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2 Peter Lesson 10: 1.1-11

Lesson 10 - 2 Peter 1:1-11 - THE CHRISTIAN LADDER OF VIRTUES  

INTRODUCTION:  Last week, in 1 Pet. 5:1-11, we concluded our study of Peter's first epistle and learned five important principles about what makes a church healthy:  (1) A pastor who shepherds the flock.  Foremost, He's a Spirit-driven man who leads the church as a godly example rather than forcing his will on members through his authority.  (2) A flock that submits to its pastor and leaders.  It pictures a church where the members humbly and willingly place themselves under the authority of the pastor and other appointed leaders in the church.  (3) The best response to trials and worries is to humble ourselves before God and put all our anxiety on Him.  Since God cares for us and intends to build us up, it's not His will for us to live under these self-imposed burdens.  (4)  We must always be prepared to resist the devil.  The key to "resist" is being ready to defend yourself by "standing firm in your faith," which in practical terms, means saying 'no' to the devil's temptation.  (5) Because of God's sovereign "dominion" of everything, we Christians have nothing to fear.  Whatever we're hit with in this life the word "dominion" means we're entirely safe in God's hands-forever. 

            Today, in 2 Pet. 5:1-11, we'll move into Peter's second epistle, which the apostle wrote later in    his life, probably between 65-67 A.D., since he is thought to have been martyred before 68 A.D.  In the opening chapter, Peter publishes a list which many Bibles scholars consider to be one of the finest expositions of Christian character in all of the NT.  Peter's primary purpose was that his readers (and the churches they belonged to) would become so strong and sure in their faith that they would be able to withstand and reject the false teaching that was beginning to creep into the church at that time.  Simply stated, in order to know what is wrong, you must first be sure about what is right.       

Read 2 Pet. 1:1-2 - A FAITH OF THE SAME KIND AS OURS    

1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,

v. 1a: "Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ," - The writer could hardly have identified himself more clearly than he does here. "Simon" was his Hebrew name and "Peter" is a transliteration of the Greek word Cephas, lit. the rock.  Peter may have done this to suggest the two aspects of his life-before and after his discipleship of Jesus Christ.  We should notice that he refers to himself first as a "bond-servant" and second as an "apostle" of Jesus Christ."  He needed to assert his apostolic authority up front in order to discredit the false teaching he was preparing to deal with.

v. 1b: "To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:" - The phrase, "same kind of faith as ours" is a direct reference to the faith the apostles received "by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ." By saying this, Peter confirmed that every other Christian believer has exactly the same faith and spiritual benefits that all the apostles received.  This would effectively discredit any false teaching which claimed that something more was needed.

v. 2: "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord," - "Grace and peace" were common greetings used both by Greeks and Jews, which suggests that Peter is writing this epistle to a mixed audience. The word used for "knowledge" (Gk. epignosis) denotes the fundamental spiritual knowledge "of God and Jesus our Lord" received by believers at the moment of conversion.  Other knowledge (Gk. gnosis) through preaching, teaching, and personal Bible study is knowledge acquired during the course of the Christian life.

Read 2 Pet. 1:3-4 - HIS DIVINE POWER HAS GRANTED US EVERYTHING

seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4  For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.      

v. 3a: "seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness," - "power" is a key word in the epistle. Just as Christ's power saves us in the first place, His power likewise energizes us to live holy lives from that point onward.  "everything pertaining to Life and godliness" are all the resources-His High priestly work, the Holy Spirit, and the truth of Scripture, including the teaching of the apostles (i.e., NT)-that make it possible for us to live Godly lives.        

v. 3b: "through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence." - To know Christ is eternal life (John 17:3), and our growth in knowing Him is our progress in godliness. The better we get to know Christ, the more like Him we become...more excellent   

v. 4: "For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises," - Included in the "everything" (v. 3) "granted to" us are all the great promises of God's Word, which is an inheritance that comes with our salvation. You might note that there are at least 30,000 promises in the Bible. 

v. 4b: "so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust." - We become "partakers" at the moment of salvation. God saved us by faith in His promise, He indwelt us, and we therefore partake the nature of God within us.  And with His "promises," we have everything we need to avoid the corruption of this world.  As we live in the practical enjoyment of what God has promised, we become more and more like Him. 

APPLICATION 1:  The power of Christ and the promises of God grant us everything we need to attain  godly lives.  At the moment of salvation, the power of Christ, which includes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, energizes us to live a new life; and the many promises of God gives us the ability to navigate through the corruption of the world.

     

Read 2 Peter 1:5-9 - THE BELIEVER'S NEED - EIGHT VIRTUES  

 

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.        

 

v. 5a: "Now for this very reason also," - In the next five verses, Peter will explain what some commentators refer to as the "Ladder of Christian Virtues." Peter assumes the virtue of faith, for without saving faith in Jesus Christ, no one is genuinely capable of living the Christian life. 

 

v. 5b-7: "applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love."

  • "applying all diligence" - This is the most basic requirement for experiencing effective Christian growth.  Spiritual growth is a choice that does not come automatically or inevitably, but is something that calls for strenuous involvement on the part of the believer.  It's something we do deliberately and proactively.  If a believer fails to add virtues to his or her faith, it loses its vitality and productivity and will soon become what James describes as "dead faith" (James 2:14-16).  While believers with dead faith are still saved, there's no 'light' in their lives and their faith isn't apparent to anyone.  
  • "Moral excellence" - (Gk. arête). The word used here can also translate to virtue or goodness, but it means the same thing.  The idea is that it's God's will for every Christian to exercise moral purity and uprightness of character in all aspects of his or her life.  Paul said, "If you are led by the Spirit...the deeds of the flesh are evident" (Gal. 5:18-19).  For a description of what is and isn't morally pure, I suggest that you review Paul's definition of the sins of the flesh versus the fruits of the Spirit listed in Gal. 5:18-24.  The point Peter is makes here is that we must practice a lifestyle of  moral excellence if we ever expect to fulfill God's calling in our lives.
  • "Knowledge" - (Gk. gnosis). This refers to information acquired after salvation.  In particular, a Christian needs to know all that God has revealed in His Word, not just the gospels.  Hear that?  The knowledge specified here is the Biblical wisdom and discernment-i.e., making godly decisions-that a Christian assimilates over time which allows him or her to lead a 'morally excellent' lifestyle.  Some commentators call this "heart" knowledge, as opposed to "head" knowledge."
  • "Self-control" - (Gk. egkrates). The word used here literally means mastery of self, disciplined moderation in all things, coupled with the ability to control one's passions and desires.  Some of the early Christian heresies taught that since the human body was either evil or unimportant, it wasn't necessary to control fleshly desires-that one only needed to think clearly.  Peter's point here is that any religious system that releases a person from the obligation of "moral excellence" is false.           
  • "Perseverance" - (Gk. hupomoné). This word literally translates as 'patient waiting.'  In the modern vernacular we often call it the ability to 'keep on keeping on.'  It pertains to a believer's power to live the Christian life in spite of adversity.  When we are hit with unexpected trials, It's  endurance that enables to maintain our Christian character even when we are tempted to give up.
  • "godliness" - (Gk. eusebeia [yoo-seb'-i-ah]. Simply defined, this refers to human behavior that reflects the character of God and applies His standards to what we say and do.  When we practice this, it imparts a supernatural quality in our actions that shows others we are the children of God. We might even say that committed Christians all bear a 'family resemblance' that is unmistakable.         
  • "brotherly kindness" - (Gk. philadelphia).  This is the same world used for brotherly love.  It identifies us to the world as disciples of Jesus Christ and is demonstrated by overt acts of kindness.   Jesus said, "By this all people will know that you are My disciples: if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).
  • "love" - (Gk. agápē). This is the highest form of love.  It is God's form of love, which places the welfare of the person loved above that of the person giving it.  Love of our fellow Christians leads us to a love for all of mankind and reaches out to all people.  This kind of love doesn't depend on emotion or sentiment but is an unconditional decision, an act of will.  In a sense, it's a supernatural ability that enables Christians to even love and pray for those who hate us. 

APPLICATION 2:  Spiritual growth is a choice that doesn't happen automatically or inevitably.  It's something that requires strenuous effort on the part of a believer, something we must do consciously and proactively.  If a believer fails to add virtues to his or her faith, it loses its vitality and productivity and soon becomes what James calls "dead faith" (James 2:14-16).       

Note:  Christian faith is the root from which the eight virtues listed above must grow, and Christian love is the crowning virtue upon which all of the other's rest.  The virtues listed form a good checklist to help you evaluate and measure whether (or not) you are all that God wants you to be.  If you apply all of these virtues to yourself, it shows that you're a mature Christian whose faith is vital, not dead.

v. 8: "For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. - The key here word is "increasing": We must not only possess all of the eight virtues listed, but must continue to grow in them over the entire course of our earthly lives.  This "increasing" process isn't complete until we depart this earth for our new heavenly home.  If we fail to do this and allow out faith to stagnate, we can become:

  • "useless" - (Gk. argos). The word literally translates to lazy and thoughtless.  This describes a backslidden Christian-a person who has the learning and tools of Christian witness and discipleship, but has stopped using them.  God's only retirement plan for Christians is heaven or the rapture.
  • "unfruitful" - (Gk. akarpos).  This is the outcome of a Christian who becomes useless.  The word used here literally translates to barren, empty, and unproductive, a tree or plant that produces no fruit.  It's possible to have considerable knowledge of Christ and Biblical wisdom and discernment, yet fail to practice what we've learned.  It is an absence of good works that reveals dead, useless faith.  

APPLICATION 3:  The absence of any good works in the life of a believer reflects a useless and unfruitful faith.  This describes a backslidden Christian who has the learning and skills to be a witness and a disciple or to serve in ministry, but refuses to use them.  This is dead faith.        

v. 9: "For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. - The absence of these virtues strongly implies a decided lack of the "knowledge" discussed in v. 6, above. Peter describes such a condition as:                       

  • "blind or short-sighted" - (Gk. muópazó [moo-ope-ad'-zo]).  He uses this expression as a metaphor to describe a person who lives for the present rather than the future.  Such people are so preoccupied with earthly and material things that they neglect the spiritual side of their lives.  
  • "having forgotten" - (Gk. léthé [lay'-thay]).  The idea of 'forgetting' here is not a natural mental process but a practical failure to understand the true importance of something; in this instance, the person has 'forgotten' that he or she has been saved from damnation in hell!  And besides that, they have carelessly allowed themselves to forget how to escape the corruption of this world through the Christian life.  The point that Peter makes is that Christian growth will not occur apart from efforts to diligently participate in it:  we can't passively experience Christian growth but must actively pursue it.   

APPLICATION 4:  Christians who allow themselves to be preoccupied with the present are spiritually blind and have forgotten what God called them to do.  This describes a believer who lives only for the present and is blind to the future.  This person has not only forgotten what God has saved them from (hell), but has forgotten what God calls all Christians to do-to proclaim Christ and live godly lives that escape the corruption of this world!           

Read 2 Peter 1:10-11 - TO MAKE CERTAIN ABOUT HIS CALLING AND CHOOSING

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; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

v. 10a: "Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; - This verse is tricky. Peter is challenging his readers to confirm their call to faith and salvation by compelling them to show evidence of a divine nature-virtues-that confirm they are

saved.  A person who shows no evidence (no virtues) is probably not a genuine believer.      

v. 10b: "for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;" - Leading a holy life that integrates the eight virtues will keep us from stumbling-falling back into sinful routines. We don't stumble when we're paying attention to where we're stepping.  Caveat:  This verse isn't implying that our salvation rests on our good works; our assurance of salvation rests upon the promise of God.

v. 11: "for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you." - Peter concludes this section on Christian character by assuring his readers that simply practicing and applying the virtues he advocates will effectively prepare them for the future. Proactively, it also taught them to turn aside any false teachings about how the Christian life should be lived.      

Endnote:  On of the greatest motivations for "increasing...our qualities" (vv. 8-9) as we move through the Christian life is the kind of welcome we will receive when we finally meet Jesus face-to-face.  While entrance to heaven is a free gift, the gospels and epistles suggest varying degrees of reward (Matt. 5:12; Luke 6:23, 35; 1 Cor. 3:14; 9:18), and the rewards are said to depend on how faithfully we have built a structure of character and service upon the foundation of Christ.       

APPLICATION 5:  The salvation of a person whose life shows no evidence of godly virtues is doubtful.  Jesus Himself explained, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?'  And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'  (Matt. 7:21-23).