Following on from the blog before this one, and the last sentence in it, “so grab the opportunity to live what he’s given us,” I hope it didn’t sound like it was something “we must do.”
On the other hand, the way Peter phrases things in 2 Peter 1 it does sound like what he’s saying is something we need to do, because after writing in verse 3 that “God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness,” he then writes in verse 5 about US “making every effort,” and in verse 10, about us “making our calling and election sure,” because “if you do these things you will never fall” – which sounds very much like a “must do” or there will be consequences.
But what are these “things” we need to do, then?
Peter lists them in verses 5-7, that we “make every effort to add to our faith goodness, and to goodness knowledge, etc.” There are eight things he lists that we do, and the reason given for doing them too in verse 8, “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And a warning too in verse 9, that “if anyone does not have them (the list of eight) he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.”
So, what’s going on here? I ask that, because in verse 2 Peter wishes us “Grace and peace in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,” but then adds all these things we need to do as well.
I admit these verses bothered me for a long time, because what becomes of grace if we can also “fall” (verse 10) by not doing our part?
What I later realized I’d missed was Peter’s statement in verse 4, that God gave us the amazing gift of his “great and precious promises” – which are totally his doing by his grace – “so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
In other words, God kickstarted our Christian lives – all his doing – so that we can experience what Jesus cleansed our past and resurrected us to new life for. The eight things listed by Peter are what we can experience and participate in as Christians to the full now. They’re all gifts still, but God wants us opening them up and experiencing them. So if we’re a bit short on, or in need of, any of those eight things Peter listed – faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love – realize they’re ours already as marvellous gifts made possible by Jesus – so – “make every effort,” or grab the opportunity, to live them, and experience them growing in us too.
And according to Peter this is what God called and elected us for, to shine with these gifts of Jesus’ divine nature, replacing the typical world’s attitudes we had before. And by taking what he’s given us seriously our knowledge of what Jesus won for us becomes clear and it bears some real fruit. We’re literally being transformed into Christ’s likeness as an opportunity we’ve been given to experience every day.
It helped answer that other tricky verse in Philippians 2:12 about us “continuing to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” Which again sounds like we need to make our salvation sure by what we do. But salvation, as we know, is totally God’s gift to us. What Paul’s getting at, then, is – “Go on, live what he’s given us, open up his gifts and live them to the full, because this is what God has instilled in us to want to do,” as Paul explains in verse 13.
It’s a grand opportunity not to be missed, in other words. It’s not to be taken lightly either, says Paul in verse 12, because it’s God’s great pleasure to see us grow. He loves seeing us conscious of our gifts won for us by Jesus, so feel his pleasure, be conscious of it, knowing it’s his great desire to give us a “rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” 2 Peter 1:11. It’ll be his pleasure one day to say, “Well done, my child, you made the most of my gifts to you.”