Add to your faith…

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 2:3, 4)

The call of God unto salvation not only carries with it the justification of the sinner before God because of the (imputed) righteousness of Christ, but also the divine nature which enables that forgiven sinner to live a holy life. In other words, the same grace that saves us is the same grace that empowers us to grow in our life of faith. While we are saved by faith alone (without any merit of our own), it is not a faith that remains alone, but one that blossoms with the fruit of obedience. (1 John 2:3)

And so, Peter continues (2 Peter 2:5-9), For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 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. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

Peter sounds very much like James when he says we cannot be content with sitting back and resting on the laurels of a faith that is not being diligently worked out in our attitudes and behavior. However, it makes us a little nervous when Peter says “add to your faith” because it sound like faith in Christ is not enough. The context will reveal that Peter is not talking about salvation, but productivity and usefulness in the Christian’s life.

William Barclay points out that the word translated “add” is epichoregein and comes from the Greek theater where a wealthy benefactor (choregos) paid for all the expenses of a particular play. Thus the actors, the chorus, and all who produced the play by using their own skills and talents were seen as doing so out of the rich resources provided them by the benefactor. It was seen as an act of cooperation rather than a contribution or donation to the show. And so, Peter says that we are to diligently cooperate with God who as our Benefactor has provided everything we need in order to produce these virtues or characteristics in us.

Virtues such as goodness (lit. excellence- a Christ likeness), knowledge (greater experiential knowledge of Christ), self-control (submission to the indwelling Christ), perseverance (patient endurance knowing that Christ can be trusted), godliness (a practical awareness of Christ in everyday life), brotherly kindness (a patient acceptance of one another in Christ), and love (a loving commitment to one another, as Christ has loved us). These are very similar to Paul’s fruit of the Spirit in Galatian 5:22, 23 which are the characteristics produced in the believer by the Holy Spirit.

Peter goes on to explain that this character formation is a progressive thing, ever-increasing in its measure. And such a process will ensure that we will not become barren or unfruitful in our discipleship. He further warns that if a Christian does not manifest these qualities, s/he is blind (tuphios) and nearsighted (muopazon). This latter term can also be translated “to blink or shut one’s eyes,” which makes more sense. If a person is blind why would they be called nearsighted? But if one blinks or shuts his eyes to something, they become blind to it. And so the Christian who fails to “add to their faith,” out of the rich resources that God has provided, closes their eyes to the transforming nature of God’s grace and deliberately forgets the reality of their own forgiveness from sin. All you need to do is read the rest of 2 Peter and you will see examples of how some of these “blind” Christians were engaged in behaviors unbecoming of the gospel and leading others astray.

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:10, 11)

Tune in next week as we look at these two verses.

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