2 Peter 1:3-10 3
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.
The first thing I note about this passage in 2 Peter is the tense of the verbs; “has granted”, “having escaped”, “was cleansed.” This is not a passage about what will be, what might be, what could be, but rather what is. Therefore, whatever my interpretation, it must be with this in mind. “May become” and “are increasing” owe their existence to “has granted”, “having escaped”, and “was cleansed.”
The second thing I note is the order in which the tenses appear. First the past, then the future/present. His divine power has granted to us . . . followed by . . . for this very reason make every effort. Some may think me cherry picking here, but I say again it is important I understand these things, because many people misinterpret this passage to mean we make our calling and election sure by supplementing our faith with virtue. This is not only alien not to the gospel, but alien to the passage as well, as I shall shortly show.
With these preliminary remarks made, I turn now to the passage.
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
There are some interesting things to note about these verses. First, of course, is the use of verbs in their past tense. Besides this however, I note the play on words. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” The word translated “life” here is the Greek word “zoe”. Zoe is the word Christ used when speaking of the life that God gives to every believer. Eternal life, in fact. Eternal zoe.
Point in fact, Jesus used a number of different words for the word life. He used the word bios when He spoke of every day, common existence. In what has commonly come to be known as the parable of the sower and the seed, He spoke of the seed that sprang up quickly, but then was just as quickly choked by the worries and riches of this life – bios. Bios is mortal existence. Bios describes the manner in which I live here upon this earth in the here and now. From bios we derive our English word biology and biography. One person leads a wise bios, while another lives the opposite. No one, however, has an eternal bios.
When it came to the subject of the life which God has, Christ used a different word than bios. He used the word zoe. And zoe He defined for us in John 17:3 as, “this is eternal life, that they know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.”
That they may know You, said Christ. Know You. Here in his second epistle, the apostle Peter begins his message by reminding his readers God has granted them everything they need in the way of godliness by teaching them about Himself. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.”
For this reason, Peter continues, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue. And I note that Peter is very specific here. “For this reason.” Not for any reason. Not for a reason approximating this reason. Not for a reason which sounds awfully close to this reason. But rather, for this very reason, for the reason He has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us, for this exact reason alone, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue.
In other words, because God has granted to his readers everything which pertains to life and godliness by teaching them about Himself, they are therefore, for this reason, to make every effort to supplement their faith with virtue.
The same idea is expressed by the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 11:1-6
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. 4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. 5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
Faith, says the writer of Hebrews, is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For example, we have no physical, observable, empirical evidence to support Scripture’s assertion that the universe was created by the word of God, or that God created it from nothing. In fact, scientists tell us that according to their law of the conservation of energy the universe could not have been created from nothing, as all energy in an isolated system remains constant over time. Yet, our God says this is precisely what He did. He filled an empty vacuum with things which had never existed in any form, and created them simply by speaking them into existence. His people take Him at His word.
Noah took him at His word. Though Noah saw not one shred of physical evidence to support his view that God was about to bring a flood, Noah nevertheless trusted God, and accepted He was telling the truth. It was for this reason his ark construction project pleased God. It is for this very reason as well, that supplementing our faith with virtue will please God.
There are some people however, who try to turn this on its head. They secretly hold to the notion God cannot be trusted. They secretly hold to the idea we must constantly check the veracity and measure of our virtue in order to gauge whether God is telling the truth about having granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.
Now, of course, such people do not come right out and say this verbatim. They would be roundly and rightly universally rejected if they did. No, they instead mask their message by mixing it with a grain of truth. In other words, they begin by asserting a portion of the plain truth of Scripture. That is, they assert God has granted to His elect everything which pertains to life and godliness by teaching them about Himself. But they then add their twist by planting this upon the condition we supplement our faith with virtue.
To put it another way, these people believe if we are not busy supplementing our faith with virtue, then God has not granted to us everything which pertains to life and godliness. The object of faith in such a scenario is us. Are we virtuous enough? Are we striving enough to be virtuous? Are we trying hard enough to supplement our faith? If the answer is no, then God cannot have granted to us everything which pertains to life and godliness.
This is not grace. This is works. This is not grace, and the apostle Paul makes this clear in the third chapter of his epistle to the Galatians.
Galatians 3:1-6 1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
The distrustful folks condition God’s grace upon supplementing my faith with virtue. The truth as presented in God’s Word however, is that my supplement of virtue is conditioned upon God’s grace revealed in the gospel. I don’t add virtue in order to check in with virtue to see whether I really will be saved. Rather, I believe I will be saved, and so therefore, I make every effort to add virtue to my belief.
But what about the man or woman who doesn’t make every effort? Towards the close of his passage, Peter addresses this question.
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.
Again, notice the verbs are in their past tense; “having forgotten”, “was cleansed”. Peter is not saying the man has not been cleansed from his sins. Rather, he is saying the man has forgotten this. This is what is keeping the man from being ineffective. This is what is making the man unfruitful in the knowledge (there’s that eternal life description again) of Christ. He has the knowledge of Christ. He has eternal life. He is saved. But the problem is he has forgotten this.
How can it be said a man has forgotten what he knows? How can someone know what they don’t remember?
I know lots of things I can’t recall at this moment. How many times have I found myself struggling to recall the title of a book, or an actor’s name? It’s right on the tip of my tongue. I know it, but I can’t for the life of me recall it right this moment.
So it is with the man who has forgotten God has cleansed him from his sins. He knows this, but he has forgotten it. It sits like a name on the tip of his tongue. He knows it, but for the life of him he can’t recall it right at this moment.
There are several answers for this, but only one which Peter is interested in. A person can get so bogged down in his life by a particular sin that he eventually becomes unfruitful in his knowledge of the gospel.
In other words, sin is rarely alone. It has many neighbors and friends. It brings with it ready made problems which are eager to set up house and home; problems which can become so big, so devastating to a person’s life (bios), that eventually everything else, knowledge of the gospel included, finds itself hidden in the shadow of a mountain of doubt.
Such a person has forgotten he has been cleansed from his sins.
Consider King David.
David was more than just an adulterer and a murderer. David was also one of the worst, maybe even the worst, example of a husband. He was a bad friend, a terrible husband, and an even worse father. He manipulated men. He manipulated women. He even raped a man’s wife, then tried to use his power as king to have her husband murdered in order to keep his rape secret. If that’s bad enough, things get even worse.
When his son Amon, after perhaps taking his cue from David’s own behavior with Bathsheba, rapes his half-sister Tamar, brother of Absalom, David does nothing in response (2 Samuel 13). Nothing! His son has just raped his daughter, and he does nothing! Even after Absalom pleads to David for David to do something, David does nothing. Absalom is so disgusted by David’s failure to act that he eventually rebels against the throne, and with an army under his command, tries to have David ousted as king. The act ends with Absalom killed in battle, and David overwhelmed with grief.
Towards the end of life, friendless, shivering with the chill of old age, another of his sons, Adonijah, son of the woman Haggith, pulls another Absalom and rebels against the throne. The Bible says this came as the result of David having never trained his child up with discipline (1 Kings 1:6). Adonijah’s rebellion leads to the rebellion of several priests, before Adonijah is finally cut down at the behest of another of David’s sons, Solomon.
David was a bad friend, a terrible husband, and an even worse father. And yet of this man, God Himself said, he is a man after Mine own heart!
David died heartbroken, friendless, a virtual social outcast, and a sinner of sinners. And yet he also died certain God will raise him up at the last day. Why? Because God had promised him He would, and David believed God. It was for this reason and this reason alone, that his alms giving, that his psalm writing, that his singing and dancing pleased the Lord. He took God at His word. That is the only reason.
Of course, David’s alms giving and psalm writing doesn’t look much like fruit once the legalist gets done with it. The legalist thinks the words “God has obtained a person’s salvation” means God has made salvation possible. One need only to behave virtuously, says the legalist, in order to accomplish what God has made possible.
Understand the gospel is not what God does IN His people. Rather, the gospel is what God did FOR His people. Christ obtained, actually obtained, the full and complete redemption and salvation of His people by offering His body to God at the cross as a sacrifice for His people’s sins. Their redemption was NOT obtained by the promise of a future work inside them that would be performed by the Holy Spirit. Rather, their redemption HAS BEEN (past tense) once and for all time obtained. Christ satisfied everything there was to satisfy. He satisfied God’s demand for justice on behalf of His people. He satisfied righteousness and God’s demand for perfection. It is too late to try to purchase redemption now. The store shelves are empty. Redemption has sold out. Christ purchased it all for His people.
This is why Peter closes with the words, therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. You will never fall. Not, you will never be unforgiven. Rather, you will never fall. And I say you will never become unforgiven, because God’s elect can never become undied for and unredeemed. This again is why Paul writes in Galatians:
Galatians 6:1-5 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.
Be diligent to confirm your calling and election, Peter says, make your calling and election sure. How do we do that? Peter has just told us at the start of this passage. Everything we need pertaining to eternal life and godliness we have already received by way of eternal life. In other words, K-T-G – Know The Gospel. We make our calling and election sure by reminding ourselves of the gospel’s propositions. Agree with those propositions. Know and agree that what He says about His people is true. Then, and only then, will your efforts to be a kind father or mother please Him. This doesn’t mean you won’t fail anyway and still be a terrible father or mother. It just means that should and when you fail, the brothers will remind you God has cleansed of you of even this sin too.