Lesson 5

The Inspiration of the Prophets

(2 Peter 1 & 2, Luke 1, 1 Corinthians 7)
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Introduction: We have learned in our prior lessons that being a prophet means that you communicate God's messages to others. The purest form of communication was when God wrote the Ten Commandments with His own finger on stone. No chance for error in that. Next, we learned that God spoke to Moses "face to face" (meaning Moses could see God's form). That is obviously a very high form of communication. How do the other prophets obtain messages from God? How do they package them for us? How are we to understand the messages of those who have the gift of prophecy? Let's dive into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn!

  1. Sailing Prophets


    1. Read 2 Peter 1:16-18. Peter is telling his listeners why his stories about Jesus should be believed. What argument is he making? (Peter says he (and others) were eye-witnesses.)


      1. What other credential does Peter claim for Jesus, other than Peter personally witnessed what Jesus did? (God spoke in support of Jesus.)


        1. In this context is Peter a prophet? (Yes. He heard the voice of God and he repeats the words.)


        2. Is Peter simply reciting God's words? (God's words would not make sense without Peter's human experience and his observations of Jesus. Taken together you have an example of the work of a prophet.)


    2. Read 2 Peter 1:19. What other argument does Peter bring to bear in favor of Jesus? (He points out that the prophets foretold Jesus' coming.)


      1. What does Peter mean when he says the words of the prophets are "made more certain?" Are some prophets' words uncertain? (He means that they are being proven to be true by their fulfillment in Jesus.)


      2. Notice all the references to light: "light shining," "day dawns," and "morning star rises." What does this have to do with prophecy? (Our own understanding is part of the total package. We have the eye-witnesses, we have the statement from God, we have facts which fit, and we have a desire to understand which is aided by the Holy Spirit. These things together turn on the "light" of understanding. We begin to see clearly.)


    3. Read 2 Peter 1:20-21. What two things are not the source of prophecy? (The prophet's own interpretation or will.)


      1. What does that mean? I thought we just decided that the prophet's complete understanding of what God said about Jesus required an understanding of Jesus' works? (Understanding the prophecy may require that. But, the point here is that the writings did not have a human origin - they came from God. In the specific instance we have the word coming from heaven and the disciples heard it. It did not originate with them.)


      2. What mental picture do you get from this idea of the prophet "being carried along by the Holy Spirit?" (The Bible Knowledge Commentary tells us that Luke uses a word referring to a sail boat carried by the wind. It continues "[the prophets] were consciously involved in the process; they were neither taking dictation nor writing in a state of ecstasy.")


      3. Go back and look again at 2 Peter 1:21. In light of what we have seen, what importance do you attach to the word "origin?" (The work of the prophet is a joint venture with God. The origin of the message, the decision about the topic, are not the prophet's. Instead, these things come from God. But the prophet has a great deal to do with the message.)


      4. I love to think about prophecy being compared to sailing. I'm an old sailor. The direction and power of the wind means everything. Sure, you can sail the boat most directions regardless of the direction of the wind. But, that is difficult. The sailboat has the most power, the most speed, and the most effectiveness if the sailor allows the direction of the wind to dictate the direction of the boat. It is a team effort. Without the wind the boat goes nowhere. Without the sailor and the sails, the wind alone is ineffective.


  2. Visions Versus Research


    1. Read Luke 1:1-4. The Gospel of Luke is an important part of the Bible. Do you think it is inspired by the Holy Spirit?


      1. This is a rare instance in which an inspired author tells us how he put the book together. How did he do it? (He read the accounts of others. He talked to first-hand witnesses. It seems that he made a judgment about the witnesses themselves("servants of the word"). The fact he investigated the accounts shows he wanted to be sure they were accurate. He put the materials in logical order. It sounds like Luke is a reporter and a compiler!)


      2. Does this mean that Luke copied from the writings of others when he wrote the book of Luke? Should he have used footnotes?


        1. Read Jeremiah 23:30-32. Does this mean Luke was stealing words from others? (Unlike Luke, the false prophets in Jeremiah are not open about what they are doing. More importantly, Luke's gospel is not reckless lies designed to promote Luke. Luke is trying to accurately reveal Jesus.)


    2. Read Daniel 10:4-7. What is the source of Daniel's writings? (He is confronted by a heavenly being. Something physical is happening (those who cannot see it are terrorized), but Daniel calls it a vision.)


    3. Read Daniel 10:8-11. Is Daniel just seeing a picture, or is he being told something? (He is seeing a vision of a being speaking to him.)


    4. Read Daniel 10:12. How is Daniel like Luke? (Both of them were thinking about important spiritual matters. Both were trying to understand the matter. Daniel, we are told, was praying for understanding.)


      1. How are Luke and Daniel unalike in their writings? (Daniel has an amazing vision of a speaker with great power and glory. That speaker gives a message to Daniel. Luke, on the other hand, has humans speaking to him.)


      2. Does this background make the messages of Daniel more reliable than those of Luke?


        1. If you say, "no," then how do you account for the differences? (Let's go back to sailing. I've had some very intense sailing experiences and some very calm experiences. It is all sailing. God approaches and guides human prophets in different ways - perhaps in different degrees of intensity. Both Luke and Daniel tell how their writings came about. This teaches us that true prophets can have much different experiences.)


  3. False Prophets


    1. Read 2 Peter 2:1. Are false prophets obvious? (Not at first. Like false teachers, they "secretly introduce" false ideas.)


      1. What clue can we have to whether the prophet is true or false? (Whether they deny Jesus.)


      2. What if someone attacked Luke's gospel on the basis that he used other sources - would a proper test of Luke be that his gospel promotes Jesus? (Yes. How a prophet puts together the material is not a test.)


    2. Read 2 Peter 2:2-3. How else should we judge prophets (and teachers)? (First, follow the money. Greed causes the false prophets to exploit those who follow them. Second, look at the results of the teaching and prophecy. The ways of the false prophets are "shameful" and they bring "the way of truth into disrepute." The promote themselves, not Jesus.)


  4. Mixed Prophecies


    1. Read 1 Corinthians 7:10-13. All of this is in the Bible. Yet Paul tells us some of what is written is his opinion and some of it is God's command. Is part of the Bible more reliable than other parts?


      1. I appreciate Paul noting what are God's commands and what are his own opinion, does he always do this? What about other prophets, do they always make the distinctions clear?


    2. Read 1 Corinthians 7:25-26. Is Paul telling us that the Holy Spirit is not inspiring him here? If so, why is this in the Bible?


      1. Re-read 2 Peter 1:20. If the Bible does not come from the prophet's own interpretation, how can we have Paul telling us ( 1 Corinthians 7:25) what he writes is his own judgment? (Paul appears to be answering a series of questions posed to him by the local church. In accord with the proper approach of a prophet, he lets the reader know when God has not given him a direct revelation. However, Paul calls himself "trustworthy" - so he is claiming some spiritual basis for his statements - without an express command.)


      2. What does this teach us about the writings of prophets? (Consider again the sailing idea. Prophecy is a joint venture between God and humans. The mix between God and human may vary - but for true prophets the wind behind the statement is always the Holy Spirit. The lesson for us is that we need to look at the collective writings of the prophets as a whole to discern God's will.)


    3. Friend, will you pray that God will give you understanding about the gift of prophecy? Will you pray that, as described in Joel 2, the gift of prophecy will be given to many people? Will you pay attention to the prophets that you have?


  5. Next week: Testing the Prophets.

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