And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
II Peter 1:5-9
The gift that God has given us in Christ Jesus is absolutely astounding. Superlatives cannot even express the nature of the precious promises that are ours in Christ Jesus, by whom we have been taken into the very covenant life and fellowship of the living God Himself. Think of the wonder that everything that pertains to life and godliness God has given us.
The apostle points to the calling that is ours as our lives in God’s covenant come to expression in our earthly sojourn. The fact that we are partakers of God’s covenant life means that we have been made alive. And those who are alive are active. Spiritual life comes to expression.
The way the Holy Spirit has Peter present this is vital to a true understanding of the Christian life. What comes first? Peter does not point us to our calling until he first has emphasized what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. God must establish in us the life of Christ before you and I will display that life with the fruits that we bear by His Holy Spirit. And the knowledge that is essential to our conscious embrace of Christ and all His benefits is a knowledge that must also be seen as fruitful.
The knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ is neither barren nor unfruitful.
It is not uncommon to find a resistance to this calling— in the words of the inspired apostle—to add to your faith. But the Holy Spirit presses this calling upon us with emphasis: “giving all diligence.” Rather than resisting this word, we must humble ourselves before it and seek to understand and be faithful to what God Himself calls us to do.
We understand there is a common error in the Christian church, which would present the Christian as one who believes in Jesus and adds all kinds of good works to that belief, the result being that he is able to attain to what is required of him to go to heaven. That often underlies the common message that puts all the emphasis on what we must do, with the promise that, having done so, there will be a place for us in heaven someday.
But it is crucial to our understanding of the text to see that the gospel, in the first place, does not ask us to do anything. It first proclaims to us what God has done. That is the order in which the Holy Spirit has Peter address us in this opening chapter of his second epistle. That is crucial. The apostle began by pointing us to Christ and the wonder of God’s divine power by which He has given life. With that life He has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. So the perspective in this text is not, nor ever is it in the Bible, that we can clothe ourselves with what is necessary to stand in God’s presence. We may not subvert the logical order set forth here in this chapter. What we are confronted with here is the truth that the life of Christ in us must come to expression by the fruits of that life.
There are those who say, “Don’t tell us that something is required of us!” They might even attempt to justify themselves by saying, “Salvation is all of Christ; and therefore to speak of any effort required of us is to depart from the gospel of salvation by grace alone. That would call us to justify ourselves by works.” But the Bible makes clear, also in this text, that when God has entrusted us with the treasures of the gospel, when He has given us the life that alone is in Christ Jesus, then there is a diligence to which we are called and which we receive not only as our calling, but our privilege. Christ, by His Holy Spirit, calls us to holiness as a way of thankful, even joyful, Christian living. And He does so by appealing to our minds, to our reason and understanding. It directly ties Christian living with the knowledge of Him who has called us to glory and virtue. When you truly know Him, it necessarily and inevitably follows that you live a certain way.
When you have been made partaker of the divine nature, it is inevitable that your life will be marked by certain characteristics and activities. That is only reasonable. There is nothing so illogical and contradictory as one who calls himself a Christian not giving diligence to live a godly life. Because the power of the Christian life is the power of the indwelling Spirit of the exalted Christ.
So necessary is this fruitful knowledge, that verse 9 tells us, “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” There is nothing worse than spiritual blindness. That is to have no true spiritual understanding, no comprehension of the reality that surrounds us, no ability to see the end nor the way to that end that God has marked out for those to whom He has given spiritual sight. It is to live under the darkness of deception. To be blind is to be lost! Such a person cannot carry out the great calling of the Christian, cannot add to his faith virtue, and so on, because such a person has no faith.
But what does it mean that this person who is said to be blind “hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins?” It cannot mean that at one time he was in the faith, purged from sin, and thus made righteous in Christ, but that he was struck with blindness and therefore has fallen away. What the Scripture consistently sets forth cannot be contradicted with the truth of the certain preservation of the saints (John 17:12; John 10:27-28). If the one of whom Peter speaks lacked entirely the necessary fruits of spiritual knowledge, that barrenness demonstrated the sad reality that he had never been saved. Perhaps he had confessed that he had been purged from his sins. Perhaps for a time he even lived as if that were true. But that forgiveness had never been given him as a spiritual reality.
But there is something else that we must see here in light of the necessity of the knowledge of Christ being fruitful knowledge. If we are living in the blindness of self-deception, thinking that we can very well continue in our cherished sins, and claiming that “Christ’s blood will take care of me no matter how I live,” then we must be called to repentance. With urgency we must be called to repentance! Because we have forgotten that to be purged from our own sins is not merely to be forgiven, it is to be sanctified as well. To receive the life of Christ is to receive not just the legal verdict of righteousness, it is to be made a new creature, a partaker of His anointing, of His life.
The great calling it entails
There is a great calling that follows as a necessary consequence of true union with Christ. The great calling is summed up in the word add. “Add to your faith.” The idea of the word is to provide the supplies necessary, or to furnish. A man might build a beautiful house, for example, but that house is not made a home until it is furnished. What the text tells us, therefore, is that the life of faith is to be adorned or furnished.
Not only that, but in all the virtues that are mentioned, we also see that the furnishing that is to take place must be balanced and complete. To return to the illustration, that house is not going to be what it is intended to be if a man fills that house with bedding and neglects to put in the stove or to give his wife supplies for the kitchen. There is to be seen in the Christian life a completeness and a balance that is in harmony with the life of Christ that we reflect.
Look for a moment at the virtues that follow. If you have knowledge but not temperance, your life is not the balanced life that it must be. If you show patience but lack godliness, you defile the name that you claim and the faith that you profess. The great calling set before us here is to live a balanced and complete Christian life.
That is to come in the way of giving all diligence. This is an exhortation that we all need. It is all too easy for us to rest on our knowledge of what God has given us. But God’s work is not only what He has done for us in Christ Jesus. He continues that work in us by the Spirit of the exalted Christ. The diligence, therefore, to which we are called is a diligence in striving to live the full balance of the Christian life to the glory of our Redeemer (v. 3). This is not something to procrastinate over—not when we understand the cost of God having given unto us such exceeding great and precious promises! Not when we see the love of Him who bought us at such great price! Not when we see what He gave us in cleansing us from our old sins! Then the thankfulness of our hearts and the joy of God’s covenant fellowship will compel us to give all diligence to our great calling.
Our faith is to be furnished with seven things, a perfect list, complete in reflecting the glorious life of Christ which comes to expression in a true faith. Read and meditate upon this list!
The God-given incentive to such fruit-bearing
Verse 8 calls attention to the God-given incentive to such fruit-bearing. Not only would He see these fruits in us, but He would have them abound. He wants us to understand how important this is to us. This is the way in which ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
When you are diligent in applying yourself to your spiritual growth and in furnishing your faith according to the great calling God has given you, you are going to see the visible results in your own life. Yes, we have reason every day to confess our sorrow for not having served our heavenly Father with the diligence we ought. But to be those not barren, to be those fruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ is incentive to give diligence to these things. For to be fruitful is our desire, is it not?
When unto us have been given such exceeding great and precious promises, when unto us have been given all things that pertain to life and godliness, when we have been made partakers of the divine nature—yes, it is reasonable, even the necessary consequence, that we desire to be fruitful to the praise and glory of our Redeemer.