VERSE OF THE DAY
2 Peter 1:5-8 (New Living Translation)
In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Because you have these blessings, do all you can to add to your life these things: to your faith add goodness; to your goodness add knowledge; to your knowledge add self-control; to your self-control add patience; to your patience add devotion to God; to your devotion add kindness toward your brothers and sisters in Christ, and to this kindness add love. If all these things are in you and growing, you will never fail to be useful to God. You will produce the kind of fruit that should come from your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8)
2 Peter 1:5-8 – Spiritual Growth: Virtue
By Mark Chen
Preached at Life BPC 10.30am service, 2004-02-08
Text: 2 Peter 1:5-8
In the introduction to this series of messages, there was an important question asked: ‘How far have I progressed in the process of sanctification, since the day I came to know Christ? What stage have I reached in my growth in the image of Christ?’ Meaning, how holy are you and how much are you like Christ now? Are you holier, more Christ-like, and more spiritual this year than you were last year or the year before? These are important questions! Remember, the goal of our religion is not only to be saved and to get to heaven; but the goal is to get into heaven well. Definitely, if we are saved, we are assured a place in eternity – whether we enter first or last place, we’ll still get in. But that isn’t the point. Scripture tells us that we who are saved are in a race, and we are all competing against ourselves, NOT each other – we’re not rivals competing against each other, but the one that we are competing against is ourselves. We know what is good and required of us, but we don’t do it. We know what is bad, but we can’t help but do it. And that is what Paul says of the Christian struggle in Romans 7: 19 ‘For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.’ This of course, this is not a license for us to sin, but it just goes to show how difficult it is to run this race. But then again, since when has running a race been easy?
The athlete prepares for a race by hours of training and hard work. He has to eat the right kinds of foods to at least keep his weight to a specified class – long-distanced runners are usually leaner with longer muscles whereas sprinters are usually bigger with large hamstrings. The athlete must monitor himself carefully. Some even shave excess body hair to make themselves more streamlined. He has a system. Not only does he spend time monitoring his diet, but he adds to that – training. He trains everyday for a certain number of hours, not only doing his stretches, but lifting weights; and adding to that a system of exercises to increase his distance or his speed. All these work in conjunction to help him win. If he fails to add one of those elements in, he may not be as prepared to run the race. In fact, he would be at a severe disadvantage.
These things take time to build up. Stamina takes time to build up. But once an athlete has these things under his belt, running races will be increasingly easier – the 2.4 km run he did last year would be of no difficulty to him if he has been training for a 5 km run. Once he is able to conquer the marathon, the half-marathon would be of little difficulty for him. And so he progresses, applying himself as he goes along. Each step of the way with challenges no doubt, but he has his training to back him up. It is tough to become a good athlete.
Which is why, certain athletes feel that they are at a disadvantage, often times resorting to other means of achieving success. Anaerobic steroids, methamphetamines, and other performance enhancing drugs become secrets, or rather, not-so-secrets of success. Time-honored effort and the work ethic are put away. But their triumphs are empty for they haven’t been true to themselves.
Let me give another example. A pastry chef has to train and undergo years of apprenticeship before he can qualify to be an under chef, and even years after that before he can be a master. He must first learn to mix the dough, to which he adds the knowledge of how to roll the dough, to which he adds the knowledge of how to shape the dough. Then he must know how to make the fillings. Then he must know at what temperature to bake and for how long. Even a home maker needs years of experience. Our mothers don’t become expert cooks overnight. To know how to make a real authentic rendang requires skill and knowledge of spices and how to combine them. But some mothers have a secret recipe. It is called Maggi pre-packed rendang spices – just mix in the meat and fry.
So it is no surprise that with performance enhancing drugs and instant award-winning seasonings, Christians often look for the easy way out to grow spiritually. With such secrets to winning races and creating the perfect meal, what then is the secret to spiritual growth? Well, there really isn’t a secret. The recipe for spiritual maturity and the regime for spiritual growth are listed quite clearly in our passage this morning. It is a tough regime – there are no short cuts. We see here that to grow spiritually, not only do you need faith, but you need virtue. And on top of that, knowledge, followed by temperance, patience, and so on. No secret, just hard work.
And when you have these things, and when they abound in you, according to verse 8, you will neither be barren nor unfruitful in your knowledge of Christ. If we have these things and are full of these things, then it can be said that we are growing in the knowledge of Jesus. But this knowledge of Christ is more than just an intellectual knowledge. Sure, intellectual knowledge is important. In verse 5, we are told that we should add on to virtue, knowledge – knowledge being the knowledge of doctrine, knowledge of the Bible. So this kind of knowledge does have a place. But Peter is talking about growing in a very personal kind of knowledge of Christ. For example, it is one thing to say you know about someone and a completely different thing to say you know someone personally.
So Peter isn’t talking about a factual knowledge, but a personal and intimate knowledge. And the more we develop these characteristics, the more we will really ‘know’ Jesus. After all, he is the embodiment of these characteristics. Who was the most faithful person? Jesus. Who was the most virtuous person? Jesus. Who was the most knowledgeable, temperate, patient, godly, kind, and loving person? Jesus. And when we know Jesus, to be thoroughly acquainted with and to know accurately and well, we are growing spiritually. Our church theme this year is ‘That I May Know Christ.’ And the way that one can truly know him is to follow this regime – this recipe.
All ingredients are necessary. Growing in Christ requires all these characteristics. And we must add these characteristics to each other – just as you build up on the ingredients to make a dish. The word ‘add’ in verse 5, in the Greek, is where we get the word ‘choreograph.’ This word was a musical term – it means to support a chorus, to lead a choir, or to keep in tune. When a conductor leads a choir, he has to make sure that the voices of the men blend with the voices of the ladies. When ladies sing, they usually have a certain light tonal quality. Their voices are supposed to soar. They are like birds flying effortlessly through the air. Then when you blend in the men, and if they are controlled and are able to support the ladies, then they are like the thermal winds that lift a bird up. But if they are too over-powering, they will act like the head wind, that will cause the bird to struggle in flight and tire easily. But if the choir is carefully choreographed, the end result is a wonderful piece of music that uplifts the soul.
So, in our spiritual growth, these ingredients are all necessary – and this word ‘add’ suggests that they must work together in perfect harmony in order to produce an overall piece of work that is without rival. And that is what the Christian would be when he carefully choreographs his spiritual life, not to neglect any one of these ingredients. Each ingredient or activity builds up on another. Faith without virtue can’t make it. Neither can virtue make it without knowledge. If any of these ingredients are lacking or are not abounding, then the end result is a poor intimate knowledge of Christ – the end result is poor spiritual growth.
That is why Peter tells us repeatedly in verses 5 and 10 to give all diligence to do these things. Diligence means ‘zeal, earnestness, and urgency.’ Hence, it requires haste to grow in this intimate knowledge of Christ. And ‘diligence’ also gives us the idea of desire. How much do you desire growth? An athlete doesn’t win a race by just sitting down – if he did that, he wouldn’t develop the lightning speed and muscles required to win. But victory is achieved through diligence. Well, what if we do not apply ourselves diligently? There’s this story of a school teacher who had taught for 25 years. One day, she heard about a job offer in the same school – and if she were to get it, it would be a promotion for her. So she applied for it. However, another person who had only 1 year’s experience teaching was hired instead of her. So, puzzled, she inquired with the principal. And he told her that though she had taught for 25 years, she didn’t have 25 years of experience; she had only one year’s experience 25 times. Throughout those years, she hadn’t improved one bit. No diligence.
So how diligent are we in nurturing and developing these characteristics? Are we even training? And because training is not easy, many are prone to lying low. Many aren’t growing, because as mentioned, it is very tough.
Among the characteristics listed here, I believe one of the toughest to develop is ‘virtue.’ And virtue is the characteristic most needed today. What firstly is virtue? Most people will define virtue as decency. A virtuous person is a decent, respectable, and a moral person. In one sense, that is not incorrect. But what Peter has in mind is different. The sense we get from this word can even be seen in the word itself. Virtue is related to the word virility. Both of these words come from the Latin word virtus. Vir means ‘man’, hence virtus means manliness, courage, and strength. When a man is said to be very virile, we get the idea that he’s a man’s man. He is courageous in the face of opposition. And in the Latin translation of the Bible, this word is used. But more than just meaning manliness or courage, it has a specific context. It refers to moral courage. Wycliffe translated it as moral excellence. Another translated it as manly excellence. Yet another, fortitude.
So we get the idea that to be virtuous in the sense that Peter meant it, the Christian is not only to be looking to be a very moral person, a holy person, but he is also willing to stick to his guns in being holy. He will be courageous to do the right thing regardless of temptation to sin and the pressures to conform to the world. Virtue includes such characteristics as goodness, nobility, dignity, modesty, purity – and all with a strength and resolve to stick to it. And hence you see in this word the idea of hungering and thirsting after righteousness. That’s one of the Beatitudes. Jesus told his disciples and those who were with him at the time during the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, that blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, that blessed are they who are the pure in heart, that blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. So to be virtuous is to hunger after purity.
Here’s an illustration. In many parts of the world, especially in the north, there is an animal called an ermine. It’s a small rodent well-known for its gleaming white fur. It takes very good care of its fur, grooming it and preventing it from getting dirty or dull. And hence, hunters will take advantage of this. The hunters don’t set any traps to capture this animal. What they would do is firstly find its home, which would be a small cave or a dead log, then they would put black tar at the entrance and also inside. Then the hunters would then call forth their dogs to frighten the ermine by the loud barking and chasing. The ermine would run towards its home, but once finding that the entrance and interior covered with this substance, it would not enter in. Rather than dirty its glossy white fur, it would rather face the dogs and the hunters with courage. Its purity was far dearer than its own life.
There are many biblical examples as well of this characteristic of virtue. Genesis 39 tells of Joseph who refused to commit fornication with Mrs Potiphar for fear of sinning against God. It’s remarkable what he said. He said in Genesis 39:9, ‘There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?’ Here it is revealed that Joseph had the opportunity because he was well trusted and almost ungoverned, that he could’ve accepted the advances of such a woman. But virtue kicked in and he refused.
Another example is that of Daniel. It was said of him in Daniel 1:8 that ‘Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.’ The very act of purposing showed his virtue, courage in the face of great opposition. How do you fare in business ventures, business dinners, entertaining guests, going out with friends, your conversations with them, your work ethic, taking exams, doing reports, even the nature of your occupation? How do you fare? How virtuous are you?
Yet another example was Stephen, who was not afraid to rebuke the Jews for their unbelief, by saying in Acts 7:51, ‘Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.’ And for that he was stoned and killed. But even as he died, he remained virtuous, courageous to stick to what was right and good, even though he had every so-called right to be angry, yet in moral excellence, he forgave his murderers, ‘Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.’
Aside from Biblical examples, there are also many examples in history of virtuous Christians. I’d like to take two examples from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. The first is of the Thebian Legion a group of soldiers numbering 6,666 men. And they all happened to be Christian. This was in the year AD 286. The Roman emperor Maximian sent them to fight in France. About halfway there, they stopped, and the emperor ordered a sacrifice to the Gods, in which the whole army was to participate. He also commanded that they should swear an oath to exterminate all the Christians in France. Of course, the Thebian Legion refused to do both. So the emperor executed every tenth man to try to get them to change their minds. But when this had failed to weaken their resolve, again, he executed every tenth man. And when this had failed again to weaken their resolve, he commanded that the whole legion executed. All perished. They never budged from their spiritual decision. This was moral courage.
The second example is of a bishop named Quirinus. He was ordered by the governor of Croatia in AD 308 to sacrifice to the pagan deities. He refused and was sent to jail and torture. The governor could not weaken his resolve, so he sent Quirinus to Hungary, to be tortured under a more ruthless governor. Ridiculed, mocked, and beaten, yet this bishop was still resolved. So the governor decided to execute him by drowning. There he was in the river Danube trying to stay afloat with a millstone around his neck, preaching to the people to live holy livese2C he finally ended with this prayer before drowning: ‘It is no new thing, O all-powerful Jesus, for Thee to stop the course of rivers, or to cause a man to walk upon the water, as Thou didst Thy servant Peter; the people have already seen the proof of Thy power in me; grant me now to lay down my life for Thy sake, O my God.’
In these words, we see that Quirinus knew that it did not require some great miracle like walking on water for the people to see Jesus, for it was through Quirinus’ virtue and holy living that they saw Him. And from this, we kno7 that virtuous living has certain results. 1 Peter 2:11-12 says, ‘Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.’ Virtuous living causes others to respect us and glorify God.
That’s what happened with Quirinus – many people who witnessed his drowning respected Him and glorified God. Learning to build and show forth Godly standards will cause others to desire a more Godly life. And this will lead people to Christ. If you are a person who is easily angered, or reacts poorly in times of anger, people cannot see your moral excellence. But if you react graciously, with much love, even when you’ve been hurt, people notice something different about you. Now, which is better? Which is more Christ-like? When you have been hurt and others have spoken maliciously of you, do you react in anger and stir up the feelings of others against your enemies? Or do you surrender to God and let him soothe your hurts? How you react shows how virtuous you are.
2 Timothy 2:21 says, ‘If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.’ Focusing on moral excellence will cause you to be used by God. If we are not morally excellent people, it should come as no surprise that God is not using us for any spiritual endeavor.
James 4:7 says, ‘Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.’ This tells us that courage to resist sin and courage to lead a pure life will result in exactly that – a life victorious over sin filled with purity. But the question is ‘Do you desire to live a pure life?’ With no desire, with no diligence, with no courage or virtue, all is lost. All is lost. No intimate knowledge – no spiritual growth. How did you run the race? Badly or well?
I mentioned during this message that many of us say that to live this kind of Christian life is tough. That is true, to a certain extent. But let us remember too that we have help from the Holy Spirit, and only when we submit and surrender to Him, will He grant us success in living the Christian life. 1 John 5:3-4 says, ‘For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.’ We can be virtuous, we can be courageous.
But a word of caution. Yes, having virtue is vital for Christian growth. But it must also be tempered by and choreographed with knowledge. Virtue without knowledge of the Bible leads to self-righteousness. You may have zeal, but is it according to knowledge? Romans 10:2-3 says, ‘They have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.’ We can get courageous over many things and righteous over many small and ridiculous things. Care must be taken that our virtue be harmonized with knowledge of the Bible. And it goes without saying too, that knowledge must be harmonized with virtue, for if not, it leads us to a very theoretical Christianity. Is our Christianity emasculated? Is it just a theoretical Christianity? Important questions, but that’s another sermon.
So how do you run? How diligent are you? How brave and moral are you? May the Lord help us and excite us to live a life filled with virtue that we may know Him more intimately each day.
What Does 2 Peter 1:5 Mean? ►
Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
2 Peter 1:5(NASB)
The urgency of Peter’s message in his second epistle is that the Christians life.. which begins with faith, must grow and develop into Christian maturity and produce spiritual fruit, which is so honouring to the Father.
As believers we are not left on our own to forge through our Christian life blindly.. depending on our own personal potential, business acumen, innate abilities, or educational excellence, for to do so would cause us to become shipwrecked – for we read that: without Me ye can do nothing. However in His grace.. God has given us everything that pertains to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him, Who called us by His glory and virtue
As believers, who have escaped the corruption that is in the world by faith in Christ, we have been given exceedingly great and precious promises, through which we may be partakers of Christ’s divine nature. This tremendous privilege is ours by grace through faith in Him – but we have to access this divine birthright by choice.
At Salvation our new birth was the start of our spiritual journey and not the end.. and although we have access to all that we need to increasingly become more Christ-like and to develop those godly qualities.. that are so honouring to the Lord, we are required to diligently apply in our daily life.. all that have been given us in Him.
Our spiritual maturity is not an automatic consequence of our spiritual birth, but requires diligence and discipline on a daily basis – so that we become doers of the word and not hearers only – BUT we are never to forget that our strength is not of ourselves, lest we should boast. Our strength is to be found in Christ alone.
We are to work out our own salvation through a dedicated study and application of God’s Word. We are to die to all that is of self and to live our life for Christ alone. We are to break free from all that comes from the old life, that was dead in trespasses and sins and in bondage to Satan.. and we are to walk in newness of Christ’s indwelling life – in spirit and in truth, as we depend totally upon God and are fully equipped by His Holy Spirit.
And so the urgency of Peter’s message in his second epistle is that our Christian life, which began at the point of saving faith, must become a growing, developing and sanctifying faith, which matures by means of diligent application of God principles of spiritual growth, which are contained in His Word – and all of which produce spiritual fruit, which is so honouring to our Father in heaven.
Having been saved by grace through faith, it is only as we live by grace through faith and earnestly press on to the goal of our high calling in Christ.. with diligence, dedication and discipline.. (and as we pursue the goal of our calling) that we are empowered to grow in grace and in moral excellence. It is only as we appropriate what is ours in Christ and zealously apply it to our everyday lives.. that we grow in our knowledge of Christ, become self-controlled; patient; godly and gentle – good and kind and Christ-like.
What Does 2 Peter 1:6 Mean? ►
and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
2 Peter 1:6(NASB)
Grace and peace is not only given to the child of God but multiplied as we grow in grace and in a knowledge of our heavenly Father and our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Because we trusted the Lord Jesus as Saviour, all that we need for life, godliness and spiritual growth is ours already – but it is accessed by faith. We started our spiritual journey by grace through faith in Christ and we are kept throughout our life-journey by the power of God – by faith, but we are to exercise that faith in Christ, by believing the truth of His Word, by trusting our lives into His hands, by abiding in Him and He in us and by learning to say, Thy will, not mine be done.
Spiritual growth takes place when we exercise faith in the precious promises of God, but often it takes time, for God is working in each of us with an eternal perspective. Spiritual growth is evidenced through the precious fruit of the Holy Spirit, but it takes time to mature and there is a clearly defined process of development and growth.. if we are to grow in grace and show forth the spiritual fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
The first step towards spiritual fruit, Christian maturity.. and a heart that reflects Christ’s love for the Church, is moral excellence in our inner thoughts; righteousness in our outward expression and purity in the secret motives of our heart. And to moral excellence can be added a deepening knowledge and understanding of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
And as we journey through our Christian life we are to: add to our knowledge temperance or self-control; and to self-control we are to add patience. To patience we are to add godliness, so that we can continue towards the ultimate goal that God has for each one of His children, which is brotherly kindness, Christian love and Christlikeness.
It is through the Word of God that we gain knowledge and understanding and it is as the message of Christ richly dwells within our heart that the beautiful attribute of long-suffering is able to develop and grow – for our eternal benefit and to the glory of God. And James reminds us that it is through patient endurance that we are perfected by Him, and become complete in Him, and lacking in nothing.
May all of God’s children make every effort to respond to His promises and to supplement our faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and to the development of moral excellence may we add knowledge.. and may our knowledge enlarge into self-control, and our excellence, and to the development of moral excellence may we add knowledge.. and may our knowledge enlarge into self-control, and our self-control blossom into patient endurance. And finally may our patient endurance grow into godliness, brotherly affection, Christian love and Christ-like behaviour – knowing that the more we grow in these virtues, the more productive and useful we will become in our Christian life as we grow in grace and in a knowledge of our Saviour, Jesus Christ
◄ What Does 2 Peter 1:7 Mean? ►
and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
2 Peter 1:7(NASB)
We are to grow in grace – to grow in godliness and Christlikeness. We are to display the fruit of the Spirit in the bond of peace and we are to demonstrate the gracious characteristics that only come from above, in our everyday life and pattern of living.
As children of our Heavenly Father, we are to function in the divine nature that is ours, by faith in Christ. The Lord Jesus lived his life, from start to finish, in the way that God ordained that mankind should live from the beginning.
Although Christ was fully deity and equal with the Father, He became a little lower than the angels and lived his life in subjection to God’s perfect will. The eternal Son became the perfect Man to demonstrate to sinners like you and me – who would be saved by grace through faith in Christ – just HOW we should live, as children of God.
Day by day, we are being conformed into the image and likeness of Christ Himself, as we abide in Him and He in us. Peter gives a list of the beautiful characteristics that our Heavenly Father desires all His blood-bought sons and daughters to display in their daily lives. We are in the world, but we are not of the world and should show forth the divine characteristics that are ours in and through our new life in Christ.
Peter explained, in previous verses, that we who have been called by His own glory and grace, have escaped the corruption that is in the world – by faith. We have been given all we need for life and godliness – by faith. And because we are His sons and daughters, we should make every effort to supplement our faith with goodness, our goodness with knowledge, our knowledge with self-control, our self-control with endurance, and our endurance with godliness.
One would have thought that godliness would have been the ultimate objective in a Christian’s life… but Peter continues, “and to your godliness, add brotherly kindness, and to your brotherly kindness – add LOVE.” Love is the fulfilment of God’s law in our lives. Loving others in the same way that Christ loved us, is the commandment that He gave to each one of us.
Godliness should be the objective of a believer – where a practical holiness honours the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength – but godliness should manifest love. And love for our perfect God must develop into love for an imperfect humanity.
We are to demonstrate Christ-like tenderness and brotherly kindness to our imperfect brothers and sisters in Christ: “For by this will all men know that we are Christ’s disciples.”
God requires perfection from us and this is an impossibility in our own fallen nature – but we are being made a new creature in Christ and have been clothed in His righteousness by faith. We have received His eternal, resurrected life and we have been given His perfect sinless nature – through which the supernatural love of God can be manifested.
When we die to self and all that the sin-soaked nature of our old life in Adam represents, we are enabled, by the Spirit of God, to live in newness of life, through Christ Jesus our Lord. Let us reckon ourselves dead to sin and all that the old sin nature represents and let us reckon ourselves alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord – so that by His power we may love the Lord our God with all our heart – and in His name, add to that godliness, brotherly kindness, and progress from brotherly kindness to the divine love – that is ours in Christ Jesus.
What Does 2 Peter 1:8 Mean? ►
For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:8(NASB)
Peter knew that the Christian life begins with precious faith in the finished work of Christ and continues with maturing faith, as it is implemented day by day throughout our earthly walk. But he also knew that spiritual growth is not automatic, for we must grow and mature in grace and in a knowledge of our Saviour Jesus Christ – and we do this as we trust in the promises of God, and depend on Him alone through all the eventualities of life, so that we may bear much fruit.. to the praise and glory of our heavenly Father.
Peter knew that the spiritual qualities of godly living, are all rooted and grounded in a life that is saturated with the Word of God, totally submitted to His will and passionately in love with their God and Saviour Jesus Christ.. for by His divine power we all have been generously equipped to grow and mature in grace, to live a godly life in Christ and to increase in spiritually maturity.
The one that deeply desires to live as Christ commanded.. will make every effort, in the power of the Spirit, to respond in faith to God’s many precious promises.. by believing His Word, standing on His promises and acting upon them. And as simple faith is exercised it will become increasingly grounded in the Word of God, and will be supplemented with a generous supply of godly qualities, such as moral excellence and self-control.. patient endurance; gracious godliness; brotherly affection and love for all – and the more we grow in this manner, the more productive and useful we become, and the greater will be our knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we abide in Him – to His praise and glory and for His names sake.
The advice we receive from the book Peter and the other apostles in the Bible should always be our first priority in life. We travel through this ungodly world as Christ’s ambassadors and representatives of heaven, and God’s will for each of our lives is that we become increasingly fruitful – in the knowledge of Him Who called us out of darkness into His marvellous light,.. and that we share the good news of the gospel of grace with men and women, who are dead in their sins and without God in the world.
Let us take to heart the clarion call to be fruitful in our earthly life and seek to walk in spirit and truth from this day forward.. for if these godly qualities are ours and are increasing in our life, we will not be rendered useless but will bear much fruit.. to the praise and glory of our Father in heaven.
3. The Pursuit of Christian Character (2 Peter 1:5-7)
1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
I have heard some incredible promises in my lifetime, just as you probably have also. Most often advertising promises far more than it delivers. But the promises of our text are completely reliable. Indeed, the benefits of heeding Peter’s words, and the consequences of neglecting them, are great:
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you (2 Peter 1:8-11).
Heeding Peter’s words keep us from being useless and unfruitful in our relationship with Jesus Christ (verse 8) and enables us to live in the present in light of our past conversion and our hope for the future (verse 9). Doing as Peter instructs can keep us from stumbling and assure us a triumphant entry into the kingdom of our Lord. Conversely, neglecting Peter’s instruction diminishes our perception and confidence in the salvation God has provided and sets us up for a fall.
Peter’s own words should convince us to pay careful attention, for the benefits pertain to our past, our present walk, and our future hope. May we approach our text with a deep sense of its importance and an open and willing heart eager to hear and heed what God’s Spirit has revealed.
In preparation for a more detailed study of Peter’s words, we must stand back and look at the big picture to understand the context for our further study. Note these observations about our text.
(1) Peter is writing to those who are saved about their sanctification, and not to the unsaved about their salvation. Peter does not challenge his readers to work hard in order to be saved, but to strive diligently because they are saved (see verse 1).
(2) Peter calls for diligent, disciplined, life-long effort on the part of the Christian (verse 5a). This is a discipleship text which requires discipline and self-denial. It is a challenge to every Christian for all the days of their lives. No Christian ever works his way through this text to move on to other pursuits.
(3) The Christian’s efforts are based on the sovereignty of God and the sufficiency of His provisions (verses 1-4). Peter has already laid the foundation for the Christian’s exertion. In verses 1-4, Peter emphasizes the sovereignty of God in salvation. Salvation has been accomplished by God, through Christ, apart from human works or merit. Peter also stresses the sufficiency of God’s provisions for our salvation and sanctification. God has provided all that is necessary for life and godliness (verse 3).
(4) Verses 5-7 contain a list of character qualities for which God has made provision and for which every Christian should strive. This is not a list of imperatives, duties, or activities. Peter is not writing about “how to,” but about the kind of person the Christian should strive to become.
(5) The character qualities we are to pursue are also the character traits of God. Peter has written in verse 4 that God has provided for us to become “partakers of the divine nature.” These character qualities he then lists are the particular character qualities of God which should also be evident in our lives.
(6) Peter gives us a list unlike any other list in the Scriptures. In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul lists the “fruit of the Spirit.” First Timothy 6:11 has yet another list of godly qualities the Christian should pursue. None of the New Testament lists are exactly alike, which suggests that Peter has given us a selected list and that there are other character qualities to pursue. It also implies Peter’s list was compiled for a particular reason. I believe this list of qualities was chosen because of the false teachers who will seek to distort the truth of the Scriptures and seek to seduce men to follow them. If the character qualities of verses 5-7 are also the attributes of God, they are in dramatic contrast to the character of the false teachers and their followers.
(7) A purposeful order and relationship is evident in this list of character qualities. This list of character qualities is not presented in a way that suggests a random order. Each quality builds upon the qualities before it. The sequence of qualities begins with faith and ends with love. These qualities are similar to the ingredients in a cake recipe where all ingredients are needed, but they should be added in the proper order.
Characteristics of a Growing Christian
(1) Faith. The first characteristic of the growing Christian has a uniqueness to it—the Christian is not instructed to supply faith. Faith is a given, something upon which the Christian builds. According to Peter, faith is given, for the readers of this epistle are those who “have received a faith of the same kind as ours” (verse 1). Faith is something we have received, not something we are to supply—because faith is a gift from God (see Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:3-6; 2:8).
Faith begins as saving faith and then becomes the faith without which it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6); whatever does not originate through faith is sin (Romans 14:23). Our faith is based upon the revealed word of God (2 Peter 1:4; see Romans 10:8, 17). Our faith is tested, proven, and strengthened by the trials and adversity God allows to come into our life (1 Peter 1:6-7). Faith is not only the basis for belief but also the basis for our behavior (see Hebrews 11).
Our Lord Himself is the object and the source of our faith; Christ is also the model for our faith. It is easier to think of the Lord Jesus as the object of faith than to think of Him exercising faith. But His faith was exercised when He submitted to the will of the Father by taking on human flesh and suffering and dying at the hands of sinful men:
23 And while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously (1 Peter 2:23, emphasis mine).
If you have not come to a personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you cannot possibly pursue the course Peter prescribes in our text. To enter into that “faith,” which is of the same kind as the apostles (verse 1a), you must know God through Jesus Christ and find the righteousness you desperately lack in none other than Jesus Christ (verse 1b). Knowing Him brings grace and peace (verse 2). Only by His power are we granted everything necessary for life and godliness (verse 3). The basis of our salvation is the work of Christ, and the basis for our future hope is the promises of God. All we need to know about these is recorded in God’s Word (verse 4a). Trusting in God’s provisions, as revealed in God’s Word, makes us partakers of the divine nature and delivers us from the corruption of fleshly lusts (verse 4b). Taking on the divine nature does not happen quickly; it happens by the process of sanctification (verses 5-11). While this sanctification is individual, it also takes place through the body of Christ, the church (Ephesians 4:11-16). The process of sanctification is completed not in this life, but when we are with Him in glory (Philippians 3:8-14; 1 Peter 5:10; 2 Peter 3:13; 1 John 3:1-3).
(2) Moral Excellence. Of all the virtues listed by Peter in our text, this is by far the most difficult virtue to grasp. Two problems have troubled me in my study of this quality. First, the precise meaning of the term rendered “moral excellence” by the New American Standard Bible. The difficulty in defining the word Peter uses here can be inferred from the various ways it is translated:
• “virtue”—KJV, NEB, Berkeley
• “goodness”—Goodspeed, Jerusalem Bible
• “moral character”—Williams
• “manliness”—Helen Montgomery—The Centenary Translation
• “Noble character”—Weymouth
• “real goodness of life”—Phillips
The second problem is that “moral excellence” precedes “knowledge.” One would think “knowledge” would be a necessary prerequisite to “moral excellence,” rather than the reverse.
The key to resolving these two problems seems to be found in the usage of this term in the Greek Translation of the Old Testament in the texts below:
• “I am the LORD, that is My name;
• I will not give My glory to another,
• Nor My praise to graven images” (Isaiah 42:8, emphasis mine).
• Let them give glory to the LORD,
• And declare His praise in the coastlands (Isaiah 42:12, emphasis mine).
• “The people whom I formed for Myself,
• Will declare My praise” (Isaiah 43:21, emphasis mine).25
When we compare these Old Testament uses of Peter’s term with all the New Testament occurrences of this same term, the meaning begins to come into focus:
8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things (Philippians 4:8, emphasis mine).
9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR [God’s] OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9, emphasis mine).
3 Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3, emphasis mine).
The King James Version of “virtue” most often refers to a characteristic or quality of God. In the Isaiah texts, it is that for which God is praised or praiseworthy. In Isaiah 42:8 and 12, it is an expression poetically paralleled with the glory of God. God’s glory is His virtue, His excellencies, for which He is worthy of praise. No wonder Paul will instruct the Philippian saints to set their minds on that which is both “excellent” and “worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8).
If His excellencies are God’s very nature, His glory for which men should praise Him, then our condition as unbelievers is exactly the opposite:
23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
Man in his sinful state refuses to give glory to God, deifying himself instead:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper (Romans 1:18-28).
God revealed His nature, His divine power and glory to sinful men, but they refused to give glory to Him. Instead of worshipping God their Creator, they worshipped created things. Instead of believing the truth, they believed a lie. As a consequence of their sin, God gave them over to a depraved mind so they could no longer grasp the truth. Apart from divine grace and intervention, sinful men were hopelessly lost.
The good news: God did act. He sought out sinful men and gave them faith in His Son. He enabled them to become partakers of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). Since a part of this nature is His “own glory and excellence” (verse 3), it is little wonder this should become a part of our character as well. The “moral excellence” we are to “add” to our faith is the excellence of God’s nature, which He makes available to us in Christ. We are to “add” it to our faith by acknowledging it as good, as desirable, as worthy of praise, and as that which we wish to emulate in our own lives.
But why does excellence precede knowledge? I think we can understand this in light of Romans 1. Sinful men rejected the glory of God and established their own glory. As a result, they were darkened in their minds, unable to grasp divine revelation and truth. As a result of our salvation, we are now able to recognize the excellencies of our Lord and regard His excellencies as worthy of praise, embracing them as qualities we desire in our own life. When we embrace these virtues, we are then able to grasp the knowledge which comes next in the list of virtues. The apostle Paul puts it this way:
17 This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in [the likeness of] God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (Ephesians 4:17-25; see also Ephesians 1:13-23).
To embrace the excellencies of God is to strive after them and then to express them in our lives to the glory and praise of God:
9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR [God’s] OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9, emphasis mine).
Embracing and pursuing the excellencies of God means having the spirit of mind which exalts the Word of God and explores the Word for the knowledge of Him who saved us. Thus we see how “virtue” or “excellence” precedes “knowledge.”
17 “If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or [whether] I speak from Myself” (John 7:17).
In summation, the excellence or virtue of God is God’s glorious nature, which is our ultimate good we should pursue as the goal of our character to the praise and glory of God. Doing so produces a mindset receptive to the knowledge of God revealed through the Scriptures.
“Excellence” is greatly emphasized these days in the secular culture and also in the church. I must say with deep regret that none of the excellence sought after today is that of which Peter speaks in our text. The “excellence” often sought by Christians concerns numbers and worldly standards and appearances rather than the moral character which emulates the excellencies of our Lord to His praise and glory. But this is not a new problem. This same mindset characterized the saints of old, causing King Lemuel to write about the “virtuous woman” in Proverbs 31:10-31, where he contrasted the worldly standard of physical beauty with the moral excellence26 of godly character:
29 “Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.” 30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, [But] a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised (Proverbs 31:29-30).
(3) Knowledge. In our former state as unbelievers, we were not knowledgeable; we were ignorant:
14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts [which were yours] in your ignorance (1 Peter 1:14; see Ephesians 4:17-18).
The solution to our ignorance is having our minds transformed with the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, knowledge which comes from the Scriptures (see John 17:17; Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:17-24; Colossians 1:9-11) and is communicated through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:6-16; Ephesians 1:17).
This is a doctrinal knowledge, a knowledge revealed in Scripture with clear biblical support. While it must be a doctrinal knowledge revealed in Scripture, it is also an experiential knowledge of God. This experience is not divorced from Scripture; rather, it is the experiencing of Scripture. The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way:
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes [only] of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:12-14).
9 For this reason also, since the day we heard [of it], we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please [Him] in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light (Colossians 1:9-12).
This “knowledge” must also be understood as contrasting and contradicting the false knowledge of the false teachers who would undermine both the truth and the faith of the saints if they could:
1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep… 17 These are springs without water, and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. 18 For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, 19 promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. (2 Peter 2:1-3, 17-19).
14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, 15 and regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness, 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen (2 Peter 3:14-18).
The knowledge of God is essential to our growth in Christian character and our ability to recognize and avoid those who teach what is false.
(4) Self-control. William Barclay informs us that the term rendered “self-control” means literally “to take a grip of oneself.”27 Self-control is the opposite of self-indulgence. As unbelievers, we are dominated by our physical appetites, enslaved as we are to them:
1 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts [which were yours] in your ignorance (1 Peter 1:14).
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (Ephesians 2:1-3).
But we have been delivered from our bondage to the flesh:
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone [as] slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:15-18; see Romans 8:12-13).
Living a godly life requires us to master the flesh and make it our servant, rather than our master:
24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but [only] one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then [do it] to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
Sin uses the flesh to keep us in bondage (Romans 7:14-21). Satan and the world encourage us to live according to the flesh. But being a child of God requires that we live no longer for the flesh or in the power of the flesh. Our flesh still has a strong attraction, as Paul’s words in Romans 7 and our own experience make painfully clear. Only by God’s grace can we overrule fleshly lusts, and because of His provisions, we must diligently strive to do so. The prompting of the flesh must be brought under control, and we are to heed the prompting of the Spirit of God, as He speaks through the Word of God (see Romans 8:1-8; 1 Corinthians 2:1-16; 3:16-17; 4:6).
False teachers appeal to fleshly lusts. They gather a following by proclaiming a gospel which indulges the flesh rather than crucifying it:
1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.… 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, 11 whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord. 12 But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, 13 suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, 14 having eyes full of adultery and that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; … 18 For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, 19 promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved (2 Peter 2:1-3, 9-14, 18-19).
Such false teaching is not uncommon in the pulpit today. The “good-life gospeleers” offer a different gospel than the apostles. Rather than proclaim a gospel which involves suffering and self-denial, they proclaim a “better” gospel of self-indulgence and success in life. They promise that those who possess enough faith can escape suffering and adversity and be guaranteed peace and prosperity. They promise that when one gives a little, one may be assured of receiving much more in return. These rewards are not looked for in heaven as much as on earth, now.
The gospel of the apostles was very different:
24 But some days later, Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul, and heard him [speak] about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 And as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present, and when I find time, I will summon you” (Acts 24:24-25).
19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 Envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:19-23).
Let us not dilute the gospel to make it attractive to men by appealing to their fleshly lusts. We must proclaim the message of the gospel in its fulness and its simplicity, knowing that only through the Spirit of God are men enabled to grasp the truth of the gospel and quickened to do so (1 Corinthians 2:1-5, 14-16; 2 Corinthians 2:14-17; 3:1-11; 4:1-15).
(5) Perseverance.28 “Faith” brings us into relationship with God through Jesus Christ. “Moral excellence” seeks the character of God as the standard and goal for our own character. “Knowledge” describes what God is like, and what we should be like as well. “Self-control” enables us to curb our physical passions and to make our bodies servants of the will of God. The next character trait—“perseverance”—enables us to persist in our pursuit of godly character, even when we suffer for doing so.
If self-control has to do with physical pleasures, perseverance has to do with pain. Our natural tendency is to pursue pleasure and flee from pain. The gospel calls for us to identify with Christ, which includes identifying with Him in His suffering:
21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting [Himself] to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls (1 Peter 2:21-25).
24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. 25 Of [this church] I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, that I might fully carry out the [preaching of] the word of God, 26 [that is,] the mystery which has been hidden from the [past] ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:24-27).
Perseverance is the frame of mind and character which persists in doing what is right even though doing so may produce difficulties, suffering, and sorrows. Perseverance is the commitment to suffer in the short term in order to experience glory for eternity. Perseverance was exemplified by our Lord:
1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Perseverance also includes patience. In the light of eternity, suffering is light and momentary (see 2 Corinthians 4:17), but when our Lord’s tarrying seems to be endless, we desperately need patience to persist in the stewardship God has given to each of us. The false teachers point out that our Lord has not returned as proof that He will not. They urge men to live for the moment and to pursue fleshly pleasures, doubting the reality of a day of judgment or even our Lord’s return as told in Scripture (2 Peter 3:1ff.). Knowing that in God’s economy one day is as 1,000 years, and 1,000 years is like a day, we must patiently persist in doing what is right, looking for our eternal rewards when He returns.
(6) Godliness. The terms Peter employs here for “godliness” are infrequently used in the New Testament.29 This may be because the same expression was the most common word for religion in the pagan culture of Peter’s day.30 Godliness refers to practical religion, or, perhaps we should say, practiced religion. Godliness is the religion we practice in our day-to-day walk. It is …
“… the attitude of reverence which seeks to please God in all things. It desires a right relation with both God and men. Godliness brings the sanctifying presence of God into all the experiences of life.… This characteristic distinguishes the true believer from the ungodly false teachers (2:5-22; 3:7).”31
The Old Testament Law related true faith to the daily aspects of living. The New Testament does the same:
14 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, even while for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you shall receive greater condemnation.… 23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:14, 23).
27 This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of [our] God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, [and] to keep oneself unstained by the world (James 1:27).
We were once “ungodly” as unbelievers, ripe for the judgment of God (see 2 Peter 3:7). Now that we have come to newness of life in Christ, we must put off our old way of life and put on the new:
14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts [which were yours] in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all [your] behavior; 16 because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY” (1 Peter 1:14-16).
8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, [and] abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its [evil] practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him (Colossians 3:8-10).
(7) Brotherly kindness32 (Greek: Philadelphia33). “Brotherly kindness” is the love saints should have for one another as fellow-believers. It is a love based in part on what we share in common with the One we love. There is a certain element of reciprocity involved, for ideally we should be a blessing to our brother in Christ, and he should be a blessing to us.
This love, based on a shared relationship with Christ, can be sensed immediately even though two saints may never have met before. I well remember my first trip to India. Having arrived without anyone to meet me at the airport, I was very much alone. After a long train ride, I joined a group of Indian believers who were complete strangers. As we rode to our destination in an old van, we began to sing some of the hymns of the faith. A deep sense of brotherly love was evident as we found a bond of love in Christ.
This does not mean that brotherly love is a snap, that it is automatic. If it were, Peter would not have found it necessary to command us to pursue it with diligence, not only in his second epistle but also in his first:
22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, (1 Peter 1:22, emphasis mine).34
Sin not only alienates men from God, it also alienates them from one another. Thus, when men come to faith in Christ, they are united with Him and also with their fellow believers. This union of believers with one another crosses every barrier, racial or social:
11 Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” [which is] performed in the flesh by human hands—12 [remember] that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both [groups into] one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, [which is] the Law of commandments [contained] in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, [thus] establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity (Ephesians 2:11-16).
While God has removed the barrier between fellow-believers, this is something we must strive to practice and to preserve. It is a humanly impossible task for which God has provided the means to accomplish. As believers, we must diligently strive to practice brotherly kindness by employing these means.
(8) Love.35 This love is “agape love,” which might be called the highest love. It is also the capstone of all the virtues the Christian should pursue. Michael Green shows its uniqueness:
“In friendship (philia) the partners seek mutual solace; in sexual love (eros) mutual satisfaction. In both cases these feelings are aroused because of what the loved one is. With agape it is the reverse. God’s agape is evoked not by what we are, but by what he is. It has its origin in the agent, not in the object … This agape might be defined as a deliberate desire for the highest good of the one loved, which shows itself in sacrificial action for that person’s good. That is what God did for us (Jn. 3:16). That is what he wants us to do (1 Jn. 3:16). That is what he is prepared to achieve in us (Rom. 5:5). Thus the Spirit of the God who is love is freely given to us, in order to reproduce in us that same quality.”36
While “Phileo love” is directed toward fellow-believers, “Agape love” is universal in scope. It is a love which applies both to believers and to unbelievers:
12 And may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all men, just as we also [do] for you (1 Thessalonians 3:12).
Agape love is not prompted by what the other person is or does, but by a love rooted in what God is. It is the love of God which flows through us.
19 We love, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
Paul speaks of this love as the greatest of the Christian virtues (1 Corinthians 13:13).
As we love others we manifest the perfections of God to men:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR, and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you 45 in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on [the] evil and [the] good, and sends rain on [the] righteous and [the] unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more [than others]? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).
This 2 Peter passage makes several contributions to the Christian. First, it shows that the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man are not incompatible. We need not choose one in place of the other. The sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man are interdependent truths. Man cannot contribute to his salvation. Though the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary, God did for us what we could not do for ourselves. All we must do is receive it, and even this occurs by divine grace. But once we have come to faith in Christ, we are to diligently strive after godly character—for God has provided the means for “life and godliness.” We strive in our Christian walk because He has given us the means. The sovereignty of God should never be an excuse for passivity or inactivity; rather, His sovereignty is the basis for disciplined living. The Christian life is not: “Let go, and let God;” it is “Trust God, and get going!”
Our text also contributes lessons on discipleship for the Christian. Salvation is the first step of discipleship. We must first believe in the gospel and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. Having done so, we must then forsake our former manner of life and former manner of thinking and engage ourselves in the pursuit of holiness. We are not merely saved to be rescued from the torment of hell and enter into the blessings of heaven. We have been saved to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of the darkness and into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). We have been saved to become partakers of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) and, by so doing, bring glory to Him.
We must be careful that our presentation of the gospel does not minimize what salvation is all about. Jesus never did (Matthew 5:1-16; Luke 9:57-62), and neither did Paul (Acts 14:22; 24:25; 2 Timothy 3:12). While men and women are saved so they may enter into God’s blessings, they are saved primarily to bring glory to God by manifesting His excellencies to men and to celestial powers (Ephesians 1:1-12; 3:10).
How interesting that Peter speaks of love as the end product of the Christian’s striving and not the source of it. Many wait to “feel” love and then act upon it. Peter tells the Christian he or she has already received faith, and they are to act on it so the outcome is love. For Peter, love is a result and not merely a cause. It seems to me we must say from the Scriptures as a whole that love is both a cause and an effect. Peter would have us strive to obtain love by obediently pursuing the characteristics of the divine nature.
Our text provides the means for Christian growth and also the means for how stumbling can be prevented. I wish the Christian community would wake up and see how we have exchanged Peter’s inspired list for another list, a list provided not under inspiration but from the warped thinking of unbelievers. According to a distressing number of believers, the key to understanding success in the Christian life, as well as failure, is “self-esteem.” Poor self-esteem is the source of failure; good self-esteem is the basis of success. Not according to Peter. Who, then, will you believe?
This leads to one of the most significant contributions of our text. In Galatians 5, Paul lists the “fruit of the Spirit” (verses 22-23), the qualities God produces through the work of the Holy Spirit. The key to manifesting the “fruit of the Spirit” is to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16).
Peter has a list of qualities which includes some in Paul’s list in Galatians 5. But Peter does not emphasize the work of the Spirit, as true and as essential as the Spirit’s work is. What does Peter emphasize as the basis for Christian growth? Peter emphasizes the Word of God. He speaks of our salvation and our sanctification as the result of knowing God through His revealed Word. This is the thrust of his entire first chapter. In chapters 2 and 3, Peter shows how false teachers seek to undermine the Word and turn saints from the truths of Scripture. How quickly, how easily we are turned from the truths God has revealed in His Word to the alleged “truths” of men, who appeal not to the spirit but to the flesh. Let us recognize that the knowledge of God not only saves us but sanctifies us. This does not happen independently of the Spirit, but through the Spirit, as He illuminates the Word of God in our hearts.
Our text also tells us that Christian growth is neither automatic nor is maturity merely a function of time. I fear many Christians have a “civil service” mentality concerning their Christian growth. They seem to think that time alone results in growth and maturity. This is not the case:
11 Concerning him we have much to say, and [it is] hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes [only] of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:11-14).
Christian growth does take time, but growth occurs as believers diligently and obediently seek to grow, in the power of the Holy Spirit and through the provision of the Scriptures. The writer to the Hebrews rebukes his readers for failing to grow. Growth results from the application of biblical truth to daily living. Growth occurs when we employ the resources God has supplied through His Word.
Failing to grow does not mean that we simply grow stagnant, never moving beyond where we are in our spiritual life. No; failure to grow means we move backwards. According to Peter, failure in striving toward Christian growth and maturity sets us up for a fall. That which we once possessed we can lose. This happened to the church at Ephesus, who lost their first love (Revelation 2:4). If we do not use what we have, we lose it:
24 And He was saying to them, “Take care what you listen to. By your standard of measure it shall be measured to you; and more shall be given you besides. 25 For whoever has, to him shall [more] be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him” (Mark 4:24-25).
Believer friend, I urge you: press on toward Christian maturity. Do not be content with where you are; press forward, even as the apostle Paul revealed about his own walk:
10 that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained [it], or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of [it] yet; but one thing [I do]: forgetting what [lies] behind and reaching forward to what [lies] ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; 16 however, let us keep living by that same [standard] to which we have attained (Philippians 3:10-16).
Are you growing colder as you get older in your Christian life? Or, are you, like Paul, pressing toward the upward call, seeking to know the Lord Jesus more and more intimately? May we all press on in the power of the Spirit of God, and through the provision of the Word of God.
25 Even with all the difficulties the translators have in determining what word best conveys Peter’s meaning in 2 Peter 1:5, the translations of the same term in these texts in Isaiah are consistently rendered “praise.”
26 It should be pointed out that the term Peter employs for “moral excellence” is not found in Proverbs 31:10, but the thought is certainly the same.
27 William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, [rev. ed], 1976. The Daily Study Bible Series, p. 302.
28 See Luke 8:15; 21:19; Romans 2:7; 5:3; 8:25; 15:4; 2 Corinthians 1:6; 6:4; 12:12; Colossians 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 1;3; 2 Thessalonians 1:4; 3:5; 1 Timothy 6:11; Titus 2:2; Hebrews 12:1; James 1:3,4; 5:11; 1 Peter 2:20; 2 Peter 1:6; Revelation 1:9; 2:2, 3, 19; 3:10; 13:10; 14:12.
29 Acts 3:12, 1 Timothy 2:2; 3:16; 4:7, 8; 6:3,5,11; 2 Timothy 3:5; Titus 1:1; 2 Peter 1:3,6,7; 3:11.
30 “The word eusebeia is rare in the New Testament, probably because it was the primary word for ‘religion’ in popular pagan usage. The ‘religious man’ of antiquity, both in Greek and Latin usage (where the equivalent word was pietas), was careful and correct in performing his duties both to gods and men. Perhaps Peter uses it here in deliberate contrast to the false teachers, who were far from proper in their behaviour both to God and their fellow men. Peter is at pains to emphasize that true knowledge of God (which they mistakenly boasted they possessed) manifests itself in reverence towards him and respect towards men. There is no hint of religiosity here. Eusebeia is a very practical awareness of God in every aspect of life.” Michael Green, 2 Peter and Jude (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987), revised edition, p. 79.
31 D. Edmond Hiebert, Second Peter and Jude (Greenville, South Carolina: Unusual Publications, 1989), p. 54.
32 “But godliness cannot exist without brotherly kindness. ‘If any one says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar’ (1 Jn. 4:20). Love for Christian brethren is a distinguishing mark of true discipleship, and represents yet another area where the false teachers were so distressingly deficient. … Love for the brethren entails bearing one another’s burdens, and so fulfilling the law of Christ; it means guarding that Spirit-given unity from destruction by gossip, prejudice, narrowness, and the refusal to accept a brother Christian for what he is in Christ. The very importance and the difficulty of achieving this philadelphia is the reason for the considerable stress on it in the pages of the New Testament (Rom. 12:10; 1 Thes. 4:9; Heb. 13:1; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 Jn. 5:1).” Green, p. 79.
“‘Brotherly kindness’ . . . ‘the brother-love’ or ‘brotherly affection’ toward fellow members of the family of God is the fruit of the new life (1 Peter 1:22). The term expresses the warm, brotherly affection between those who are spiritual relatives in the family of God. It is more than a passing disposition of fondness for fellow believers; it manifests itself in overt acts of kindness toward them (Gal. 6:10). It was this affectionate relationship in the early Church among Christian converts, in spite of their diverse status and varied backgrounds, that amazed the pagans around them.” Hiebert, p. 54.
33 We find this term in Romans 12:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; Hebrews 13;1; 1 Peter 1:22 (see also 3:8); 2 Peter 1:7.
34 It should be noted that in 1 Peter 1:22, both the noun, Philadelphia, and the verb, Agape, are found. Some seek to make too much of the distinction between “Phileo love” and “Agape love.” These two terms are sometimes interchanged. This is true in John 21:15-17.
35 Matthew 24:12; Luke 11:42; John 5:42; 13:35; 15:9,10,13; 17:26; Romans 5:5,8; 8:35,39; 12:9; 13:10; 14:15; 15:30; 1 Corinthians 4:21; 8:1; 13:1,2,3,4,8,13; 14:1; 16:14,24; 2 Corinthians 2:4,8; 5:14; 6:6; 8:7,8,24; 13:11,14; Galatians 5:6,13,22; Ephesians 1:4,15; 2:4; 3:17,19; 4:2,15,16; 5:2; 6:23; Philippians 1:9, 17; 2:1,2; Colossians 1:4,8,13; 2;2; 3:14; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 3:6,12; 5:8,13; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 2:10; 3:5; 1 Timothy 1:5,14; 2:15; 4:12; 6:11; 2 Timothy 1:7, 13; 2:22; 3:10; Titus 2:2; Philemon 1:5,7,9; Hebrews 6:10; 10:24; 1 Peter 1:8; 4:8; 5:14; 1 John 2:5; 3:1,16,17; 4:7,8,9,10,12,16,17,18; 5:3; 2 John 1:3,6; 3 John 1:6; Jude 2,12,21; Revelation 2:4,19.
36 Green, p. 80.
FROM THE SERIES: STANDING ON THE PROMISES–A STUDY OF 2 PETER
Related Topics: Spiritual Gifts, Sanctification
Robert L. (Bob)Deffinbaugh graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary with his Th.M. in 1971. Bob is a pastor/teacher and elder at Community Bible Chapel in Richardson, Texas, and has contributed many of his Bible study series for use by the Foundation. Bob was born and raised in a Christian home i… More
July 3rd 2004
Growth Is Evidence of Life (2 Peter 1:5-7)
By Chris Mueller | November 10, 2019
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Sermon Manuscript . . .
Growth is Evidence of Life
The necessity of developing character in the life of a believer–2 Peter 1:5-7
Growth stick–here is my boys’ growth chart. It’s a stick–originally it was on a door jam. But when you move, you can’t take it with you–so I transferred it to a stick. Someday I might actually fix it up and post it permanently to the garage wall. I found it super fun to measure the kids’ growth–and they enjoyed it too, though Dan the youngest typically wondered why Matt was always bigger. Like everything else between them, it almost seemed a competition.
With my boys, as they grew, we would all wonder why there were spurts of growth during some years and slowing in other years. But it was great to always see some growth–it meant everything was functioning the way God designed. Nothing was off, and you could rest in the fact that some growth had occurred.
I remember the same competition with my brother and me–sibling rivalry. When we were making noise at night by goofing off, my dad would bang on the wall to warn us to be quiet. If we kept making noise, we would hear my dad get up and stomp towards our room. It was at this point, my big brother would haul off and hit me as hard as he could right in the face in order to make me cry, so when my dad opened the door, he’d see it was me that was making noise–and not my “trying to sleep, lying creep” of a brother.
Somehow I knew I would grow to be bigger and stronger than my brother–and when that day came, I knew he would reap the whirlwind. Payback was gonna be sweet. But the sad, yet glad, part of the story is–by the time I got bigger and stronger, I got saved and no longer wanted to bash my brother. Now if you wanted to bash him.
The point is, the most important growth is not physical growth, but spiritual growth. I loved to see my boys grow physically, but what brought us unbelievable joy was to see them grow spiritually. To love Christ, to see them want to please Him, to obey His Word on their own, to be faithful in marriage, to love their wives and train their children biblically, to love their church, serve the Lord, wrestle in trials, and overall to see the unique way each of them put Christ on display is a thrill. Why? Because growth is evidence of life.
As Peter writes a bunch of churches in now modern day Turkey, he will now affirm the same truth–that growth is evidence of life. Peter wants his readers to avoid false teaching by understanding salvation. Remember your salvation, in verses 1 to 2. Rely on your salvation, since it is sustained by God’s power in verses 3 to 4. And now, rest on your salvation because it is confirmed by Christ like character and growth, verses 5 to 7.
Peter wants to make certain our knowledge is true knowledge, biblical knowledge. So he reminds his readers that salvation itself brings the gift of knowledge, verses 1 to 4. And salvation itself requires the growth of knowledge, verses 5 to 11. And the Word of God alone provides the ground of true knowledge, verses 12 to 21.
In verses 3 to 4, Peter just informed his readers of God’s power, Christ’s provision, the Spirit’s promptings, and the Word’s promises you and I now have because of salvation. Part of the promises of God in salvation is providing the power of Christ to live like Christ through verse 4a–a new nature, a divine nature, a nature given to us by God.
And the second part of the power of Christ to live like Christ is found in verse 4b, the ability to escape from the sinful corruption that saturates this world and invades our own lives through our own strong desires/lusts. And because of this new nature and new ability, it will produce a different kind of character in a person, resulting in a Christlike lifestyle. If you’ve truly been transformed in salvation, if you have genuinely been born again, if you have a divine nature and ability to escape the power of sin in your life–then you will live uniquely like Christ, demonstrate the qualities of Christ, and give evidence of the character of Christ in you.
Growth is evidence of new life, is what Peter teaches his readers in verses 5 to 7. And Peter gives three evidences of genuine spiritual life, three confirmations you’re born again. You look in your yard and wonder, “Is that plant alive or dead?” You look at an old dog in your neighbor’s yard in the same spot, “Is it alive or dead?” And as you look at your friends, you wonder, “Are they saved or not saved?” And as you look into your own heart, “Do I have eternal life or not?”
Peter answers three ways–first by looking at who you are. If you’re in Christ and Christ is in you, then He’ll make a huge difference in how you live.
1 Your new PERSON: A new DISPOSITION to show
Now that you’ve been made new, live like it. Once you’re converted, you’re not the same–you’re made new. You have a new constitution, a conversion constitution. Right? Read these three verses as a reminder. Second Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” Ezekiel 36:26, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Matthew 12:33, “The tree is known by its fruit.”
When you become a Christian, you are a new creature with a new heart, with the indwelling Holy Spirit who produces Christlike fruit–you are a new person. This is how Peter begins verse 5–do you see it? “Now for this very reason also“–what is Peter referring to? Verses 3 and 4. Remember what Peter said? You have the power of God to live out the promises of God, because you have a new nature, and a new ability to overcome the corruption of the world and the lusts of your own flesh. You are now like Christ and you are no longer corrupt like the world or subject to lusts.
You are a new person. As he begins verse 5, “Now for this very reason also,” Peter is referring back to all the power, provision, promptings and promises of God which enable a believer to live for Christ and overcome sin. “This very reason” is saying because of what God has done to you in saving you in verses 3 to 4–God has changed you, and as a result you will live different.
When you’re a caterpillar, you look gross, act disgusting and crawl in the dirt. But after you have been transformed into a butterfly, you look amazing, flutter on the wind and travel from flower to flower. Christian, once you’ve been given a new nature, one that’s from Christ Himself, you will live differently in life. You no longer crawl in the dirt and act disgusting–you no longer act like you did before you were transformed. Romans 6:4, “We have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
Newness of life–you have been made new, therefore you act new. You used to be men and women of the flesh, now you are men and women of the Spirit. Which one describes you–the flesh or the Spirit? You know Galatians 5:19 to 24, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
Christian, you have a nature that is from Christ, and you’re no longer corrupt like the lost. You now live with the indwelling Holy Spirit and are no longer enslaved to your flesh. When you are in Christ, you are a new person–verse 5, “Now for this very reason also” describes the transformation of verses 3 and 4. Have you been internally renovated by Christ? A second evidence of Christ in you and you being in Christ is . . .
2 Your needed PURSUIT: A new DILIGENCE to pursue
Now that Christ has suffered, sacrificed, died, and rose from the dead to save you. Now that Christ chose you before the foundation of the world, then called you in time. Now that Christ has given you a new nature that actually wants to obey and please Him. Now that Christ did all the work to save you, who were helpless, hopeless–yet now transformed. Now there is an expectation for you to work for Him.
If Christ would do all He did for you–which you didn’t deserve in any way. Is it too much for you to do all you can for Him, who deserves everything you could possibly do? Since what Christ did for you was intense, He wants you to respond with intensity. Since what Christ did for you was the ultimate example of love, He wants you to respond with examples of amazing love. Since what Christ did for you was incredible in its selfless character, then Peter says respond in kind.
Read verse 5 and see if you can pick up the intensity of this command. The NASB says, “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply” . . . ESV says, “make every effort to supplement your faith” . . . NKJ says, “giving all diligence, add to your faith.” There are three words here which together scream intense commitment, dedication and service.
The Greek word translated supply, supplement and add is the main verb in these three verses. It’s a general command, meaning to grant, give, furnish and support. This main verb supply comes from the term “choirmaster”. In ancient choral groups, the choirmaster was responsible for supplying everything needed for his group–so the term choirmaster came to refer to a supplier.
William Barkley explains the background of this word, which helps you understand its intensity. Supply comes from a noun which literally means the leader of a chorus. Perhaps the greatest gift Athens gave to the world was the great plays of men like Sophocles. These plays needed large choruses and were very expensive to produce. In the great days of Athens, there were public-spirited citizens, who voluntarily took on the duty at their own expense, of collecting, maintaining, training and equipping these choruses. It was at the great religious festivals where these plays were produced.
In fact, in the city Dionysia, they produced three tragedies, five comedies and five dithyrambs. Men had to be found to provide the choruses for them all. The men who undertook these duties out of their own pocket and out of love for their city were called chorēgoi–suppliers, the word that is used here in verse 5.
And this supply has a certain lavishness in it. It never means to equip in any miserly way–it means to lavishly pour out everything that is necessary for a noble performance. The Greek word supply went out into the larger world and it grew to mean not only to equip a chorus, but to be responsible for any kind of equipment. It can mean to equip an army with all the necessary provisions, it can mean to equip the soul with all the necessary virtues for life. And it continues to mean to supply lavishly for a noble performance–a lavish command.
To intensify this command, Peter attaches a participle to this supply command. The participle is applying or bringing to bear, to making something yield more. By itself, it means to bring forth something additional–to yield more. So Peter commands his readers to equip an army with all the necessary provisions–then adds to it a continual exhortation to bring something even more. Then Peter adds a third Greek word–a noun, diligence, which means to be eager and zealous with a strong sense of urgency, applying all diligence in your faith supply.
Now that you understand each Greek word, you should be overwhelmed as to the level of commitment, passion, and aggressiveness you and I are being commanded to pursue in displaying the character, person and work of Christ. Because of the “precious and magnificent promises” of verse 4, God has given believers “everything pertaining to life and godliness” of verse 3, “and for this very reason,” believers must and will respond with maximum effort toward living for Christ.
This is the same truth God expressed through Paul in Philippians 2:12 to 13, “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Work it out with fear, with trembling–go after your growth.
“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply“–because Christ did everything to save you, and Christ did everything to sanctify you, and Christ did everything to glorify you. How have you responded to that? You say, “I give a little, serve a little, attend mostly, love a few that I like”–then Peter says, “applying all diligence.” Killing all half-measures and calling you to be all in. You are either indifferent or indebted, cruising or committed, self-centered or sacrificial, maintaining or a maniac for Christ.
Today, what’s the pace in your pursuit of Christ-like character? Are you sitting, walking, jogging, running or sprinting as fast as you can go? Peter is calling his readers, and you, to run and occasionally sprint for Christ. What are you supposed to look like? What are the evidences of growth? Growth is evidence of life. What does new life in Christ look like?
Verses 5 to 7, “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.” Growth is evidence of life, so how is that growth seen?
3 Your necessary PROGRESS: A new DESCRIPTION to demonstrate
Now that Christ has demonstrated the most amazing character you have ever seen–Christ has sacrificed everything for you, Christ gave you everything you need now and later, including Himself . . . verses 1 to 4. Now that Christ has given all that, the response by anyone with a Christ-like nature and the indwelling Holy Spirit would be to make progress in becoming just like Christ Himself. So Peter describes the character of a born again, new divine-natured,
empowered Christian with seven Christlike qualities, plus one necessary step. What’s that?
Read verse 5 again, “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence.” With one word Peter reminds you, you can’t live for Christ in your own strength. You and I need to exercise dependent faith–you and I “applying all diligence in faith“–meaning we pursue, we obey, we work very hard, we struggle, we die daily, we discipline ourselves, we deal with sin, we get accountable. But we do so trusting, depending, relying by faith upon God Himself.
Faith is your personal reliance upon the Lord and His Word. Faith is your subjective trust in your Savior and the foundation of your spiritual life. You believe Christ will work in and through you, so you depend on His Spirit and His Word to sanctify you and sinister through you as you step out in obedience.
Remember verse 1, look–“To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours.” You received a faith, you’ve been given a faith, God gifted you with faith–so now live by faith. God gave you faith in salvation, now live by faith in sanctification. Christ gave you the faith to believe, now exercise faith to grow. All the other character qualities that follow are unattainable unless you live by faith. What are they?
First MORAL EXCELLENCE
Verse 5, “in your faith supply moral excellence“–excellence is a lofty term used for moral heroism, the divinely endowed ability to excel in courageous deeds. To the Greek philosophers, it meant “the fulfillment of a thing.” When anything in nature fulfills its purpose, that is moral excellence. The land that produces crops is excellent because it’s fulfilling its purpose. The tool that works correctly is excellent because it is doing what a tool is supposed to do.
Moral excellence is a student who embraces everything God says about his home, his school, his job, his money, his girlfriend, his possessions, his time and his friendships. The excellent student seeks to love his parents, does his best at school, works hard at his job–is pure with his girlfriend, is generous with his money, and treats his friends with love and respect. He learns, then seeks to live everything the Word of God says about every aspect of his life. This is the student who is morally excellent.
Ladies, do you know what the Bible says about your role and are you pursuing it? Men? Grandparents? Singles? Children? Learn what God says, then be diligent to live it. Look back at verse 3, “through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” Christ is excellent in all things–and now that you have Christ, you too will desire excellence, making excellence an evidence of salvation.
Verse 5, “and in your moral excellence, knowledge“–to mature, live by faith and grow in knowledge. The Greek word knowledge implies we use our minds, gain insight into our circumstances, and seek to know the moral quality of the people we meet. We put our knowledge to work by using common sense in everything we say, do, and think. We know what is good, we are aware of what is better and pursue living what is best.
The Greek word here means “full knowledge, knowledge that is growing, intimate knowing, practical knowledge or discernment.” Knowledge here refers to the ability to handle life successfully by growing in spiritual discernment and wisdom in life. Knowledge is learning the truth of God’s Word properly understood and applied, which comes from diligent study and meditation on it, so as to acquire the mind of Christ. All of this means you are committed to lifelong learning of the Word.
Look back to verse 3–you were given intimate knowledge through salvation, “through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” Now the Lord desires you to grow in your intimate knowledge in sanctification. Now that you already know Christ, grow more intimate in your knowledge of Him. Also grow in . . .
Verse 6, “and in your knowledge, self-control“–self-control is esteemed all throughout the Bible. Proverbs 25:28, “Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit.” First Corinthians 9:27, “I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
The New Testament writers often compared the Christian to an athlete who must discipline himself. Self-control literally means holding oneself in–hold in your desires, tuck in the loose ends of your life. Just like athletes are to be self-restrained, Christians are to control their flesh, their passions, and bodily desires, rather than allowing themselves to be controlled by them. First century self-controlled athletes would abstain from rich foods, wine, even sexual activity in order to focus all their strength on their training routine.
Believers never allow emotions, desires, urges, or appetites to master their lives, but only serve their lives. Christians do not depend upon or live by emotions. Genuine Christians use their minds to keep their desires in check–they follow the Word of God and not their impulses. Remember verse 4, you were freed from the slavery of sin in salvation–“having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” And if you’re saved, then you will seek to pursue self-control in your life through sanctification. Now that you’re freed from corruption, don’t live enslaved to it. Add/supply self-control.
Verse 6, ”in your self-control, perseverance“–perseverance is patience or endurance in doing what is right, and never giving into temptation or trial. Perseverance is spiritual staying power that’ll die before it gives in. Perseverance is the quality that can prevail, not with resignation, but with a hopeful endurance in doing what is right, while resisting temptations and enduring trials. Perseverance is difficult to translate from the Greek–it means to remain strong under the pressure of an unwelcome, painful, grievous hardship, but always with a hope in the future.
Jesus demonstrated perseverance in Hebrews 12:2, “Fixing our eyes on Jesus . . . who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame.” Christian steadfastness is the courageous acceptance of anything life can do to us, yet seeing even the worst event as an opportunity to grow and glorify God.
This character quality is from a compound verb from hupo (under) and menō (to remain), painting a picture of steadfastly bearing up under a very heavy load. Self-control has to do with handling the pleasures of life, while perseverance relates to the pressures and problems of life. Are you developing Christlike character? Often the person who gives in to pleasures is not disciplined enough to handle the pressures or problems either, so he gives up. Do you give in and give up? Or are you developing perseverance? If you are a Christian, you are and you can.
Look back at verse 3, you were called–“through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” Now that you’re called in salvation and held firm by Christ Himself, Peter says you now hold on to Christ with perseverance. An evidence you are saved is perseverance–remain faithful to the salvation you’ve been given. Also develop the character quality of . . .
Verse 6, “and in your perseverance, godliness“–an attitude of reverence that seeks to please God in all things. Godliness desires a right relationship with both God and men. Godliness brings the sanctifying presence of God into all the experiences of life. Godliness keeps the believer from becoming hard and defiant toward opponents or succumbing to the temptation of stoic endurance. Godliness distinguishes the true believer from the ungodly false teachers of chapter 2.
Godliness simply means God-likeness. In the Greek, this word meant to worship well. In Greek thinking, godliness encompassed all the rituals related to worship and loyalty given to the pagan gods–offering respect to all that’s divine. Early Christians sanctified the Greek definitions and directed them at the one true God. Godliness described the man who was right in his relationship with Christ and all others. Godliness is the quality that makes a believer distinct.
He lives above the petty things of life, he lives above the passions and pressures that control the lives of others. He seeks to do God’s will in all things and seeks the best for others. The godly Christian makes biblical and wise decisions–he doesn’t take the easy path to avoid pain or trial, because he is committed to doing what is right, always following the Word of God. Peter reminded you in verse 4 that you have a new, godly nature. Now here in verses 6 and 7, live that out in life. Live who you are–godly.
Sixth BROTHERLY KINDNESS
Verse 7, “and in your godliness, brotherly kindness“–flowing out of the vertical godliness with the Lord is the horizontal quality of brotherly kindness. The companion of affection for God is affection for others. Peter acquired this quality the hard way–the disciples were often debating and disagreeing with one another.
If you love Jesus Christ, you must also love the brethren. You practice 1 Peter 1:22, “Fervently love one another from the heart.” You don’t pretend to love others. Like Hebrews 13:1, “Let love of the brethren continue.” And Romans 12:10, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.” The fact you love your brothers and sisters in Christ is one evidence you have been born of God.
Brotherly kindness expresses a warm affection between those who are spiritual relatives in the family of God. It is not merely that you like people, but brotherly kindness shows itself in overt acts of kindness toward them, like Galatians 6:10. “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” It was this affectionate relationship, the bearing of burdens, the forgivenss of failures in the Early Church among Christian converts in spite of their diverse status and varied backgrounds, that amazed the pagans around them.
In 2 Peter, Christ the God-man has been extremely kind to His brothers and sisters in salvation, so you be diligent to pursue brotherly kindness in sanctification. “Brotherly kindness” is an evidence of the new nature and new life in Christ.
Verse 7, “and in your brotherly kindness, love“–which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Love. Peter almost seems redundant in his emphasis on love, until you remember that the Lord does not want you to restrict your love to the members of the Church. Peter knows the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:44, “Love your enemies,” and Romans 13:8, love is a debt we owe our fellow man. You can limit the application of brotherly kindness to the Christian community, but you are unable to restrict the practice of love to merely the Church.
First John 4:16, “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” There is more to Christian growth than brotherly love–we must also display the sacrificial love that our Lord displayed when He went to the cross. This is the kind of love spoken of in verse 7–agape love, the kind of love that God shows toward lost sinners. This is the love the Holy Spirit produces in our hearts.
Beyond brotherly kindness, agape here is a love which sacrifices for others–if they are not a brother, even if they’re an enemy, in spite of differences. This is the greatest of Christian virtues, and forms the natural conclusion to Peter’s portrayal of character, growth and evidences of salvation. From love God gave you His salvation in verses 1 to 4. So now in verse 7, He commands you to grow in your love for Christ, for Christians and for all people.
“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love” (2 Peter 1:5 to 7). Be a doer of the Word today, along with this.
A Does your changed person, diligent pursuit and progress in character EVIDENCE you are a real believer or a make-believer?
Faith without works is dead. The fruit of your life indicates the kind of tree you are. Those born again with a new nature and indwelt with the Spirit of God live like Christ. If you’re a real believer, you will grow as a person, you’ll see an intensification of your diligence to pursue Christ, and you’ll see an actual increase of Christ-like character. Not in a day, but in a year. Friends and family will notice–do they?
Peter tells you on the basis of God’s great salvation of Christ in you in verses 1 to 4, will always result in God’s great sanctification of Christ through you in verses 5 to 7. Your growth is evidence of life.
B Are you DEPENDENTLY diligent on the development of Christ-like character?
You can’t mature as a Christian and become like Christ in your own strength–you must live by faith, dependent upon the Spirit of God, relying on the promises of God. Are you trusting in God’s sufficient resources described in verses 3 to 4? Are you using all the means of grace–corporate worship, discipleship, shepherding, Bible study, reading, memorization and prayer in order to develop Christ-like character?
Do not fool yourself today into thinking you’re growing as a believer, if you’re not using all the means of grace to dependently pursue becoming like Christ.
C Will you accept the challenge of pursuing Christ-like CHARACTER?
The qualities listed in verses 5 to 7 are there to remind the believers to live what God has done for them in salvation, to strengthen the believers against the false teachers, to give evidence of genuine salvation–and for you today, to provide you with a goal for each day of the week. Seven qualities, one per day, to be like Christ. Let’s pray!
Posted in 2 Peter
About Chris Mueller
Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church – Murrieta.
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What does 2 Peter 1:5 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]
In the previous two verses, Peter summarized the enormous benefit we have received in knowing God through faith in Christ. We have been equipped to follow the example of Jesus’ glory and goodness. We’re not missing anything we need to lead the life He calls us to. More, through faith in Jesus, we have been granted the right to participate, right now, in God’s nature. We can partner with Christ in fulfilling God’s purpose on earth. We have been freed from the corruption of sin.
All of that sounds fantastic, but what does it mean for us today? Why does it seem that many Christians are so far away from participating in God’s nature, not living with Christ’s purpose, joy, and love? Why do some continue to live in the sin from whose corruption we’ve supposedly been freed?
This verse gives us a clue. God has given us all we need to live like Jesus, but now we must actually use those gifts. And that means work. Before we had received God’s gift of grace, we lacked both the ability and the desire to live in Jesus’ glory and goodness. Now that we have been empowered to do so, we must “make every effort” to add the following qualities to, or “alongside,” our faith.
In other words, we must begin to live as if what we believe is really true.
By faith, we came to Christ. Now, with Christ’s power, we must work to add goodness to our faith, and to add knowledge to our goodness. The next two verses will explore additional ideas about the chain of traits we as Christians should work to build into our lives.
2 Peter 1:3–15 urges Christians to understand that they are, right now, fully equipped to lead the life to which God has called them. Since they are equipped, they must use those tolls through personal effort. They should strive to add Christ’s goodness and other powerful qualities to their lived-out faith. Growing in those qualities leads to a productive, effective life of knowing the Lord. Lacking Christ’s qualities leads to the opposite. Peter continues reminding the reader of what they already know, in order to keep stirring them up, to ensure they remember all of this after he has died (which will be soon).
Peter begins this brief letter to Christians by reminding them they are not missing anything they need to lead the good and godly lives they are called to. They must work, then, to add to their faith the goodness and qualities of Jesus. This requires effort, unlike eternal salvation which is not based on our work. Those who lack these positive attributes will live as unproductive and ineffective servants of God, nearly as blind as unbelievers and forgetting that their sins are forgiven. Peter, near death, insists that his eyewitness testimony about the transfiguration confirms that the prophecies about the Messiah are true. Jesus is coming back