The Bible has been used by God to convert people for thousands of years. It makes people tremble and at the same time emboldened by its words. Yes words! Not just paragraphs, sentences, clauses and phrases. And it makes people cry and leap for joy. The Scripture forever changes people, and they will never be the same again. Some were converted by a passage like Romans 1:17(Martin Luther), or Romans 13:13-14(Augustine), or perhaps 1 Timothy 1:17(Jonathan Edwards).
Augustine sat weeping in the garden of his friend Alypius, and as he sat he heard a child singing in Latin from a neighbouring house, “Tolle, lege! Tolle, lege!” (“Take up and read! Take up and read!”). Thinking that it’s a word from the Lord, he picked up a scroll and there he read Romans 13:13. Then he was forever changed by God. He’s converted.
Martin Luther once said:
“Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that “the just shall live by his faith.” Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. (Here I Stand, p. 49)”
That’s remarkable! He saw the grammar and logic of the text then he was born again.
For Jonathan Edwards he saw beauty and sweetness and sense of glory:
“The first instance, that I remember, of that sort of inward, sweet delight in God and divine things, that I have lived much in since, was on reading these words, 1 Tim. 1:17, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” As I read the words, there came into my soul . . . a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense quite different from anything I ever experienced before. Never any words of Scripture seemed to me as these words did. (Works, vol. 1, p. xii)”
So time and time again, in different regions of the world, God used his word to make people new. But why is it that the word of God had this impact on people? We will see the answer to this question from 2 Peter 1:20-21.
20 Above all [you do well by] knowing this, that no prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, 21 because no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
Verse 20 begins with a clause that is dependent on the main verb from verse 19b. That is, the participle “knowing” is functioning as the condition or even the means by which we “do well”. I think NET got it right when they translated verse 20 this way: “Above all, you do well if you recognize this.” Here, Peter gives emphasis on what follows, namely that no prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophetʼs own imagination. For Peter, if we are to do well, we ought to pay attention to this great reality. Many have come claiming to be experts in God’s word but failed to abide or even recognise this doctrine of divine authorship of scriptures. Now you might say “I’m not that person. I believe the Scripture to be the word of God. ” But I will ask you this, do you read, and pay close attention to its every word? Do you cherish it? Do you obey and apply it to your life? If indeed the Bible is the word of God, and yes it is, we ought not only pay attention to the words of scripture, but also its grammar, logic and beauty, majesty and we will prioritize the study and meditation of it.
Now most literal or formal Bible translations rendered the last part of verse 20 this way: “no prophecy of scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation” or “private interpretation.” And so, many preachers and scholars assume that this text is talking about the correct interpretation of Scriptures. Commentators read into this text that some have misinterpreted God’s word because they lack the Holy Spirit’s illumination. This reading of course ignores Peter’s flow of thought. The fact that authority is being asserted in verses 12-18 strongly suggests that such authority was denied by some. So to address this issue of authority, Peter appealed to the origin of the prophecies of Scripture. It never comes about by the prophet’s own imagination. Meaning, the words of prophecy are not ultimately his. He did not invent it. It comes from outside himself. Therefore the issue here is not interpretation, but origin and authority.
Then Peter further explained that no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man. The Scripture(specifically prophecies) is in some sense so anti-human that it would be inconceivable that human impulses were ultimately behind it. It is very counter intuitive to think that the words of scripture are just myths and fairy tales concocted only to deceive people as some have accused the apostles of doing(verse 16). The intuition of man is not to condemn himself, not to say things about himself that would shame him. The radical depravity of man will not allow men to invent such writings.
Now the last two clauses of verse 21 tell us the how and where of scripture.
First is how did the words of prophecies come about? The participle “being moved” is the means by which the second clause will come about. Meaning, they spoke because the Spirit moved them. Or to put it another way, the moving of the Spirit resulted in their speaking. This doesn’t mean that the authors of scriptures are automatons, without wills and personalities. The greek verb here literally means “carried along”. Like that of a sail being carried along by the wind. The crew’s and the captain’s wills remain intact as they follow the blow of the wind. They cannot change how the wind blows, nevertheless they are indispensable secondary agents by which the ship will sail.
Second is where does the words of prophecy coming from? Where does it originate? The last clause of verse 21 tells us. Being carried along by the Spirit, they spoke from God. As a result of the Spirit’s moving, the words they have spoken all came from God. Yes these are men, but ultimately the words they spoke were from God. The prophets of the Old Testament and by extension the Apostolic writings of the New Testament were but channels of God’s word. God is the source, the word of God is the water and the human authors were the hose. Which means when you read the Scripture, you are hearing the very words of God. Not only that, we are given a glimpse into the mind of God, his arguments, his logic, his thinking, and his wisdom. That’s not all, we are also given a front row seat into the very heart of God. It tells us how he hate sin and all that is oppose to him, and how he love righteousness, his Son and us sinners.
Indeed to behold the word of God is to behold God himself because it is his self-revelation to us. If you tell me that you believe in the doctrine of verbal and plenary inspiration of the 66 books of the Bible, and yet you don’t give time to read, study, meditate on and obey it, I doubt that you really understand the implications of that great truth. Whenever we neglect God’s word, practically what we’re saying is that these are just words of men and it doesn’t have any hold on me. But if we really believe this truth, we will be held captive by it.
Martin Luther, because God revealed the gospel to him through a very simple conjunction and preposition in Romans 1:17, years later he said in the Diet of Worms: “Unless I am convinced by sacred Scripture or by evident reason, I cannot recant because my conscience is held captive by the Word of God, and to act against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. God help me. I can do no other.”
Do we really believe the Bible as the word of God, that we are willing to say we can do no other but to preach and obey it? Brethren hold on to this great truth and be changed by it.