Rev. VanOverloop is pastor of Grace Protestant Reformed Church in Standale, Michigan.
“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
This epistle emphasizes that knowledge is essential to a believer. Specifically, Peter is inspired to equip with right knowledge the new Christians to whom he is writing, so they can withstand “false prophets” (II Pet. 2:1) and the “scoffers” (II Pet. 3:3) who will come. Earlier in this chapter he had shown that Christians are to aim for certainty concerning their election (II Pet. 1:10). In general, Peter is seeking to assure them that the Christian faith is not a cunningly devised fable, but the “present truth” (II Pet. 1:12).
Peter knew it, in part, because he was an eyewitness of Jesus’ majesty on the mount of transfiguration. There he saw with his own eyes “the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 1:16-18), which is the only power to deliver from sin and Satan. And the new Christians can also know with certainty the power and coming of Jesus for themselves because they have something even better than Peter had. They (and we) have a “more sure word of prophecy” in the written Scriptures.
Our text instructs us in the authority and trustworthiness of God’s written word. May our confidence in the Scriptures as our infallible guide increase. May we trust them the more.
Peter declares that the knowledge of the power and coming of Jesus is better (“more sure”) when it comes from the “word of prophecy” (19) and the “prophecy of the scripture” (20). As amazing as the experience and as clear as the proof of Jesus’ power and coming was in the transfiguration, the prophetic word is even better. The prophetic word is written (that is what “scripture” means). So when he says that “holy men of God spake” (21), he is referring to the same subject, namely, to the Scriptures, the written word of God. When Peter wrote this, the reference was obvious to the Christians to whom he was writing. They knew he was referring to the Old Testament Bible. This is what Peter and these Christians had. They did not have the New Testament as we do. Also they did not have what the prophets spoke orally. That was gone. But they did have Old Testament prophecies. They had been written, inscripturated.
Our text emphasizes that every prophecy of the writings is inspired. When he writes with emphasis that “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation,” he is saying that all or every prophecy of the scripture is not of any private interpretation (this is the literal translation of the Greek in this passage), but is inspired.
Further, what was said of the Old Testament writings may also be said of the whole Bible, that is, also the New Testament writings. Later in this epistle Peter shows that the same authority is to be given to “the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior” as to “the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets” (II Pet. 3:2). And he speaks also of the writings of “our beloved brother Paul” as being authoritative (II Pet. 3:15, 16).
The prophetic word is reliable because it is inspired—Spirit-breathed. The prophetic word came by means of the Holy Spirit moving holy men to write, men whose writings are to be considered inspired and holy, and thus trustworthy. Peter uses two negative expressions and then one positive statement to describe inspiration.
First, he says that the prophetic word “came not in old time by the will of man” (21). Literally, Peter said that the writings did “not come by the will of man at any time—ever.” No part of the Bible was written because a man or a group of men thought it up and wrote it down. The Scriptures did not have their origin in the will of man at all. Therefore, we are to conclude that they have their origin in the will of God.
Second, Peter says that the Scriptures are not “of private interpretation” (20). This expression refers not to the readers, but to the writers. No writer of the Scriptures wrote privately (“of his own”). The Scriptures do not have their source or origin in the writers. The Bible is not the product of the mind of man, of human speculation or opinion. Genesis 1 (the creation) and Genesis 3 (man’s fall into sin) and Genesis 9-11 (the universal flood of Noah’s day) are not the private interpretation of Moses. The reason they are not of private interpretation is because the entire Scriptures have their origin in God and are due to His will.
Because the Scriptures are not the product of a writer’s own interpretation, it must follow that the readers too are to be careful that they do not impose their own interpretation on the Scriptures, to fit their own preconceived ideas. We are not to read into the Bible an interpretation that is based on scientific discoveries. Rather, every reader must listen carefully to the Bible and let it give its own meaning. Let Scripture interpret Scripture!
Positively, Peter says that men wrote the Bible “as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (21). The Holy Spirit “moved” them, that is, guided, led, carried, or bore them along. A superior power took hold of and carried an inferior power and did so according to the wishes of the superior power. Those who were so carried were totally dependent on the superior power, just as a ship is carried by the superior power of a storm.
We must also realize that the men whom the Holy Spirit used to write were previously worked on by the Spirit. Prior to the Spirit’s using them to write the Scriptures, these men had been regenerated, and they were being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. They were “holy-of-God men.”
Further, the Holy Spirit worked in a special way to guide them so that they wrote His infallible Word, and not their own. As they were consciously writing, the Spirit was carrying them about, so that every word was what He would have them to write. This is inspiration. The Holy Spirit can therefore rightly be said to be the only Author of the Bible!
As a result, “we have a more sure word.” If the Bible were the word of man, then it would not be sure, reliable, and trustworthy. en
But the prophetic word is reliable. It is not man’s sophisticated myth. Nor does it have both divine and human elements in it. Nor is the Bible the church’s response to God. Then it would be fallible.
And, amazingly, the prophetic writings are even more trustworthy than the voice Peter heard at Jesus’ transfiguration! In the holy writings we have the same voice of the same God that Peter heard. But the fact that it is written makes it more sure than that which Peter heard on the mount.
Therefore, “ye do well to take heed.” The only appropriate response to God’s inspiration of the Scriptures is that we pay good heed to them.
This means three things. First, we should read them and study them, and demand that they be preached faithfully to us. Second, we should believe them and trust them. And finally, we should walk in the light coming from them, that is, obey what they command.
Any time one does not take heed to them, he does wrong to the Scriptures and to himself.
When we take heed to the Word of God, then we will experience “the day star arise in [our] hearts.” This is the morning star—the star that announces the soon coming of the morning. As such, this star gives great hope because it is a light that shines into us and gives hope of the day. The implication is that we are in the darkness of sin and unbelief, and we cannot see a way out of our sin and corruption. To know the only thing that can help, that is, the power and coming of the Lord Jesus, we must give heed to the Scriptures. For they are a light that shines into our darkness. God’s truth dispels the darkness, removes the lie, correctly identifies the darkness and the only way out of the darkness. We are given to learn of Jesus as the only way out of sin. and death. The “day star” of the Scriptures gives the hope that the Lord will come for us. And when He comes, then we will no longer need the prophetic Word. Then we will have the light of the sun shining in us.
So take heed to the Scriptures. Realize that having them you have something even better than what Peter had on the mount of transfiguration. Use the Scriptures and see the light they give in showing to you Jesus, the light of the world. Appreciate the wonderful gift God has given to you in the Scriptures. Thank Him properly by using them, reading them, meditating on them, loving them!