2 Peter 1:1-11
Stephen Caswell © 2004
Solid Spiritual Growth Is A Slow Process
Lettuces, radishes, and such garden crops are soon out of the ground and ready for the table -- a month almost suffices to perfect them. But an oak requires long centuries to come to the fullness of its growth. Those graces which are most precious and durable will take us longest to produce. Those good things which spring up hastily may have some transient worth about them, but we cannot look for permanence and value in them. There is no need to deplore the slowness of our spiritual growth, if that which comes of it is of a solid character.
Peter’s main theme in his first epistle is the grace of God. His emphasis in the second epistle is on the knowledge of God. Peter uses the word know or knowledge 13 times in this short letter and five times in tonight's passage. The kind of knowledge that Peter emphasized is not head knowledge but experiential knowledge. Peter wants them to know and to grow in their faith. This is the type of knowledge that Jesus prayed we might obtain John 17:3: And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. Peter teaches three things about the knowledge of Christ. Acquire Faith, Add To Faith & Approved Faith.
Firstly, Acquire Faith
a. Our Faith Is In a Person - Jesus Christ
2 Peter 1:1-2: Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,
How can we acquire saving faith? By believing in a person, the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior. Peter refers to Christ as the Savior five times in this letter. And with good reason. We can't save ourselves from sin, we need a Savior. When the Philippian Jailor asked Paul how to be saved he said this in Acts 16:31: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.
Perhaps you like surfing at the beach like I do. I enjoy riding the waves to the shore. Our family always swims at patrolled surfing beaches. This is because help is available should someone get into trouble. Life savers are on hand to help those that get caught by a rip or get a cramp or something else. The Life Guards are watching all the time for swimmers in trouble. You only need to call out for help. They can handle the waves. Jesus Christ didn't choose to save Himself on the cross but sinners. He saved the thief who believed in Him. He can save all who call out to Him. Jesus Christ is a real life saver because He saves for keeps. Everyone in the human race is drowning in sin. We all need Jesus Christ to save us from our sins.
Our Lord Jesus Christ gives away three spiritual commodities that can be secured from nobody else; righteousness, grace, and peace.
1. Righteousness δικαιοσύνη – means to be declared just or right. Only through faith in Christ can sinners obtain a right standing with God; righteousness. You can’t earn this righteousness; it is the gift of God to believers. Titus 3:5 says: Not by works of righteousness which we of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.
2. Grace χάρις - Grace is God’s unmerited favor, kindness, goodwill. God in His mercy does not give us what we do deserve; God in His grace gives us what we don’t deserve. Our God is the God of all grace and He channels that grace to us through Jesus Christ. John 1:17: For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
3. Peace εἰρήνη - The result of this experience is peace, peace with God and the peace of God. Peace is more than the absence of hostility. It speaks of God’s friendship and blessing. In fact, God’s grace and peace are multiplied toward us as we walk with Him and trust His promises.
b. Our Faith Involves God's Power - The Holy Spirit
2 Peter 1:3: As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,
Previously we were dead in trespasses and sin. Ephesians 2:4-5: But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ by grace you have been saved. The resurrection power of Christ comes into our lives through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enables us to live a life that is pleasing to God. He produces a godly life in us.
Human Life Begins At Birth
When you are born into the family of God by faith in Christ, you are born complete. God gives you everything you will ever need for life and godliness. Nothing has to be added! Just as a normal baby is born with all the equipment he needs for life and only needs to grow, so the Christian has all that is needed and only needs to grow. God never has to call back any of His models because something is lacking or faulty. Just as a baby has a definite genetic structure that determines how he will grow, so the believer is genetically structured to experience glory and virtue. One day he will be like the Lord Jesus Christ.
c. Our Faith Involves God's Promises - God's Word
2 Peter 1:4: by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
God has not only given us all that we need for life and godliness, but He has also given us His Word to enable us to develop this life and godliness.
These promises are great because they come from a great God and they lead to a great life. They are precious because their value is beyond calculation. If we lost the Word of God, there would be no way to replace it.
1. Partake Of The Divine Nature - When the sinner believes on Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God uses the Word of God to impart the life and nature of God within. A baby shares the nature of its parents, and a person born of God shares the divine nature of God. The sinner is dead, but the Christian is alive because he shares the divine nature.
2. Escape The World's Corruption - Because we possess this divine nature, we have completely escaped the defilement and decay in this present evil world. If we feed the new nature the nourishment of the Word, then we will have little interest in the garbage of the world. But if we make provision for the flesh our sinful nature will lust after the old sins and we will disobey God. Godly living is the result of cultivating the new nature within.
How do we acquire saving faith? Believe in the Savior, Jesus Christ. Have you trusted in Christ? Are you right with God? When we trust in Christ, God gives us the power to live a virtuous life. He also gives us great and precious promises to conform us to the image of His Son!! Are you drawing on the power of the Holy Spirit to be transformed? Are you claiming the promises of God's Word to strengthen your Christian life?
Secondly, Add To Faith
2 Peter 1:5-7: But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.
Where there is life, there must be growth. The new birth is not the end but the beginning. God gives His children all that they need to live godly lives, but Christians must apply God’s Word to their lives.
Growth Requires Good Dietary Habits
One night, a mother fixed a special meal for her family: turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, green beans, cranberry sauce, and apple pie for dessert. It was everyone’s favorite meal, especially when it came at a time other than Thanksgiving. The aroma filled the house, and as the children came in from playing they could hardly wait for dinner to begin. The last child appeared only a few minutes before dinner time and sat through the meal without eating, even though he especially loved those foods. Why? Because he had filled up on peanut butter at a friend’s house. In settling for something good, he had lost his appetite for the best. The same applies to our spiritual appetites. Some people don’t have much of an appetite for spiritual truth because they have satisfied themselves with lesser things.
Peter listed seven characteristics of the godly life. These characteristics do not work independently of each other but together like the fruit of the Spirit. The word translated add ἐπιχορηγέω really means to supply generously, to furnish, add alongside. It translates a Greek word that means to bear the expenses of a chorus. When the Greek theatrical groups presented their dramas, somebody had to underwrite the expenses, which were very great. The word came to mean to make lavish provision. These things don't replace our faith, they are added alongside it to magnify it. It is not enough for the Christian to let go and let God, as though spiritual growth were God’s work alone. The Father and the child work together.
Buying A House
Most people can identify with the experience of buying a new house. After you find the right residence you sign a contract. When the legalities have been settled you move in. But your new house is not a home straight away. You might ask why? Because it's empty. There is no furniture to make the house livable. The same is true of the Christian life. Just because we have been saved by Christ does not mean that God has finished with us. He wants to make us livable. He wants to add Christian character to our lives. For this to happen we must cooperate with Him. Faith is like the empty house. We must add the furniture of Christian character to make the house livable.
The word virtue ἀρετή basically means excellence. To the Greek philosophers, it meant the fulfillment of a thing. The land that produces crops is excellent because it is fulfilling its purpose. The tool that works correctly is excellent because it is doing what a tool is supposed to do. A Christian is supposed to glorify God because he has God’s nature within; so, when he does this, he shows excellence because he is fulfilling his purpose in life. Virtue in the Christian life isn’t polishing human qualities, but producing divine qualities that make the person more like Christ.
Faith helps us to develop virtue, and virtue helps us to develop knowledge. The word translated knowledge γνῶσις in 2 Peter 1:2–3 means full knowledge or knowledge that is growing. The word used here suggests practical knowledge or discernment. It refers to the ability to handle life successfully. It refers to moral wisdom demonstrated in right living. This kind of knowledge does not come automatically. It comes from obedience to the will of God.
c. Self Control
Self control ἐγκράτεια refers to one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites. Temperance is used in some translations indicating restraint. Proverbs 16:32 says: He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that rules his spirit than he that takes a city. Proverbs 25:28 says: He that has no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down and without walls. Paul in his letters often compared the Christian to an athlete who must exercise and discipline himself if he ever hopes to win the prize.
Perseverance ὑπομονή means steadfastness, patience. It means to abide steadfastly under pressure. Self-control has to do with handling the pleasures of life, while patience relates primarily to the pressures and problems of life. Often, the person who gives in to pleasures is not disciplined enough to handle pressures either, so he gives up. James 1:2–8 gives us the right approach. We must expect trials, because without trials we can’t learn patience. By faith, we let our trials work for us, not against us, because we know that God is using our trials.
Godliness εὐσέβεια simply means God-likeness. In the original Greek, this word meant to worship well. It described the man who was right in his relationship with God and with his fellowman. A godly person lives above the petty things of life, the passions and pressures that control the lives of others. He seeks to do the will of God and, as he does, he seeks the welfare of others. He makes the kinds of decisions that are right and noble. He doesn’t take an easy path simply to avoid trials or pain. He does what is right because it is right and it’s God’s will.
f. Brotherly Kindness
Brotherly kindness φιλαδελφία in the Greek is a virtue that Peter must have acquired the hard way. The disciples of our Lord often debated and disagreed with one another. If we love Christ, we must also love the brethren. We should practice a sincere love of the brethren, not just pretend that we love them. Hebrews 13:1 says: Let brotherly love continue. Romans 12:10 says: Be kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love. The fact that we love our brothers and sisters in Christ is one evidence that we have been born of God.
But there is more to Christian growth than brotherly love; we must also have the sacrificial love that our Lord displayed on the cross. The kind of love ἀγάπη spoken of in 2 Peter 1:7 is God’s love. This is the love that He showed lost sinners. It is the love that is described in 1 Corinthians 13. It’s the love that the Holy Spirit produces in our hearts as we walk with Him. When we have brotherly love, we love because of our likenesses to others; but with agape love, we love in spite of the differences we have.
It’s impossible for fallen human nature to manufacture these seven qualities of Christian character. They must be produced by the Spirit of God. Certainly, there are unsaved people who show good self-control and endurance, but these virtues point to them and not to God. They get the glory. When God produces the beautiful nature of His Son in a Christian, it is God who receives the praise and glory. We must add the furniture of Christian character to the household of faith. Otherwise our faith is empty and impractical.
I would say that most if not all in this building tonight have acquired saving faith. Let me ask you, are you growing in your Christian faith? Are you adding Christian character to your faith? Are you making your faith practical and useful? Are you adding the furniture of Christian character to the household of faith?
Thirdly, Approved Faith
2 Peter 1:8: For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The more we become like Jesus Christ, the more the Spirit can use us in witness and service. The believer who is not growing is barren and unfruitful. The word barren ἀργός literally means unemployed or idle. Like a car sitting idle with its motor running, they aren't going anywhere. They're just giving off a lot of fumes. The word translated barren also means ineffective. The people who fail to grow usually fail in everything else! Some of the most effective Christians you meet are people without talents and special abilities, or even exciting personalities; God uses them in a marvelous way. Why? Because they are becoming more and more like Jesus Christ. They are fruitful because they are faithful; they are growing in their Christian experience.
2 Peter 1:9: For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
Nutritionists tell us that diet can certainly affect vision and this is especially true in the spiritual realm. The unsaved person is in the dark because Satan has blinded his mind. A person has to be born again before his eyes are opened and he can see the kingdom of God. But after our eyes are opened, it is important that we increase our vision and see all that God wants us to see. There are some Christians who see only their own church, or their own denomination. They fail to see the greatness of God’s family around the world. Some believers see the needs at home but have no vision for a lost world.
Reviving A Dead Church
Someone asked Phillips Brooks what he would do to revive a dead church, and he replied, I would preach a missionary sermon and take up a collection! Jesus admonished His disciples, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. It's as you work amongst the lost you see their needs. Will you minister to them?
2 Peter 1:10-11: Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
1. Won't Stumble On Earth – The word stumble πταίω means to trip, to lose your footing. If you walk around with your eyes closed, you will stumble! But the growing Christian walks with confidence because he knows he is secure in Christ. It is not our profession of faith that guarantees that we are saved; it is our progression in the faith that gives us that assurance. The person who claims to be a child of God but whose character and conduct give no evidence of spiritual growth is deceiving himself. Peter says that calling and election go together.
In nursing circles the name Florence Nightingale stands as an example to follow. She tirelessly ministered to wounded soldiers. Her cheerful smile and loving service cheered the heart of many a wounded soldier. She was called the Lady with the Lamp. Even though she ministered to needy folk in the dark she never stumbled. This was because she had a light in her hand as she served. Saints won't stumble in the dark while they serve Christ.
2. Warm Salutation In Heaven - The word supplied ἐπιχορηγέω in 2 Peter 1:11 is the same as the word add in 2 Peter 1:5. God will give a grand welcome to fruitful Christians when they enter glory. If we make lavish provision to grow spiritually, then God will make lavish provision for us when we enter heaven! Just think of the blessings that growing Christians enjoy: fruitfulness, sight and security! All this and heaven too!
A Building In Heaven
I’ve purchased a town lot in heaven, On the city not built with hand,
I’m sending material daily, To build in that happy land.
I’d like a mansion on Main Street, Where streets are all paved with gold.
With a clear view of the pearly gates, Where Christ takes care of the soul.
I want to send good material, That will stand the test of time,
So I’ll not be disappointed, When I reach that home sublime.
Prayer is for the foundation, Faith and love for the walls,
Good deeds for the reinforcement, That will stand when the Saviour calls.
I would like you for my neighbor, In that city so divine—
Maybe just across the street, Or your home close to mine.
Up there we will know no sorrow, Tears will never dim the eyes.
There we will rest in peace forever, In that happy home on high.
So my friends, start to building, Your home beyond the sky
Where we can all be together, In the sweet by and by.
Spiritual growth gives great benefits now and later. Is your life fruitful or idle? How is your eyesight? Are you stumbling around in the dark? Or can you see the great needs around you? Can you see where you are going? God will reward each one according to their service for Him. What kind of welcome will you receive in glory?
The Christian life begins with faith. Have you believed in Jesus Christ? Faith leads to growth and growth leads to practical results in life and service. Is your Christian life fruitful? People who have this kind of Christian experience are not likely to fall prey to apostate false teachers. Are you growing in grace and knowledge? Will you be warmly welcomed into heaven?
2 Peter 3:17-18: You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.