2 Peter 1:5-9

2 Peter 1:5-9

(A Bible Study Led by Dr. Larry Reynolds)

March 6, 2014

 

1.         There is an old story about a man who was in habit of attending church only on Christmas and Easter...he had done this for years, and one day his pastor decided to confront him about it...the pastor went to the man and said, “You need to join the army of the Lord!”...to the pastor’s surprise the man said, “I have been a faithful soldier in the army of the Lord for many years.”...and the pastor said, “Well, if that is so, how come I don’t ever see you except on Christmas and Easter.”...the man looked around to make sure no-one was listening, then motioned for the pastor to lean near to him...then he whispered, “I’m in the secret service!” [Jones & Wheeler, Hometown Humor, August House, 1991, p.101 - quoted in Sermonillustrations.com, May 28, 2002]

2.      Unfortunately, many Christians live as if they are in the Lord’s secret service...at some point in their lives they made a faith commitment to Christ...but for some reason they view that commitment not as the beginning point but the ending point of their Christian commitment...they fail to grow, to mature, to proceed up the ranks in the army of the Lord...they are like a person who enlists in the military then doesn’t show up for basic training and never serves...

3.      In our study of 2 Peter, we have come to a passage which reminds us of the importance of growing/maturing in our Christian lives...from 2 Peter 1:5-9 we are going to explore a fifth characteristic of the Christian life...we have seen so far in our study of 2 Peter 1 that the Christian life is a life of—

--equal standing before God (v.1)

--knowledge of God (v.2)

--strength/power (v.3)

--promise (v.4)

2 Peter 1:5-9 reminds us that the Christian life is a life of spiritual growth. This passage has been described as the best known passage in 2 Peter.  And from these verses we can see four basic principles about the spiritual growth which should characterize every follower of Jesus.

 

PRINCIPLE 1 - We are to grow spiritually not to win God’s favor but because we already have God’s favor.

1.      I think many Christians get the process of spiritual growth exactly backwards...they approach the subject as if it is something which they must do to be accepted by or approved by God...it becomes more of a duty, a chore than a joy or a blessing...


2.      It is significant that Peter begins this discussion of spiritual growth with the phrase “Now for this reason...” in first part of v.5...for what reason?... for the reason he has just stated in the previous verse...for the reason that we, through the promises of God, are partakers of the divine nature...for the reason that we already belong to God...that God, in His grace, has accepted us, loved us, welcomed us into His family...

3.      Peter is saying we should desire to grow spiritually not to convince God to love and accept us but because God loves and accepts us...that’s the way healthy relationships always work...for example, take the parent/ child relationship...

--a parent can relate to a child in such a way which says to the child, “I will love and accept you if you do what I want you to do.”...in that case the child may do what the parent wants, but it will be in a grudging, resentful way...

--or a parent can relate to a child in such a way which says to the child, “I love you and accept you.”...in that case, the child is more likely to do what the parent wants, not out of duty, but out of reciprocal love and respect for the parent...

4.      In same way, when we come understand, God is His grace and mercy, has chosen to love and accept us...then, out of love for Him and a heart which desires to please Him we will grow and mature spiritually...

 

PRINCIPLE 2 - Spiritual growth is not automatic; it requires effort on our part.

1.      Notice the phrase “...applying all diligence...” in verse 5...some Bibles translate that phrase “...make every effort...”...those three words translate a single word in the Greek...the word carries the idea of earnestness or zeal or haste...it means to be characterized by a sense of urgency that moves a person to action...

2.      Peter wrote to in a world heavily influenced by Greek thought...the Stoic philosophers of Peter’s day were extremely concerned about their personal moral development...they gave it the highest priority in their lives...they worked at it...they strived to progress in their moral development...

3.      In effect, Peter is saying here that Christians should be just as concerned and have about them just as much a sense of urgency about growing and developing spiritually as the pagan philosophers have about growing intellectually and morally...

 

1.      I think many Christians are not growing spiritually simply because they are just lazy...much more to growing spiritually than just “Letting go and letting God” as the old adage says...if we fail to spend time—

--in developing our personal prayer lives...

--in serious study of God’s Word...

--in spiritual fellowship with other believers...

--in serving others...

There is going to be no significant spiritual growth in our lives...

2.      Very few good things come to us by chance or accident...they are the result of preparation and effort and work...and that is certainly true when it comes to spiritual growth...we are to “...apply all diligence...” or “...to make every effort...”

 


PRINCIPLE 3 - Spiritual growth is a continuing process.  We never come to the end of the process in this life.

1.      Must confess to you I find this principle somewhat frustrating...I’m a finisher...I like to identify what needs to be done, attack the task, get it complete, and enjoy the results...but that’s not how it works when it comes to spiritual growth...we never complete the process...it is on-going...if we think we have come to the end, we are actually back at the beginning...

 

1.      The heart of 2 Peter 1:5-9 is a listing a eight (8) characteristics which we should be in the process of developing in our lives...it is not surprising that Peter would include such a list in this letter...William Barclay points out that such lists were common in the ancient world...books were rare and expensive and could not be owned by the average person...basic instructions were often reduced to simple lists which could be easily memorized...in several places in the NT you will find lists of virtues to remind Christians how they are to live...

2.      One writer refers to these characteristics as “The Royal Road”...others refer to this list as a “spiritual ladder” or a “ladder of virtues”...while those analogies may be helpful, they can also be misleading...they imply this list of eight (8) characteristics is something you begin, work through step by step like rungs on a ladder, and then you are finished with it...

3.      Think it is more accurate to view this list like a never ending spiral staircase...the staircase has eight (8) steps which are repeated over and over, going higher and higher...we move from faith to moral excellence to knowledge to self-control to perseverance to godliness to brotherly kindness to love...

4.      It is significant that the process begins with “faith” and ends with “love”...as one person put it, “Faith is the foundation and love is the culmination ... every grace in between springs out of faith and is intended to be expressed in love.” [Brian’s Lines, Sept/Oct, 1997, p16]

5.      And while there is much to be learned from each of the words Peter includes on this list, the main thing want you to see is the process being described here...once we have made all eight (8) steps, we do it again....and again...and again...and for as long as we live in this world...spiritual growth is a continuing process...

 

PRINCIPLE 4 - As we grow spiritually, we become more useful to God

1.      In verses 8 & 9 Peter contrasts two types of Christians...verse 8 describes a Christian who is growing/maturing...verse 9 describes a Christian who is not growing/maturing...

--one is productive and the other is unproductive...

--one is useless and the other is useful...

--one is fruitless and the other is fruitful...

--one is spiritually blind and the other has spiritual vision...

2.      The words translated “useless” and “unfruitful” in v. 8 are very graphic...


--”useless” carries the idea of idle or slothful...literally the word means out of work...it’s a picture of a person who has no purpose, no direction for life...the person is out of work in the sense that he/she has no desire to contribute anything to anyone in any setting...

--”unfruitful” means barren and unproductive...

  1. Notice that Peter says that growing Christians are NOT useless and NOT unfruitful...in other words, those who are growing spiritually are  useful to and productive for God...

  2. Point is spiritual growth is not an end in itself...it is a means to an end... a means to make us more useful to God in this world...the way to measure our spiritual growth is not by how pious we can look or how spiritual we can feel...the way to measure spiritual growth is by how effective we are in doing what God calls us to do...

    CONCLUSION

  3. James Moffatt, the Scottish biblical scholar/theologian once made an insightful, cryptic comment about the Christian life...he said that “...the Christian life must not be an initial spasm followed by a chronic inertia.” [Quoted by William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter, p.354]

  4. Unfortunately those words, “an initial spasm followed by a chronic inertia.” accurately describe the lives of many Christians today... that is not the life to which God calls us...instead, the life to which God calls us is a life of spiritual growth...and understanding the principles Peter sets forth in this passage will help us in that life...

#1  We are to grow spiritually, not to win God’s favor but because we have God’s favor

#2  Spiritual growth requires effort on our part

#3  Spiritual growth is a life-long process

#4  As we grow spiritually we become more useful to God

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