On the opposite end of the spectrum in view of Christianity is that since salvation is all by grace, that is the unmerited favor of God, since you are saved by no exertion of your own, you are kept saved, kept perfect, if you will, through no exertion either, and therefore there is no condemnation, no duty, no sin, no need to ever repent, no confession, and no need for remorse when you sin, because in effect you cannot sin. You’re on a glory ride to heaven, so sit back and enjoy the ride.
But what neither of those views fail to take into account, is that salvation is not completed when we are justified, but when we are glorified. If I might be permitted to remind you of what I have said so many times in the past, there are three phases to salvation; justification, sanctification, and glorification. In the first phase, justification, God graciously credits the righteousness of Christ to my account, and counts my sins against Christ’s account.
And let me make a side note right here. I was talking to Dave Penning yesterday and telling him about our Wednesday night studies in Exodus. And I recounted to him the severity of the judgment of God upon the Israelites who sinned with the golden calf. Moses called forth the Levites and they took their swords and killed 3000 men because of their immorality in their worship of the calf. And people today look at God in light of that and feel confused. Because they are told the God of the New Testament is not like that any more. God doesn’t punish people now. God loves everyone just as you are. And so God doesn’t punish sin anymore.
But that is simply not what the Bible teaches. The God of the OT has not changed. God still hates sin, and has determined that the punishment for sin, even what we might consider a less than mortal sin, is death. God still requires death for sin, even today. And if any of you have ever sinned, of which I suspect is more than a few of you, then God has determined that you are condemned to death, both physical and spiritual death. But the good news of the New Testament is that instead of putting me or you to death, God put Christ Jesus to death in our place, and let us go free. But not that we might go back to a life of sin. But so that we having been set free of sin and death, might live righteous and holy lives for God.
So the first phase, justification, is accomplished by faith in what Christ did for us on the cross, taking our sin upon Himself, and transferring His righteousness unto us, that we might be credited as righteous, and as vs 4 states, become partakers of His divine nature. Now I explained that last week that being partakers of His divine nature means we have received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who gives life to our spirit. Now in Christ we have a new nature. Having died to sin with Christ, we now live through the Spirit of Christ in us.
So as we live in this new nature, the new nature informed and given birth to by the Holy Spirit, we are to live according to the Spirit, according to this divine nature. No longer do we live according to the old nature. Peter said that old nature was corrupted by lusts of the flesh. That’s not talking just about sexual lusts, but lusts for sinful passions, which could be pride, greed, hatred, etc. But those things we are to consider ourselves dead to and live for the things of God.
This second phase of our salvation, is living out this new nature which is led by the Holy Spirit, which is born of God, which is called sanctification. We just finished several weeks going through 1 Peter, the theme of which is sanctification, or holy living, becoming conformed to the image of Christ. The problem with much of modern Christianity today is that we have a warped view of God, and therefore a warped view of Christ. Many Christians today have taken the commandment of God to have no idols, to make no graven image, and have turned it on it’s head. What I mean by that is that we have redefined God according to our own image. The purpose of creation was that God made man in His image, in HIs likeness. But today we find people making God into our image, according to what we want God to be like. And so we worship a god we create in our own image, instead of the God who is unchanged from eternity past. Modern theology changes God into something we think is acceptable, and that is just a new twist in idolatry.
Peter is saying, in effect, that as partakers in the divine nature, we need to add the qualities of sanctification, that is the process of becoming like God, according to His nature, as informed by the Holy Spirit. So he says, add to your faith… and then he gives us a list of qualities we are to add. But I want you to notice, that in effect what he’s saying is add to your justification, sanctification. Because faith is the means of justification, and this list of qualities is the means of sanctification. Then when we get to vs 11, we see the final stage of our salvation, which is glorification, as Peter says, entry into the eternal kingdom of Christ, that is the glorified realm of Christ that comes after the conclusion of this age when we will be glorified like Him.
So let’s consider these things that Peter says we are to add to our faith, what else is needed that we might be sanctified in Christ likeness. Notice first of all, that he says applying all diligence. Diligence is simply hard work. The dictionary defines diligence as “careful and persistent work or effort.” So Peter says to apply these things to your faith with careful and persistent work or effort. Hardly sounds like a Love Boat cruise to heaven to me. Our new nature needs to be exercised in the flesh, and that takes diligence. Because, let me assure you, these things do not come naturally. The sin nature comes naturally, this is something that takes diligence to put on. James says that faith without works is dead. So to our faith we supply diligence.
And the first thing Peter says to be diligent about is to add virtue. Some versions render the word as moral excellence. But virtue is a more literal interpretation. Virtue has in mind being noble minded, integrity, goodness, morality. I like the idea of noble minded. I think that is a virtue that is lost in our society today for the most part. It was the ideal of the knights of King Arthur’s court. But being noble minded today will find you ridiculed for being a goody two shoes, or a religious zealot, or something to that effect. But a virtue of Christ is that He was virtuous and in Him all righteousness dwelled. His motives were always pure. His standards were always high. He always exhibited integrity and goodness. And if we are going to be partakers of His divine nature, then we must add virtue to our character.
The second thing we need to add to virtue is knowledge. Knowledge is simply the true knowledge which is found in the scripture.There is a false knowledge of God which comes from our own imaginations which is popular in some sections of particularly the charismatic realm today. But true knowledge of God only comes from scripture. As we learn about Christ, we reprogram our mind and heart by the word of God to think and act like He acts. Peter has already talked about true knowledge of God back in vs 2. It’s the true knowledge of Christ, by which we learn the truth about God, because Jesus is the exact representation of the nature of God, according to Hebrews 1:3. This goes back to what I was talking about earlier in regards to not redefining God according to our image. But as we study the word of God, we learn who God is. Not by discussing what we think God is like, or how we feel God should be, but by the knowledge which comes from God’s word.
Then Peter says add to your knowledge, self control. In Galatians 5:22 the apostle Paul gives self control as a fruit of the Spirit. What that is saying is not that the Spirit gives you self control, but that the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit is self control. And I think it’s important to point out that again in some churches today, they are teaching that to be filled with the Holy Spirit you have to lose control. You have to let go. And that gives way to all kinds of excesses of the flesh rather than to being filled with the Spirit. Remember, being filled with the Spirit produces self control. It doesn’t produce contortions, losing control of your body so that you are rocking or shaking uncontrollably, or losing control of your mind so that you don’t know what you are saying. The Holy Spirit does not produce uncontrolled laughter that goes on and on and on. That’s not of the Holy Spirit, that’s of another spirit altogether. Because the fruit of the Spirit is self control.
As Paul goes on to say in vs 24,25, “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” I was saying just this last Wednesday night that walking by the Spirit is simply walking according to the word of God. It’s not having some sort of “holy goosebumps.” It’s not being overwhelmed emotionally. It’s simply being obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit through the word of God, which is counter to the natural inclination of the flesh. Hence Paul says you have to crucify the flesh in order to walk by the Spirit. And self control is the means of putting to death the lusts of the flesh.
In your self control, Peter says, add perseverance. Perseverance is simply stick-to-it-iveness. It’s akin to diligence. An old preacher named Bob Jones once said, “Do right till the stars fall.” That’s perseverance. He also said “the test of your character is what it takes to stop you.” Developing a godly character is not a one and done kind of thing, and neither is your sanctification. It’s daily taking up your cross and following the Lord. Perseverance is getting up when you fall down. It’s keeping going when you are tired, when you get discouraged. Satan’s going to keep coming at you. The world is going to keep spinning round and round and all of the troubles of this world are going to keep coming at you. Just make up your mind right now you are not going to quit. Persevere.
And aptly enough, to perseverance Peter says add godliness. That’s really what the process of sanctification is all about. We are being transformed into the image of God, into the likeness of God. The first creation was corrupted by the deceit of the devil through sin, in the second creation God completes what He started through the atonement of Jesus Christ. Old things are passed away, and all things become new. We are being shaped, formed, remolded into the bride of Christ, and as such we better become godly people, reflecting the character of God in our lives. As cliche as it may sound, becoming godly is really a matter of asking yourself what would Jesus do, or what would Jesus have me to do in every situation.
And once again the tool that God has given us to use is the mirror of the word of God, whereby we can see ourselves in the light of Jesus Christ. Paul said in 2 Cor. 3:18 “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” The simplest way to become like Christ is to study Holy Scripture. Because in Scripture we spend time with the Lord, and in spending time with the Lord we are given the promise that we shall be transformed to be like Him.
There are two more virtues that Peter says we are to add to godliness. Vs. 7 “and in [your] godliness, brotherly kindness, and in [your] brotherly kindness, love.” Those of you who have been in church awhile probably know that in the Greek there are a few different words that are usually translated in English as love. One is eros, which is an erotic love. One is phileo, which is brotherly love, or familial love, and one is agape, which is a sacrificial love. It’s interesting here that godliness exhibits both a familial love and a sacricificial love. And I think that the distinction meant here by Peter is that we are to love the brethren, that is we are to love the church, other believers. Christ loved the church so much that according to Ephesians 6 He gave His life for her. And so being transformed to His image, we should love one another, love the church even as Christ did.
But I think that agape love is indicated so that we might love not only the church, not only our family, but that we might love the sinner, even as Christ loved the world so much, that He went willingly to the cross to bear their sin. Christ hates sin, but He loves the sinner. He loves the sinner so much that He came to seek out the lost in order to save them. He loves the person enslaved to sin so much that He came to earth to set the captives free. And so we too must have compassion for the lost. So we must have a love for the sinner so much so that we set aside our pleasures, our prerogatives, our personal fulfillment so that we might win the lost for Christ.
Now Peter says” if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Notice there that Peter indicates these qualities are not a once and done kind of attribute. But he says, if these qualities are yours and increasing. It’s a progressive sanctification. Our godliness should be increasing day by day as we walk by the Spirit. And though we will never reach perfection this side of heaven, we should in fact, be sinning less and becoming more like Christ as we mature in our Christianity.
Furthermore note that Peter ties knowledge with usefulness and fruitfulness in that verse. Knowledge alone puffs up, Paul tells us. But knowledge with application produces usefulness and fruitfulness for the Kingdom of God. They say some people are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good. I’m not so sure about that saying’s doctrinal stance. I would never encourage practicality above spirituality. But on the other hand, having a knowledge of all the doctrines of salvation and never sharing the truth of the gospel with the lost is not the purpose of knowledge. Imagine finding the cure to cancer and not sharing it and watching people die around you without ever sharing the cure. As Christians we have the knowledge of the truth which leads from death to life. How can we not share it?
True knowledge of Christ produces a reproduction of His nature in our lives according to the example of Christ. As Peter said in his first epistle; “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.”
Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice and they follow Me.” Following Christ’s example is how we are to live now that we are saved. But if you are lacking these qualities listed here, if you don’t apply them to your life, then Peter says you have forgotten why you were saved, and you are blind to the purpose of your salvation. Vs 9 “For he who lacks these [qualities] is blind [or] short-sighted, having forgotten [his] purification from his former sins.” We were purified by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ from the corruption of our sins, so that we might no longer live in sin, but in righteousness. Never should we abuse the grace of God that we might return to that sin again. Peter says it was “his former sins.” Old things have passed away. We have died to sin, and daily crucify the passions of the flesh so that we don’t return to those sins. Peter classifies someone who returns to their former sins in the second chapter of this epistle, vs 22 as “A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.” We may have been a drunkard, or a fornicator or adulterer, but by the grace of God we are not now. Those are former sins, and now we live according to the qualities of Christlikeness described here.
Peter concludes in vs 10, “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.”
Peter conjures up that word diligent again, this time saying be all the more diligent. Take ever more pains, make even more effort, to be certain about His calling and choosing you. Listen, a lot of Reformed preachers would spend a month of Sundays on this verse right here talking about the mysteries of election. I’m just going to repeat what I said a minute ago which sums up election for me. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice and they follow Me.” If you have heard the call of God, and have been chosen by God, then you will recognize His voice as the Chief Shepherd, and you will follow Him. The proof of your election and choosing is that you follow Him. You do what He tells you to do. You obey HIs voice. That’s the proof of your election. The mysteries of election, predestination and foreknowledge are the responsibility of God. My and your responsibility is to follow Him. I will trust God with the business of election. And like Forrest Gump said, “That’s all I have to say about that.”
The key to the progress of our sanctification though is that we practice these qualities, Peter says. “As long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.” They say practice makes perfect. We are not perfect now, but one day we will be. In the meantime, we practice the things that Christ showed us by example. Back in 1 Peter chapter 2, Peter said “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.”
I’ve explained this before many times, but the word picture that Peter is using there is a type of writing book that had the letters written on the page, and the student would then trace over the lines of the letters. And so here in 2 Peter, he is referring to the same kind of metaphor, to practice drawing over the lines laid down by Jesus, again and again. And the more you practice these things, deliberately, diligently practice, purposefully practicing, studying HIs example and then following it, the more we will become like Christ and the more we mortify our old nature.
Then finally, Peter talks about the goal of our salvation, even our sanctification, which is our glorification. Peter says, if we are practicing such things as the qualities listed here, then “in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” Now at first glance that looks like it’s saying that the way to enter the kingdom of God is by practicing these qualities until you are perfect, and then you can be assured of entrance into heaven. But in homiletics, or the science of Biblical interpretation, the key is to compare scripture with scripture. And we know from a preponderance of scriptures that works is not the means of righteousness. I’m sure you are familiar with many such scriptures, but I’ll just give one from Eph. 2:8 for the sake of time, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
So if Peter’s not talking about gaining entrance into heaven by our practicing until we become perfect, then what is he talking about? I believe he’s talking about our reception in heaven. I think he’s talking about entering into heaven as a conqueror, to receive the reward of our King. I think it’s coming into heaven hearing the declaration of God, “Well done My good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Master.”
There is inherent in this promise the final characteristic of our salvation, when we are glorified, and we receive a new and glorified body. In that eternal kingdom there will be no more sin, no more sin nature, no more flesh that’s been corrupted by sinful passions. All things will become new. Peter even tells us in chapter 3 that there will be new heavens and a new earth. And we will be forever with the Lord, and the church will rule and reign with Christ as the bride of Christ.
I think that’s what Peter is indicating there in the last sentence, that the glories of the eternal kingdom of God will be richly ministered to you when we reach our glorification. These glories of the eternal kingdom should be what we are looking forward to. The coming of Christ and the glorification of the church should be our goal. Keeping our eyes looking upward is what will make walking down here so much more endurable. And keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus and following the pattern laid down by Him will transform our lives to be a reflection of Him to a watching world.
I’m reminded of a the movie Pirates of the Caribbean, in which Captain Jack Sparrow is seen coming into port on a ship that is rapidly sinking to the point that he has climbed up the mast and that’s all that is above the water. And as the mast finally sinks beneath the water, he steps off with his usual bravado onto the dock at the last second. I’m afraid that’s how a lot of us plan to make it to heaven, by the skin of our teeth, having done just enough to get in, and nothing more. But while it may be theoretically possible to do that, I believe that the reward of those that were faithful to Christ, that have followed Christ, is much more than worth any loss of the temporal pleasures of this world.
The Bible scholar JB Meyer once said, “There are two ways of entering a port. A ship may come in, waterlogged and crazy, just kept afloat by continual working at the pumps; or it may enter with every sail set, all her flags flying at the mast-head. The latter is what the apostle Peter desires for himself and those who addresses. He desired that an entrance abundant should be ministered unto them. And we can be certain of that kind of abundant reception into the glories of heaven, if we practice the qualities of Christ set here before us.