|Volume 18 Number 10 October 2016||
This writer was introduced to a national prayer line in March of this year, and the moderator of that prayer line would always say and she continues to say, “Sisters, let’s stay read up, prayed up, and do everything in our power to make our calling and election sure.”
Her weekly reference to making our calling and election sure is part of a passage that Peter wrote in his second letter to the elect scattered throughout Asia Minor. James M. Tolle notes in his book The Christian Graces that the requisites for the development of Christian personality are presented in the First Chapter of Second Peter. They are commonly referred to as the Christian graces that must be added to our faith. The means to obtain this spiritual growth is identified in verses 5-7 – (1) virtue, (2) knowledge, (3) self-control, (4) patience, (5) godliness, (6) brotherly kindness and (7) love. Prior to the listing of these traits, the reason for the development of this Christian personality appears in 2 Peter 1:1-4.
Peter then repeated a phrase five times that gets this writer’s attention in a most profound way. He told us how spiritual growth and maturity will increase and our faith will flourish. Faith is recognized as the basis or the root from which all the Christian graces are traced. For without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
In Verse 8 Peter wrote, “For if these things are yours and bound…” Verse 9 reads, “For he who lacks these things is shortsighted…” In Verse 10 he said, “…for if you do these things you will never stumble…” In verse 12 he said, “…I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things…” In verse 15 Peter penned, “Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease.”
To what things was Peter referring? He referred to the seven Christian graces that are absolutely essential for the development of Christian personality. Ephesians 5:8-10 says, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth, proving what is acceptable to the Lord.” Thereby, we are urged to have Christ-like behavior in our personality, our attitude, and the words and deeds that others hear and see in us.
To fully understand God’s expectations of us as Christians, we must know the meanings of these seven Christian graces that Peter mentioned in 2 Peter 1:5-7. Virtue is moral excellence or goodness. “It describes the determination to do what is right regardless of the consequences” (Attitudes: The Heart of God’s Child by Mike Winkler). Virtue is the perfection of true courage and moral strength that will not surrender to physical needs or appetites, especially as contrasted with spiritual or intellectual qualities.
Knowledge is seeking to know all the information, facts, truths through inquiry and investigation that God has revealed in Scripture. Our knowledge of God and Christ, is the basis for the grace, peace and power we enjoy in Christ (James M. Tolle).
Self-control is a strong, stout, mastery of self. Self-control in its fullest sense implies that persons have genuine mastery of themselves. They have not only the natural inclination or tendency of their bodies under control, but also the faculties of their minds (James M. Tolle).
Patience is endurance, bearing up under provocation and strain, steadfast waiting. It is not unemotional lack of concern or interest. It is submission to the will of God. Someone gave the following definition of patience: “Calm endurance of tribulation, whether moral or physical, for the sake of God.”
Godliness is a state of mind that accepts God as the sole object of adoration, reverence and respect. It is a state of mind that makes God its central object of its trust and the infallible source of all religious responsibility (James M. Tolle).
Brotherly kindness is family affection, a loving regard. In the love of the brethren there must be no distinctions. It is to be a love without partiality. God shows no partiality in His love for His children, and neither must we (James M. Tolle). We are all equal in God’s sight – poor, rich, educated, uneducated, red, yellow, black or white, He has no “less than” children.
Love (agape) refers to the exercise of the human will that will never seek anything but what is right and best for others (Mike Winkler). Love is the capstone of all Christian growth and maturity. It is the crowning of this Christian personality. Agape love is not an emotion. Biblical love moves our thoughts away from ourselves to sacrificial service to God. It is putting God first, others second and self third.
Beginning in verse 8, Peter taught, “For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” What things? The seven traits he identified that are essential in the development of Christian personality. When we choose to excel in these traits, we will shine as stars in this sin-sick, cursed, fallen world!
Peter continued in his admonition in verse 9. “For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.” What things? The seven traits he identified that are essential in the development of Christian personality. One writer said, “Forget the primary blessing of Christianity, the cleansing from your old sins, and you forget the responsibilities and blessings of the Christian life. That is the plain, simple warning Peter gives us.” Tragic forgetting and spiritual blindness is deadly!
Verse 10 is the crux of why this article was written. “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble.” What things? The seven traits he identified that are essential in the development of Christian personality. Verse 11 says, “For so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” This entrance that will be supplied to us into the glories of heaven is only through our submissive, obedient faith, which is Christ in us our hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).
In his book, Spiritual Patriots – Jude’s Call to Arms, Aubrey Johnson wrote:
What is God able to do? Keep you from stumbling. What did Jude want his readers to remember about God’s ability? First, that He was able to keep them from falling (v. 24). The Greeks used this word to refer to a surefooted horse. God can make His people surefooted spiritually if they trust in Him. Jude was saying that God has the means to keep His people from falling if they will avail themselves of it. God has wisdom, but men must ask for it in believing prayer (James 1:5-6). God has spiritual armor to protect His soldiers, but they must put it on (Ephesians 6:11). The image of falling suggests that Christian living is like walking through dangerous territory en route to a predetermined destination. Those who walk with God can travel safely even in the most treacherous terrain. The psalmist declared, “He will not allow your foot to be moved” (Psalm 121:3). (113)
Psalm 119:165 emphasizes “Great peace have those who love Your law and nothing causes them to stumble.” These comments are noted on this verse from Tom Wacaster in his book, The Songs and Devotions of David – Volume 6 Psalms 109-119.
There are two blessings that come to those who love the law of God. The first of these is “great peace.” Here is the peace that passeth understanding (Phil. 4:7). The second blessing is a safeguard against apostasy. The Psalmist is not suggesting that they “cannot” fall, but rather that so long as they love the word, they will find stability, strength, and a rock solid faith to sustain them in times of temptation. The peace that is founded upon conformity to and love of the word of God is a lasting peace. “They that love thy law…have no occasion of stumbling.” The marginal reading is, “they shall have no stumbling block.” It is not that nothing will pain them, or test their faith, but that the challenges of life would not become a stumbling block. They would rise above the circumstances of life and maintain their faith in God.
Peter continued his message in Verse 12. “For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth.” What things? The seven traits he identified that are essential in the development of Christian personality. Peter is so adamant about Christians understanding that these traits must be in their lives that he said he would not slack off in reminding them always! He drove that point home in verses 13 and 14.
Verses 13-14 read, “Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent [body], to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent [die and leave this body], just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me.” Now that’s zeal and obedience to the zenith in making his calling and election sure!
Verse 15 concludes the five times that Peter used the words, these things. “Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease.” What things? The seven traits he identified that are essential in the development of Christian personality. Peter realized the life we live, the example we have shown and our unwavering faith are the only things that can be permanently left behind that make an eternal difference.
We clearly understand the basis for our everlasting assurance is our faith in Jesus the Christ. We clearly understand that none of us are perfect in and of ourselves. We strive daily to achieve a deeper measure of the Christian personality. The difference is without measure between the Christian who gives more diligence to making his or her calling and election sure, and the Christian who clearly does not care about developing the Christian personality.
Paul pled emphatically as he stated God’s expectation of us in Ephesians 4:1-3. “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of your calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
In his book, Studies in Galatians and Ephesians, Tom Wacaster makes these comments on walking worthy of our calling. “The ‘walk’ of the Christian is his daily life. The walk is one of ‘worthiness’ when it conforms to God’s will. Our calling is a life of holiness and separation from the world. Our Christian life is not some segment of our life, but the ‘whole’ of our very existence (Ecc. 12:13). The only ‘compass’ we have is the word of God” (376).
“Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14).