2 Peter 1:12-1:21
What is your memory like? Do you forget things very easily? Are you better with faces or with names? Although that seems a silly question to me, because if you don’t remember faces what good is a name? Apparently we never actually forget, it is all stored in our brain. We just do not know how to retrieve it. In the passage before us this evening Peter is at pains to remind the believers in Asia Minor to remember the basics of the Christian faith.
VERSES 12-15 THE NEED FOR REMINDERS.
How do you remember things? I usually write things down in my diary, but you have to remember to read your diary. When you were revising for exams how did you remember things?
We learn rhymes as children to teach us things for example you may have learnt a rhyme for the number of days each month has 30 days has September, April, June and November - repeat rhyme. Or you may have learnt ‘every good boy deserves football and f-a-c-e’ to remember the order of musical notes when reading music.
In Scripture the people of God are urged constantly to remember. God assists them in their remembrance by giving them physical signs to aid them. So:-
- You have the sign of the rainbow to remind Noah and his descendants of God’s covenant never again to destroy all life with a flood.
- You have the sign of circumcision to remind the people of Israel of the covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
- You have the Passover to remind them of the great deliverance from Egypt and we could go on.
- For us as Christians we have baptism and HC to remind us of our redemption in Christ.
Peter calls the believers to remember. Peter begins verse 12 with ‘Therefore’ which connects what is to follow with what he has just written. He tells the believers he will make every effort to remind them of the virtues he has outlined even though he is well aware that, not only do they know about them, but they are in fact well established (or grounded) in them.
When Jack Nicklaus was the undisputed world number 1 in golf he was asked how he kept at the top. His answer was startling. At the end of every golf season he went back to his first coach who taught him the basics of the game all over again. Every season he went back and learnt the basic building blocks of a good golf swing. There wasn’t anything new to learn, just to be reminded again of the basics.
Peter reminds the believers that there is no new revelation to be learnt, no new insight to be gained, no new technique which will make their Christian life different. He reminds them, and will continue to remind them of the truth which they are established in and about which they have a settled conviction.
Why is Peter so insistent about reminding them of this truth? Well in verses 13-14 he gives a personal reason his death is near. Peter reveals to them that his time amongst them is short. Jesus has revealed to Peter that his death is near.
Now let me ask you: if you knew your time here was coming to an end what would be your focus? What would you be concerned with?
Peter’s concern is to promote the knowledge of the truth of the gospel amongst the believers. Peter devotes himself to this end because he knows the time is coming when he will leave this ‘tent’ (body) behind for a short while and go to be with Christ. He then reiterates his purpose in writing to them (verse 15) “And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things”.
He wants them to remember the truth of the gospel in which they have become established why? Because his fear is that if they forget the truth of the gospel they will fall asleep and fall (v9) from grace. He wants them to over learn.
You know one of the most humbling experiences in ministry is visiting people with Alzheimer’s. People who have been vibrant and intellectually stimulating in their life, but now reduced to another form of existence because of this terribly debilitating disease, can still hold some wonderful insights in what their minds still hold.
I remember taking communion to several ‘housebound’ folk in this situation. They wouldn’t be able to remember the name of their wife or husband or their children. They wouldn’t know who I was and yet as we came to share communion they instinctively knew what was happening joining in at the right times - and could also recite the Lord’s Prayer word perfect.
Why was this?
Because they had learned these things time and time again until it became part of the very fabric of their life. That is what Peter is talking about here to the believers. To remember so that the truth of the gospel becomes the very fabric of our lives. Would that were true for all of us.
Let me stop there for a moment and just make this a little more personal for all of us. When you fall into sin what at that moment have you forgotten? It is not that at that precise moment you don’t believe in God or that you don’t believe the Bible.
- Is it not that for a moment you have forgotten the truth of the gospel?
- Is it not a case that you have forgotten the consequences of sin and the cost of forgiveness of sin?
When we fall from grace it is not that we have become unbelievers but that we have forgotten our need of grace, the cost of that grace and the eternal consequences of sin. Peter does not want the believers of Asia Minor to forget, nor should we.
On what basis did Peter teach them the truth of the gospel? He is at great pains here to point out that it was not man-made stories, or hearsay that they shared with them but ‘eyewitness’ accounts.
In these verses Peter speaks of the Transfiguration of Christ. Peter, James and John were eyewitnesses to the transfiguration of Christ and they each heard the voice of God speaking approval of Jesus Christ ( Matthew 17.1-9).
Note he says ‘we’ it was not Peter alone who could testify to what happened on the ‘holy mountain.’ Please note the mountain only became holy because of the presence of God and did not remain sacred when the Transfiguration was over. Peter, along with James and John, saw the glory and majesty of Christ when He was transfigured before their eyes. Peter says it was not clever myths that we taught you but the truth of which we ourselves were witnesses.
The Christian faith is based on historical facts and not fairy tales. Peter told them about Jesus who lived and died not some mythical creation of man’s imagination. There was no mythology about what he shared with them just historical facts of which he himself was one eyewitness. It was nothing speculative; no stretching of the truth eyewitness accounts. So the truth to which he is calling them back, to remember after he has gone, which will keep them from falling is attested to by God in the account of the Transfiguration.
You see first and foremost the truth of the gospel only becomes real to us when God applies it to our hearts. We will not be convinced, nor converted unless God’s Holy Spirit opens our eyes, our minds and our hearts to the truth.
The gospel will remain mere words until attested to by divine majesty. It was so for Peter, James and John. It was so for the believers of Asia Minor and it will be so for us today. You can hear the most eloquent preacher preach. You can have all your intellectual questions answered but unless the divine majesty of God attests the truth of Christ in your heart you will never understand, never believe and never be saved.
That is why I pray before every sermon it is not a public little prayer to say we are about to begin that part of the service called the sermon, where you can sleep, only joking. It is asking God to take mere words and by His divine majesty to attest to the truth of Christ through them.
Peter now goes on to speak of the witness of Scripture to the truth of Christ, to which he is calling them back, and to remember long after he is gone.
Look at what he writes to them in these verses. Verse 19 the Word of the prophets was fulfilled in the coming of Christ, the Messiah it was made more certain by His coming. Therefore they should pay attention to it just as in a dark place you look to the light for guidance and direction because there is another coming of Christ, the Second Coming and on that day the word spoken through the prophets will be vindicated and brought to completion.
The ‘day dawns’ is speaking of the second coming. The ‘morning star’ is speaking of Christ as the Messiah Numbers 24.17/Rev. 22.16. And when he writes ‘rises in your hearts’ he is not speaking about a subjective second coming but of the transformation that will take place in believers when Christ comes again.
In Verses 20-21 He points out to them that the Scriptures are not merely the words of men but the Word of God. He also speaks a word of warning to them namely that it is not about their own interpretation.
They are not, nor are we, at liberty to interpret Scripture as we like. He begins by saying to them ‘first of all’ or ‘knowing this first’ Scripture is the Word of God and as such carries the meaning and purpose of God to its hearers.
The prophets were not at liberty to write and interpret as they saw fit but to do so under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Now I want to say to you it was not that God bypassed their intellectual faculties and they were merely human typewriters that is not what Peter means here. Stained Glass windows are an illustration here the light remains light but is tinted by the colours of the glass. The personality of the writers is reflected in the writing but it remains the Word of God.
There is also a warning to the believers contained in these verses also. Peter wants them to understand that they are not at liberty to interpret the Scripture according to every whim and fancy of their own. Scripture has meaning and purpose and they must be diligent and disciplined in searching it out.
They must also humble themselves and submit to its authority and they must seek the Spirit to aid them in this. Peter wants them to be established, grounded in the truth of the gospel, which they already know. For this to happen they must be disciplined in listening to Scripture and this requires that they search out its meaning not apply their own meaning to it.
So in CONCLUSION
Peter’s purpose is to ground the believers in the truth of the gospel of Christ because his time amongst them is coming to an end. His concern is that after he is gone they will be enabled to stand firm because they know the truth, are established in the truth and are obedient to the truth as attested to by God and the Scriptures.
Peter establishes for them the pattern of being grounded in Scripture which bears eyewitness to the revelation of God in Christ. Being established in the truth of the Scriptures the believers will not fall asleep nor fall from grace (v9) because they will remember the truth of the gospel.
So the questions to us this evening are these; Are we established in the truth of the gospel? Have we grounded ourselves in the truth of Christ Jesus as revealed in the Scriptures and by God’s Spirit in our heart?
Maybe this evening we need to pray and ask God to reveal Himself to us? Maybe this evening it is not that we do not know the truth, it is that we have forgotten it and we need to be re-established in the truth.
Maybe this evening this passage is just a word of encouragement to us to keep on keeping on. God simply says keep going, keep establishing yourself in the truth of my Word.
I think for all of us the challenge this evening is to remember again, and to remind ourselves again, that the gospel is no man made myth but the eternal truth of God and the revelation of salvation for us and for this world. This for us is supremely revealed in Jesus Christ and his life, death and resurrection and whose supper we now commemorate around this table.