“We have the prophetic word confirmed” (2 Peter 1:19)
How the gospel was verified in the first century by signs, wonders, powers and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Peter emphasizes in 2 Peter 1:16-21 that God’s word is absolutely reliable. The “prophetic word” comes to us as Holy Scripture. Peter continues: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy1 never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20, 21).2

In what sense do we have this prophetic word “confirmed”? The Greek word translated “confirmed” [βεβαιότερον] is a comparative [of βέβαιος] meaning “more firm” or “more sure”. How can something that is already “sure” be “more sure”? If it is authenticated or confirmed.


How has God confirmed His word?

God has authenticated the prophetic word (1) by His own testimony, (2) by the testimony of His Spirit, (3) by the testimony of His Son, (4) by the testimony of inspired witnesses, and (5) by His verification of their testimony through signs, wonders, powers and gifts of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 2:3, 4).


The prophetic word is confirmed by the testimony of God the Father.

Peter had just written: “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1:16-18). “We” refers to Peter, James and John: “Behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’” (Matthew 17:5).

The Father also testified when Jesus was baptized: “And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:17).3

God’s testimony is trustworthy: “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son” (1 John 5:9, 10). There is no excuse for rejecting the testimony of God!4

God testified through the prophets:5 “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43). John the Baptist, the last Old Covenant prophet, testified: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” “I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God” (John 1:29, 34).

God testifies through the Scriptures. In Revelation He tells John, “Write, for these words are true and faithful” (Revelation 21:5). To unbelieving Jews, Jesus said: “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:39, 40).


The prophetic word is confirmed by the testimony of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus told His apostles: “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (John 15:26). “It is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth” (1 John 5:6). The sword of the Spirit is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17).


The prophetic word is confirmed by the testimony of Jesus.

Jesus is the Logos, the Word of God (Revelation 19:13),6 “the faithful witness” (Revelation 1:5), “the Faithful and True witness” (Revelation 3:14).

Pharisees disputed His testimony: “You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true.” Jesus replied: “Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true” (John 8:13, 14). “It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me” (John 8:17, 18).

The works of Jesus confirmed that God had sent Him: “But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish - the very works that I do - bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me. And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me” (John 5:36, 37).

The testimony of Jesus was confirmed by signs. “Many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did” (John 2:23). Nicodemus said: “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). On Pentecost, Peter said that Jesus was “a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know” (Acts 2:22).


The prophetic word is confirmed by the testimony of inspired witnesses.

We did not hear Jesus teach, but we know what He taught through the writings of inspired witnesses. Jesus appointed His apostles as witnesses.7 Their testimony is reliable because they were inspired by the Holy Spirit.8

Speaking to His apostles, Jesus said: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). “And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning” (John 15:27).9

Peter stated: “We are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him” (Acts 5:32).10


God confirmed the testimony through signs.

“How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?” (Hebrews 2:3, 4).

The phrase “also bearing witness,” is one word in Greek [συνεπιμαρτυρέω] that means “co-witnessing,” “testifying together with someone else.” Thus signs were not independent testimony but supporting testimony. Signs supported the testimony of those who heard Jesus.

Other passages tell us that signs, wonders, powers and gifts of the Holy Spirit were done through the apostles.11 “Many wonders and signs were done through the apostles” (Acts 2:43). “And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people” (Acts 5:12).

The first non-apostle who “did great wonders and signs among the people” was Stephan (Acts 6:8) who was one of the seven upon whom the apostles had laid their hands (Acts 6:5, 6).

The second non-apostle who performed signs was Philip (Acts 8:6) who also was one of the seven. Although Philip performed signs to confirm his message at Samaria, he could not give the Holy Spirit to others. Apostles had to come from Jerusalem for this (Acts 8:14-17).

“Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given” (Acts 8:18). Thus, through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, the Holy Spirit was given in some way that was not possible otherwise and is not available now, since the apostles are no longer with us.

What was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands?

Not the “gift of the Holy Spirit” received at baptism (Acts 2:38, 39) because it was promised to all, also subsequent generations, who are baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.

Remember that it was through the hands of the apostles that wonders and signs were done (Acts 5:12).12

That miraculous gifts, such as speaking in languages and prophesying, were given by the laying on of the apostles’ hands is also shown by an example of Paul. He taught twelve men at Ephesus that the baptism of John the Baptist was not sufficient: “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:5, 6).13

Mark also states that signs were a co-testimony to confirm the prophetic word: “‘And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’” “And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs” (Mark 16:17, 18, 20).

This prediction pertained to a specific purpose, namely, the confirmation of the prophetic word. Except for drinking poison, these signs are all recorded in Acts.14 Once the signs confirming the word were recorded in Scripture, that written testimony is sufficient to accomplish their purpose.

The rich man suffering pain in Hades wanted Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers because he thought, “If one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” But Abraham replied: “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:30, 31).

John, who wrote the final books of the New Testament, said: “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30, 31).


The testimony has been preserved as sacred Scripture.

The faith “was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

The eyewitnesses are no longer with us, but we have their testimony in written form, which has the same validity as oral testimony.15 God commanded that the gospel be made known to all nations by prophetic Scriptures (Romans 16:25, 26).

The Scriptures equip us thoroughly. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).


An evil generation seeks a sign.

When Jewish leaders said, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You,” Jesus replied, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:39, 40).

It is wrong to seek signs when sufficient signs have already been given and recorded! The resurrection is the sign for all times, proving that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). God “has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). We have this assurance through reliable testimony in Holy Scripture.16 “The Lord is risen indeed” (Luke 24:34).


In latter times signs are performed by false prophets.

The New Testament describes none other than false prophets performing signs in latter times.17 The second beast in Revelation (also called the false prophet) performs great signs (Revelation 13:13-15; 19:20). Spirits of demons perform signs (Revelation 16:14). Jesus said: “False christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24).18 Paul wrote: “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:9).

One man asked me why God did not just state that signs would cease after the time of the apostles. Actually He did. We can know this truth from what the New Testament says about the purpose of signs.

Why was it not stated more clearly? Since God allows false teachers to perform great signs in latter times (Revelation 13:14), maybe it was to test our love for the truth. The lawless one comes with “lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10)


What have we learned?

God has confirmed the prophetic word (2 Peter 1:19). He has authenticated the word (1) by His own testimony, (2) by the testimony of His Spirit, (3) by the testimony of His Son, (4) by the testimony of inspired witnesses, and (5) by His verification of their testimony by signs, wonders, powers and gifts of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 2:3, 4). These signs were done through the hands of the apostles, either directly or by laying their hands on others. The signs recorded in Scripture are sufficient for us to believe and be saved.

Suppose you had a document authenticated by a notary public. What if you took it back the next day to have it notarized again? He would tell you that it can be confirmed only once. If you said, “But some have doubted the first notarization!” he would reply, “Well, that’s their problem, not mine.”

In latter times only false prophets perform signs. Seeking signs now is evil because sufficient signs have already been given to ratify the prophetic word and produce faith leading to salvation in those who love the truth.

Let us be thankful for God’s confirmation of the prophetic word. The inspired Scriptures are absolutely reliable and furnish us completely for every good work.19 Amen.

Roy Davison

The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers unless indicated otherwise.
Permission for reference use has been granted.

Footnotes


1 The word “prophecy” in the Bible refers to an inspired message from God. Since God knows the future, prophecy sometimes contains predictions, but that is not the meaning of the word. A prophet is someone who speaks by direct inspiration of God.

2 The prophetic word is the inspired word of God.

3 Another confirmation is found in John 12:28 - “‘Father, glorify Your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.’”

4 “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

5 See also Luke 1:68-70; 24:25-27, 44; John 1:45; Acts 3:18-24; 24:14; 26:22; Romans 1:1, 2; 3:21.

6 See also John 1:1, 14.

7 See Acts 1:8, 21, 22; 4:33; 10:36-43; 13:30, 31.

8 See John 14:25, 26; 16:12-15; 1 Corinthians 2:12, 13.

9 John wrote: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life - the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us” (1 John 1:1, 2).

10 When Luke wrote his Gospel and Acts, he had (through inspiration) “perfect understanding of all things from the very first” (Luke 1:3) as they had been delivered by “those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word” (Luke 1:1, 2).

11 A correct distinction must be made between the gift (singular) of the Holy Spirit that all Christians receive (Acts 2:38; 5:32; Romans 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:8; 1 John 3:24; 4:13) and gifts that were not given to all Christians (Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:1, 3, 28-30; 13:1; 14:1, 12; Hebrews 2:4) and are not essential for salvation. Among the latter, a distinction must also be made between miraculous gifts given through the apostles and natural abilities that are also gifts of God. The gifts given by the laying on of the apostles’ hands served as signs. Thus they had to be miraculous gifts. It must also be understood that although the miraculous gifts given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands are no longer available, God still acts providentially in answer to prayer. We must always follow Christ’s example, however, and pray: “Not my will but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

12 Paul told the Corinthians: “Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds” (2 Corinthians 12:12). The distinctive sign of an apostle was the ability to give these gifts to others through the laying on of their hands. Philip had received the gift of signs, but he was not an apostle and could not give this gift to others (Acts 8:5-21).

13 Timothy received a gift through the laying on of Paul’s hands: “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6). Some have misapplied a passage in Paul’s first letter to claim that gifts could also be given by elders: “Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership” (1 Timothy 4:14). Notice that Timothy received the gift “through” the laying on of Paul’s hands and “by prophecy” and only “with” the laying on of the elders hands. Combining the two passages indicates that the eldership also laid their hands on Timothy when he was given a prophetic gift through the laying on of Paul’s hands.

14 Acts 2:6-12; 19:11, 12; 28:2-6.

15 See 2 Peter 1:12-21; 1 John 1:1-4.

16 The resurrection of Jesus was predicted in the Old Testament (Psalm 16:9-11, Psalm 22, Isaiah 53:5-11) and eye-witness accounts of the resurrection are recorded in the New Testament.

17 Some refer to John 14:12 to claim the contrary: ““Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” Since this prediction applies to all believers, it does not refer to signs and wonders because even in apostolic times not all believers performed signs (1 Corinthians 12:30). Jesus predicts that His followers will continue His work after He returns to the Father. And just as the least in the kingdom of God is greater than John the Baptist (Luke 7:28) because he is in the church of Christ, believers do greater works than Jesus because they, with His help and by the power of His Spirit, proclaim the gospel in all the world by which millions receive eternal life.

18 Jesus said to the church at Ephesus: “I know ... that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars” (Revelation 2:2).

19 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.

Published in The Old Paths Archive
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