Thursday, February 24, 2011

II Peter 3:15b-16 Attributes of Scripture Part I

People who want to reject the authority of God work feverishly to discredit the authority of scripture. In every “Christian” organization that has taken a very leftward turn away from orthodox Christian teaching (PCUSA, United Methodist, Episcopal, CBF, etc), you will invariably find people who deny the complete truthfulness of God’s word. They will say “Genesis can’t be a true record of how God created the heavens and the earth” or “The miracles that scripture records and attributes to Jesus are just fairy tales.” In short, God’s word is not the source of truth—we can’t trust it today and He never intended us to rely on it as the sole source of revelation. The Bible, however, bears a markedly different witness about itself and its reliability. In fact, as we have seen, Peter has testified in this letter to the authority of scripture (1:12-21). The point of Peter’s epistle is that the false teachers described in chapter two are false and should be rejected because they contradict sound doctrine as taught by the apostles. This sound doctrine is recorded for us in scripture and this recording began to take place pretty early on in the life of the church. As we see here, Peter was aware of letters Paul wrote and was aware they were scripture. In fact, as we will observe, Peter makes some important remarks about Paul’s writings and about scripture that should lead us to trust God’s word.
First of all, we should notice that Peter speaks about scripture in a way that tells us scripture is authoritative. Ultimately, the source of all scripture is God as Peter noted in chapter one verse twenty-one. But scripture has a “human face” as well—certainly it is divinely inspired but God moved human beings to write his word. Therefore, it is perfectly consistent with the doctrine of inspiration to say, as Peter does in 3:15 “Paul...wrote to you.” The human author of Paul’s epistles was Paul or someone who took his dictation. Paul used his language and wrote in the context of the culture that he lived in with the background and experiences that he had. Hence the reason that Paul sounds like Paul. He had a unique voice and way of writing that was different than Matthew or Isaiah.
However, scripture is not just a product of that “human face”. While we do not affirm any sort of mechanical dictation (i.e. Paul went into a trance and wrote God’s word like a human typewriter) we believe that these words of scripture have a divine character as well—they are not Paul’s words about what he thought God wanted to say but they are God’s words. Notice that Peter says Paul wrote “according to the wisdom given him”. In other words, the doctrine that Paul wrote, the patience of our Lord that Peter has just discussed in the first part of verse 15 for example, was not something Paul created but it was rather revealed by God to him. The doctrine Paul taught and wrote had its source, then, in the mind of God.

Therefore, if scripture is inspired, as Peter affirms that it is, then scripture is authoritative. To disobey scripture is to disobey God and carries with it consequences of judgment. As we read this, we need to remember the reverence Peter and other Jews had for the scriptures and then we need to notice that Peter equates what Paul has written “with the rest of the Scriptures” (v.16). As we read and study the Bible, let’s always be mindful that what we have are the words of God and that when we read scripture we hear God speak.

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