Rev. VanOverloop is pastor of Byron Center Protestant Reformed Church in Byron Center, Michigan.
“Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
These young Christians needed to be steadfast (II Peter 3:17), that is, established in the truth. They were troubled by false teachers and scoffers. God’s promise concerning Christ’s return was being fiercely challenged. As a result they were wondering whether God’s promise of Christ’s return was ever going to be kept. This shook their faith and their salvation to the core, so that they were beginning even to wonder if they were elect.
In this light we can see why Peter began by assuring them that they possess the very same “precious faith” that he and the other apostles have (1). Then he reminds them that nothing less than God’s power has given them all that they need for life and godliness (3). Also the knowledge of God’s great and precious promises ought to assure them not only that they have “escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust,” but also that they have been made “partakers of the divine nature” (4).
There are two ways they can be assured, and thus established and steadfast. First, by remembering the truth of Scripture that they had been taught (II Peter 1:12-15, 3:2, 3:16, 17). And second, by living their faith and even growing in it by fulfilling the calling that arises from this faith. This they are to do with diligence—make haste. The false teachers are fierce and persistent. So they are to “give diligence” (10), even “all diligence” (5).
That about which Peter wants them to be diligent is the activity of making sure for themselves their calling and election. First, God elects. Before the foundation of the world God unchangeably purposed, out of mere grace, to choose a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom God eternally appointed to be the Mediator and Head of the elect. God decreed to give these elect to Christ to be saved by Him. As a part of the decree of election God determined effectually to call and draw them to His communion by His Word and Spirit, giving to them faith, justification, sanctification, preservation, and then glorification. This decree of election is a demonstration of His mercy and is for the praise of His glorious grace (cf. Canons I, 7).
During the course of the earthly life of the elect, God calls them, working in them true conversion. He causes the gospel to be externally preached to them, and He, by His Spirit, powerfully enlightens their minds, so they can rightly understand the things of the Spirit, and He infuses new qualities into their will, activating it so they are able to do good works. By this irresistible call the elect sinners come to Jesus (cf. Canons III/IV, 11).
Both election and calling are gracious works of God on His people. The former, God does in eternity and the latter He does in the course of the lifetime of each elect. This means that God calls us to salvation because He has chosen us. One who is not elected will not be efficaciously called. Because election and calling are God’s work, they are forever firm and sure.
Our text speaks of a responsibility that arises out of these works of God in His people. As God calls those whom He has elected, so He continues to work graciously in them, so that normally they gain the assurance of their eternal and unchangeable election. Our text is looking at this assurance: make your calling and election sure. The specific language of the original text makes this even more obvious: “make sure for yourselves,” that is, make your calling and election sure before your own consciousness.
God does not want His adopted children to be unsure of His relationship to them and of their relationship to Him. No earthly parent wants his child to doubt this relationship. So also the heavenly Father delights to have His children secure in the knowledge of His relationship to them and of their relationship to Him. He wants us to know that He has called and chosen us, and that our salvation is sure and steadfast.
So Peter is not telling the saints to make secure God’s works. Rather he is urging them to make sure to themselves that God is working in them. God’s works are definite and sure, never indefinite and tentative. Divine election will never fail, and divine calling will never be revoked. But remember that these young Christians were being attacked by false teachers who challenged the apostles’ teachings. The devil loves to make us insecure about God’s relationship to us. While he is never able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, he is able to make us lose the assurance of His love.
How do we make our calling and election sure before our own consciousness? Not by inquisitively prying into the secret and deep things of God (cf. Deut. 29:29). But by diligently doing everything we can to grow in our faith so it bears the fruit of the seven graces listed in verses 5 and 6. We gain the assurance of our eternal and unchangeable election by observing in ourselves (with spiritual joy and holy pleasure) the infallible fruits of election pointed out in the Word of God—such as a true faith in Christ, childlike awe of God and of His works, godly sorrow for our sin, and a hungering and thirsting after righteousness (cf. Canons I, 12).
The apostle Peter admonishes these young Christians to be diligent about this duty. About this important matter they ought not procrastinate. They are to “give diligence”—make haste. It is extremely important. We must be constantly conscious of where the devil is attacking. That which he hates the most is the relationship God establishes with His own in Christ. While Satan cannot ever undo God’s work, he focuses great attention on destroying our consciousness of that relationship.
One of the reasons the devil hates for us to be sure of God’s relationship to us and of ours to Him is the wonderful, enriching fruits produced by the assurance and certainty of our calling and election.
The first fruit pointed out in our text is that “ye shall never fall.” This “fall” is a fall into doubt and fear under the influence of the false teachers. Because Satan is always striving to make God’s children lose the sense of their secure relationship with Him, their diligence to make their calling and election sure to themselves also assures them for the future. God will surely bring them into His kingdom. We are to have no worries or fear. God will supply our every need. Jesus will return soon. He will bring us safely home.
The second and related fruit is that they would “be established in the present truth” (12). Then their “knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” would not be “barren nor unfruitful” (8). The believer’s sense of security is based only on his keeping conscious knowledge of Jesus Christ, who is his Lord. It is when we focus on ourselves and the circumstances of our life that we fall into doubt and fear. But when we remember who is Lord and that He is our Lord, then we are established and steadfast. In God’s love abiding we have joy and peace.
The assurance of our calling and election is the certainty of our hope. We will have an entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior. We need not fear that if we miss the return of Jesus then we will not be able to partake of His kingdom—something the Thessalonians also mistakenly feared. The kingdom of Christ is ours whether we are alive when Jesus returns or whether we will have died before He returns. We will be welcomed into His kingdom in either case. Of that we need not doubt.
The sense and certainty of our election and calling afford the child of God four things. First, additional reason for daily humility before God. Second, reason to adore the depth of God’s mercies. Third, reason to cleanse ourselves. And fourth, reason to render grateful returns of ardent love to Him who first manifested so great love toward us (cf. Canons I, 13). Remember these truths (12-15). Remember them, and thus be established in them. Then you will not be easily shaken. Be diligent to make your calling and election sure to yourself! The winds blown by the false teachers and scoffers may howl around you, but your faith will be steadfast, built on the solid rock of Jesus, the Savior and Lord.