Diligence, Security, and Grace (2 Peter 1.10-11)
Bulletin Article 09.16.18
Diligence, Security, and Grace (2 Peter 1.10-11)
“Be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election,”
Among Christians there is an epidemic of spiritual atrophy. Many of us who have “obeyed the Gospel” have allowed the process of development as Christians to grind to a halt. We content ourselves with showing up at services as often as we feel is appropriate, making sure we stay away from the sins that we consider worthy of a trip to the front pew, and hoping that someone somewhere is doing the work of the Kingdom. Increasing in rarity among brethren are those who are “on fire for the LORD”. We have traded diligence for complacency and dedication for hypocrisy. Still worse, we follow the examples of our friends and neighbors in the world who see diligence in spiritual matters to be a handicap rather than an advantage.
Brethren, we must relearn the art of diligence in our spiritual lives. Diligence is a quality often required by God for His people, and it is one found a few times in 2 Peter 1 . The process of adding various qualities to our faith (v. 5-7) obviously requires diligence. This sustained effort to grow and produce more spiritual fruit is sometimes referred to as “remaining faithful”. Even in this passage we see that not just diligence, but an increasing level of diligence is called for by the apostle Peter. There can be no room for complacency in the service of the King, no point at which we are satisfied with where we are spiritually. Christians are called to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3.18), which necessitates sustained effort to that end on our part.
This diligence is directed not to establish one’s calling and election, but to confirm it. The NASB renders this “make certain”, and perhaps is the best way of understanding this phrase. Christians, having been called by God through the message of the Gospel and chosen by God as those whom He will save from His wrath according to their faith in Jesus Christ, are to continue in the path that has been provided for them, continually seeking to draw closer to God and growing in love for our fellow man. This diligence to grow and develop in our faith is the mark of a person who truly loves the LORD and recognizes their perpetual need for God’s mercy and grace. We must be careful that we do not believe our diligence in any way earns our salvation, since we are saved by the grace of God through faith (Ephesians 2.8).
“for if you practice these things you will never fall.”
There is a sense in which our zeal to increase in diligence, if not properly managed, can become unhealthy. In many Christians there is an anxiety over whether we are truly saved, over whether we have truly confirmed our election. There is very little talk among brethren concerning the topic of security of the saved in large part because of its perceived association with Calvinist doctrine. The “P” in the famous acronym TULIP (which neatly summarizes much of Calvinism’s major tenets) stands for the doctrine of the “Perseverance of the Saints”, or as it’s commonly referred to among brethren, “Once Saved Always Saved”. In the efforts of brethren to combat this false doctrine, we have perhaps thrown out the “baby” of our security with the “bathwater” of false teaching on the subject. As a result, as Christians we tend to be comforted very infrequently by hearing of the true security of the saved, causing us to live in perpetual fear of losing our salvation.
In this way, 2 Peter 1.10 brings us much comfort as Christians, as well as a proper understanding on the security of our salvation. Peter calls us to “be all the more diligent” in the opening section of the verse, which directs us to continue in the path described in v.5-7 and referenced again in v.11. A clearer and stronger statement of security will be hard to find than what we find at the end of v.10: “for if you practice these qualities you will never fall”. God is unbreakably faithful to save those who continue in their faithfulness to Him. “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2.10b).
Christians can draw great comfort from Holy Spirit’s assurance (by way of Peter) that God will most assuredly save all those who devote their lives to practicing the faith and qualities described in this chapter. We must not avoid assurances of our security in Christ in our efforts to combat false teaching on the subject. The fact that faithful Christians are secure in their salvation does not contradict the fact that a Christian can become unfaithful and as a result lose their salvation.
“For in this way there will be provided for you an entrance...”
2 Peter 1.11 should serve to remind us how exactly we are able to enter the eternal reward of the kingdom of Christ. On the one hand, there is a temptation for diligent Christians to imagine that their good works somehow earn their entrance at the “pearly gates”, which is demonstrably false. On the other extreme, many believe that what they do in no way hinders their entrance into that fair land “beyond the Jordan”, which is similarly erroneous. This verse elegantly serves to answer both positions.
Peter is writing to Christians, those who are already citizens of the kingdom of Christ (2 Peter 1.1; cf. Ephesians 2.19), so this “entrance into the eternal kingdom” cannot be about becoming Christians or being added to the number of the saved (Acts 2.41, 47). Rather, this verse points towards the future reward of those who are faithful to God, in which they will be delivered as a part of the kingdom by Christ Himself (1 Corinthians 15.24).
“For in this way” forces the reader to look in the context to determine what “this way” means. From the text, we can see that Peter has been calling the readers to grow in their faith, being more and more diligent (v.10), which prevents them from being unfruitful (v.8), the lack of which indicates spiritual blindness (v.9), finally preventing the loss of one’s salvation if they are continued therein (v.11). This continued emphasis on action and continued diligence defeats any effort made to excuse mankind from faithful service to God.
On the other hand, this faithful service to God does not in itself provide entrance. “For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance” (v.11, emphasis mine). The entrance into the eternal reward of Heaven is not earned, it is graciously given, it is (as the NASB puts it) “abundantly supplied” to those who walk in the path God has established. This is in full agreement with other passages that show we are “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3.24). Our diligence in our service does not provide our entrance into the Kingdom, which is provided by God according to our faith in Jesus Christ. However, that entrance is “richly provided” to those who walk the path of faithfulness that God has called Christians to walk. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2.10).
Diligence. Security. Grace. Christians need not shy away from any of these three in our discussions and in our teaching. Instead, let us simply say what the LORD says in His book, and let Him speak for Himself.