Sunday School Lesson
oct. 19, 2003
GROW IN FAITH
Bible Background—2 PETER 1
Focal Verses—2 PETER 1:3-15
Devotional Reading—EPHESIANS 3:14-21
1. We will understand that laziness and spiritual maturity cannot coexist
2. We will commit to full and eager participation in the development of godly attributes and characteristics in our own lives.
“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” (2 Peter 1:3)
The lesson tells us that GOD has given us everything we need for spiritual growth. Believers are called to put forth an effort to grow in GOD’S WORD.
By way of background, by the time Peter writes this second epistle, his fellow co-laborer, Paul had probably been martyred, and the church was undergoing fierce persecution. Peter understood that these persecuted believers to whom he was writing longed for both knowledge and peace. He knows also that it is only through their intimate relationship with and personal knowledge of GOD and of HIS SON JESUS CHRIST that they might experience both grace and peace.
1. POWER FOR LIFE (2 peter 1:3)
Peter assures the saints that GOD has already provided everything they need to live a godly and abundant life. Access to that abundant life, however, is based on a personal relationship or “knowledge” of JESUS CHRIST. The Greek word translated as “godliness” is eusebeia, which means good worship. Peter is not discussing public worship, rather living a life that reflects the very character of GOD. If our lives are anything less than abundant, we would do well to ask ourselves if our lives are being controlled by the SPIRIT of GOD or being ruled by sinful flesh. GOD has given us what we need.
When we are born into the family of GOD by faith in CHRIST, we are born complete. GOD gives us everything we will ever need for “life and godliness.” Nothing has to be added or taken away. Just as a baby has a definite genetic structure that determines how he or she will grow, so the believer is genetically structured to experience glory and virtue. One day we will be like the LORD JESUS CHRIST (Romans 8:29; 1 John 3:2). We have been “called …unto his eternal glory” (1 Peter 5:10), and we shall share that glory when JESUS CHRIST returns and takes HIS people to heaven. We have been saved so that we might “shew forth the praises [virtues] of him who hath called you [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). In our character and conduct, we should reveal HIS beauty and grace today.
The divine power of GOD that is prepared to give us all things is the same power that raised JESUS from the grave. GOD has already freely “given unto us all things.” We do not obtain these things on our own; by having faith in GOD, we will receive all things HE has for us. We must acknowledge that HE is the ONE who has called us to peace, grace, virtue, and glory. Before we knew GOD, HE knew us and imparted grace unto us, along with plenty of mercy. The Greek word for “knowledge” is epignosis (pronounced ep-ig-no-sis), which implies recognition. Because we recognize HIM as GOD, HE is able to provide for us.
2. PROMISES TO EMPOWER (v.4)
The Bible is saturated with promises of GOD. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, there are constant affirmations of the promises made and kept by GOD. At the dedication of the temple, King Solomon reminded the people that the period of political peace they were enjoying was a result of GOD keeping HIS promise. He declared, “Blessed be the LORD, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised” (1 Kings 8:56).
When Peter speaks of promises in this chapter, he uses the Greek word epaggelmata, which means a promise made voluntarily, rather than the result of a request. Here we see the connection between GOD’S promises and GOD’S grace.
Frequently, GOD’S promises are results of HIS grace (unmerited favor) and loving-kindness, not because we deserve the blessing. Peter explains that the “exceeding great and precious promises” made to HIS people are a direct result of the natural goodness of GOD. Just as it is natural for us to breathe, it is natural for GOD to bless those HE loves. GOD also desires that HIS greatest creation participate (or “partake”) in HIS divine nature and separate from the corrupting forces of the flesh. No doubt Peter’s three-year walk with JESUS had made him a personal witness to some of these promises. Peter had learned to appreciate the faithfulness of GOD through HIS WORD and through personal experience. Present-day Christians can be regularly assured of the promises of GOD through regular and prayerful study of HIS WORD.
3. SPIRITUAL GROWTH (vv.5-9)
Our union in CHRIST and our participation in HIS divinity provide us with the resources we need to live godly lives. However, Peter is careful to note that as Christians we must give “all diligence” or do our part too. We cannot be slack or complacent about our faith walk. We must make every effort to perfect our relationship with GOD. Our spiritual development is an ongoing process, during which there is constant growing, shaping, and refining. Our faith is like a seed. Faith is what brings us to CHRIST in the first place. Now that we have become part of HIM, we want our faith to flower or to grow so that we can reflect the very character traits of JESUS. Just as seeds need watering in order to produce fruit, our faith needs to nurture the CHRISTLIKE characteristics that Peter lists: virtue (goodness), knowledge (understanding), temperance (self-control), patience (endurance), godliness (goodness), brotherly kindness (brotherly love), and charity (love).
Peter’s emphasis on knowledge is especially important because a great portion of this epistle addresses the false teaching that was undermining the Church during this period. Peter understood that the only protection the believers had against the false doctrines cropping up was “knowledge,” or a firm grasp of the truths of the life, death, and Resurrection of JESUS. As we grow spiritually, so too should our knowledge of spiritual truths. The more we know about JESUS, the harder we strive to understand how to become more like HIM. Not only is knowledge critical to Christian maturity and to the development of a godly lifestyle, it is, as Paul claims, our “sword of the Spirit,” an integral weapon in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:17).
4. CONFIDENCE IN OUR CALLING (vv.10-11)
Peter now directs his attention to exhorting believers to “give diligence to make your calling and election sure” (v.10). Peter is urging the believers to have confidence in their salvation. This confidence is based on living lives that exhibit Christ-like characteristics. It should not be surprising to us that Christians who are not growing in faith will typically lack confidence in their election. It is not enough that we confess CHRIST. We must grow in CHRIST in order to have assurance of our salvation.
Peter’s reference to an “abundant” entrance that will be “ministered” (v.11) may be a description of the triumphal heavenly welcome that awaits the believers who hold the course. Similarly, his reference to the “everlasting kingdom” reminds us that confidence in our calling encourages us to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of GOD in CHRIST JESUS” (Philippians 3:14). Christians who lack confidence in their calling cannot enjoy the promise of the “prize” of a glorious life and eternal life in the presence of GOD.
5. REMEMBER (vv.12-15)
Peter now turns his attention from teaching and focuses on himself. All that he has said he has learned for himself. It is not enough that believers learn; we must be willing to share, as Peter does. Peter stresses that he “will not be negligent” in presenting these learned truths to other believers. The apostle is probably about sixty years old when he writes this epistle. He may be recalling the painful time in his life when he was negligent in speaking on behalf of CHRIST and denied even knowing JESUS. But Peter is not the spiritually immature apostle we first encountered in the Gospels. His priorities have shifted from self to CHRIST. In this epistle, it is an experienced and spiritually mature man who now emphasizes his solemn duty to witness and who seeks to “stir up” the brethren.
It is clear that Peter is thinking that his death may be imminent when he writes, “shortly I must put off this my tabernacle” (v.14). Some scholars believe Peter may have been imprisoned during the time this letter was written. Although he speaks of his death, he is more concerned that the believers be put “in remembrance” or be reminded of what he has taught them after he is dead. Because we know that the young disciple John Mark was with Peter (see 1 Peter 5:13), we may assume that Peter taught the younger man and intended to have John Mark record these teachings. Mark’s record is what we now know as the third Gospel or the Gospel of Mark. This particular theory is likely since Mark’s Gospel includes facts about Peter that are not mentioned in any of the other Gospels.
Our spiritual growth is a constant work in progress. While GOD perfects us, it is HIS desire that we work with HIM in developing spiritually. GOD has provided us with everything that we need, but HIS eternal plan requires that we use what HE has given us. The only way that we are able to escape the corruption of this world and resist yielding to the flesh, falling back into our old sinful pattern is by applying GOD’S POWER daily to our lives.
THINK ABOUT IT!!!!
Rev. Chris Lowe, Sr., DD
Email Dr. Lowe
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