Tuesday, March 10, 2009

II Peter 1:16c-19a Is Seeing Really Believing?

When investigating a fraud, one has to rely on the evidence that one finds to piece together the facts of what happened. In addition, sometimes you can get lucky and find a witness who has first hand knowledge of what happened and is willing to “rat someone out”. For instance, a secretary who feels marginalized or who has been treated rudely by a supervisor might be willing to tell you about what that supervisor has been doing. We often give great weight to the testimony of eye witnesses and rightly so. Peter, in these verses, recounts for us his eye witness account of a remarkable event he, James, and John saw while Christ was here on earth. However, what we will find is that Peter has a remarkable perspective on his own eye witness account as he compares it to God’s word.

As I have said, notice that Peter refers to his own experience. He says in the last part of verse 16 “we [Peter, James, and John] were eyewitnesses of His majesty”. Of the twelve disciples, only these three saw firsthand Jesus transfigured and glorified here on earth (Matt 17, Mark 9, Luke 9). While certainly the miracles Jesus performed testified to His deity, these three men were the only ones to actually see first hand their Lord in all His glory. This was a special privilege for these men. In fact, Peter seems to be making just that point in this phrase. The word translated “eyewitnesses” is the Greek word “epoptes” (2030) which was used to describe someone who had been permitted to look firsthand at the secrets of the mystery religions of the day. Since Peter was probably writing to Christians who were being plagued by heretical teachers, it seems natural for Peter to remind them that while these false teachers claimed to have special knowledge that Peter himself had seen firsthand the God of the universe veiled in human flesh.

What happened, then, on the Mount of Transfiguration? From Peter’s perspective, we see that Jesus “received honor and glory from God the Father”. First of all, by having His glory revealed by God for these men to see, God demonstrated that Jesus had tremendous value (honor-Greek time’ [5092] value assigned to something). Further, the men observed Jesus’ “glory” (doxa-1391) which probably referred to His physical glorification on the mountain where “His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light.” (Matthew 17:2). This wasn’t an illusion or a figment of their imagination. These three men saw something that no human being saw before or since. But they also heard the voice of God Almighty speak from the cloud and declare, in verses 17 and 18, the identity (“This is my beloved Son”) and faithfulness (“in whom I am well pleased”) of Jesus. Now, imagine what an awesome sight this must have been for these guys. Picture yourself there if you can able to actually view the shekhinah glory of Jehovah God. Certainly, we can understand why Peter was so bold in proclaiming the gospel after the resurrection. He saw Jesus in His majesty. He knew who Jesus was.

However, Peter says even his personal experience is not the most powerful testimony of the truth. In fact, he says in verse 19 “So we have the prophetic word made more sure”. The word “made” is added in the NASB. In fact, the Greek word order literally reads “We have the more sure prophetic word”. Do you realize how awesome that is? Peter is saying that what you and I have is a more reliable witness of the truth than even his own firsthand supernatural experience of seeing Jesus Christ glorified. What we have in God’s word transcends human experience and in fact sits in judgment on that experience. We have truth that doesn’t change, grow old, or become irrelevant. The scripture, Peter says, is a better witness of the truth than even the eyewitness of three men who saw and heard things that we who have the bible will never see or hear.

We should give praise to our God who has so richly blessed us by giving us His perfect word as His perfect revelation. Furthermore, we should hear Peter’s exhortation in this chapter to these believers to study the word as an exhortation to us as well. We cannot live for Christ without the empowering of the word of God as applied by the Holy Spirit.


Anonymous said...

"Peter says even his personal experience is not the most powerful testimony of the truth"

How many non-believers have said "If only I could see Jesus then I would believe." This proves that we have even better proof than a personal encounter with the Lord.


Joe Blackmon said...

It's just like that rich man saying "Send Lazaras back". They've got Moses and the prophets....