Making our calling and election Sure Study 2 (2 Peter 1:3-11)
Because of the level of spiritual deception today in the Church we need to make our calling and election a sure thing. We need to know that we really belong to the Lord. Peter tells us that we are called and chosen by God (1 Peter 1:1-2) However being called and chosen we are to live out our faith everyday especially when facing persecution, false prophets and teachers. How can we really be sure that God has called and chosen us? Being called and chosen is not just a matter of believing the right things but actually possessing a faith that is demonstrated by actions. (James 1:14-17, 19, 24, 26)
All things are foreknown but the choice is still given
While all things are known to God He still gives us the choice to accept Him or reject Him. Peter tells us that God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (3:9). If God predestines some people to hell then why would it say that He is not willing that any should perish? It does not make sense and besides God does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17) When He chose to give us the new birth He gave us the capacity to also choose Him. Ultimately He knows who will be saved and who will be lost but He still gives us just enough light to choose or reject Him. As the scripture says, “Whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved!” How then do we make our calling and election sure?
(Vs 3) “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.”
Everything we will ever need to live the Christian life has been given to us by God’s divine power through the Lord Jesus and by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. The Lord has promised to meet every need we will ever have whether it is a temporal or spiritual one. (Psalm 103:1-5) The believers to whom Peter was writing were facing persecution and many would be displaced from their jobs, put out of their homes and separated from their loved ones because of their allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ. Undoubtedly many “fence sitters” would be forced to jump one-way or the other. Many complacent Christians would soon have to choose total loyalty to Jesus or to Caesar. No one who really loved God could call Jesus Lord and Caesar Lord at the same time. Persecution always forces people to choose sides and gets rid of backsliders and false brethren.
Every true and genuine follower of the Lord Jesus Christ will not be at home in this world. While every need is met by the Lord He often does not make life easy for us. Every genuine believer will experience conflict in some way and will never be totally at home in this world because our true citizenship is in heaven. Abraham had everything he needed for life and godliness through his knowledge of the one who had called him yet Abraham lived in tents all of his life because He saw that eternal city whose builder and foundation was God Himself. Lot, on the other hand, even though he was righteous, because he was attached to this world he had to be dragged out of Sodom just before the fire fell on the city.
Persecution is coming and will sort out those that are “dwelling” in heaven from those who were “dwelling” in this world. When persecution comes to the Western Church Jesus will take care of all those who have walked in faithfulness to Him and to His Word the Bible. Many of us who love the Lord Jesus and His Holy Word will suffer the loss of our jobs and this worlds goods and be criticized and ill treated because of the name of Jesus. Others will go to prison for preaching the gospel and others will be killed. Many of us will be betrayed by false brothers and by our leaders who have compromised on their stand for the truth as it is in Jesus.
Persecution has already begun as it had in Peter’s time by false teachers and prophets secretly introducing destructive heresies that deny the Lord Jesus Christ. (2:1-3) Many of our Church leaders are betraying us with interfaith and ecumenical affiliations and doctrinal compromise and even contempt for the authority of God’s Word. The faithful followers of Jesus in Peter’s time needed to be reassured that the Lord Jesus had already made provision for them and that through His Divine power would give them everything they would need for life and godliness. We too need the assurance that Jesus will do the same thing for us that He did for them at that time.
Every spiritual blessing that comes to us for life and for godliness comes through knowing the Lord Jesus Christ and by living and leaning on Him moment by moment of everyday. (John 6:51-57) Every time we read, study and obey Jesus’ Word we are feeding on Him and through Him have everything we need for living a godly life in this world. Without possessing the life of Jesus we will never know His godliness or the holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. Without Jesus living out His life in and through our daily lives we will never be able to act, to speak, to feel or to think as God does.
The proof of our election is not whether we believe right doctrine but whether our lives are being daily conformed to the life and character of Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:28-30) The Lord called us to Himself because of His own glory and goodness and not because we have earned or merited His favour. We are believers because of His grace and mercy towards us. (1 Peter 1:3-5) (Ephesians 2:1-10) Now let’s continue.
(Vs 4) “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.”
Because the Lord is glorious and infinitely good He has given us His Holy Word, the Bible, so that through His precious promises we can be spiritually reborn and become partakers of His own Divine and Holy nature. (1 Peter 1:23) Not only that but through the activity of His Word in our daily living we can also escape the spiritual corruption in this world caused by evil desires. The Roman Empire was a decadent society just like the society we are living in today. They were desensitised to violence as people watched death and destruction in the arena.
Today multitudes of young people watch death and destruction through virtual reality video and CD games. Ultimately they will not be satisfied with this but want to see the real thing. Sexual deviation was also a common feature of the Roman Empire and today it is no different. Homosexual, transvestites and lesbians dominate our society. Practicing homosexuals are now even being ordained. The Roman Empire was an empire of violence, assassination and political takeovers. Today it is the same in our contemporary world.
Interfaith activity was rampant and very popular and religions of many kinds flourished in the Roman Empire. It is the same today. Rome wanted tolerance and harmony and had a law that said you could worship whatever god you want to as long as you let the emperor be the head of all religions and that allegiance to him was above all else. Of course the Roman emperors were worshipped as gods. To violate this prohibition was to act as a criminal and violate social harmony.
World governments are moving towards this same kind of law where it will be illegal to say that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and the only way to God. In Peter’s time the only people who were not tolerated and treated, as criminals were those who were faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ. Today in most third world countries true Christians are being persecuted for their faith. Ultimately it will become universal.
The only way any of us can escape the corruption of this world is to continue to partake of God’s Divine nature through abiding in the Lord Jesus Christ by feeding on His Word. God’s promises were precious to the believers in Peter’s time because through them they were able to live above the level of the society of their day. Debauchery, violence, sexual perversion, easy religion and rebellion against lawful authority were prevalent and materialism, luxury and ease were common place.
Against this background Peter was encouraging the believers to stand firm in their commitment to Jesus Christ. He was telling them to live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God and that only through believing and obeying God’s Word would they be able to overcome and escape the spiritual corruption in the world caused by the evil desires of the fallen nature.
Today the pressures to compromise our faith are increasing at a rapid rate and the whole world is heading towards a time of trouble and testing unparalleled in the history of the world. The “Tower of Babel” is rising again. A “Babylonian” Empire will once more dominate the world scene. “Babylon” will rise again and persecute the people of God. Already it is persecuting Jesus’ faithful followers in many countries. Today that Empire is Islam!
God’s promises are very great and precious because the future of the world is as unstable as nitro-glycerine. Things are not getting better but worse and even when the world for a very brief time will experience a false peace it will not last and the worst holocaust ever seen will be unleashed upon the world.
Even before this takes place believers will already be experiencing persecution to a greater or lesser degree in virtually every nation on the face of the earth. In that day God’s promises will be very great and precious indeed to those who are waiting for the great and glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ to rescue His saints and ultimately to judge the World in righteousness. Through the power of His Blood, His Word and His Holy Spirit the Lord Jesus has given us everything we need to deliver us from this present evil age. (Titus 2:11-14) (Titus 3:4-5) Now let’s continue.
(Vs 5-7) “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness knowledge, and to knowledge self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness, and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness love.”
Biblical faith both in the Old Testament and the New Testament not only implies believing but also faithfulness. Biblical faith always results in corresponding actions. (James 2:17, 24, 26) It takes effort to live faithfully because we have a spiritual enemy who aims all of his fiery darts at the shield of our faith. (Eph 6:16) (1 Peter 5:7-9) We have only two choices as believers. We can live by faithfulness or by fear. Just as our trust and faithfulness activate God’s power in our lives so fear will activate Satan’s power into our lives. We cannot live by faith and by fear at the same time. Either one or the other will dominate our thinking.
Of course there will be times when we face fear especially in times of persecution. The Christians to whom Peter was writing were facing death in the arena, death by crucifixion or death on fiery crosses. Not only that but they were plagued by false teachers spreading spiritual deception and dangerous heresies. (2:1-3) Also they were surrounded by the lifestyles, pleasures and pursuits of the decadent Roman society with its debauchery, orgies, bi-sexual relationships and its wanton and un-restrained behaviour.
Today our Western civilization is just as wanton and decadent as Ancient Rome was in the days of the apostle. If anything things are worse today especially with the advent of Television and Hollywood and the video and CD Rom industry. One manifestation of the “image” or “icon” of the present beast system is here already and coming into our living rooms everyday.
However, Peter tells us that there are spiritual qualities that we can add to our faithfulness that will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. These spiritual virtues must be added in increasing measure. They are not just spiritual concepts but practical virtues that can enable us to grow more like Jesus and to be less conformed to this world. Either we are progressing in our spiritual lives or backsliding.
The first virtue Peter mentions is “goodness,” literally “goodness of life” or “moral excellence” but also implies courage and fortitude. This virtue will enable us to stand against a hostile world and to stand up for what is right in a perverse and crooked generation in which we are now living. It will also enable us to persevere in persecution and trials that afflict every faithful believer. When Archbishop Cranmer was ordered to sign a recantation or be burned at the stake he first refused but then gave in to the pressure and signed the document. Later he realized his mistake and notified the executioners to start the fire. At his own request, his hands were untied. Then he held his right hand in the fire and said, “This is the hand that wrote it, and therefore it shall suffer punishment first. This hand has offended! Perish this unworthy right hand!”
Today multitudes of faithful believers around the globe are laying down their lives because they will not deny the Lord Jesus Christ or His Word, the Bible. In the Western Church theologians are playing around with God’s Word and many of our leaders are doing “monkey tricks” with the Bible trying to make it say what they want it to say or ignoring parts of it that they don’t agree with. This virtue of courage will be greatly needed in the days to come when persecution sweeps the Western Church. A lot more could be said about this.
Then to courage we must add “knowledge.” This is primarily to know the Lord Jesus Christ more intimately through knowing His Word. The more we know Him now the more courage we will have when persecution comes. This knowledge is God’s wisdom given to us through His Holy Spirit living in us. Through this wisdom our faith will increase and we will see more clearly how God wants us to live in this world. This “wisdom” or “knowledge” will preserve us from spiritual seduction and deception that will always precede persecution.
When we have God’s wisdom and knowledge we have within us the power to add to our knowledge the exercise of “self-control.” Through our knowledge of Jesus and His Word and by obedience to His Holy Spirit moment by moment we will be able to keep the desires of our flesh under control. Today in many churches we see just the opposite. People are out of control. Just watch the videos of the laughing revival and see the unrestrained behaviour of believers as they roll on the floor and as pastors stagger around with slurred speech saying it is the work of the Holy Spirit and believers laugh uncontrollably and writhe around in their seats obviously out of control.
Today in most churches that claim to have the power of the Holy Spirit manifesting in their meetings have virtually no serious exposition of scripture and certainly hardly any teaching at all about the need for personal holiness and repentance. This self-control expresses itself in a disciplined life of prayer and serious Bible Study and in deep and sincere fellowship. It involves discipline in the use of our time, discipline in curbing our bodily appetites and discipline in taking up our cross everyday and following the Lord Jesus Christ through this spiritually rebellious and hostile world.
Even the apostle Paul had to do this everyday of his life. “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:25-27). Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, however when you see Christians out of control either in meetings or in their personal lives then it is diametrically opposed to the Spirit of God. Our human spirits are subject to the control of the Holy Spirit. (Galatians 5:22) (2 Timothy 1:7) (1Corinthians 14:32-33) If we have a true knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ then whatever we say or do will always exhibit self-control.
Then to self-control we need to add “perseverance.” To persevere is to “remain under pressure.” The believers to whom Peter was writing were going to face severe persecution and they would be under pressure to deny their loyalty to the Lord Jesus. They would need to persevere. This perseverance is like being under pressure in a particular circumstance that we want to get out from under and escape. Many believers would find themselves in prison and in chains and waiting to go into the arena to face the lions. Furthermore, the doctrines of the false teachers and prophets could not prepare them to stand in the coming persecution.
Today in the Western Church it is exactly the same as in Peter’s time. We have numerous false prophets and teachers telling us today that we won’t have to really suffer persecution and that we will not have to face the antichrist or the great tribulation but they are wrong. Today there are multitudes of teachers and so-called prophets that are telling the believers in the Western Churches that there is peace and blessing and prosperity and abundance in this world and this kind of teaching will leave multitudes of Christians unprepared for what is coming to the Church in the West. No one wants persecution of course but God uses it to purify the Church and to mobilize it into evangelism. This is what happened in the book of Acts. (Acts 8:4)
Right now many of God’s choicest saints are going through trials and tribulations in their finances, in their personal lives, in their marriages and businesses and even in their health yet the Lord’s wisdom and sovereignty He is preparing them for what is to come. (1 Peter 1:6-7) (James 1:2-4) If we are suffering in some way it does not mean that we have no faith or that we have sinned in some way.
Sin itself will bring adversity sooner or later that is for sure but not all suffering and adversity happens to us because we have sinned or have no faith. Many faithful Christians in the West today are enduring hardships and cannot join in the circle of merrymakers anymore than Jeremiah the prophet could. But God is using adversity today in our lives to prepare us to stand when the antichrist really begins to persecute the Church. If we learn to persevere now then we will be able to persevere when the pressure is really on us to compromise and even deny our faith.
God uses all things to work out His good acceptable and perfect will for the lives of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. As scripture says; “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his Purposes” (Romans 8:28). This does not mean that everything that happens to us is good or directly from the hand of God. Sometimes things that happen to us will be the result of our own mistakes or something is forced upon us by others and yet there will be other situations sent to us from the devil himself that God had nothing to do with. However, in all these things God works them together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His good will and pleasure.
Perseverance itself will produce in us “godliness.” It will enable us to be increasingly conformed to the Lord Jesus Christ in every way. Even the Lord Jesus had to persevere in trial and suffering and severe temptation even though he never once gave into sin. (Hebrews 5:7-10) (Hebrews 2:18 4:15) The Bible says, “Discipline may seem painful now but it yields forth the fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” True godliness will always lead to contentment in the Lord and to be at peace in every circumstance especially where the things of this world are concerned and especially concerning money. (1 Timothy 6:6-10) The hyper faith prosperity money preachers need to meditate on these verses in Timothy before they open their mouths!
Godliness will also produce in us a deep reverence and respect for the Lord and we will not take Him lightly or flippantly nor misuse and misquote His Word. We will not approach Him in a careless and frivolous manner. While God has a sense of humour He is not some self-indulgent father figure that gives His children whatever they want, neither is He a spiritual slot machine that dispenses spiritual goodies on request!
Now godliness will produce in us “brotherly kindness.” Brotherly kindness looks on the interests of others and considers their needs as well. Brotherly kindness respects the gifts and calling of other believers. It is quick to forgive and showing mercy to those who are weak. It is also protective and fair and impartial in its judgment. It bears with the spiritually unstable. Brotherly kindness expresses itself in a compassion for our brothers and sisters in Christ regardless of their spiritual state or background or even their past. Whether they are rich or poor, weak and timid or overbearing and noisy we must exercise compassion for them without partiality.
Finally, brotherly kindness will lead us into the “life of love,” the highest virtue in the universe because God Himself is love and all true love proceeds from Him alone. (1 John 4:8) Without His love controlling our lives all of the other spiritual virtues are impossible. The world may have certain equivalents to these virtues mentioned but they never measure up to the high standards given to us by the Lord. The Lord Jesus said that the one characteristic that would set His followers apart would be their love for each other. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. All men will know that you are My disciples if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
This love is different from the world’s view of love. It is not sloppy, sentimental nor gushy. The love (agape) of God primarily is not an emotion but an act of the will. One of the marks that we are truly born again is that we love the brethren. (1 John 4:7) John the apostle says, “Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love (is not loving continuously) remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. This is how we know (ginosko-“by inward revelation”) what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:13-18). This love is kind and compassionate but never self-indulgent. (Eph 4:32) (1 Peter 3:8)
God always does what is best for us as His children and sometimes His ways are not our ways. Loving involves discipline and correction as much as it does affection and kindness. (Proverbs 3:12) (Hebrews 12:6-11) Love is the foundation upon which all of the other spiritual virtues stand. To love in this way is humanly impossible for us apart from God’s power. If we have really been born again then we will have the capacity to love others supernaturally because the Holy Spirit Himself dwells in us and has shed God’s love abroad in our hearts. (Romans 5:5)
Just as we walk by faith so we love by faith. Faith itself works and operates through love. They are the inseparable power twins of the Spirit filled life. (Galatians 5:6) God has given us the capacity to love others as He loves them through His Spirit but our responsibility is to let out that love to others. Primarily it is released through us when we will to love and not when we feel loving. Only when we act by faith will the right kind of feelings come but sometimes they don’t come right away but if we persist and persevere and seek those spiritual virtues Peter mentions we will overcome every obstacle to love.
Brother Jacob Prasch has said, “If we cannot stand together now we will never stand when persecution comes!” Peter knew that relationships were vitally important for the rimes that lay ahead. Satan wants to divide the body of Christ because he now knows from what Jesus said that a house divided against itself couldn’t stand and he is using this principle today in the Church. If we betray one another now and backstab each other now what will we do when persecution comes? Will we betray our brothers and sisters to save our own necks? Selah. But let’s move on.
(Vs 8) “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
All of these virtues must grow and develop in us and be added to our faith. They are like fruit growing on a tree because these virtues take time to mature in us however they must grow in an increasing measure and become more prominent in our Christian lives as we add them to our faith. Through the power of the Spirit these virtues will ultimately shape our Christian character making us fruitful and productive in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. To neglect these spiritual virtues will make us ineffective as Christians not only in our personal walk with the Lord but also in our witnessing and service to others.
We live in a world where these kinds of spiritual virtues are rarely seen. In fact the Bible tells us that in the last days even in the Church many people will not have these virtues at all in their lives. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Our western civilization is becoming more and more like the ancient Roman Empire was with its bestiality, debauchery, bi-sexuality, violence, greed, materialism, lust and ungodliness. Against this background Peter exhorts the believers to remain faithful to Jesus and to add these spiritual virtues to their faith to make them stand against the world, the flesh and the devil.
(Vs. 9) “But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.”
There are three results that come from neglecting to add these spiritual virtues to our faith. The first of these is “nearsightedness” that hinders us from seeing what God really has in store for us. Secondly if we do not deal with our nearsightedness in spiritual matters we will eventually become “blind to spiritual truth” and fall into the hands of the enemy of our souls. This was the precise case with Sampson in the Old Testament. Nearsightedness in spiritual matters will ultimately lead us into spiritual blindness where we will no longer be able to recognize or understand spiritual truth. The third thing Peter mentions is that spiritual blindness will bring us to the point in our lives where we even “forget that we have been cleansed from our past sins.”
The one thing Satan wants to do is to take our eyes from the cross and to obscure its centrality in our lives. We need to constantly be aware of anyone or anything that obscures our vision of the power of the cross in our Christian lives. All of these virtues Peter mentions come out from the Lord Jesus Himself and flow into our lives when we walk by faith in Him. We must never forget the past sins that we have been cleansed from.
While we are no longer to be enslaved to our past we must never forget what we were or what we would have become if the blood of the Lord Jesus had not cleansed us from all of our past and present sins. Every true saint of God knows that apart from the grace of God given to them in Jesus Christ they would be worse than many of the pagans in the world who have never known the Lord Jesus at all. Remember the words of that hymn, “Jesus keep me near the cross-There a precious fountain, free to all a healing stream, flows from Calvary’s mountain.” Or the words written by the converted slave trader John Newton, “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!” And so Peter continues…
(Vs 10-11) “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. 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.”
As peter wrote to these believers he knew that many of them would die in the coming persecution and he wanted to encourage them to develop these spiritual virtues in their lives because they would enable them to not only be courageous in persecution and in the face of death but also bring for them a rich welcome into the kingdom of God for time and eternity. This is the reason why we must make every effort to add to our faith these spiritual virtues now because we will be building into our lives the strength we need when persecution comes.
If we do this now then we will have the power and the courage to stand before governors and kings and before all who would persecute us because of the name of Jesus we confess to the world. When the antichrist comes he will unleash a world-wide persecution on faithful Christians in many nations including some western nations. The Lord Jesus Himself said that this would happen to the faithful Church in the last days. (Matthew 24:9) We need to be eager to develop these qualities through the help and strength of the Holy Spirit and by doing this through faith we will make our calling and election a sure thing and receive as our reward a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.