Understanding the Revelation of the Prophets
1 Peter 1:10–11
1 Peter Lesson #034
November 19, 2015
“Father, we’re so grateful for Your grace to us. You have given us tremendous blessings living in this country because we have such a heritage bequeathed to us through our Founding Fathers to give us many. many blessings and the freedom to learn Your Word and to live our life as unto You.
Father, we don’t know how much longer that will continue because there are so many forces that have been antagonistic to Christianity and the gospel for decades. Now as their numbers have increased they are more overt. They are more outspoken and they are more vitriolic in their opposition to Christianity.
Father, we need to be prepared because just like these Messianic Jews that Peter is writing to, who lived in an environment where their friends, their associates, and many others rejected them because of their faith in Jesus as Messiah, this too may be part of our experience.
We may face opposition, persecution, and rejection, even from some of our closest friends and families. The only thing that will protect us will be Your Word as God the Holy Spirit strengthens us as we face whatever might come. Father, we pray that we might not take this lightly or ignore the provision of Your Word but that we may continue to dedicate ourselves to a rich study of Your Word that we might be strengthened and prepared for whatever may come.
We pray that tonight as we study we may be able to focus and to concentrate upon Your Word and that God, the Holy Spirit, will drive its significance home to each one of us in our lives. We pray this is Christ’s name. Amen.”
I want to read some things. Recently I’ve been reading various histories. I’ve been reading through Fox’s Book of Martyrs which is always fascinating. Some of the stories are a little too long to tell but there are some that are worth telling and reminding us because it’s one thing to read these stories about Christians and pastors who were imprisoned and beaten and flogged and burned alive at the stake and beheaded when everything is good. We’re sitting in the safety of our homes and everyone loves Christianity.
It’s another thing to realize this may be something to come in our own future. It’s a great encouragement to us to hear these stories, I think.
Andrew and Elizabeth Renwick were Scottish. They were weavers who lived in the hills of Glencairn [Scotland] in the 1600s. All their children had died and they were just grief-stricken. Elizabeth pleaded with the Lord to give her another child. The Lord blessed them with another child by the name of James.
They trained James up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They taught him the Scriptures. He was a brilliant child and young man. As he grew, he loved the Scriptures and he loved the Lord. He went to the University of Edinburgh. He was denied a degree because by that time in Scotland, there had been the restoration of Charles II in England. Scotland was now under the rule of a Catholic monarchy.
The non-conformists, the evangelicals, the Bible-believing evangelicals and Protestants were not allowed to graduate. They were continuing to be persecuted. Many of them were martyred. James as a young man in his 20s stayed in Edinburg. He became more and more alarmed as he saw men and women that he knew who were non-conformists being persecuted. They had their heads severed and their hands cut off and their heads would be posted on the walls and the gates of the city along with their hands.
They were just left there to rot and be carrion for the various carrion-eating birds. Their skulls were just allowed to remain there unless someone who knew them came and took them down. He left Scotland during that time and went to Geneva where he was trained at Calvin’s school.
By this time Calvin was gone but Geneva was still a major center for training pastors. He received his training there and then he returned to Scotland to preach and teach. He traveled throughout the Highlands preaching the gospel, organizing churches and Bible studies and he wore himself out physically as he traveled through the night in the horrible weather in Scotland.
Frequently he lacked sleep. He had a poor diet and yet he continued to preach the gospel. Many times he just spent the night in a cave and he stayed there. He avoided being captured and many nights he escaped from those who were trying to capture him.
Finally he was captured and he was put in prison and he was charged with treason. His widowed mother visited him in prison and would cry and weep with him and say, “How shall I look upon your head and your hands upon the city gate?”
On February 16, 1688 he was able to get a message to her saying, “There is nothing in the world that I am sorry to leave but you. Farewell, mother. Farewell, my wanderings, cold, and weariness for Christ. Farewell, sweet Bible and preaching of the gospel. Welcome Crown of Glory. Welcome O blessed Trinity and one God. I commit my soul into thy eternal rest.”
The next morning he embraced his weeping mother and he went to the scaffold. After they hanged him, they beheaded him and they hung his head and his hands on the city gate.
This is how these great men of God focused. They had dying grace and they focused on the Word of God. They went to the scaffold, glorifying God and singing hymns to Him and glorifying Him.
I have one other. I read this later and I thought, “Boy, this is really good.” It’s about a man named James Guthrie. It’s the same time period, the mid-1600s. He was nicknamed “Sickerfoot” which mean sure footed in Gaelic, I guess. He was a solid leader, a man who was basically unflappable, and a very solid stable personality.
He taught philosophy at the University of St. Andrews and he was a preacher of the gospel at a church in Sterling in Scotland. On February 19, 1651, he was accused of disloyalty to the king because he taught that a Christian should be loyal to Christ and not the Scottish king. He taught that the Scottish king should not rule the Church.
As a result he was arrested for treason and he was indicted. It was said that “he did contrive, counsel, consult, draw up, frame, invent, and spread abroad and disperse speech, declaim, or utter divers and sundry vile seditions tending to the vilifying of his majesty.” He was sentenced to be hanged.
On the morning of his execution on June 1, 1661 he rose about four o’clock in the morning for worship. When asked how he was he replied, “Very well for this is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
His five-year-old son was brought to him. He took the boy on his knee and he said, “William, the day will come when they will cast up to you that your father was hanged. Don’t be ashamed, lad. It’s in a good cause.”
Guthrie soon mounted the scaffold. He preached for an hour to the crowds, preaching the gospel of grace. Then he was hanged and his head was cut off and his hands and they were put on the Netherbow Port. In the coming months, his little five-year-old boy would go to the gates to look upon his rotting father’s skull. He would come home to his mother and say, “I’ve seen my father’s head. I’ve seen my father’s head.”
The boy learned his lesson spiritually. He learned to lean on Christ. He learned to spend time alone in prayer. He excelled in school and if it weren’t for an early death, he would have become a minister of the gospel, as well.
Guthrie’s bleached skull looked down upon the crowds for twenty-seven years until a student climbed up and removed it and buried it with reverence.
Just a couple of examples how believers in the past have faced persecution and martyrdom because they stood for the gospel of grace.
Tonight we’re continuing in our study of 1 Peter 3. Those to whom Peter is writing faced much the same kind of persecution. It wasn’t an official Roman persecution but as I’ve said before, they were Jews who trusted in Jesus as Messiah. As a result of that, they were opposed and rejected and vilified by their family, their friends, and their neighbors.
That’s the kind of thing we saw in Acts as Paul would go from town to town and from city to city. There would be many within the synagogue, both Jews and Gentile proselytes who had responded to the gospel. Those that did not would then turn against their former friends and neighbors and vilify them and vilify Paul. They would bring up false charges and have them imprisoned and tortured. Many times that happened to the Apostle Paul.
Peter is writing to these same types of people, Jews who lived in the northern central part of what is now Turkey. He is encouraging them in how they should handle testing.
That’s what we’ve seen, especially that focus in the last few verses, in verses 6 through 9. That’s our focus. One sentence. I just want to remind you of that as we come to our next set of verses, verses 10–12, where the focus is on how the prophets in the Old Testament tried to understand what their prophecies were saying about the future suffering of the Messiah and the future glories of the Messiah.
If you just go to verses 10 and 11 you’re going to come out with a totally different understanding. They were asking me about some of the recent things I’ve taught in Matthew. I never would have come to understand, especially what we just covered in Matthew, chapter 18, never have come to understand some of those passages of what’s happening in Matthew 18 if I wasn’t teaching through Matthew verse by verse.
When you’re forced to slow down and go verse by verse through the book suddenly you capture the context in ways you didn’t before. It sheds new light. Sometimes what you think a passage means at first glance just because you look at those two or three verses isn’t what it means at all when you put it within the structure and the context of the surrounding verses.
That’s what true about verses 10 through 12 often taken to refer to prophets looking at what would happen to Jesus when He died for our sins. That’s part of it but it’s much more than that.
So as we look at where we came from in 1 Peter 1:6–9, I pointed out that the focus is upon surviving and being delivered by God through these intense trials, testings, suffering, and persecution. In verse 1 Peter says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you have been grieved by these various trials.
The purpose for those trials as we’ve seen is to test the quality of our faith, to strengthen our endurance, to strengthen our spiritual life, and to lead us in spiritual growth and spiritual maturity. Our faith is tested by fire, Peter says in 1 Peter 1:7, so that it can be found to the praise, the honor, and the glory.
Notice that word “glory” because it’s going to come up in verse 10. The glory is mentioned for the first time in verse 7, “That it may be found to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Then in verse 8 the word “glory” is again repeated when we’re reminded that though now we do not see Him, yet by believing, we rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.”
Once again we see that word glory. The glory in both of these verses is related to successfully handling the testing, the trials, the tribulations, and the adversities of life. It’s not related to the “sweet by and by” at the glorification of our body when we go into phase three salvation but it’s related to not only glorifying Christ in the here and now but how that glorification of Christ today will reverberate into eternity.
Then in 1 Peter 1:9 where I wrapped up last week pointing out that the way we experience this is by receiving [an instrumental participle] by receiving the end [end result] of our faith, the salvation of our souls. As I pointed out last time, the way we want to read that is whenever we see the word “salvation and soul”, don’t think going to Heaven. We’ve been saved and we’re not going to the Lake of Fire. We’ve been rescued from an eternal condemnation.
But as I pointed out again and again, we use these words differently. The word used for “receiving” here indicates receiving that is owed to us, or to come into possession of something. It’s related to receiving a reward.
That reward is a temporal reward that comes at the end of our faith, the end result of our faith. So we go through this trial and we trust the Lord, we claim promises, and we pray. It may last a week. It may last a month, a year, a decade, two decades, and then when we come out of the end of that, we realize that God has strengthened our soul. We’ve grown and matured as believers.
That’s what is described here as the salvation of our souls. It’s really the deliverance of our life. It’s a temporal phrase and I pointed out several verses where the word for soul, PSUCHE, is translated just as life.
Romans 11:3, “They seek my soul [life].” Matthew 2:20, they wanted to take the life of the young Child, the infant Jesus. John 10:11, Jesus says He’s going to give his life for the sheep and uses the word PSUCHE there. In Philippians 2:30 he’s talking about Epaphroditus, that he did not regard his life so much that he worked himself almost to death in the ministry of the gospel.
So we have these various verses. James 1:21 which is a similar context to 1 Peter 1 talking about receiving. As a believer we receive the implanted Word which is able to deliver our life, our soul.
It’s not talking about justification salvation for in James 1:18, some four verses earlier, James had already said, “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth.” That’s regeneration. So he’s writing to regenerate, justified believers when he says that they need to “receive the Word which is able to save your soul.” They’re already justified. They’re already saved from the penalty of sin.
Now they need to be saved from the power of sin. They need to grow in terms of phase two salvation. This is the thrust. We need to be delivered in the midst of our trials, through those trials.
Now just as a reminder, we have salvation that is used in these three stages, three tenses, or three phases. People use different terms to describe them. Phase one, we’re saved from the penalty of sin when we trust in Jesus. It takes place in an instant in time.
Then as we grow spiritually we’re saved from the power of sin [phase two]. Then when we die and we’re absent from the body and face-to-face with the Lord, then we’re glorified [phase three]. The focus of this in Peter is on being delivered, our life being delivered from trials in this life.
So having understood that, we’re at the end of 1 Peter 1:9. We talk about what kind of salvation here. Phase one? Phase two? Or phase three? The context is clearly talking about phase two. It’s not talking about phase one.
So when we come to 1 Peter 1:10 and it begins, “Of this salvation, the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.”
Then in 1 Peter 1:12, “To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.”
So much in these three verses. I’ve just highlighted a couple of things that ought to stand out to us. “Of this salvation”. What salvation? What are they talking about here? I would bet that 999,999 times out of a million this passage is taught to refer to getting saved from the penalty of sin and looking at what Christ did on the Cross.
What we’ve seen is that’s not what Peter is talking about in this context. That’s why I keep going over context, context, and context.
We have to understand that. This salvation as we’ll come to understand is phase two, not phase one. That changes how we understand what’s coming on.
Now look at 1 Peter 1:11. We have the phrase “Spirit of Christ”. Is that different from Spirit of God? Is that different from the Holy Spirit? What does Spirit of Christ describe? Then notice at the end that these prophets taught and were trying to understand, two things, the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.
What has Peter been talking about in the previous four verses? He’s been talking about the fact that we’re going to suffer today but there would be glory that follows. That’s what he’s talking about. That’s what he wants to drive our attention to, that just like Jesus went through suffering, we’ll go through suffering but there will be glory that follows.
What these prophets are doing is that they’re not just trying to understand when this is going to happen. They were definitely doing that. That’s what the text says. They were trying to get more detail about who this would be but this is what they’re focusing on. Not just understanding the work of redemption on the Cross that Messiah would perform.
They were grappling with this whole concept that the Cross must come before the Crown, suffering must come before glorification. That’s what Peter is talking about here.
When we get into the second sentence of this three verse paragraph he talks about those who “preached the gospel” which is a three-word phrase which translates to one verb in the Greek. That one verb in the Greek is EUANGELIZO which is the word that we translate into evangelism. That’s an accurate translation. We could say “through those who have evangelized you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven”.
Then this odd phrase at the end of verse 12, “Things which angels desire to look into”. What in the world does that mean and how does that fit? That sort of takes you aside from everything else going on here and orients our suffering to its role into something the angels are looking at.
Not only are we to be a witness to those we see around us but we are being watched by the angels to see how God’s grace is being manifest in our lives as we go through the midst of suffering. These are the three verses.
One of the things I like to do when I’m looking at a long verse is pick up on the main idea and ask what is he trying to say? When you get a two-verse, three-verse, or even an eleven-verse sentence, sometimes the writer tacks so many relative clauses and purpose clauses and other subordinate clauses on to the main tree trunk that you lose sight of what the main tree trunk is. I thought that by maybe this way I can boil it down to help us understand what the main idea is in this two-verse sentence.
“Of this deliverance.” That’s what he’s talking about. The deliverance, the temporal deliverance that’s described in verses 5–9 is in sight here. “Of this deliverance from temporal testing which brought glory to God the prophets have inquired and searched carefully … the Spirit of Christ … testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.”
Twice we have in my summary here the emphasis on glory. Three times the word glory is used in this section. That’s the end game, glorifying Christ and glorifying God, but the present is going through the adversity and the suffering and understanding how this brings glory to God.
Okay, with all of that said, that sets the stage and sets the focus so let’s start with the first verse. There are lots of other doctrines here that we need to at least partially address as we go through this section.
The English translation that we have here begins, “Of this salvation.” The Greek begins with that same phrase but it’s a little bit different. It should be translated something like concerning which salvation. That relative clause that’s translated “this” there in the Greek is a genitive feminine singular which refers back to a feminine singular noun which is the word salvation that is used at the end of 1 Peter 1:9.
It is specifically tied grammatically in terms of the word to the end of verse 9. So if that salvation at the end of verse 9 is temporal deliverance then this is temporal deliverance.
I’ve translated and added a little to it. “Of this salvation [deliverance from and through the testing].” The word for salvation there is that word SOTERIA. It’s a noun form. The verb form is SOZO which we normally translate to save. Many times it’s translated to deliver. Sometimes it’s translated to heal because it was used for healing someone who was sick. If they were delivered from their sickness, they were healed.
It has a range of meanings. You always have to look at the context to see if this is talking about getting saved from the penalty of sin or is this talking about getting saved from the power of sin or is it talking about getting saved from the presence of sin? Is it talking about getting saved from some sort of temporal disaster or is it talking about getting saved from a disease?
What are we being delivered from? That’s sort of the core idea: to be delivered or to be preserved. You can translate this “of this deliverance” or “of this preservation”.
So this is really the idea of the sentence. The prophets are really the subject of the sentence. The main verb is inquire. The prophets have inquired and searched carefully concerning this salvation. That’s the idea here.
It’s brought out in the Greek. The Greek word order emphasizes some different ideas. The first idea is what’s stated up front, “concerning this salvation”.
The second thing you find here in the Greek order are the two verbs. The second thing that Peter wants to emphasize are the actions of these particular verbs which are translated to inquire and to search carefully. What surprised me when I initially looked these two verbs up is that they’re defined the same way: to execute a search or investigation.
They’re very close synonyms. The first word is EKZETEO. The word EKZETEO means to seek out or to search something. The prefix EK intensives that, to seek out something. It has the idea of searching earnestly for something, searching in detail, maybe even conducting a scientific investigation.
The second word is the word used to search something carefully. It’s EXERAUNAO. Notice it’s the same prefix which means out of. That main verb ERAUNAO is going to show up in the next verse. Here it’s an intensified form to seek out something diligently, to investigate, and to inquire. It’s used of animals sniffing out the tracks to something.
Both of these verbs give us an image of someone who is doing detailed analysis. They’re digging through all of the particular details. That’s something I’m frequently accused of.
I have a friend, an old colleague, who pastors a rather large church in Oklahoma City. He’s a well published author. He’s presented papers a number of times at Pre-Trib. Every time I give a paper he comes up to me and says, “I tell the guys I bring here from my church that you’re going to give a paper and you’re going to seek out every detail. You’re going to leave no stone unturned when you do an analysis on a topic and they need to be there to listen to you.”
I take that as a compliment. That’s what these prophets were doing. They were leaving no stone unturned. They were thoroughly engrossed in every detail. There was nothing too small that wasn’t worth investigating to see if it might have some greater significance than might appear at first glance. So they are seeking out, investigating, thoroughly analyzing every prophecy that God has given them.
The next thing you have here are both the noun and the verb related to prophecy. You have the word the prophets, although in the Greek the “the”, the article is not there. He’s saying “of this salvation, prophets have inquired.” Now we know he’s referring to the Old Testament prophets which is why I think it’s legitimate for the translators to put the “the” in there, just for clarification.
He could refer to them as prophets without the definite article and he is still indicating a specific, distinct class that would be indicated by a definite article. The article doesn’t have to be there. Some nouns are just inherently definite and this would be one of them.
These prophets have inquired and searched carefully, the prophets who prophesied. By adding that verb PROPHETEUO there, he’s really indicating that these were the Old Testament prophets. He’s most likely referring to the Writing Prophets. Not all prophets in the Old Testament wrote. There were many prophets, men of God, referred to on Tuesday nights when we’ve been studying 1 Samuel. Remember back at the end of 1 Samuel 2 there was a man of God, a prophet who came and announced judgment on the house of Eli from God. He wasn’t a writing prophet but he was a man of God. He’s not even named. He just shows up on the scene and disappears. That happens several times in the Scriptures. They’re not writing prophets.
Here by using the term prophets who prophesied, he’s probably speaking about the writing prophets who wrote down what God revealed to them under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit. We’ll look at that in just a little bit.
So these prophets who prophesied, prophesied of the grace that would come to you.
We have to ask several questions here when we see this phrase “grace to you”.
First of all, what is this grace that he is talking about? There are a number of different kinds of grace that I’m not even going to mention. They are theological categories but I don’t want to get off into the weeds too much here. What grace are we talking about here?
If we look at this the way a lot of people do who just go straight to verse 10, “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully.” This is a great passage and I’ve probably used it this way a number of times myself. They were trying to understand when the Messiah would come but there’s so much more going on here and that’s not the thrust of what Peter is saying. He’s not just talking about salvation grace but we have to ask these questions.
Is he talking about common grace? Common grace is God’s goodness. God causes it to rain on the just and the unjust. So in common grace, this is God’s grace to the saved and unsaved alike.
The second category of grace is saving grace. This refers to the grace of God’s imputation of Christ’s righteousness at salvation when we trust in Jesus Christ. At the instant we hear the gospel we believe He died for our sins and paid the penalty for our sins, then God instantly imputes to us the perfect righteousness of Christ and declares us to be justified and regenerates us simultaneously at the point of faith in Christ.
Or is this spiritual life grace where we are being sanctified? The end of 2 Peter 3:18, Peter says, “Grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That’s spiritual life, phase two sanctifying grace.
Then another kind of grace comes at phase three, dying grace. There’s a particular kind of grace associated with phase one, phase two, and phase three. You have saving grace, sanctifying grace, and dying grace.
I believe here because of the whole context that he’s talking about spiritual life grace. That is the grace that God gives to each of us to enable us to overcome and surmount the adversities of life.
What we read here is that Peter is saying, “Of this salvation [deliverance from and through testing] the prophets searched diligently.” They investigated. They left no stone unturned in trying to understand this spiritual life grace that was coming to us
Notice in the text “Who prophesied of the grace that would come to you”, that phrase “that would come to you” is in italics. It’s not in the original so I’ve taken that out. They prophesied of the grace to you. The grace that God was directing to them as individual believers.
Then verse 11 goes on to say, “Searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.”
That first word there translated searching is a root verb of the word to inquire that we saw earlier. There it was EXERAUNAO. Here it’s just ERAUNAO.
It’s a participle which means we have to look at several things and analyze it. It’s an adverbial participle and it probably means that this is an instrumental. This is the means by which they did this. They carefully investigated and analyzed the prophecies that they write by searching or with reference to searching something which might be another way to understand the nuance of this.
Then it’s followed by two words. In the English translation of the NKJ, they are “what” and then “in what manner of time”. In the Greek you have the prepositional phrase EIS TINA which would indicate what person. What person is going to fulfill this? Who’s the one who is going to fulfill these many prophecies we have related to the suffering of the Messiah?
This is one of the things that the Jews missed. Remember, he’s writing to Jewish background believers who are being persecuted within their Jewish community for their faith. He’s reminding them that these Old Testament prophets are the ones who prophesied about the sufferings as well as the glories of Christ. The Cross and the Crown. The Cross and the sufferings had to come before the Crown, the glories.
So he says they were searching what person. Who would fulfill these prophecies? How would we know the Messiah when He comes? What are going to be the clues? We know there were a number of prophecies given in the Old Testament that would help identify who this was. He would be born of a virgin. He would be born in Bethlehem. He would be of the tribe of Judah, of the lineage of David. He would heal people, the blind, lepers, the deaf, and all of these would indicate uniquely the Person who was the Messiah.
They also looked at when this would happen. “What manner of time?” We’ve spent many times studying through Daniel 9:24–28, Daniel’s great prophecy regarding the timetable for Israel. The seventy weeks of Daniel, which describes literally a period of seventy times seven years or 490 years. At 483 years would take place between the issuing of a decree for the Jews to go back and rebuild the fortifications of Jerusalem.
The first decree just let them go back to the Land. There were subsequent decrees to do different things, but Daniel’s prophecies indicate they are rebuilding the fortifications and the moat and the fences of Jerusalem. The only one that fits that is when Artaxerxes sent Nehemiah back to rebuild the walls of the city. That’s what the book of Nehemiah is about.
It occurred in 444 B.C. There are going to be 483 years and we know these 483 prophetic years, based on the Jewish calendar which has a lunar cycle, not a solar cycle. Their years were 360 days and if you do the work and you multiply 483 years × 360 days you come out with 173, 880 days. That works out from the time of the decree of Artaxerxes to Nehemiah to the day that Jesus entered in on what is called Palm Sunday. That is the triumphant entry into the land. That was fulfilled to the day.
The text says, “After this the Messiah is cut off.” It was just three or four days later that Messiah is crucified. Then God hit the stopwatch for Israel and time froze. It’s not going to be until the Rapture of the church that God is going to hit the button again. The time will start of that last seven-year countdown which is the future Tribulation period.
Based on that timetable given to Daniel, people like Simeon and Anna in Luke 2 knew that the Messiah was going to be born just any time because they understood the timetable. The magi were Median or a Persian Parthian tribe that had risen in political power. They were basically the kingmakers, the one who would anoint the king, the power over Parthia. Some of them learned these prophecies from Daniel who was considered a Rab-mag, which means chief like the Rab-shakeh, the one who announces to Hezekiah they’re going to clean his clock for Sennacherib unless he just surrenders. He wouldn’t do it. So the Rab-mag was the chief of the magi, his tribe.
When the magi showed up on Herod’s door and knocked, they asked, “Where is the King of the Jews?” They weren’t looking for him. His paranoia factor went right through the roof because he had already had to flee Judea thirty years earlier as a result of the Parthians invading Judea. He is just scared witless because he thinks there’s going to be another attempt on the throne. That’s why he’s so paranoid, why he tries to kill all the babies in Bethlehem, once he identifies that as the birthplace of the new king of the Jews.
The magi understood the timetable. They were looking for a sign in the heavens, in the stars. When this sign appeared they said it’s time to go. The Messiah is born. The prophets had these clues as to what kind of person the Messiah would be and when the Messiah would come. That’s because they’re diligently searching the Scriptures.
Then the text goes on to say that the Spirit of Christ was in them who is guiding and directing them in terms of their understanding of the text and the revelation that they’ve been given. The Spirit of Christ is identifying them.
We know who the Spirit of Christ is because of Romans 8:9, “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit.” Up to this point the Spirit has always referred to God, the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. He continues, “If indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” Here he changes the terminology.
What we see due to the parallelism here that this is synonymous. The Spirit of Christ is just another term for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit whom Christ sent. Remember, He told his disciples that He would send them another Comforter and He will comfort you and guide and direct you. So this is the Spirit from Christ, the Holy Spirit, who was in them and is indicating them through revelation and not from some kind of liver quiver but revelation through inspiration that what He testified, the content, beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that follow.
The word for indicating is the imperfect tense verb of DELOO. Imperfect tense means it’s continuous action. It’s not just a summary of the action but this was going on and on in the lives of these prophets that more and more revelation was given to them and they were writing it down like Isaiah and Jeremiah and Micah and others in the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit was continuing to make it clear to reveal and explain what was going to happen.
He testified beforehand and that is the verb PROMARTUROMAI. MARTUREO is where we get our word martyr. We use the word martyr in English to refer to somebody who gives up their life for the cause of Christ. They lose their life. The original meaning in the Greek was someone who made a testimony. A martyr who gave up their life was making a testimony about Christ. It means to testify.
The PRO in front of it means to testify beforehand. It’s referring again to prophecy to foretell something. So God the Holy Spirit testified many centuries ahead of time about the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.
So we have these two words: PATHEMA which is the physical sufferings of Jesus at the time of the crucifixion. The Latin from that is where we get our word passion. We think of passion as emotion but passion from the Latin means suffering. It’s from PATHEMA in the Greek. It talks about the physical sufferings which were experienced by the Lord Jesus Christ leading up to His crucifixion as well as His crucifixion.
The second thing he mentions is the glories that would follow. This is the focus. It’s not just on the sufferings of Christ on the cross but the sufferings which lead to glorification and Christ’s glorification of God. This is illustrating the fact that as believers we go through the same process. We’re going to suffer and we need to keep in mind that the end game is glorifying God and glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ.
As I’ve gone through these verses a question that ought to have occurred to you is something related to the dynamic of inspiration here. This verse really isn’t talking about the process of inspiration which I want to talk about, but it’s also talking about the fact that as God the Holy Spirit revealed these future events and revealed the future to and through the prophets, they didn’t really understand a lot of what they were writing. To understand it they had to then, in a separate process not involved in inspiration, go back and study what they wrote.
What in the world does that mean? I just wrote Isaiah 53 and I don’t have a clue. I have to start studying what God revealed to me so I can understand what I wrote. We have this mystical, crazy idea that just because they wrote it, they understood it automatically.
They didn’t. They had to search it diligently. They had to investigate what they wrote. They had to take Bible Study Methods 101, 102, 103, and 104 to understand what the Holy Spirit was revealing to them. We get the idea that Bible study is just something that sort of happens to a pastor.
I’ve heard people say, “Well, can’t they figure it out? They’ve got the gift of pastor-teacher.” The last time I looked the gift of pastor-teacher was a gift of one, leadership and two, communication. It’s not investigation. It’s not understanding automatically what the correct interpretation was.
It’s not the gift of interpretation. It’s the gift of pastor, a leader and teacher, a communicator. It’s not the gift of getting it out of the text. You still have to sweat mental bullets to understand what the text says. You may not get it right sometimes. It’s more frequently you don’t get it right your first ten years.
I’m always glad that no one can surface any tapes of my first ten years in the pastorate. I remember hearing Charlie Clough say that when I was listening to him in the 1970s. I thought, “Well, you just have such great material.” Those first ten years you’re just trying to put it together as much as anyone else.
I have a rich, rich possession. I don’t let it out very much but I give it to young pastors. I have twenty-five lessons on Romans and Hebrews taught in 1955 by Bob Thieme. I have had people who sat under Bob Thieme’s ministry for thirty years or more and they have sat in my car and I say, “Listen to this guy teach the Bible. It’s pretty good.”
I put those on and they listen and they say that’s it’s good but they ask who it is. His style was so different. Remember, he was ordained a Conservative Baptist in Tucson, Arizona. When he first came to Houston and taught, even though he’d gone to Dallas Seminary, he preached like a Baptist preacher.
That blows people away. Those of you who did not listen to him until after 1962, you don’t have a clue. Those first ten years were the foundation of what came later. He would rip through Matthew in like thirty lessons. He would teach Daniel in twenty-five lessons. That’s what young pastors do because they’re trying to figure it out.
Later on after you’ve figured it out it takes you a hundred and fifty hours to go through Daniel and three hundred hours to go through Ruth because you understand the richness and the depth of the totality of Scripture. But when you’re in your first ten years you haven’t put it all together yet. You’re still doing that.
That’s what these prophets were doing. In the New Testament we’re told by Paul to Timothy that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, THEOPNEUSTOS, a combination of THEO for God and PNEUSTOS for breath. It’s God-breathed. God is the Author. It’s not inspiration like we talk about Michelangelo being a greatly inspired artist or Mozart having an inspired musical talent. That’s human stuff. This is God breathing something out. It’s “outspired” by God. God is the source. It’s “profitable for teaching, for reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be complete.”
What makes him complete? It’s the Word of God, not human traditions, human efforts, human insights, motivational therapy or anything else. It’s the Word of God that equips you for anything else and most of the good works that you do. Is that what it says? Every good work, you name the problem and God has a solution. It’s not 70%, 80%, or 99.9%. It’s 100%.
Jesus says in Matthew 5:18, “For assuredly I say unto you, until heaven and earth pass away, one jot or tittle will by no means pass from the Law until all has been fulfilled.” That’s important because it says that Scripture is inspired down to the minutia. The yodh, jot in English, is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet. It looks like our apostrophe. If you drop that out of a word, it can change the whole meaning of a word because one of the things that changes from a qal stem verb to a hiphil stem verb is that they insert a yodh in the last syllable. That can change the whole meaning of a word.
Then you have the tittle which is the smallest part of a letter. Here I have a Hebrew letter hey and the Hebrew letter chet. Can you see the difference? This is why seminary students go blind. It’s a difference in English like the difference between an o and a p. That one line would be a tittle. Or a capital R and a capital P, as in rug and pug. That leg on the R is a tittle. That can make the difference between one word and another word and the difference between one form of speech and another form of speech.
Paul says, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made.” He does not say “to seeds” [plural] but “to seed” [singular, one]. So what Paul is saying is that inspiration extends down to the grammatical distinctions and the parts of speech. God the Holy Spirit is overseeing the inspiration so that if it’s an imperfect tense rather than an aorist tense it has significance. If it’s a plural, rather than a singular, it has significance. If it is a future tense rather than a present tense with the only difference being one letter in many cases, that’s significant.
This affects our understanding of inspiration and the inerrancy of Scripture. 2 Peter 1:19–21 says, “So we have the prophetic word confirmed which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, because you know this first [priority of knowledge] that no prophecy of Scripture is given of any private interpretation.” That means that the prophets didn’t just gin these things up in their own imagination.
They didn’t just come out of their private thinking. It was breathed out by God. “For prophecy never came by the will of man but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” That word for move was used for the wind moving a ship across the sea. You didn’t see the force but you saw the impact and you felt its result.
This is what inspiration is. This is the long-term definition we use but basically what I’m emphasizing here is because of what Peter says in 1 Peter 1:10–11 that it’s the Spirit of God. It’s the Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit supernaturally directed it or superintends it. That means He managed the entire process so that He directed the human writers of Scripture that without waving their human intelligence, their individual vocabulary, personal style or feelings or any other human factor His complete and coherent message for mankind was recorded with perfect accuracy in the original language and in the original manuscript.
That’s the doctrine of inerrancy. What will shock you today is to realize that there’s always a battle for the Bible. In the 1970s there was a huge battle for the Bible that was brewing in the Southern Baptist convention, brewing among evangelicals, especially centered out of Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California, and also in the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church.
The Southern Baptist convention recovered remarkably due to the influence of a judge from Houston named Paul Pressler, an assistant pastor to W.A. Criswell who at that time was the pastor of the First Baptist, Dallas and Paige Patterson, who later became the President of Southeastern Baptist Seminary and is now president of Southwestern Baptist Seminary. He turned those seminaries around. They were going far left and most of their pastors rejected inerrancy.
Out of all that turmoil in the 70s a group of evangelical pastors including Baptists, some conservative Presbyterians, a lot of the faculty at Dallas that I had at that time were part of that meeting in Chicago. They produced a three- or four-page document called the “Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy”. Everyone agreed 100% with people like Norm Geisler and Bob Thomas were among those men who crafted that statement.
Now what’s happening is that the definition of inerrancy always gets watered down every four or five years and that’s happening again so that a New Testament scholar from an evangelical seminary in Colorado, Denver Seminary I think but I’m not positive, has said that Bob Thomas and Norm Geisler and two or three other names you wouldn’t know are all hyper conservative and that 95% of the members of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) would not agree with them.
To be a member of ETS you only have to believe two things: one, the Trinity, and two, the inerrancy of Scripture. The inerrancy of Scripture is not what it was in 1977 and 95% of the members of ETS, which would include probably the lion’s share of professors at Dallas Theological Seminary, but not in the Bible Exposition department, but in some of the other departments and at Denver Seminary and many other seminaries, most of those men would not be qualified to be members of ETS. They have managed to water it down.
How did they do that? By offering a sloppy hermeneutic. See, you can still say you believe in inerrancy but my tool for interpreting it is so loose that I’m not interpreting it literally and I can get around it. That’s the danger that happens all the time. But if God the Holy Spirit breathed it out, it’s without error because God is not the author of error. So we can trust the Word of God. We have to trust it. In the original it’s without error. Let’s close in prayer.
“Father, thank You for this time tonight. May we be reminded and encouraged of the truth of prophecy, that prophecy in the Old Testament focused on the Messiah who would come. He would first suffer and then He would be glorified. In the same way we go through life and we suffer in this vale of tears and we face adversity, hardship, and heartache, and maybe even persecution and martyrdom but this is merely the prelude to glorifying You and the glorification of You at the judgment seat of Christ. May we keep our eyes on the end game, focusing on where we are headed in eternity and not be distracted by the stuff that we face each and every day living in the devil’s world. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”