Chuck Swindoll wrote a book entitled Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back. Sometimes the Christian life seems that way. But, even if that is the case, the believer is one step closer to what God desires. That is often the nature of Christian growth—one step at a time. There are many keys to spiritual maturity (Matthew 10:16; Luke 6:40; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:12-16; Colossians 1:27, 28).
One of those keys is perseverance. This word appears in our text today (v. 6). It literally means “to remain under.” It also encompasses endurance, not giving in, or making no surrender. Sometimes we speak of the “patience of Job.” He actually might not have been very patient as he wanted to argue his case before God. He was longsuffering. Perseverance relates to circumstances while longsuffering (patience) relates to people. No matter which we use, growth in Christ does not happen without perseverance.
Growth Stems from Divine Nature
2 Peter 1:3, 4
We assume that Peter wrote this general epistle to the same believers as mentioned in 1 Peter (1:1). He referred to the letter as his second one (2 Peter 3:1). The suffering and persecution elements are not as pronounced in this second letter as they were in the first. However, false teaching had run rampant and scoffing was strong (2:1; 3:3). These believers needed reassurance of their calling and they needed to be challenged to persevere through growth.
But this growth is not something Christians engender on their own. It comes from the divine power and promises of God. Any participation in the divine nature did not have its genesis in humankind. Peter reminded these elect exiles that God’s power has given (just like Pilate gave Joseph of Arimathea the corpse of Jesus in Mark 15:45) followers everything they needed for a godly (well directed; reverent) life. This godly life was found in the knowledge of Jesus. Growth in this knowledge of Jesus is at the heart of why this epistle was written (3:18). Through the knowledge of Jesus believers experience the precious promises of God so that they can participate (have a common mind) in the divine nature (physics). The scholars refer to this kind of thing as theosis (not the deification of humankind but becoming like God). This divine nature helps believers escape (flee) the corruption (spoiling or destruction) in the world caused by evil desires (passions).
Growth Continues with Human Effort
2 Peter 1:5-9
The opposite of faith is non-faith—not actions in conjunction with faith. So the call in this paragraph is to make every effort (mentioned also in verse 10 and meaning “to give all diligence”) for growth. There are some things that believers are to add to their faith. The word “add” is an important one. Part of the word is where we get the English word choreography. It refers to what a teacher supplied to students and meant “to furnish abundantly.” Peter connected these seven virtues to faith to ensure Christian maturity. It is best not to second guess this list. The virtues do not have to progress or be clustered. It seems in this case, it is just a list of seven virtues. He listed goodness (what gives worth), knowledge, self-control (temperance and mentioned as fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22, 23), perseverance, godliness (piety and devoutness: the fourth century historian, Eusebius, actually bears the name of this virtue), mutual affection (philadelphia refers to love of family and friends), and love (agape—benevolent good will toward another).
When these seven virtues are dynamic and increasing in believers, they will ensure people are not being ineffective (idle or slothful) and unproductive. Verse 9 states what happens when these virtues are dormant. Spiritual blindness and spiritual amnesia set in. We end up with shut (blinked) eyes and cannot remember being cleansed from past sins. To not grow is to go backwards. Human effort is a necessary ingredient for perseverance.
Growth Results in Rich Welcome
2 Peter 1:10, 11
When Heaven and earth cooperate, good things happen (Philippians 2:12, 13). Peter appealed for the second time for the believers to make every effort to confirm (make firm) their calling and election. Christians do this by participating in the divine nature and working at it wholeheartedly.
Peter gave two results that can be expected when this is done. First, the believers will never stumble (fall in such a way as to forfeit their salvation). Second, the believers will receive a rich welcome (exodus) in the final kingdom. Much more than human effort is required to receive this rich welcome. That takes the grace of God, the blood of Jesus, and the help of the Holy Spirit. But the eternal kingdom is worth all the perseverance.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
Lesson study ©2018, Christian Standard Media. Lesson based on The Lookout’s Scope and Sequence ©2018. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.