CHRISTIAN QUALITIES 2 Peter 1
“If you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8).It is more important to live the faith than to defend it.
God gives grace and peace through Christ (1:1–2). His gift of the divine nature (vv. 3–4) makes it possible for us to grow—which we must do (vv. 5–11). We remain confident because of the eyewitness testimony of the Apostles (vv. 12–18), and of God’s prophetic Word (vv. 19–21).
Understanding the Text
“Through the righteousness of our God” 2 Peter 1:1. Usually we think of being saved by God’s grace. Peter, like Paul in Romans 1, invites us to think of salvation in light of the righteousness of God. Saving us was the right thing for God to do, not because He was obligated to us, but because He was true to Himself in expressing saving love. But God had to save us in the right way. There could be no cheap redemption. So God paid the price to set us free and give us new life. We can thank the fact that God is righteous as well as the fact that He is gracious for the salvation we now enjoy. This is a good thing for us to remember. There are times when we want to do the right thing, but may draw back from paying the price. Remembering what God has done for us may free us to act righteously toward others. “Grace and peace . . . in abundance” 2 Peter 1:2. When Peter expressed this desire he specified the source: grace and peace come “through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” Peter didn’t mean knowing about God. The Greek word indicates “full knowledge”: a knowledge of God personally, experientially. Staying close to the Lord brings each of us grace and peace. “Everything we need for life and godliness” 2 Peter 1:3–4. Through believing the promise of the Gospel, God implants His own divine nature in us, and we experience a flood of spiritual power. In knowing Christ, we have everything we need to “escape the corruption in the world” that is caused by “evil desires.” The one thing a Christian is not is powerless. But we may not realize the nature of God’s power, or why it is given to us. We are not given power to succeed in business, or power to become popular. We are given power to live godly lives. If you and I concentrate on living godly lives, we will find we have power aplenty. “Make every effort” 2 Peter 1:5–9. God provides the power that enables us to live a victorious Christian life. But you and I must make every effort. We have an exercise bicycle in our family room. It’s not for me—I only enjoy competitive exercise, like tennis or basketball. It belongs to Sue. And that exercise bike really helps. It helps her build stamina, and slims her thighs. But it does no good at all unless she puts in her daily effort. Our relationship with God is something like this. The resource we need is always there for us. But to profit from what God has provided, you and I have to put in the effort. “Add to your faith” 2 Peter 1:5–8. The word translated “add” means to make abundant provision for. Making every effort to live a Christian life means we begin with faith—but we do not stop there. We go on, and concentrate on developing the following Christian virtues: Goodness. The Greek word is arete, not one of the more familiar words, rendered “good.” Arete is usually translated excellence. It refers to the full development of our potential; to achievement in a chosen sphere of action. We are called to excel as Christians, not to live “average” lives. Knowledge. The knowledge that we add to faith is a knowledge of God’s will. The “superior knowledge” claimed by the false teachers Peter was about to discuss was empty and meaningless. What counts is understanding what God wants from us, and doing it. Self-control. In Scripture this virtue is contrasted to excesses—to greed, to surrender to sexual passions. The Christian who understands the will of God is to discipline himself or herself to do it. Perseverance. The word in Scripture suggests a distinctive view of time. The Christian takes the long view, and realizes that God does not work by man’s timetable. However discouraging the circumstances, the Christian is able to keep on, faithfully doing the Lord’s will. Godliness. This Greek word for piety suggests a constant awareness of God and a commitment to doing things that are appropriate to one devoted to Him. Brotherly kindness and love. The two words denote affection, and self-sacrifice. We learn to care about others and their welfare. And we are willing to help them, even at personal cost. These qualities “in increasing measure” will keep us from being “ineffective and unproductive.” “If anyone does not have them” 2 Peter 1:9. My daughter, Joy, now 28, was brain damaged at birth. She has developed into a tall, attractive girl, physically. But mentally she’ll never grow beyond a first or second-grade level. All her life she will have to be cared for in a community like the one she now lives in, in Arizona. Some Christians are like Joy. They remain “ineffective and unproductive.” The placental separation that left my daughter without oxygen near the moment of birth, and damaged her irreparably, was a tragedy that only eternity will undo. But how much greater a tragedy it is when Christians, who have the potential to become mature, continue in spiritual babyhood. You and I don’t need to remain in spiritual infancy. All we need to do is to “make every effort” to live the quality Christian life Peter described. “Make your calling and election sure” 2 Peter 1:10–11. The Emperor Trajan instructed governor Pliny to give Christians a chance to repent. If they denied Christ, and burned incense to statues of the ancient Roman gods, they were to go free. In the early centuries of Christianity some did associate with the new faith only for a time, and then wandered away. Others denied the faith under persecution. Just associating with Christians, and even calling oneself a Christian, was no guarantee a person was one of the elect. Even though the whole notion of election remains a mystery, there is a way you and I can make sure we are numbered among God’s chosen people. That is to “do these things” that Peter has described. As we grow in grace, and in effectiveness as Christians, we “will never fall,” and will “receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom” of Jesus.
Make Sure(2 Peter 1:12–21)
Before you toss an anchor overboard, you’d better make sure of two things. Is the rope secured to the anchor? And is the other end of the line secured to your boat? Peter’s first chapter is something like this. His first 11 verses encourage us to make sure that our own lives are tightly entwined with Christian faith. And then verses 12 through 21 remind us how trustworthy the faith itself is. Peter himself had no doubts at all. He spent years with Jesus. He was one of the “eyewitnesses of His majesty” when that was displayed on the Mount of Transfiguration (vv. 16–18). Even more, the words of the ancient prophets of Israel are in harmony with the vision of Jesus glorified (v. 19). Together the ancient words, given by God Himself, and the Transformation event, are irrefutable proof that a new day will dawn. Jesus will return for us, and all our hopes and dreams will surely be fulfilled.
There is more reason to doubt that dawn will come tomorrow than to question Jesus’ return.
People: Lamb of God, holy Lord God, hear our prayer of need; have mercy on us.
Leader: From the sin of not believing in you, From all sins of flesh and spirit, From all self-righteousness, From all lukewarmness and drunkenness, From all indifference to your wounds and death.
People: Defend us, dear Lord God. There is nothing in us but poverty. By your blood, death, and suffering give us a warm, completely submissive heart.
Leader: O Immanuel, Savior of the World People: Make yourself known to us!
Leader: By your holy incarnation and birth People: Make us love our humanity!
Leader: By your poverty and servanthood,
People: Teach us to be lowly in this world!
Leader: By your correct understanding of the Scripture People: Make firm the word of truth in us. -Nickolaus von Zinzendorf