2 Peter 1:15

2 Peter 1:15  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 11
In a third form the apostle presents the urgent importance which he felt in the Spirit for the written word; here expressly that “after his departure” they should be enabled also at any time to call to mind these things.
“And I will be diligent also that at every time ye may have [it, or the power] after my departure to call to mind these things” (ver. 15).
This is one of the many and immense advantages of scripture above the oral word, no matter how distinctly this might be given by the highest authority. No one lays this down more clearly than our blessed Lord in John 5, where to the reluctant Jews He recounts the varied testimonies to Himself as grounds of faith. (1) “Ye have sent unto John, and he hath borne witness to the truth.” (2) “But the witness I have is greater than John's; for the works which the Father gave me to complete, the very works which I do, bear witness concerning me that the Father hath sent me.” (3) “And the Father that sent me hath himself borne witness concerning me.” (4) “Ye search the scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have life eternal, and those are they that bear witness concerning me.... For if ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote concerning me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?”
Never spoke man as this Man, His enemies themselves being judges; yet in His great climax of witnesses the Lord does not hesitate from that point of view to set the written word in the superior place of authority with a permanence peculiar to itself, so that the reader or hearer can weigh it again and again with prayer. Those who slight scripture to the exaggeration of ministry ought to consider His decision. And how remarkable that the Lord should thus speak of the books of Moses, which beyond fair question were then what they are now as many citations show, and not least His own! Yet modern audacity has lifted up its heel against those books quite as much as against Isaiah's or Daniel's. But He who knew what is in God no less than what was in man anticipated and pronounced against all this self-vaunting criticism of unbelief.
It is equally plain that the apostle followed His Master in abhorrence of tradition. Never was it trustworthy since God saw fit to convey His mind in holy writ; least of all then, when a fresh body of truth was being revealed for the enlargement, instruction, exercise and comfort of faith in what we call the N. T. The higher the truth, as is necessarily due to the person, work, and offices of Christ, opening out to an unlimited sphere, even of heavenly things morally, as well as of things to come, the more was new scripture needed imperatively and supplied bountifully, with the same Spirit personally given to help the believers as had inspired the chosen instruments for its perfect communication.
One of the greatest perils which the apostles foresaw on their own departure is the rise and increase of impostors, corrupted in mind, reprobate concerning the faith. These men withstand the truth: some by superstition, fables, and tradition; others by scorn and scoffing at God's word generally, and at prophecy in particular. As it may be read of Paul in 2 Tim. 3, so here of Peter, the great safeguards are (1) knowing of what persons the truth had been learned, not teaching only, but conduct, purpose, faith, long-suffering, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings; and (2) not only the sacred scriptures, the O.T., able to make wise unto salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus, but “every scripture,” divinely inspired as it is and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for instruction that is in righteousness; that the man of God might be complete, out and out furnished unto every good work. The value of a known source in immediate relation to the God who communicated His mind and grace and will is thus shown to be of the highest degree, as well as the divinely assured certainty that the words were as unequivocally Spirit-taught as the thoughts themselves. No safeguard entrusted to the church, not to ministers only but to all the saints, is so sure and unfailing as scripture.
It is merely a cheat of unbelief to argue from the infirmity of the men employed for this all-important work. Granting all the infirmity, we are assured (from what God tells us in 1 Cor. 2, as well as 2 Tim. 3) that His inspiration precludes the action of human weakness to impair the absolute reliableness of what is revealed to bring our souls who believe it into direct subjection to God. Conscience, understanding, and heart, are all addressed suitably; but the aim is that we may have fellowship with the inspired messengers, and thus by the Holy Spirit have communion with God Himself, with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.
Hence the prime duty for the Christian to turn away from these evil men, no matter how learned humanly they may be, and sanctimonious in manner, who either undermine the scriptures or substitute tradition for them. The form of godliness only makes such self-deceived deceivers more dangerous. It is in vain to reason on the scriptures as partial or fragmentary. It is an essential feature of them that God therein selected, out of much more that was given by the Spirit orally, all that was intended to be permanent and useful, all that was requisite to make the most advanced and honored complete, fully equipped for every good work. Even if we could have from an uncertain source stray words carried down from the Lord's teaching or that of any apostle, what could it add to produce the spiritual result which scripture claims for itself? Nor is it the least of its merits that scripture, so astonishingly full as it is to meet every want and to refute every error, should be also unburdened by superfluity. How worthy of Him who gave it as it is!
Nor is it only against the skeptic we have to be on our guard. Corruption comes in through those who do not openly deny but pare down inspiration, allow errors in history or other (as they call it) secondary matter, and attribute the selection of what is written to the instruments without God. But this is to deceive themselves and others, to say and unsay. If God inspired the writings, He suggested, He selected, He included, He left out. He gave the thoughts and the words; He guided and controlled all. This is scripture.
The first and grandest characteristic is that God inspired every scripture, every whit that was written when Paul wrote his last to Timothy, his last to any. Every scripture is God-breathed, even anything that He added afterward. This is enough for all that know God, and have every reason to distrust themselves or other men that are not inspired. As the apostle John later still and most trenchantly says, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them [the deceivers and antichrists], because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world. They are of the world; therefore speak they [as] of the world, and the world heareth them. We [the inspired] are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he who is not of God heareth us not. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” What an awful warning to “higher critics,” and their victims! Scripture possesses beyond all else the indelible authority of God, not only what was meant, but what is written; but if this be so, it is in the fullest way profitable. Their value, not only as the ultimate source of truth, but as the standard by which the highest ministry, even an apostle's, was to be tried (Acts 17:11), is without a rival.
Ministry is the exercise of a gift from the ascended Lord (Eph. 4) who not only gave His precious gifts at Pentecost, whether to lay the foundation by the apostles and prophets, or to perpetuate gift till the body is complete in the fullest sense (ver. 13). But its basis and its supplies depend on the authority of the written word; and so He led the way when on earth who was the supreme Apostle of our confession as He is the High priest. Who so honored, loved, and used the scriptures with God, with man, with Satan? So we see with all the inspired writers. Whatever new truth had to be imparted, they were led by the Spirit to impress on the saints the divine claims of the old holy writ to the uttermost. Nor is anyone more notable in this way than he who calls himself the least of all saints, to whom we are indebted as to none else for the administration of the mystery hidden throughout the ages in God, but now revealed (Eph. 3) minister of the church (as he says in Col. 1) to complete the word of God.
We may next observe how carefully the apostle Peter excludes all dependence not only on tradition but on ecclesiastical office of any kind after his departure. When faith decays and the power of the truth proportionately, then man's energy displaces the Holy Spirit, and the world enters with the love of worldly things to dim, darken, and destroy the love of the Father; external things gain an undue and growingly false place. Baptism and the Lord's supper, instead of being kept in their true niche, become at length traps of error, and engines of destruction, being invested with the reality of the grace that is in Christ Jesus. So it was with the elders, especially when they had no longer apostolic authentication, direct or indirect. And so yet more proudly when the figment of apostolic succession was conceived, to say nothing of the modern dream of a whole twelve-fold apostolate nominated by prophets as pretentious and as false as these apostles themselves. Peter is silent on every such resource for the future. He was led of God to provide scripture for the saints. “And I will be diligent also that at every time ye may have [it, or the power] after my departure to call to mind these things.”
It was exactly so that the great apostle of uncircumcision charged the elders or bishops of the church in Ephesus who met him at Miletus (Acts 20). “I know that after my decease grievous wolves shall come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them. Wherefore watch, remembering that for three years, night and day, I ceased not admonishing each one with tears. And now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build up and give an inheritance among all that are sanctified.” The very elders were to become a danger and evil to themselves and the disciples, not they only but they prominently; for out of them emerged ere long the clergy (not gifted men) unknown while the apostles lived. Had the word of Christ dwelt in the saints richly, such a change could not have been. Man was looked to, and the word of God's grace became more slighted, forgotten, and powerless.
And who that looks at Christendom, or even at that part of it which boasts of an open Bible and separation from the idolatries and mummeries of Popery, can doubt that the apostle's warning has been verified, and that far worse is in rapid progress? Who can survey the enormous change during the last seventy or eighty years, for spreading and deepening evil, whether in superstition or in free-thinking, without humiliation or horror, unless he be under either delusion? One of the most painful and certain signs of the great enemy's work is the all but universal spread of error and worldliness, not in the greater communities only but throughout them all, down to the least. So it is in the new or western hemisphere as in the older world; so it is in every land and tongue, and very markedly in those which once hailed whatever of truth the Reformation recovered to hungry and thirsty mortals.
How little those who glory in the light and liberty and progress of the twentieth century are aware that both the sensuous and sentimental church revivalists, and the irreligious intellectualists who mangle the scriptures, are fast preparing the way for what the apostle Paul calls the falling away, “the apostasy,” when both the O. T. and N. T. will be cast away with scorn; when the Savior and His cross, His glory in heaven and His coming again, will be objects of open derision and general ribaldry! Christianity as a whole will be rejected by Papists and Protestants, by Episcopalians and Presbyterians, by Independents and Baptists, by Wesleyans, &c., by Quakers, passive resisters and disputers of all sorts. The prevalent neglect of the prophetic word will only hasten the awful catastrophe.