His Power (2 Peter 1:3-4)
2 Peter 1:3-4
If you’ve ever planted a garden, let’s say in your backyard, you know that if you want the flowers or vegetables, or whatever it is you’re hoping to grow, to flourish, you’ll need to both nurture your crop, on the one hand, and you’ll have to protect it, on the other. You’ll have to provide special nutrients, fertilizer appropriate to what you’re growing, a continuous supply of fresh water and you’ll need the proper amount of sunshine. To protect it you’ll need to fend off small rodents or large animals, you’ll need an effective way to deal with unwanted bugs and insects. At the end of the day, it’s no small feat sometimes to get a real good garden.
Did you know that God’s people – viewed corporately and individually in the Bible -are often referred to in agrarian or horticultural terms? We’re like a dead garden, however, that God has brought to life by the renewing work of His Spirit irrigating our hearts through faith in the Christ offered to us in the gospel. He has provided all that we need to grow, all the nutrients, including His ever-watchful and discerning eye and His immense and indefatigable power.
In 2 Peter the Lord is addressing His people, His garden, through Peter – a garden which had been, to some degree, infested with false teachings that are parasitic on the truth, denying Christ and His gospel, undermining God’s faithfulness to His promises, and overtly suppressing God’s command for Christians to grow in holiness, that is, Christlikeness.
The effect of this teaching is to lead and lure God’s people away from the One who called them to Himself – to a personal and saving knowledge of Himself and to a life that reflects their new spiritual standing and relationship with Christ.
The truth is that just as God had called Peter’s readers into fellowship with Himself, that is, to be partakers of His divine nature through the gospel, so also He has called us through that same gospel. And, just as He commanded Peter’s readers to grow in their faith by intentionally adding moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly affection, unselfish love, so He summarily commands us as well.
We Flourish through His Divine Power
But, where will the resources come from for our spiritual growth? Where will we get the wisdom and power for producing these moral excellences, the excellences of Christ Himself? Peter says,
I can pray this because His divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the One who called us through His own glory and excellence. Through these things He has bestowed on us His precious and most magnificent promises so that you may become partakers of the divine nature, after escaping the worldly corruption that is produced by evil desire.
First of all, it’s important to note, that growth, says Peter in vv. 3-11, is expected from the Gardener. He commands us in verses 5-7 to “make every effort to add” moral excellences to our faith so that we will prove effective and productive in our faith-knowledge of Christ. And the Lord should expect growth; He has every right! After all, He has tended so faithfully to His garden, daily irrigating it with the fresh water of His Spirit, nourishing it through His nutrient-rich word, shining the countenance of His presence on it daily, and jealously protecting it from all predators.
But, it is important to note that growth, while commanded, is rooted, not in my strength, my particular prowess or my best efforts; it is rooted in and takes shape because of His divine power which lives in me through His indwelling Spirit. According to Peter, God’s divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness. Everything,not just some things or part of what is required. And given His plan for us, to conform us into the image of Christ Himself, as outlined in the virtues of vv. 5-7, we can praise and thank God that He has indeed provided that which He commands.
But, there is a spiritual trap here. Since all spiritual and moral graces rest in God’s enormous power, as Peter rightly says, I might be tempted to think that all I need to do is sit back, relax, and let God take over, let Him do all the work. I need not – and some people would say, ‘dare not’ – do anything. We don’t want to pollute the grace of God, they say. The Christian life is all about resting in God’s grace, they argue. “Let go and let God”, is their mantra.
The first problem with this view is that while it contains some truth, it takes that which is partial to be total and is therefore fatal to real, Christlike transformation. There is more to genuine faith and trust than merely receiving grace, as crucial as that is. With one fell swoop, this view misconstrues scriptural commands addressed to us, as if they were commands addressed to God Himself. But God does not need to grow spiritually; we do! Peter tells us “to make every effort”. He does not say that to God. There must be more to growth than mere passivity. God’s commands teach us that. Growth is not automatic, per se. You must abide in Him through desiring and earnestly seeking to please Him, and we do this by intentionally obeying His commands. He will, then, in His appointed time, give the growth you long for (cf. Gal 6:9-10).
The second problem with this view, and there are many, is that it misunderstands the nature of our relationship with God. While we are in vital union with Christ through faith, we are not Christ; we are not absorbed into Him, without remainder, so that I no longer exist. You are who you are and He is who He is (1 Cor 15:10). He wants to live His life through you and you need to live your life in Him. He wants you to take on His concerns, character, and purposes and He promises that as you set yourself to that concern, He has already provided all power necessary for it. He wants to transform you in and through the operations of your heart, especially as you engage your will to obey Him and seek to please Him in everything.
A third problem with this view is that it tends to produce Christians who associate growth far too frequently with spasmodic emotional highs. While emotions are crucial in the Christian life – think of peace and joy, for example – versions of emotionalism are disastrous to true faith, obedience and transformation. Ask Him to give you wisdom on this. Virtues are more than momentary and fleeting extortions; they are deep-seated, dispositions to holiness, regardless of one’s feelings at any one moment.
The result is this: God has set you free from sin and death in Christ and has made available to you His divine power. He, therefore, summons you as sons and daughters to a holy life. Consecrate yourself to Him for a life directed at Christlikeness.1
We Flourish by Experiencing the
Rich Knowledge of God
It’s crucial for us to understand that we partake in God’s power, as Peter says, “through the rich knowledge of the One who called us by His own glory and excellence”. So, we must grow in the personal and saving knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Peter begins his letter this way and he ends it similarly, with the command to grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (cf. 1:1-2 with 3:18). We have a lot to say about this, but let me start by saying that the more you can get into God’s word (the Bible) and begin to enter into the conversations God’s had with people in the past – with the Abraham’s, Moses’, David’s, and Jeremiah’s of Scripture – the more you will begin to grasp His character, will and ways. The Spirit of God will teach you as you “listen in” to God’s conversations with these people and many others in Scripture. Over time, you will grow into a Spirit-animated awareness of His ways with you. In this Christ-centred, relational framework (i.e., His covenant), you will experience His power directing you toward genuine faith and Christlike godliness (cf. 2 Tim 3:16-17). You will see that the One who called you is glorious and excellent in everything He is, does, and in everything He promises! Because of His grace, you will see His uniqueness, holiness, beauty, love, mercy, wisdom and great power – power to fulfill His “precious and most magnificent promises.”
We Flourish through Knowing God and
laying Hold of His Promises
I love the way Peter refers to God’s promises as “precious and most magnificent” in v. 4. It is through laying hold of God in His promises that we become partakers of the divine nature, that is, we share in the life of God Himself through His Spirit who indwells us as believers. Peter is not referring to divinization or absorption, but re-creation through fellowship – God gifting us divine strength – power to overcome worldly corruption, launching as it does from evil desire.
What are some of God’s bedrock promises to us?
All the promises we’re touching on in this course, and many more! He promises to be our sovereign shepherd, to guide, lead, provide, to be present, to strengthen and empower, to teach, purify and pardon and to be for us whatever we need to accomplish His will. He bestows all these promises on us that the world will know that “He is the Lord” and that “we are His people.” It is for His glory and our good. All God’s promises can be taken up into His one grand promise, repeated throughout scripture: “I will be your God and you will be my people” (Gen 17:7-8; Ex 6:6-8; Lev 26:11-12; 2 Cor 6:14-18; Rev 21:3-4)
We flourish when His name is highly honored! So, pray and seek His face, and by faith, act on His promises!
- Do not confuse the state of your will after salvation with its bondage before you knew God. God has set you free from the penalty and power of sin; therefore, present yourself for service to Him as one who is now alive in Christ and present your bodies to him for righteousness. You are no longer a slave to sin (Rom 6). You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Phil 4:13). It is not God who needs to obey; it is you and I. He wants you to learn obedience and through that process He will strengthen the principle of grace now operating in your heart through the indwelling Spirit.