Got Assurance? Yes, You Do! It Is Called The Sure, Prophetic Word

Diagramming 2Peter 1:19-21

2Peter 1:19-21 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

One of the comforting components of genuine Christianity is the assurance of a clear conscience before God. A clear conscience means we can freely approach our Father and ask Him for that which we need or desire (Mt 7:7-11, Heb 4:16, 1John 5:15).

Sadly, many pastors have lost the art of properly distinguishing between Law and Gospel. When the two are conflated, tender consciences become disturbed, causing a lack of assurance to the point of even fearing to come to the Father and pray. I know, I’ve been there. I’ve struggled. I’ve feared. I’ve floundered. We need to be constantly reminded to look outside of ourselves and look to the sure, prophetic word to find rest for our weary souls and peace for our bruised consciences. And God has not left us helpless. He has graciously given this to us. Let us now explore this word in 2Peter 1:19-21.

setting up the text

2Peter tackles the issue of those false teachers who had denying the Master who bought them (2:1). In light of this, Peter exhorts his audience to live in the power that has given them the Holy Spirit and enabled them to live godly lives, despite the corruption that surrounds them. The authenticity of Peter’s authorship has been debated since the time of the early Church. Many scholars, including J.H. Elliott (Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary) puts the writing of the letter late or early 2nd century (AD 100 or later). Elliot states,

The advanced Hellenistic spirit of the letter, the Christian divisions it describes, the delay of the parousia it must explain and the doubts it must dispel, its retrospective appeal to the legacy of an apostle no longer alive, the misuse of prophetic and Pauline writings it must correct, along with its relatively late attestation are all features which indicate that 2 Peter is, with great likelihood, the latest composition of the NT, written sometime in the first quarter of the 2d century


Elliott, J. H. (1992). Peter, Second Epistle of, vol 5, p.287 In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. New York: Doubleday.

Many other scholars date the letter early, just before Peter’s execution in the mid AD 60’s. This stems from the fact that there is no mention of 1Enoch, as in Jude, and those who the author is writing against were not Gnostic in their beliefs, as was the late first to second century heresy prevailed and surely would have been addressed, as C.D. Osburn, writing for Erdman’s demonstrates.

2 Peter knows the Pauline letters, which date from the mid-1st century but were collected somewhat later. The Apocalypse of Peter, dating from the first half of the 2nd century, knows 2 Peter. The lack of reference to 1 Enoch indicates a 1st-century date. Also, the absence of “early Catholic” stress on institutional officeholders may suggest an earlier date. The opponents are certainly not 2nd-century Gnostics. 2 Pet. 3:4 may reflect that the first generation of Christians, that of the apostles, are dead. The scoffers’ objection in 3:4 is plausible in the period 75–90, marked by great disillusionment regarding the Parousia. There is certainly no basis for viewing 2 Peter as the latest composition in the NT.


Osburn, C. D. (2000). Peter, Second Letter of, pg. 1040 In D. N. Freedman, A. C. Myers, & A. B. Beck (Eds.), Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.

Both the Anchor Yale & Eerdman’s articles may be downloaded at the below links


The Diagram

Reed-Kellogg of 2Peter 1:19-21 (diagrammed according to the Greek Text)

The immediate context begins the section at verse 16 where Peter assures his audience of his and the other apostles eye-witness of Christ’s glory. More than likely, this is referring to the Jesus’ transfiguration. Lenski & Weidner from the 19th century hold this view, as well as Giese, author of 2Peter and Jude in the Concordia Commentary series.

A main clause and its succeeding compound clause anchor this passage, which is steeped in talk of God’s word. Examining the structure, we see that Peter first makes the assertion of personal possession of this word: we have the word. It is a simple yet factual statement that he can anchor his audience’s hope with. His statement is then followed by the second main compound clause connected with the causal γαρ (for). This grounds the preceding clause and gives the reason his audience should pay close attention to this Word. Let’s discuss each of these clauses to understand why we can derive our assurance solely based on God’s sure, prophetic, word.

Clause 1

We have the word

The astute Bible student will no doubt pick up that λόγος (logos) is used here to describe this word to which Peter is referring. Normally this word simply means a saying or discourse about something. However, with the adjective προφητικός (prophetic) it becomes, as BDAG states, “an inspired interpretation of the divine will” (Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed.), p.891 Logos Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press). In other words, it is not the prophet himself from which this oracle comes, as Peter will point out in the next clause.

Having this prophetic word comes with an exhortation. The relative pronoun (to which) is a dative of reference, pointing back to the prophetic word which is described as βέβαιος (more fully confirmed). It means something that is reliable and trustworthy; or as TDNT puts it, that which is steadfast. Peter’s exhortation is to pay attention to this word. God’s revelation to us is described as a shining lamp, flooding in reminiscence of Psalm 119:105. We are not to allow this light to be extinguished but rather to keep it at the forefront until the Day that Christ reveals Himself by our physical deaths or He returns to bring us into His everlasting presence.

Why are we to pay such close attention? The connecting clause tells us that it is simply for the fact that we are to understand that this word did not originate with man. The phrase someone’s own interpretation is a Genitive of Source, simply meaning that prophecy in and of itself cannot lie in man but must come from somewhere outside himself. The second clause grounds the reasoning behind Peter’s statement.

Clause 2

No prophecy was ever produced by the will of men…but men spoke as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

This second clause is headed by the explanatory γάρ (for). It further explains and solidifies Peter’s previous statement about the word. This section is comprised of two coordinating clauses, a negative statement and a positive statement.

  • A negative statement about prophecy – The statement itself is a denial of what is known as the dative of manner (of the will of man). That is, it is a denial that prophecy, as a means, could be produced or come about (γίνομαι) by man’s will or nature.
  • A positive statement about prophecy – the preceding clause’s coordinate part is contrasted with ἀλλά (but) which is to say on the contrary (Louw-Nida Semantic Domain Lexicon). It is the denial of the first clause, no prophecy originating by man’s will, and the upholding of this second clause which makes this a true negative/positive statement. Peter now emphatically affirms that the Scriptures about, of, and pointing to the Savior come directly from the agent of the Holy Spirit. It is He that spoke of the Son’s atoning work and resurrection. It is because of this that we are to pay close attention to this word, regard it as a lamp in a dark place, and know that this word has not originated with man himself.

Application

We can be certain that when God speaks, He accomplishes all His will (Isa 55:11). Most importantly, this includes the prophecies and the words regarding Jesus and His completed work on the cross. We too often look inward for a feeling, emotion, or other subjective assurance. Yet Peter plainly tells us that the more fully confirmed prophetic word is all that we need to live a life of godliness in Christ Jesus (2Peter 1:3-4). Christian, it is time to look outward to the prophetic word of God for your assurance. Looking inward will not do! It will bring you sorrow upon sorrow as you see your own sinfulness swallowing you whole. Let us cease from such insolence and begin to look Extra Nos.

Diagram Devotional (Hebrews 12:1-2)

As believers in Christ, we are all in a marathon. This marathon is much different from its earthly counterpart. There is a prize—and a punishment for not finishing or not entering at all. It’s grueling to think that we are in one race or another, taking one side or another without being aware. But the Bible affirms that the race we run will either be within the Gate Broad or the Gate Narrow (Matthew 7:13-14).

Fortunate for us, God’s grace is as broad as it is deep. He has provided not only a way to finish this race but also Someone who already has. Our devotional focuses on Hebrews 12:1-2. Below is an English diagram along with some of my own thoughts. A full-sized diagram can be downloaded with the provided link on the bottom of the picture.

The Diagram

English Diagram of Hebrews 12:1-2.

Notes

Diagram colors:
Red = main subject/clause
Purple = participial/participial clause-phrase
Green = subordinating/coordinate conjunction

The chapter starts with the familiar “Therefore…” which looks back at the preceding Hebrews 11, affectionately called the Hall of Faith. Chapter 11 lays out the men and women whose faith is praised, going as far as to highlight the fact that even though they tasted earthly death their faith gave them the sight to see since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect (11:40).

The main clause, Let us run the race, and the prevailing idea, is sandwiched between two participle phrases. I believe these two phrases are complimentary to the main verb as both are circumstantial and give the means as to how we are to run the race (i.e., the Christian life). Circumstantial participles, though not the main verb, can shed light on a text as Greek scholar, Herbert Smyth points out.

The circumstantial participle is added, without the article, to a noun or pronoun to set forth some circumstance under which an action, generally the main action, takes place…Such participles usually have the force of subordinate clauses added to the main verb by conjunctions denoting time, condition, cause, etc; but may often be rendered by adverbial phrases or even by a separate finite verb, which brings out distinctly the idea latent in the participle(Smyth, H. W. (1920). A Greek Grammar for Colleges. New York; Cincinnati; Chicago; Boston; Atlanta: American Book Company, pg. 456-457 – Logos Edition).

  • The first participial clause, let us lay aside every weight and sin, precedes the main verb. According to Steve Runge,  Research Associate in the Department of Ancient Studies at the University of Stellenbosch, this clause is a literary device known as a Topical Frame. It serves to “front” a specific action, in this case, the running of the race. (Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament-Logos Edition). The author then proceeds to tell us why we are to perform this action. It is because of those who had gone before them. The attributive participle since we are surrounded refers specifically to the heroes of chapter 11. It gives the audience a sense of hope that they are not the only ones to “give up” something of temporal value.
  • The second participle phrase is looking unto Jesus. It is connected to the main subject and verb let us run and describes the manner in which this is to occur. BDAG (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature), gives two possible definitions for this word: the first is to direct ones attention to without distraction. The second is to develop a more precise knowledge about something or someone. (Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pg. 158 Logos Edition). The first definition seems to fit the context much better. But the question remains of how one is to look to Jesus? I believe the answer is found in our first participle clause: we look, fix, gaze our attention upon Jesus by laying aside every weight and sin which so easily clings to us. Since the participle looking is subordinate to the main verb and is connected to the participial phrase lay aside every weight and sin by the coordinating conjunction καὶ (and), I believe the author of Hebrews is admonishing his audience from apostatizing by laying that temptation aside to gaze upon the sure and steadfast anchor of the soul (Heb 6:19).

The author now turns to the focus of the Christian life, Jesus, whom he calls the founder and perfecter of the Christian faith. Interestingly, the author points out two parallels between our own race and that of the Savior.

First, just as Jesus has endured the cross, we are to run our race with endurance. The word ὑπομένω (hupōmenō) is used in both cases and indicates maintaining a belief or course of action in the face of opposition (BDAG). The recipients of this epistle were in danger of turning back from the faith because of opposition from the Jewish community. They must now run with endurance in the same way the Founder of their faith had to hupōmenō His own course which led to death on the cross!

A second seemingly parallel is the idea that both Jesus’ course and our course is laid out for us to see. Again, the author uses the same Greek word for both, πρόκειμαι (prokemai). He uses the word in chapter 6 to describe our future hope, as well. And interestingly, the word is also used in Jude to refer to the example of the punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah. All of this appears to indicate that whatever course is marked out for the author’s audience, it will take not only endurance, but a dependence on the One who finished the race against all opposition that was before Him.

Application

The Christian life is indeed a marathon. It is not something to be entered into lightly, as Jesus Himself has told us, “Consider the cost.” (Luke 14:28) The race is full of dangers, oppositions, temptations, fleshly enemies, and the powers of Hell itself opposes all who would enter into the narrow gate. The only way to finish the race is by fixing our gaze upon the One who has already won, laying aside and cutting off anything and everything that would hinder us from reaching the finish line. Our Savior has given us gifts to complete our race.

First, and chiefly, He has given us Himself as the sacrifice which is pleasing to the Father. Without His merits and atonement, we would not even be able to enter into the race and we would be left on our own to walk in this realm, unaided and uncared for.

Second, He has given us the gifts of baptism and His body & blood. These visible, physical elements are His way to aid us in our endurance. We feast on His body and blood to revive our weary sin-stained souls so that we may continue to run (John 6:55-56). And in our baptism, we are daily reminded that our old Adam must be drowned and our new life must rise from the flood waters and live moment by moment unto Christ (Romans 6:1-6).

Dear Christian brothers and sisters, be encouraged that your race, your problems, your trials, are not so peculiar that there has never been one to endure what you endure. Know that Christ has already won Life for you by perfectly submitting to the Father. Be encouraged that His gifts are sufficiently and abundantly provided to you so that you too, when crossing the finish line will hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”