And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2Pet. 1:19-21).
Two thousand years of history has been both a blessing and a curse for the church of Christ, for while those years have afforded for the church godly men who have in divine wisdom rightly applied the Word of Truth for the edification of the church, it also has afforded the church in that time false doctrines and traditions that have remained in many parts of the church to this day. And though traditions are not evil in and of themselves, traditions, when they are given equal or more weight than the Scriptures, become an obstacle to the church and destroy it from within.
For we have an extremely sly Adversary, for he does not act in ways that are obvious to us, but he disguises himself as an angel of light and manifests himself in false teachers who, as the apostle Peter warns, secretly bring heresies into the church to sway the people of God to deny their Lord (2Pet. 2:1). And these heresies are cunning indeed, for they do not cast out the name of Christ, but they twist and distort the Gospel of our Lord so as to make it something that it is not. And just as the Jews who had professed Christ in the Galatian church attempted to sway the church to add the work of circumcision to the Gospel of our Lord and thereby made it a false gospel, so too do many today take that which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and twist them as the serpent twisted the Word of God proclaimed to Eve so as to make those who profess the Lord turn away from him to a different gospel.
And though this can be evinced in church history at various times and most obviously in the Catholic distortion of the Gospel, my purpose is not to evaluate the history of false doctrines and traditions that have been established throughout the years of the church, but to reaffirm that which can be established from the Scriptures, namely that the Scriptures alone are the basis for right doctrine. Everything that is taught by any man, no matter the title or the authority that some church has given him, must be tried against the testimony of the Scriptures alone, and if that which is taught does not accord with the doctrines of Scripture, that teacher is a false teacher who is heaping upon himself the promise of destruction. The people of God must therefore be vigilant like the saints at Berea, testing all teachings by examining the Scriptures to determine if they are true (cf. Acts 17:11). For if the apostle Paul was legitimately subjected to such scrutiny, how much more are those who do not have the same high calling as the apostle subject to it.
Concerning the preeminence of the Scriptures for sound doctrine and reproof, there are few better cases given than that of the apostle Peter. And it is fitting for Peter, being the chief among the apostles, to give such a case, for though he was granted that position by Christ, he gave no doubt as to his high regard for the Word of God. For though he testifies that he was an eyewitness to such marvelous revelations as the Father’s voice of commendation at the baptism of Christ and Christ’s transfiguration on the mountain, he writes, “We have something more sure [than these manifestations], the prophetic word” (2Pet. 1:19). And lest the apostle’s meaning be misunderstood, he is declaring that the Scriptures are a more sure declaration than the voice of the Father at Christ’s baptism and at his transfiguration. This is an outstanding claim by the apostle, and it testifies to the high regard with which he holds the Holy Scriptures. For though the apostle had seen glorious revelations that no man on this side of eternity will ever see, he says that those revelations are in some way a lesser revelation than the that of the Scriptures.
How can the apostle make such a claim about the Scriptures? He is able to make that claim because the Scriptures are the spoken Word of God himself. They do not merely contain the words of God, but they are his Word in their entirety. For he writes, “For no prophecy [of Scripture] was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (v. 1:21). This notion of men being carried along by the Spirit of God as they spoke is same as when the apostle Paul says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2Tim. 3:16). Therefore, since the Scriptures are the perfect revelation of God to men through the work of the Holy Spirit of God, they are the greatest revelation of God to men, and therefore everything must be tested against this revelation.
And lest we think that the Scriptures have some expiration on their validity or that some revelation might come that is able to trump its declarations, the apostle writes, “We have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (v. 3:19). In other words, God has ordained that his church would be guided by the Scriptures until the end of this age when Christ returns and the full revelation of God is granted to his church in his revelation of himself to her in glory. To put it plainly, the Scriptures’ authority is the only authority under which the church of God is subjected, for in subjection to the Scriptures, she is subjected to Christ who is her head. For the apostle Paul writes,
And [Christ] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ (Eph. 4:11-15)
And this unity of faith under the headship of Christ is not something that is enforced by a centralized dictator of doctrine, but it is enforced by the writings of the apostles and the prophets properly ministered by pastors and teachers.
Despite claims to the contrary, there is no Scriptural evidence for authority outside the prophets and the apostles, and there is no succession of authority from the apostles. And while this can be clearly evinced from the declarations of the Scriptures themselves, it is confirmed by the centuries of church councils that have at one point declared some doctrines to be true only later to be annulled by some later church council. The Spirit of God has never inspired anything that can later be rescinded by the conventions of men, for as Christ declared, “Until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will past from the law until all is accomplished” (Mt. 5:18).
What is all this to say but, as the apostle Peter warns, “Just as false prophets arose among the people, there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies” (2Pet. 2:1). “These,” he declares, “in their greed will exploit you with false words; their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep” (v. 2:3). Therefore, our charge must be the same charge that the apostle gives from long ago, namely to be wary of those who profess to have right doctrine that contradicts the very Word of God, and to search the Scriptures guided by the very Spirit who inspired them, and who indeed dwells in us.