Bible Study from 2 Peter 1:5-11

The reality & outworking of our faith!


By I Gordon




We learnt last time that Peter wrote this epistle in 66 AD. Only one year before he died, and that he wrote it knowing that the time of his departure was hand. We only looked last time at the first four verses of second Peter. And you will remember, I hope, how we looked at what Peter had focused on within those first four verses... and that was “true knowledge”. You will remember, and who could forget it, that Peter wrote ‘grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and in Jesus our Lord’. So we saw that grace and peace can be multiplied! Which is very good news because we all need as much of God’s grace, His enabling, and His peace as we can get!


This time we will look at verses five to eleven as Peter now concerns himself in these passages with the outworking of our faith and the outworking of that knowledge. So let’s look at the passage before us –


2nd Peter 1:5-11 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;  and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;  and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


Balance, balance, balance!


Now, before getting our teeth into it, I want to say something about balance… well two things. One, it is very important. And two, it is very difficult. Ok, so it’s not rocket science! It is very difficult to be balanced[1] in your Christian life and with Christian truth, yet so very important! There are pitfalls and traps on each side of basically any truth. Take the issue before us in 2 Pet 1:5-11. It speaks a lot of ‘adding’ to your faith. It talks a lot about being ‘diligent’ and other scary words. Now some people will love this! Some people only like to emphasize what man does in the ‘Christian life. If you're one of those people you will probably enjoy this passage in second Peter immensely! On the other hand, some people only emphasize what God does and if that is you, you probably won't enjoy these verses very much. Sorry about that. But like some sickly green health drink, it will do you a lot of good to slowly digest this passage. But the importance, as always, is balance.


Add, add, add!


2 Pet 1:5-7 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.


Straight away in verse five, we see that Peter was a balanced man. You see, he talks about all sorts of Christian attributes which we should add to our faith. But the basis of adding these attributes is tied in with the preceding verses of 2 Peter 1:1-4 where the divine nature is shown to be the source of our hope in living a godly life. That is why in verse five, Peter starts with the words ‘for this very reason.’ There are many religions in the world that would tell us to add to our lives the characteristics Peter is about to list. But only in Christianity does the one who asks for these characteristics to be manifest in our lives[2], also indwell us to give us the strength and the ability to produce that which he asks for!


So Peter starts by saying ‘make every effort’, or other versions would say, ‘applying all diligence’ add to your faith. So what does the word diligent mean? It simply means ‘to apply earnest care, careful constant effort.’ So let me ask you… are you diligent with anything? For we should remember Hebrews 11:6 which tells us that God is ‘a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.’ A B. Simpson once said


‘God has hidden every precious thing in such a way that it is a reward to the diligent, a prize to the earnest, and a disappointment to the slothful. The nut is hidden in its thorny case; the pearl is buried beneath the oceans wave; the gold is imprisoned in the rocky bosom of the mountain; the gem is found only after you crush the rock; so to truth and God must be earnestly sought – ‘to him that knocketh it shall be opened.’


So you see that Peter said ‘in your faith… add.’ Peter assumes faith amongst his readers, but he doesn't want it to end there. He tells them to add the following things[3]:


Goodness - or as some versions put it ‘moral excellence’. It has been said that this word also incorporates spiritual courage. It is the ability and desire to stand up for, and display that which is right to a world that is rapidly declining morally.


Knowledge - the knowledge of the Most High God and of His ways as he teaches us through His word and the events of our everyday life.


Self-control - Peter tells us to add self-control to our faith. This characteristic is so lacking in the youth of our generation. It goes hand-in-hand, alongside diligence, with another ‘d’ word that we may not like… discipline![4]


Perseverance - As the saying goes, ‘by perseverance, the snail reach the ark!’ Again this is the one other major characteristic that is lacking in our generation. We live in an instant society, and perseverance and patience are not exactly ‘in’.[5]


Godliness – Or, God like-ness. It is a life of practical holiness and in many ways it incorporates all of the other attributes mentioned in this list. And, as I quoted the Apostle Paul in the fourth footnote, ‘physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.’


Brotherly kindness - the Greek word here is Philadelphia, from which we derive one of the words for love – ‘phileo’ (which means ‘brotherly love’). It is a simple, old-fashioned practical caring and kindness for others. We need far more of it today. Especially within the Church if we are to shine as a light to the world.


Love - the Greek word here is ‘agape’ which is the type of love that God shows to us… an unconditional love. Not just loving the loveable, or loving those that will love you back. No, it is a ‘no strings attached’ love…the kind which you have hopefully experienced from God.


Keep Swimming!


So Peter tells us to add these things to our faith. And it must be noted, that when we are not pressing forward in these things, we seldom just stay still. This is because the Christian life is one of swimming against the tide. And the tide of temptation that stands against us is very strong indeed. If we stop swimming in this Christian life, then the natural consequence is to be taken in the direction that the tide is going.[6]


Productive or ineffective?


2 Peter 1:8 ‘For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.’  


Peter then goes on to show us the results of adding these characteristics to our faith. On the negative side, they will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive. Taken positively, that means we will be effective and productive through our knowledge of the Lord. Or, as other versions put it, we will be ‘useful’ to the Lord. I like that. I like the thought that the Almighty God could find us ‘useful’. Peter then goes on to mention two problems that will hinder us in being useful to the Lord. And they are…


Bad eye sight and bad memory!


2 Peter 1:9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.’


Let me start with the second problem first. Peter says that some Christians have a bad memory. They have forgotten that they have been cleansed from their sins. They have forgotten the enormous price that Jesus paid to save them. Don't ever forget to remember what Jesus did for you. Fight complacency!


Peter also mentions that some Christians may be nearsighted or blind. What problem does a nearsighted person have? It's pretty simple… they can see things close-up, but have a big problem with anything in the distance. Taken from spiritual point of view, that means they can see the ‘here and now’, but they cannot see the things in eternity! They cannot see that the most important things in this life, is that which will last eternally.[7]


Do you want to receive a rich welcome into Heaven?


2 Peter 1:10-11 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


Finally, Peter shows us the importance of what he has been talking about. It has benefits for this life and the life to come. As we press forward in our Christian life, being diligent in the characteristics that he is mentioned in these verses, Peter tells us that we will not fall or stumble in this life, and that we will receive a rich welcome[8] into the eternal kingdom when our life is over here. And that my friend, is a great promise! It is something worth being diligent about!


So, I hope you will see the importance of these verses here in 1st Peter chapter 1. It starts with the need for diligence in ‘adding’ to your faith and extends to the eternal rewards and welcome into Heaven for doing so!


All that is now left, and I just about forgot, is to give the results from the mini-quiz in the first footnote. Check it out here.[9]

[1] Like I said, there are pitfalls on both sides. An example of this is from Pilgrim's Progress. John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim's Progress knew all about this. He knew about the dangers on the left and the right, Concerning Christian’s journey to the Celestial City (Heaven) He wrote “I saw in my dream that there was a very deep ditch on the right running the entire length the valley. It is that ditch into which the blind have led the blind in every age. And both have perished miserably. On the left was a dangerous marsh that even if a good man falls into this he can find no bottom on which to stand. It was into that bog that King David once fall and would have been smothered had not he that is able pulled him out. The pathway here was also extremely narrow, and Christian had to be more careful than ever for when he tried to avoid the ditch on one side, he almost slipped into the mire on the other. And when he tried to escape the mire he had to be careful not to fall into the ditch and I heard him sigh bitterly for besides the dangers mentioned above the pathway was so dark that often when he lifted up his foot to go forward, he did not know where or upon what he should place it next.” So this is what John Bunyan wrote concerning the Christian life. You’ve got to be so careful and remain balanced! There are traps aplenty!


So here is a test for you… We haven’t had a quiz for a while! John Bunyan mentioned a ditch and a marsh. The blind lead the blind in the former trap and yet even a good man like King David can fall into the later. So here’s the question. What do the ditch and the marsh represent? For a clue, think about the types of people that fell into each of these traps. Check out the last footnote, for the answers.


[2] In many ways what Peter is saying in these verses, is exactly the same as what Paul wrote when he said ‘work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do.’ Paul wasn't asking us to work for our salvation, but to work out that which is within us. In like manner, Peter is not asking us to add these characteristics for salvation, but he wants to see an outward working of the divine nature within us. Both of these apostles wanted those who profess the Lord Jesus Christ as saviour, to also manifest something of His life through godly living.


[3] The great Christian, Tom Olsen, used to read this list to his son in this way (okay, so I had no idea who Tom Olson or his son was, but I do like how he read these verses) ‘Add to your faith the virtue or courage of David. And to the courage of David, the knowledge of Solomon. And to the knowledge of Solomon, the patience of Job. And to the patience of Job, add the godliness of Daniel. And to be godliness of Daniel, the brotherly kindness of Jonathon. And to the brotherly kindness of Jonathon, and the love of John.


[4] Paul often compared discipline and self-control in the Christian life, to the same characteristics needed in the area of sports. It's funny that we can show such self-control in training our bodies for physical discipline, and yet be so slack in spiritual discipline. Take to heart the words of Paul who said train yourself to be godly... For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 1 Tim 4:7-8


[5] Time to play ‘Guess Who’. And this is a case study in perseverance. When he was seven, his family lost their home so he had to work to support them. At age nine his mother died. At twenty two, he lost his job as a store clerk. He then applied for law school but was rejected because of a lack of education. At twenty six his business partner died leaving him a huge debt that took seventeen years to pay off. At twenty eight his fiancée died leaving him heartbroken. At twenty nine he had a total nervous breakdown and was in bed for six months. At age thirty one he sought to be the Speaker of the state legislator but was defeated. At age thirty three he sought to be the elector but was defeated. At thirty six, he ran for Congress and lost. At age thirty nine he ran for Congress again and won! Two years later he sought re-election and lost. At age forty six he ran for the United States Senate and lost. At forty eight he sought the vice presidential nomination for his party and lost. At fifty he ran for the United States Senate again and lost. At age fifty two he was elected President of the United States of America. Who is he? He is one of the greatest leaders the United States has ever seen… Abraham Lincoln.


[6] You would no doubt have seen the little Christian bumper stickers that have a little white fish swimming against the flow, against the tide, with all these other nasty mean looking fish coming the other way! In its own way, it does portray what the Christian life can be like. It does mean going against the tide. That is why Peter emphasises ‘add, add, add!’ Keep pressing forward. Keep swimming!  


[7] There isn't much that you can take with you into Heaven. Your car, your house, your fancy boat certainly aren't going to make it. Our whole life will pass through the fire at the judgement seat of Christ. Only that which was built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ will remain. A person that has twenty twenty spiritual vision will constantly remember that the most important things in this life revolve around their character (as Peter mentions in these verses), their love and devotion to the Lord, and the work done in His name in seeing others come to know, and with grow, in Him.


[8] Let me just quote from Pilgrims Progress (yet again!) as Christian and Hopeful finally came to the gates of Heaven. ‘Now as they drew near the gate, a company of the heavenly host came out to meet them; and the other two Shining Ones said to this company, “these are men who have loved our Lord when they were in the world, and who have left all for his holy name; and he has sent us to fetch them… so that they may go in and look their Redeemer in the face with joy.” Then the heavenly host gave the great shout, saying, ”Blessed are they are which are called into the marriage supper of the Lamb.” At this time several of the Kings trumpeters also came out to meet them… these trumpeters saluted Christian and Hopeful of with ten thousand welcomes… Now I saw in my dream that Christian and Hopeful went through the gate; and as they entered, they were transfigured, and they had garments put on them that shone like gold. Then all the bells in the city rang again for joy, and they were told, “Enter ye into the joy of your Lord.”… now just as the gates were opened for the men, I looked in after them, and I saw that the city shone like the sun; the streets were paved with gold, and on them walked many men with crowns on their heads... and after that they shut the gates, and with what I had seen, I wished myself among them.


[9] The ditch that the blind leading the blind fall into is obviously a reference to the legalism of the Pharisees as this is a term Jesus used of them in Matt 15:14. Many have fallen into this ditch. Go too far to the other side however and you will fall into the marsh. This is what David fall into. I believe this is the opposite of the legalistic spirit and could probably be termed ‘complacency’. This is definitely what led to David’s sin with Bathsheba. So, like I said at the start… it is very hard, yet very important, to remain balanced! So how did you do? If you got those correct then you have won a free trip to the Bahamas at your expense… Enjoy!