Assurance in God’s Word

1 Peter 1:12-21

In the face of false teachers and facing his own imminent death, Peter wants to ensure that the churches are fully prepared for the road ahead.  In so doing, a major priority of his is assurance. So, first of all we see assurance demonstrated by spiritual growth. Now, we also see that it is found in Scripture.

We are to look to God’s Word for assurance because…

This was Peter’s priority, we need its constant reminder V12-15

V12 – “Therefore” – Pete plans to keep reminding his audience of the things he has started to talk about, namely the precious promises we have in Christ and the call to growth in holiness. The word “Therefore” reminds us that Peter is moving into action based on the reasoning that we have already read. Why does he insist on this continuous reminder? It is because his concern is that they will have real assurance of Salvation.

These are not new things, rather Peter believes it is worth continuing to repeat and remind them of things that they have already known. They already know about the precious promises, the grace they have received and their calling in Christ. They know this because Peter is taking them back to the Gospel. They also know it because these are the very things that Peter said in his first letter. I remember one of our elders once saying that you have to communicate the same thing three or four times before people get it.  I am reminded also of the wonderful old hymn lyrics

Tell me the old, old story,
  Of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory,
  Of Jesus and His love;

Tell me the same old story,
  When you have cause to fear
That this world’s empty glory
  Is costing me too dear;

There is no harm in repetition. Too often we want to hear something novel from our preachers and teachers when what we need most of all is to be brought back to the Gospel again.

V13 – 14 There is an urgency to Peter’s message because he knows that his time is running out. God has given him a revelation that he is going to die soon. Peter faces execution at the hands of the Roman emperor. These are likely to be his last words to the churches.  He wants to make them count and he will do so by encouraging believers to go back to the foundations of their faith. Notice the imagery here of putting off the body. Death will mean absence from the body here but he will be with Christ and looking forward to physical resurrection.

V15: His aim is to ensure that they are able to remember these Gospel matters when he has gone.  As we saw in our first study, the church are being prepared for life without the eye witness apostles. This means that they will have Scripture

What is going to keep you and me through the long haul, whether it is the long haul of this present Coronavirus crisis or the long-haul of life. What will stop us from losing our faith, losing our wits, fallen into sin? What will encourage us to be holy? Well what we specifically need is Scripture. 

I would like to say something about God’s revelation at this stage. I am not a cessationist. A cessationist is someone who believes that the gifts of the Spirit, or specifically the ones we might see as spectacular (tongues, prophecy, healing, visions), died out with the apostles.   I believe that the gifts continue to be available for today.

However, it is important to note that there is a distinction between God’s special revelation – Scripture and what we sometimes call General Revelation -the fact that everything in creation is revealing God. Usually what people mean by prophecy and words of knowledge today come under the second category. God uses the insight, sensitivity and intuition of believers to help them speak into a situation. Their insights should be heard alongside practical wisdom but under the authority of special revelation, Scripture.  This means that what we need to keep us going and to keep us holy is the Bible.

It is reliable and trustworthy V16-18

V16 “We” Peter refers to all of the apostles collectively here. The qualification for apostleship was that you had been an eyewitness of Jesus’ death and resurrection. This was the basis on which the apostles together chose Matthias as a replacement for Judas.[1] This is why Paul in Ephesians describes The Apostles as the foundation of the church. There is some discussion today about whether or not we can talk about particular church leaders with a ministry beyond the local church or as church planters “small ‘a’ apostles.” My preference is against the confusion of labels but whatever we call people we are not to regard them as apostles in the sense that Peter was.

The apostles did not share myths or tales because they wanted everyone to accurately hear. This rebuts the false prophets on two levels. First of all because they were accusing the apostles of lying, of sharing myths about the resurrection. Secondly because false teaching would evolve into exactly the sort of mythology and speculation Peter warns about here.

The disciples were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ majesty. Isaiah 53 describes Jesus lacking in beauty and majesty. I believe that to primarily refer to the horror of the crucifixion. However whilst Jesus is clearly winsome to the crowds, his true glory is veiled prior to the resurrection with one exception.

V17 Peter reminds his readers of the Transfiguration. There is also a link back to Jesus baptism here. On the mountain top, a few of Jesus’ disciples including Peter gain a glimpse of his glory and majesty. It is revealed to them for a while. This is a foretaste for them of what the Resurrection will reveal.

God the Father declares Jesus to be his Son and his pleasure, his delight in him. The revelation of Jesus as beloved son is important. As early theologians like Athanasius and Hilary observed, the important thing about a Son is that they reflect the image and character of their Father. Jesus the Son has the same nature as the Father, this means he is fully God. The power he has is God’s omnipotent power. The glory he has is the glory of God which calls us to worship him.

V18 This is also further evidence for the reliability of Scripture as it demonstrates Peter’s authorship. His claim to have actually been at the transfiguration would be difficult to accept if this writing had turned up much later and clearly wasn’t written by someone who was there. Peter is adamant that he was there. Note too how this aligns with John’s claim in 1 John 1 that he was reporting what he had seen, heard and touched.  We are to believe these men  as eye witnesses.

It is full and complete – confirming and fulfilling prophecies about Jesus V19-21

V19 Some commentaries think that the “prophecy referred to in verse 19 is the Transfiguration.  In that case, Peter might be referring to the way that those events are confirmed by the Resurrection and Pentecost. However, Schreiner argues persuasively that the use of “Scripture” here makes that interpretation unlikely. Rather, Peter is speaking specifically about the Old Testament prophets. They saw things about Jesus and prophesied his coming but it was only when he came that what those prophecies meant is fully established. Jesus fulfils Old Testament prophecy. His hearers were encouraged to pay close attention to the Old Testament Scriptures. They pointed to Christ, and so even if they did  not have the whole of Scripture yet, the prophets did their job. The churches were to pay attention to the Scripture they did have until everything was revealed.

The recipients of the letter could look forward to the day of full revelation which would be like the arrival of daylight in comparison to the light which shines through the night. It is exciting to think that we have that full, clear revelation.

V20 They could rely on the prophecies in Scripture because the prophets did not make things up. Rather they sought to hear God clearly. We are reminded here of the rigorous testing and evaluation that prophets were subjected to (See Deuteronomy 18). It was unwise to risk making it up.

V21 The Scripture wasn’t something people made up but was inspired by the Holy Spirit. This was as true of the Old Testament prophets as it was of Jesus and the apostles. As well as the reassurance here that God’s word is reliable, we are challenged if we preach. There is no place for the person who just fancies a go to hold forth. We also must show integrity in the truthfulness of what we say because we are his ambassadors. This warns us away from making things up.

Conclusion

Our confident assurance is found in faithful obedience and in Scripture. God’s Word challenges us and encourages us to follow Christ in Scripture. Alongside a sense that we grow in assurance as we become more alert to the work of sanctification, this passage reminds us  that is the rock solid evidence of the Gospel that gives us the assurance we need.


[1] Matthew 1:12-26.

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