Faith | Part 1

Text: 2 Peter 1:5-8


Whenever I read this passage of scripture I am reminded of a time when I was going through 2 Peter 1 in a bible study. I challenged the group to memorise the chapter. As an added incentive I promised to bake a cake for the first person to do so. Eventually one of the ladies managed to do it. I had to fulfil my promise. I got Sue to give me the baking pans and a recipe and I started baking. The cake went into the oven and before long overflowed making a mess of the oven. I was miffed and accused Sue of giving me the wrong recipe and pans. I still had a cake to bake and so the next day I asked Sue to give me another recipe and I started again. Sue was busy cooking lunch at the same time, and I read the recipe out loud while throwing the ingredients into the bowl. “A cup of sugar, 2 eggs, 2 table-spoons of baking powder.” Sue stopped me and said that that could not be right. I pointed it out to her; “see there is a 2 followed by a small t.” Sue had to tell me that a small t in a recipe was a tea-spoon not a table spoon. My first cake was a flop not because the recipe was wrong, but I had added way too much baking powder. In this passage Peter is describing the portrait of an effective and productive Christian. There is not one of us that wants to be a flop as a Christian. How can we be effective and productive? Follow the recipe.

2 PETER 1:5-8
In these verses Peter supplies us with the recipe to be an effective and productive Christian. In consists of eight qualities which need to be increasingly added to. It all starts with FAITH. Peter is talking about the faith as outlined in vrs1, 2 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours. Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. In these two verses Peter supplies four extraordinary statements about Jesus which is the substance of our faith.

a) Jesus is the Saviour
In this short epistle Peter calls Jesus Saviour five times (1:1, 11; 2:20; 3:2, 18) and talks about salvation once (3:15). If we put them together the three tenses of salvation, past, present and future are highlighted. First of all in 1:9 Peter can say the following about the Christian, he has been cleansed from his past sins. We have been delivered from the penalty of sin. Secondly, in 2:20 he refers to the present tense and says that we have been saved from the power of sin. If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Thirdly, in 3:15 we are told that in the future we need not be concerned about the delay in Christ’s coming because our Lord’s patience means salvation. There will come a day when we will be delivered from the presence of sin itself.

b) Jesus is God
In vrs 1 Peter speaks about our God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Peter attributes full deity to Jesus. However, in vrs 2 he says the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ. Peter is articulating orthodox Christianity: “the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God.” It is quite right for us to affirm that Jesus Christ is God, and quite right for us to affirm that Jesus Christ is not all there is to God. We could put this in a different way. Peter will call Jesus “God” but he will not call God “Jesus.” A Christian is someone who has exercised faith in our Triune God.

c) Jesus is the Christ
The Greek word “Christ” is a translation of the Hebrew word for “Messiah.” This was the name used for the one who would fulfil all the OT hopes. Prophets, priests and kings were anointed with oil to show that they were dedicated to God as His servants. The ultimate Servant would be the one above all others who would fulfil God’s plan. When Peter in Matthew 16:16 first said “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” he identified Jesus as the man who would fulfil God’s plan for mankind (Acts 2:23, 24, 32, 36).

d) Jesus is the Lord
The Greek word for Lord (kurios) was consistently used to translate the Hebrew name for LORD (Yahweh). To call Jesus “Lord” among people who knew their OT was to say that Jesus was present all the way through history of Israel as their covenant Lord.

This fourfold description of Jesus is the focus of the effective and productive Christian’s faith.

Goodness | Part 2

In our last study we saw that in this passage Peter is describing the portrait of an effective and productive Christian (vrs 8). The virtues that will produce a well-rounded, fruitful Christian life are outlines in vrs 5-7. Peter is encouraging us to intentionally add to our faith a whole range of qualities.

“ADD TO YOUR FAITH . . . GOODNESS.”
In vrs 5 we read, for this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness. The Greek word used that is translated as “add” or “supply” in vrs 5 is epichorego. It is a word that is drawn from the Athenian drama festivals.
Perhaps the greatest gift that Greece, and especially Athens, gave to men was the great plays and dramas of men like Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, works of literature and art which are still among the most cherished possessions of the world. All these plays needed large choruses. A rich individual called a choregos would join the state and the poet in putting on the plays. It was an expensive business to produce such plays and yet the choregei vied with one another in their generous financing of the chorus. The word came to mean generous and costly co-operation. In our text it means that the Christian must co-operate with God in the cultivation of a Christian life that brings glory to God. We should not be surprised at this language. In Philippians 2:13 we are told for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

The first quality that Peter insists that we should add to our faith is goodness. The Greek word is not found often in the New Testament but is found frequently in other Greek literature. It is the word arete and is translated as virtue in the ESV and KJV but perhaps the NASB translates it best as “moral excellence.” This Greek word was used in Greek literature to describe the proper fulfilment of something. A knife was excellent (aret) if it cut well. A horse was excellent (aret) if it ran strong and fast. A singer was excellent (aret) if he or she sang well. What then is the excellence of a man? Peter has already given us a hint because he used this word in vrs 3 to describe Christ’s character. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. What is it that makes a person good or excellent at being a human? The ideal person is Jesus Christ and Christians will find their excellence in imitating him. True human excellence, then, is the manliness which is Christlikeness. That likeness is only increasingly fleshed out in the believer’s life through continually encountering Christ by faith. That is why in Philippians 3:14 you have that monumental statement that Paul lays down as the pattern for all believers. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.’ What he was saying was “I pursue Christlikeness.” He admitted, “I haven’t attained, but I pursue it.” The goal is to be like Christ and the reward is to be like Christ. The growing Christian is one who increasingly seeks to have the excellence of Christ etched in their lives. They will add to their faith “moral excellence.”

We started today by examining the word for “add” (epichorego). It is found again in vrs 11 of our text, for if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The two uses of epichorego form a bracket around vrs 5-11. To the extent that we lavishly add moral excellence and the other qualities to our faith is the extent to which a rich, enthusiastic welcome will be extended to us in the eternal kingdom of our Lord. Surely that is something to look forward to.

Knowledge | Part 3

In our last two studies we have been examining the portrait that Peter paints for us of an effective and productive Christian. Eight characteristics are highlighted. We have already examined faith and goodness (moral excellence). Today we turn to knowledge (gnosis). In vrs 3 Peter makes an astonishing statement. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Did you read this verse carefully? A godly life is not something that only a few super-saints can achieve. It is well within the reach of every believer. There is no secret that we need privileged access to. There is no special individual under whose ministry we just have to sit. There is no special spiritual experience that we must seek to fast-track our Christian growth. Peter insists in vrs 3 that just through being Christians we already have everything we need for life and godliness.

“ADD TO YOUR GOODNESS . . . KNOWLEDGE.”
If we want to be effective and productive in our faith we must cultivate moral excellence. However, we cannot stop here. There is more, much more. Next we need to add to goodness a thirst for knowledge. God’s lament in Hosea 4:6 is “my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” In Romans 10:2 Paul acknowledges that it is all too possible for a Christian to have a zeal for God which is not based on knowledge. The central message of 2 Peter is a warning against false teaching. In 2:1, 2 we read, but there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them -bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. How should his readers prepare themselves against these savage wolves? By adding knowledge to their goodness. A Christian without knowledge is easy prey for false teachers. They are like a rowing boat on the high seas blown and tossed about in a storm – helpless! At the very end of this letter in 3:17, 18 Peter says, therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. If we are not to be swept away by the error of false teaching we must grow in knowledge. How are we going to do this? Through a balanced diet of the Word of God. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we are told, all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. There is no short cut to knowledge. If we desire to bear fruit as Christians then we need to make use of every opportunity to take in God’s word. We need to be with God’s people on the Lord’s Day and hear the word preached. But that is not all. We need to spend time each day systematically working through God’s Word and feeding our souls? But that is not all. We need to make a serious attempt to attend one of the many bible studies within the church. We might complain of the lack of time. But what does vrs 5 say? “Make every effort to add to your faith . . . knowledge.”

Self-control | Part 4

No Christian wants to live a fruitless life. We long to hear the words of our heavenly Father saying, “well done good and faithful servant.” Last time we saw from vrs 3 that we have every divine resource at our disposal to live a godly life.” In vrs 5-8 the secret to living effective, productive Christian lives consists in generously adding eight qualities in increasing measure. We have examined faith, goodness (moral excellence) and knowledge. To knowledge we must add self-control. The false teachers that Peter is warning his hearers against in 2 Peter made no attempt at self-governance. In 2:10 Peter says that they follow the corrupt desire of the flesh. In 2:13 he says that the false teacher’s idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. In 2:14 he says with eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning. In 2:19 he says that they are slaves of depravity.

“ADD TO YOUR KNOWLEDGE . . . SELF-CONTROL”
The Greek word for self-control is enkrateia. It is derived from two words en (in) and kratos (power to rule). Enkrateia is often defined as self-control, but a much better definition is self-governance. The root kratia means government, and is the basis of such words as democracy (demokratia, rule by the people, plutocracy, rule of the rich, etc.). Self-control is part of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22. Since self-control affects so many aspects of our lives it is helpful to focus on three major areas.

  1. BODY
    In 1 Corinthians 6:12 Paul says, “everything is permissible for me”- but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”- but I will not be mastered by anything. Self-control of the body should be aimed in three directions. Firstly, we must confront the temptation of gluttony (in both food and drink). We must remind ourselves that according to 1 Corinthians 10:31 our eating and drinking ought to be done to God’s glory. Secondly, we must consider laziness. In Mark 1:35 we are told that early in the morning while it was still dark Jesus spent time in prayer. What makes this all the more commendable is that the previous evening (vrs 32-34) had been filled with purposeful ministry. The third area in which we must exercise bodily self-control is in the sexual area (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5). If acts of immorality are a serious problem that Christians must address thoughts of immorality are a much more subtle problem.
  2. THOUGHTS
    Our minds are mental greenhouses where unlawful thoughts, once planted are nurtured and watered before being transplanted into the real world of unlawful actions. People seldom just happen to fall into gluttony or immorality. These actions are savoured in the mind long before they are enjoyed in reality. Our thoughts then are our first line of defence in the battle for self-control. The gates to our thought lives are primarily our eyes and ears. What we see and hear largely determine what we think. This is why Paul supplies us with our marching orders in Philippians 4:8, finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
  3. EMOTIONS
    An uncontrolled temper is a contradiction in the life of a person who is seeking to practice godliness. In Proverbs 16:32, better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city. Note what a price the Holy Spirit places on a curbed temper. It is more to be desired than a decisive victory in war. Taking a city is child’s play compared with self-mastery. A city can be taken in a single day, but self-control remains the struggle of a lifetime.

We would be well advised to heed the words of Solomon in Proverbs 25:28, like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control. Self-control is the believer’s wall of defence against the sinful desires that war against their soul.

Perseverance | Part 5

This morning we come to yet another character trait which we need to add to our faith to ensure that we remain fruitful Christians – perseverance. I have long admired William Carey, the Baptist missionary to India towards the end of the 18th and the in the early years of the 19th century. He was a gifted linguist. He translated the entire bible into 6 languages. Then he translated the New Testament into 23 more dialects. If that were not enough, he translated parts of the NT into a further 10 dialects. Tremendous labour. He endured many hardships throughout his missionary career. He was opposed by the British government who were not supportive of missionary enterprise. On the home front he endured the loss of a son to dysentery and his wife Dorothy developed a mental affliction and eventually had to be incarcerated. At one point in his ministry his mission press burned down along with many of the precious manuscripts he had translated. And yet he persevered. Shortly before his death he said the following words to his nephew; “If after my removal anyone should think it worth his while to write my life, I will give you a criterion by which you may judge of its correctness. If he gives me credit for being a plodder he will describe me justly. Anything beyond this will be too much. I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.” Are we learning the same secret? Can we plod?

“ADD TO YOUR SELF-CONTROL . . . PERSEVERANCE”
The Greek word for perseverance is hupomone. It is derived from two words hupo (under) and meno (to remain). Put these words together and we learn that the the beauty of perseverance is an ability to bear up under which literally means, to bear up under. A blacksmith would take a piece of metal and fire it and then place it on the anvil and beat it into shape with a hammer. The metal bore up under the hammer. As Christians in God’s forge we need to learn the grace of enduring through tough times because we know that there is the promise of better times ahead. The Christian trusts what Peter says in 2:9, the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials. The reason we can persevere is that history is heading towards the goal of Christ’s return. As Peter says in 3:14, so then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Perseverance means keeping going until the very end. Peter reminds us that we are surrounded by scoffers who taunt us saying in 3:4, “Where is this ‘coming’” he promised? In James 5:11 this word hupomone occurs twice. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. We are familiar with Job’s trials – his financial reversals, the grief of losing ten children in a single tragic accident, the loss of his own health and ultimately the advice of his wife to curse God and die. How did he bear up under these pressing circumstances? In Job 13:15 he said, “though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” Job’s perseverance is an example to us all. We are urged to add perseverance to our self-control. The Greek philosophers contrasted self-control and perseverance by saying that self-control is concerned with pleasures and perseverance with sorrows. According to Aristotle, “the man who can endure and put up with hardships, he is the real example of perseverance.”

Let us prayerfully seek to generously add perseverance to our faith for it will surely make us exceedingly fruitful.

Godliness | Part 6

In this short series we have yet to consider a revolutionary phrase. In vrs 3, he has said that in Christ we have all the resources that we could possibly need to live a godly life. Then in vrs 4 he says, through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. That we may participate in the divine nature!! What could Peter possibly mean? Quite clearly Peter is not advocating some New Age concept of being absorbed into the deity. In 1 Peter 5:1 he wrote as one who also will share in the glory to be revealed. What is this glory? The apostle Paul helps us understand something of this glory in Romans 8:29. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son. If we are to be fruitful Christians we need to add a fifth character trait to our faith.

“ADD TO YOUR PERSEVERANCE . . . GODLINESS”
Godliness is not a mystical quality but a moral quality. In the 19th century there was a preacher in the USA called Charles Finney who travelled the length and breadth of the country. On one occasion, while preaching at a series of meetings in a certain town he visited a factory. It was a noisy place because of all the looms operating. As Finney walked through the factory those working felt a strange influence. Many of them broke down in tears just because he was in the building. You would be tempted to conclude from this that he was a godly man just because of the vibes he gave out. That has nothing to do with godliness. The godliest person around will probably give off no vibes at all. Godliness is moral. The Greek word for godliness used in vrs 6 is eusebeia. It comes from two Greek words eu (well, good) and sebomai (to be devout). Once again there is a sharp contrast in 2 Peter between the effective and productive Christian and false teachers. Peter uses a pun – a play on words – in describing false teachers as ungodly (asebeia). In 2:6 Peter reminds his readers of the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly. In 3:7 Peter reminds scoffers of the fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. So, what then is godliness? The Greeks used to say that a lover of the gods was eusebeia. It’s a word to describe someone who worships, who has reverence, who adores God. Jerry Bridges helpfully defines godliness as devotion to God which results in a life that is pleasing to him. In Genesis 5 we are introduced to an enigmatic man called Enoch who is said to have walked with God. In Hebrews 11:5 Enoch is viewed from a different angle as somebody who pleased God. Enoch walked with God (which speaks about his relationship with God), and Enoch pleased God (which speaks about his behaviour). It is plain that Enoch’s life pointed towards God as truly as a compass will point north. In 1 Timothy 4:7, 8 we are urged to train yourself to be godly (eusebeia). For physical training is of some value, but godliness (eusebeia) has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. The practice of godliness is firstly a cultivation of a relationship with God and flowing out of this the cultivation of a life that is pleasing to him. We are to do as David encourages in Psalm 16:8, I have set the LORD always before me. It is encouraging to remind ourselves from vrs 3 that in Christ we have everything we need for life and godliness (eusebeia). Paul assures us in 1 Timothy 6:6 that godliness (eusebeia) with contentment is great gain.

Brotherly kindness | Part 7

We have been examining a series of character qualities which we need to lavishly add to our Christian faith. Faithfulness in this endeavour will ensure that we are effective and productive Christians. Of course, it all too possible to fail to diligently add these qualities. In vrs 9 Peter spells out the implications for such failure. But if anyone does not have them, he is near-sighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Such a person is spiritually sick, suffering from short-sightedness, blindness and amnesia. Someone who is blind cannot see at all, someone who is short-sighted cannot see what lies ahead, and someone who has forgotten cannot remember what lies behind him. This accurately described the false teachers that Peter is combatting. An inability to see the present results in a failure to understand God’s verdict on this corrupt world (1:4) and on the way of salvation (1:10). An inability to see into the future will leave us morally and religiously independent of God the Saviour. In 3:3, 4 Peter says; first of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” An inability to see the past will mean failure to perceive how we have cleansed from his past sins (1:9). To ensure we escape such spiritual sickness we need to add brotherly kindness to our faith.

“ADD TO YOUR GODLINESS . . . BROTHERLY KINDNESS”
The two English word “brotherly kindness” translate one Greek word, philadelphia. This Greek word was used to describe relationships within a biological family unit. The New Testament is the only place in Greek literature where this word is used to describe relationships outside of a physical family. A first century reader would have been shocked to see this word philadelphia used to describe the love that should prevail between fellow believers in the church. In Romans 12:10 Paul exhorts us to be devoted to one another in brotherly love (philadelphia). We commonly say that blood is thicker than water, but the Scriptures insist that relationships between fellow believers are stronger and more enduring than family bonds. If we are going to be fruitful Christians, we need to prayerfully consider the intensity of our affection for one another. In 1 Peter 1:22 Peter writes, now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers (philadelphia), love one another deeply, from the heart. In 1 Peter 3:8 he challenges us, finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers (philadelphia), be compassionate and humble. As Christians we should exhibit the same depth of loyalty in our relationships with fellow believers that already exist in family units. Quite challenging! In 1 Thessalonians 4:9 Paul encourages the Macedonian believers by saying, Now about brotherly love (philadelphia) we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. If we are to be effective in our Christian lives, we need to prayerfully reflect on how we can implement the challenge of Hebrews 13:1 keep on loving each other as brothers (philadelphia). The current lockdown measures have not been totally relaxed. Perhaps we should prayerfully seek creative ways in which we can demonstrate philadelphia towards one another.

Love | Part 8

Today we come to the end of this devotional series. We have seen that there are two paths available to us as believers. We can either generously add to our faith all the character traits outlined in vrs 5-7 and live a fruitful Christian life (vrs 8). Or, as vrs 9 says if anyone does not have them, he is near-sighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Productiveness or blindness are the respective outcomes of the two paths. We need to make every effort to add to our faith, goodness (moral excellence), knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and lastly, love.

“ADD TO YOUR BROTHERLY KINDNESS . . . LOVE”
The final ingredient which we need to add to our faith is love (agape). Very often this word agape is explained as uniquely Christian love. This is not necessarily the case. There is too much overlap between agape and phileo to make such a hard distinction. In vrs 7 the word agape seems to mean not so much the love a Christian has for a fellow Christian (this is philadelphia), but the love we demonstrate for anyone – whether they are Christian or not. In Galatians 6:10 we have our Christian marching orders, therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. In Colossians 3:12-14 the apostle Paul exhorts believers to replace the filthy rags of the old sinful nature with seven show stoppers. Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. If you think about it – here is one designer outfit for every day of the week. Then in Colossians 3:14 Paul says, and over all these virtues put on love (agape), which binds them all together in perfect unity. Love is our general all- purpose garment that must be matched with every other. Peter ends his list in vrs 5-7 with love because agape is the highest Christian characteristic. In 1 Corinthians 13:13 the apostle Paul memorably puts it this way, and now these three remain: faith, hope and love (agape). But the greatest of these is love (agape). The false teachers in Peter’s cross hairs failed at this point. In 2:3 we read, in their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up.

In vrs 10 Peter says, therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. He does not mean that we contribute anything to our salvation. He does mean that the acid test of our election is our desire to add all these qualities to our faith. A religious person’s maths goes like this:
Faith + Works = Salvation.
The believer’s maths is altogether different
Faith = Salvation + Works
If we confirm our calling with a genuine desire to generously add these qualities to our faith Peter says two results follow.

  1. In vrs 10 he says for if you do these things, you will never fall. This does not mean that we will never sin but rather that we will be spared a disastrous coming to grief (Romans 11:11). The Christian who devotes themselves to following Christ will never fall into the kind of error the false teachers Peter has in mind blundered into. In 2:15 Peter can say of them, they have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness.
  2. In vrs 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Right at the beginning of this series of devotions we saw that the Greek word for “add” in vrs 5 is epichoregos. A choregos was a rich patron who joined with the city and poet in funding the chorus for the play. They vied with one another in their generous financing of the chorus. Now in vrs 11 we have the same word again. The faithful believer will receive a lavish (epichoregos) welcome into eternal dwellings. One of the honours accorded to a victor in the Olympics was for his home city to afford him a lavish welcome. He would enter the city not through the the usual gate but a part in the wall specifically broken down for the occasion. Such a welcome awaits the effective and productive Christian.
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