Open your Bibles to 2 Peter 1. This is our fourth lesson on 2 Peter. You guys know the introductory matters pretty well, so we won’t go back through those. Probably the main thing to understand is that Peter is trying to prepare his audience for the false teaching that he knows they’re about to be hit with.
He says in 2 Peter 2:1, “there will also be false teachers among you.” So, everything in this book is revolving around preparing his audience for the false teaching they are about to experience by the false teachers.
Before he gets into the characteristics of false teachers, and before he reveals the doctrine of false teachers—which he does in chapters 2 and 3, he gives a tremendous calling here to grow in Christ. Chapter 1 is really a call to maturity, and a mature Christian is in the best position to resist the allurement of false teachers.
Here’s an outline of chapter 1. We have an introduction, a call to growth. Then he’s going to interrupt his thoughts—he does this twice in the book—with a purpose statement. He gives a purpose statement in 2 Peter 1:12-15. If memory serves, he gives another purpose statement in 2 Peter 3:1-2 where he stops his line of thought and he explains his purpose in writing.
The introduction we’ve already looked at. We’ve seen the writer, we’ve seen the recipients, and we’ve seen the greeting. Right? Then we move into verses 3-11. Maybe we’ll get through verses 3-11 tonight, maybe not.
But verses 3-11 is basically a call to growth. A mature Christian is in a great position to say “No” to false teaching; an immature Christian is not. They don’t know the difference between true teaching and false teaching.
Verses 3-11 is a tremendous paragraph or two on maturity. You have three parts to it: provisions for growth; the portrait of growth; and the benefits of growth. In other words, God says to grow spiritually, and God doesn’t order things He doesn’t pay for. So verses 3-4 are a description of the tools God has put in the life of the believer so that they can grow correctly.
Then, if you’re a growing Christian, how would you even know? What constitutes a mature Christian, a growing Christian? You get an answer to that in verses 5-7.
Then we might ask ourselves, “Growing up is hard–it involves growing pains–so why should I grow up?” It would be much easier to stay in my crib, right? Sucking my thumb. With diapers on. At least I was comfortable there. (I don’t know if I would fit in my crib anymore.)
So, whenever you grow, it involves a certain amount of growing pains. As you go through the process of maturing, you ask yourself, “Why should I submit myself to this?” Well, verses 8-11 give you the benefits of growth. Growth has its privileges, in other words, and he’s going to articulate there five privileges—or benefits—of growing up.
Not the least of which (verse 11) is a stable life. If you have a stable life you won’t be unstable, and you won’t be swept into false teaching. So, that’s what verses 8-11 looks like.
Let’s take a look at verses 3 and 4, the provisions for growth. Peter says, “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. 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.”
Now, notice the word “promises”; I’ve got it underlined in verse 4. You’ll also notice the word “everything.” In other words, everything that we need to become the mature disciples of Christ that God envisions for each of us, He’s already given to us. So, it’s not a situation where, “Oh, my goodness, something’s missing. I’ve got to go on and get something else.”
Some churches teach the doctrine of the second blessing. “Yeah, what you have in Christ is nice. But you need to go on further and plead before God, and you need to get this second blessing,” idea. The cults basically teach–like Mormonism, for example—that “Yeah, your Bible’s nice, but you really don’t have the full revelation of Jesus in North America. So you need these extra books.”
And this is what Peter is up against with these Gnostics, because the Gnostics were all saying, “You need the secret knowledge to become mature in Christ.” And who gave the secret knowledge? Well, they gave the secret knowledge! Isn’t that convenient? So, you’ve got to go through their system to get this extra spiritual dose so you can become complete in Christ.
Notice how Peter rebuts this in verses 3 and 4. He says, “You have everything pertaining to life and godliness.” You already have it! It’s inside of you through the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit. In addition to all of that, God has given us this book, which is a completed canon.
And this completed canon of Scripture, called “all Scripture” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) will equip you for how many good works there (verse 17)? “Every good work.” Now, what does “every” mean? It means every.
Now, the Bible may not tell you how to fix a broken bone. It may not tell you how to fill out your tax returns. But anything the Bible claims authority on—spiritual matters, everything the Bible brushes upon and claims authority over is enough.
And what the Bible deals with is our spiritual walk, our spiritual life, our growth in Christ, how to come to Christ, how to grow in Christ. So, you shouldn’t feel that there’s something you’re missing outside of this book. You don’t have to go to some conference. You don’t have to go pay a fee. You don’t have to get some secret recipe from somebody. Everything is in plain view. It’s just a matter of discovering what you already have.
Christianity is really not so much about getting new truth; it’s about going back and seeing what God has already given us in our bank accounts. The reality of the situation is that, as Christians, we are phenomenally wealthy. We just have to explore the wealth that’s already been given to us.
That’s a doctrine that we call the “Sufficiency of the Scripture.” And that’s what Peter is saying here in these opening verses, verses 3-4: that through these promises He has given to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.
He goes on in verses 3 and 4 and describes, now, the four provisions we have for growth. God tells us to grow so that we can resist the allurements of the false teachers. And what God orders, He pays for, so He wouldn’t call us to do something without empowering us for the task.
You see that what you have in verses 3 and 4 are four provisions for growth. Those are power (verse 3), knowledge (verse 3), promises—plural (verse 4), and participation in the divine nature (verse 4).
Let’s briefly go through each of these so we can understand that there is fuel already in the gas tank to propel us if we get in touch with what we already have. The first thing we already have is power. You see it there in verse 3, “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.” So, you don’t just have power. Essentially, what we have his divine power.
I mean, I have power in and of myself in my natural self to do certain things, but that’s really not what Peter is talking about. He’s talking about divine power: power from God and not man. I looked up “power” in the Greek lexicon before I came in. It’s the Greek word DUNAMIS, and it deals with the potentiality to exert force when performing a function.
So, you are performing a function, and then you have the force necessary to perform that function. That’s what we have in God: we have divine power. From this word “power” (DUNAMIS in the Greek), you’ll recognize the English words that we get from that: dynamite, dynamic, etc.
This word “power” is the same word used in Acts 1:8, which says [Jesus speaking to the disciples just before the Day of Pentecost], “but you will receive power [there’s our word] when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
So, Jesus was very clear at the end of Luke’s Gospel for the disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they were clothed with “power from on high.” That’s our word “power,” the Greek word DUNAMIS.
You’ll notice that God has a purpose for the church: to preach the gospel in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the remote parts of the earth. But He says, “Don’t leave Jerusalem until you have the power,” which was the giving of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.
Again, what God orders He pays for, He energizes. So God is calling us to growth. And the first resource we have for growth is divine power.
The second resource that we have as a provision for growth is knowledge. The word “knowledge” comes from the Greek word GNOSIS, knowledge. And there it is right there in verse 3, “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.”
I’m reading here out of the NASB, and you’ll notice that the knowledge we have is not just knowledge. The Gnostics, the false teachers, whom his audience is about to be hit with talked about knowledge all the time, but it was a secret knowledge, mystical knowledge, a knowledge accessible only to an elite few.
Peter, in contrast to that, says, “You already have knowledge.” We have a completed canon; we have 66 books of the Bible. And there is nothing outside of these 66 books that you need to pertain to all matters of life and godliness. So, the resources are there: power, number one; knowledge, number two.
The third resource that we have are promises, and you see that in verse 4. “For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises.” Now, you’ll notice there that “promises” is plural. You don’t just have, in Christianity, a single promise from God; you have a plethora promises. In fact, we have so many promises from God that most of us have never even taken the time to read them all. But they’re all there!
They are things that are ironclad. They are things that can be absolutely taken to the bank, because they emanate from a God Who cannot lie. And you’ll notice that these promises (verse 4) are not just promises, but they are “precious and magnificent promises.” “If all these things are ours, why would we go after some secret knowledge somewhere else?” is Peter’s point.
Then, the fourth resource that you have is the participation in the divine nature. And you see that in verse 4, “so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature.” Now, this does not mean that we become gods; a lot of people have misused that verse that way. The idea that a creature can become a god is, as I like to say, “It might be New Age, but it’s an old lie.”
It’s as old as Isaiah 14:14. It’s a lie that Satan deceived himself with prior to his fall. And that lie worked so well in expelling him from heaven that he decided to try it on our forebearers. In Genesis 3:5 he basically told them that they could become God.
In Genesis 3:5 Satan says to our forebears, Adam and Eve, “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like [Who?] God.” You should cross-reference that with Isaiah 14:14. That’s what Satan said to himself, “I will make myself like the Most High.”
So, it is interesting to look at how many religions out there teach that you can become god. I mean, that’s the whole premise behind the New Age movement. Remember the movie Out on a Limb with Shirley MacLaine? She had her arms outstretched there in Malibu beach, saying over and over again, “I am God.”
Of course, Mormonism teaches you can become a god. You can even have your own planet one day. Humanism basically teaches man is at the center of all things; God, if He exists, is irrelevant. And almost everybody out there blurs the distinction between creation and Creator.
So, in Christianity you have the Creator/creation distinction, meaning that mere creations of God (humans or angels) cannot become God. But what you can experience is that you can become a partaker in the divine nature. The word for partaker here is KOINONIA, where we get the word “fellowship.” You can fellowship with God in His nature.
In fact, God, at the point of spiritual birth, has placed into every single child of God the new nature. Not our status as “gods,” but a nature that is similar to His. And that’s why, after you get saved, certain sins will bother you that didn’t used to bother you before you got saved.
There’s a struggle in your inner man because now you’ve got two natures: the sin nature, which is still there as long as you’re in this body, and the new nature. Paul, in Romans 7, was describing the tug-of-war between the sin nature and the new nature inside of him. So, if there’s a tug-of-war going on inside of you, that’s actually a good sign, because it’s evidence of the new nature.
In Galatians 5:17 Paul says, “For the flesh [that’s our nature in Adam] sets its desire against the Spirit [the new nature], and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” So now there’s a tug-of-war inside of me, because at the point of spiritual birth God has put inside of me a new nature.
So, spiritual maturity (or growth) is defined through God’s resources as reckoning the old nature dead. Romans 6 talks all about how it’s not been eradicated, but it’s been disempowered. It is still there to tempt—always will be. But now I have the ability to say “No” to it because of my baptism. This is not water baptism here, but my identification (that’s with the word “baptism” means) into the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.
In other words, when Jesus died, I died. When Jesus was buried, I was buried. When Jesus resurrected, I rose. When Jesus ascended, I ascended. That is a positional truth about us. So, we have the ability to tell the old nature, which is always rearing its ugly head, “No”; and we live according to the desires of the new nature. The more we make decisions consistent with the new nature—reckoning dead the old nature—the more we’re developing into Christ-likeness.
You’ll notice that our old nature is so corrupted that God does not try to rehabilitate it. He doesn’t throw a coat of fresh paint on it; it’s too far gone. What He does is just gives you a new nature. If my old nature had something in it that was redemptive, then God would just put a little more air in the flat tire.
But, in this case, the old nature is so gone—it’s so corrupted—God makes no attempt to rehabilitate it. He gives us a new nature. So, now, throughout my earthly sojourn, prior to death, the rapture—or glorification—whichever comes first—there’s a tug-of-war inside of me between the old nature and my participation in the new nature.
With the new nature comes new desires. In my own personal life I can testify about new desires that came into my life after I got saved. And even these desires didn’t appear immediately, but they started to appear as I began to grow in Christ.
I used to hate to read. Hated it! In fact, my major in high school was basketball. And I frankly don’t even know how they graduated me–maybe because I played basketball. But I wasn’t that good to be pushed through the ranks.
But when you get saved… I remember going into a Christian bookstore. I just had this desire to read, to study, to learn the Bible. Now, I tried to read the Bible as an unsaved person, and to me the whole thing made no sense.
My parents had this Bible called The Way: The Living Bible Illustrated. Have you ever heard of those Bibles? I popped it open one day and started to try to read Jeremiah, and it was the weirdest thing that I’d ever seen. It made no sense. But once the Holy Spirit is inside of you, it’s interesting how the Bible starts making sense. And it’s interesting how you start having a desire to study the Bible that didn’t exist before. That is evidence of being a partaker of the divine nature.
So here’s the reality. God says to grow, but He reminds us of the tools that we have to grow. Those tools are power (verse 3), knowledge (verse 3), promises (verse 4), participation in the new nature (verse 4). And those are the resources that will allow us to escape the corruption that is in the world by lust.
So, the Gnostics were basically saying through dualism: the spiritual world is good; the physical world is (what?) bad. And that became a convenient copout to dismiss moral responsibility: “Gee, it’s not me gossiping; it’s my tongue that’s gossiping. And I don’t have any real control over the tongue, because the tongue is matter–it’s physical. Therefore, the problem is my tongue.” Ignoring the fact that we’re making choices concerning what we talk about.
But the Gnostics, through their dualism, allow people to escape moral responsibility. Peter says, “No. You have the ability to control the 2 x 2 slab of mucous membrane between your gums called the tongue, because God has given you four resources to grow.” He’s given you four things to–on a moment by moment basis—say “No” to the sin nature and “Yes” to the things of God. And those resources are power, knowledge, promises, and participation. That’s why he mentions those four resources.
At the end of verse 4 he talks about having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. So, if somebody is not going to grow as a Christian, whose fault would it be? It’s certainly not God’s fault! Because God has given us the resources! I mean, you’re not going to be able to stand before the Lord at the Bema Seat and say, “Well, Lord, you know, I remained an immature Christian my whole life because I had no choice in the matter.”
God says, “Nonsense. Look at what I’ve given you.” If we’re not growing as a Christian it’s really our own fault, because we’re not exploring what we have in Christ in terms of our wealth. And then, we’re not appropriating it by faith, moment by moment, to the point where it controls (or influences) how we make decisions.
It’s like God, as He is sending the children of Israel into the promised land in the book of Numbers. Numbers 1-12 is reminding them of everything they have for victory. Then they get into Numbers 13 and 14. They got to the southern border of Canaan, they saw giants in the land, and they went into fear. So who do you blame that on? You can’t blame it on God. Because God revealed to them in Numbers 1-12 everything that they had for victory–which could have been theirs in chapters 13 and 14.
So that generation had no one to blame but themselves. See that? It’s the same with our spiritual growth. We can’t blame anybody but ourselves, because God has provided the resources.
Now, if there are no resources God has given us, then I can say, “Well, God, You didn’t equip me for the task.” But what you see here in verses 3 and 4 is that He has equipped us for the task. In fact, you have a very strong statement of sufficiency there in verse 3 through the use of the word “everything.”
So, the first part of this call to growth is our provisions for growth. Then we move into verses 5-7 where we ask ourselves, “Okay. God tells me to grow, and He has given me resources to grow. So, how do I know if I’m growing?” How do I really know if I’m a growing Christian?
And what separates a mature Christian from an immature Christian? And that’s the significance of verses 5-7, which says the following. “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.”
This is a literary device called sorites. What is that? Constable’s online notes on 2 Peter (www.soniclight.com) define that literary device as follows. “Unlike other New Testament ethical lists (except Rom. 5:3-5), Peter used a literary device called ‘sorites’ (also called ‘climax’ or gradatio [as in “graduation”]). Sorites (from the Gr. soros, ‘a heap’) is a set of statements that proceed, step by step, to a climactic conclusion through the force of logic or reliance upon a series of indisputable facts. [The last sentence here is probably the most important.] Each new statement picks up the last key word or phrase of the preceding one.”
So, notice what he says here. He talks about faith and moral excellence, and then he says, “and in your moral excellence, knowledge.” Then he repeats knowledge, “and in your knowledge, self-control.” Then he repeats self-control, “and in your self-control, perseverance,” etc. So, it looks like a ladder you climb.
Faith is the foundation. Then, goodness is the next thing on the foundation. And knowledge is built on the foundation of goodness and faith. Self-control is built on the foundation of knowledge, goodness, and faith, etc. Until you move right up on that ladder—it’s like walking up a stairstep.
Now, one of the most interesting things about this paragraph is verse 5 which says, “applying all diligence, in your faith supply.” What does that mean? It means we have a role to play in our progressive sanctification.
Sanctification (or growth in Christ) is not something that happens automatically in the life of the child of God. Calvinism will teach that. That’s where they have this doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. They make it sound as if your growth in Christ is inevitable, and if it’s not occurring you never were one of the elect to begin with. One of the reasons I don’t like that doctrine is that I don’t think it’s biblical, because it removes human responsibility of the Christian in the growth process.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we eek these things out through human power, because in verses 3 and 4 we’re told very clearly that it’s through the four resources that God has given us. But I have to start making conscious choices to rely upon those resources as I make choices in life.
So, there’s a mentality out there that says, “Just let go, and let God.” “Let go, and let God!” They give the impression that your growth in Christ is automatic. No—that’s not what the Bible says. What the Bible says is “applying all diligence, in your faith supply” these things.
In other words, we, through volition, have to cooperate with the process. This is why there are so many commandments in the New Testament: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30); “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19); “do not let sin reign in your mortal body” (Romans 6:12). Commandments which would be pointless if sanctification was automatic.
Quite frankly, there are some Christians who will make great progress in this area–and some won’t. And that’s the purpose of the Bema Seat judgment of rewards–to merit that out. That’s why some Christians in heaven receive greater rewards than others, because God is the God of—at the end of the day—justice.
This is in contrast to the licentiousness peddled by the Gnostics who basically made it sound as if, “It’s your tongue gossiping; it’s not you.” Because the physical world is evil through Gnostic dualism. So, to really understand 2 Peter, you have to understand his statements in light of the incipient Gnosticism that’s about to come there into the Asia minor area.
As you look at this list, you see faith at the very beginning. Then goodness. And the third one is knowledge. The reason Peter mentions knowledge so quickly is that he is contrasting the true knowledge with the secret knowledge taught by the Gnostics. So, if we exhibit these characteristics, it reveals that we’re maturing to the point where we’ll be able to say “No” to false teaching.
So, let’s take a look at these. The first thing he mentions here is faith. “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith…” I think it’s self-evident why he would mention faith first, because without faith it is what? Impossible to please God. If you don’t have faith, you don’t have a relationship with God at all. Faith is trust! If you don’t have that, you’re not a Christian.
As I grow in Christ( the faith that saves), God says, “Okay. You trusted Me for salvation. Can you trust Me for next month’s mortgage payment?” “No, I can’t trust You for that, Lord.”
“Let Me get this straight,” God says. “I’m sufficient to get you out of hell into heaven, but you can’t trust Me for next month’s rent?” So, we say, “Well, Lord, You’re right. I’ll trust You for that.” So, you make a choice, and you start to grow! You start to see God’s hand being faithful to you, and then you trust, “Well, if God was faithful for last month’s mortgage, maybe He’ll be faithful for this month’s mortgage!” etc.
The second thing he mentions here is moral excellence (or goodness). A good chapter of the Bible that is a cross reference to this is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, right? When you think of 2 Peter 1:5-7, you should also be thinking of Galatians 5:22-23. You see a lot of the same things Peter mentions here. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness [that’s our word there for moral excellence], faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
The third thing that he mentions here is knowledge. What we said when we started studying this book is that Peter takes the Gnostics’ terminology and he refills it with a biblical meaning. He does this all the way through the book as a polemic against the secret knowledge of the Gnostics. He says, “You have knowledge in these 66 books.” And knowledge, in Christianity, is more than tucking facts into the brain; its relational. So, you have a relationship with the God Who made you!
Then, the fourth thing that he mentions here is self-control. You see that in your fruit of the Spirit lists. It says, “gentleness and self-control.” My wife says to me, “Would you empty the dishwasher?” “What do you mean, ‘Empty the dishwasher’?!? I emptied it last week!!! What are you always bugging me for?!?” Well, that’s irritability. I never get like that though, right Anne?
Irritability. It’s a lack of self-control. It’s losing emotional control over a minor irritation. And as you walk with the Lord and start to rely upon His Spirit, the flesh will tell you to react in an upset way. And the Spirit will say, “You know, it’s no big deal.”
A guy cuts you off on the freeway; it’s not the end of the world. Maybe you ought to pray for the guy who cut you off instead of being so mad at him. So, self-control.
Then he says, “in your self-control [add], perseverance.” “Perseverance” is the Greek word HYPOMONĒ, and it’s a capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances. That’s HYPOMONĒ.
God is teaching Christians about HYPOMONĒ in their own churches. Because a lot of Christians will come to church, and someone will rub them the wrong way. And they’ll become what I like to call “frog leg Christians,” where they just jump to the next church. But guess what? God has people in that next church who are going to rub them wrong way too! “Well, I’ll just develop some frog legs and jump to the next church!” And to the next church…and to the next church! Now they’re like a pinball in a pinball machine–bouncing all over Houston–when what God is telling people is, “You need to stay put. Find a church. Stay in the church.”
I don’t care what church you are in, there are going to be things in the church you don’t like, or things that irritate you, or things that rub you the wrong way. And rather than seeking an escape from those things… You can’t escape from those things, because the people at the next church have the exact same sin nature as the people in this church! Right? Y’all have a sin nature? You guys are pretty quiet out there.
Of course! That’s the human condition: we all have a sin nature. So moving my church residence down the street–or whatever—is not going to fix it. What God is saying is, “I want you to grow where you are. Bloom where planted!” And…if you find a perfect church, please don’t join it, because you’ll ruin the church. Because there are no perfect churches.
Because churches have in them people. And as long as people are in the churches, you are not going to have a perfect church. And if you have a church with no people, now you’ve got another problem, which we won’t go into.
So, HYPOMONĒ; it’s basically perseverance. That’s how you’re a growing Christian. You can endure some difficulties.
Then he says, “and in your perseverance [add], godliness.” Godliness would be Christlikeness.
“And in your godliness [add], brotherly kindness.” Now, the word for “brotherly kindness” there is PHILADELPHIA. It’s a compound word. It comes from two words making up a single word: PHILEO, which means “love” in Greek; and ADELPHOS, meaning “brother.” Put those two together, and you get the word Philadelphia. In fact, that’s one of the cities in the United States, right?
Philadelphia. That’s where it gets its name. That always cracks me up, because they always have one of the highest murder rates in the whole country. But it’s supposed to be a brotherly love city. Even the Rocky statue is there, right? Or is that just in the movies?
Brotherly kindness. So, we start to get along with each other. We start to be more patient in our relationships. We forbear a little bit. And that’s how we know we are maturing in Christ.
The reason why mega churches are so attractive to people is that you can get in and out anonymously without anybody even knowing you’re there. And you can escape all of these relational problems that you have to deal with in local churches and even families.
Sometimes I am sort of double-minded about the video ministry that we have here. We put everything online. It’s not just us who do it; churches all over the world do it. Now Christianity is to a point where I can be balled up in my office. All I’ve got to do is have my phone, and I can get church that way. That way I don’t have to deal with anybody. Well, if you never have to deal with people, how do you develop this attribute that the Lord wants to produce in us called brotherly kindness?
Kindness is easy with people you like. Right? I mean, even the mob takes care of their own. But kindness has to be exhibited toward someone who rubs you the wrong way or whatnot. So, God wants us in community so we can develop this attribute of brotherly kindness.
Then he says, “and in your brotherly kindness [add], love.” As I’m sure you know, the Greeks had four words for love. There was a word called STORGE, family love. Then there is EROS, romantic love. Then there’s PHILIA, which is brotherly love. That’s Philadelphia.
But now he’s going to a deeper level of love, called AGAPE, which is selfless love. It’s a love that gives but doesn’t expect anything in return. A love, 1 Corinthians 13 tells us, that keeps no record of wrongs. A love that’s not rude, demanding, insulting, self-centered. That’s what is bound up in that word AGAPE.
Typically, AGAPE is used of God’s love for us. We think we have to put up with a lot. What do you think God has to put up with? God’s love towards us is described as AGAPE. So, when I’m able to exhibit that same kind of love towards other people, that’s AGAPE love.
So, you put this whole list together, and that’s how you know whether you’re growing in Christ–or not. These things should start to become more prevalent in one’s life: faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Like a stepladder.
You say, “This is too hard!” Well, that’s where you’ve got to take it back to verses 3 and 4, because God has given us the power to do this. God doesn’t expect us to do this completely on our own. We do have to make choices consistent with our new identity. But as the Lord works in our life, we don’t become sinless. But, hopefully, we sin less. And as these things become more and more evident in our lives, we’re escaping the lust that’s in the world.
What is lust? Lust is a desire for something that God doesn’t want you to have. Its covetousness, in other words, a desire for that which is forbidden. It’s something that’s very powerful in the sin nature. And Peter knows that his audience will never be able to resist the allurement of the false teachers without these attributes increasing in their lives, like self-control and perseverance.
From there we get to verses 8-11, which is a description of the benefits of growth. Because we might be asking ourselves at this point, “Why do I need to grow up? I don’t want to grow up.” I shared with you that show—I think was Dr. Phil. (Not the most spiritual TV show out there.) But I was watching it, and it was dealing with this guy in his late 50s early 60s who was still living at his parents’ house.
He had his room organized exactly how it was organized in high school—same pictures on the wall—everything. You have a situation there where a guy just shut down. The parents, for whatever reason, weren’t applying tough love. He didn’t have to grow up, and he was happy not growing up. He simply didn’t want to go through growing pains, because growing up involves certain pains.
So why in the world would I submit myself to the process of growth when it’s much easier for me to remain in a state of immaturity? You say, “A Christian couldn’t be like that, could they?” Well, Hebrews 5:12 says, “by this time you ought to be teachers.” “By this time” indicates that they had been in this level of immaturity for a long time.
The Calvinists, through their doctrine of the perseverance of the saints—like in John MacArthur’s commentary on Hebrews–just make Hebrews 5:11-14 apply to non-Christians. Because, “A new Christian couldn’t stay in this position, because it would contradict “P” in the tulip acronym.”
The problem is that he says, “by this time (Hebrews 5:12) you ought to be teachers.” It makes no sense for this to apply to an unbeliever, because when would God ever want an unbeliever to teach a believer? That doesn’t make any sense at all.
So, this is talking about people in an arrested state of development (Hebrews 5:11-14). That shows us that it’s possible to be in Christ for decades and stay at a very low level of spiritual maturity. Because the growth process involves growth pains.
Therefore, Peter says that to submit yourself to the growth pains, you have to understand the benefits. You know what spiritual growth looks like (verses 5-7). You know the provisions for growth (verses 3-4). Now here are the benefits, and they’re all described there in verses 8-11.
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. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren [very important word—it’s very clearly that he is speaking to Christians here], 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.
Look at the beginning of verse 8. It says, “if these qualities.” What qualities? All of the qualities mentioned on the stairstep in verses 5-7.
“If these qualities are yours and are increasing.” See, that’s what a growing Christian is: you’re experiencing these qualities and actually growing. Now, it’s not speaking here of a sinless life—there is no such thing. But it’s speaking of a life that sins less.
So, if these qualities (verses 5-7) are increasing in your life, then here are five benefits that you will receive. Just like coming-of-age allows you to do certain things. You get a driver license— a privilege you didn’t have when you were 15—now that you’re 16. I’ve got these dates memorized, because my daughter is 13. And we’re in prayer about it as we speak.
Now that I’m 16, I have this privilege that I didn’t have when I was 15. So, when you grow, you get privileges. That’s his point.
Here are the five privileges. I don’t think we’ll get through these tonight, but we’ll see how far we can get.
Number one, you’ll be productive. Productivity. And that’s right there in verse 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.”
There are a lot of people out there who are basically busybodies. That’s what Paul called “boxing at the air.” They are exerting a lot of energy, but nothing is really being accomplished. They are useless. They are unfruitful. I think the talk that Peter is referencing here is the Upper Room Discourse. Because Peter was in the Upper Room with the Lord three decades earlier. And Jesus said this to the disciples—the only unsaved person (Judas) left the room—“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears [not just fruit but] much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing (John 15:5).
In other words, the branch has vitality when it’s connected to the vine. If the branch is removed from the vine—through being out of fellowship with Christ—then you can’t expect any fruit to occur in one’s life, any more than you can expect the branch to bear fruit disconnected to the vine.
A branch disconnected to the vine cannot bear fruit. It would be an agricultural impossibility for that to happen. But it’s connected. In other words, as we stay in fellowship with the Lord, we find that God actually wants to bring forth in our lives much fruit. Not just fruit—but much fruit.
By the way, it doesn’t say here that we need to get out there and produce fruit. He says bear fruit. That’s a totally different idea. The production is His, because the book of Genesis says things produce after their kind. It says that over and over again in Genesis 1.
So, if you want fruit in your life of an eternal quality, you can’t gin it up through a bunch of energy of the flesh. The only thing that’s going to bring it is staying connected to Jesus—just as a branch stays connected to the vine. And the fruit will come organically, spontaneously, naturally, automatically.
Jesus says in John 15:8, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove [watch this now] to be My disciples.” He didn’t say, “You’ll prove you are believers if you bear much fruit.” He’s not dealing with the subject of unbeliever versus believer here, because He’s addressing 11 saved men.
What He is addressing is the difference between a Christian not bearing fruit and a Christian bearing fruit—an out of fellowship Christian and an in fellowship Christian. See that? So, bearing fruit doesn’t prove you’re a Christian; it proves you’re a disciple. See the difference?
Then, down in verse 16 He says, “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would [what?] remain.” What is He talking about here? He’s talking about eternal fruit. He’s talking about the capacity that someone has to eternally impact the life of somebody else.
Now, how can we produce that unless we’re connected to Jesus Who is eternal? See that? If I’m connected to Jesus, Who is eternal, it really isn’t my fruit; He’s producing the fruit. Things produce after their kind. I’m simply bearing the fruit.
So, do you want to be that kind of Christian? I sure do! I don’t want to spend my life in useless and unfruitful activities—just doing things with no real eternal ramification.
So, the first benefit of growing is that you become productive in God. Then, we have living in harmony with our identity, sureness of our election and calling, stability, eternal rewards. Too many to go into tonight. So, we’ll go ahead and stop. Yes, it’s true, we stopped two minutes early, and that’s a work of God right there.