“First of all you must understand this, that no prophesy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophesy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
~2 Peter 1:20 (NRSV).
In context, the Apostle Peter is defending the apostolic preaching of Christ’s second coming; it is not a “cleverly devised myth,” (v. 16) as was being purported by some. Indeed, Peter is simply testifying to a key portion of the gospel message; linking Old Testament with what was fast becoming New.
But there’s a different pericope here in this verse. A warning is given regarding the sacred roles of Scriptural prophesy; one we’re blessed to heed with the steeped fear of the Lord.
In at least two places in the Bible warnings are presented for adding to or taking away from the Word of God. (See Revelation 22:18-19 and Ecclesiastes 12:12.) It’s as if God says, “Over your dead body; for that you shall be harshly judged!”
Peter has at target the false teacher here. It appears there were two falsities proffered that he sought to highlight:
1. Undermining of Old Testament Prophesy Surrounding Christ
The false teachers were undermining the inspiration to which the prophets of the Old Testament were subject; as if they were not, in fact, God’s megaphone to the kings and the peoples of God and the nations of the earth, led by the Holy Spirit.
This was tantamount to atheism, a theological treason, for it suggests that the prophets of God—indeed, to anyone who heard and wrote the inspired words of God—were nothing more than dreamers and pious visionaries. Knowing what we believe about the inspired nature of God’s Word—all of which we accept as “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16)—the undermining of the source of the inspiration would be to break down the faith and call it ‘without substantive doctrine’.
Of course, we’d see that as blasphemy; an indictment against God.
2. Interpretation of Prophesy Apart from Apostolic Authority
Notwithstanding the arrogance of the first position, the false teacher was then also taking it upon themselves to make their own independent interpretive analysis of the Old Testament prophesies; disregarding the Apostles’ authority and preaching. As if the inspired Word of God could be lambasted for one’s own convenience. This is a second blasphemy.
Application to Our Contemporary Situation
This is a matter never more important. There is a shrill echo of this to the farthest reaches of eternity. Never could this be understated. The Lord’s credibility, itself, is at stake.
Agreeing that the motives and anointed nature of credible prophets is sound, and we do this by faith, qualifies their prophesies as God-breathed. None of this is in any scholarly doubt, yet some take it upon themselves to ‘develop’ a different view; one that’s set apart to the populace of the perspicuously pious.
Running ahead of apostolic authority was and is blasphemy; always was and always will be. These here are two ideas of false teaching we must be vigilantly aware of.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.
General Reference: Duane F. Watson, “The Second Letter of Peter: Introduction, Commentary and Reflections” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Vol. XII (Nashville, Tennessee, Abingdon Press, 1998), p. 343.