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2 Peter 1:5-9; The Fruitful Life of Divine Effort

10/18 2 Peter 1:5-9 The Fruitful Life of Divine Effort

2Peter 1:1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

5 ¶ For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self–control, and self–control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


Peter is going to lay out for us a description of the fruitful Christian life, and the dangerous consequences of a fruitless life. But first, he’s taken great care to lay for us the theological foundation for our good works. Faith is a precious gift originating in the righteousness of God. Grace and peace are multiplied to us as gifts of divine favor. The omnipotent power of Jesus richly imparts to us everything we need for life and godliness. We have been called to enjoy his own glory and excellence. Very great and precious promises have been richly supplied to us. It is through promises, not effort, that we become participants in the divine nature and escape from the sinful desires that lead to moral decay.

For this very reason

Peter now goes on to draw the connection between the root of God’s unmerited grace and the fruit of our transformed lives. He is going to call on us to exert every effort. But this effort is not conjured up from the recesses of our own resourcefulness. This effort is ‘for this very reason’; because of this; our effort comes because we are the recipients of his very great and precious promises, recipients of his grace, recipients of faith, recipients of knowledge, recipients of the divine nature, recipients of everything we need. Because we have escaped from corruption, because we participate in the divine nature; because we have been given promises yet to be fulfilled, we must grow in these graces. It is essential that we see the connection between verses 5-7 and verses 1-4. We sin greatly if we hack down the tree from its theological root structure in the rich soil of divine grace and expect a dead tree to bear good fruit. The life that Peter describes is produced ‘for this very reason’.

Make every effort

Some have falsely taught that because God by his grace has done everything to secure for us our eternal salvation, we can stop swimming and drift with the currents of life and still reach the goal. Not so! Peter commands us to ‘make every effort’. ‘We cannot expect to escape the consequences due to sin unless we avoid sin and make moral progress using the spiritual resources that are available to every Christian through the knowledge of Christ’ [Baucham, p.184]. We are called to make every effort – our diligence must not be half-hearted or selective.

God created the bird with wings. He supplies the bird with life and wings and food and metabolism and energy and atmosphere and wind currents. But that bird must will to move its wings in order to lift off the ground and soar.

God created the eye. He gave us the optic nerve and the cerebral cortex and the capacity to translate patterns of light into visual perceptions of our surroundings. God gave us a visually stimulating world of shapes and textures and colors, mountain ranges and oceans and sunrises, but we must choose to open our eyes and enjoy it.

make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue

Faith is not the first virtue in the list. Faith is the starting point without which we have no Christian life. And we learned from verse 1 our faith is allotted to us by God. In verse 3 he said that we have been given everything we need for a godly life through the knowledge of him who called us, and that knowledge of Christ is received by faith. Trust in God is the root from which the Christian life grows. Those who rely on God begin to live life in a new way.

We are to take the faith that we have been given, and by God’s divine power we are to supplement it with virtue. Literally, the original reads something like ‘make abundant provision with all effort, bringing in alongside, ‘ The abundant provision is usually attributed to God as it is in verse 11. Here we are called to reflect the character of God in making great investments in moral virtue [G.Green, p.190]. We are called to great expense and effort in the pursuit of these graces. We must contribute what God rightly demands of us. But what we contribute is brought in alongside what God has already done, and is subordinate and dependent on it.

‘Virtue’ means excellence – the proper fulfillment of anything. The excellence of a knife is to cut; the excellence of a horse is to run; the excellence of a man is to reflect the attractive character of his Creator. [M.Green, p.67]. In verse 3, we have been called to his own glory and excellence’; that does not only mean that we are to admire his excellence. We are also called to display his glory and excellence in our own lives [G.Green, p.189];

Virtue does not merely refer to the inner character of the heart; virtue will be demonstrated socially in excellence of character, in generosity toward others, surpassing the normal constraints of what duty demands [Danker, cited G.Green, p.192];

And virtue with knowledge

This knowledge is not the theoretical knowledge of philosophers nor the esoteric knowledge of hidden mysteries; it is the personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ which results in salvation. This will contrast with the ignorance and irrationality of the heretics, whose error led to immorality (2:12, 3:16). The cure for false knowledge is not less knowledge but a knowledge characterized by moral insight. ‘Knowing right does not mean doing right, but knowing God results in righteous conduct’ [G.Green, p.193]

6 And knowledge with self-control

Self-control is the grace whereby passions and affections are held under the dominion of sanctified reason. This refers specifically to self-control in the consumption of food, in sexual desire, and in the use of the tongue. Self control is the grace, guided by knowledge, which disciplines desire to make it the servant instead of the master of life. [Barnett, in Hiebert, p.53]

The false teachers that Peter writes against were characterized by sensuality (2:2), inflamed by sinful desires (2:10), they never stop thinking of adultery (2:14), and are enslaved to corruption (2:19). Self-control was clearly not something they indulged in.

and self-control with steadfastness

Steadfastness is the ability to hold out or bear up in the face of difficulty. This is a military virtue – endurance in battle; but in this context it refers to moral endurance amid the pressures of temptation. The heretics were seeking to draw the church in to their error and immorality, This is the grace needed to stand firm in one’s commitment to Jesus over the long haul in the face of the enticements of the false teachers. Steadfastness is rooted in the believer’s trust in God and hope for fulfillment of God’s promises, in the knowledge of Christ and experience of his divine power. Peter warns that some who began in the way of the gospel had since abandoned it (2:2, 20-22)

and steadfastness with godliness

Godliness is a demonstration of due reverence and loyalty to God; an attitude of reverence that seeks to please God in all things. It is a practical awareness of God in all of life. Verse 3 told us that everything necessary for godliness has been provided to us by God’s grace.

7 and godliness with brotherly affection

Brotherly affection stresses solidarity and collaboration between siblings. Families share goods, bear one another’s burdens, and forgive shortcomings and failures. We have become siblings through the new birth;

1 Peter 1:22-23 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again,…

So this exclusive family love is now extended to the whole Christian family.

and brotherly affection with love

Love is the climax of all Christian virtue. Christian love finds its source and model in the love that God demonstrated to humanity, even in their hostility against him;

Matthew 5:43-45 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…

Romans 5:6-8 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person––though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–– 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

This kind of love has its origin not in the desirability of the object but in the character of the one who loves. God’s agape is evoked not by what we are but by what he is. It is not that we are loveable, but that he is love. This love is a deliberate desire for the highest good of the one loved, which shows itself in sacrificial action for that person’s good [M.Green, p.71]

8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We should have these graces evident in our lives. Virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. They should be there, and they should be abounding; increasing to a point of excess. The assumption is that they are ours and they are abounding in our lives.

A reason for desiring to pursue these qualities is preventative. They keep us from being ineffective or unfruitful. ‘Ineffective’ or ‘idle’ refers to those who are lazy and do not work. In James 2:20 it describes faith without works as without effect or useless.

James 2:20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?

‘Unfruitful’ is uselessness in an agricultural metaphor – the tree that does not bear fruit is cursed or cut down.

John 15: 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

We must abide in Jesus in order to bear fruit; apart from him we can do nothing. Peter tells us that grace comes to us in the knowledge of God. Power for life and godliness comes through the knowledge of him. A personal relationship with Christ is the foundation of salvation, and this results in a participation in the moral character of God; But here Peter tells us that pursuit of moral virtue results in an increasing knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

‘whoever lacks’ stands in contrast to ‘are yours and are increasing’ in verse 8. If possession and abundance of these characteristics cause effectiveness and fruitfulness, a lack of these qualities is evidence of blindness. Those who reject Christian virtue become spiritually blind. The cause is the disease and the effect is blindness. Someone who is shortsighted is so focused on the present and their present desires that they cannot see the past and are blind to future judgment. They are blind in that they fail to see what they should see. They have forgotten the most important reality of all. They have forgotten that they have been cleansed from former sins. This is a reference to baptism as a picture of the cleansing that we receive when we place our trust in Jesus. Baptism is a decisive and public identification with Jesus, a commitment to follow Jesus, and a picture of our cleansing from sin. It should be a memorable event – not that it accomplishes anything itself, but that it points to what Jesus does when we come to him. Someone who has forgotten their forgiveness has forgotten that they are sinners in need of God’s grace. They have forgotten the main thing, and if they no longer feel the need for God’s grace in forgiveness, they will not pursue God’s grace to supply what they need for a godly life. Peter is as clear as he can be here. If you are not growing in virtue, in knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love, then your faith was a sham and you are still in your sins. Growth in these qualities is evidence of a genuine God-given faith that is alive and effective.


Peter commands us to make every effort to abound in the godly life. Is Peter teaching salvation by works? He concludes this section by saying that in this way we will have entrance into the eternal kingdom. Peter is definitely talking about salvation and our eternal destiny, and he is telling us that it is necessary that we make every effort. But Peter is not telling us to make every effort in order to merit eternal life. Instead he is telling us to make every effort because God has already multiplied undeserved grace to us and granted to us divine power and unalterable promises. We have been given grace; we must be active and diligent to utilize and exercise that grace. The difference is that of a husband who is unsure of his wife’s love for him and does everything within his power to try to earn and win her love compared with a husband who is confident of his wife’s unconditional love for him and does everything within his power to act consistently with that love. We cannot earn God’s love. It is freely given. But we must stand confidently in that love and strive to act in a manner consistent with that unconditional love.

Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

We must cling to his promises like:

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

And take up the life giving divine resurrection power that has been richly provided for us:

Romans 8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

And we must:

1Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

October 18, 2009 Posted by | 2 Peter, podcast | , , , , | Leave a comment