|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:16-21 The gospel is no weak thing, but comes in power, Ro 1:16. The law sets before us our wretched state by sin, but there it leaves us. It discovers our disease, but does not make known the cure. It is the sight of Jesus crucified, in the gospel, that heals the soul. Try to dissuade the covetous worlding from his greediness, one ounce of gold weighs down all reasons. Offer to stay a furious man from anger by arguments, he has not patience to hear them. Try to detain the licentious, one smile is stronger with him than all reason. But come with the gospel, and urge them with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, shed to save their souls from hell, and to satisfy for their sins, and this is that powerful pleading which makes good men confess that their hearts burn within them, and bad men, even an Agrippa, to say they are almost persuaded to be Christians, Ac 26:28. God is well pleased with Christ, and with us in him. This is the Messiah who was promised, through whom all who believe in him shall be accepted and saved. The truth and reality of the gospel also are foretold by the prophets and penmenof the Old Testament, who spake and wrote under influence, and according to the direction of the Spirit of God. How firm and sure should our faith be, who have such a firm and sure word to rest upon! When the light of the Scripture is darted into the blind mind and dark understanding, by the Holy Spirit of God, it is like the day-break that advances, and diffuses itself through the whole soul, till it makes perfect day. As the Scripture is the revelation of the mind and will of God, every man ought to search it, to understand the sense and meaning. The Christian knows that book to be the word of God, in which he tastes a sweetness, and feels a power, and sees a glory, truly divine. And the prophecies already fulfilled in the person and salvation of Christ, and in the great concerns of the church and the world, form an unanswerable proof of the truth of Christianity. The Holy Ghost inspired holy men to speak and write. He so assisted and directed them in delivering what they had received from him, that they clearly expressed what they made known. So that the Scriptures are to be accounted the words of the Holy Ghost, and all the plainness and simplicity, all the power and all the propriety of the words and expressions, come from God. Mix faith with what you find in the Scriptures, and esteem and reverence the Bible as a book written by holy men, taught by the Holy Ghost.
Verse 19. - We have also a more sure word of prophecy; rather, as in the Revised Version, and we have the word of prophecy made more sure; or, we have the word of prophecy more sure (than the testimony of the heavenly voice). The rendering of the Authorized Version is ungrammatical; we must adopt one of the other modes of representing the original. The second seems to be preferred by most commentators. Thus Archdeacon Farrar, translating the passage, "And still stronger is the surety we have in the prophetic word," adds in a note, "Why more sure? Because wider in its range, and more varied, and coming from many, and bringing a more intense personal conviction than the testimony to a single fact." But when St. Peter applied the epithet "surer" (βεβαιότερον) to the word of prophecy, does he mean in his own estimate of it, or in that of others? If he is speaking of himself, it is surely inconceivable that any possible testimony to the truth of the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ could be comparable with the commanding authority of the Divine voice which he himself had heard borne from heaven, and the transcendent glory which he himself had seen flashing from the Saviour's human form and bathing it in an aureole of celestial light. That heavenly voice had made the deepest possible impression on the apostles. "They fell on their faces," as Moses had done under the like circumstances, recognizing it as the voice of God. Peter had said, "Lord, it is good for us to be here;" and evidently all through his life he felt that it was good for him to dwell in solemn thought on the treasured memories of that august revelation. No written testimony could be "surer" to St. Peter than that voice from heaven. But is he rather thinking of the confirmation of the faith of his readers? He is still using the first person plural, as in verses 16 and 18; in this verse, indeed, he passes to the second; but the retaining of the first person in the first clause of the verse shows that, if he is not still speaking of apostles only, he at least includes himself among those who have the word of prophecy; and to him certainly the testimony of that word, though sacred and precious, could not be "surer" than the testimony of the heavenly voice. To Jewish Christians the evidence of the prophets of the Old Testament was of supreme importance. Nathanael, the "Israelite indeed," was drawn to the Lord by the assurance that, "We have found him of whom Moses in the Law, and the prophets, did write." The Lord himself insisted again and again upon the testimony of the prophets; so did his apostles after him. Still, it seems difficult to understand that, even to Jewish Christians, the testimony of the prophets, however sacred and weighty, could be surer than that of those apostles who made known the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, having been eye-witnesses of his majesty; while to Gentile Christians the testimony of those apostles of the Lamb who declared "what they had heard, what they had seen with their eyes, what their hands had handled, of the Word of life," must have had greater power to convince than the predictions of the Hebrew prophets, though these predictions, fulfilled as they were in the Lord Jesus, furnish subsidiary evidence of exceeding value. On the whole, the more probable meaning of St. Peter seems to be that the word of prophecy was made more sure to himself, and, through his teaching, to others by the overwhelming testimony of the voice from heaven and the glory of the Transfiguration. He had become a disciple long before. His brother Andrew had first told him that Jesus was the Messiah; he himself, a week before the Transfiguration, had confessed him solemnly to be "the Christ, the Son of the living God? But the Transfiguration deepened that faith into the most intense conviction; it made the word of prophecy which spoke of Christ surer and more certain. It is not without interest that the writer of the so-called 'Second Epistle of Clement' quotes (chapter 11) from "the prophetic word" (προφητικὸς λόγος), passages which resemble James 1:8 and 2 Peter 3:4. Whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place. There is a parallel to the first clause of this in Josephus, 'Ant.,' 11:6, 12; to the second in 2 Esdr. 12:42. The word rendered "light" is rather a lamp or torch; our Lord uses it of John the Baptist (John 5:35). The word translated "dark" (αὐχμηρός) is found only here in the New Testament; it means "dry, parched, and so squalid, desert;" there seems to be no sufficient authority for the rendering "dark." God's Word is a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path; the word of prophecy guides us to Christ. Until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts; literally, until day dawn through; i.e., "through the gloom." There is no article. The word for "day-star" (φωσφόροv, lucifer, light-bringer) is found in no other place of the New Testament; but comp. Revelation 2:28; Revelation 22:16. St. Peter seems to mean that the prophetic word, rendered more sure to the apostles by the voice from heaven, and to Christians generally by apostolic witness, shines like a guiding lamp, till the fuller light of day dawns upon the soul, as the believer, led by the prophetic word, realizes the personal knowledge of the Lord, and he manifests himself according to his blessed promises to the heart that longs for his sacred presence. He is the Bright and Morning Star, the Day-star, the Light-bringer; for he is the Light of the world - he brings the light, the full light of day. The prophetic word is precious; it sheds light upon the surrounding darkness - the darkness of ignorance, the darkness of the heart that knows not Christ; but its light is as the light of a torch or a lamp, compared with the pervading daylight which the felt presence of Christ sheds into those hearts into which God hath shined to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (comp. 1 Peter 2:9; Luke 1:78). Some understand "day" here of the great day of the Lord. Against this interpretation is the absence of the article, and the fact that the last words of the verse seem to give a subjective meaning to the passage.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Though this word of prophecy is generally understood of the writings and prophecies of the Old Testament concerning Christ, yet different ways are taken to fix the comparison: some think the sense is, that they are more sure than the cunningly devised fables, 2 Peter 1:16 but as these have no certainty nor authority in them, but are entirely to be rejected, the apostle would never put the sacred writings in comparison with them: and it is most clear, that the comparison lies between this word of prophecy, and the testimony of the apostles, who were eye and ear witnesses of the majesty and glory of Christ; but how prophecy should be a surer evidence of Christ, and the Gospel, than such a testimony, is difficult to understand; and is a sense which all agree to reject, by different methods: some think that a comparative is used for a positive, and that the meaning is, that besides the testimony of the apostles, prophecy is a very sure evidence; and this is countenanced by the Syriac version, which renders it, "and we have also a firm", or "true word of prophecy"; to which the Arabic agrees, "and we have a word of prophecy very true": others choose to retain the comparison, and which indeed ought not to be thrown out; but these are divided about it; some are of opinion that it is to be understood of the Jews to whom the apostle writes, and he himself was one, and the sense to be this; not that prophecy in itself was surer than an apostolical testimony, but that it was surer to the Jews, and more valid with them, who had been trained up in, and long used to the prophetic writings; and who had a greater esteem for the prophets of the Old Testament than for the apostles of the New; but it is scarcely credible that the apostle, who had been an eye and ear witness in the holy mount, would put himself in among them, and say, "we have", &c. for whatever prophecy was to them, it could not be surer to him than what he had seen with his eyes, and heard with his ears. Others suppose that the meaning is, that prophecy was "now" surer to the Christians than it was "before", it being confirmed and established by facts and events, and also by miracles, and even by the attestation of this voice heard on the mount, and by the majesty of Christ seen there; but if this had been the sense of the apostle, he would have used these words, "now" and "before"; and besides, this puts the comparison quite out of its place, which manifestly stands between former prophecy, and the present testimony of the apostles: but the truth of the matter is, that this word of prophecy is not to be understood of the prophetic writings of the Old Testament; for though these are the word of God, and do testify of Christ, and are to be taken heed, and attended to, as proofs and evidence of Gospel truths, and are a light to direct and guide in matters both of faith and practice, yet they are not the only light, and are far from being the clearest, and what are only to be attended to; for the Gospel that came by Christ, and is preached by his apostles, and is contained in the writings of the New Testament, is a much clearer light, and at least equally to be attended to: nor are the prophecies of the Old Testament, which particularly relate to Christ, designed; there are many of this kind, which, put together, may very well be called the word of prophecy, and which were to the Jews a light in a dark place, until Christ came in the flesh; and though they are to be attended to, and compared with facts, to show the truth of the divine revelation, yet they are not a surer evidence, nor so sure an evidence, as the evangelical testimony is, which is of facts, and these supported by miracles; for now the dayspring from on high hath visited us, and Christ, the bright and morning star, has appeared: but the word of prophecy, concerning Christ's second coming, is here intended, whether it lies in the words of the prophets of the Old Testament, as in Psalm 96:13 or in the words of Christ, Matthew 16:27, which latter is most likely. The Ethiopic version understands this of some particular prophecy, and as if the words were a citation of some prophet, rendering the words thus, "and we have a voice more ancient than this of a prophet, saying, ye do well who take heed", &c. Sir Isaac Newton is of opinion, that the apostle refers to the book of the Revelation of St. John, which would not be unlikely, could it be proved that it was then written. Now this prophecy or prediction, concerning Christ's coming again with power and great glory, was a surer evidence of it than what the apostles saw with their eyes, and heard with their ears upon the mount; nothing was surer to them, nor could anything make it surer to them, that he was honoured and glorified, than what they saw and heard: but then this did not so certainly prove that he would hereafter be glorified, or come again in glory. What they saw and heard was a presumptive proof that it "might" be so, and was a confirming pledge and evidence to them that so it "would" be, and was a glorious representation of it; but Christ's prophecy or prediction, that so it "should" be, more strongly ascertained it, since he said it, to whom all things were known from the beginning, and whose counsel shall stand, and not one word of his shall ever fail.
Whereunto ye do well, that ye take heed as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts. The prophecy concerning Christ's second coming is as "as a light"; it is a revelation of that which was in the dark, lay hid as a secret and mystery in the heart of God; and which could not be known by men, had it not been foretold by God; and it is made as prophecy in all other cases is, by throwing light, as to this affair, into the mind of him, or them, to whom it is revealed; and is a light to them to whom it is delivered, and which they should attend unto, as to a lamp or torch to guide and direct them; though in some sense it is but a feeble one, and is as a light "that shineth in a dark place"; meaning not the world, which is a place of darkness, ignorance, and error; nor merely the state of the saints in general in this life, who, at most and best, see but through a glass darkly; but has a particular respect to the darkness which attends the saints, concerning the second coming of Christ, and which will especially attend them a little before that time. Prophecy holds out clearly that Christ will come again; that he will come in great glory, in his Father's, and in his own, and in the glory of his angels, and with great power, to raise the dead, and judge mankind; and though it gives hints, that, upon this, the saints shall be with Christ in the air, on earth, and in heaven; and that there will be new heavens, and a new earth; and that the saints shall reign here with Christ a thousand years, after which the Gog and Magog army will attack them without success; yet these are not so clear, as for saints to be agreed in the sense of them; and much more are they in the dark about the time of his coming. Now prophecy is the surest evidence and best light the saints have concerning this matter, "until the day dawn"; not the Gospel day, so much spoken of by the prophets, that had dawned already; rather a more clear knowledge of Christ, and Gospel truths, which will be in the spiritual kingdom and reign of Christ hereafter; or else the latter day glory, at the personal coming of Christ, when the light of the moon shall be as that of the sun, and that of the sun shall be sevenfold as the light of seven days; yea, when there will be no need of sun or moon, but Christ shall be come, and be the light of his people; see Isaiah 30:26 after which will follow the everlasting day of glory, when all darkness will be gone, and saints shall see face to face, and know as they are known:
and the day star arise in your hearts; or "the sun", as the Syriac version renders it; not Christ, the morning star, the dayspring from on high, and the sun of righteousness, who was already risen upon them; nor the grace of God implanted in their hearts, by which they were already called out of darkness, and made light in the Lord; but as the day star is the bringer of light, as the word used signifies, or the forerunner of the day, so it here intends the immediate signs and forerunners of the coming of Christ; which when observed in their hearts, and by their understandings, as being come to pass, they may lift up their heads with joy, because their redemption draws near, Luke 21:28 and so the Ethiopic here renders it, "and redemption, arise for you in your hearts". Now till this time the sure word of prophecy concerning Christ's second coming is to be "taken heed unto", as a lamp, light, and torch, to direct us to it, to encourage us to love it, long for it, and hasten to it: and in so doing we shall "do well"; it will be well for the glory of God and Christ, this being setting our seals to them as true; and well for ourselves to keep up our faith, hope, and expectation of it, unmoved.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
19. We—all believers.
a more sure—rather as Greek, "we have the word of prophecy more sure (confirmed)." Previously we knew its sureness by faith, but, through that visible specimen of its hereafter entire fulfilment, assurance is made doubly sure. Prophecy assures us that Christ's sufferings, now past, are to be followed by Christ's glory, still future: the Transfiguration gives us a pledge to make our faith still stronger, that "the day" of His glory will "dawn" ere long. He does not mean to say that "the word of prophecy," or Scripture, is surer than the voice of God heard at the Transfiguration, as English Version; for this is plainly not the fact. The fulfilment of prophecy so far in Christ's history makes us the surer of what is yet to be fulfilled, His consummated glory. The word was the "lamp (Greek for 'light') heeded" by Old Testament believers, until a gleam of the "day dawn" was given at Christ's first coming, and especially in His Transfiguration. So the word is a lamp to us still, until "the day" burst forth fully at the second coming of "the Sun of righteousness." The day, when it dawns upon you, makes sure the fact that you saw correctly, though indistinctly, the objects revealed by the lamp.
whereunto—to which word of prophecy, primarily the Old Testament in Peter's day; but now also in our day the New Testament, which, though brighter than the Old Testament (compare 1Jo 2:8, end), is but a lamp even still as compared with the brightness of the eternal day (compare 2Pe 3:2). Oral teachings and traditions of ministers are to be tested by the written word (Ac 17:11).
dark—The Greek implies squalid, having neither water nor light: such spiritually is the world without, and the smaller world (microcosm) within, the heart in its natural state. Compare the "dry places" Lu 11:24 (namely, unwatered by the Spirit), through which the unclean spirit goeth.
dawn—bursting through the darkness.
day star—Greek, the morning star," as Re 22:16. The Lord Jesus.
in your hearts—Christ's arising in the heart by His Spirit giving full assurance, creates spiritually full day in the heart, the means to which is prayerfully giving heed to the word. This is associated with the coming of the day of the Lord, as being the earnest of it. Indeed, even our hearts shall not fully realize Christ in all His unspeakable glory and felt presence, until He shall come (Mal 4:2). Isa 66:14, 15, "When you see this, your heart shall rejoice … For, behold, the Lord will come." However, Tregelles' punctuation is best, "whereunto ye do well to take heed (as unto a light shining in a dark place, until the day have dawned and the morning star arisen) in your hearts." For the day has already dawned in the heart of believers; what they wait for is its visible manifestation at Christ's coming.
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