The Third Sunday of Advent December 13, 2015
2 Peter 1:2-11
44, 67(1-4), 398, 50
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Dearly beloved, whom God has separated from the world for Himself through faith in Jesus Christ:
When we are young, we are sure of everything, fearful of nothing! As we age and the world ages with us, change seems to come more quickly along with many uncertainties. Maturity moves us to pay closer attention to the things we know “for sure,” not only for our own sake, but for the sake of others. If, for example, a young man asks me how to get to Heaven, I don’t want to give him my best guess. I want to give him the truth as one who knows for sure.
This was a great concern for the apostle Peter in his second letter to Christians everywhere. He had a sense in 65 A.D. that he would soon be leaving his body in death. Before he left he wanted to remind his readers of that which ought to concern Christians of all times. Peter knew that he would die soon, but we do not know for sure that we will die at all! Paul tells us that when Christ comes again, “we shall not all sleep…” (1 Corinthians 5:51).
What we do know for sure is that Christ will come again in glory to raise up all the dead and to give eternal life to all believers! Whether by death or His coming—whichever comes first—Peter wants his dear Christian readers of all time to know how God had supplied an entrance for them “into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (v.11).
The question suggested by our text today is: “WHAT DO YOU KNOW FOR SURE ABOUT YOUR ENTRANCE INTO HEAVEN?” I. The knowledge of Christ is power, II. The knowledge of Christ bears fruit, and III. The knowledge of Christ makes the Christian’s calling and election sure.
First, Peter reminds us that the knowledge of Christ is power! We often hear people suggest that what matters is not faith’s knowledge of the doctrines or teachings of Christ and the apostles, but love. Some folks want to set love against Christian doctrine as if Christian love for others does not flow from Christian doctrine.
Well, that’s not what Peter teaches here. His words are the testimony of the Holy Spirit that faith’s knowledge of Christ is not powerless, but powerful!
I always managed to grow a large thistle in my tomato garden every summer which I would pull out by its roots. A thistle may grow as large as any tomato plant, but we can’t stare at it or speak to it so that it grows bright red tomatoes. A thistle is not equipped to bear tomatoes. But Peter says that God’s “divine power has given to us all things that are needed for life and godliness” (v. 3).
God has given to the Christian all that he needs to live a godly life. How was this accomplish by God in us? Peter says: “Through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (v. 3). At the very moment that the Spirit of God reveals the true God to us through faith in Jesus—at the moment of our conversion to Christ—we are equipped to live a godly life in Him. A baptized child in our school loved to talk and sing about God. He told his parents that he didn’t want to go to any school that isn’t “about God.” Whether through baptism or the hearing of the Gospel, the Spirit of God causes a dynamic change to take place in a person. That’s because He calls us by His own glory and virtue.
I had a friend in my boyhood whose mother was always yelling at him. “Ricky!” She would holler in a gruff and gravelly voice, “You get home right now or I’ll pound your head into a peak and knock the peak off!” Of course, Ricky never wanted to go home and his behavior never seemed to change. His mother’s calling was without any real power to transform her son. But our God calls by His own glory and virtue! He reveals His own divine essence as the God of love and grace in Christ and draws sinners to Himself when He calls them.
Instead of rough and threatening commands, we have been given “exceedingly great and precious promises,” Peter says (v. 4). What promises? Promises of peace with God, comfort in our afflictions, and the hope of eternal life with God in Heaven all because of the free forgiveness of sins! The aim and purpose of these precious promises is that we “might become partakers of the divine nature!” (v. 4).
Martin Luther wrote that “the divine nature is eternal truth, righteousness, eternal life, peace, joy…and whatsoever good may be named.” Now, of course, this participation in the divine nature is not complete in this life, but it is begun! It began in us when “we escaped the corruption that is in the world because of lust” (v. 4), Peter says. When we were converted to Christ, we were taken out of this world—not physically, but spiritually. You may not realize it, but you are more “out of this world” than the sun! People have actually worshiped the sun because it shows the glory and power of God. But the true knowledge of Christ, God’s Son who came from Heaven, has given us more power to show God’s glory than the sun that hangs in the sky!
Now, since you know that the knowledge of Christ is power, you also know for sure that this knowledge bears fruit.
Every Christian begins at Baptism in the “kindergarten” of God’s school. But our gracious God expects His kindergarten Christians to advance from grade to grade. Parents want to see the growth of their children step-by-step. So also the heavenly Father is anxious to see us grow step-by-step in the production of the fruits of our faith’s knowledge.
Peter begins in verse 5 with faith since it is the first and chief characteristic of the Christian. But saving faith is never alone. Therefore, we are to add “virtue” to our faith. Our faith should show itself not only in the sentiment of the forgiven heart, but in strength and activity—in those works which please God and show that we are His new creations, His “power-workers.”
But this power and activity must be guided by knowledge. We are to use Christian insight to distinguish between right and wrong, good and bad. Our God-given knowledge is to be used so that we are not drawn in or driven by the empty philosophies and practices of this fallen world.
To knowledge we are to add “self-control,” or temperance. We are to keep all our passions, desires, words, and thoughts under control, lest they take us over and we join those who are enslaved by their fleshly desires.
To self-control we are to add “perseverance,” or patient resignation to the way things are going in our lives. Our lives as Christians are never without a cross of some kind. But we are to willingly submit to the burdens given by our gracious heavenly Father. We are to patiently endure them by seeking strength and comfort in His Gospel promises.
Now, as these goals of God for us are reached in our lives through His working, there will also be that “godliness” which shows kindness toward others and sacrifices for them. “Godliness” is behavior that shows we are from God so that He may have the glory.
But why should we be concerned that we add all these things to our faith? Aren’t we saved by grace alone through faith alone? Certainly! But the nature of true faith is that it insists on bringing forth the fruits of faith. Peter says in verse 8 that if these things he has mentioned “abound” in us, then we shall be “neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ!” By being diligent in all these areas of our faith-life we prove that our knowledge of Jesus is not just a dead-head knowledge, but a living and active power-knowledge of our Savior.
On the other hand, “he who lacks these things is short-sighted, even to the point of blindness, and has forgotten that he was purged from his old sins” (v. 9). The priorities of such a person have begun to revolve around the material and visible comforts and pleasures of this life. His faith’s sight has become so weak that he seldom, if ever, looks beyond this world to the life and glory of Heaven. He rarely looks deep enough into his own spirit to determine the greatness of his own sins and say with David, “Have mercy upon me, O God…blot out my transgressions…cleanse me from my sin…create in me a clean heart, O God…” (Psalm 51: 1ff). Even his worship is regularly an external exercise in which he mouths the confession of sins and moves his lips in reciting the Lord’s Prayer, but his mind and heart are far away God! Such a one “has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.” The chief teachings of the Gospel’s grace begin to vanish from his sight so that he stumbles and even forfeits his faith and eternal salvation in Christ!
For this reason Peter encourages us in verses 10-11 to “be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble: for in this way an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
As the Christian is more diligent in doing what God’s divine power has equipped and programmed him to do, he makes his calling and election sure! This an amazing assurance for the Christian!
Our election unto salvation took place in eternity. It’s an accomplished act of God’s grace in Christ. But this election came complete with the works of faith because our calling and our election are one thing before God. Faith’s knowledge of Christ is powerful to bear fruit! As Paul writes in Ephesians 2: “We are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared in advance that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV).
How foolish to think that since we are saved by grace alone we may live as we please with self-chosen works of worldly self-love. God has chosen us to be different. Therefore, if we are truly Christ-believers, we are different—as the night is from the day—by the working of our great Savior God from eternity! Brethren, if God prepared His chosen ones from eternity so that they would perform good works through faith’s knowledge of Christ, then by all means, let us be diligent to perform those works of faith’s knowledge! This is God’s plan for us! In this way our God has abundantly supplied an entrance for us into “the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (v.11).
Old Peter knew for sure that he would enter Heaven because His God and Savior had already supplied all that he needed to enter heaven—the grace, the faith, and the works of faith. May we, therefore, receive more grace to do as Peter admonishes us. Let us be glad to more diligently live and conduct ourselves as those who are God’s elect. For in this way—God’s way and His work—we too can be sure of our entrance to Heaven when we die or when our Lord Jesus comes again. Amen.