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The Truth is Out There – 2 Peter 1:16-21

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

Introduction:

Today, truth is often difficult to come by. It seems that whenever any form of media is involved, particularly the internet, the truth can quickly become overshadowed by the millions of opinions that are all too prevalent in our world today. So, I’ve gathered a collection of quotes from several “famous theologians” regarding truth and lies.

Quotes about truth and lies:

  • Truth exists; only lies are invented.” – Georges Braque
  • Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (…also Spock quoting Doyle)
  • Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a while, but it ain’t goin’ away.” – Elvis Presley
  • The truth is out there Mulder, but so are lies.” – Dana Scully

Obviously, these quotes come from individuals who are not regarded as “theologians”. However, these quotes were found online, so they are obviously authentic and reliability (sarcastically). Today, we’re going to study a passage in 2 Peter that deals with the authenticity and reliability of what we proclaim as truth: the gospel.

Several months ago (Jan. 3, 2021), Pastor Matt gave me an opportunity to preach for the first time, and for that sermon, we studied 2 Peter 1:1-15. At the beginning of this epistle (letter), Peter established a detailed reminder to his audience (churches in the minor Asia provinces) that they had received life and godliness through their knowledge of Jesus Christ (v. 3). Furthermore, he instructed them to grow in their knowledge and faith in order to be effective followers of Christ. However, as Peter continues his thoughts through this passage, he took the time to reassure his readers that the message they received (the message that brought them life and godliness through the knowledge of Jesus Christ) was both authentic and reliable. We’re going to handle this passage as if this were a courtroom proceeding. We’re going to consider eyewitness accounts, their reliability, as well as other sources of evidence. So, let’s look at our passage for today, and then we’ll break it apart and discuss what’s there.

(Read 2 Peter 1:16-21)

As we study this passage today, we’re going to divide Peter’s defense of the gospel into two categories, the first of which is this: the authenticity of an eyewitness.

Point I: The authenticity of an eyewitness (v. 16-18)

To being our discussion today, Peter starts his defense of the gospel with an eyewitness account: specifically, HIS eyewitness account of Jesus’ power, coming, and majesty. Let’s take another look at verse 16.

16 For we did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”

In this verse, Peter assures us that the message he proclaimed (the power and the return of Jesus) was not a fictional story (myth/fable). Rather, it’s an authentic message supported by numerous factors, the first of which is Peter’s eyewitness account. Let’s look further into the details of what he said. Peter referenced three aspects of his experience with Jesus:

The power of Jesus: Peter’s experience with Jesus performing countless miracles.

  • The great haul of fish (Luke 5:1-11)
  • The healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:30-31)
  • The calming of the storm (Matthew 8:23-27)

The coming of Jesus: Peter’s assurance of Jesus’ eventual return (Acts 1:9-11)

  • We understand that Jesus has NOT yet returned. However, Peter and the other disciples witnessed Jesus ascend into Heaven after His death and resurrection and was promised (by angels) to return again in the same way.

The majesty of Jesus: this statement refers to a specific instance that Peter witnessed.

  • We must look further into our passage to understand to what Peter is specifically referring as Jesus’ “Majesty”.

So, let’s look at what this experience was. Look again with me at verse 17-18 to see Peter’s reference of Jesus’ majesty.

17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased!”

18 We ourselves heard this voice when it came from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain.”

DISCLAIMER: It goes without saying that we as humans are fallible; it therefore stands to reason that those eyewitnesses are subject to the same fallibility. As such, we would do ourselves a tremendous disservice if we were to accept the gospel’s authenticity based solely on the claims of a single individual. Peter addresses the heart of this issue as well though.

Peter is not testifying to the gospel’s authenticity solely based on his testimony, but rather on the testimony of God (to which he was an eyewitness). He bases his testimony of the gospel on the testimony he received when God’s glory appeared and testified that Jesus was His Son. We can find a more detailed account of this experience in Matthew 17:1-6; this is what is referred to as the “mount of transfiguration.

1 After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. 2 He was transfigured in front of them, and his face shone like the sun; his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with him. 4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it’s good for us to be here. If you want, I will set up three shelters here: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased. Listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown and were terrified.” (Matthew 17:1-6)

Technically speaking, this eyewitness account is based on multiple testimonies: Peter’s, (not to mention James and John) and God’s. And in this testimony, we see a lot of imagery. How does this experience (Jesus’ transfiguration) give testimony to Jesus’ power, return, and majesty?

  • Jesus’ transfiguration: a momentary glimpse to the power and coming of Jesus.
  • Moses’ and Elijah’s appearance: the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets.
  • God’s testimony: confirmation of Jesus’s sonship, testifying to the majesty of Jesus.
  • All these aspects point to one main idea: Jesus was momentarily glorified so that one day, all who would receive the gospel would experience His eternal glory.

Peter’s testimony of the gospel hinges on one crucial element; he testifies to the authenticity of the gospel based on his experience of God’s testimony. We recently studied the book of 1 John, and during that sermon series, we read a very similar statement. Take a look at 1 John 5:9.

9 Even if we accept human testimony, the testimony of God is greater. For this is the testimony that God has given about His Son.” (1 John 5:9)

Just as John testifies that God’s testimony is greater than that of humans, Peter also addresses the fact that his testimony of the gospel (which is no myth/fable) is based on something far greater than human testimony: the gospel is authenticated by God’s testimony about Jesus.

This is Peter’s eyewitness account, and through it we see that he supports his defense of the gospel’s authenticity with God’s testimony of Jesus. Now, let’s look at the remainder of his defense; he turns to the reliability of the scripture, which is our next point.

Point II: The reliability of the scriptures (v. 19-21)

In these next few verses, Peter offers “physical evidence” to further corroborate what he states in his eyewitness account. So, let’s look further into our passage as Peter uses the scriptures to support the authenticity of the gospel. Let’s take a look at verse 19.

19 We also have the prophetic word strongly confirmed, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

When Peter uses the phrase “the prophetic word strongly confirmed”, he is referring to passages of scripture in the Old Testament that were confirmed/fulfilled through Jesus’ ministry. What Peter is saying is that Jesus brought about the fulfillment of countless Old Testament scriptures; what is sometimes referred to as the Law and Prophets. In fact, Jesus made a similar statement about Himself in Matthew 5:17. Jesus says:

17 Don’t think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17)

If one does a google search for “how many prophecies point to Jesus”, or “how many prophecies Jesus fulfilled” the results are numerically astounding. Search results can contain anywhere from 100-500 and more. However, for the sake of time, we will only look at three:

“Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: See, the virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness.” (Isaiah 9:2)

“But he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on him, and we are healed by his wounds.” (Isaiah 53:5)

These passages, among countless others are, what Peter references in his testimony. He addresses the fact that Jesus’ ministry on earth confirmed/fulfilled countless prophecies written in the scriptures. However, Peter also describes people’s receptiveness to “prophetic confirmation” of Jesus, and he uses imagery to do that. So, to summarize his statement simply:

  • The gospel (the prophetic word strongly confirmed) is a message of hope (lamp shining in dark places) that must be received by faith (until the day dawns) and committed to by the listener (the morning star rises in YOUR hearts).

The truth about Jesus is so much more than just a collection of facts, although it is imperative that we have knowledge of Jesus. The gospel is a transformative message that gives us hope but only IF we receive that message by faith and commit ourselves to living out God’s Word.

The gospel is so simple it’s almost difficult! All that is required of us to have hope is to simply receive the truth about Jesus, trust that message to be true and commit our lives to following God’ Word. However, in the event that we as Peter’s audience have any reservations about the truth about Jesus, God’s testification to Jesus as His Son, and/or the reliability of the scriptures, Peter says this in verses 20-21.

20 Above all, you know this: No prophecy of Scripture comes from the prophet’s own interpretation, 21 because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

Occasionally, we must address this question: How can we trust the Bible? It was written by people who aren’t perfect. How then can we trust the Bible to be reliable?

In this passage, Peter isn’t saying the scriptures are reliable because people wrote what they believed to be true about God. Instead, Peter is saying that the scriptures are reliable because God was active in the writing process; He influenced people to write truths about Him. The scriptures aren’t individually man-made messages about God; the scriptures are God’s message to us about Himself, a message that He was active in conveying (men spoke from God)

To return to Peter’s original statement: the gospel isn’t a collection of stories that people made up. No, it is single message that God has given to us so we might have and share in hope.

Ex. The game of Telephone is a game where a single person is given a simple message and told to relay that message to another person. As the message is passed from one person to another, it inevitably changes; aspects of the original message are elaborated upon, diminished, or excluded altogether until eventually, the message resembles nothing of its original form.

IF the scriptures were a collection of “cleverly contrived myths” written by people without God’s involvement, the gospel would undoubtedly resemble a message like those that result from the game of Telephone; it wouldn’t make sense, and the scriptures wouldn’t corroborate one another. As it stands though, Peter concludes his statement and rests his case, and with that, we come to bottom line of our passage:

Bottom Line: The gospel is authentic and reliable.

The gospel is straightforward: take it or leave; there is no middle ground.

  • If we doubt the authenticity and reliability of the scripture, then we doubt the gospel and its authenticity. To put it another way, if we doubt/reject the scripture, we doubt/reject the testimony about Jesus, and in so doing reject God.
  • It goes without saying that no Christian would ever purposely reject the gospel and its founder (Jesus). However, misunderstanding, or worse, misrepresenting the gospel in is just as ineffective and counterproductive (for us, and especially those to whom we are witnessing).
  • In the next chapter of Peter’s letter, he addresses the inevitability of false teaching. It’s important for us as believers to know the truth about the gospel so we can accurately and effectively share the gospel with others.
  • So, let us all take time this week, and right now to challenge ourselves in the following ways.

Weekly Challenge:

  1. Grow in your knowledge of Jesus Christ.
    1. One is never done growing, especially regarding our faith and faithfulness.
    1. Spend time reading and studying the Bible; know the gospel.
    1. Read with intentionality; understand the bible so we can tell others.
  2. Share your knowledge of Jesus Christ.
    1. Understand this: the knowledge of Jesus Christ is not just about collecting information; it’s a transformative process.
    1. Ask people who you trust to know the gospel and you will see a difference in the way they live the lives. They live life transformed by the redemption of Jesus all in their process of being sanctified (constantly being perfected until Jesus returns for us to experience His eternal glory) so that one day, we can live with Him in Heaven in perfect existence.
    1. After spending time in the Word and in prayer, look for opportunities to show ‘n tell how God has changed you.
    1. The world needs us to know and share the truth about Jesus, because, as Scully so correctly observed, “The truth is out, but so are lies.” The world needs us to share the truth we know, because if don’t, the only thing left to believe in are lies.

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