyewitnesses of the things they wrote about too. For example, Moses wasn’t there for the creation or the flood, but he was there during the exodus.
The false teachers who were coming along in Peter’s day weren’t eyewitnesses of anything yet they had the audacity to teach something very different about Jesus than those who had been eyewitnesses. This is an important point for us to remember, but there is an even more important thing to remember.
And third, remember that the Bible is inspired by God.
2 Peter 1:19-21 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.
When refers to the prophecies of the Old Testament and calls them “completely reliable.” Because of their experience with Jesus, he now has even greater confidence in them because they pointed to and were fulfilled in Jesus. The messages of the prophets combined with his experience make him certain that Jesus will return. We should be just as confident and prepare accordingly.
Peter compares those prophecies to a light shining into a dark room. If you have ever walked around with only a flashlight on a dark night, then you know the importance of paying attention to the small area that is illuminated by the light. The world is a dark place, so we need the light of God’s word. We should, as Peter instructs us, be focusing on the promises of Scripture until Jesus returns. Peter refers to that day as when: “the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
This is an obvious allusion to the day of Christ’s coming. In the Old Testament the Messiah is referred to as the “star out of Jacob.” Moses said:
Numbers 24:17a I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near.
John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah prophesies about the forgiveness of sins that is coming from God when:
Luke 1:78b . . . the rising sun will come to us from heaven.
And in the Book of Revelation Jesus says of himself:
Revelation 22:16b I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.
Peter is definitely pointing us toward the second coming of Jesus.
Peter then ends this section with two of the best verses in the Bible that explain how Scripture is inspired by God. Peter wants us to know and remember that the Scriptures are not merely the words of men, but are the very words of God.
First Peter declares that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding. And second, he declares that these men only spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. Peter’s point is that our Scriptures came from God and from men. The Bible did not come about as a result of their imagination or invention, but from God.
All of this is an amazing mystery we can’t completely understand. Men spoke and wrote, but it was God working in them so that what they said and wrote was his Word. It was not through a process of dictation or through a state of ecstasy that the writers of Scripture spoke, but through the leading of the Spirit of God. These men were inspired, but not in the same way we think of people like Shakespeare, Mozart, or Rembrandt were inspired; theirs was the work of genius, the writing of Scripture was the work of the Holy Spirit.
We also need to remember that the Word of God was written to common people, not to theological professors. The writers assumed that common people, also being led by the Holy Spirit, could read it, understand it, and apply it. That means that humble individual believers can learn about God as they read and meditate on the Word of God. No one needs an “experts” to do all the interpreting, although there are teachers who may have special gifts for explaining and applying the Scriptures.
Paul told Timothy:
2 Timothy 3:16-17 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The Bible is God’s word and it is powerful and useful. We should love it, learn it, and strive to live it.
When Jack Nicklaus was the undisputed number one golfer in the world he was asked how he kept at the top. His answer was startling. At the end of every golf season he went back to his first coach who taught him the basics of the game all over again. Every season he went back and learnt the basic building blocks of a good golf swing. There wasn’t anything new to learn, just to be reminded again of the basics. It worked for Jack Nicklaus, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest professional golfers of all time. He won eighteen major championships over a span of twenty-four years.
Spiritually speaking, the same approach can work for us. We must not forget to remember.
We must remember to be established in the truth and review it regularly.
We must remember that many of the Biblical writers were eyewitnesses. They faithfully passed on what they saw, heard and experienced.
And we must remember that the Bible is inspired by God.
Whatever you do, don’t forget to remember.