“5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.” 2 Peter 1:5-7
The very title of this post should give even the most tenuous confessor of justification by faith alone reason to set up and take notice. Anytime we hear of anything coming alongside faith an internal red-flag goes up and all defenses say ignore what follows, lest it derail into notions of legalism. Immediately the Luther-like debate of Paul versus James comes to mind and we divorce ourselves from any responsibilities other than a one-time belief in Christ at the moment of our justification. That idea has become popular today, a sort of Lutheran revival of effortless Christian living. But that is not what James was saying and that is not what Peter is saying in the passage above. Let there be no mistake, justification is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, but the Christian life is one of effort, not passivity. Let us not be guilty of quoting Ephesians 2:8-9 and forgetful of verse 10 that follows, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Those twin truths need to be held together.
In 2 Peter, the Apostle begins his letter with the charge that believers (those who have obtained faith, vs. 1) ought to make their calling and election sure. The foundation for his exhortation comes in verses 3 and 4 when he states,
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” 2 Peter 1:3-4
In stating this, he ensures that his message to follow is grounded in the saving and justifying work of Christ who has granted divine power, via the Holy Spirit, and united believers with Himself such that they now are partakers of the divine nature and consequently have separated themselves from worldly corruption that comes by way of sinful desires. It is because of that he exhorts believers to supplement their faith with:
- Brotherly affection
With this encouragement in mind, we should not shrink back from good works, but instead should push forward and desire high moral standards, a desire to grow in our knowledge of God, fight for self-control in battling the desires of the flesh, determined and resolute to stay the course of faithfulness, with a character defined by godliness in loving the things that God loves and hating the things that God hates, evidencing itself in love towards fellow believers and love toward others. If we make these our duty, not in the hopes to add to our salvation, but working from the basis of our salvation then Peter says, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:8
Have you wondered why you may be unfruitful or ineffective in your Christian walk? Like a weightlifter with muscle atrophy it becomes all the more necessary to take the necessary supplements to ensure proper strength and growth. In doing so, we will find ourselves growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18), fruitful and effective in all that He calls us to do.