Our Men’s Society (Hudsonville PRC) is presently discussing II Peter. We ran into disagreement on verse 9 of chapter 1. The question revolved around whether “he that lacketh these things” could be considered a chosen child of God.
Those who said he was not a child of God appealed to the rule that Scripture interprets Scripture.They used the book of James, where James stresses that where there is no evidence of good works it must be concluded that there is no faith. Therefore “he that lacketh … virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity” does not have good works and, therefore, does not have faith.
Those who claim he is a child of God appealed to the fact “that he was purged from his old sins.” Those who are purged (washed) are always children of God, or else we must say there is a falling away of the saints. This child of God who is no doubt walking in the deep ways of sin nevertheless will in due time hear and heed the admonitions in the verses that follow.
In verse 9 of II Peter 1 the inspired apostle is describing an ungodly, carnal member of the church. This man cannot have been a child of God. This interpretation of the text is based on the following reasons:
1. Note that in the preceding verses the apostle addresses the people of God, “them that have obtained like precious faith with us” (v. 1), “you, ye, your” (vv. 2, 4, 5, 8), “us” (vv. 3, 4). But in verse 9 the apostle describes “he that lacketh these things.” In the Greek the text reads, “But to the one to whom these things are not….” In verse 10 the apostle again addresses the people of God, calling them “brethren.”
2. The man described in verse 9 “lacketh these things.” “These things” are the Christian virtues mentioned in verses 5 – 8, viz., faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity (love). While it is certainly true that one child of God may have a greater measure of these Christian virtues than another, no Christian lacks them. One cannot be a child of God if he lacks God’s love or if he lacks faith. All of God’s children have these gifts, though in differing measure.
3. The man described in verse 9 is said to be “blind” and one who “cannot see afar off.” He is blind in the sense that he cannot see afar off. The things afar off are the heavenly things of God’s kingdom in Jesus Christ. The things which are near are carnal, earthly, or worldly things. Those things this man can see and only those things. The child of God has the faith enabling him to see the things afar off.
This leaves the question, what does the text mean when it says that this man “hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins”? It cannot mean that once this man was cleansed from his old sins by the blood of Jesus, but now he is no longer cleansed. Once cleansed always cleansed. This is the biblical truth of the preservation and perseverance of the saints. The meaning is that this man was cleansed but only in the outward sense of the word. He was born of believers, baptized, brought up in the fear of the Lord and in the church. He made confession of his faith. To all appearances he was a child of God. He masqueraded as a child of God. He was a hypocrite. In reality he never was a child of God. He was “barren and unfruitful” (v. 8). All the preaching and teaching of the church, his participation in the sacraments, all this is to such a hypocrite a “savor of death unto death” (cf. II Cor. 2:14-17).
— Editorial Committee