Peter’s opening teaching in his second letter had to do with using one’s own diligent effort in “adding” to one’s faith. Peter clearly taught faith is a divine work, a gift from God, while at the same time included the truth that believers do have a choice in how deep and wide their faith will grow. For, alongside the divine work of God comes the responsibility of each follower of Christ, to receive what God gives, and to live by it.
Peter reassured his audience God has given us everything we need to live godly lives that glorify God. We have full discernment and knowledge, [ἐπίγνωσις, epignosos]. Now we must use that discernment and knowledge in living by faith and adding to our faith,
goodness (virtue), and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control (temperance), and self-control with patient endurance (perseverance), and patient endurance with godliness (holiness), and godliness with brotherly (and sisterly) love and kindness (philadelphia), and familial love with sacrificial love (agape).2 Peter 1:5-7 (mostly NRSV)
Have Your Cake
Worldly wisdom tells us we cannot eat our cake and have it too.
It is a simple equation, for the world. If you eat your cake, it will disappear, bite by bite, until all that is left are crumbs on an empty plate. There is no way to both have your beautiful cake sitting perfectly on its pedestal platter, and also to eat it.
But Peter wrote that the only way to have your cake is first to eat it.
In the Kingdom of God, worldly wisdom does not work. Everything in the Kingdom is based upon heavenly truths, and this is a truth many do not realize. Full knowledge and discernment of God, the infinite and eternal character and person of God, God’s power and Spirit are all within every believer, every person who has put their faith in Jesus.
However, the experience of all that has been given to us will not come until we live out what has already been poured within.
You and I have all this already in Christ, but we need to work at discovering it and applying it in our lives. That is what we are all doing right now, trying to apply all that God gives us in scripture, in wise teaching, in the examples of elders and pastors, shepherds and teachers, and in the testimony of God’s Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, Who dwells within every believer.
Having our cake requires eating our cake first.
It means working out our faith in practical ways with the people we live with and work with, even (maybe especially) with those who are always rubbing us the wrong way.
If we wait to have enough faith to tackle those really big faith projects, then we will never tackle them. The only way to have that kind of faith is to simply use it, knowing God has given us “every spiritual blessing” already.
The Difference Between Fruitfulness and Forgetfulness
For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.2 Peter 1:8 (NRSV)
This is the recipe for success as a Christian: faith and obedience. The knowledge of the promises of God and the application of them in specific situations—these will keep you and me from being unfruitful and ineffective.
Of course, Peter hastened to write, the opposite is also true. Beware.
For anyone who lacks these things is short-sighted and blind, and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins.2 Peter 1:9 (NRSV)
Remember, Peter was writing to mostly Jewish believers scattered throughout the Jewish Diaspora in the east. He was not speaking of those who did not know the Lord. Instead, he was speaking to those who felt the pull of their old ways, and the pull of the culture itself to conform. “Past sins” were embedded in that old life lived before putting their faith in Jesus.
And this is why Peter wrote
All the more, then, my friends, do your utmost to establish that God has called and chosen you. If you do this, you will never stumble, and there will be rich provisions for your entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.2 Peter 1:10-11 (The Revised English Bible)
The night before his crucifixion, Jesus had spent the velvety night hours after their last meal together teaching his disciples. He taught them about the Spirit to come, their counselor, advocate and guide. He taught them about what it meant to receive life from him, their vine, and the fruit they would bear. Jesus spoke of the days ahead, the anguish they would experience, but also the peace and joy that would be theirs.
Jesus’ teaching showed how the vinedresser expects an ever-increasing harvest.
- The young shoot that bears no fruit is lifted up that it might begin to bear. Peter may have been thinking of this when he warned about forgetting past sins. In Jesus’ illustration, the young shoot is lifted up from the dirt, washed off, and placed where its leaves can pull in the maximum amount of sunshine and moisture.
- Branches that bear fruit are carefully pruned, trimming back the good producers to preserve their strength and enable them to bear even more. Peter may have been thinking of this when he spoke of godly character increasing in the believer.
- Now firmly anchored into the vine, drawing on the rich, lifegiving sap, mature branches will bear much fruit.
Just as the cleansing away of the muck from our old life is a process that takes time, and is often painful, so also is the pruning that takes place, as God clears away those things in our lives that distract or drain us from the best God has in store.
This is the importance of the cleansing from past sins that Peter wrote of.
Tie A String Around Your Finger
Even seasoned Christians need reminders. By becoming ever more familiar, good teaching fortifies us in crises, giving us confidence to do what is right.
Peter knew this, and reassured the assemblies spread throughout the east that he would keep reminding them of these foundational truths for as long as the Lord gave him.
Therefore I intend to keep on reminding you of these things, though you know them already and are established in the truth that has come to you.
I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to refresh your memory, since I know that my death will come soon, as indeed our Lord Jesus Christ has 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.2 Peter 1:12-15 (NRSV)
Peter used the same word for himself, σπουδάζω, spoudazo, that he had just used for his readers. Spoudazo means to use speed, to be prompt or earnest, to give diligence, endeavor with eager zeal, to labor or study with a sense of serious intention. In just these few verses, Peter had written,
- “Make every effort to add to your faith . . .” (2 Peter 1:5)
- “Make every effort to confirm your call and election . . .” (2 Peter 1:10)
- “I will make every effort so that . . you may be able . . . to recall” (2 Peter 1:15)
Setting his own example of what he meant by “add to your faith.”
Cake | https://www.flickr.com/photos/3yum5cake7/35255035780, flickr, (CC BY-ND 2.0)