April is L-Plate month, where I’ve turned over this website to my students. They are studying an introductory preaching subject this semester, and writing for this website is part of their assessment, as well as a learning exercise for them. I’m hoping you’ll interact with them a bit via the comments function at the bottom of each post, offering some feedback. (Particularly, feedback that’s constructive or affirming – they’ve got me to deliver the negative stuff! Remember, some of them will never have preached before, and some have English as their second language.) They will then incorporate this feedback in a sermon they present in class at the end of semester.
Over the next three weeks (including weekends – it’s a large class!) they’ll be taking us through the letters of 1 and 2 Peter, and Jude. We begin today with 2 Peter.
2 Peter 1:1-11 | Dan Waugh
I’m not sure if it is the long confusing sentences, the deep theological content or simply the lack of stories that causes me to read many New Testament passages three times and still have no clue as to what it is saying. What I do know is that the hours I must spend reading, pondering and researching are always worth it. Nestled within each passage is a diamond waiting to be found. Hopefully the next few minutes we spend exploring this passage together will be just as valuable for you.1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: 2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 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. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. 10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
As we are complete strangers, I feel it is only right that I tell you something about myself before we get into our passage. I want to tell you how I spent my childhood. From grades 5 through 8 I played a medieval fighting computer game called Runescape. Or rather, I lived a computer game called Runescape. I ate, I studied and I brushed my teeth while playing Runescape.
My best mate and I made the decision to try and make enough money in the game to buy the best set of armour. This armour was so good that we happily gave away a whole week together to try and get it. All day, every day we played the game; often taking shifts playing through the night while the other slept. I had so much hope that having this armour would be the greatest thing ever that I would do anything to get it. It is safe to say that it is one week of my life that I desperately wish I could have back.
As a Christian I have realised that there are far better things to put my hope in, better things to be working for. One such thing, is the welcome into Christ’s eternal kingdom, mentioned in 2 Peter 1:11.
The chance of being a part of God’s kingdom, or heaven, is the greatest hope possible. And as our greatest hope, it should also be the greatest determinant of our actions.
The majority of our passage is looking at exactly this. In verses 5-7 we have Peter giving a list of virtues that we should be striving towards.5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.
They are presented almost like they are a journey which starts with faith, and results in love. It is exactly the sort of journey that we all must find ourselves on. Lists such as these were a common rhetorical technique of the time and it is easy to see why, however, an over-emphasis should not be placed on their order.
The challenge comes in verse 10 when Peter says that to enter Christ’s kingdom, one must “confirm your calling and election” through these virtues. It seems he stresses the importance of doing these things far beyond merely acting nicely, almost like they are necessary for salvation.
Here he is holding in unity what people often feel is paradoxical. He is saying that while election is God’s initiative, our actions are proof or disproof of it.
In other words, the outcome of knowing and remembering the way we have been forgiven is our working towards these virtues. And since our forgiveness is the basis on which we enter his kingdom, how vital is it that we strive for these virtues! To further the point, Peter says that to not do these things would suggest we haven’t remembered and are blind to Christ’s actions (v9).
Not long ago my father entered a Supersprint car day on Eastern Creek Raceway. For a month beforehand he was full of hopeful anticipation. He talked about it to everyone, he watched Youtube videos for advice, he cleaned his car and he prepared it to meet the millions of safety regulations required for the drive (such as battery stickers and fire extinguishers, front and back tow hooks, increased tyre pressures etc.). His hope (excitement) determined his actions. Conversely, if he had remained silent about it, not watched driving videos or prepared his car for the race, the logical conclusion anyone would have made is that either he had forgotten about the race, or he didn’t find the prospect of it exciting.
Entering Christ’s kingdom is anything but boring, so if we truly remember, then our actions are sure to be impacted. Our faith should lead us on a journey to being people that act out of love. Peter lists here just some of virtues we are to work towards as we confirm our election.
But the diamond of this passage is still to come!
While it is true that we are called to confirm our election with our virtues, to allow our hope to determine our actions, it is God himself who enable us to do so in the first place! Verses 3 and 4 speak of how it is God’s “divine power” and “precious promises” that allow us to live “godly lives” or to “participate in the divine nature”.
Our God is much more than a watchmaker who wound up the Earth and left it to tick through time alone, he doesn’t just give us a list of ways to act and leave us to it, rewarding the successful ones and punishing those who fail. If it did we would all be in the failure category. Instead, he actively works with us to be bringing about these changes in character. Through his sacrifice he gives us the chance to live virtuous lives, for our faith to produce love.
Like a baby who is only able to walk because their parent is holding up most of their weight, so does God hold us up. It wouldn’t make sense for us to drag our feet along the ground while we have the chance to walk like he walked. So with the passion appropriate to the greatness of the possible reward we must be striving to improve, to be godly men and women of virtue, to love as Christ has loved us. We must strive to add to our faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.
Trust me when I say that living the Godly life God enables us to live is worth living, worth more fame, money, power or even Runescape armour. God’s holding you up, it is time to start walking.
My Grandfather once found a child’s ring, with a big glass ‘diamond’, inside an old washing machine he was fixing. My mother was still young and he gave it to her to wear. Years later someone looked at it suspiciously and it was realised the rock on the top was a real diamond. Too late to remember who’s washing machine it was, my mother kept it. The ring had slipped through its previous owner’s fingers.
I pray that God won’t let this diamond slip between your fingers.