1st and 2nd Peter — Lesson 10
2 Peter 1:12-21
I. (Verse 12-15) Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. 13 Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; 14 Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. 15 Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.
A. Verse 12 begins a short transitional paragraph. Peter has introduced his letter and given us its central purpose in verses 1-11, and starting in verse 16 he begins to consider the specific problems that prompted him to write the letter. But in verses 12-15, he first does two other things:
1. First, in verse 12, Peter commends his readers for their spiritual maturity.
2. Second, in verses 13-15, he lets them know that he is writing to them as one who is near death.
3. Both of these points reinforce the strength of his message; the first point ensures that his readers will heed his warnings, rather than simply being offended by them, and the second point stresses the seriousness and urgency of his warnings.
B. Verse 12 teaches us two important things about preaching.
1. First, preaching very often involves reminding people of what they already know. In fact, the best way to teach people is to begin with what they already know, and build upon that.
2. Second, preaching sometimes involves scolding, but such preaching is most effective when its begins with encouragement.
a) Peter is about to launch into uncompromising rebuke and warning, but he begins with a compliment -- his readers already know the truth and are established in the truth.
b) There are two extremes we must avoid in our proclamation of the gospel. We must avoid the extreme in which we preach the truth, but we do so in such a way that we alienate our audience as soon as we open our mouth and no one ever hears our message. But we must also avoid the extreme where we fail to preach the truth out of fear of offending someone or driving them away.
c) R. L. Whiteside: "Much is said about preaching the truth in love and so it should be preached. But in love of what? The preacher should so love the truth that he will not sacrifice any of it nor pervert it, and he should so love people that he will not withhold from them even one unpleasant truth. He that does either of these things loves neither the truth nor the people."
C. It is interesting that the Greek word for "firmly established" in verse 12 is the same Greek word translated "strengthen" in Luke 22:32.
1. Luke 22:31-32 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: 32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
2. Peter was obeying that command of Christ by making sure that his readers were firmly established or strengthened in the truth.
D. A major theme of this section of Peter's letter is remembrance.
1. Peter tells his readers that they know the truth, and yet he tells them that they still need to be reminded of it. He mentions their "remembrance" three times in these four verses. The implication is that they have forgotten or at least are acting as if they have forgotten something they had been taught before. Also, Peter was about to die, and he did not want the church to forget what he had told them.
2. Remembrance played an important role in the Old Testament.
a) The weekly Sabbath was a reminder. (Deut. 5:15)
b) The Passover was a reminder. (Deut. 16:3)
3. Remembrance plays an important role in the New Testament.
a) In 1 Corinthians 15:1, Paul said "I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you." In 2 Timothy 2:8, Paul told Timothy to "remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel."
b) And, of course, the greatest remembrance in the New Testament is the weekly observance of the Lord's Supper. In Luke 22:19, Jesus said "this do in remembrance of me."
4. Remembrance plays an important role in the life of a Christian. We must constantly remember where we came from, and we must constantly remember where we are going.
a) James 1:23-24 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
b) But why does Peter stress remembrance here? Interestingly, Peter tells his readers in verse 12 that they are firmly established, but there may be a subtle pun at play here. In 2:14, he will tell them that the false teachers seduce the unstable, and in 3:16 he will tell them that unstable people distort the Bible. Perhaps these Christians are not as stable as they think they are.
E. Verses 12-15 tell us about one of the top reasons why congregations get swept away by false teaching -- spiritual amnesia.
1. It has been said that history doesn't repeat itself -- historians just repeat each other. But history does repeat itself. Most problems facing the church today have faced the church in the past. And most problems facing the church today will face the church in the future -- unless we provide effective warnings to future generations. It may be a clichÈ, but it is nevertheless true -- those who forget the past will be condemned to repeat the past.
a) We do neither the church nor our children any favors by hiding from them the troubles facing the church today.
b) My oldest nephew recently went to San Antonio with a group from church for the Prom Alternative. From what I hear, they worshipped at a local congregation that was a bit on the wild side to say the least. Not much was said about it, but my nephew's brief comment upon his return spoke volumes -- he said he was glad they had gone there because it made them all appreciate this congregation even more. My memory of past troubles experienced elsewhere (and not too far down the freeway from where we are today!) also causes me to appreciate even more (if possible) this congregation and its leaders. If you aren't thanking God every day for this congregation and our elders then you should start doing that immediately. Those with the best memories are typically the most thankful.
2. False teachers love congregations with bad memories.
a) We should always be wary of people who arrive with a new or different message, and we should look out for the danger signs when what we know begins to be replaced by messages that are advertised as more attractive or more relevant -- that are advertised as new and improved. There is no way to improve on the gospel!
b) "The business of the church and of preaching is not to present us with new and interesting ideas, it is rather to go on reminding us of certain fundamental and eternal truths."
F. Verses 13-15 tell us that Peter knew his death was imminent.
1. Jesus had told him in John 21 what type of death to expect.
a) John 21:18-19 "Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish." 19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God.
2. When we considered the issue of whether Peter was the first pope and ruling the church from Rome, we noted that, if he were, it would have been quite unusual for the Bible to have nowhere mentioned that he was ever even in Rome. But (as we mentioned in that lesson) history tells us that Peter was likely in Rome, at least near the end of his life, and that he likely died in Rome under Nero's persecution of the church.
a) Jesus had told Peter how we would die, but not when. Peter, however, was apparently now in a position to see that his life would end very soon.
b) Clement wrote a letter towards the end of the first century from the church in Rome to the church in Corinth. In that letter he wrote: "Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours; and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him."
c) If Peter died at the hand of Nero, then Peter died before June 9, AD 68, which was the day when Nero killed himself.
d) Origen tells us that Peter was crucified upside down, and a number of early sources tell us that he received a simple and secret burial on what is now Vatican Hill in Rome. But again, there is no mention of any of this in the Bible.
e) Given the grisly nature of what he is about to endure, his attitude toward his approaching death is remarkable.
(1) Like Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:1, Peter saw this body as a tent that he would soon put aside. Peter knew that he was about to strike camp and move on.
f) Peter was about to die, and he was deeply concerned about how the church would fare after his death. He could see the false teachers circling like vultures. Peter had a great love and concern for the church of Christ. He was there when Jesus promised to build it, and now that it was built Peter wanted to make sure it remained on firm ground.
II. (Verses 16-18) 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. 17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.
A. In verses 16-18, Peter reminds his readers about one of the most important events in history -- the transfiguration.
1. Although we have other inspired accounts of the transfiguration, this is the only account we have written by one of the three eyewitnesses who were there -- Peter, James, and John.
2. Unlike the other three gospel writers, John does not describe the transfiguration. But John does seem to allude to it in 1:14.
a) John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
b) John also no doubt recalled the event when he penned the beautiful description of Christ in Revelation 1.
B. Verse 16 tells us what these false teachers were saying -- that all the teachings about Jesus proclaimed by Peter and the other apostles were just "cunningly devised fables." None of it ever really happened!
1. This is a common ploy of false teachers -- they immediately locate and then target their competition. The false teachers here knew that they could not succeed unless they first discredited Peter and the other apostles.
2. Today, when false teachers enter a congregation, they frequently start by discrediting the elders. False teachers have a game plan, and for those of us who have seen it in action it is not difficult to recognize.
C. The argument put forth by these false teachers is a very common argument today: We moderns can't believe in the miracles described in the Bible. They are just myths and fables. We need to "demythologize" the Bible if we want to know what it really says.
1. It is interesting that this so-called modern attitude existed all the way back in the first century! Once again, history repeats itself.
2. Peter was dealing with people who were questioning, denying, and distorting the word of God, and such people are around today as well.
D. Peter responds to the criticisms by reminding his readers that what he had told them was not a cunning fable at all. Instead, Peter was an eyewitness of the events that he had described.
E. But why did Peter choose the transfiguration. He was, for example, also an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ and the empty tomb, and of the ascension of Christ, and of countless miracles of Christ. Why choose the transfiguration to make his point?
1. Obviously the transfiguration of Christ was of the utmost importance to the apostle Peter. But I fear that some of that importance is often lost on us today. Let's briefly consider that remarkable event.
2. "Few events recorded in the New Testament offer such a wealth of topics for historical and biblical research as the transfiguration."
F. The transfiguration was a very important event in the life of Peter.
1. Matthew, Mark, and Luke each describe the transfiguration, and each closely link the event with Peter's confession that Jesus is the son of God.
a) Matthew 16:13-16 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
(1) The transfiguration is then described in Matthew 17, the next chapter.
(2) Compare also Luke 9:18-20 and 9:28-36, and compare Mark 8:27-29 and 9:2-9.
b) To understand the transfiguration then we need to start with Jesus' question, "Whom do men say that I am?" There were various answers to that question then, just as there are today.
(1) Many of the Pharisees and Sadducees rejected him altogether. They had called him a blasphemer, a glutton, a drunkard, and even a devil.
(2) Many others ranked Jesus along side the great prophets of the Old and New Testament, such as Elijah, Jeremiah, and John the Baptist.
(3) Peter, however, understood that one much greater than the prophets was among them, or did he?
(a) His answer suggests that he did, and in fact it was upon the truth of that great confession that Jesus promised to build his church.
(b) But Matthew and Mark describe an important event in the life of Peter that occurred between that great confession and the Transfiguration.
(c) Mark 8:31-33 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. 33 But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.
(d) That's quite a change from the great confession! Peter "took" Jesus and began to "rebuke him," and Jesus then rebukes Peter and even refers to him as "Satan." It seems that, for Peter, familiarity had bred contempt. Peter also seemed to have had another modern malady -- he listened to the parts of Jesus' words that he liked, and rejected the parts that he did not like.
(e) It is with this background that we then read about the Transfiguration.
c) About a week after Peter's great confession, Jesus took Peter, James, and John apart to pray. Many believe the high mountain was Mt. Hermon, and several factors seem to indicate that the events took place at night.
d) The first thing that then happened was that Jesus' outward appearance became different, and his clothing became white and gleaming.
(1) Isaiah 53:2 tells us that Jesus as a man had no outward majesty or beauty, but that all changed here when the veil of his humanity was momentarily lifted and his divine glory burst forth. The Greek word for "transfigured" is metamorpheo, from which we get metamorphosis.
(2) Jesus' cloak was probably black with brown or white stripes. Only the very wealthy were able to own a pure white garment because the sheep needed to make such a garment had to be kept completely free from dirt. But Mark tells us that Jesus' cloak became whiter than any bleach could make it.
(3) Matthew tells us that the face of Christ shone like the sun. The same word is used by Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:6 to represent the creation light of the first day.
e) The next thing that happened was that Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus.
(1) Moses and Elijah represented the Law and the Prophets, both of which found their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Both left this world under unusual circumstances, and both are mentioned in the last Old Testament prophetic book, Malachi.
(2) But as great as Moses and Elijah were, they could not in any way be compared Jesus. In fact, their own redemption rested in the future work of Christ on the cross. As Hebrews 3:5-6 point out, Moses was faithful as a servant, but Christ was faithful as a son.
(3) We do not know specifically what was said, but we do know from Luke 9:31 that they discussed Jesus' death. Commentators debate whether this event was intended primarily for the disciples or primarily for Christ. It seems to have had a dual purpose.
f) The next thing that happened was that Peter opened his mouth and inserted his foot.
(1) Not unusually, it appears that the disciples had been sleeping while Jesus prayed. Perhaps they were awakened by the bright light. Did they perhaps nearly sleep through the entire event?
(2) They awake dazed and groggy, and Peter follows his usual course of action -- don't just stand there, say something!
(3) He may have been trying to prolong the moment because the text suggests he spoke just as Moses and Elijah were about to leave. Perhaps he wanted to build booths or tents so that they would stay the night.
(4) But his remark immediately prompted yet another divine rebuke. Why? Because he had placed Jesus on the same level with Moses and Elijah -- on the same level with those he would soon die to save. Peter had forgotten his great confession and had instead placed Jesus along side the prophets just as others had done.
g) The final thing that happens is that God's booming voice proclaims, "This is my Son, my chosen: hear ye him."
(1) And once again Peter is rebuked. In a matter of days, Peter had been rebuked by both God the Father and God the Son. What a week!
(2) God's message was clear: Do not rank Jesus along side mere men, as the multitudes had done a week ago and Peter had done a minute ago. Do not ignore or rebuke Jesus as Peter had done just days before. But see Jesus as He truly is -- the glorious Son of God, the chosen one -- and listen to him. And just for a moment, these three apostles were allowed to see Jesus, not as a man, but as the eternal, everlasting, mighty, glorious God. But even so they no doubt saw only a small fraction of that glory. If they had truly seen Him in all his radiant glory and splendor they no doubt would not have survived the event for no man can see God and live. (Ex. 33:20)
(3) We have here a beautiful fulfillment of Psalm 2.
(a) Psalm 2:6-7 6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. 7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
2. So why does Peter refer to this great event here in his second letter?
a) He uses that event to emphasize the glory of Christ and the authority of Christ. The false teachers he is about to discuss were rejecting both.
b) "Glory" has been called one of the great words in the English language. It is hard to find a single word that can serve as a synonym.
(1) There are more that a dozen Hebrew words translated "glory" in the Old Testament, but the most important one is "kabod." (Ichabod, for example, means no glory.) The word "kabod" means heaviness or weight -- the sort of weight that carries with it dignity and splendor.
(2) The primary Greek word used to translate kabod is doxa. (Doxology [doxa + logos], for example, is speaking praise or glory to God.) In verse 17, Peter calls God the Majestic Glory. Ephesians 3:21 tells us that God receives doxa in the ekklesia -- glory in the church.
(3) One of the greatest proofs of Christ's divinity is that the New Testament attributes to him the divine glory attributed to God the Father in the Old Testament. Paul and James each refer to Jesus as the Lord of Glory.
(4) In Hebrews 1:3, Jesus is said to be the reflected brightness of the divine glory. Peter was an eye witness of that glory.
(5) And before his death, Jesus prayed in John 17:5, "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." And in verse 24, he prayed "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me."
(6) Peter had seen that glory and he reminded his readers here about the glory of Jesus Christ. Why? Because they had forgotten. Perhaps, as it had once been with Peter, familiarity was taking its toll.
(7) Do we perhaps need to be reminded of the glory of Jesus Christ? Has he become too familiar to us? Have the t-shirt slogans, the gaudy trinkets, the empty songs, the best-selling novels and DVDs, and the endless blasphemy piped into our homes taken their toll in our lives? Do we also need to be reminded of what happened long ago on that mount of Transfiguration? Do we perhaps need to be reminded about the glory of Christ?
c) Peter's readers also needed to be reminded of something else -- the authority of Christ.
(1) God's words on the mount must have still been ringing in Peter's ears -- Hear ye Him!
(2) Some in Peter's day were rewriting the events of the Bible and were disregarding the words of Christ -- and once again the same is true today.
(3) There is one hope for the world and only one hope for the world. It is not politics; it is not technology; it is not medical science; it is not cloning; it is not outer space. The one and only hope for the world is to listen to Jesus Christ, the son of God. He has all authority in Heaven and on earth, and there is no other name by which we must be saved. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by him. Here ye him!
III. (Verses 19-21) We have also a more sure word of prophecy; 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: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
A. There is a phrase in verse 19 that is hotly debated by commentators -- what is the "more sure word" of prophecy?
1. The ASV has "the word of prophecy made more sure." The NKJV has "the prophetic word confirmed."
2. The word "made" found in many versions is not found in the Greek, which literally reads "we have more certain the prophetic word."
3. What is Peter saying? Some argue that he is saying that the transfiguration is made "more certain" by the Old Testament, and others argue that the Old Testament is made "more certain" by the transfiguration.
4. What we know with certainty is that the authority of God's word has not changed. No part of God's word can be made "more certain" because it is all already 100% certain. But even that which is 100% certain can receive further confirmation, and I think that is what Peter is saying here. The word of the prophets about Jesus was confirmed by the transfiguration, and as we have just seen that was a primary motivation behind the transfiguration -- to confirm Jesus' divinity and the truth of Peter's great confession.
B. Peter's experience on that hilltop confirmed all of the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus. God spoke about Jesus through the Old Testament prophets, but he also spoke about Jesus on that hilltop, confirming what he said before in the prophets.
C. Peter gives us two reasons in verse 19 why we should pay heed to the Old Testament.
1. First, it is a light shining in a dark place.
a) There is, of course, here also an allusion back to the transfiguration, in which Jesus was a light shining in a dark place.
b) But the Bible is also described as a light. (Psalm 119:105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.)
c) The Greek word used to describe the "dark place" refers to the squalor and gloom of a dungeon. It is into this type of darkness that the word of God shines as a light.
2. Second, the prophets serve as a guide "until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts."
a) The day dawning is most likely the preaching of the gospel, because we obtain the promised Old Testament blessings when we obey the gospel.
b) Another view is that the day dawning is the final day of judgment when Jesus will come again to judge the world and gather the saints. This may very well be the correct view because it is on that great day that our faith will be replaced by sight and we will no longer need a guide.
c) The day star is certainly the Messiah, and recalls Numbers 24:17.
(1) Numbers 24:17 "there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel"
(2) The prophet who said that was Balaam, who you may recall later had a chat with his donkey.
(3) This allusion is particularly interesting because Peter has a few very pointed words to say about Balaam later in 2:15-16!
D. There is another phrase in verse 20 that is also hotly debated -- what is the "private interpretation"?
1. Some translations have the "prophet's own interpretation," but the Greek word for "prophet's" is not in verse 20.
2. The question is whether Peter is discussing the prophets' own interpretation of their writings, or rather is he discussing the contemporary reader's interpretation.
3. Many commentaries and translations adopt the former view, but I think the context almost certainly demands that we adopt the second view -- that Peter is discussing the reader's interpretation. Why is that the better view?
a) Peter is about to discuss false teachers who were distorting the word of God with their own "private interpretations." In particular, these false teachers were deviating from the interpretations that had been provided by the inspired authors of the New Testament. The New Testament is always the best and surest commentary on the Old Testament, and the New Testament writings were being rejected by these false teachers.
b) The other view would have Peter describing the prophet's interpretations of their own writings. Sometimes those interpretations appear in the Bible and hence are themselves inspired, but not every prophecy in the Old Testament is accompanied by an inspired interpretation. In fact, Peter's first letter described prophets who "enquired and searched diligently" in their own prophecies to determine their proper interpretation. Peter deals with the origin of the prophecies in verse 21, but I don't think he is doing so in verse 20.
4. If this view is correct, then once again we have an example of history repeating itself. There is a movement today teaching that all interpretations are private interpretations, and that no private interpretation is better than any other.
a) Hermeneutics is the science of interpretation. You may have heard some discussion of what has come to be called the New Hermeneutic, which is a supposed new way of interpreting scripture advocated by some, particularly in academic circles. Here is how one author describes it:
(1) A few professors have gone beyond criticizing the great works of Western literature, arguing that the English language itself conveys a cultural, political, and gender prejudice. The school of thought called "deconstruction" holds the view "that language is always so compromised by metaphor and ulterior motives that a text never means what it appears to mean."
(2) Some of the core beliefs of those who adhere to the deconstructionist school are: (1) language itself is contradictory, if not empty; (2) meaning does not reside in a text or in an author's intent but in a reader's response; (3) the reader is the equal of, and perhaps superior to, the author.
(3) "Deconstruction" is a convenient framework for those with a political agenda. When words no longer have any meaning, anything goes. Many of today's professors take these notions seriously, teaching them to their students. (Remember what we said a moment ago about warning future generations?)
b) But the New Hermeneutic is anything but new! Peter was battling it in verse 20. His message in that verse and the next can be summed up with a simple sentence that I used to tell my own students -- there is a correct answer! And the converse is true as well, there are incorrect answers. And what is the message of verse 21? When it comes to the word of God, it is not we who determine what is correct and what is not. We don't get to grade our own work!
c) You might wonder who could possibly believe that the reader determines the meaning of a text. But isn't that what is being suggested when someone says "what is true for you is not true for me"? You don't have to travel too far down the road to find preachers saying that if you read the Bible and think baptism is essential for salvation then it is essential for you, but if someone else reads the Bible and determines baptism is not essential, then it is not essential for that person. What is that if it is not an example of the reader (rather than the author) determining the meaning of the text. That sounds like a private interpretation to me.
d) These people will also tell you that language is empty. If you ever hear someone denigrating the power of the spoken or written word, you can know for certain that person is not on God's side. God speaks to us with the written word, and his plan for mankind requires our spoken proclamation of that written word. God's word is powerful, relevant, and effective. Jesus Christ is called the word made flesh. In a world mesmerized by moving images, it is easy to forget the importance and centrality of words to the plan of God, but we must never forget it.
e) We live in an inarticulate society that is rapidly descending into an Orwellian nightmare of Newspeak. If you doubt it, pick up a book of political speeches from a 100 years ago and compare it with what we hear today in our world of 30 second sound bites. Eloquent we are not. But we need to be eloquent because it is with words that we proclaim the gospel and persuade men to obey it.
f) The worst thing that can happen to a society is to have a famine for the word of God -- and I fear we are living in the midst of such a famine. We are surrounded by starving people, and we have the bread of life, which is the word of God.
g) Again, if you ever hear anyone belittling the power of words to convey meaning, then you can know with certainty that person is not on the side of God.
E. Finally, verse 21 tells us a great deal about the inspiration of the Bible, but let's focus on one important truth from that verse -- the word of God is just that -- the word of God -- it did not arise from the will of man.
1. This book we hold in our hands is the connection between this world and the next. It is the connection between the physical world and the unseen, spiritual world. We should thank God everyday that we have his word, and we should pray everyday that God's word will work effectively in our lives.
2. 1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
3. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
God's Plan of Salvation
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)