In this message on 2 Peter 1:1–11, Pastor Bart Box teaches us that the grace of God brings about godliness. Our progress in godliness is necessary for entrance into the kingdom. This doesn’t mean that sinless perfection is required or possible, but that eternal salvation is at stake. As Christians, we should respond by examining your life carefully, exhort one another lovingly, exalt the Savior passionately, and embrace the gospel wholeheartedly.
- God provides entirely for godliness
- We work strenuously toward godliness.
- Our progress in godliness is necessary for assurance of salvation.
- Our progress in godliness is necessary for entrance into the kingdom.
Godliness and the Kingdom of Christ
2 Peter 1:1–11
Good morning. Let me invite you to take your Bibles and turn with me to the book of 2 Peter. As David mentioned last week we are beginning a new series this morning and over the next four weeks we’re going to be looking at this book, which I suspect is unfamiliar to many of us. But we’ll spend the first two weeks in chapter one, this week and next, and then we’ll look at chapter two in a couple weeks and we’ll look at chapter three as we close out our series at the end of July.
This morning we are going to look at verses one all the way down through—it’s in your notes— verses 1–11 but we’re going to actually cover or read, rather, verses 1–15 just to kind of get a sense of the context of the letter because when you look in verses 12–15, there’s a little bit of a kind of a background issue as to why Peter is writing this particular letter at this particular time. So we’re going to look at verses one through—we’re going to read verses 1–15 but we’ll mainly concentrate on verses three through 11.
Second Peter 1:1–15:
“Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
“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 knowledge6and 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 make your calling and election sure, 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.”
Let’s pray together. Our Father in heaven, we need your help this morning. We need your help by your Spirit to preach your Word. And we need your help by your Spirit to hear your Word. And so we ask that you would do these things for us, your children this morning. We need to hear from you. And so we ask that you would take your Word and that you would expose it clearly before our eyes and that you would impress its truths upon our hearts. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
This morning we bring all sorts of issues to the table, issues of marriage and family and parenting issues; that we looked at in the past few weeks. Issues of health and finances, of relationships and emotional baggage. We bring all kinds of things to the table this morning and God cares about them all, He really does. He loves us and cares for us. But I want to remind you this morning that more important than all these issues is the issue of where you and I will spend eternity.
I was reading a little book this week. It’s a new book by Mike McKinley. It’s called Am I Really a Christian? It’s a little book, just 100 pages or so, and I think it’s a great book if you’re struggling with that issue or you know someone that…I think that…would benefit from that. But as I was looking through the book I was reading… You know the endorsements how… You know on the front or the back, they will have a few little blurbs about the book? And I was reading one in particular from a man named Donald Whitney and Donald Whitney was talking to this issue of eternity. He said this,
Can any question in life be as important as knowing whether you are right with God, whether you are going to heaven or to hell? I’m quite sure now that every person now in eternity, with not a single exception among the millions there, would affirm the urgency and the priority of pursuing the answer to such a question. Some day on a day as real as the one in which you enter the world and as real as the one in which you are reading or hearing these words, you will enter another world and there you will remain forever. Are you ready?
It is that question of readiness that 2 Peter puts before us. Are you ready to die? Peter is writing these words as kind of a last will and testament. You see that in verses 12–15, that he knows that he is about to die. He knows that his time is short whether that is from a prophesy of Jesus or whether that is because of the persecution of Nero we don’t know exactly but we know that Peter knows that his time is short. And on top of that Peter is responsible in an apostolic kind of way for a church that has been infiltrated by false teachers. And we kind of, we kind of get the flavor of what the false teachers are putting forth in one particular verse in 2 Peter 3 and I want to turn your attention to it because it sets the table for what we’re going to see in why Peter is writing this letter in the first place. Second Peter 3:4, Peter says, “They will say” speaking of the false prophets, the false teachers rather. He says, “They will say ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning…’”
And so what is evident, and we will see this over the coming weeks, false teachers had arrived on the scene. They had infiltrated the church; in fact they were taking the Lord’s Supper with them; they were integrated into the life of the church. And they were teaching that, “Hey, this deal about the coming of the Lord—this return of Christ—that’s just mythical. That’s not really going to happen. There’s not really going to be a day on which Jesus returns. And connected with that, if there’s not going to be a day on which He returns, there will not be a day on which He judges. And if there is not a day on which He judges, then there is no incentive whatsoever for us to live a holy life.”
In other words, Jesus isn’t coming; judgment isn’t happening—live like you please. Eat, drink, and be merry. Why? For tomorrow we die. And there is absolutely—the false teachers would say—there is absolutely nothing eternal at stake in the way that you and I live. And what I want to show you this morning and in the weeks ahead is that there is nothing that is further from the truth. And that statement—that it doesn’t matter how you live regarding your eternity—that is a lie of the devil. It was put forth in Peter’s day and is put forth in various ways in ours. If you just… You know if you just… If you just sign this card; if you just pray this prayer; if you just walk this aisle; if you just join this church; if you just enjoy this baptism. If you just do something along those lines, it doesn’t really matter how you live after that. You can pursue what the world pursues, love what the world loves, live like the world lives as long as you’ve got that checked off—that Jesus box checked—you’re good.
What I want to show you is… as carefully and as lovingly as I can is that there is a direct connection between our holiness and heaven; that there is a direct connection between our godliness and our going to be with Jesus. That’s why I’ve titled this sermon, as you see there in your notes, Godliness and the Kingdom of Christ. And this isn’t a matter of just rewards or this isn’t a matter of just sort of… This is a matter of life and death. And what I want to do this morning is… I want you to hear and I want to hear it even in my own soul. I want you to hear the warnings that Peter sounds that if there isn’t—bottom line—if there isn’t godliness in your life there isn’t grace in your life. If there isn’t godliness in your life, then you can draw from that the conclusion that there isn’t grace in your life either. And I want to show you that by walking particularly verses three down through seven, I want to show you that walking line by line… This isn’t what Bart is saying; it’s what Peter is saying to us this morning. And then having heard that warning… Here’s what I want to… I don’t want to just leave you with a warning and so we all walk out of here saying, “Well I don’t think anybody is a Christian.” Yeah and that’s not, that’s not the goal, that’s not the goal to crush those who are wavering.
And so what I want to do is…I want to at the end of… I want to serve you by looking and saying, “How can we how can we look for the evidence that God has put before us? How can we… How can we encourage one another? And how can we bring praise and honor to God for the work that He has already done?” And so what I want to do is I want us to look at what Peter has to say about godliness in the first few verses, then ask the question, “Why does that even matter?” And then perceive just a few ways that we might respond to the Word of God this morning.
What 2 Peter 1:1–11 Says About Godliness
Notice first what Peter says about godliness. Now we could look at verses one through two, but I think they’re pretty straightforward. And so what I want to do is I want to spend most of our time looking at verses three through seven and I want to just kind of sum up the basic point. In fact I have it at the top of your notes because I think we can kind of get lost in the argument a little bit if we’re not careful. And so what I’ve done is I’ve just kind of put the basic point that Peter is making at the very top of your notes and that is this: That grace brings about godliness. I would even say it this way: Grace infallibly brings about godliness. Grace infallibly brings about godliness.
Now having said that I want immediately to make clear in your minds, to make clear that you understand what I am saying, because I know we’re going to say some things and we’re going to read some things even from this passage that look like we’re saying that if you’ll do these things then you can go to heaven. That the basis for what we’re doing is the merit upon which we enter heaven. But I want to say clearly—I want to say from the outset—that we must, we must pay attention to that order that grace brings about godliness. That it is grace that has the priority; that it is grace that is first and godliness that is second. To say it another way, brothers and sisters, we are saved completely, entirely, wholly, only, totally by the blood of Christ. We are saved in no other way than what Jesus Christ says, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” Jesus is our… He died in our place and Paul says in Romans 4:25, “He was raised for our justification.” It is all of grace.
But that grace, Peter says, if it is indeed genuinely God’s grace in Christ, it will bring about godliness. And I want to show you that… The truths that are there below that. I want to show you two truths that kind of unpack that statement: Grace brings about godliness.
God Provides Entirely for Godliness (vv.3–4)
Notice first that God provides entirely for godliness. When we say that grace brings about godliness, we don’t concentrate on that issue of grace, that idea of grace, and understand that God provides entirely for godliness. Listen to how comprehensive this provision is. Look at verse three: “His divine power,” this is rooted in verses three and four, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” If there’s one… If there’s one verse, or maybe even one part of a verse, that I would urge you to memorize out of this passage it would be verse three. It contains the gospel message. “His divine power,” in other words, think about this: God could exercise His power, being sovereign as He is, in any way that He chooses but He has chosen in His mercy to exercise His divine power, not in wrath upon us but rather in wrath upon His Son and therefore He has chosen to act in His divine power toward us in grace and mercy.
His divine power comes to us in grace and mercy. And look at what He has done: “His divine power has granted to us,” notice he says, “…to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” Notice those two words: “I.” It is a comprehensive provision—everything that we need, everything that pertains to life and godliness—He has already given it to us. So what does he mean by life and godliness? Godliness is pretty clear—it means obedience, it means… It has a moral or ethical tone to it.
But what does he mean when he says He has given us “all things that pertain to life” (2 Pet. 1:3)? Is it just He has given us life in terms of breath and a beat in our heart? I mean I think that is true but I don’t think that is what he is getting at here. Is it eternal life? Maybe. But I think… I think more than likely it’s not even eternal life although that’s true.
I think what he’s talking about when he says life— “He’s given us all things that pertain to life”—I think he’s talking about in opposition to the decay, the slavery that sin brings about. You say, “How do you know that?” Look at the end of verse four. Look at the end of verse four. He says, “…having escaped the corruption…” That word corruption, it refers to the process of decay, of corroding, of something that is near to death. He has delivered us, he says, or we have escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. In other words, we have the opposite of that. We have life.
And so I would take those two words “life” and “godliness” and bring them together. He has provided everything. He has granted to us everything that we need for a transformed or a godly life. Now I want you to notice what he says how that comes to us. Alright? We know that He’s provided everything, it is all of grace. Someone has rightly said talking about salvation, “We had neither the head to devise it nor the heart to desire it.” All of it is by God.
But how does that come to us? That’s where we see, as Peter reminds us, that that provision is personal. His provision is personal. Now when we read that, we often run it in our mind, at least more than likely, like it’s okay it comes to us individually, and that is true. But what I have in mind here is not coming to us individually as much as it is personal in that it is rooted in the person and the work of Jesus. That all things that come to us, the things that pertain to life and to godliness, what He has granted to us—all of it comes in and through Jesus. Isn’t that what he says in verse three? “He has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…” How? “…through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence…” In other words, we are transformed by the glory and the excellence of Christ. We are transformed by the glory and the excellence of Christ. Everything that we need for life and godliness comes in and through the Person and the work of Jesus.
The word that is used for knowledge there is, it’s a word that means to kind of grasp the truth, and so it speaks to… It’s kind of like the knowledge that exists between a husband and a wife. It’s not just, “I know about” —it’s “I know in a personal way.” There’s a dynamic relationship there. And so what Peter is telling us is that when God says I’ve granted you all things that pertain to life and godliness, it’s not He has saved us and then said, “Now, go after it. Now go get it. Go be holy.” Rather, He has brought us into a relationship with His very own Son. He has caused us to be born again to a living hope; we are brought into union with Jesus. And so we behold the glory and the excellence of Jesus. And as we behold His glory and as we behold His excellence, we are transformed more and more and more into the image of Christ.
That’s what Paul has in mind, I think, in 2 Corinthians 3:18—it’s a verse you might want to right out in your notes where he says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another….” (2 Corinthians 3:18). So we are brought into an encounter with Christ and then through that, notice also, we are granted the precious and very great promises in Christ. How do we get life and godliness? He has granted all those things this way: Through relationship with Christ and also through the promises of Christ. Now some have said, “Well, what promises does he have in mind here? I mean, what specific promises bring about life and godliness?” I don’t think that that is really the intention of Peter to specify one or two or three or four particular promises. I think what he is saying is that all of the promises of God, every single one of them, they are all ours in and through Christ Jesus. Exactly what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:20, “All of the promises of God find their yes and their amen in Christ…” Everything that we have, everything, every promise of God that brings us along, that causes us…that transforms us into the image of Christ, all of them come in and through Jesus.
So we see that His provision is personal and we also see then that His provision is effective. I want you to notice…I want you to kind of follow the train of thought because I think we can kind of get lost in the argument if we’re not careful and that’s one of the benefits and one of the challenges of reading an epistle like we have with 2 Peter. You know when you have narrative, you kind of just…a story, you just kind of read the whole thing and you step back and then you kind of…you know, try to gather the truths from that particular passage but when you’re reading an epistle, it’s important that to kind of follow step by step how is he arguing? What is he saying? What is he trying to lead us through?
And so what we see is… The very first line—verse three—His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness. That’s the thesis statement. Okay? That’s the main idea. That’s what he is trying to communicate to us—that we have everything that we need for life and for godliness. How do we have that? Well, we have it through being brought into union with Christ and we have it through then enjoying all the promises of God that are then yes and amen in Him. And what then following now… What is the effect of that? That’s why you want to circle that word “so that” in verse four—“…so that through them you become partakers of the divine nature.”
It is an effective provision in this in two ways. I want us to take these together because I think they make sense together. One, we partake of the divine nature and two, we part ways with the world’s corruption. The flip side of that, we partake of the…of the divine nature and then the flip side, we part ways with the world’s corruption.
Notice what he says in verse four: “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 desires.” It’s not the Mormon idea of, “Okay, then we all become gods.” That’s not what Peter is saying at all. Rather he is saying that we are…that we are…that when we come into contact with Christ, when we are brought into union with Christ, that there is a real and dynamic and authentic change in the life of the believer; that we are no longer as we were. Can you imagine… Think about it this way: what a slap in the face of Christ to imagine the possibility that we could be brought into relationship with the risen Son of God and be unchanged.
I love the story of Augustine. He was, to put it mildly, he was kind of a ladies’ man before his conversion and he had all sorts of mistresses that were around the city even after, of course, he was converted. So it said that one day he was walking down the street and one of his former lovers came up to him, former mistresses came up to him and said, “Hey, Augustine!” And he kind of walked on. And as he walked on she said, “Augustine, Augustine! It is I!” And it said that Augustine turned around and said, “Yes, but it is not I.” He was changed. There was something that was different about him. The desires had changed; the motivations had changed; the repentance was real. There was something that was different about Augustine before and after.
And I think that is exactly what Peter is trying to press upon us this morning, that when we are born again by God we are so united with the risen Christ that we share in His divine nature. That we are made more and more and more like Christ and there is a real and dramatic break with the ways of the world.
We Work Strenuously Toward Godliness (vv. 5–7)
Now I want you to notice, having said that and having remembered, please, having remembered verse three, that all of this is granted to us. It is not something that we earn. It is not something that we achieve. It is not something that is credited to us. It is all of God. But I want you to notice how then verses five through seven then flow out of that. I want you to notice… I want you to notice, yes, that we indeed…that God indeed provides entirely for godliness but at the same time and because of the fact that God provides entirely for godliness, we work strenuously toward godliness. God provides, that is prior and it is foundational. God provides and out of that or because of that, we work.
Notice what he says in verse five. Isn’t that the main idea? “For this very reason…” It’s three words in the ESV, “…make every effort…” Make every effort. That is the main idea in verses five through seven. Make every effort to add all of those things. In other words, but very simply, we should work at being godly. In light of what God has done, we should work…we should work at being godly.
I think about…I just have a limited perspective—33 years old—but I can honestly say, and I think most of you would agree, I can honestly say that I have never met a holy person who was lazy. I never met a holy person who didn’t actually work at that; who didn’t strive for that; who didn’t pursue holiness by the means that God has given but who didn’t actually go after those things. It’s not something, brothers and sisters, that we just kind of happen into.
There is an expression, and I understand what it is rooted in, but there’s an expression, “Hey, just let go and let God.” Brothers and sisters, that’s not what Peter’s saying. He is saying, “Yes, it is God who is foundational. It is God who is prior but because of that, in light of that, we are to work.” That’s why I have in your notes there underneath that, yes, we are to work strenuously but remembering that our work is reasonable in light of God’s grace. That our work is reasonable in light of God’s grace. That’s what he says in verse five. Look at it again. He does say we’re to work, or to make every effort, but notice how he leads though. Notice the very first phrase, “…for this very reason…” In other words… You should, in your mind, look at verses three through four as a unit. In other words, you should bracket that, say three and four. That’s what God has done. That is the grace of God. And now because of the grace of God, out of that, “for this very reason,” we make every effort.
Sometimes in New Testament scholarship—Biblical scholars sometimes—they’ll refer to this as what is called the indicative-imperative. You say, indicative? It’s been a long time since seventh grade grammar. Uh, indicative? Indicative is simply the way that things are. In other words if I said that my shirt is black or that I’m a male or I’m 33 years old, that’s just the indicative. That’s just what we’re talking about. That’s the way that things are. But when we say things like, “make every effort” that’s the imperative. And what I want you to see over and again… It’s not just here and I want to show you a couple other places in just a second. What you see over and over in the New Testament is that the indicative—in other words, the way things are or in this case what God has already done—the indicative always precedes the imperative. In other words, it’s always about what God has done before it’s about what we should do.
Now I want to show you just a couple of places. We see it here but I want you to back up with me to Romans chapter 12. Alright? Romans chapter 12. We’re going to look at just a couple of cases. You may just want to write these verses out in your notes. But Romans chapter 12:1. Romans, if you are familiar with it, or intimately familiar with it, you know that that Paul spends 11 chapters—I want you to get that in your mind… Paul spends 11 chapters unpacking the gospel. Unpacking what God has already done: that He has redeemed us by the blood of Christ, that He has justified us because of His resurrection, that He has brought us into union with Christ, that He has delivered us from slavery, that He has…that he will one day bring us into glory. All of these things are what God has already done.
Now think about that. For 11 chapters he says that this is the gospel. That’s what God has done. And it’s not then until you get to chapter 12, verse 1 that you read this: “I appeal to you therefore brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” You hear that? In light of the mercies of God, in view of what God has already done, because of His prior grace, now therefore present your bodies. We always have to be careful because our tendency is to reverse that order; to think we’ll do, and then God will approve. But it’s always what God has done before what we are to do.
The same thing… Turn over if you would to Galatians 5. And we could see other places but, look at Galatians 5 very quickly. Then we’ll look at one other. Paul spends four chapters talking—unpacking really—the gospel of justification by faith alone. In other words that we are accepted in Christ alone; there’s nothing that we do to earn our salvation. He labors that point that it is Jesus and Jesus alone—His death that saves. And then you come to Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free…” Notice the indicative; that’s what is the case. He has set us free and now notice what flows out of that. “…stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” The indicative precedes the imperative. What God has done precedes what we are to do.
One more time in Colossians 3. Just to your right. Colossians chapter three. And here I think it’s maybe clearer than anywhere else because it’s all contained in these particular verses in one through five. Notice what he says. Paul says, “If then you have been raised with Christ…” In other words, because you have been raised with Christ… Notice there it is again.
This is what is the case: “You have been raised with Christ.” Now, what is the…what is the natural response to that? Well, then, “…seek the things that are above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, set your mind on things that are above not on things that are on earth for you have died your life is hidden with Christ.” Look down to verse five. Same idea: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” All of that flows out of what God has already done.
It’s the same thing when we come to 2 Peter. You say, “Why do you labor that point so much? I mean, I think we get it.” Because it’s always our tendency not to get it. It’s always our tendency to run the other way. And it’s our tendency for… Even if we’re struggling—the believer—this morning… Think, “I have to do more. I have to do a little bit more so that…” No. God has done in Christ… He has lived the life you should have lived; died the death you should have died and He has raised in victory over sin, hell and the grave. He has done it. Jesus meant it when He said, “It is finished.”
It is in light of that, because of that, Peter says in verse five, “For this very reason, make every effort…” Our work is reasonable in light of Christ’s work. But also our work is evident, he says here, through changes in our character. One other way that he qualifies he says that our work is evident is through changes in our character. Look with me… Read with me if you would, just again, in verse five: “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.”
Now we don’t have time to unpack all of these. I would…I would remind you before we…before we move on that Peter is not giving, by the way, kind of a step-by-step manual for holiness. He’s not saying you know that backup in verse five, if you start with virtue, then you add knowledge and if you get that all wrapped up, then you can proceed on to self control. So it’s, you know, it’s not really appropriate for us to say, “You know what? This week I’m working on knowledge and so it’s okay for me to be a jerk, you know and be out of control. So I’ll get to that next week. That’s the next step you know.”
That’s not it at all. And this is kind of a package that… These are… Really, these are examples. And the only things that I would highlight from these examples, in light of the time that we have, is that I think it is instructive that Peter begins with faith. Notice there are other lists like this in pagan culture and so there were other things floating around with these very, you know, kinds of ideas that Peter’s contemporaries would have read. But none of them began with God’s prior work; none of them began with faith; none of them began with what God has already… It begins with faith and I think it is also instructive that it ends with love. Brothers and sisters, the supreme virtue—what ought to be evident in our lives—love toward God, love toward Christ, love toward His Spirit, love toward one another, love toward the poor, love toward the world. Love ought to be evident in our lives.
Tertullian was an early church apologist, about 200 AD or so, and he was writing about how the pagans viewed the Christians and obviously the pagans normally viewed the Christians in a very negative light. But one thing that the pagans did say, the pagans said about the early church, they said, “See how they love one another. See how they love one another.” It’s also interesting at the very end of that, he says… Tertullian says, “One in mind and soul, we the church, we do not hesitate to share our earthly goods with one another. All things are common among us except our wives.” So you want to not share your wife. That’s important so…
But there is to be evident love among us. And I think it’s also instructive to note that what Peter concentrates here upon are not as much activities as they are attitudes. Not that activities are unimportant in any sense. Read the book of James and I think you’ll see that activities are not unimportant. But it’s as if Peter kind of peels the layer back and says, “Yeah, there are all these activities that people may be doing…” In fact there were false teachers; they were teaching the Word of God. He says now, “Go a little bit deeper.” He says, “If you want to see what real virtue…what real Christians look like, look to the level of motivation. Look to the level of virtue. Is there self control? Is there brotherly affection? Is there love?”
I was reading the college blog this week. Brook Hills. I noticed that Britton Taylor had put on there… He said, “I want to encourage all of us who are ingrained with the idea that the more I do, the more important I am. I want to encourage us all to diagnose spiritual health by looking at the heart more than the hands. To diagnose spiritual health by looking more at the heart than looking at the hands.” I think that’s exactly right.
I think that’s what Peter is impressing upon us here this morning—that God’s grace brings an authentic, a real, a deep change in our lives. It is an effectual and it is a lively grace. And if that is the case, I would suggest to you this morning that that has eternal ramifications.
2 Peter 1:1–11 Reminds Us Why Godliness Matters
If the grace of God infallibly is to bring about godliness in our lives, that has eternal ramifications for every single person here this morning. And I want to highlight two ways where you see that, and I think that’s what Peter is pointing us to in verses eight through eleven.
Our Progress in Godliness is Necessary for Assurance of Salvation (vv. 8–10a)
One. That our progress in godliness—and these are connected… One, that our progress in godliness is necessary for salvation. Why does is matter if we see godliness in our lives? Because first of all, our progress in godliness is necessary for assurance of salvation. Look at, if you would, what he says in verse eight and following: “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 [this is the flip side of it, okay?] is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.”
And here’s the upshot of it all, alright? This is where I get this idea of assurance here in these verses. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent…” It is the same word, by the way, that is used up in chapter five—make every effort—excuse me verse five—make every effort… “Therefore brothers be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure…” Notice that Peter does not say that we are to strive to be elect or strive to be called. He doesn’t talk like that; it doesn’t even make sense of the language. Rather we are told… We don’t have any… We’re not privy to that, so we’re told…we’re told to make sure or to ratify. It’s kind of a legal word really—to confirm a document or so to speak. We’re told to ratify or to confirm, to make sure, about God’s election of us.
And that raises a big question doesn’t it? Actually it raises a bunch of questions but we’re not going to answer all those this morning about election. But it raises a big question and that is, how do you know? How do you know whether or not your name is written in the book of life? You know, it’s not that we can… It’s not like we can peer over God’s shoulder into that very book and say, “Ah, I see my name there. I know it’s there.” How do we do that? Well, I think one of the ways… And listen, I want to make sure that I’m communicating… This is not the only way, there are other scriptures in the Bible, okay, that speak to assurance.
But when Peter is talking, he gives us one of the ways that we do that. One of the ways that we make our calling and our election sure is to look at our lives. Specifically—as you see there in your notes—to see that fruitfulness in the gospel is an indicator of spiritual life. To understand that fruitfulness in the gospel is an indicator of spiritual life. To put it very plainly, the surest sign that you are a Christian is if you are growing. The surest sign that you are a Christian is if you are growing. You say, “Well, that’s really subjective because sometimes I feel like I’m growing and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I feel like my prayer life is good; sometimes it’s bad. Sometimes the Word seems really clear; sometimes it doesn’t make any sense at all. Sometimes I feel really close to God; sometime I feel really far away. How do I know?”
It is subjective and I want to serve you and I asked our staff to help me in this and so I asked them to help me come up with a concrete way—obviously there is no real concrete way but a more concrete way—for us to figure out how is it that we know that we have been saved. How is it that we know that we are born again. How is it we know we are called by God? And so they came up with this graphic that I want to show you on the screen and you kind of see there just the rough idea.
There’s growth in Christ and so that’s sort of…you know, to be an upward kind of idea. The more you grow in Christ the more that goes up. As well as the passing of time. And so everybody starts, obviously… There is no growth in godliness apart from Christ. That’s what verses three and four speak to, okay? We don’t grow in Christ until we are saved, until we place our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus. We repent and we believe in Jesus.
But there are obviously some times as we grow as a Christian…there are some times that our growth is more dramatic than others. I’ll give you an example. Alright think about Secret Church, alright? So you know, you’re kind of going along, you’re going along and all of a sudden—boom! Secret Church comes along, alright? And I mean, you got you got 300 pages of notes about the cross of Christ and you know, you got you know, eight theories of the atonement and you’re armed with like 25 quotes from Luther and Piper and Edwards and Calvin. I mean, you’re ready to go. You know and so you’re kind of like on the mountain top and you know, you just kind of levitate spiritually for a week or two and your face sort of radiates and all this stuff. So that’s an up but you know it’s not always like that, you know? Every week is not is Secret Church week.
Sometimes, sometimes there are setbacks and so for example the Institute for Disciple Making, alright? You sign up for a class and you don’t really turn in all the assignments and so—boom! You know? Things were going along so well, you know? But now you’ve…you’ve got Wayne Grudem and you dropped out of the class and you got 1,000 pages you never read and you feel like, “Aw, I didn’t even read about God, you know? I just…I’m not holy.” And so there, there are times of ups and times of downs but overall obviously the intention… This is what I want to draw your attention to alright? That all joking aside there are…there are times of growth, alright? And there are times when we don’t grow like we would hope we would grow. And so there are ups and downs.
Another way to think about it is kind of like a yo-yo. You know? It goes up and down, up and down. But I think maybe even a better way to put that is that we grow as a Christian, yeah up and down. But maybe up and down as we’re walking up a set of steps. So yes, there is…there are ups and downs still and there always will be in this life but there is to…kind of look back, we ought to be able to see by the grace of God, a trajectory of growth. And for some, that will be more dramatic than others. For some it will be less dramatic.
You know, some of us start really far back, you know? But I think over time there ought to be an increasing… This is why it is important to see those words there in verse eight, “…if these qualities are yours and…” they are what? They “are increasing.” There ought to be over time a deepening love for the Word of God; a deepening love for our brothers and sisters in Christ; a deeper…deepening awareness even of the mission that is set before us; a deeper, a deeper sense of repentance and therefore a greater hatred of sin and a greater love for holiness. You know, if…if all we can say is, you know, “Twenty years ago me and Jesus were tight” but nothing since then, then that ought to alert us that something isn’t right.
Fruitfulness in the gospel is an indicator of spiritual life. There are other indicators. I want…I want to make that clear. There are other indicators. But one indicator of spiritual life is fruitfulness in the gospel and the converse found in verse nine is this: That fruitlessness in the gospel is an indicator of spiritual death.
Look at what he says. It’s a very complicated verse, I’ll grant that. There are different interpretations, but he says, “For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” I think what Peter is saying, he’s not…he’s not moved on to the false teachers yet. We’ll talk about them in the weeks ahead. He’s talking about those that I think are kind of on the brink. You know, they are in the community. They…he’s not switched audiences here. There is a…he rec…he recognizes that it is a mixed group. There are wheat and tares among his people. And he says there are some there that have so shut their eyes to the gospel that it naturally raises the question whether they know the gospel at all.
Say, “That sounds harsh.” But I would ask the question, “Is it? Isn’t it the grace of God that that we are brought to an awareness of our sin? Isn’t it the grace of God that He doesn’t just heap on assurance when we continue in sin?” Rather assurance…assurance wanes the deeper and deeper we wage…that we wade in sin, either to shock us into repentance or to make us aware for the first time that we’ve never repented at all. God by His grace gives us indicators—fruitfulness in the gospel, or fruitlessness in the gospel—as indicators of spiritual life and spiritual death.
Our Progress in Godliness is Necessary for Entrance Into the Kingdom (vv. 10b–11)
And then related to that our progress in godliness is necessary for assurance of salvation. Most importantly our progress in godliness is necessary for entrance into the Kingdom. You say, “Wait a minute, are you saying…are you saying that I’ve got to be holy in order to go to heaven?” Yes and no. Yes in that there must be a change in your life, a holy disposition. No, if we’re trying to quantify that into how much holiness. Jesus is our righteousness. Jesus is our perfection. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:30 that He, speaking of Jesus, He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and our sanctification and our redemption. Everything that we have, everything that we need for eternal life is found in Jesus. Jesus is the basis for our salvation and there is no other. But what he is teaching us here…what he isn’t teaching us…even what he isn’t teaching us…he isn’t teaching us then that sinless perfection is required or is possible even. He’s not saying in these verses or in this way you’ll then be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He’s not saying that sinless perfection is required or even possible.
Jesus… Do you not…do you remember Jesus, when the disciples say, “How shall we pray?” Jesus says at one point in the Lord’s Prayer, “Father forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.” Jesus understands that we will always struggle; we will always battle with sin. That is not what I am saying when I say that we must have godliness as necessary for entrance into the kingdom. What I am saying though is that eternal salvation is at stake. You say, ‘What do you mean by that?”
Peter only envisions two possibilities. Look at the end of verse ten. He says if you don’t have these qualities, alright, he says if you do have them “…you will never fall.” It is a word that is associated with catastrophic fall, with a stumbling unto hell. It is not just an idea of sinning. He knows we’re going to sin. He’s saying if we have these qualities—if these things are evident in our life, bottom line, we won’t go to hell. If they’re genuinely there, by the grace of God, we will not go to hell. And so the positive side of that, “in this way” (verse 11) “there will be richly provide for you an entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
There are only two options: you either fall or you go into the Kingdom. It is just that stark. This is what Spurgeon says. Spurgeon says, “Christ must be the master of the heart and sin must be killed. If your life is unholy…” And I mean that—and again qualifying that, if there is not a love for people, if there’s not love for God—“If your life is unholy,” he said, “your heart is unchanged and you are an unsaved person.”
So what do we do? I think these are really…these are really grave words that we find in 2 Peter. I don’t think that should surprise us; these are words that are coming from a man who is about to face his own death. He is writing to us about things of utmost importance. And so what I want us to do is…I want us to think through just a couple of ways that we can respond to what I think is a grave and serious and good word from our God.
2 Peter 1:1–11 Teaches Us How We Should Respond
Examine Your Life Carefully
Notice first how shall we respond? We should we should examine our lives carefully. Examine your life carefully. As humbly as I know how to say this and with the greatest love I know how to say it: Away with a counsel that suggests that we should never question, never ask, never examine. It flies in the face of verse ten and it flies in the face of 2 Corinthians 13:5 where Paul says, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith.” The Word tells us be diligent to make your calling and your election sure. “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith.”
My goal in this sermon is not for us to leave here and say, “Man I don’t think I’m saved and I don’t think anybody else is.” You know, that’s not the goal. The goal is to encourage us to look where God has told us to look. To look and to see is…is… Do I have faith in Jesus above all things? Do I trust in His sacrificial, substitutionary death for the forgiveness of my sin? Do I love Him? Am I repenting? Do I hate sin? Do I love the Word? Do I love the people of God? Is there self control? Is there brotherly love? Is there fruit of Spirit? Is God more valuable to me than anything else in this world?
Someone has said the reality is that hell is heavily populated with people who professed Christianity but never once examined themselves. And with all of my heart, I don’t want one person to go to hell thinking that they were going to heaven. I don’t want one person to walk into eternity, never having examined and asked the question, “Am I really a Christian?” We’re to examine our lives carefully.
Exhort One Another Lovingly
We’re also then—I think in concert with this—we are to exhort one another lovingly. You say, “What do you mean in concert with that?” This is an area that I think that we can really sharpen one another. This is an area that I think most of us could improve upon dramatically. When I say examine yourself carefully, almost all of us immediately think, “Well, I need to get alone and I just need to look at things in my life and I just need to se, you know, whether I’m in the faith or not.” And there’s an element of truth to that but we have to remember that these letters were not written to individual Christians, they were written to people in a church; people that were in community.
The truth is most of us are either too hard on ourselves or too easy on ourselves. We’re either legalistic or we’re lazy. And so one of the graces of God in our life is to put us into relationship with brothers and sisters in Christ who can then help us with this question, “Am I really a Christian?” You see how that works? Think about Hebrews 3:13, where the writer of Hebrews says, “Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
There is there is a duty that we have when we see someone who claims to be a follower of Jesus… There is a duty that we have as brothers and sisters in Christ to look at them and say, “Brother or sister, I have deep concerns about the way that you’re living.” Now that comes after a process of humbling ourselves, of examining our own heart; that comes with love and grace and tenderness and without judgment. But it is not loving for us to say, “Well, that’s their business. Who am I to judge?”
Brothers and sisters, we are our brother’s keeper. We are joined together. It is unloving for me to see someone careening toward hell and never say a word about it. But it is not only a negative exercise. There is also—hear me please—there is also a positive aspect as well, is there not? We are, yes, to warn people that they’re showing contrary evidence to their profession of faith but we’re also to exhort one another whenever we see any evidence of grace.
I’ve been particularly affected in my own study this; my own heart as I have read this. And I think about my role as a pastor and I think about my role as a small group leader and I think about my role as a father and my role especially as a husband. And I know that my tendency is to always point out verbally areas where others have to grow and not point out verbally where growth has already occurred. And when I do that—when it’s all criticism and no affirmation— when it’s all, “Oh, that’s not good” but never, “That is the grace of God in your life” what I am doing is in effect I am robbing that brother or sister, I am robbing my wife, I am robbing my children, of the very assurance that God desires for His children to have.
And so whenever we see evidence of grace this week… When you see evidence of grace in your child or you see evidence of grace in your father or your mother, or you see evidence of grace in your brother or sister, or perhaps somebody in your small group, or particularly if you see evidence of grace in your spouse, let us not keep that in our hearts but let it then overflow from our lips and say, “Brother or sister, my wife… I’m so thankful to God for what He is doing in you.”
Exalt the Savior Passionately
We examine our lives carefully, we exhort one another lovingly and then very quickly, we exalt the Savior passionately. And whenever we see that, not only do we affirm that with what we say, but we are reminded that anything…I am reminded that anything godly in me and I mean anything…anything godly in me is attributed to the grace of God. It is all of grace. I know Paul says that nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh. John 1:16, “from His fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” And if that is the case, if all the good that is in our life is attributed to the Savior, then let us celebrate that fact. Let us celebrate the fact that He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and He has transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son; that we have passed from death unto life. Let us give Jesus all the praise. We exalt Him when we see it.
2 Peter 1:1–11 Reminds Us to Embrace the Gospel Wholeheartedly
And then last, we embrace the gospel wholeheartedly. We embrace the gospel wholeheartedly. This passage teaches us that the wind in our sails is the good news of Jesus Christ. For those who’ve never trusted, the gospel is the starting point.
For those who already have, the gospel is where we remain. Verse three again, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” It is because of the gospel and from the gospel that we are energized; that we are driven forward to pursue the life of godliness that ends by God’s grace in a rich provision of eternal life and entrance into the Kingdom of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.