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II Peter 1:1-21 – Make Your Calling and Election Sure! – Pastor Joshua Stevens

The Wednesday evening youth Bible study from December 2, 2020, by Pastor Joshua Stevens.

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As we enter into this season that we call Advent, celebrating the first coming of our Lord Jesus Christ at his birth, we are reminded as Christians that we are now looking for the Second Advent of Christ with eager expectation. At his first coming, the Lord accomplished our salvation by living a perfectly sinless life, and by dying a vicarious, atoning death on the cross in our place. Dramatically demonstrating that sin and death had now been defeated, he arose triumphantly from the grave, he ascended into heaven, and he sat down–for his saving work was now accomplished. Yet from the right hand of God, he sent the Holy Spirit to dwell with us and in us, in order to empower the church to evangelize and disciple the whole world, before he finally comes again at the last judgment. For at his Second Coming, all the dead will be raised, and the Lord will bring to an end the death and suffering that has long plagued his creation. At this last judgment, unrepentant sinners will be eternally condemned, and believers will be eternally vindicated and enter into eternal joy. Heaven and earth will be made new.

As we celebrate Jesus’ First Advent, let us also celebrate his Second Advent by making sure that we are prepared to meet him on that day.

How do we do this?

The Apostle Peter teaches us in his Second Epistle.

Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside 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. 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 Saviour Jesus Christ. Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance. For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. II Peter 1

The Apostle Peter was martyred by crucifixion under the reign of Nero Caesar in the mid-60s AD. This Epistle was his final address to the church, written shortly beforehand. Yet the primary issue Peter addressed was not suffering and persecution (which he addressed in his first letter), but rather, the false teachers who were creeping into the church unnoticed and leading God’s people astray. Peter knew that the church’s trials under Nero were temporary. So, with his final breaths, Peter chose to address an issue which was more threatening and deadly to the church long-term–the threat of false teachers corrupting the gospel after the Apostles’ deaths.

At three chapters, this letter is short and to-the-point with a singular focus: how we are to live and contend for the gospel in this present age between the two Advents of Christ. First, in chapter 1, Peter demonstrates how we are to make our calling and election sure in the prospect of God’s coming kingdom. We are to take heed to God’s sure word, which serves as our lantern in a dark place as we anticipate the dawning of the great day. In chapter 2, Peter warns us of false teachers who infiltrate the church stealthily, in order to twist God’s word and corrupt the gospel for personal earthly gain. We are neither to follow them, nor to give ear to their teachings, lest we share in their destruction. Finally, in chapter 3, Peter warns of those who mock the final judgment, demonstrating the certainty and unexpected arrival of that day. We as Christians are to live in righteousness and holiness–citizens of that coming kingdom–as the day of the Lord hastily approaches.

The Supreme Value of the Gospel

The greatest threat to the church is not persecution or trials. Those tend to have a sanctifying and purifying effect upon the church. Instead, the greatest threat is the corruption and denial of apostolic doctrine–of the apostolic gospel. For this reason, Peter opens his letter by reminding us of the supreme value of the gospel. For the Christian, the gospel is everything. The gospel is worth dying for. Peter died for the gospel.

Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God Savior Jesus Christ: II Peter 1:1 (NKJV)

Peter begins this letter by describing the the preciousness of our faith. It is more precious than gold that perishes. But of course, faith has no value without a supremely valuable object. Our God and Savior Jesus Christ is that Object. We have obtained our precious faith through his righteousness. We did not obtain our salvation by our own works or by our own righteousness, but by the righteousness of Christ given to us as a gift.

Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. II Peter 1:2-4

God’s multiplied grace and peace are available to us through the knowledge of him. This word knowledge denotes a personal relationship. It’s not merely knowing of or knowing facts about God. It’s knowing God. We come to know the true God by putting our faith in Jesus. This multiplied grace and peace from God enables us to live the way we ought to live as we anticipate the Lord’s return. His divine power has given us all things pertaining to life and godliness. Godliness simply describes a life fully devoted to God–the God who called us to glory and virtue. In plain terms, we are to live a God-centered life. Our lives are to be lived in service and worship to the God who has redeemed us. We are to stand apart as God’s people in this world. We are to excel in morality and character. And again, God has, by his divine power, granted us all that we need to do this, simply through the knowledge of him.

Interestingly, Peter identifies the channel of this of divine power as God’s exceeding great and precious promises. In other words, the promises of God that we believe–the gospel promises–are what make us partakers of his divine nature and enable us to escape the corruptions of this world. If we believe and lay hold upon these exceeding great and precious promises by faith, we become partakers of divine nature. In other words, we become God’s children. We become like him. And because of this, we are supplied an escape from the corruptions of this world. We don’t have to live like the world, because we are no longer like the world. Instead, we are God-like.

This is why the gospel is supremely valuable. This is why it is worth protecting at all costs. It’s worth dying for, because it’s our only hope to escape the corruptions of the world–to escape the judgment of God. We cannot hope to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and clean up our own lives apart from the gospel. We first lay hold upon the gospel by faith, and God subsequently cleans up our lives. Any departure from this sublime truth is a perversion of the gospel. Sadly, many were perverting the gospel at the twilight of the apostolic era, as many yet pervert the gospel today. It is incumbent upon every man to make sure that he is not deceived. To that end, Peter charges us to make our calling and election sure.

We Must Make our Calling and Election Sure!

“And beside 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. 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 Saviour Jesus Christ.” II Peter 1:5-11

In verse 10, Peter charges us to make our calling and election sure. Our calling and election refers to God’s act of calling us to himself and choosing us to be his. It refers to our salvation–our status as Christians. Christians are those who are called out from among the world. In fact, the Greek word for church literally means “a called-out assembly.” Christians are also the elect of God. The word elect means that we are God’s chosen. Jesus makes it clear to his disciples in John 15:16, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” Now both of these actions–the calling and the election–are acts of God. We do not call ourselves. God does that. We do not choose ourselves. God does that. However, Peter charges us to make our calling and election sure. Our responsibility is to make sure that we are among the called and the elect, and we are to do so with diligence–with speed. In other words, we are to make it a top priority.

The word picture that’s painted in the Greek word translated sure, is the idea of having many feet. Think of a table with many legs. The more legs a table has, the less likely it is to wobble or to topple over. That’s why Peter says that if we do these things–if we make our calling and election sure–we shall never fall. If you do these things, the devil won’t be able to knock you flat on your back, and keep you from living a fruitful life for the Lord.

So how do we do this?

The Pilgrim’s Progress

Twice in this passage Peter tells us to “give all diligence”–once in verse 5, and again in verse 10. So he begins to tell us what to do in verse 5, and then reiterates his meaning in verse 10. In verse 5, we are to give all diligence to add to our faith this list of seven moral qualities. And again, in verse 10, we are to give all diligence to make our calling and election sure. So, what Peter is saying is that if you add to your faith these things, you will thereby make your calling and election sure. That doesn’t mean that by doing these things, we obtain our calling and election, but rather that by doing these things we give ourselves a firm stability and assurance of our salvation. In other words, adding these qualities is like adding more and more legs to your table. It is by faith alone that we are saved. Again, we don’t become the called and elect by adding to our faith these things. Yet we must add to our faith. There is more to living the Christian life than just being saved. It’s possible to be a legitimate born-again Christian, and yet to fall into grievous sins and live a defeated Christian life. That’s where the devil wants you to be if you are a Christian. Such a Christian cannot be effective in his service to the Lord. Peter tells us in verse 9 that he who lacks these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and forgot that he was purged from his old sins. In other words, you will have spiritual myopia. You won’t be able to see things clearly in the spiritual realm. You’ll even forget that you were saved to begin with, and have great doubts.

So, what Peter is charging us to do is to move forward. We are to grow and mature in the Christian life. If you aren’t moving forward, you will be moving backward. If you aren’t progressing and growing spiritually, then you will be backsliding or turning aside from the right path. If you aren’t adding to your faith, then you will be sliding back into your old sins. If you’re the type of Christian who says, “Well, I’m saved and I’m satisfied with that. I don’t really need to go to church or to read my Bible, or anything else. I’m good.” Then you are going to be a very weak and wobbly Christian. You will be spiritually nearsighted and anemic. The devil will be able to knock you flat on your back very easily. You won’t be able to stand in the evil day, as Paul tells us to do in Ephesians 6. That’s not where you want to be.

So, we are to make haste in adding to our faith these seven qualities. For in doing so, Peter says in verse 10, we will make our calling and election sure. We will be spiritually strong and stable. The idea here is not unlike putting on the whole armor of God in Ephesians 6. We must add to our faith these things, so that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil–so we won’t fall for his tricks. In the larger context of II Peter, we must do this so that we won’t fall for false teachings.

Add to Your Faith

First, we are to add to our faith virtue. The word virtue simple means valor or excellence. It refers to having a moral strength or fortitude. A virtuous person is one who is not easily tempted to sin, or easily turned aside from following the Lord. If you’re the type of person who very easily and quickly falls into sin, then you are lacking in virtue. You lack moral strength and fortitude. So if you want to make progress in the Christian life, this is one of the first and foremost things you want to work on. Add to your faith virtue.

Second, he says to add to your virtue knowledge. This is a slightly different word in Greek than what Peter used earlier speaking of the knowledge of God. This knowledge is referring to knowledge about God. Of course, you want to make sure that you know God, first and foremost. But God does want us to grow in our knowledge of him. He doesn’t want us to be ignorant. This is why it’s important as Christians to go to church, and to read the Bible. These are the primary means through which we grow in our knowledge of God.

Third, we are to add to our knowledge temperance. Temperance simply means self-control. It means that you are disciplined in your life, and you don’t just give in to every urge or desire of the flesh. This word is normally used in reference to alcoholic drink, but it has a wide variety of applications. In short, it means that you aren’t out of control in indulging in the desires of your flesh, but you live a self-disciplined life.

Fourth, he says to add to temperance patience. This has the idea of enduring hardships with hope and perseverance. This is the kind of patience that Christians are to have as they face the trials and tribulations of this life, without losing their devotion to God in the process. But in order to have this kind of patience, you must fix your heart upon the promises of God. God has promised to take care of us. He has promised never to leave nor forsake us. He has promised us a bright future. Our faith in God’s promises fuels our patience in trials.

Fifth, to patience we are to add godliness. As I said before, this word godliness refers to our devotion to God. A godly person is one who is fully devoted to God and to doing what pleases him. If you have some other priority in life than doing what pleases the Lord, then you can’t accurately be called a godly person.

Sixth, to godliness we are to add brotherly kindness. This describes kindness that Christians are to show one another as brothers. It’s a kindness and love that is even stronger even than family ties. Even brothers, though they often quarrel and fight with one another, usually have one another’s backs when facing a common enemy–because they’re brothers. Yet Christian brotherly love requires that we neither quarrel nor fight with one another, and always have one another’s backs no matter what.

Finally, to brotherly kindness, we are to add charity. This is the Greek word agape, often translated as love. This is the love that is described in great detail in 1 Corinthians 13. This is the greatest Christian quality of all. If you don’t have this one then you truly have nothing. This is a love that seeks the highest good of its object. This is a love that we are to have to one another.

If we want to progress in the Christian life–if we want to make our calling and election sure–then these are seven qualities that we need to strive towards as believers. In verse 8, Peter tells us that if these things be in you, and abound, you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, if you have these qualities and are ever increasing in these qualities, then you will be like a fruitful tree for the Lord. You will bear much fruit in his service. God will use you for his glory in great ways. But if you lack these things, you are blind and myopic. God won’t be able to use you very much. In fact, you may become a stumbling-block and a hindrance for others. But the end result of a fruitful Christian life is seen in verse 11:

“For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” II Peter 1:8-11

In other words, you’ll cross the finish line strong and at full speed. You won’t be crawling or limping to the finish line. Again, Peter is not teaching that you need these qualities in order to make it into heaven. All you need is faith in Christ. Yet if you have all these qualities, then your journey towards heaven will be abundant and rich. You won’t just make it in by the skin of your teeth. So, if our finish line in this race is heaven, then why would we do anything to hinder our race? Why would you want to finish in last place? In 1 Corinthians 9:24, Paul tells us to run the race of the Christian life with the intent to win–to outrun everyone else and to be the one who breaks the tape at the finish line. We must give all diligence–give all speed to make our calling and election sure, by adding to our faith these things.

But there is an important factor in all of this that we don’t need to miss; and this is where Peter takes us in the latter half of chapter 1:

We Must Take Heed to God’s Sure Word!

In the second part of chapter 1, Peter demonstrates the vital importance of God’s word in the life of a Christian. After the apostles all died, they would no longer be there to guide and protect the church. All the church would have from that point on was the Scriptures. What Peter demonstrates is that the Scriptures are enough. The Bible is the source of all our comfort, and our defense against all error. In verse 19, in reference to the Scripture, Peter says that we have a more sure word of prophecy. Again, that word sure is the same word in Greek that has the idea of having many legs. In other words, the Bible cannot be toppled. As the 1689 Baptist Confession says, “The Holy Scriptures are the only sufficient, certain, and infallible standard of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.” Everything that we need to know in order to be saved, and everything that we need to know in order to make our calling and election sure, is found in the Bible. Notice what Peter says in verses 12-15:

Peter Died for His Testimony of Jesus

Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance. II Peter 1:12-15

When Peter speaks of putting off his tabernacle, that’s a figure of speech referring to his approaching death. He’s referring to his body as a tent or a tabernacle, a temporary dwelling place that he is about to take down and move into a more permanent home in heaven. His reference to Jesus showing him this, probably refers to what Jesus told him in John 21, that he would one day seal his testimony in his blood. Peter is likely writing this letter from prison, as he awaits his execution. This is his last word to the church. And Peter sealed his testimony of Jesus in his blood as a martyr. So, he endeavored to make sure that the church always had his testimony in writing. One of the reasons why this testimony is sure and certain, is because it is sealed in the blood of martyrs. These men died for what they wrote. With the exception of John, all the apostles died in gruesome ways because of their witness of Jesus. They wouldn’t have died for something they knew was a lie.

Peter Was an Eyewitness of Jesus’ Glory

“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.” II Peter 1:16-18

Here Peter recounts his experience with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration. If you’ll recall this event from the Gospels, Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John up into the mountain. Not all of the Apostles got to see this event; but three men saw it, and the testimony of three witnesses is true (Deuteronomy 19:15). Peter says that they have not followed cunningly devised fables when they made known unto us the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, everything that the Apostles told us about Jesus’ First Advent is true and certain. Consequently, we can be absolutely sure that everything they’ve told us about Jesus’ future Second Advent is just as true and certain.

The gospel is not a cunningly devised fable. The Apostles did not conspire to make up this myth of Jesus Christ and his resurrection, in some nefarious plot to deceive the masses. I’ve heard some people call the Bible a book of fairy tales. But Peter begs to differ. Peter says, “I saw his glory and majesty.” “I saw his dead body, and I saw him alive three days later.” The Apostles wouldn’t have gone to their deaths joyfully witnessing of the resurrection of Christ, if they were preaching a myth or a fable. Peter recounts specifically the transfiguration event–an event that no doubt had a profound and lasting impact on him. Up on that mountain, they saw the curtain of Jesus’ humanity pulled back, and they saw him in his eternal God form. Not only did they see this, they saw the glory of God the Father in a bright cloud, and heard his voice owning Jesus as his beloved Son.

The Bible is sure because it’s based on eyewitness testimony. This particular event was seen by three people, who corroborate one another’s testimony. Yet if that’s not enough to convince you, thousands of people saw the miracles of Jesus. Hundreds of people saw him after his resurrection. If in our own legal system, the verdict of twelve people sitting on a jury decides the fate of someone on trial, why wouldn’t the testimony of the Twelve Apostles be trustworthy? What about the testimony of more than five-hundred people (1 Corinthians 15:6)? Stubborn and blind skepticism concerning the truth of the Gospel, is just that–stubborn and blind.

The Scriptures are God’s Words, not Men’s Private Interpretations

We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. II Peter 1:19-21

This is truly a remarkable statement. At the time of writing, Peter was yet alive to tell people that he saw the glory of Jesus and heard the voice of God upon the mountain; and yet he tells us that the written word of God is a more sure word of prophecy. The testimony of men speaking to you face-to-face may be subject to error, but the written word of God is sure. It’s infallible. Peter further explains why in verses 20 and 21: that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. In other words, the content of prophetic Scripture is not the private findings or personal opinions of men. The Bible is not a record of men telling us what they think God is like. Moreover, men did not decide to write the Scriptures. The Scriptures did not come about by the will of men. No. Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. This word moved has the idea of being carried by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who moved them to speak and to write. Therefore the written Scriptures are not the mere words of men, but they are the words of God.

Therefore we must take heed to them. We must believe, adhere to, and obey God’s word.

Peter here compares the Scripture to a light shining in a dark place. In Psalm 119:105, the Psalmist confesses to God, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” In other words, the Bible is the only source of light in this dark world. Spiritually speaking, the world in which we live is as black as midnight with no available light source. If you are looking for spiritual insight from the world, then you are a blind person being lead by the blind. But in this dark world, the Bible is a bright lantern–a blazing torch that shines. Peter tells us that the dawn is coming, which figuratively refers to the return of Christ–his Second Advent. But the day star, or the morning star, precedes the dawn. In Revelation 22:16, Jesus says, “I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.” In other words, Jesus’ in his First Advent, in which he came and lived among us, and died for our sins, and rose from the grave–he is the Morning Star that precedes the dawn. What Jesus accomplished in his First Advent set the stage for the dawning of the great day, in which he will return and resurrect the dead and renew the creation.

But in order for us to be prepared to meet him at his second Advent, the day star must first arise in our hearts. We must take heed to the word and believe the Gospel. And not only that, we must add to our faith. We cannot stagnate in our Christian life. We must grow and progress in virtue, and knowledge, and temperance, and patience, and godliness, and brotherly kindness, and charity. This is Peter’s last message to the church before his death. This is how you prepare for the Second Advent. Make your calling and election sure. Take heed to God’s sure word as a bright beacon in a dark world.