Vol. 10 — No. 6 February 9, 1969


In Him Dwelleth All the Fullness of the Godhead Bodily!

2 Peter 1:16-21

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. 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. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. 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: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 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.

In Christ Jesus, who is “God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God,” Fellow Redeemed:

“What think ye of Christ?” That is what we call a Christological question, that is, a question concerning the person of Christ. Our Lord asked that question on the last great day of His testifying in the temple. He received the answer, “The son of David.” Jesus then asked a second question, namely, how David could call his own Son his Lord? He received no answer and was asked no Further questions. The question implied that the promised Christ was to be both the son of David and David’s Lord, that He would be both human and divine. That is precisely what Jesus was and is— the Son of man and the Son of God, true man and true God, the God-man.

The Lord Jesus considered the question of His true identity, of His person, to be of utmost importance. On one occasion He had asked His disciples, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” They answered by giving him all the current popular opinions that reflected the belief that Jesus was indeed a great man. Then Jesus directed His question specifically to His disciples, “But whom say ye that I am?” Peter answered for Himself and for the other disciples, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” For Peter and the disciples Jesus was more than man. He was indeed the very Son of the living God. This answer brought forth a response of blessing from Jesus: “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heavena” Matt. 16:13-17. It is obvious that the question of His identity and an understanding and confession of His divinity was of utmost importance to the Lord Jesus.

It should also be for us, for if Jesus be not true God, the one only-begotten Son of God, then we have no Savior From sin, from death, and from the power of the devil. But the modern church is quite unconcerned about this question of our Lord’s deity, as it is about any question of doctrine. All such questions of doctrine are today believed to be irrelevant to modern conditions and to modern man. Today the cry is for action by the church in the social issues and problems of the day. But this discarding of doctrine and clamor for social action on the part of the churches does not and cannot erase from the pages of Holy Writ these questions of our Lord: “What think ye of Christ?” and “Whom say ye that I am?” Those questions are directed towards us. We would answer with words from St. Paul which are supported by words of St. Peter in our text:


I. So the disciples beheld with their own eyes.

In this second epistle Peter emphasized the coming of our Lord again in all power and glory and majesty. But he appears to have been accused of just making all this up. He disavows that implication, saying, “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.” What the King James translates as “cunningly devised fables” can be more literally translated as “sophisticated myths.” The word “sophisticated” has a tinge of counterfeit, of falsehood, of make-belief in it. Peter is saying that when he speaks of the “power and coming” of the Lord, he isn’t spinning these ideas out of his head. He isn’t making them up. He isn’t passing them off as some special brand of wisdom, some kind of “inside dope or information.” Quite to the contrary! He states that the other apostles and he were eyewitnesses of the Lord’s majesty. Peter and the others had witnessed the healing of the lepers, the healing of the paralytic who had been lowered through the roof of the house, the raising of the youth of Main, the daughter of Jairus and Lazarus. They had seen the Lord who had died and had risen again on the third day.

But one event stood out especially in his mind. That event was the transfiguration of our Lord. Peter had been there on the mount, together with James and John, when Jesus had “received from God the Father honour and glory.” That was the occasion when the Lord’s “face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.” Matt. 17:2. On that same occasion Moses, who had died and been revived and taken bodily to heaven, and Elijah, who had never died but had been taken to heaven bodily, appeared with Jesus. Peter had been there. He had seen it all with his own eyes. This was not a display of human glory, as the president experiences on the day of his inauguration or as a king on the day of his coronation. No, this was divine glory and majesty, befitting one who is God. It was glory that belonged to Jesus because “in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”

II. So the Father testified from heaven.

Peter and James and John had not only seen, but they had also heard. They had seen majesty and they had heard a voice of divine majesty that befitted the glory that they were beholding. They heard the voice of God the Father. What was His testimony on this historic occasion? These words: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The Father acknowledged Jesus as His own Son. He called Jesus His “beloved” Son. Why was He especially the “beloved” Son? On the mount of transfiguration Jesus had been talking about His “decease” with Moses and Elijah. The subject of conversation was His coming suffering and death. Jesus was determined to go through with it all because it was necessary for the redemption of mankind. Sin had brought death into the world as its penalty. That penalty had to be suffered by God’s Son if man were to be freed from the wages of sin. Because His Son was willing to be made a curse for fallen mankind, because He was willing to take mankind’s place and suffer the pangs of hell and die, God the Father called His Son “beloved.” So He had testified at the beginning of His ministry immediately after His baptism. So He testified on the mount of transfiguration. And so He testified again shortly before the passion began, as recorded by St. John (l2:23).

God the Father acknowledged Jesus of Nazareth as His Son. One adjective that Scriptures uses sets Jesus apart from all other sons of God— the adjective “only-begotten,” All believers on the Lord Jesus Christ are through that faith sons of God, “for ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Gal. 3:26. But only Jesus is the “only-begotten” Son of God—“Begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made, Being of one substance with the Father,” as we confess in the words of the Nicene Creed. Jesus is not the foremost of all the sons of God, but He is in a class by Himself as the “only-begotten” of the Father. He is God Himself. So the Father testified. So the prophets of old and the apostles and evangelists testified. So the Church of every age has testified. And so we confess and believe, for “I believe that Jesus Christ is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary; and that He is my Lord…”

III. So the Holy Ghost continues to testify in the Word.

Peter had seen the Lord in glory and majesty. He had heard the glorious and majestic voice of the Father. That surely was enough to convince him and the others of the fact that the Lord Jesus is true God and that He shall come again in glory. But he had something more: “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.” Peter is talking of the Bible, part of which had been written by the prophets of old and part of which was being written by the apostles and evangelists. He calls the Bible a “more sure word of prophecy.” He speaks of it as “a light that shineth in a dark place.” That dark and dismal place is the heresies of perdition, the rebelling against the Lord’s standard of conduct, the denying of the Lord, the speaking evil of the truth—all of which Peter warns against in this letter. The Bible is as a light shining into such dark places, revealing truth, exposing error and falsehood, guiding in the paths of righteousness.

Peter continues with his description of the Word, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” This is generally understood as expressing the thought that no individual has the right to make his private interpretation of the Scripture, but rather that the Scripture must and does interpret itself. This is perfectly true, but this is not the point that Peter is making here. He is speaking of the origin of the Scriptures. How did it come about that the men, who wrote the books of the Bible, wrote what they did? Peter is disavowing the idea that the writers of the Bible had their own pet ideas and then wrote in such a way that these ideas would find expression in their words. Remember that he was writing about the second coming of the Lord in glory. This is not an idea or a wish that he had and that he then expressed in his own words which he passed off as having come from the Lord. No, for no prophecy of Scripture occurs or originates from one’s own interpretation of anything, “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.” The Spirit of God suggested to the holy men what they were to write. They were not at liberty to write whatever came into their own minds and whatever they would like to write about. The Spirit of God also carried them along as they wrote, so that what they wrote, down to every single word, was exactly what the Spirit of God wanted them to write.

When Peter wrote of the “power and coming” of the Lord, he wasn’t expressing his personal opinions about the person of Jesus and His future. No, he was writing under the influence and guidance of the Holy Spirit, recording what the Holy Ghost wanted testified concerning Jesus for all ages to read and learn and believe, namely, that He would indeed come again, for “in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”

IV. So He shall appear on the last day.

This is the main point of Peter’s epistle—the Lord whom we saw in majesty walk this earth and whom we saw in glory on the mount shall come again in great glory. This glorious truth his readers should cling to. To this glorious truth Peter would also have us cling. The Spirit of God moved Peter to write a special word for us, “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” We’re living in those days. That the Lord Jesus, who died on the cross almost two thousand years ago shall come again in glory is mocked and ridiculed by most. But Peter warns us, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward.” His delay is not caused by His inability to return but by His longsuffering. He’s still giving us and all men time and opportunity to repent and come to faith. Today again His mercy calls us. Today again we are being urged not to delay embracing Him and holding Him fast in faith. He shall indeed come and when He comes, “the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.”

Let us be prepared and waiting. Let us humbly confess our Lord Jesus as God’s Son and our only Savior. Let us live in faith, carrying about with us His grace. Let us be unashamed of Him so that He will be unashamed of us. Let us confess Him so that He will confess us on that great last day. Amen.

—Pastor Paul F. Nolting

Preached January 26, 1969
Holy Trinity Independent
Evangelical Lutheran Church
West Columbia, South Carolina

Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.