The Second Letter of Peter – 02 (“Supplement your Faith”)
Last Sunday we saw in 2 Pet.1:1-4 that our goal, or if you want, our new year resolution should be life and godliness. We also saw that the source of strength to become godly, is divine power – God’s power, and the way of achieving godliness is by knowing and trusting the promises of God – or the Word of God. These are part of our growth in holiness and to become more and more like Jesus – this process is also called sanctification.
Just for the sake of background, sanctification is part of the “The Order of Salvation” (Latin: “processus in salute”):
When we look at the order of salvation (in Latin: “processus in salute”), we as believers, after our salvation, find ourselves in a stage called “sanctification” (Latin: “ordo salutis”), where after we die and are taken up into heaven.” Before we look at our Scripture reading and the exposition of the passage, I want to focus a little bit on the “sanctification” stage. I cannot explain it better than John Piper and he describes this topic as follows:
“Justification is the act of God by which He declares us to be just, or righteous, or perfect, because by faith alone we have been united to Jesus Christ who is just; who is perfect; who is righteous. Justification is therefore a legal standing before God owing to a spiritual union with Jesus, which is owing to faith alone – you don’t work yourself into, or perform your way into this standing with God – He declares you to be perfect, because of your union with Christ and that happens by faith alone.
Sanctification is the act of God by which He, through His Spirit and His Word, is conforming us, little by little, or in big steps, into the image of His Son. We are therefore becoming in our behaviour righteous; and overcoming imperfections in our sanctification.
Many people struggle with the question how these two things – these two “stages”, relate to each other. The key verse in explaining this question is found in Hebr.10:14 ~ “For by a single offering he (i.e. Christ Jesus) has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” If we look at this verse, we can ask ourselves, who has been perfected for all time – note, ‘has been’ – ‘it’s done’ (“tetelestai”) – has been perfected for all time? The answer, those who are being perfected – being sanctified, being made holy. He has made you perfectly holy. Which means that the evidence that you stand holy, or perfect, or just before God, is that you are by faith becoming holy and this is the key to the Christian life. Another way to say this, is that the power by which you daily strive to overcome the imperfections in your life, is the confidence that you are already perfect.
If you get this switched around and think that God demands perfection and therefore, you’ve got to become perfect, you’ve got it all wrong. It is just the opposite – because of Christ, we believe in Him and are saved. God unites us to Christ; His perfection is counted as ours, so we have now been perfected in Christ. That means that we will hate our sin, and will daily strive to overcome the imperfections that exist in our lives. My exhortation would be, please don’t get these backward or mixed up. The whole world gets this backwards. Other religions get it all backwards, because they believe that they can please God and get saved through their works. No-one can ever get saved that way.
God reckons us as acceptable, makes us His children, counts us as righteous and because of that righteousness, we spend a life time becoming what we already are.” (https://youtu.be/8oy0X_Xlz4Q)
In one sense we may say that sanctification has nothing to do with regeneration or justification, and yet it has everything to do with demonstrating that one has experienced it. Sanctification alone doesn’t save, but there is no salvation without it. As Paul told the Thessalonian believers ~ “…God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (2 Thess.2:13). The experience of salvation begins with regeneration and justification, continues with sanctification, and is fulfilled in glorification. All who are regenerated and justified are being sanctified. All who are being sanctified will eventually be glorified. While we may distinguish between regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification, we must not separate them. In other words, the person who truly experiences one will experience them all (and in the order listed).
There is a theological expression that say (and this applies here): “We have been saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved.” Sanctification isn’t included in the “we have been saved” part of salvation, but it is synonymous with the “we are being saved” part. And without sanctification, there is no “we will be saved.” For as Heb.12:14 teaches ~ “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.”
How do I “Pursue…the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord”? Unlike regeneration, there is much Spirit-filled human effort involved in sanctification. On the one hand ~ “…it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Col.2:13). On the other hand, we’re commanded in 1 Tim.4:7 to, ~ “…discipline yourself for the purposes of godliness.” God uses means of grace to sanctify us, chief of which are the personal and corporate spiritual disciplines. In the personal realm, these include intake of God’s Word, prayer, private worship, fasting, silence and solitude, etc. These are balanced by disciplines we practice with the church: public worship, hearing God’s Word preached, observance of the ordinances (communion, baptism), corporate prayer, fellowship, etc. And all along, our confidence is not in ourselves, but in God. As Paul puts it ~ “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil.1:6).
With this “heavy”, but very important information, let us look at our next paragraph in 2 Peter 1 and find out what we can do to supplement (add to) our faith and sanctification.
- SCRIPTURE READING:
2 Peter 1:5-11 (ESV) ~ “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
We are going to look at this paragraph under the following two headings:
3.1 The Command (1:5-9)
3.2 The Exhortation (1:10-11)
3.1 The Command (1:5-9:):
In order for us to understand this passage, we have to look at the opening words, namely, “For this very reason.” Clearly these words refer to the verses just prior to this paragraph. We’ve seen last week, that we as God’s children, have received all that we need to live godly lives, but we must apply ourselves and be diligent to use the “means of grace.” We also saw that spiritual growth is not something that happens automatically. It requires cooperation with God and the application of spiritual diligence and discipline.
Peter tells his readers that they have received everything from God to live holy lives, but that they must also, in Paul’s words, “work out their own salvation.” Peter and Paul agree because Peter says, to use the means of grace to live holy lives. That is also why Peter says in vs.5, that they must… ~ “…make every effort to supplement (their) faith.” By saying this, Peter refers back to 2 Pet.1:1. He is still talking about faith.
We must keep in mind that the congregation(s) who received this letter were infiltrated and misled by false teachers, who taught them all kinds of unbiblical things and he wants to remind them of the Biblical Truth and principals. That is why he encouraged them to study the Word of God (in the previous paragraph). Peter goes further and tells his readers, that if their faith is real and authentic – truly anchored in the Word of God, their faith must work itself out in public and in practical ways. Faith is to be both foundational (based on the true Word of God) and functional (or practical). In order to live their faith in a practical way, they have to supplement (add to – NASB, KJV, etc.) it through application.
In the original text of the New Testament (which is Greek), the expression “supplement” or “add to” is ἐπιχορηγέω (epichorēgeō) which literally means “to provide for, to support,” in other words, we as believers must co-operate with God (or if you want, to support Him) in order to extend His Kingdom here on earth and to be witnesses of the Truth. We also need to respond to God’s divine provision of salvation and the promise of eternal life, by making… “…every effort to supplement (our) faith” (vs.5a). This effort must be done with eagerness and enthusiasm – vs.10 ~ “…be all the more diligent.”
In order to emphasize this co-operation, Peter uses the verb (“add to – ἐπιχορηγέω – epichorēgeō) in the imperative form – he urges us to respond, because of the tremendous price that Jesus paid on the cross for our salvation.
Peter now gives us a list of characteristics of a godly life in which we are to grow in order to “co-operate with God.” As explained previously, this word “add to” or “supplement” actually means, to “supply generously,” or abundantly – not drops of it, but streams of it. And we must develop these characteristics – it must be expanded and grow and become more and more. These qualities grow out of an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
- The first characteristic is “virtue” (vs.5b). We can translate the word “virtue” with “moral excellence,” or “fortitude.” In other words, it is like a tool that works correctly and excellently. Applied to a Christian, this means to produce divine (godly) qualities that make you more like Jesus. Faith helps us to develop and grow this virtue (i.e. excellence).
- Virtue helps us to develop the second characteristic, namely “knowledge” (vs.5b). The word translated “knowledge” means “knowledge that is growing.” This word does not refer to saving knowledge (ĕpignōsis), but to knowledge that comes from reading, thinking and discussing God’s Word (nōsis). If we want to grow in Christ-like goodness, we shall have a hunger and desire to grow in our knowledge of Christ (reading/studying the Bible; an eagerness to attend as much as possible of the local church’s meetings, etc.).
- Knowledge leads to the next characteristic, namely “self-control” or temperance. What is self-control. One of the Bible verses that describe this the best, is most probably Prov.16:32 ~ “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” Paul in his letters often compared the Christian to an athlete who must exercise and discipline himself if he ever hopes to win the prize and that is exactly what we also need to do, we must exercise our temper and self-control, so that we under all circumstances can keep or maintain our composure and emotions.
- “Perseverance” flows from self-control. Perseverance is the ability to endure when circumstances are difficult. Self-control is the power over that which is within you, while perseverance is the power over that which is outside yo
- “Godliness” is the fifth characteristic and it comes forth out of perseverance. The Greek word translated “godliness” in most English translations means “a proper response to the things of God, which produces obedience and righteous living.” As He walked this earth, Jesus was the embodiment of pure godliness, which led Him to lay down His life for unworthy sinners (Joh.10:18). His life was dedicated to the glory of the Father, and He always did what pleased Him (Joh.8:29). Christians pursue godliness when we follow the example of Jesus in dedicating every decision to the glory of God (1 Cor.10:31). Godliness is not a suggestion; it is a command ~ “…but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet.1:15-16 – also see Hebr.12:14).
- “Brotherly affection” or “brotherly kindness” is the next supplement or addition to our faith that Peter mentions. The Greek word for this affection, is φιλαδελφία (philadĕlphia) and it refers to the love the believers must have to other brothers and sisters – no exclusions! And if you don’t have it – work on it, pray about it, do something about it, grow it. The reference here in 2 Pet.1:7, is the only place where the word is found outside the context of the home and the implication of that is that the love and bond between one’s brothers and sister must be the same as that between the members of an intimate and loving family.
- “Love” is the last characteristic that we must add to our faith. In this case the word “love” comes from the Greek word ἀγάπη (agapē). This is the same love that God shows toward lost sinners – we must grow in the same love for all people – can I say it again, for all people. We must love other people in spite of differences.
It is impossible for fallen man – for any of us, to manufacture these seven qualities of Christian character. They must be produced by the Spirit of God. This fact also refers back to 2 Pet.1:3-5, where Peter says that it is God’s power that… ~ “…caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” But, as Warren Wiersbe says: “The divine “genetic structure” is already there: God wants us to ~ ‘be conformed to the image of His Son’ (Rom.8:29).” The life within will reproduce that image if we but diligently cooperate with God and use the means He has lavishly given us.” We must in other words become more and more like Jesus and then Peter concludes in vs.8, that “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” if you have these traits, it will help you to be fruitful, effective and your knowledge of Christ will grow.
Peter however, also warns us in vs.9, that if we lack these qualities – if anyone does not have them, he is near-sighted and blind and that is a sad and scary state to be in, because that means that he has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
3.2 The Exhortation (1:10-11):
We have to grow in holiness – not to be saved, but to glorify God. To conclude, we find instructions to grow in sanctification – e.g. Col.3:9-10 ~ “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Peter, in vs.10a says something similar ~ “…be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.” Practice these seven qualities and you will never fall. Then he continues by saying in vs.11~ “For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord.” What will you receive? You will receive present steadfastness, and you will receive future glory – “entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord.”
- CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
Peter says, “Confirm your election! Make sure of it!” (vs.10). By standing in your faith and pressing on to virtue, knowledge, self-control, patience, godliness, brotherly affection, and love.
Are you making every effort towards developing these seven characteristics? If these things are in you and increasing, you will not be fruitless (vs.8), you will never fall (vs.10), and you will enter the eternal kingdom of Christ (vs.11). But if these things are not your earnest concern, then you are not putting the Kingdom first, and that will have serious consequences for you. Beloved, I plead with you, do not shut your eyes to the beauty of God’s promises, and do not forget the humble exhilaration of being forgiven.
John Piper says in conclusion of his sermon on this passage: “Therefore, the Word of God warns us against being lazy in our faith and drifting away from Jesus Christ our only hope. And the Word encourages us to fight the good fight of faith and take hold on eternal life (1 Tim.6:12, 19); to lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely and run with perseverance the race before us (Hebr.12:1); to press on toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil.3:14); to advance and grow and go forward in virtue and knowledge and self-control and patience and godliness and brotherly affection and love (2 Pet.1:5-7); and in this way to reassure our hearts and make our confidence firm that we are indeed called to share in God’s glory and excellence (2 Pet.1:10, 3).”