2 Peter 1:16-18
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ…
The apostle gives the reason for his earnestness in the passage before us, and certainty is the key-note of his utterance; He declares he knows what he enforces, that error has not been palmed on him for truth, that his eyes have seen and his ears have heard what he tells. Then our subject is - Certainty concerning Christ the secret of spiritual earnestness. Doubt and deadness go together, certainty and vigour; and in an age when doubt is so freely suggested, that it is almost in the air we breathe, and is sometimes thought to be a sign of wisdom, it ought to be useful to us to consider the need and possibility of certainty. It does not follow that certainty can be attained at once, nor that all doubt is to be condemned. Much doubt is temperamental, like that of Thomas (and Thomas was a disciple second to none in fidelity to Jesus), and much, again, means spiritual progress, leading to higher faith and deeper repose; but we need not remain in doubt. There is a reasonable basis for belief, some eternal rock at least, on which we can weather the storm, though mystery lies around us on every side. In this present state of limited vision we may expect this mystery.
I. CHRIST IS THE SUM' OF APOSTOLIC TRUTH. About what was the apostle certain? About Christ. He is here enforcing the need of spiritual truth; he is determined to live and die urging this truth, and in our text he sums up what this truth is. It is Christ. And that is equally the testimony of the Old Testament as of the New: what have they to say to us, but Christ? How that simplifies this book! how it shows what we are to come here to learn! One of the stumbling-blocks to the understanding of Scripture is that men come to it to learn what it is not intended to teach.
1. As Christ is the embodiment of Divine truth, the Bible is the revelation of Christ. That is what Peter in effect says here, the sum of the truth he urges - "the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ," that is, his Deity and Incarnation, the God-Man. In making Christ known Scripture necessarily touches on other subjects, for he is connected with every part of the Father's will, and he cannot be separated from them; there must be some reference to them, and this may be indistinct, leaving much to be known hereafter. But we may be sure there will be nothing indistinct in the great central theme of the revelation. It would be regeneration to some if they would be content to leave these minor matters unsolved, and, remembering that the object of this record is to make Christ known, would lend their powers to discover the certainty about him, and rest in that.
2. He is the revelation of the Father. "Who by searching can find out God?" but in Jesus we have God manifested. "The Word was God," and "the Word was made flesh." The revelation of Christ is the manifestation of the Godhead.
3. He is the filling up of every human need. For man's condemnation there is acquittal in him; for his sin there is the possibility of holiness; for his perplexity there is light; for his difficulties there is help; for his sorrows there is infinite love; for his fear of the future there are life and immortality. So perfectly can Christ raise us to the perfection of which our nature is callable, that it is said, "Ye are complete in him." The revelation of Christ is the satisfaction of men.
4. He is the end we are called to reach. For what were we made? Apart from him we know not. Do we fulfill our end in the toil and tears, the change and weariness, the fleeting pleasures and the lasting pains of three score years and ten? Is there nothing beyond this - nothing to which this may be but the development, nothing beneath it, whose blessedness shall justify our existence? God replies by revealing Jesus. His life and death and rising again, the work of his ascended life, - they are to raise us to likeness to himself: "We are predestined to be conformed to the image of God's Son." The revelation of Christ is the guide and hope of our being.
II. PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE IS THE GROUND OF CERTAINTY ABOUT CHRIST. Eye-witnesses, ear-witnesses, of what he is, therefore we know; - that is the ground of the apostle's assurance. There is here the suggestion of doubt concerning what was said of Christ. If we have sincere doubt about what is essential, it is better to face it and settle it, not to leave it to work its quiet mischief within us, or cast its shadow on our belief, but to look at it steadily, to turn on it the light of reason and truth, and satisfy ourselves that there is nothing in it. Some things it is not essential to know, and from their nature they are unknowable here; but of the mystery in what is essential, there is a solution somewhere, and to it God will not fail to guide the childlike spirit. There are three simple arguments which show it to be incredible that the doctrine of Jesus is a "cunningly devised fable." How could these unlearned men invent a fable surpassingly beyond what the world had ever heard, and so cunningly that for eighteen centuries it has deceived those who have tested it with the eagerness of settling life and death? Then how came this fable they had invented to change their own characters, and enable them to seal their testimony with their blood? Then how is it this fable has proved the regeneration of mankind, has become the world's hope, and is cleaved to with unwavering assurance by growing millions of the race? But notice how Peter meets the suggestion. He does not argue - he rests on what he himself had seen and heard. There was one season he ever remembered, when he was with his Lord in the "holy mount," and there came "such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Our certainty about Christ may have the same ground. At first we must depend on outside testimony for our knowledge of Christ; but when that has done most for us, there is a better assurance possible, personal fellowship with himself, that is the antidote to doubt about him. Let him work his work upon you, and you will smile at the suggestion that the "power and coming of the Lord Jesus" is a "cunningly devised fable."
III. CERTAINTY ABOUT CHRIST THE SECRET OF SPIRITUAL EARNESTLESS. Let us have no rest till we come to certainty about our Lord. We may be as certain that he is, and that he is the Saviour of sinners, and the Satisfaction of human needs, as we are of our existence. Then we shall be animated with earnestness in cleaving to him, in living for him; duty no more cold and hard, but joyous service for the Living One we love; the very sorrows that draw us to him tinged with joy; yea, death itself no longer dreaded because we see him waiting for us on the further shore. - C.N.
Parallel VersesKJV: For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.