2 Peter 1:13-14

2 Peter 1:13‑14  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 10
It was not enough then that the saints should know the things which the gospel communicates to them, nor even that they should be established in them. Those grand facts of divine grace with the moral responsibility they involve are “the present truth": Jesus the Messiah actually come, rejected by the chosen nation, as the prophets did not omit to announce and the basis of all, yet easily let slip, because of the glowing visions of His kingdom not yet accomplished but apt to eclipse what was deepest and essential. Hence the earnestness of the apostle to impress on his brethren the truth which was then before them, so distinct from the past and from the age to come.
It is, as he had said, the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord (ver. 2); the knowledge in particular of our Lord Jesus Christ (ver. 8), without which none can know God as He now needs to be known. In vain people cried up that which was so precious in foregoing time. All the prophets and the law prophesied until John; and none greater than John the Baptist had arisen among those born of women. But from his days the kingdom of the heavens suffered violence, and men of violence seize on it. It is now a question of faith breaking through every difficulty and obstacle in the power of the Spirit to receive the Son of God come, which necessarily tests every soul of man. For this is life eternal, that they should know the Father revealed by the Son whom He had sent to this end. What was any knowledge compared with that? In vain they talked of “father Jacob,” or of all the fathers from Abraham, who exulted that he should see Christ's day, as he by faith saw and rejoiced. For One was come, who, though man also, could say, Before Abraham was, I AM. This changed all for faith, and made inexcusable the unbelief that only stuck to the past.
To slight “the present truth” was to lose God and His Son. For it alone puts the believer into living relationship with God, and makes available His divine power which has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness; for this is inseparable from the knowledge of Him that called us by His own glory and excellence. It is in fact what we mean by Christianity, as the life no less than the faith we confess; and therefore it involves growth practically as we have seen in all that becomes the Christian, of which God is the judge, who deigns to instruct us with all precision, as having become partakers of a divine nature, and thus escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending His own Son in likeness of flesh of sin and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous import (or, requirement) of the law might be fulfilled in us that walk not according to flesh but according to Spirit. For He slights mere forms now and will have reality in those that are His. The greater the present privileges, the more are saints to be diligent to make their calling and election sure, avoid stumbling, and have richly furnished to them the entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For as another apostle dear to Peter says, “he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.”
But practically believers are exposed to such injurious influences, distractive of spirit and attractive to flesh, that they are like watches in need of habitual winding up. It is not enough to know and to be established in the present truth. Therefore the readiness of the apostle always to put them in mind of these things (ver. 12). Here again he reiterates it as their urgent need while he lived, and in view of his speedy departure.
“And I deem [it] right, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting [you] in mind, knowing that the putting off of my tabernacle is speedy, according as our Lord Jesus Christ manifested to me” (vers. 13, 14).
Whoever believes, as every Christian is bound to believe, that the great enemy sets himself most against all that God has actually in hand, can readily understand the importance of this care for the saints. It was always so. Cain and Abel were severally put to the proof by the then urgent truth of sacrifice, which faith prized and unbelief disdained. Enoch and Noah both recognized the old truth, but were tested by, and faithful to, what God revealed to each in their day. Abraham held all that went before, but believed in the promises and confided in the divine revelation of “God Almighty” to himself, a pilgrim among races to be destroyed for their iniquity. Israel again had God bringing them out of Egypt, through the wilderness and into the land of Canaan, under condition of the law which they undertook to obey in their self-confidence. The Christian begins with redemption by His blood who gives us life eternal, walking in the light of the true God revealed in love and calling us to His eternal glory. In every case power of faith shows itself in specially appropriating “the present truth,” whilst valuing all that had been made known previously, because it was all God's doing and communicating.
But, if this be true as a principle, the infinite nature of God's revelation of Himself in Christ makes the actual deposit of faith precious and momentous beyond all comparison. It is not merely revelation from God but of God. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are now made known through our Lord a man, and in His work of redemption who is now consequently in heavenly glory, and, by the Spirit sent forth from heaven, the Spirit of God and of glory, rest on the Christian. Not that our apostle makes known all these wondrous privileges, individual or as the church, Christ's body; but he does insist on the all-importance of the knowledge of God, which is now the portion of faith, beyond what could be before Christ came, or what is to be displayed in the kingdom to the world by-and-by.
It was the inspiring Spirit who laid this duty on the apostle, knowing that his time was short, and the putting off of the earthly tabernacle at hand. Of tradition, in the sense of handing down man's oral addition, he never thought. What had this done for men before the deluge or after it? What was the issue of pretending to it in Israel or in Christendom? The prophet spoke out on the worthlessness of the fear of Jehovah taught by a commandment of men; the Lord still more decidedly, as transgressing the commandment and making void the word of God on account of their tradition. Inspiration makes it not a word of men, but as it is truly God's word, which also works in those who believe, and clothes it with divine permanence when written in the Spirit.
So the apostle Paul bade Timothy abide in the things which he had learned and was assured of, knowing of whom he learned, and that from a child he had known the sacred letters that are able to make wise unto salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus. This of course refers to the O.T. But he adds more: “Every scripture [is] God-breathed (or, inspired), and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for instruction that is in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly fitted for every good work.” It is a sentence framed expressly to embrace not only whatever of the N. T. had already appeared, but every part of it that remained to be written. Terms could not be devised more simply or absolutely predicating God's authority of every part of the written word. To call it genuine or authentic was wholly short of what is conveyed. It was inspired or God-breathed, that we might know the things freely given to us by God; and this spoken in words, not taught by human wisdom, weakness, defect of any kind, but taught by the Spirit. Thoughts and words were alike spiritual, that the result might be God's word certain and complete.
Our apostle, like Paul, had his dissolution before his eyes as well as the increasing evil through false teachers in depravity, and skepticism. Both are distinct in pointing to scripture as the great safeguard. As they alike set aside tradition, so they exclude any thought of apostolic succession. Grace might raise up faithful men to teach the truth they had learned, or even to instruct others competent to communicate it. But scripture alone is the rule of faith, the sole unerring standard given of God to all His children whereby to test what they hear; and it is all the more blessed and necessary, as wicked men and impostors advance for the worse, leading and led astray. Scripture alone has divine authority. Therein God speaks directly to every soul; as indeed the apostle John also expresses it in his First Epistle, We [the inspired, apostles and prophets] are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. From this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (chap. 4:6). No one honored scripture as Christ did from first to last, on the cross, and when risen from the dead. He even set the written word as a definitive witness beyond His own spoken words (John 5:4747But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words? (John 5:47)).
These are but a portion of what might be cited to explain what the apostle here felt as guided of God to write these last words of his. Tradition must be a foundation of sand; and the foundation of the apostles and prophets is too well laid by divine grace to admit of a supplement, either of a vague and imaginary apostolic succession, or of a rival twelve set up by modern prophets. Scripture must be itself complete to make the man of God complete and fully equipped for every good work. But divine power is needed to receive, enjoy, and carry out the written word; and this is imparted to every Christian in the gift of the Holy Spirit abiding in and with us forever. Yet that word is the only standard. With his departure in near view the apostle would write his last inspired words to stir up the saints by recalling what is easily forgotten, but by his speedy departure made the more urgent, “according as our Lord Jesus Christ manifested to me.”
Peter remembered the grave lesson he had learned through Paul at Antioch, when he himself failed to keep in mind the truth conveyed so vividly by the vision at Joppa and its fulfillment in Cæsarea, the grace of God to Gentile now as to Jew. The pillar of the circumcision stood condemned, and he who was entrusted with the apostolate of the uncircumcision resisted him before all, and for the truth's sake recorded so great a failure in scripture. For little as it might seem to carnal eyes, it was dissimulation to please certain that came from James, compromised Gentile liberty, and surrendered the truth of the gospel. God thus took care to register it as such, the overwhelming disproof of an infallible Roman see, even if there had been evidence, which there is not, that Peter was the founder of the church there, or its first bishop. So tradition says, and the credulous believe, not only without but contrary to the clear testimony of the written word. Nor did Paul found it, but wrote his Epistle to the Roman saints before he was carried there a prisoner of Jesus Christ for the Gentiles, as at length also His martyr there.
Yet Irenæus, who stands above all the fathers in the second century as Clemens of Rome above those in the first, tells us, in his book III. against Heresies, that Matthew brought out his Gospel in Hebrew, “when Peter and Paul were evangelizing in Rome and founding the church.” This the famous and we may say first ecclesiastical historian, Eusebius, adopts (H.E. v. 28), though an error irreconcilable with scripture; as he had before (2:25) from Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, that Peter and Paul had founded the church in Corinth before going on to Rome for a similar work. Paul we know to have been its planter, not Peter. Can anything more plainly indicate the absurdity of trusting tradition even of early days, in presence of the sure light of God's word? Yet all goes to justify our apostle in his zeal to leave nothing for edification to such a haphazard channel, but to write all needed to help, guard, and stimulate the saints in words taught by the Spirit, that they might thereby be brought face to face with Him who inspired these exhortations. Thus only can we know and have communion with God.