The story is told of a big lumberjack who went to a store and looked at a new chainsaw. The manager said, "You can cut down at least 100 trees a day with this baby." So the lumberjack bought the chainsaw and set out to cut some trees. On the first day, to his disappointment, he only cut down 25 trees. The second day he worked harder and longer but only cut down 36 trees. The third day he worked from sunup to sundown but could still only cut down 48 trees. Angry that the chainsaw performed so poorly, he took it back to the store and said to the manager, "You tol' me this here chainsaw would cut down 100 trees a day!" The manager, puzzled, replied, "Well let me see what the problem is." With that, he pulled the starter cord and fired up the chainsaw. Startled, the lumberjack jumped back and exclaimed, “Hey, what’s dat big noise?”
No matter how hard we try, we cannot get God's results if we refuse do things God's way. But when we do what God tells us to do, we will get results that count.
In our first study, we saw how Peter outlines the Christian life for us. In this section, Peter will show us the results of living the proper Christian life. Remember that the overall thrust of the whole first chapter is
I. Practice the productive Christian life revealed through God’s genuine prophets. 1:3-21
Although the chapters divisions in the Bible are not part of the text (they were added later for convenience), in this case the chapter divisions are in sync, so to speak, with the paragraph subjects. In chapter one, Peter deals with the productive Christian life--which is his main topic--and the authority of him and the other apostles in teaching this Christian life.
A. Success in the Christian life and rewards in heaven are gained by supplying yourselves from the resources God has provided. 3-11
1. God has made all necessary provision for your Christian life. 3-4
2. Because of God’s provision, you must supply the elements of the Christian life. 5-7
The kernel of Peter’s message is in chapter one, verses 3-7: that the proper Christian life is a matter of you and me supplying various disciplines from the provision God has already made. All the rest of the epistle will amplify and support this main message in one way or another. In the second part of this paragraph (the whole paragraph is 1:3-11), Peter shows that this dynamic of the Christian life, when properly applied, will result in productivity and rewards.
3. The result of your supply will be fruitfulness. 8-9
The point just made in 5-7 is that we must supply--from God’s provision--such graces as goodness, self-control, and love. Now, in verse 8, the first word, 'for', connects what is coming with what has just been said. ‘For’ generally introduces either a reason or an explanation, and, in this case, it is probably a reason. Why should we supply ourselves from God’s provision? Because it will make us productive. He states this positively in verse 8 and negatively in verse 9.
There is a big ‘if’ here: “IF these things are present and abundant.” The first step is if they are even present. In other words, does my life show moral goodness, developing knowledge, and an ability to control my temper, lusts and greed? Do I endure under trials and testings? Am I seen to be like God in holiness, righteousness and forbearance? And do I exercise both love towards the brethren and sacrificial love toward even my enemies. And it is one thing if these things are even present. But are they abundant? Am I diligently planning and carrying out my own Christian development and increasing in the exercise of these graces? If these questions can be answered in the positive, then Peter says that the Christian is “neither useless nor fruitless.” To put it positively, he or she is both useful and fruitful toward a mature Christian life and ministry. Each of us should evaluate whether we are just “cruising” in the Christian life, warming a pew each Sunday while we make excuses why we can’t get involved in ministry. Or are we seeking to fulfill our command to be useful and fruitful?
In verse 9, Peter states another reason (notice the word 'for' again) for supplying ourselves from God's provision, this time in the negative: those who do not supply are stuck in the lifestyles and attitudes of their former sinful lives. He says that those in whom these virtues are not present are, literally, myopic--short-sighted. Have you ever heard the expression, “He can’t see the nose in front of his face?” This would be a person who thinks he is pleasing God by just coming to church every Sunday and dropping something in the offering and making some effort to stay awake during the sermon. “Please, please, I have a life to lead; Sunday school would be too much, much less helping out on visitation telling people how I got saved!! This ministry stuff is OK for some real holy types, but not for me.” This type of person has forgotten how God gloriously saved him from sin and may even be allowing himself to be drawn back into these very same sins.
4. Practicing these Christian graces will keep you from going astray and bring future reward. 10-11
In verse 10, the first word is ‘therefore’. This introduces what is called a final clause—that is, a statement of conclusion. The expression I have translated, “be diligent to affirm the truth of your calling and election,” is controversial. Many translate it something like, “be diligent to make your calling and election sure.” They take it that whether or not we practice “these things” proves whether or not we are saved. I myself interpreted the passage that way years ago. But, over many years of studying Scripture, I began to doubt the idea that we could find assurance in our good works—they are too undependable. It fits better with Scripture to find assurance in the promises of Scripture that say that if we simply trust in Christ we will be saved (John 3:16; 5:24; 3:36; Acts 16:31; Rom. 4:5; 10:8-17; and many others). If we are not careful, when we interpret Scripture we fall into the trap of paying more attention to our pre-conceived notions instead of dispassionately analyzing the flow of thought of the author, his use of words, etc. This is what I did with this passage. Now I realize that in the meaning of the words there are other options for translation. Even more important, the immediate context rules out the idea of proving our salvation.
The word, bebaios can indeed be translated ‘sure’ or ‘firm’. The cognate verb bebaioō is translated by such words as ‘confirm’, ‘establish’, ‘attest’, or ‘certify’. Mayor asserts that the combination of poeisthai bebaios, “make sure,” in 1:10, is the equivalent of the verb bebaioō.1 Note the uses of bebaioō in Rom. 15:8; 1 Cor. 1:6, 8; and Heb. 2:3 for the idea of ‘confirm’, ‘affirm’ or ‘attest’. This is similar to Peter’s use of the comparative adjective form bebaios in 1:19. There the fact that the apostles have a “more certain prophetic word” does not mean that the Old Testament prophecies about Christ were less certain. It simply means that the apostolic testimory affirms what the Old Testament already predicted. It the same way, believers in v. 10 are told to affirm the already established truth of their calling and election by engaging in “these things.”
The immediate context is an even stronger proof of this interpretation. In v. 9 the person not doing these things is not proven to be unclean, but simply having forgotten that he has been cleansed. In other words, a person not doing these things is still cleansed/saved. So why would Peter turn around and demand that the person prove that he has been cleansed? This verse in itself is enough to prove that our good works can not assure us of our salvation.
The word, “instead” indicates that v. 10 is a contrast with v. 9.2 So, whatever Peter is commanding in v. 10 must be the opposite of “being useless and fruitless,” “blind,” and “having forgotten his former sins.” AND therefore it must be equivalent to what Peter says in v. 8 about abounding in these things and being fruitful. It could be maintained that proving one’s salvation is a result of practicing these things—but it is not the same action as practicing these things. If Peter were talking about proving salvation, wouldn’t it have made more sense to say in v. 10, “Therefore instead, brethren, be diligent to abound and be fruitful in these things. For if you do these things you will make your calling and election firm.” The second part of v. 10 starts with “for” which introduces a reason or explanation. So we would expect “if you do these things” to be equivalent to the previous clause. Again, how can proving salvation be the same action as doing these things?
So what is the correct interpretation? Once we have cleared away the dross of the wrong view of this passage, the gold of the correct view is fairly straightforward. If we are not doing the things of vv. 5-7 we are useless and fruitless and not fulfilling the purpose for which we were called (Eph. 2:10). If we are practicing these things we are abounding in fruitfulness and thus fulfilling God’s purpose in electing us. This is comparable to what Paul says in Eph. 4:1: “I…urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” If we are diligent to do these things we will never go astray and we will have an abundant heavenly reward. Peter is not teaching sinless perfection, just that this should be the norm.
Verse 11 brings in a further reason (notice the ‘for’), for not stumbling--it will bring us the reward of an abundant entrance into heaven. What is this “abundant entrance?” It is possible for a Christian so to live, as to just barely make up it into heaven (1 Cor. 3:15). Perhaps Peter means by the abundant entrance that we will have a large welcoming ceremony.
Verses 3-11 constitute perhaps the most comprehensive look at the Christian life in Scripture. We do well to learn it and meditate on it. But even more, we should work diligently to put it into practice in our lives. In fact, this is so crucial that the next thing Peter will talk about is how much he needs to remind us of “these things.”
1Joseph B. Mayor, The Epistles of Jude and II Peter (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), p. 98.
2Most interpreters and translations take the adverb mallon as “more” in this context. But more diligent than what? More diligent than in v. 5? Normally when mallon is used to indicate a greater degree—Mark 9:42; 10:48; 1 Cor. 12:22; 14:18; Phil. 1:9, 12; 3:4, for example—the lesser degree is obvious. It makes more sense here to translate this adverb as “rather” or “instead”—see Mark 15:11; Rom. 8:34; 1 Cor. 5:2, for instance.
2 Peter Flow Chart
2 Peter 1:1-7
2 Peter 1:12-15
2 Peter 1:16-21
2 Peter 2:1-3
2 Peter 2:3b-10a
2 Peter 2:10b-22
2 Peter 3:1-6
2 Peter 3:7-10
2 Peter 3:11-16
2 Peter 3:17-18