12 May 2014

2 Peter 1:19-21

“First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (vv. 20-21)


It's tempting to read this passage grudgingly, as Peter had reminded his readers earlier in this chapter (2 Peter 1:16-18) that he was an eyewitness to God's prophetic Word being confirmed, when Peter and the other disciples heard a voice from heaven saying of Jesus "This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased". That's all very well, we might say, but it's a little harder for the rest of us (who weren't on the spot) to discern when men and women are moved by the Holy Spirit, and when they are one of the "many false prophets" who will try and lead God's people astray, as Jesus warns in Matthew 24:11.

Peter, according to Matthew Henry, is speaking specifically of the "certain truth and divine origin of the gospel of Christ". But even the Gospels don't tally into a factually cohesive account of Jesus' life and ministry - it's impossible to pinpoint the timing of specific events, as each Gospel account tells a slightly different story. This raises fascinating questions about the meaning of truth - Jesus often began his sentences with "very truly I tell you", often when he was speaking metaphorically - see John 3:5: "Jesus answered, 'Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.'" When truth is something wider and greater than literal fact, it seems impossible to read the Bible without using 'one's own interpretation'.

Some prophetic passages of Scripture are cornerstones of faith to some people - at a Methodist Youth Conference many years ago, the organisers gave out slips of paper with verses from the prophets and gaps into which the children and young people could add their own names. Passages like the opening verses of Isaiah 43: "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name, you are mine." Try reading such verses with your own name inserted, remembering that God moves men and women by the Holy Spirit to speak to you.

To Ponder

  • Does the truth always have to be factually and historically accurate? Why?
  • Are there passages of prophesy from the Bible that help you to hear God's voice? What are they? And what kind of "truth" do they contain?

Bible notes author

Naomi Oates

Naomi Oates has worked for the Connexional Team in a variety of guises since 2012, currently as the Executive Officer to the Secretary of the Conference. She is also training part-time for presbyteral ministry.