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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, February 4, 2001

"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" (II Peter 1:21).

Young people are looking for the meaning of life today. Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? These are the great philosophical questions that you face. You will not find the answers to those questions in a university or college. Most schools in the Western world have become so secularized that they no longer deal with the question of the meaning of life. They once did, but the humanism of the Enlightenment drove leading Western scholars to abandon God and the Bible. Instead, they say that you can never know who you are, why you are here, or where you are going. They say all we can study are facts and data – and we must give up the search for truth and the meaning of life.

This view is called "materialism." It underlies almost all of the thought and scholarship of the last one hundred years. But the twentieth century produced what the poet T. S. Eliot called "men without chests." He meant people with no emotion – no love or hate, no strongly held opinions or beliefs. And that largely characterized my generation – the silent generation – people between the ages of 57 and 77. We are "the silent generation," men "without chests," without strong feelings, without a sure knowledge of what is right and wrong.

Young people look to us for answers – but we don’t have any. We sit "silently" – watching television. We don’t give our views strongly and we don’t guide the next generation. We don’t lead you. We give an introverted little smile and let you do what you want – without our opinion.

Our nation has "men without chests" in high places of leadership today. They are gray, silent, rudderless men without much personality or strength of character. Oh, don’t get me wrong – some are very good men, like Vice President Dick Cheney (the quintessential "silent"), Colin Powell, Dennis Hastert, or Trent Lott. They do their jobs efficiently. They mind their own business. They leave you alone to do whatever you want. You can’t imagine them expressing a strong opinion about things that matter.

And that leaves a young person like you with no one to turn to for the answers you need! Where will you turn to find out

Who am I?                                                     
    Why am I here?                                               
       Where am I going?

God knows you need those answers. God knows the older generation has let you down, has not led you, has not given you the guidance you deserve.

But God does not want you to remain in the dark. God gave you the Bible to show you the answers to life’s greatest questions. God did not want to leave you in darkness and ignorance. That is why He gave you the Bible. God gave you the Bible to reveal to you the answers you need to live a meaningful life. The Bible is God’s revelation of truth. Notice II Peter 1:19. Here God says that the Bible is "a light that shineth in a dark place." The Bible sheds light on dark subjects. The Bible gives the answers you need.

Now it was necessary for God to give His revelation, the Bible, for several reasons. Theologian Charles Hodge listed five reasons God’s revelation, the Bible, needed to be given:

1.  Because every man feels he needs it. Everyone knows there are questions concerning the origin, nature, and destiny of man, concerning sin and pardon, questions he cannot answer. So long as these questions are not answered, people cannot be good or happy. Don’t you feel the need for God to show you the meaning of life? Of course you do. And that is why God gave the Bible – to reveal answers you could not find anywhere else.

2.  Hodge points out, secondly, that each person is certain that no other human being has all the answers. People know intuitively that there are questions that relate to matters beyond the reach of human reason. Don’t you sometimes feel that way? There are some things no human being can explain. That’s why God had to give the answers in the Bible!

3.  Even if philosophers could answer these questions to their own satisfaction, what about the rest of us? The mass of mankind has neither the time nor the energy to study the fine points of philosophy. Isn’t it right that God should provide a simple story book to explain to common people the great questions of life? Of course it is. And that’s essentially what the Bible is. It is a book of simple stories. Man sinning in the Garden of Eden. Noah and a world gone wrong. The Tower of Babel and the confusion of human languages. The story of Abraham. The story of Isaac. The story of Jacob. The story of Joseph and his brothers. Moses leading his people out of Egypt. The story of the Jews wandering in the wilderness. The conquest of Canaan. The story of Jesus’ birth. The story of Jesus’ ministry. The parables (or stories) Jesus told. The story of His death, burial, and resurrection. The story of the Second Coming, told so graphically in the Book of Revelation. Stories. Stories. Stories. All of them true. Given throughout the Bible so that the average person could discover the meaning of life.

4.  But Hodge lists a fourth reason that God gave the Bible: the experience of the ages proves that the world cannot find God by their own wisdom. The heathen nations, ancient and modern, civilized and savage, have without exception failed to find God or solve mankind’s problems on their own.

5.  Even where people have the Bible, those who reject it are led to adopt principles which destroy the home, society and individual happiness. The humanism of the last century produced Hitler’s holocaust, Stalin’s massacre of millions, Mao Tse Tung’s slave society and the murder of 38 million children in America in the last 28 years. The ignorance and stupidity of mankind makes it necessary for God to reveal His truth. The Bible is "a light that shineth in a dark place" (II Peter 1:19); (ref. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Hendrickson Publishers, 1999, vol. I, pp. 36-37).

As the old hymn puts it:

Holy Bible, book divine,
   Precious treasure, thou art mine;
Mine to tell me whence I came;
   Mine to teach me what I am;

Mine to tell of joys to come,
   And the rebel sinner’s doom;
O thou holy book divine,
   Precious treasure, thou art mine.
("Holy Bible, Book Divine"
      by John Burton, 1773-1822)

Now, I cannot think of a better verse to explain the nature of the Bible than our text this morning:

"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" (II Peter 1:21).

I will show from this text:

1.  What the Bible is

2.  How the Bible was given

3.  Why the Bible was given

I. What the Bible is – "spake"

Our text says, "holy men of God spake…" Dr. Peter Ruckman, and Ruckmanites in general, will tell you that this refers to "preaching." They’ll say, "Why, it cannot be talking about the Bible. It’s talking about a man speaking." But, as D. L. Moody said, "The Bible sheds a great deal of light on the commentaries." Ruckman’s commentaries are corrected by verse 20, which says,

"Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture…" (II Peter 1:20).

Our text says, in the very next verse, "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake…" This can only mean, in context, that Peter is referring to the Bible, not to preaching. He is speaking of the "prophecy of Scripture." And he is telling us that the prophets and apostles "spoke" out these Scriptures. That is what Jeremiah did. He dictated the Scriptures as God gave them to him, and his secretary Baruch wrote down the words he dictated, as God gave them. Baruch said:

"He pronounced all these words unto me with his mouth, and I wrote them with ink in the book" (Jeremiah 36:18).

The apostle Paul also dictated most of his epistles. They were written down by another man as Paul spoke the words God gave him. The Scofield note on Galatians 6:11 says:

The apostle was, it appears from many considerations, afflicted with ophthalmia…almost to the point of total blindness (e.g. Galatians 4:13-15). Ordinarily, therefore, he dictated his letters…

When our text says, "holy men of God spake," it refers to them often literally dictating the words of the Bible as God gave them.

I am not a Calvinist, but John Calvin’s comments on this passage are full of insight:

Peter says that Scripture came not from man, or through the suggestions of man…Understand by prophecy of Scripture that which is contained in the Holy Scriptures (John Calvin, comment on II Peter 1:20-21).

Dr. J. Vernon McGee gave this explanation of verse twenty-one:

"For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man." Obviously he is referring to Old Testament prophecy. It didn’t come by the will of man. That is, Isaiah, for example, did not sit down saying, "I think I’ll write a book…" The prophecy of Isaiah was not something Isaiah thought up. (J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Volume V, p. 728).

So, Dr. Ruckman and men who believe like him are wrong. The verse isn’t talking about preaching. It is talking about how we got the Bible.

In Hebrews 3:7 we read, "Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice…" This is a quotation from Psalm 95:7-11. Though this was written down by a man, yet Hebrews 3:7 tells us "the Holy Ghost saith." Obviously, these words did not come out of the Holy Spirit’s mouth (for being a Spirit, He has none). It is a metaphor, a figure of speech.

In Acts 1:16 we read, "The Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake…" That makes it clear that the words were given through David in Psalm 41:9. "The mouth of David" here is a metaphor also. It means that these words came through David.

In II Timothy 3:16 we read, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God…" This shows that more than just Psalm 95 and Psalm 41 were given by the inspiration of God’s Spirit. Here, in II Timothy 3:16 we are told that "all Scripture" came this way, from Genesis to Revelation. It is the plenary verbal inspiration of every Hebrew and Greek word of Scripture. It is the words that are inspired, not the ideas, not the thoughts - but the words in Hebrew and Greek! The very words are what were given by inspiration. Jesus said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4).

Evangelical commentator John MacArthur gives the orthodox position on II Timothy 3:16,

It is important to note that inspiration applies only to the original autographs of Scripture, not the Bible writers (MacArthur Study Bible, note on II Timothy 3:16).

Ruckmanites say that this is of no value since we don’t have the autographs, but we never said we did! It is a "red herring," since no one has ever said we had the autographs. We have faithful copies, but not the inspired autographs. Our point is this: God gave the Scriptures to the original writers. The copies of those original documents were not given by God. Also, the translations were not given by God.

So we have seen what the Bible is. It is the words of God, given to men, who wrote down the words God gave them in Hebrew and Greek. That’s what the Bible is. It is the Word of God.

II. How the Bible was given – "moved."

Our text says,

"Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (II Peter 1:21).

Now this word "moved" is very interesting. It is the same Greek word found in Acts 27:17. It is #5342 in Strong’s Concordance. The Greek word is "phero." It means "to bear or carry." In Acts 27:17 we read that Paul was aboard a ship during a storm. The wind blew very hard and they took down the sail "and so were driven." They were carried along by the great wind. This is the way the minds of the writers of the Bible were "carried along." Just as that ship was borne along, or carried along, by the wind, so the minds of the writers of the Bible were carried along, so that the words they wrote or dictated in Hebrew and Greek were the very words of God.

As Ellicott puts it,

Men spoke not out of their own hearts, but as commissioned by God; not "by the will of man," but under the influence of the Holy Spirit (Charles John Ellicott, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Volume VIII, p. 450).

Dr. McGee gave this comment:

"As they were moved by the Holy Ghost" is a delightful figure of speech. The Greek actually portrays the idea of a sailing vessel. The wind gets into those great sails…and moves them along. That is the way the Holy Spirit moved these men… These men who were set apart for the writing of the Scriptures were moved along by the Spirit of God (ibid., p. 729).

That is how the Bible was given.

III. Why the Bible was given

Look at II Peter 1:19,

"We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed (i.e. pay attention), as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts" (II Peter 1:19).

The Bible was given by God to shine His light into the darkness of this world. Calvin says,

In this passage Peter also condemns all the wisdom of men, in order that we may learn humbly to seek, otherwise than by our own understanding, the true way of knowledge; for without the word (the Bible) nothing is left for men but darkness… But it is no wonder that proud men, inflated with the wind of false confidence, do not see that light with which the Lord favors only little children and the humble (note on II Peter 1:19).

I was talking to an elderly philosophy professor at my gym recently. He is a very proud man, and an atheist. He has spent the last thirty years confusing young people in a junior college near my home. His face is filled with anger and rebellion against God as he speaks to me. But once he said, "My life is just about over and I don't have much hope." As Calvin said, such men "do not see that light with which the Lord favors only little children and the humble."

The Bible is the Word of God. But it will not do you any good at all unless you believe it.

The Psalmist wrote:

"The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple" (Psalm 119:130).

But if God’s Word does not enter your heart, it will not help you.

If you think of the Bible as merely the words of men, it will not do you any good. You must say, "This Bible is God’s Word. God gave the Hebrew and Greek words. God moved the minds of the writers, so the very words are from God. I’d better pay attention to what God says in the Bible." If you have that attitude, it will help you to read the Bible. The Apostle Paul said:

"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" (I Thessalonians 2:13).

You must listen to God’s Word if you want to be saved:

"Being born again…by the word of God" (I Peter 1:23).

If you listen and receive God’s Word, you will discover five things:

1.  You are a rebellious sinner. You are actually in rebellion against God in your heart and mind.

2.  You are not able to change yourself inside. You are not a Christian inside your mind and heart,
and you can’t change yourself. You are lost – in sin.

3.  You are condemned by your sins. Nothing you do can remove your condemnation for sin in the
eyes of the Holy God of Scripture.

4.  You must despair of changing yourself or saving yourself.

5.  When you are in complete despair, you must come to Jesus Christ and believe on Him.
He alone can forgive your sins and save you.

The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ died on the Cross to pay for your sins. The Bible teaches that He arose literally and bodily from the dead. He is now alive in Heaven, at the right hand of God. Come, believe, trust in Jesus.

Venture on Him, venture wholly;
Let no other trust intrude:
None but Jesus, none but Jesus,
Can do helpless sinners good.
   ("Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Wretched"
      by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).

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Scripture Read Before Sermon: II Peter 1:15-21.
Solo by Benjamin Kincaid Griffith: "I Know the Bible is True"
by B. B. McKinney (1886-1952)/
"Holy Bible, Book Divine" by John Burton (1773-1822).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

"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" (II Peter 1:21)

I.    What the Bible is – "spake," II Peter 1:20; Jeremiah 36:18;
Hebrews 3:7; Psalm 95:7-11; Acts 1:16; Psalm 41:9;
II Timothy 3:16.

II.   How the Bible was given – "moved," Acts 27:17.

III.  Why the Bible was given, II Peter 1:19; Psalm 119:130;
II Thessalonians 2:13; I Peter 1:23.