“Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord. According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust: and beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see far off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:1–11)
This is the beginning of a series on “Christian Necessities.” There are some things necessary in the Christian life, if we are to grow and prosper to the glory of God and the joy of our hearts.
First on the list of Christian necessities is that of assurance. Our text above tells us that we are to make our calling and election sure: that is, we are to seek in every way to be certain that we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ.
First of all, we should notice that assurance of salvation is something that is available to us. I’m so glad that we can know that we are saved! It would be a horrible thing to have to live with uncertainty about the most important of all things. Thank God, we can know. Paul stated with great certainty that knowledge is ours (2 Corinthians 5:1-8), that the Holy Spirit within us is there to testify to us that we are God’s (Romans 8:16;Ephesians 1:13-14); and then he expresses great, jubilant faith by saying, “I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12) And it is there that we must start, with faith.
Notice that Peter writes that we are to add to our faith. Faith is our starting point. We know that those who believe Jesus are saved. He assures us of that (See John 3:16;1 John 5:6-13). Having heard the Word of God, and believing it, we are saved and can know that we are saved (Romans 10:17). Faith is simply trusting God instead of ourselves (Romans 4:1-6), and this faith in Christ’s work is where our confidence and assurance are found.
Then we are to add virtue to our faith. This is not a matter of self effort or good works that are done on our own. God the Holy Spirit has come to dwell within the believer, and has written the law of God on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10-12;10:15-18). This means that good now dwells within us. God’s love is poured out in our hearts by the gift of the Holy Ghost (Romans 5:5), which means we can now love God and love as God loves. Adding virtue then means that moral excellence should become a part of our lives. We are no longer in darkness, but in the light, and we are to walk as the children of light (Ephesians 5:8-11). We are also told, “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” (1 John 2:4–6)
The next thing to do is to add knowledge. The initial knowledge of God in salvation is sufficient to save; but we need to grow in knowledge if we are to be holy. We need to know God better if we are to enjoy the blessing of true assurance. Jesus’ call to us is as follows: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30) Those who are disciples are those who are learners: they are growing in knowledge. We are taught to crave the Word as a baby cries out for good, pure milk (1 Peter 2:1-3). Those who do not learn of the Lord will have little to no assurance of salvation.
Following knowledge is temperance. While temperance is self-control, in this context, it is the self-control which applies God’s Word to our lives. We are responsible to learn God’s Word for the purpose of believing and obeying it. Temperance is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), therefore we will have the power of the Spirit at work in us to help us grow in this area. By God’s grace we can become doers of the work which is commanded us in the Word (James 1:21-17). Knowing and trusting God’s Word brings great assurance, because we learn God’s promises, and we are changed to be more like Jesus in so doing.
Patience is also necessary, as we will certainly be tried by the world, our flesh, and the devil. It is those who are patient in faith who will inherit the promises (Hebrews 6:12). Jesus spoke of true believers as those who bring forth fruit with patience: “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15) We will find that our faith will be tried, but adding patience, which is endurance, will help our assurance by demonstrating that our faith in Christ is a real faith (See also Romans 5:1-5).
Godliness is the next virtue, or attribute, that we are to add. Godliness is not focused primarily on the external appearance, but upon the heart: godliness is about worshiping God well. We are told that there is one God, and that we are to worship Him alone (Matthew 4:10). Worship is described as refusing to trust self, being from within, in the spirit, and rejoicing in Christ. In short, we are to worship God by growing in our faith in Christ, and thereby finding our joy in Him alone. As our faith is tried and our patience increases, God will give us abundant reason to worship Him, because we will have found that He is ever faithful and gracious in every circumstance of life. Let us notice that worship is essential to Christianity, Christian living, and Christian assurance: where there is no worship of God in Christ, there is no Christianity.
How will godliness make itself manifest: in brotherly kindness. This is because those who are born of God will have the nature to love the family of God (1 John 5:1-2). We are taught to be kindly affectioned toward one another in brotherly love (Romans 12:10). Seeing that this shows the nature of Christ within us, it increases our assurance that we are His. “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” (1 John 3:14)
Finally, we come to charity, which is love. Charity is not simply brotherly love, but it is the love that is most Christ-like, because we show love to those who may even be our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48): it is a sacrificial love (John 3:16;Romans 5:5-8;Titus 3:1-7) that gives itself for the sake of the one loved (Romans 15:1-3). Love is essential in our Christian lives, because, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love.” (1 John 4:7–8) Where love is present, assurance of eternal life is also present, because God is love.
God’s Word tells us that the presence and abundance of these things in our lives will cause us to be fruitful in the knowledge of God (:8), which gives us all that pertains to life and godliness, and gives to us God’s great promises, which purify us and bring about godly character (:3-4). This, then, gives us assurance. These are the things that we must add if we are to have assurance. What a wonderful blessing it is to know that we are saved, and to have a way by which we can steadily grow in that assurance, because we can observe God’s transforming work in our lives!