2 Peter 1:3-15
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
October 27 - November 3, 2013
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, 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. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 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. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.
-- 2 Peter 1:3-15, ESV
The doctrine of the sovereignty of God teaches us that all things are under God’s control. Sovereignty means sovereign, complete authority, absolute power. This prerogative is God’s and God’s alone, and it is comforting to know that such awesome power rests solely with Him.
The doctrine of the responsibility of man teaches us that some things are under our control. We are free to make choices every day, and we will be held responsible, by others and by God, for them. This prerogative is ours, and we must be very careful how we use it.
The sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man are both taught in Scripture, never more so than in this long paragraph from the pen of Simon Peter. Peter wrote both of his epistles with God’s sovereignty in mind, addressing the first one to “the elect” (ref. 1 Peter 1:1), and the second “to those who have received faith ... to confirm your calling and election” (ref. 2 Peter 1:1,10) . He also wrote to encourage Christians to make responsible choices in order to remain faithful in the face of sufferings, temptations, false teachings, and other things that the world, the flesh, and the devil will throw at true followers of Jesus Christ. God is in control of all things, especially salvation; however, the quality of your Christian life is under your control.
God Controls the Quantity of the Christian Life
How many people will be ultimately be saved? God knows, because He has chosen each and every one of them. The wayward prophet Jonah, among others, teaches us definitively that “Salvation belongs to the Lord” (ref. Jonah 2:9; Psalm 3:8). Jonah didn’t want God to save any of the Assyrians. God pointed out to Jonah that He can and will save whomever He chooses to save whenever He chooses to save them from wherever He chooses to save them. Salvation is a sovereign gift of sovereign grace in the hands of a sovereign God.
In Paul’s great treatise on salvation, the book of Romans, he clearly points out that all people who are saved are saved because of God, not because of anything about themselves. People don’t look for God, God looks for people (ref. Romans 3:10-12). People don’t initiate a relationship with God, God initiates a relationship with His people, and finishes what He starts (ref. Romans 8:28-30). Salvation does not depend upon human will but upon God’s will (ref. Romans 9:10-18). God controls the gift of salvation and gives it to the people He chooses.
The very things required to be right with God, repentance and faith, are actually gifts God controls and gives so that the people of His choosing can turn to him in belief (ref. Acts 11:18; Ephesians 2:8; 2 Peter 1:1). Picking up on this theme in 2 Peter, look at all that God controls and gives: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life.” The repentance and faith that gives spiritual life are sovereign gifts of a sovereign God.
God gives “the knowledge of Him” to people whom He foreknew for “His own glory and excellence.” God made himself known to the elect for our benefit to be sure, but at the end of the day He did it mainly for His own glory and praise, and so we can praise Him for His glorious person and work.
God gives “His precious and very great promises” to believers who believe with God-given faith. Salvation is a promise from God for all who believe. Abundant life now and eternal life in Heaven are promises from God for all who repent and believe the gospel. Just remember that the belief to make these promises yours is a sovereign gift from a sovereign God.
God gives His Holy Spirit, “the divine nature,” to people who were spiritually dead and doomed. Adam’s sin led to immediate spiritual death that was passed on from generation to generation. It is the Holy Spirit that regenerates, that brings repentance and faith, that brings to life the dead.
God gives salvation so that one day we will have “escaped the corruption that is in the world,” though for now we still battle with “sinful desire,” which brings us to the merger of God’s sovereignty and our responsibility. God controls the Christian life, but you control the quality of your Christian life.
You Control the Quality of the Christian Life
God’s sovereignty is at the forefront of many Bible passages, but it actually serves as the background of this text. The big idea is not that God saved you by sovereign grace, although that is certainly true, but rather since God saved you, you have a great responsibility. “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith.” God gave you the faith by His sovereign choice. Now it is your responsibility to work, to strive, to be determined to add certain qualities to your Christian life, and these things are in your control. In effect, you are the “quality control” person in your own Christian life, and there are at least seven things, “these qualities,” that God wants you to have in high quality.
Number one: “virtue.” Virtue is moral character, a character based on some faith, creed, or other principles. Therefore, the virtue we need to strive to have in our lives is the morality based on the revealed truth of the inspired word of God. Virtue is practicing what you preach, walking what you talk, conforming your Christian life to the life-giving call of the word and Spirit.
Number two: “knowledge.” Virtue is impossible without experiential knowledge. You cannot live by the word of God if you do not know, study, and apply the word of God. You definitely control how much time you spend in the Bible, how attentive you are to biblical preaching and teaching, and how faithful you are to the ways and means of learning more about God and God’s word. God gives saving knowledge, but you must gain sanctifying knowledge for your own Christian growth.
Number three: “self-control.” This is the negative side of the virtue of applied knowledge. It literally means to “hold it in.” I think Christians should be better known for what they do than what they don’t do, but I also believe it is very important that Christians don’t do certain things. This requires self-control, and it is under your control. Sins of speech, sexual immorality, substance abuse, and many other harmful things can be eradicated from our lives with a little effort in the area of self-control.
Number four: “steadfastness.” Here is the positive side of the Christian life, here is what we do. We keep on keeping on, we hang in there, we remain faithful to the Lord even in the face of difficulties, persecutions, sufferings, or to any other crossroad we come carrying the cross of Jesus Christ. Again, this is a favorite theme of both epistles of Simon Peter. It is better not to fall, but when you fall, get up, get going.
Number five: “godliness.” To oversimplify, this means be good, in a particularly godward way. Dwell on good things. Do good works. Imitate God in Christ. It speaks of a person who chooses obedience over rebellion, kindness over meanness, living for God over living for self and sin. What our godless world desperately needs is more godliness, and you have it in your control.
Number six: “brotherly affection,” or brotherly love. This is one of two types of love taught in the New Testament. It is the love of fellowship, teamwork, helping one another. It is true friendship, a love that makes you the kind of person other people want to be around and makes you want to be around other people. It is a great and important love, but there is actually another love even greater and deeper.
Number seven: “love.” Simon Peter crowns his list of quality controls for the Christian life with crowning characteristic of love, agape love. This is absolute, unconditional, sacrificial love. It is the kind of love that God the Father had for your when He chose you to be His child. It is the kind of love that God the Son had for you when He left glory for the cross. It is the kind of love God the Spirit had for you when He regenerated you and took up residence in your life. It is the love that God chose to give you; now, he wants you to choose to give that kind of love to Him and to one another (ref. John13:35; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13). This love is at your disposal. This love is under your control.
Proverbs 6:16 speaks of the seven deadly sins, so I suppose Simon Peter’s words here could be called the seven sanctifying supplements, or something much better. You were dead when God saved you and gave you life. Now, these are the seven things God wants you to add to your life, in ever increasing measures. The quality of your Christian life depends on it.
The Benefits of the Quality Christian Life
If you are responsible “if these qualities are yours and are increasing,” your life on earth will be greatly blessed. Not in a quid pro quo way in which the modern prosperity preachers promise, but in much more important, lasting ways. God does not want to give you mere money. He wants to give you much more.
First of all, possessing and progressing in the Christian character that is under your control, “these qualities” will “keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful.” It is a great benefit in the Christian life to bear fruit for the Lord. The right inward character always abounds in outward fruit. These are acts of love, joy, and peace brought to bear on others’ lives. These are efforts of prayer and witness that result in other people coming to Jesus Christ. These are gifts of time, talents, and treasure that build up the body of Christ, the church, and help her to grow. These are things that bless you life now, and thing that will follow you into eternity.
You will not take one cent of the money you’ve made with you to Heaven. You will not take your prized diamond ring, sports car, or any other material possession. But the fruit your bear will follow you there. I suppose it is possible to get into Heaven “nearsighted” and “blind,” or by the skin of one’s teeth, but what Christian in their right mind would want to live like that now and look into the eyes of Jesus Christ later, holding out hand with no fruit? Bearing fruit is a blessing now and forever, but you need to be a person of quality Christian character to do so.
Secondly, the great blessing of great Christian character is eternal security of your “calling and election,” and your “entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Like the credit card commercial says, there are some things that cost money and there are some things that are priceless. Salvation is by grace, but the firm feeling of eternal security comes through cultivating a godly character and dutifully obeying God in doing good works (ref. also 1 John 2:3).
There is no way for an unbeliever to know he is not elect. But there is a way for believers to be assured they are one of God’s chosen ones. A valid profession of faith is always followed by the practice of the Christian faith, which takes “these qualities” into account and action. There is no price that can be placed on the feeling of laying your head down on a pillow at night and knowing, for certain, that you will go to be with the Lord in Heaven when you die. This is a profound blessing and one that you, at least in part, can control.
The Importance of the Quality Christian Life
These last few verses are attached to the larger context because Simon Peter once again mentions “these qualities.” He wrote that, for as long as he lived, he would preach them, “remind” the church of them, and strive to live them himself. He had an idea, from what Christ has prophesied about him many years ago, that his life would soon come to an end in a similar manner to that of our Lord. And after he was gone, of all things, Peter wanted the church to remember “these things.”
Beloved, “these things,” the seven character qualities that should compliment a Christian profession of faith, are desperately important in our day and age, and in our particular culture. Liberalism that ignores the word of God and so-called conservative easy believe-ism that makes a mockery of the word of God have ravished the American church. The majority of church members in our country either do not believe the basic truths of the Bible or they ignore the basic moral commandments of the Bible. Most of them are not present in a public worship service today and most of them will display a horrific lack of virtue, ethics, and character in the week to come. No wonder it is getting harder and harder to get people to take the gospel seriously in our world. How can they, if we don’t?
But you can do something about this. It is under your quality control. Go back and look at the list of “these [seven] things.” Are they in you, springing from a moment of grace in your life that brought you into the Christian faith? Are you working on them, pursuing them, embracing them, and displaying them in your life? Your blessings and benefits depend on it. Your church hangs in the balance on them. The countless lives of lists souls around you needs to see them. Simon Peter literally died for them. Now, will you live for them, by showing yourself to be a “quality control” Christian?