For an introduction to this series, click here.
January 11, 2008Today we start with a new epistle, 2 Peter. Peter is more specific in this epistle, pointing out a lot of particular issues in the church he is addressing.
"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 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." (1:1-8)
There is so much in this passage, but I did not want to divide it up, so we will have to backtrack a little bit. The most important thing for us to note is the contrast between what is already done and what is yet to be. Peter says very clearly in verses 3 and 4 that God through the Holy Spirit has given us all we need to be complete in Him. We get all of the Holy Spirit when we are saved; there is no need for a second blessing or an additional work of grace. As far as our standing with God is concerned, we are complete at the moment of salvation.
But note the following verses. Yes, God has given us everything we need in the Holy Spirit, and yes, we are recipients of all the promises and are partakers of the divine nature. But now we need to add to our faith. I have heard extended studies on all these things we are supposed to add to our faith, and I am sure you have, too. My purpose is to get you to realize the paradox here: we are complete in Christ, but yet we have so far to go. Here is what makes the Christian life so difficult for many to grasp. People often fall for man-made theories that there is some sort of secret to becoming a mature Christian. Multitudes of authors and preachers have become rich selling books and sermons about some sort of "secret" they have discovered. The fact is there is no secret. We start with everything we need: we don't need to add any more from God at some later point in our lives. Then from there it is a daily walk of slow progress. It just take hard work and applying ourselves.
"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." (1:10-15)
Peter's "secret"- to coin a phrase- for spiritual growth is very simple: diligence. Diligence is all that God asks of us.
I had never noticed before what Peter said about him being near death, "as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me." Of course you remember that Jesus told Peter that when he was old, he would be led by others to a place he did not want to go. I guess he could sense himself getting old and needing help to get from one place to another.
"For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,' we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (1:16-21, ESV)
Of course Peter is referring to the Transfiguration when he talks about seeing the glory of Christ and hearing the voice from heaven. But Peter says that the Word of God is a more sure proof of Christ's deity and power than even experiencing that magnificent sight. This is a comfort to us who will never experience a physical interaction with the Lord Jesus in this life. We can read for ourselves and know for sure that what we are reading is true. How do we know it is true? Because of inspiration. Peter insists that no one came up with the word on his own, as so many skeptics even today assume, but the Holy Spirit carried the writers along and superintended their work, even when they did not understand what they were writing.