Tag Archives: Peter

God Is Only Bound By God

Yesterday, while thinking about several things, my mind shifted to focus on my reaction to situations and how often I’ve witnessed the same reaction is in others. All Christians have hard times. If anyone ever told you that being a Christian meant never suffering, or never facing difficulty then they lied to you. If anyone is telling you that all you must do is claim the good results you want and they will magically be yours, I would ask them, “Then why didn’t Peter claim his deliverance from the cross upon which he died?” “Why didn’t Paul respond to his own hunger and thirst, referred to in 1 Cor 4:11, with such a claim of guaranteed abundance?” This idea that we can just claim our deliverance or our blessings is based on the same weakness that causes us ask, “God, why don’t you do something about this?”

I, like many others, found myself asking God that very question. We have recently faced some difficult burdens which have been quite hard and have left us in a state of being unsure about what the future holds. I found myself asking God why he didn’t do something about it. At that moment, a thought sparked. I realized where such questions come from. Questions about God in such things come from an assumption that we deserve his response—that something within us makes us worthy of God’s immediate attention to our current need. We, like Job, find ourselves believing God to be unjust in not acting on our behalf (Job 34:5). Of course, most of us are not bold enough to flat out accuse God, so we do the passive aggressive prayer, “God, why don’t you do something about this?”

I was guilty of assuming I deserved God’s intervention. Even if God chooses to let me go all the way through the most horrible of experiences, this does not make him unjust because no matter how horrible, I deserve fully anything God allows into my life. If it is to die, then I deserve death. If it is allowed for me to face financial ruin, then I deserve financial ruin. If it is to face persecution, then I deserve persecution (These are examples only, so please do not try to read into them what my family and I have been facing). The problem is that we see ourselves as far more deserving than we are. We are so used to claiming and defending our rights that we forget we have no such rights before God. God, as the author of our rights and as the one in whose image we are made, has full and unrestrained sovereignty in our lives. We can deserve nothing before him, because such would make us sovereign in that circumstance. The only thing that limits God, or binds him to any course of action, is his own nature. So long as his actions—in permitting, or stopping—does not violate his own nature, then his actions are appropriate and we are best to say, “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” (Job 2:10b NIV).

Does this mean we must stoically accept whatever comes from God and never question or plead with him? Well, if we take our lead from the Psalms of David, “the man after God’s own heart,” we know better. Just as David poured out his heart before God, and on occasion vented his spleen. Such is natural, and can be cathartic. It is often in such times, when I find myself venting at God, that he seems to sooth me with the “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12 KJV). However, this does not change the fact that demands for God to act show more about us than about him. They show that, at that moment, we presume to demand something from God, that some fact about us or our lives gives us leverage to force his hand. Such feelings show that we still place ourselves upon the throne—we seek the place of God. Such feelings show how much we (me included) still need to be transformed. Perhaps that is part of what inspires our suffering.

Do I deserve to have God act on my behalf? Absolutely not! Do I (in and of myself and based upon my own qualities) deserve anything good from God? Again, no! But this is not something to mourn. It should inspire us to celebrate how much he does for us. We can trust him, because of who he is. We can trust him to keep his promises, not because we deserve what was promised, but because he chose to promise and, in that way, bound himself to a course of action—sovereignly.

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Interpretation or Application

2 Peter 1:20 can be confusing at times. In the NIV, it says, “[…] no prophecy of scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation.” The LEB says, “[…] that every prophecy of scripture does not come about from one’s own interpretation.”

What does this mean? It ties closely back to what Peter says earlier about not following clever myths but being eyewitnesses (2 Peter 1:16). The revelation he spoke about was their experience of God speaking on the mountain. In verse 19 he goes on to say “we have the word of the prophets made more sure.” This experience verified the words of the prophets and their experience was itself a revelation from God.

It is from here that he makes his statement about prophecy. Peter is saying the experience of the apostles verified and supported the words of the prophets. They did not just make up stories. Neither did they twist and abuse the Old Testament prophecy to make it say what they wanted it to say. Many people twist the words of scripture to say what they want it to say. This is not proper behavior because the words of scripture were not given to say whatever you want. Peter goes on in verse 21 to say prophecy originated in the will of God, rather than the will of man. The important consideration is not what I want the scripture to say, but what God meant for it to say. It is not my meaning or interpretation that matters, but God’s intent. Prophecy is how God chooses to speak, and our responsibility is to handle it properly and seek understanding of what God actually says. We are to look for God’s meaning behind the words, not use them to hide our own intentions in a scriptural smoke screen and present the resulting illusion as revelation from God.

This thought continues into the next chapter of Second Peter. Keep in mind, the chapter and verse divisions were added centuries after the actual words were written. Don’t see them with any authority. Chapter 2 verse 1 gives us the counter to those who properly handle the words of prophecy. Peter says that he and the other witnesses to Christ were properly handling the prophecies. But; just as in the past there were false prophets who, rather than speaking for God, spoke their own words for their own intentions; false teachers would rise up in the church misusing the words of the Old Testament and the early Christian writers to introduce and support heresies. He even gives an example of one such heresy: “even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them.”

In a conversation years ago about something from scripture, a woman said, “There are many interpretations of scripture. It can be made to say anything you want it to say.” Actually, she was quite wrong, but still managed to strike upon the biggest problem we have in the church. There is only one interpretation—the right one, intended by the divine author. Proper exegesis involves seeking that single true interpretation. From this single interpretation, there may be applications. In each of our lives, the words of scripture will apply in any number of ways. A passage applied a certain way in my life may need to be applied in a very different way to your life. So long as these applications are based upon a proper interpretation they are acceptable. Unfortunately, we too often mistake the application for the interpretation. We try to make the way it applies in my life normative for all Christians. This too often leads to legalism. Seek the meaning of the author of scripture. Then look for how to apply that to your own situation and life.

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