God’s Word for You
2 Peter 1:19 The word of God
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, July 2, 2022
19 And we have the prophetic word made more certain. You will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
Why does Peter say that the prophetic word is “made certain”? It’s because, unlike the pagans, none of the Apostles’ preaching was based on myths (2 Peter 1:16), and because when Peter and others personally saw the prophecies of the Old Testament fulfilled (such as at the Transfiguration, 2 Peter 1:17-18), so that those prophecies were made “more certain,” they were firmly planted in the hearts of the apostles. There were already false teachings being spread by false teachers at this early date. Not all of these errors received names or even descriptions that have come down to us, but they always involved rejecting something that the Bible says in favor of some human idea, or the goddess of reason, or a human concept as opposed to what God has clearly and simply said in his word.
This leads to certain questions about “the prophetic word,” the Holy Scriptures.
Did God want his Word to be written down?
Following the holy creation, God permitted his word to be passed down orally from generation to generation for many centuries. Suddenly, in a single lifetime, that changed forever. Moses produced five books and a Psalm, a body of work that is about the same length as the four Gospels, Acts, and Romans combined. There are certain factors that the Bible shows us that contributed to this shift from oral to written Scriptures:
- The brevity of human life. Before the flood, many men had lifespans that extended for eight hundred or nine hundred years. Adam himself lived to be 930 (Genesis 5:5), and his wife Eve was still having babies at 130 (Genesis 5:3). After the flood, lifespans decreased dramatically, so that, according to the Psalm of Moses, a human lifespan is about 70 or 80 years (Psalm 90:10). Up to the flood, a few faithful men could preserve the account of God’s word and pass it along to everyone. Everything Noah received had only been retold once or at most twice before: he received it from his grandfather Methuselah, whose lifespan overlapped with Adam’s for three hundred years. When lifespans were shortened, the purity of doctrine could no longer be preserved conveniently without writing.
- The increasing number of people. As the human race increased, so also did its expansion, and Scriptures needed to be written because the pure and sound doctrine could not reach everyone. From Japheth’s clan, “the coastland peoples spread” (Genesis 10:5). From Ham’s clan, “the families of the Canaanites [and others] spread abroad” (Genesis 10:18). And within Shem’s clan, “the territory in which they lived extended from Mesha in the direction of Sephar to the hill country of the east” (Genesis 10:30).
- The weakness of human memory. It is easy to forget things that are beyond human comprehension. When the Apostles, especially Peter, Paul, and John, were preaching among the people, they made great strides in bringing the gospel into the world. The Holy Spirit saw fit to preserve some of their preaching in the form of their Epistles, as Peter says: “I will make every effort to see to it that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things” (2 Peter 1:15).
- The stability of doctrine. Luke brings this up in the prologue of his Gospel: “It seemed good to me, having carefully followed everything from the beginning, to write an orderly account for you that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:3-4).
We could say more, especially about how errors creep inevitably into traditions, and the wickedness of men, and the perversity of heretics, but these four points are especially significant.
The Scriptures are useful to the church, but are they necessary?
They are necessary in every way. (1) They instruct us in matters unknown in nature. (2) They preserve purity of doctrine against corruption and error (Matthew 22:29). (3) They give us certainty (Luke 1:3, 2 Peter 1:19). Human traditions can be beneficial, but too often they become the storage shed of errors. Throughout the Scriptures, God’s people are told to consult the written word of God (Deuteronomy 12:32; Joshua 23:6; Isaiah 8:20; Proverbs 30:6) but never to consult the traditions. In fact, much of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is a condemnation of the traditions that had veered away from the Word (Matthew 5:27-28, 5:31-32, 5:43-44, 6:2, 6:5, 6:16).
The Holy Scriptures give us light, showing us the will of God. Those who try to describe the will of God apart from the Scriptures are false teachers; they are not to be followed. Many of our own good Christians are misled by their teachings, and we need to point out these errors, but this is increasingly more and more difficult as people are turning to computers and other devices for answers. Computers use algorithms to provide potential answers for searches, which means one of two things will be provided: (1) An answer from a more popular provider, which will almost never be an orthodox answer even if it seems to be “mostly orthodox,” or (2) An answer from a provider who is able to pay money in order to buy popularity. This will, by definition, never be an orthodox answer, but a popular answer. The problem with popular answers is that people are always inclined toward sin, not toward God’s will. People want to “eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence” (Proverbs 4:17), and they want their teachers to say “what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3) when they should be seeking the path of righteousness for the true light that shines as the full light of day (Proverbs 4:18). “It by this gospel you are saved,” Paul says, “if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:2).
The blessing of the written word of God is that God’s will is written for us clearly, in words that can be translated into every language, for all of us to learn what we cannot learn from nature or from the intellect alone. The word of God tells us exactly who God is, and what he has done for us through Christ. It is especially that—the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins—that stands as the most important truth written for us God’s holy word.
Pastor Timothy Smith