Think about how great it would be to have a stable life where the ups and downs don’t rock you! Listen to this lesson to see how the Apostle Peter says that life can be ours. Find out it depends on knowing the truth and hear how we can know what absolute TRUTH is. See that it is not based on our feelings, but is found only in the Word of God. Hear ten facts about truth and rest in the knowledge that God is in charge so we have nothing to fear.
During this lesson Dr. Dean referred to the Textual Criticism course available on the Dean Bible Ministries website.
How to Have a Stable Life
2 Peter 1:12–15
2 Peter Lesson #028
January 23, 2020
“Father, we are thankful that You are a God who cares about us, is concerned about us, who is intimately involved in the details of our lives, and that there is no tear that falls that You are not aware of. And Father, we are thankful for Your compassions, for Your faithfulness, for the way in which You provide for us and constantly give us hope.
“Father, we are thankful for this ministry, we’re thankful for the way in which You provide for this ministry and the way in which we see spiritual fruit as people grow and mature, learn the Word, and Father we are so thankful for that.
“Father, we pray for our nation as we go through this impeachment trial, and Father, we just pray that You would make the truth evident and that You would raise up leaders who would stand for the truth of the Constitution and for the truth of the history of this nation and not be consumed with the self-seeking political gain.
“Father, we thank You that we can focus on the truth and know what the truth is, and have a clear, objective frame of reference because we know the truth. And Father, we know that it is on the basis of Your Word that we know truth and that gives us clarity in our lives, and it gives stability in our lives and for that we’re thankful. We pray that You will help us to understand Your Word that we study this evening. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles or your devices or your computers or whatever it is to 2 Peter 1:12. We’re looking at the issue, “How to Have a Stable Life.” As I was thinking about that today, I kept hearing the title of an evangelistic tract that Dallas Seminary published back in the in the 70s, “How to Have a Happy and Meaningful Life.” There was a lot of criticism for that from people who were a little more doctrinally focused because what an unbeliever hears about a happy, meaningful life is not necessarily what God is offering. He’s offering a stable life where there is meaning and purpose and value, but that may not be what some people think of as a happy life, and one that is free from suffering and free from tribulations and difficulties in disappointments.
What God has provided for us in our spiritual life is a path to stability, to contentment, to real tranquility. That’s the idea in Scripture that talks about joy. We have gone through most of the introduction of this epistle. 2 Peter 1:1–15 is really the introduction to us. Then verse 16 is where the main body of the epistle begins. So, we’re at the conclusion of the introduction in these verses 2 Peter 1:12–15.
In 2 Peter 1:12, Peter writes, “For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth.” We’re not going to get any farther than that this evening, but I want to show you some differences in other translations of this verse.
This verse begins: “For this reason I will not be negligent.” That’s a pretty strong statement as I’ll point out as we go along, but if you have a modern translation that would also include the ESV, the NIV, and any number of others that are out there. There is a difference in how they read, and if you look at them, I have a couple of them up on the screen.
I put up the Holman Christian Study Bible [HCSB]: “Therefore I will always remind you.” There’s a difference between, “I will always remind you” and “I will not be negligent,” but that comes a little closer. But reminding somebody is the main verb, but they have tried to get the main idea across there.
The second verse is from the NASB and says: “I will always be ready to remind you.” That picks up a little more of the meaning of the verb that is in the Critical Greek Text, and not the Majority Text. The Majority Text is what is reflected in the New King James translation at the top.
Then the NET translation which was developed by a lot of the New Testament faculty at Dallas Seminary—in some passages it is really bad, but in a few places, they do a fairly decent job— here they translated: “I intend to remind you constantly.”
Now, if you really pay attention to the language here, there are some distinctions, and so we’ll get into that. It begins with these, just a single word in the Greek it’s DIO, and this indicates, “the drawing of a conclusion.” It is similar to the word “therefore,” and so it is drawing a conclusion, so it introduces these last four verses in the introduction, and it’s summarizing this conclusion, why it’s important to Peter that he tell his audience these things.
Basically, what he is saying here is, I need to keep reminding you about this. I need to keep repeating these things, you know them. You’re well-grounded in them, but you need to keep hearing them over and over again because it’s so easy for Christians to forget these basic principles and become distracted by the issues of life.
That’s basically the role of a of a pastor in teaching is to go over things over and over and over again because even when we think we have it down, and we’ve heard it right, often we’ll come along and next week we’ll hear it repeated again and go, “I never heard that before.”
You’d be surprised how many times I have people come up to me and they’ll say, “Last week, you said something”—they’ll tell me what I said and they say—“I just never heard that before.” That was just really good, and I’m thinking, I say that at least three times a month. Where have you been? And I know they’re right there. But we’re all that way.
I’ll tell a story on Katie. She’s sitting in the back, so I’ll tell a story on her. This is because it’s a great illustration of something—we were having a conversation—she reminds me of this all the time. We were having a conversation about 25 years ago, and I used a word she did not think she had ever heard. I use the word “segue,” which is simply a word for “transition from one thing to another,” and I used it. She said, “What word was that?” She said, “Spell it.” She looked it up in a dictionary, and about two weeks later she said, “You told me that word the other day, and I’ve heard it 50 times since then.”
That’s what happens: we hear things, and we’re not paying attention, and it just goes right past us. And then, all of a sudden for some reason, some circumstance, we hear it and there’s a spotlight, and we say, “Wow, that was really good!” That’s why pastors repeat and repeat, and remind and remind; we’re all that way. That’s just how the learning process takes place.
Some of us need to be reminded of some things over and over again because we really don’t like what it is that we’re hearing, and so we’re trying to avoid it. Others of us need to be reminded for other reasons. So that’s the theme of this section because Peter is coming to the end of his life, and he knows that he doesn’t have much more time. He wants to make sure that they are continually reminded about these foundational truths as much as he can until the Lord takes him home. So, he’s drawing this conclusion, having covered all of this related to the spiritual life in in these first 11 verses.
Then he says [2 Peter1:12], “For this reason, I will not be negligent.” I think that’s a fairly decent translation. I want to translate it slightly different to catch the force of it, but what you have here is a textual problem.
Textual problems are sometimes just ignored by pastors because they’re afraid they’re going to get people to doubt that they don’t know what’s in the Bible. The problem is Dr. Ryrie used to say is not that we have 98% of the Bible, we have 105%, and we need to figure out which 5% ought not be there. That’s what textual criticism is, is that over the years, there have been copyist errors that have crept into the text, and so you’ll have in some verses one word, and in a lot of other manuscripts, another word.
One of those words is not a reflection of what was in the original, and you have to figure out how you get back to what the original said. There are a lot of rules. You have whole courses on textual criticism.
If any of you is interested, about seven or eight years ago, Dr. Ron Minton took us through a course on textual criticism that can be used for Chafer Seminary and was part of the Chafer Conference. It’s up on the Dean Bible Ministries website. He made it very understandable for a lot of people. So, it’s not overly technical, but it’s a good introduction if anyone is interested in that.
You have basically two views. One is called the Critical Text, and that’s using the Nestle Aland text, and that’s the text that is behind most of the modern translations—let’s just say everything other than the King James version and the New King James version.
The New King James version and the King James version are based on a text called the Textus Receptus, which is Latin for the “received text,” and that was the basis for a Greek text that was edited and published by Erasmus around 1515, not long before the Protestant Reformation in 1517. So, it’s somewhere around there—1513 or 1514, somewhere in there.
But he only had eight Greek manuscripts, and over the years, a couple more were added to that, but they were fairly young manuscripts—by that I mean they were like sixth century, seventh century, eighth century, tenth century—and they weren’t the best quality. But they represented what they call a certain text type for a certain family of manuscripts which is also called the Byzantine text, and that represented a lot of the sort of North and North Eastern Mediterranean area and the Textus Receptus was a very, very small subset of hundreds and hundreds of other manuscripts that have since been discovered that are a part of that text group.
The other popular view is that older is better, but a newer copy of a better original is a better copy then an old copy that’s based on a faulty original—not an original manuscript but it’s based upon, let’s say, you have a late third century manuscript, and it copies an early second century manuscript that has flaws in it; just because we have the third century manuscript doesn’t mean it’s better than a seventh century manuscript that is a good copy of a better document also from the early second century.
So, older isn’t necessarily better. But these older manuscripts—and there are four primary ones that were found all down in Egypt. Egypt has a very dry climate, and so things lasted longer there—and many, ancient manuscripts were preserved in that dry climate. So we have those whereas in other climates where it was more humid, manuscripts would go bad over the years and have to be recopied. That would mean you’d have to have newer and newer copies; that’s the issue.
The Critical Text for the Nestle Aland text uses the word MELLO, which is a fixed future active indicative. The trouble is that it’s difficult to translate. Nearly every commentary I read that took this as what the original text said that it’s awkward to put this into English. That ought to be a hint that maybe something’s wrong; it’s a difficult way to translate it.
It has the idea of “to intend to do something” or “to purpose to do something.” That’s why you have some of these translations that say for example, the NET, “I intend to remind you.” Well, I can intend to remind you about something tomorrow, then forget all about it and not get there, so that’s not a very strong way to state what Peter is saying here.
The other word, as you can see, is spelled somewhat similarly, would sound very similar and so that could explain why one word was replaced with the other word. It is also a future, but it means, for example it could be translated, “I have no care for” or it could be translated into “neglect,” and so this is easy to translate it as a future tense: “I will not neglect something.”
Now if I say I won’t neglect to remind you of something tomorrow, that’s a much stronger statement than saying, “I intend to remind you tomorrow.” Understand the difference? One is just, “Well, I hope I remember to do it. I intend to but if I oversleep or if something happens, well then, I won’t do it. But, if I say, “I won’t neglect it,” I’ve made a very strong statement that I’m going to remind you.
Then you have an adverb thrown in here that says, “I will not neglect to remind you continually.” That is still different from “I intend to remind you.” As my mother used to say, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” So that’s not a strong statement, and this is a strong statement that Peter is making.
So, the Critical Text is translated by the New American Standard as, “I will always be ready.” I may always be ready and never do anything. This is a stronger statement; it’s saying, “I will not neglect to do something.” So, the NASB is not only a weak translation of the concept, it’s not a good translation. The concept that the NET has is much stronger. “I intend to remind you.”
So, I think it should be translated, “I will not neglect—not, “I will not be negligent,” but—“I will not neglect.” It’s a very strong statement. Peter is saying, “You need to hear this over and over and over again and I’m not going to miss a beat in reminding you about this. I’m not going to neglect it because you have to be reminded.” So, the word that is translated “remind” is an intensified word.
We’ve all heard, I think, a word that you refer to, something you use to try to remember somethings called a “mnemonic device.” That comes from this Greek word MIMNESKO, and it means “to remember something.” So, a mnemonic device is something you use to help you remember things.
When I was in seminary, we used to call a “budag.” Other people call them acronyms and other things. You would have five points and you find some keyword in each point and then make up a word so that each letter in the word would stand for each one of those five points so you could easily remember it for an exam.
So, this is where that word comes from; it means to remind somebody of something, to recall something to their mind, and to help them to remember it. This is the key idea here [2 Peter 1:12], “I will not neglect to remind you.”
This is in the present tense. The present tense can be used to describe a number of different things. I could use the present tense and say. “I’m teaching,” but that’s just talking about what I’m doing now for the last 20 minutes and the next 40 minutes. That’s not a very long statement. I could say something like, “I’m on a diet.” Well, that’s a present tense. That’s much broader. That may be talking about a period of time that goes on for several weeks or several months. And I could say something like, “I read my Bible.” That’s talking about something at the present time, but it’s something that I characteristically do every day. So, we use the present tense to describe a number of different things that are going on in present time.
This is what’s called an iterative use, and an iterative use is when it describes an event that repeatedly happens. That would be the nuance if you say that you like to watch LSU football, but you don’t do it every day. But you do it maybe once a week for a period in the Fall, that is, you do it continuously, but they’re repeated episodes with other things that go on in between.
That’s how this should be understood; he’s going to remind them—present tense—not every single day, all day, every day, but he’s going to do this: One day that he might send a letter to remind them; a week later, he might send another letter. There may be another letter a while later, but this is going to be something that he is going to repeatedly do over a period of time to make sure that they don’t forget what they have been taught. So, he says [2 Peter 1:12], “Therefore I will not neglect to remind you”; it’s on-going action and that’s important there because this is something that is a fundamental to teaching.
There is a very well-known book that most Bible college and seminary students have had to read at some point or another, and this book is called The Seven Laws of Teaching. One of the seven is repetition. I used to facetiously say there are seven laws to teaching: repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, and more repetition, because we need to hear things. I once read that for geniuses, they need to hear something six or seven times, but for the rest of us, we need to hear something 25 or 26 times. So, we often hear things, and it just goes past us.
When I’m teaching here, I’ll say some point and I know exactly what happens. I used to watch and what it would do is trigger a thought so for five or ten seconds, your mind goes down that trail thinking about what that means and then you bring it back and you missed eight sentences that I spoke. You didn’t hear them, but you caught the train of thought, but there are eight things. Maybe there’s something there I said and you didn’t hear it, and that happens to all of us.
There are a lot of different reasons that we need repetition, and the Bible emphasizes this. This word is used in a number of different contexts to emphasize this. For example, in John 14:26, as Jesus is talking to His eleven disciples, this is part of the Upper Room Discourse. This is after they’ve had the last supper, after they’ve had their Seder meal, and they have left the upper room and they’re walking down the hill to the Kidron Valley and then across to the Garden of Gethsemane. He’s teaching them as they’re walking along, and He is teaching them about the coming of the Holy Spirit.
In John 14:26 He says, “But the helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send—future tense, so at this time the Holy Spirit hasn’t come the night before the Cross; it is future. We know that’s 40 days away on Pentecost. The Father will send—in My name, He will teach you—a lot of people have memorized this verse over the years, thinking that it applies to them, but it doesn’t apply to you and me; it applies to those Eleven. He was going to send the Holy Spirit to teach you Eleven [disciples] all things—and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”
We can’t remember anything Jesus said to us because we weren’t there, so this can’t apply to us at all. But He’s telling the disciples that He’s going to give this. This is why they can later sit down and write the Gospels because the Holy Spirit in the inspiration was bringing to their mind exactly what Jesus said and taught at different times.
But see, here is this idea that it has to be brought to memory now. I think that in the spiritual life, the Holy Spirit does bring certain things back to our minds that we have learned and that we have studied. I’m not saying that does not happen, but that’s not what this verse is talking about.
In 2 Timothy, Paul is writing his last epistle to a younger man. Now Timothy’s a younger man. Often people get the idea that he was in his 20s; he was probably about 40. In Jewish culture, a young man was anyone under 40, so he was probably close to 40. Paul tells him [2 Timothy 2:14], “Remind them—that is, those in his congregation—of these things—that is what Paul had been talking about in the chapter prior to this—charging them before the Lord, not to strive about words to no profit—don’t get in arguments over words and semantics—to the ruin of the hearers.” This is not productive. It’s not edifying.
In Titus 3:1, he tells Titus, also a pastor, “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work.” This is always something important because there are times when we don’t have presidents and we don’t have people in authority in government positions over us that we really think should be there, and we are reminded we are to honor the king. We are to have a positive respect for the person whether they deserve it or not, because of the office that they hold. Once we get into a position where we’re disrespectful, we’re in violation of the Word of God. So as a pastor, that’s part of my responsibility is to remind people of this on a regular basis.
We need to be reminded of many things that are basic to Christianity. We need to be reminded to pray without ceasing; we need to be reminded that we are to love one another; we are to be reminded to confess sin; we are to be reminded to study the Word, read the Word every day.
I was out of town at the beginning of the year, so I didn’t have time to encourage everybody at January 1 to get on your Bible reading plan for the year. We have the Bible reading plans up on the Dean Bible Ministries website, and I hope all of you are trying to go through some plan: a chronological plan or one of the many other plans that you can look up on the Internet along with the ones that we have on the website.
I was a little late getting started, so I’m playing catch up and I’m about halfway through Genesis now, but I’ve got to get caught up, so instead of reading three or four chapters a day, I’m trying to double that, but we all need to be reading our Bibles. We can get reminded of so many things just reading through the Scripture all the time, so we need to constantly be reminded to do these things and be encouraged to do those things.
In Jude, which is a parallel epistle to 2 Peter, Jude is dealing with a little bit later time period. 2 Peter was written to warn about the coming of false teachers; Jude is written because the false teachers have arrived. So, in Jude 5, he says, “I want to remind you, though you once knew this—that’s similar to what Peter is saying here; he recognizes that they have come to know these things that he’s reminding them of. Just because they can pass a test and get 100 on it doesn’t mean they don’t need to continue to be reminded about it—that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.”
So even in the early church, they are constantly reviewing, reminding, reteaching all the familiar episodes, stories, Bible verses, and all the principles because we all need to be reminded of the basics. We need to be reminded of the foundations, we need to be reminded of the mechanics, we need to be reminded about the spiritual life, and we need to be reminded about all the different episodes and things that are given in the Bible.
Why do we need repetition? First of all, we need repetition because we don’t always get it the first time; we don’t always get it the second time; we don’t always get it the 15th or 20th time. We need to hear it over and over again. That’s why some people come to me after I know they’ve heard me say it 100 times, and they’ll say “Oh, you said something the other day that I thought was so good.” That’s just the way we are; we all are that way. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people say, “Well, you remember when so-and-so said such and such,” talking about a pastor or seminary professor, and I think, “No, that went right past me,” so we need that constantly, over and over again.
We also need it because of sin. We quickly suppress things, things that make us uncomfortable, things that we don’t want to hear, things that are difficult for us to do in our spiritual life, which we would rather just kind of skip past that and not think about it too much.
The third reason we need to have repetition is because of our limited capacities. We all need to hear things several times just to get it. So, we have limited capacity. Some people have more than others, but we all are limited.
The fourth reason is that as we get older, we forget things. I know that doesn’t apply to anybody here, but it seems to me that if my brain was a sieve, the holes are getting bigger, and things just leak out all the time. So, we constantly need to be reminded of these things that we once knew, things that were once very familiar to us.
The fifth thing is that repetition isn’t simply being redundant; it needs to be said in different ways with different structure because when you hit the same point in different ways, one day somebody’s going to say, “Oh, I get it!” So, you don’t just say it the same way every single time. Although, some things you do say the same way, so that people learn it. That’s part of pedagogy that you keep saying it the same way over and over and over again, people can’t forget it.
That’s one of the unique things about the tradition that we have compared to preaching. In most churches, the way preachers are taught to preach is you try to make the message memorable, so that three or four of your points can be remembered at dinner that night, and one might be remembered on Monday morning. That’s exactly what I was taught in my introductory preaching class. They encourage you not to repeat so that it is rare to go to most churches where the pastor on Sunday morning will refer to what he taught the previous Sunday morning. Each message is a is an isolated encapsulated whole. It doesn’t refer to anything else. But people don’t learn well that way. You have to keep saying it the same way, keep reviewing it, keep talking about it and doing it so much that people just can’t forget.
I always go back to learning some mechanical thing back when I was young. When I was in college and in ROTC, we had to learn how to strip down an M-14, clean and put it back together and in record time, and I think to this day I could still disassemble and reassemble an M-14. If you do things over and over and over again, then it gets embedded in your muscle memory. Athletes understand that, dancers understand that, musicians understand that; that’s why you practice, practice, practice, to get that embedded in your memory so you can’t forget how to do it. That’s another reason why repetition is necessary.
The final reason, the sixth reason, is that reminders are necessary because as we learn so many things today—we have more knowledge, information, and data thrown at us in any given day than the average citizen in France got thrown at him in a whole year, a thousand years ago—and our brains have to assimilate all that and keep up with all of it. It’s a huge amount of data that gets thrown at us and there are distractions and all kinds of things, and we forget things; we don’t pay attention and focus on those things as much as we did. So, we constantly need to be reminded of these realities.
So, Peter says [2 Peter 1:12], “I will not neglect to remind you constantly.” He has this adverb in there that this is something to do over and over and over again.
What he is going to remind them of is [2 Peter 1:12] “about these things,” and what that refers to in this phrase is everything that he’s alluded to already in the introduction. So, all of these are fundamentals of the spiritual life, and they need to be reminded and reminded so they don’t forget them. It’s not because he’s insulting their intelligence. It’s because he knows that we can easily forget these things and that’s how we are encouraged, and so that’s what he says, “I’m going to remind you constantly about these things.” Then he says, “even though—“even though” there is used to state an exception—even though you know them,” I’m going to remind you even though you know all these things. I’ve just told you they weren’t new to you. You’ve heard them before; you need to hear it again even though you know that.
What’s interesting is how this is structured in the Greek because the English obscures this a little bit. It’s not that it’s a wrong translation but that we miss the point here. He says, “even though you know them well.” This is the Greek verb OIDA. There are two main verbs in Greek for “knowledge”: GINOSKO has this idea of “coming to know something,” but OIDA often speaks of that knowledge you’ve come to know, and it’s become a part of you. It’s a more intimate knowledge.
The tense here is important. It’s a perfect, active tense. You came to know it, so you’re performing the action. You have learned this, but it’s a perfect tense which means it is action that’s completed in the past, but its emphasis is on the present knowledge of that which has already been learned in the past.
To emphasize the completeness of it, I translated it, “You have known these things,” but he’s emphasizing the present possession of that knowledge. So, it’s more accurate to translate it: “You know this,” “You know it because you’ve been taught it.” You’ve been taught it, you’ve learned that you’ve learned it, and it’s well understood by you. You know it, but the emphasis on it is past, completed action. You have come to know this in the past.
The same thing is going to be true of the second verb here, which is another participle, STERIZO. This has the idea of “making something strong,” “supporting it,” “making it firm,” and I think it has that idea of giving a person stability in life so that you’re not tossed about by the different winds of difficulties and temptations and things like that.
Again, it’s a perfect tense but notice it’s a perfect-passive. See, in the active voice, you perform the action of learning or knowing. With STERIZO, it’s that you receive the action of that verb; you receive the action of being strengthened; you receive the action of being stabilized as a result of what you know. So, a good way to translate this is, “You have known them with the result that you now know it, you have been made stable with the result that your lives are now stable.”
Now we get into the next part, which I think is really important and somewhat obscured in some of these translations, and that is: How does this happen? How did you come to know it? How did you come to be stabilized? It is “in the truth that you now have.” In English, the preposition “in” can have a range of meanings that often it has that idea of “inside of something,” and that’s not the sense here. It’s the idea of “by means of;” it expresses instrumentality. “We have known these things, and we have been stabilized by means of the truth.” It is the truth of God’s Word that gives us that stability; it’s the truth of God’s Word that gives us real, objective knowledge about the way things are. So, let’s talk a minute about truth.
We need to answer Pontius Pilate’s question [John 18:37], “What is truth?” In the trials of Jesus, He’s finally brought before Pilate. This is His second trial before a confrontation with Pilate, and Pilate is boxed in a corner. He knows he has to do something, but he doesn’t want to do it, and they’re bringing up these charges that He’s claimed to be a king, and so he questions Him in verse 37 and says, “‘Are you [really] a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly—in other words, you’ve said it; it’s the truth, I am a king—For this cause I was born and for this cause I have come into the world that I should bear witness to the truth.’ ”
He is a witness to the truth, not a truth, not my version of the truth, not somebody else’s version of the truth, but to the truth. It clearly affirms the existence of an objective, absolute truth that is true for any culture, any country, any person, any age, any ethnicity. It is true for everybody.
Jesus is the witness to that truth, and He says [John 18:37], “‘Everyone who is of the truth—that is, those who believe that truth—hears My voice.’ ” So, Pilate says [John 18:38], “What is truth?”
Well, “what is truth?” This is the question of a skeptic; the question of somebody who doesn’t really care. The conversation’s getting too deep when you start talking about truth. Let’s just turn it off and go ahead about our business. What is truth? How do you know truth? You can’t know truth. So, what does the Bible say?
First of all, we have to recognize that when we’re talking with people, maybe you’re even witnessing to somebody, maybe talking to a family member or coworker or whatever, and if they’re products of our culture, they have been taught to think of truth as something that is fluid, something that is subjective. It has to do with how you feel.
How many times you hear people say, “Well I feel like this is true.” “Well what do you think about the impeachment trial?” if they even know there’s one going on.
It was interesting, the other day on one of the morning talk shows, I saw this clip on a news show: They asked the audience how many of you have been keeping up with the impeachment trial? Not a single person in there raised their hand. Most people in this country are oblivious; they’re living their lives. They realize this is just political theater in Washington, and it has nothing to do with what we’re talking about here, which is truth. It is just an absolute disgrace.
But we live in this culture of relativism where truth is what you think it is. You can shape truth to whatever works for you, and that truth is something that is not absolute, but is subjective, and so somebody may say, “Well I feel like the President is guilty.” I don’t care how you feel. What do you think? What’s your evidence? What are the facts? But people often say that; I know it’s an idiom, but it expresses a reality. People just feel their way through life.
The Bible presupposes something that is not a personal, subjective belief in what’s right or wrong; it is something that is external, something that is objective and something that is true for anyone of any ethnicity, any age, any socio-economic bracket. It’s true for everyone, whether they’re living in North America or Africa or North Korea or South Korea; whether they’re rich or poor; whether they’re educated or uneducated. It’s true for everybody.
But the thing is, if there’s not truth, then how can we even communicate? Truth is presupposed just by communication. If I say something: If I go outside and say, “It’s raining outside.” Each one of those words presupposes a specific meaning, and it has to be shared with the person I’m talking to or there’s no communication. If the person I’m talking to doesn’t agree with the meaning, the absolute undeniable meaning of each one of those words, then there can’t be any communication.
So, the idea that there’s no such thing as absolute truth is inconsistent with even making a statement. To talk, to think with vocabulary presupposes absolute truth.
The Bible presupposes absolute truth. It doesn’t start off like a philosophical book: Well is there absolute truth, and what are the arguments in favor of the arguments against it? It just assumes the existence of God without proving it, from the very first verse [Genesis 1:1], “In the beginning, God …” There’s no preface to that to prove the existence of God, and truth and God, of course, are intimately connected in the Scripture.
In Deuteronomy 32:4 we read, “He—this is God—is the Rock.” Think about a rock, not just a pebble, not just some rock you can pick up, but think about a massive escarpment. If you’re familiar with Texas at all, you know there’s a place out north of San Antonio out by Llano called Enchanted Rock. It’s the second largest granite outcropping in North America. The largest is Stone Mountain in Atlanta, which is about two or three times larger; it’s enormous; that’s the kind of rock that God is.
What do you think of? Can you move that? It’s immovable. It’s unshakable. It is permanent. It gives stability to everything. So, this is how God is just described. He is the Rock. His work is perfect, and the Hebrew word here for perfect has the idea of that which is complete, total, and sufficient. His work is perfect. It is complete, total, and sufficient.
[Deuteronomy 32:4] And then it says, “For all His ways are justice.” This has the idea of that which conforms to objective absolutes. He is then described as, “A God of truth.” He is a true God. He is truth. The word for “truth” is an interesting word. It is related to the word “amen.” When we say “amen” that means, “I believe it; it’s true.” And so, truth is related to that. There’s one form of the word that is used to describe the foundations under the pillars in Solomon’s Temple and that foundation is something that is stable; it’s permanent; it’s unshakable, and so those pillars were placed there and they could not be knocked down. They wouldn’t wobble; they would be solid. So, when we talk about truth, it has that idea of something that is unshakable, something that is permanent, something that is foundational.
That is what God is. He is a [Deuteronomy 32:4] “God of truth and without injustice.” The word for “injustice” is the Hebrew word normally translated in relation to sin, “that which is something that misses the mark; he is not without injustice.” He does not miss the mark; He is righteous, and He is upright. The word for “upright” also includes that idea of “something dependable and stable.”
Psalm 31:5 says, “Into Your hand, I commit my spirit. You have redeemed me, O Lord, God of truth.” I could use numerous other examples that refer to God as the God of truth.
In Psalm 40:11 we read, “Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O Lord, let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me.” You have two things mentioned. One is God’s lovingkindness. This is His chesed love. We have studied that many, many times. It is sometimes translated “mercies,” sometimes translated “loyal love; faithful love; lovingkindness.” It is a word often associated with faithfulness to a covenant; it’s unshakable. So, two things: “preserve me.” The word for “preserve” means to keep or protect. The first is God’s chesed love, that is faithful and loyal and unshakable, and the second is His truth, which is stable. It doesn’t change; it’s immutable and what does it do? It preserves us. It protects us in times of threat, in times of difficulty, in times of instability. It is God’s character that protects and preserves us.
In Psalm 100:5, we read, “For the Lord is good; His mercy—that’s His chesed—is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” Again, that same word, His stability never changes; its unchangeable, and it endures to all generations.
The next three verses I have here are verses that relate God’s truth to His Word. His Word originates in His thinking, and if He is truth, then His Word is truth. Psalm 119:142 says, “Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law [Your Torah] is truth.” This is important. When we get into the New Testament, when Jesus says [John 17:17], “Sanctify them in truth, Your word is truth,” that’s not a new thought; that phrase, “Your Word is truth,” goes back to the Old Testament and “Your law is truth.” Psalm 119:151 says, “You are near, O Lord, and all Your commandments are truth.”
Then a few verses later in Psalm 119:160, “The entirety of Your word is truth.” All of Your Word is truth; the fullness of Your Word is truth; everything is truth and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever. Then near the ends of the psalms we have a reference to God as the Creator. He is the One who made Heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, who keeps truth forever.
What’s connecting here? Connecting God’s stability, His truth, to His being the Creator of all things, and because He is stable, He can hold the universe together. We don’t have to worry about climate change, or climate disaster, or things of that nature. God is in charge, and God is stable, and He stabilizes everything around Him.
The idea is [Psalm 146:6], “Who keeps truth forever,” is the Hebrew word shamar, and shamar means “to keep” or “watch,” or “preserve.” It’s somewhat ironic that we have a Jewish minority leader in the Senate whose last name derives from this word shamar because he is not keeping, protecting or guarding the Constitution, but that’s what his name means that he should do. That’s the same word. Now you’ll remember it.
The second thing the Bible says about truth is, it confirms one reality that exists outside of our minds and independent of our subjective desires. It is independent of our subjective desires so that it is not dependent upon the flimsy whims of our thinking, our emotions, but there is one reality that exists outside of our minds. We may wish life were different. We may wish that certain circumstances were different. We may want another social status. We may wish that we had another gender. We may wish that we were another race, that we were taller, thinner, younger, or more attractive, but reality is what it is. Unless of course you don’t know what “is” is, like Bill Clinton.
The third thing: Reality is knowable and truth is knowable. There may be some people out there who say, “Okay, we believe there’s a truth, but we can’t know it.” But the Bible says you can know it. The fact that you make a verbal statement that we can’t know it means that you can know it because it’s assumed by the fact that you can talk and put sentences together and use vocabulary. Jesus said [John 8:32], “And you shall know the truth and the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” This is one of the most abused verses in Scripture; the truth that he is talking about is the Word of God. He’s not talking about truth in mathematics, or truth in geology, or truth in political science, or in literature, or history. He’s talking about the truth of God’s Word. You shall know the truth of God’s Word. It’s a capital T “TRUTH” and “the TRUTH will make you free,” will break you from the tyranny of the sin nature.
Point 4. The problem is human beings suppress the TRUTH. They don’t want to know the truth. There’s a famous line by Jack Nicholson, “You can’t handle the truth,” and that’s how most people are; they don’t want to know the truth. They can’t handle the truth because they have rejected God, so they are suppressing the truth. [Romans 1:18] “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” That word “suppress” means to push it down, to dig a deep hole within your soul and bury the truth so that it can’t come out, and it can’t bother you. What it is, is that people want to make up their own truth. They want to make up their own reality. They want to redefine reality, and that’s the height of narcissism—I’m going to define what everything is.
We live in this narcissistic culture, and it’s no surprise that we have people who want to be other genders and want to be other races and everything else because they’re not taught that there are absolutes, and that there is objective truth, and you can’t do that. So, everybody is losing their mind. Truth suppression results in believing a falsehood that you get if you’re denying truth. You have to believe a lie. That’s the flipside—you have to believe a lie, and this is exactly what Paul says in Romans 1:25.
Romans 1:25, “[who] exchanged the TRUTH of God for the lie, and they worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.” Truth suppression always results in believing a lie. The more lies we believe, the more divorced we are from reality, the more chaos there is in our minds and in our souls.
When you get a culture that is dominated by people who have practiced truth suppression for so long that they don’t know what it is, then you’re on the verge of the societal and cultural collapse, because nobody can even communicate anymore because they can’t agree on what truth is.
Fifth point: Those who suppress the TRUTH and think and live on the basis of a false system of thinking are further described as not obeying the truth, but they’re obeying unrighteousness. Think about that. Truth is something that demands a response. Truth is something that demands obedience to live according to that truth. That’s what Paul is saying. You either obey truth or you obey a lie.
Romans 2:8 says, “but to those who are self-seeking—notice the connection of narcissism and self-centeredness to being divorced from reality—and do not obey the truth,—they want to shape their own reality—but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath.” Indignation: isn’t it interesting the people that get offended at the least little thing; they’re indignant over the fact that their pseudo-reality is being challenged.
Point six. If there is not TRUTH, then how can we even communicate, because language itself is based on the idea that words describe reality and can communicate reality. This is why we battle over the meaning of so many words, and even what the Constitution means or what law means. You hear some of the most absurd things said simply because there’s a complete breakdown in even communication once you deny truth.
The Bible claims to be the one overriding TRUTH that gives meaning to all other lowercase truths. It is that which gives meaning to everything. Without the Bible, everything is just irrelevant, disconnected data.
Point eight. Jesus is the embodiment of TRUTH. He said [John 14:6], “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Now He’s either telling the TRUTH the way it is, or He’s not. He’s not just saying, “Well I feel like this is true today. He’s making an existential and metaphysical statement here that He is the very embodiment of TRUTH, and that means that whatever He says is absolutely 100% true and reliable.
The ninth point—I only have one more. The Holy Spirit communicates TRUTH. He is called the Spirit of TRUTH in John 16:13, and He guides the Apostles in all TRUTH. John 16:13, “However, when He, the Spirit truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” Again, Jesus is talking to the disciples there, not directly to us.
Then finally [10th point], the truth of Scripture is how we grow. It’s how we have a basis for knowledge, and how we are stabilized in the midst of the storms of life. That’s what Peter is talking about here when he says [2 Peter 1:12], “though, you have come to know, and have come to be stabilized by the present truth”—or “by the truth that you have;” either one is an adequate translation for that passage.
As we wrap up, let me just summarize some things in the first part of this chapter. What Peter is talking about is, [2 Peter 1:12] “I’m reminding you of these things.” What are these things? These things are the things that he has described in the first 11 verses. First of all, in 2 Peter 1:3 remember it was God’s omnipotence, His divine power that has given us everything pertaining to life and godliness, so that that’s all we need to face the problems, challenges, successes, and failures of life. We need to learn what is ours and how to use it.
Second, he tells us that realizing that we have these possessions comes through knowing Him because they’re based on His character. That’s what is summarized by that phrase in His “glory and virtue;” that’s the basis: His character has given us all of these things.
Third, these glories, this character is communicated to us through His exceedingly great and precious promises [2 Peter 1:4]. How to face the details of life, the challenges of life, come from understanding and knowing those great and precious promises.
And fourth, that by knowing them, we grow spiritually so that Christ’s character is formed in us, and by that, we escape the corruption that is in the world through lust. That is what’s in 2 Peter 1:4.
[Fifth] In 2 Peter 1:5–7, the focus is on these spiritual virtues that are developed in us if we pursue spiritual growth. When we get down to 2 Peter 1:5–7 we read, “But also for this very reason—that is the reason that God has given us these things, he says—giving all diligence—make it a point, make it a priority; pursue this—add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love”—that needs to be spiritual growth. Then sixth, he says that if you pursue these things, [2 Peter 1:8] then you will “neither be barren or unfruitful,” and you’ll have a an incredible welcome when you enter the Kingdom [2 Peter 1:11].
If you don’t do these things, he doesn’t say you weren’t saved or you’ll lose your salvation, he says if you don’t do these things, then you won’t have such a glorious welcome. God’s not going to kick you out. He’s not going to hang black flags, but you’re not going to have as much of a great welcome. Every believer will be welcomed, but some are going to have a special parade and special celebration because they have done so well.
If we pursue spiritual growth, we’re going to have a tremendous welcome. That doesn’t mean you’re going to be as great a spiritual giant as some other believer, but if we’re pursuing spiritual growth, that’s our priority and we’re walking by means of the Spirit, then there’s going to be a tremendous welcome, and we’re going to enter the Kingdom. This is what is described in 2 Peter 1:11: “for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
The other person is described as the one who is ungrateful and self-serving and never grows. That’s the challenge, and for that reason Peter says I need to remind you of this all the time, so you keep your focus on the right priority. Next time, we’ll come back and look at the next couple of verses as we look to conclude the introduction.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things and to be reminded again and again that we’re living today in light of eternity. We are living for You; we’re living to serve You; we’re living to grow spiritually because when all this life is over with, what matters is Your Word and how we have internalized it, and to what degree we can apply it, and walk with You as consistently as we can.
“None of us do this perfectly. None of us will ever do this perfectly. We can put our eyes on other believers, but that’s just the path to self-condemnation. It’s not about other people; it’s about us doing the best we can do, and we may fail many times, but our desire is to serve You and to know Your Word better than anything else. Help us to do that. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.”