The Tyranny of Relativism and the Freedom of Absolute Truth
2 Peter 1:16–21
2 Peter Lesson #031
March 5, 2020
“Father, we are thankful that You forgive us our sins because of Christ’s death on the Cross. When we confess it is simply a reminder to us and You that Christ died for us and our sin has been dealt with and paid for. We are instantly forgiven and cleansed of all unrighteousness. We are thankful that we have this cleansing and that we do not have to get mired in guilt and guilt feelings and remorse and all the other things that produce legalism.
“We thank You for this forgiveness and that we can have a close rapport and walk with You. Father, we pray as we study tonight, continuing in 2 Peter, that You would help us to understand these things that we study and that God the Holy Spirit will use it to illuminate our thinking, to bring to our mind implications of Your Word for our own thinking and our lives, that we may apply these principles in a way that You will use to transform us and to conform us to the image of Christ. We pray this in His name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles to that unused Epistle we haven’t seen in a month, 2 Peter. One month ago today, four weeks ago today, we had our previous lesson which was lesson #30. Today we’re going to review a little bit, add a few things, and go forward a little bit but we’re in lesson #31.
Next week, of course, is the Chafer Conference and so we will not have Bible class. We’re going to have to wait at least two weeks before we have lesson #32. We’ve sort of lost a little continuity and we have to go back and put ourselves back in the place where we were in terms of our thinking so that we can go forward.
Since several things have taken place in the last month in all of our lives and especially in mine as I went back and reviewed notes. I added a few things here and there, tweaked a few things to bring a few more things into focus which you will see as we make progress.
I have entitled this study tonight “The Tyranny of Relativism and the Freedom of Absolute Truth”. It’s really the background in this last part of 2 Peter 1 where Peter is contrasting the light, the illumination, from God’s Word versus the pagan myths, fables, stories that men invent in order to find meaning and purpose in life because they have rejected the truth of God’s Word.
They have adopted a completely false narrative to explain life and to explain our purpose. In that, they are enslaving themselves in the tyranny of relativism. We see in our passage going back a few verses to 2 Peter 1:12 where we get this introduction, “Therefore I will not neglect to remind you constantly—we need that constant reminder, you do, I do, every one of us does because the sin nature constantly tries to cloak and disguise the truth in our soul and get us to think that it’s perfectly okay to follow the sin nature’s dictates, so we have to be constantly reminded about these things—even though you have known them and have been made stable.”
It is the truth of God’s Word that stabilizes us. It gives us a sense of being upright, stable, and grounded in the midst of things that are unexpected. We have so many unexpected things. We thought at the beginning of the year it would be an interesting year.
We were just beginning to hear little rumbles about this new virus in China. We knew it was going to be an election year and with all of the candidates and things we knew it would be quite an entertaining, distracting, and distressing year as we look at the collapse of the American culture as it is mired in relativism and rebellion against God.
Yet we have stability. No matter what happens we, as believers, ought to be living in Scripture and not living in panic palace because there are these things happening all around us. We have been made stable. It’s a perfect tense referring to a past action that results in continuing into the present.
We’re made stable by means of the truth, using the Greek preposition EN, which in this case, I think has an instrumental sense, “by means of the truth”, which You now have. It’s translated “this present truth”, but it clearly has the idea of now.
The emphasis here is on truth, which opens this closing section of the introduction in verse 12 and goes down to the end of the chapter, which focuses on how God’s Word has been revealed to us. We see a contrast in the world. Relativism is not something new. It goes back to the Garden of Eden just like every other sin.
We may not think of it that way but in the temptation that Satan, in the guise of the serpent, gave to Eve he is telling her, “God’s not right. There’s other truth. You can make up your own truth. You, too, can be a god and you can create your own truth.” It is the offer of relativism in every form in the Garden of Eden.
We see this emphasis in Scripture that we have THE TRUTH. The world out there tells us that we’re narrow minded, that we’re bigoted, that we’re forcing this on other people, and that we’re evil and wicked because we want everyone to conform to the way we think.
That’s not true. We want everyone to conform to the way God thinks because that is reality. If you don’t, then you don’t have reality. You make up your own reality, but you’re living in a fantasy world.
Jesus said in John 8:32, “And you shall know THE TRUTH …” This is a verse that’s emblazed in many places because they think they have come up with the truth as a result of science, as a result of empiricism, as a result of rationalism in the technical sense of a philosophy of life based on logic and reason. They think that’s what sets us free. It frees us from the bondage and the tyranny of the sin nature. It frees us from the bondage of living in darkness and puts us into light where we see reality for what it is.
Jesus uses the term truth contextually to refer to what God has revealed in the Bible. We have the truth. “And you shall know THE TRUTH and THE TRUTH shall make you free.”
John 14:17 tells us that in addition to the Word of God, which is THE TRUTH, we have the Spirit of THE TRUTH. This emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit in giving us THE TRUTH in the process of inspiration.
Inspiration is the English word that is used to translate the Greek word in 2 Timothy 3:16. It’s a compound word. The first part of the word is THEOS. The word is THEOPNEUSTOS. The second part of PNEUSTOS. It’s from the word PNEUMA ,which is translated Spirit, referring to the Holy Spirit.
It’s talking about the breath of God, which I think is an illusion to the way God breathes out His Word. It is through God the Holy Spirit, which is what we’ll see in verses 20 and 21 of this passage.
It is the role of God the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s Word and to take it through the process of giving it to the prophets and the apostles to write the Scripture. “The spirit of THE TRUTH whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you—He’s talking to His disciples here. This isn’t talking to you, the church, through the disciples. It’s talking specifically to the disciples—know Him because He dwells with you and will be in you.”
The “will be in you” is a future tense. That is talking about the fact that the Holy Spirit will permanently indwell them as He does all Church Age members after the Day of Pentecost.
John 15:26 says, “But when the Helper comes—the Helper is the PARAKLETOS, another title for God the Holy Spirit—whom I shall send to you from the Father …” It is the Son and the Father who send the Spirit. “For I shall send to you from the Father the Spirit of THE TRUTH …”
In every one of these verses the definite article “the” is there indicating the distinctiveness of the noun. It doesn’t always indicate the distinctiveness of the noun, but in this case it does. It’s the Spirit of THE TRUTH because He’s the one who reveals THE TRUTH. “Who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.”
Then we have John 16:13, “However, when He, the Spirit of THE TRUTH has come—after the Day of Pentecost—He will guide you into all THE TRUTH.” That’s talking to the disciples again because they will be the vehicles for telling people about Jesus and His ministry and what He taught.
I do not think this is talking directly or indirectly to Church Age believers other than we do have the Word. That’s the implication. Because they have written the Scriptures for us, we can teach it, but he’s talking about the role of the Holy Spirit in directing them and guiding them as they write Scripture. He’s not talking to all believers that we’re somehow guided into all truth in some mystical way apart from the written Word of God. He’s talking to the disciples.
That’s a difficult hermeneutical issue or issue of interpretation all through this because in some places when Jesus says “you” or “you all”, He’s talking to the disciples and only to the disciples. In other places in the Upper Room Discourse, He’s talking to all of the church through the disciples.
It gets difficult sometimes to ascertain whether this is only to the disciples or to all of us through them. You only can answer that question by the way we understand the rest of the Scripture.
Jesus goes on to say “For He will not speak on His own authority …” You don’t have independence in the Godhead. That’s interesting. I’ve taught for many years on the definition of the kenosis that one way that definition has been formulated that you have heard many times—I think it originated with a definition that Dr. Walvoord gave at the seminary—that Jesus in the hypostatic union would not act independently of the Father.
There’s a problem with that. Jesus, before He was in hypostatic union, never acted independently of the Father. Through an analogy the Holy Spirit doesn’t speak independently of the Father. There is no independence of Members of the Trinity from one another. They never act independently of one another. They are inter-dependent. They are one. They are a perfect unity even though there are three distinct Persons.
“For He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” The Holy Spirit is not autonomously communicating whatever He thinks you need to know in revelation. He is under the authority and direction of God the Father.
“Whatever He hears He will speak and He will tell you things to come.” Genuine predictive prophecy.
Then in what is called Jesus’ high priestly prayer, this is the true Lord’s prayer, not the disciples’ prayer of Matthew 6, but this is the true Lord’s prayer, what He’s praying on behalf of the church. He’s praying to the Father, “Sanctify them by Your Truth.” It’s THE TRUTH again, so even though it doesn’t make great grammatical sense in English, it emphasizes the fact that the article is there.
In Greek if you have a pronoun before a noun, if the noun is definite, you don’t need the article there. If the article is there, it’s for strong emphasis. That’s what we find in the Gospel of John. Sanctify means to set apart to the service of God. That is a way of speaking about our spiritual life, our Christian growth. It is through the truth.
“Sanctify them by means of Your Truth. Thy Word is Truth.” Here again it’s talking about the Word of God, the written, enscripturated Word revealed by God. John 17:19, “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself—this is what Jesus is doing at the Cross, setting Himself apart for the mission of God when He died for our sins—that they also may be sanctified by means of TRUTH.”
This is as strong as it gets. The Bible believes there is one truth and that is God’s truth and that there are not multiple versions of the truth. That is internally contradictory. Notice at the end I didn’t put THE TRUTH here and that’s because the article in the previous mention in John 17:17 is picked up and assumed to apply to this noun as well.
The power of the Word isn’t in some kind of mystical power so you can hold up your Bible against the vampires and they’ll flee from you. It’s not that kind of thing. It’s because it’s God’s Word. It is THE TRUTH. It is true and it is God’s realty that has power in our lives.
In 2 Peter 1:16 Peter contrasts what the world has to do with THE TRUTH. “For we do 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.” What we have here is this contrast with THE TRUTH. We have fables and legends and all sorts of irrational ways of describing reality.
We see this all around us. Often I have people ask me questions like, “How can people do that? It’s so obvious.” You’re a boy or you’re a girl, you know. If you don’t know, go in the bathroom and look in your pants. You’ll be able to tell. It’s what it is. It’s objective.
How can people say there are 90 different genders? Because they’re suppressing truth. They’re in a fantasy world. They have lost touch with any sense of objective TRUTH. They are not rational. You cannot explain irrationalism logically. It doesn’t work. It’s by definition it’s irrational and not subject to logical explanation.
We have in our culture a host of leaders who are irrational and living in a fantasy world and we wonder what in the world is going on here. They’ve lost complete touch with reality. They don’t even have a passing acquaintance with reality.
They’ve been divorced from reality so long they wouldn’t know it if it slapped them on the face. They have been suppressing it, suppressing it, suppressing it all their life in terms of the spiritual reality that now that is normative for all other reality.
All other things in life ultimately derive from our view of God. Everything in life is driven by our view of God. Peter is saying, “We’re not operating on this human viewpoint system of making it up as we go along.”
I asked the question last time, “How do we know something is true?” First of all, because it’s revealed in God’s Word. God’s Word reveals truth. That’s the standard. That’s the platinum standard. We evaluate all experience by the Word of God. That’s what makes us a Biblicist.
We evaluate things by the Word of God. We do not evaluate the Word of God by the experiences we have had. That’s what separates us from the entire charismatic movement. That’s what separates us from about ninety percent of evangelicalism today even though they verbally affirm that the Bible is inerrant, infallible, and sufficient, they don’t know what that means. As soon as they run into some kind of experience, they immediately use that to evaluate the Word of God.
We know from this passage that this is true because it’s the revealed, the prophetic Word of God. Secondly, it’s confirmed through what they saw and heard on the Mount of Transfiguration. God always provides evidence for the veracity of His Word.
There’s no such thing as some private experience like Muhammad had or Joseph Smith had that they can go out and say this is what God said to do. God always gives some sort of confirmatory evidence because it’s objective reality.
So I created this chart we had the last time that says that revelation on the left originates from the One TRUE Living God. It’s the voice from Heaven referred to in 2 Peter 1:17 that Peter talks about they heard the voice of God saying of His Son, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.”
It doesn’t come from the will of man, as is stated in 2 Peter 1:21. The Holy Spirit moved those men and they weren’t moved by their own imagination. There’s a reference to objective light in 2 Peter 1:19 and then the confirmatory evidence of hearing God’s voice in 2 Peter 1:17–18.
That’s contrasted to the mythology of the unbeliever, the pagan mythology even of believers that originates in human thought. That’s why they constantly say that the Bible is just a product of man, because they don’t know any different. All they have is the opinion of man so if everything else they experience is the opinion of man, they have to say that’s what the Bible is. They reject the truth completely.
Second, they have irrational concepts. They talk about things like a “true myth”. It’s an oxymoron of the first order—two words that contradict each other. It’s factitious. That’s another word they use to describe certain events in Scripture like the theology professor over here at Houston Baptist University who rejects the literal, historical fact of those who were resurrected and came out of the grave in Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion.
He says, “That didn’t really happen. It’s just sort of myth. It’s just factitious. It didn’t really happen.” It ultimately leads to some kind of polytheism, meaning you have many gods and many authorities, rather than the monotheism of Scripture.
It always leads to a historical view that is cyclical rather than linear. Only Judaism, the Old Testament biblical Judaism, introduced linear thinking that history is going somewhere and has purpose. You and I, because we are a micro history in the macro history of God’s creation, have value and purpose because we’re created in the image and likeness of God
Everyone has purpose. If you feel discouraged or depressed, you should look in the mirror and tell yourself you’re created in the image of God. God has a specific purpose for you. You are saved because God loved you personally and He sent His Son to die for you personally on the Cross so you can be prepared for eternity. You have meaning, value, and purpose whether you feel like it or not. There are many days when most of us don’t feel like it because it’s not based on feelings.
In terms of truth versus myth, I said the revelation may be confirmed by evidence what is seen and what is heard. Jesus didn’t just rise from the dead in the minds of the disciples. He just didn’t rise from the dead in the minds of people. That’s how Hollywood represents it in most movies about the life of Jesus. He rose from the dead objectively and the disciples and five hundred others all saw Him, touched Him, watched Him walk through walls, heard Him, and knew that He was an objectively raised from-the-dead person.
Revelation is confirmed through what is seen and heard. It is not proved by what is seen and heard. It is confirmed by what is seen and heard. Experience is evaluated by revelation. Revelation is not evaluated and interpreted from experience. That is the biggest problem. We interpret the Bible on the basis of what is familiar to us, which is our own experience.
Biblical TRUTH is never in a vacuum. When God speaks or acts, it’s confirmed through evidence. God does not expect us to make a leap of faith. Leap of faith is the language of Kierkegaard and existentialism. Every now and then I hear unlearned Christians say they just have to take something on a leap of faith.
Never, if you are a Biblicist, will you take a leap of faith. Faith is a form of knowledge. You believe it and it’s true. It’s more true because of God’s Word. I remember there used to be a little bumper sticker saying, “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.”
The problem with that saying is that the “that settles it” is the result of me believing it. That’s subjectivism. God said it. That settles it. Now the issue is, do you believe it or not? It’s settled because God said it.
Let’s think about our thinking a minute. This always gets into some areas of philosophy, but this is very important to understand what’s going around us today. First of all, we have these categories that are theological as well as philosophical. Philosophy uses different reality but it’s talking about the same thing.
The first is ultimate reality. The technical term is metaphysics. Meta means beyond. Physics refers to the physical world. So it’s beyond what we can see, taste, touch, or feel. Ultimate reality, metaphysical reality, in human viewpoint is whatever you want it to be.
When you study metaphysics what’s the first thing you study? If you go to the University of St. Thomas, like I did, or you go to a university’s philosophy department and you take a course in metaphysics, what’s the first thing you study?
Arguments for the existence of God. Metaphysics is just all about whether or not God exists. If you reject God, then reality is whatever you want it to be. This is Romans 1:18 and following. This is a passage we just need to review every now and then and remind ourselves what’s going on in our lives sometimes and in the world a lot.
“For the wrath of God—the judgment of God in time—is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men—these men are identified as those who are truth suppressors, sort of like a tongue suppressor, but they’re truth suppressors who are holding down truth. That’s what happens when you get a tongue suppressor. You go to the doctor and he takes out this balsa wood thing and he holds your tongue down. It’s the idea to hold something down, to push it down—who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”
It’s not a righteous thing they’re doing. They’re doing something that is evil, something that is unrighteous. “Because what may be known of God is manifest in them …”
Every atheist knows in his heart of hearts, in the deep recesses of his mind, he knows that God exists. It’s in them, “For God has shown it to them.” God doesn’t make mistakes. You and I can mess it up when we’re trying to show someone something, but God doesn’t mess it up. It is very, very clear. They know it beyond a shadow of a doubt, but they keep pushing it down, burying it in a deep, dark hole somewhere in the sub, sub, sub cellar of their thinking.
Why? The answer is in Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen …” This is explaining how they know it is within them. It’s because God made it clear in His creation. Every molecule in God’s creation can be turned over and it doesn’t say “Made in Japan” and it doesn’t say “Made in China”. It says, “Made by God”. Every molecule. Every atom in all of God’s creation is stamped with that saying, “Made by God”, and every person who sees it knows it even though they immediately reject it.
“So His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” They are held accountable. Every person is individually held accountable. That’s Divine Institution #1, personal responsibility to God.
Communism, Marxism, socialism, try to subvert the first Divine Institution and deny it. Romans 1:21 goes on to say, “Because although they knew God—see, they knew God. There’s no doubt in their mind if they were honest and would peel back all the layers of truth suppression, they know God exists—they did not glorify Him as God nor were they thankful”—they’re ingrates, every unbeliever is an ingrate. You, as an unbeliever before you were saved were an ingrate. You were not grateful to God because you rejected God.
“They were not thankful but became futile—empty—in their thoughts and their foolish hearts were darkened.” It doesn’t matter how many PhDs, DDs, Doctor of Theology, or whatever they have after their name, they are foolish and futile if they have rejected God.
“Professing to be wise, they became fools and changed—that’s the key word—the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man.” This is idolatry but we have people today who have idols of the mind. These are philosophical systems and pleasures from their sin natures as they fulfill the lust patterns from their sin natures.
“They changed the image of an incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man …” In the ancient world idolatrous systems so many of the gods and goddesses represented various sins. They were all fairly sinful. Romans 1:24–25, “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”
Notice it’s either truth or lie. Truth or myth. Truth or fable. It’s either the truth of God’s Word as He said it or you’re just making it up as you’re going along and living in a fantasy world. They exchanged THE TRUTH of God for a fantasy and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator. That’s what paganism is.
Pagans worship whatever they want to worship. They redefine reality and have whatever god they want. So in the ultimate reality in metaphysical reality, they’ve got metaphysical relativism. They’re going to have any kind of god they want.
It can be one god today, one god tomorrow. One religion today, one tomorrow. It’s fluid. Ultimate reality is relative to what they want. You have your reality and I have my reality. If your reality works for you, great. My reality works for me. That shows the emptiness, the vacuousness of pragmatism.
The second area built on metaphysics is knowledge. Knowledge for the unbeliever is unknowable ultimately. He’s destroyed all possibility of truly knowing anything because he’s rejected truth to begin with and he ends up saying that everyone is entitled to their own set of facts.
It doesn’t matter what your DNA says or what your chromosomes say. What matters is if you think you’re a girl and you’re born biologically as a boy, you can go make yourself into a girl. You can make up your own facts, your own reality.
The fancy term for this is epistemological relativism. Knowledge relates to epistemology, the study of knowledge. Epistemological relativism is just the relativism of knowledge. You have your truth. I have my truth. You live in your way. I’ll live in my way. We’ll all be happy.
No, we won’t. The reason we won’t is because if someone comes along and says that your truth is wrong, they become the enemy and they’re evil. They have to be suppressed. That’s what all these unbelievers are doing, suppressing TRUTH. This destroys the possibility of knowing anything. If you can’t know one thing, then you can’t know anything else. Everything becomes relative and uncertain.
What’s built on knowledge, once we know we can know something, we develop our area of values, morals, and ethics of this area of philosophy. This is how we are to get along with others, organize ourselves, and rule ourselves. Ethical and moral relativism comes in and says there are no absolutes. Everyone has their own set of rights and wrongs.
You not only get into ethical and moral relativism, but where this leads is what we’re seeing today. You’re not hearing a lot of people talk about it, but it is legal relativism. We see some examples of this, but where it really comes down and is very, very nasty is in the courtroom when you’re trying to, as a lawyer, present a case to a jury.
The jury doesn’t believe in absolute reality or absolute TRUTH and they’re told by you, the defense, that everything here is relative. They say we’re not here to establish truth. We’re just here to try to prevent the law or let this guy get free or however they want to put it.
We have ethical relativism, moral relativism, and then the last stage in philosophy is called aesthetics. This has to do with beauty. We don’t do a good job as evangelicals developing a good job of beauty, but beauty resides in the character and person of God.
When God sets out to make something beautiful, there’s a standard that He’s using that comes from His own character. When God says when He is making something that it is good, it means it fits a pattern or a standard.
When you come to things that are in the world of the arts, literature, physical, visual arts, music, all of these things, there are absolute standards. If we say there are no absolutes of beauty in any of these areas and that you have your view and I have my view and we’re in aesthetic relativism, you’re basically saying there’s an area of God’s creation that has nothing to do with His essence.
Think about that. That’s why we have these issues choosing music. Scott will talk about that when we get into the conference next week. That’s why I make such a big deal about it, because the claim in contemporary Christian worship is that the music doesn’t matter. In their view music is neutral.
If music is neutral, the metaphysical implication of that is that it has nothing to do with God. You’re saying there’s something in God’s creation that is not related to His character and is not corrupted by sin. That is a blasphemous assertion.
We may not know exactly what that standard is but to argue there’s no absolute ethical standard is just blasphemy. Beauty is not subjective. The idea that beauty is in the eye of the beholder is a post-Kantian reality. The Greeks had perfect standards for what made someone beautiful.
It had to do with absolutes of proportion, how a person’s skull was shaped, what the ratios were between the length of the face and the width of the face, what was more pleasing, what was less pleasing were all objective standards. They understood that.
What we have here is we have metaphysical relativism that says ultimate reality can be whatever you want. We have the relativism of knowledge. Truth can be whatever you want it to be. We have moral and ethical and legal relativism so that right and wrong can be whatever you want it to be and we have aesthetic relativism.
We’ve covered all the bases now in our culture. The result is that relativists must hate and despise those who hold to absolutes because they are truth suppressors. They have to hate anyone who says that there is an absolute and they might be wrong.
Recently, Todd Starnes, who is a reporter and writes a number of things about religion on Fox News was interviewed last Friday at the C-PAC conference. He said that the LGBTQ movement doesn’t just want to be allowed to do what they want to do. They want to get the Bible completely out of the culture and get rid of every Christian and to destroy Christianity.
They’re truth suppressors. He’s absolutely right. There can be no compromise with the LGBTQ movement. That doesn’t mean we go out and be judgmental and legalistic and all of this other stuff because that sin relates to every other sin.
I always say that I don’t have a problem with what someone does in terms of sin. I have a problem when they try to force me to say it’s okay because that’s going to violate what Scripture says. We’re all sinners and we have to deal with other sinners in grace just like we want to be dealt with in grace.
What happens is that when we say there are absolutes, we’re going to become the enemy and they will want to suppress us so they can suppress the truth that comes out of our mouth.
This is the tyranny of relativism. That’s where we are. We’re living in a culture where relativism is the tyrant and it seeks to destroy everyone that doesn’t agree with relativism, with its metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, or aesthetic relativism.
It is a hate for anyone who says there are absolutes and we need to figure out what those absolutes are and conform to them because that’s reality.
That’s what Peter is getting into because where he’s headed with this there are these false prophets and false teachers who are coming along. They are offering another reality that is contradictory to the truth. In the first chapter he’s establishing this TRUTH.
Part of the evidence he marshals is what happened when he was on the Mount of Transfiguration. I skipped past some of this last time. I want to go back and bring this out this time. When Jesus goes to the Mount of Transfiguration, He takes Peter, James, and John with Him. As they come up, a voice comes out the heavens and announces, “This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!”
He interrupts Peter because as the Lord is being transfigured Peter sees the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and he wants to build these tabernacles. He understands the connections, The Feast of the Tabernacles, because it’s related to the coming of the Kingdom.
That’s what he’s talking about but he’s anticipating things. He’s jumping the gun because the Kingdom is not coming then. God the Father interrupts him and tells him to listen to Jesus, His beloved Son.
The phraseology that He uses and that He used at the baptism of Christ is language that comes right out of Psalm 2:7, which we studied when we were in Ephesians on Sunday morning. At the end of the psalm you have this statement by the Messiah. He’s the one who is speaking. He says, “I will declare the decree: The Lord—YHWH, God the Father—has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’ ”
This is the declaration of the Sonship of the Messiah. It is being reiterated by the Father in these two events in the life of Christ at the baptism by John the Baptist and at the Mount of Transfiguration.
This is a declaration. It means to count or to recount a decree, something that has been said. Ultimately this decree goes back to the Davidic Covenant where God promised David a Son who would sit on His throne forever. It connects the dots here. You can’t fully comprehend Psalm 2:7 without understanding 2 Samuel 7:14 and following and the Davidic Covenant, which we spent a lot of time studying a year ago.
It takes us back to that verse where the Father says, “I will be His Father”, talking about the descendant, the Seed of David. That goes all the way back to the Seed of the woman in Genesis 3. “I will be His Father, and He shall be My Son.”
There is a time difference between the presentation of Jesus as the Messiah and His coronation, just as there was with David. David was anointed in 1 Samuel 16:12–13, but it’s four, five, six, maybe seven years before he is actually crowned king of Judah in Hebron. Then it’s a few years later before he’s crowned king of all the tribes in Jerusalem.
This idea is that He has His Sonship declared by the Father.
Peter is saying “we heard this”, this is a fulfillment of Messianic prophecy from the Old Testament. He acknowledged this voice came from Heaven. This shows there is a role for empiricism just as there is for rationalism in the Scripture, but it’s under the authority of God. Revelation precedes experience.
John does the same thing in 1 John 1:1–4. Look at what happens here. John starts off his Epistle saying we’re telling you what we heard, saw, and felt, which was from the beginning, “which we have heard”. This means we, the apostles.
“Which we have heard, we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled,—and touched—concerning the Word of life.” These are the senses. The life was manifested and we have seen, and bear witness, and declared to you that the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—His Son Jesus Christ.
Verse 3, “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” This is the role of empiricism. This is so you may enter into the partnership of the Great Commission with us because before that you had fellowship with God. That’s the idea of fellowship.
“Truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” Then you get to the application of it. It’s not just a nice theological truth about the hypostatic union and salvation and the incarnation. It is for the purpose that we might have “full joy”. The joy that God has, the perfect happiness that God has because He has provided all of this.
If we learn to think like God thinks and live like God wants us to live, then the effect of that is we begin to experience and share in this joy that has been given to us.
Now back to Peter. Peter goes on to say in 1 Peter 1:19, “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed.” The prophetic word comes first. The absolute truth of God’s revelation comes first and then there’s a confirmation of that. “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.”
I pointed out last time that this language of the dawning of the day, the coming of light, and the morning star rising in your hearts is all language related to the beginning of the Kingdom. This is looking forward to the fact that just as those three guys saw the Transfiguration had a foretaste of the Kingdom, just a glimpse, they saw what will come eventually.
In the last chapter of Malachi in the Old Testament includes a prophecy about Elijah coming before the Messiah. It’s the last thing you read before God goes silent for 400 years. The next thing you hear is John the Baptist, who is in the pattern of Elijah, announcing the need to repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
So at the end of the Old Testament, the last revelation in Malachi 4:2, “But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness—that is s-u-n as it is in the Hebrew, which is the illumination which righteousness brings us—shall arise with healing in His wings and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves.”
There is the language of a star which goes back to the prophecy of Balaam from Numbers 24:17, “A star shall come forth from Jacob.” Jacob is the tribe that will rule. The scepter is the symbol of the ruler, the one who will reign. “A scepter shall rise out of Israel, and batter the brow of Moab, and destroy the sons of tumult.”
This the background for understanding the language in Luke 1:78, which says, “Through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us.” As I pointed out, Dayspring is an antiquated word. In the Holman Christian Study Bible it translates it as “dawn”.
Light is going to come. We’re in the time before the dawn. When the Son comes and establishes His Kingdom then the light will be here.
That’s our review. Where we’re going to go next is to about four passages I think are crucial for the foundation for understanding the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of Scripture. We’re just going to look at that briefly and starting with the verse we have here.
2 Peter 1:20–21. It begins in the middle of a sentence, “knowing this—we’re going to see this is a causal participle because we know something—knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation …”
That always bothered me the way that was translated in the King James. It makes it sound like it’s talking about hermeneutics and it’s not. It’s talking about the origin of the Scripture, not the interpretation of the Scripture.
“The prophecy never came by the will of man,—that’s when you realize it’s talking about where it’s coming from, not what it means—but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”
We’re going to clean that translation up a little bit as we go along. It starts off with knowing this first. It’s a causal participle, because we know this first. “First” here means first in terms of being foundational, first in terms of priority. This is where we start. We start with the authority of the Word of God. That’s where we know TRUTH.
There’s revelation from God so there’s a presupposition of God as the Creator, as the Revealer. This is where we start. So PROTOS here has this idea that is foundational. It’s the starting point. Our starting point is the Scripture because that’s what informs us of TRUTH.
In English it’s “that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation.” That’s really not a good way of translating this. We have to look at this in terms of the Greek. Literally it doesn’t say “no prophecy of Scripture” it says, “every prophecy of Scripture does not originate”.
So they’ve cleaned it up. It reads better in the English that no prophecy of Scripture is. It’s an absolute statement. Every prophecy of Scripture … they’re talking about the Old Testament primarily—it originates from God. That’s why it’s prophetic.
Prophetic doesn’t necessarily mean that it is talking about the future. It is talking about that which is revealed from God and not knowable in any other way. “Every prophecy of Scripture does not originate—the word there has to do with something with something that originates or comes into existence, not a word that talks about something that just happens—or does not originate or come into being from its own explanation or interpretation.”
I think the best way to paraphrase this is “every prophecy of Scripture doesn’t originate from a person’s own opinion”. Or, you can turn it around and say “no prophecy of Scripture originates from anyone’s personal opinion”.
It’s not the personal opinion of the prophet. That makes sense once you go into the next verse that explains it with, the “for” there explains the meaning of this. “For prophecy never came by the will of man.” Now it makes a lot more sense. Peter is talking about the origination of the content of the Scripture, not the interpretation or meaning of Scripture.
Prophecy is a term for all of the Old Testament and all of the Scripture. It never originated, never came into existence by the will of man. “But holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”
What’s interesting here is that “never came” here is the verb PHERO, which means to bring or to carry. No prophecy was ever brought along or carried along. At the bottom of the slide I have how I’ve translated this. For prophecy was never carried along by the will of man.
It doesn’t originate with man. “But holy men of God—NKJV—spoke as they were moved.” See, “were moved” is the same verb, but it’s a participle meaning they spoke when they were moved is a better way of translating that participle, or by means of being carried along, one or the other.
The NET translation does a fairly good job. I’ve improved it in my translation. The NET translation says, “For no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit.” See they translated PHERO as borne here, but since it’s PHERO here and PHERO here, it should have been translated with the same English words to show the connection.
That no prophecy was ever carried along by the will of man. It didn’t originate with the will of man and man didn’t develop it. It was not carried along by the will of man, but men spoke from God when they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
It’s the Holy Spirit that is the Originator of the content of Scripture. We’ve learned what PHERO means and it’s used in Acts 27:17. This is when Paul is dealing with a shipwreck. Luke is describing the shipwreck when Paul was on his way to Rome and they get into a storm and then they are just driven along by the winds and they have no control over their destiny.
Some of you may have experienced that in your lives, that God is just driving you along somewhere and you don’t know where you’re going so you just have to relax and let God take control. That’s sort of the idea.
Acts 27:17, “When they had taken it on board, they used cables to undergird the ship; and fearing lest they should run aground on the Syrtis Sands, they struck sail and so were driven.” They’re just driven by the currents, by the water. They’re just driven along. They’re just carried along. That’s the idea in PHERO.
It’s not the idea that men are carried along by their own ideas, but they’re carried along by God the Holy Spirit. This gets us into some specifics about inspiration and infallibility. We’re going to develop that doctrinally but I’m going to wait until we come back.
“Father we thank You for the fact that we know TRUTH, and we’re learning TRUTH, and there is TRUTH. There are absolutes. There are absolute certainties—absolutes about ultimate reality, absolutes about knowledge, how to know what we know, limitations in knowledge, absolutes about morals and ethics, law, absolutes about beauty. And, that we need to think about these things. We need to probe the Scriptures and probe reality, thinking in terms of everything is Your creation, designed by You for an ultimate purpose. We are designed by You to learn and to know, to understand, and comprehend Your creation.
“All of this is ultimately based in our being able to serve You and to glorify You—that in showing that You are the most important Person in reality. That life apart from You is really death. Alienation from You is spiritual separation and makes life meaningless, hopeless. But only when we are with You do we have reality, and can we have real joy, the stability, and contentment with life.
“Father, open up the eyes of our souls so that we can understand this and apply it. In Christ’s name, amen.”