On Sabbath we began a new series on 2 Peter called, “Stronger.” In tone, warning, admonition, and style, this second letter is stronger than his first. The timing of this letter is around A.D. 67, three years after 1 Peter was written, possibly from Rome. Peter urges stronger spiritual growth in chapter one; stronger rejection of falsehoods in chapter two; and stronger perseverance in the hope of Christ’s second coming in chapter three.
He writes to warn the church to be stronger against the twin internal dangers of complacency and deception. Peter wants those who will continue after his death to be reminded of the things that will make their calling and election sure (1:10-15). Thus, Peter shows how stronger virtue, stronger truth, and stronger hope are needed to overcome lies and laziness.
Rewind to 2 Peter 1:4. Through the precious promises of God, we are called to “participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” A Christianity that goes beyond forgiveness to partnership in God’s character is a stronger calling. It’s clear from what follows in vs. 5-7 that it is the moral/ethical attributes of God that we are called to partake of. The moral nature is a gift from God that must be developed.
Too often we want to participate in the corruption in the world and escape the divine nature. To participate in the divine nature and escape the moral corruption in the world is our stronger calling.
Peter then admonishes his readers to “make every effort.” There is something for Christians to do. Our stronger calling is to cooperate with God in developing His moral attributes. There are eight of these attributes or “virtues” that will strengthen our spiritual growth. They are better known as “Peter’s ladder.” The virtues are:
- Faith is mentioned first and is the foundation of the Christian life (Hebrews 11:6).
- Goodness (Virtue). The word means “manliness” or “Valor.” “Boldness or determination in facing great danger, esp. in battle; heroic courage; bravery. Mental toughness under pressure; fearlessness.” The word also means to be morally excellent–conformity of one’s life and conduct to moral and ethical principles. Your behavior and message match.
- Not mere intellectual knowledge, but a practical understanding of God’s ways and plans for your life.
- Self-control. Oh how this is lacking today! Describing the last days, Paul said that people would be “without self-control” (2 Tim. 3:3). We are stronger when we realize that the only way to self-control is God-control.
- This is cheerful (or hopeful) endurance. Read Hebrews 10:32-39. The ability to stand your ground and wait joyfully for God’s deliverance makes you stronger.
- Patience and Godliness go hand in hand. We see the godliness of Jesus on display during His trial when He refused to deviate from His Father’s will no matter what.
- Brotherly Kindness. This is love of fellow believers. (See 1 John 3:14, 16.) It’s ironic that Jesus said that the world would know we belong to Him by our love, when instead, Christians are more often known by their hate. “Let Christians not make it possible for the enemy to point to them and say, Behold how these people, standing under the banner of Christ, hate one another.” (AA, 550) Our high calling is to love each other.
- Unconditional (agape) love. Paul says, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:13). It is not a casual love, not a non-invested love. It is the principle of love not the emotion. This is about what love does not how it feels.
This is not casual Christianity, and Peter says “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.” (1:8) Who are ineffective and unproductive? [vs. 9] The “nearsighted and blind”—those who are wasting His grace, and having the form of godliness while denying its power. The power of godliness is the character of God! And the form of godliness is the character of man. It’s a false gospel and it’s taking the Christian world by storm! But we are called to something higher.
Rewind to verses 10-11. Your calling and election are clear—to be like Jesus (embrace virtue) and avoid sin (escape corruption) (vs. 4). You can’t do one without the other. Making every effort to grow in Christ will prevent you from falling away from Christ. This is no time for a casual form of godliness without the power. The time is now to be STRONGER.–Pastor Randy