Peter concludes the first chapter of his second epistle with these words. “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 us they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:19-21). These verses of scripture are especially important because of what they tell us about the inspiration of scripture, reminding us that we have a “sure word of prophecy,” that is, trustworthy scriptures.
Unfortunately, the words, “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation,” have been misused by some religious organizations to keep people from studying the scriptures for themselves. Some prefer to keep the people in ignorance, teaching that the individual Christian cannot study or understand the scriptures themselves, but must rely on “the church” or church leaders to interpret the scriptures for them. Thus individuals may think there is no reason to study and reason for themselves. This is contrary to all the rest of the scripture, however. Saving faith comes from understanding and obeying the scriptures. All will be judged by the scriptures.
Some suggest that what Peter was teaching in these verses is that since the words of scripture have a definite meaning, then those who interpret scripture are not free to read whatever meaning they want to into the scriptures, but must consider the context of scripture. Surely it is true that no one should be free to read into the scriptures any of their own personal opinions, and context must always be considered, but this is not Peter’s concern in this passage.
There is a better, more reasonable way to understand the words. Consider the rendering of 2 Peter 1:20-21 in the New American Standard Version: “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” The prophecy of scripture did not come “by the will of man.” “No prophecy was ever made by an act of human will.” The prophets were inspired to write by God, and did not just speak what they wanted to speak, but they spoke what was revealed to them by God. That is the reason for the amazing accuracy of the teaching of scripture, and the agreement among the different writers. If each had been free to just write what he wanted to write, then there would be multiplied contradictions among all of the different portions of scripture.
The “holy men” were “moved by the Holy Ghost,” literally “borne along” just as a strong wind propels a ship through the sea. Jesus told his disciples, “when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, thst shall he speak: und he will show you things to come” (John 16:13) As the New Testament writers revealed the full truth of God’s revelation, the Holy Spirit guided them. Their message is one for all men study, obey, and live by.