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An Eyewitness Account

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
January 5, 2023 3:00 am

An Eyewitness Account

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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January 5, 2023 3:00 am

Some people claim fresh insight or unique understanding of the Bible. That may sound intriguing—but learn why we should immediately run from such assertions. Listen to Truth For Life as Alistair Begg investigates Peter’s eyewitness account of Jesus’ authority.



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You have heard from people who claim to have fresh insights, insight into the Bible, a special revelation or a unique understanding.

And although that might sound intriguing, as we'll hear today on Truth for Life, we should immediately run from those types of claims. Alistair Begg is teaching today from 2 Peter 1, starting in verse 12. It is the opening of the understanding of our minds to what Peter is doing in the letter.

What is Peter doing? He said, Well, I'm writing all of this material down under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit so that when I'm no longer around, when I no longer have the opportunity, he says, to be your preacher and to be your teacher, you will have it all down in black and white, and you will be able to refer to it, and it will be to you a lamp to your feet and a light to your path. Now, having said that and having noted that earlier, we now come to verse 16, where he's urging upon his readers the basis of certainty and security in living the Christian life. It's important that they understand, especially in light of the false teachers to which we'll come in chapter 2. If you let your eyes scan forward to the first verse of chapter 2, there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you secretly introducing destructive heresies and so on. In light of that, Peter feels it important to make sure that what he is conveying to his readers was not some kind of clever invention.

It was not a result of going away and dreaming up some scheme. But rather, they were eyewitnesses, he says, along with others, and they could not be more sure about what it was they had seen and they had heard. And so it is that verses 16 and 17 are simply a statement of the fact that what Peter is conveying is an eyewitness account. Those of you who come from the realm of law, and particularly those of you who do criminal work, know just what a tremendous help it is in the course of prosecuting a case, to be able to call an eyewitness account, and how the evidence from hearsay is not as strong and not as helpful in securing a verdict. So Peter says, what we are offering to you here is an eyewitness account. Of course, this is what Peter had been doing from the very beginning. Back in Acts, as Luke records it for us, when he had stood up on the day of Pentecost and preached to the gathered crowd in Jerusalem with great effectiveness and power, he said to the crowd on that day, God has raised this Jesus to life. And then he added, and we are all witnesses to the fact. And indeed, some who were listening were also part of the observing crowd. It would seem also that Peter's concern to refute these heretical teachings is just in line with what Paul does when he is challenged in 2 Corinthians. And on that occasion, he says similar things. We didn't come to you with secret and shameful ways.

We didn't use deception, he says. May I just say to you in passing, every time somebody offers you a book that is the key to the Bible, it isn't. Every time somebody suggests that by means of delving into this funny little realm, you will be able to discover the real nature of things that by and large men and women have been unable to ferret out, then just be done with it before you even start. Because the Bible is absolutely plain and straightforward, and all that is true and all that is necessary is contained for us in the Scriptures. Not a line that is irrelevant.

Nothing out that needs to be in. All here for us. And if you would read nothing else, then just read your Bibles. And what Peter is referring to here is actually the transfiguration, which some of us will remember having dealt with when we studied in the early chapters of Luke. Now, says Peter, we didn't follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of the Lord Jesus. We were eyewitnesses of his majesty. It's not speculation.

It's not invention. Because the transfiguration there in Luke 9 was something of a preview for what it's going to be like when the Lord Jesus returns—the manifestation of glory, the appearance of the Old Testament saints in the company of the New Testament disciples, the kingly Son in all of his honor, and the presence of the divine Father. And in that moment, they were given just a little sneak preview of what is going to happen when finally, in this great denouement, the Lord Jesus Christ wraps it all up for us. And Peter's message, he tells us, was based upon what he and his fellow apostles both saw and heard. You'll notice the verbs.

They're very important. This is what we saw, and verse 18, we ourselves heard this voice. Now, when you think about this, they were eyewitnesses both of the transfiguration, and they were eyewitnesses of his bodily resurrection, thus allowing them to say in verse 17, he received honor and glory from God the Father, and we are able to speak about the issue of honor and glory. Verse 18, we ourselves heard the voice that came from heaven when we were with him.

When we were with him. And the voice that comes directs their attention from the construction of shelters to the Lord Jesus himself. The word of the prophets pointing to he who was both the messianic king and the suffering servant. When you read through the Acts of the Apostles, you find that this is the recurring theme. When Peter is in the home of Cornelius and he is explaining what's going on, he says of Jesus, all the prophets testify about him. In other words, just go and read your Bible. Just go and read your Bible.

Now, that's 16, 17, and 18. 19, 20, and 21, he speaks to the issue of the certainty of the prophetic word. First of all, he says, I want you to know that we were eyewitnesses.

We're not making this stuff up. Secondly, I want you to know that the Word of God is absolutely certain. We have this enigmatic statement in verse 19 about which commentators dispute. And we have the word of the prophets made more certain. What does it mean, made more certain? Is Peter saying that the word of the Old Testament prophet has become more certain as a result of having been confirmed in the Transfiguration?

Or does he mean that the Old Testament Scriptures are confirming the apostolic testimony that they bring? Actually, it doesn't matter a great deal. Commentators are divided. It's not a main thing. It's not a plain thing. Calvin was the most help to me.

This is what he said. The authority of the Word of God is the same as it was in the beginning, and then it was given further confirmation than before by the advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. So the Old Testament Word was the Word of God. With the arrival of the Lord Jesus, the Old Testament suddenly comes into full bloom. Suddenly the prophetic passage is about the King, about the servant, about the Lord of glory.

They are all there before the gaze of people. And Christ in his life, in his death, in his Transfiguration, in his resurrection, in his ascension, is confirming all the words spoken by these Old Testament writers. And so, Peter does what every pastor who wants to be faithful must do—namely, turn men and women constantly back to the Bible. There is a natural craving, says Dick Lucas, on the part of men and women for a voice from heaven. If you move in Christian circles at all, you will meet people all the time, and they tell you, Well, I heard a voice from heaven, or I'm listening for a voice from heaven, or I have a voice from heaven that I want to speak to you, and so on.

I'm always trying my best to be respectful of such insights. But the fact of the matter is that there has been a voice from heaven, and it was given, but it wasn't given to us. It was given to them. Verse 18, We heard the voice that came from heaven. The apostles heard the voice. The apostles then, under the strength of the voice that they heard, wrote down under the direction of the Holy Spirit so that we in the twenty-first century don't need to sit around waiting for a voice from heaven, because we have the word of the prophets made more certain in the Bible. So again, if you're on the receiving end of people suggesting to you that they chase down here and chase down there, it's far more exciting over at Mr. So-and-so's place, because if you go to X, you just get the Bible, but if you go to Y, you get a voice from heaven, you know. And in a moment, you can hear all of this fresh insight and special revelation and unique understandings.

Run from it as fast and as furiously as you can. You will eventually end up totally nuts. Stick with your Bible. Stick with your Bible.

You heard it here. Because you and myself, both of us together, are susceptible to the people who would come making bold claims and full of fictitious anecdotes, to whom we'll come in chapter 2. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed, these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up.

They will exploit you. Put your hand over your heart and send the money now to the number, the address that is given to you when you call this number at the bottom of the screen. Put your hand over your heart and say this. It gushes at us, flushes at us all the time. And Peter's readers were susceptible to this kind of thing, and so, my dear friends, are you and I. And the answer then and the answer tonight to those who are quick to suggest that the Spirit of God is speaking a fresh message through these individuals is to return to the certainty, the authority, and the sufficiency of the Bible. We are to be alarmed on every occasion when people gather for praise and pay scant attention to the Bible. We are to be deeply alarmed when evangelistic outreaches are convened with no thought to the Bible at all. We are to be really concerned when you can attend events and hear pleasant stories from individuals who've dreamt up little anecdotes to tickle the ears of the people when they gather and send them away with ideas about striking individuals and remarkable instances.

Oh no, give me the good old boring stuff I say every time. Let me live for Christ with this straightforward material. Do we think that we can impact a generation, leave a legacy of children and grandchildren that will believe and stand for the truth, who will live for Christ and name his name?

If you think about the declension of the last quarter of a century in our lifetime, if it simply continues at the exponential rate of decline that we have observed, what possibility is there? Therefore, these things are not matters of marginal importance. They are absolutely crucial. No wonder Peter says, I'm about to die, and I'm going to make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things. Don't forget this, he says. Don't forget that the Bible is absolutely sufficient. Don't forget that the Bible has the last word on every subject. Don't forget that the Bible is true even when it is unpalatable to contemporary culture.

Don't worry. Stand firm. In many quarters, the call to recall the words spoken in the past is replaced by a call to pay attention to the prophetic words spoken in the present. When we get to chapter 3, if we ever do, he says, I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. And when our focus is somewhere other than the Bible, the result is all too quickly a loss of confidence or a diminished interest in the Bible. I speak to you, loved ones, out of the authority of Scripture and out of the reality of my own experience. I've been tempted by these things.

These things have appealed to me. Many of my friends with whom I studied theology have gone down a very different road from my own. And I simply believe that I'm fairly ordinary.

And so you may be a little like me. And some of you come out of a context where you say that the words that are spoken prophetically out in the congregation are okay because they're not making any addition to the Bible, and therefore that's fine. Well, is it fine? I'm not so sure that it is. Because if any word spoken by anyone in any context makes no addition to the Bible, then it is extraneous to the sufficiency of the Scriptures. And the fact that it doesn't add to the canon of Scripture by the lips of those who declare it does not answer the question as to whether they believe that it adds to the canon of living. In other words, we're not adding to the Bible, they say, however, this word is very important. Why is it very important if you have a sufficient Scripture?

It's very important, because in their minds they said that it adds to the canon of our living. If it does, then the Bible is insufficient. And that is what Peter is addressing, and he's addressing it in the light of false teachers and destructive heresies and people who follow shameful ways and bring the way of truth into disrepute.

The task of the pastor is to ensure that his congregation is anchored to the Word of God and grounded in the work of Christ. There will never be any other divine light by which the people of God are to be led than by the Scriptures. Eventually the day will dawn—and this is the allusion here in verse 19, to the day spring rising, the morning star rising in your hearts—eventually the day will dawn when external revelation and inward illumination will combine, and we will know fully even as we are known. 1 Corinthians 13, I'm sure, is an allusion to that.

And so, in the interim, it's important that we understand. Verse 20, that the Scriptures are not the product of the personal insights of the prophets themselves. That's what some people believe. And if that were the case, then we could simply view the words of the prophets as limited by human fallibility. In which case, then, we could overturn what was previously written on account of fresh insights. And we could safely say, Well, of course, we know so much more now than some old guy 600 BC knew. I mean, goodness gracious, they thought the world was flat. They didn't know anything. They thought the earth was flat. They didn't know anything at all, but all we know now will allow us, then, simply to overturn it.

No, no, no, no, not for a moment. Because the Word that Isaiah spoke was the Word of God. He spoke the Word of God.

Therefore, it is not up for grabs to be investigated, to be overturned. The Old Testament prophet wasn't volunteering his ideas or his perceptions, only to be corrected, then, by a more scholarly successor. You know, Well, here's the best that I can do, says Isaiah. Have a great life.

See you around somewhere. But fully understanding that someone's going to come along afterwards and say, Well, we don't really bother with that anymore. No, they weren't volunteering the best of their ideas. The prophetic Word remains forever God's Word. So when you read the Bible—listen, when you read the Bible, all of the Bible, Genesis to Revelation, you're not reading the words of some ancient who speaks for himself, but you are reading the words of the living God himself.

You say, Are you crazy? Are you telling me that this is what you believe about the Bible? Loved ones, it's not an issue of what I believe about the Bible. It's an issue of what the Bible testifies about itself. What I believe about it has to be brought to bear under the guidance of the Scriptures themselves. Look, verse 21, For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man.

Well, what did it have its origin in? Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. Like ships carried along by the wind, the prophets raised their sails, so to speak. They were obedient. They were receptive. They were not automatons.

They were not dictating machines. They were dealing with the reality of their own history. They were speaking from the uniqueness of their personality. That's why you see the ebb and flow within the Scriptures itself. But as they raise the sails of their personality and their lives and their availability, it is the Holy Spirit of God that fills their sails, carries them along in the direction of his choosing in order to provide fulfillment of his purpose and all that is necessary for his people. So the doctrine of inspiration is simply this, that the Holy Spirit took real men with differing personalities from a variety of social settings, and the Holy Spirit cooperated with them while revealing himself through them. When we think about this, we have to recognize that acceptance of the Scriptures' authority is, in the final analysis, an act of faith.

But it is not, however, an act of faith that is contrary to reason. If you think about it, all of our personal experiences of God, such as we know them tonight, find their source in the revelation of Scripture. So this is how we grow as Christians—in the presence of the people of God, under the teaching of the Word of God. And the Bible's authority arises from the one who inspired and gave to us the Scriptures. The Bible is authoritative because it is the word of the Lord Jesus Christ, the word by which he rules his people. The Lord Jesus Christ speaks authoritatively to his church today, to the whole church, not by the contemporary utterances of inspired individuals but by the teaching and application of the inspired Scriptures given to us.

How I wish that you could understand and listen to this is so unbelievably crucial. We're not focused on individuals who may have gifts. God can speak through Balaam's donkey.

He is not in need of any of our mouths. He chooses in the mystery of his grace to use any of us. Therefore, those of us who have been entrusted with the gifts of teaching the Bible need constantly to be saying to our congregations, It is to the Lord we look. It is to the Bible we go.

And you need to be Berean, very Berean. Acts 17, when Paul preached, what did they do? They examined the Scriptures every day to see if these things were so. Now, my loved ones, if they did that when the apostle Paul preached, you'd better be doing it when you're listening to preaching from this pulpit. Therefore, reminding all of us that we are under the Scriptures. We're under the Scriptures. And we're standing on the Scriptures. And we're enclosed by the Scriptures.

We don't worship the Scriptures, but we worship Christ. The heavens declare your glory, Lord. In every star your wisdom shines, but when our eyes behold your Word, we read your name in fairer lines. Your noblest wonders here we view, in souls renewed and sins forgiven. Lord, cleanse my sins, my soul renewed, and make your Word my guide to heaven.

Isaac Watts, in the seventeenth century. What more can he say than to you he has said? To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled? It's all about Christ, and it's all about the Bible. And by means of this Bible you may meet God. And by means of this Bible you may feed and grow. By means of this Bible you may be sanctified by the power of the Spirit. And by means of this Bible you may find yourself safely guided into your eternal rest in the presence of the one who penned it for us, in order that we wouldn't be left simply listening to the meanderings of a man's mind, but we would be listening to the Word of the prophets made more certain in the pages of Scripture itself. The Bible is God's Word.

It's true, it's authoritative, and it's absolutely sufficient. That's Alistair Begg explaining why Scripture can be trusted. You're listening today to Truth for Life.

Now as Alistair just taught, we grow in faith when we're in the presence of God's people under the teaching of God's Word. That's why it's our mission at Truth for Life to teach the Bible every day in a way that is clear and relevant. Just like the Apostle Peter, we are constantly pointing men and women back to God's Word. Along with Alistair's messages, we recommend to you books that we have chosen with great care.

We consider this part of our mission. Our current recommendation is a book titled Habits of Grace, Enjoying Jesus Through the Spiritual Disciplines. This is a book for you to request if you're finding that your relationship with God is feeling a little distant right now, or if you're unsure what joy in the Lord should look like in your life. The book Habits of Grace explains how we experience a deeper sense of closeness with God that is the result of spending regular time reading the Bible, memorizing Scripture, joining in fellowship with other believers, and even time fasting. Request the book Habits of Grace when you make a donation today at truthforlife.org slash donate. I'm Bob Lapine. The Apostle Peter warned Christians that they should be on the alert for false teachers, so how can we know if a teacher is trustworthy? Join us tomorrow as we find out what to look for. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-05 06:55:21 / 2023-01-05 07:04:17 / 9

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