Add diligently to our faith—–virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, kindness and love by Martyn Lloyd Jones
All the passages below are taken from Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ book “Expository Sermons on 2 Peter.” The sermons were preached at Westminister Chapel, London, from October 1946 to March 1947. It was originally printed in 1948-1950. The current publication is in 1999.
`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 afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ (2 Peter 1:8,9,11)
In these verses we have a continuation of the exhortation in verses 5, 6 and 7 which the Apostle had addressed to the Christians to whom he was writing.
The central exhortation is this—`Beside this,’ he says, `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.‘ That is the exhortation and then he adds the verses which we are now considering. In other words, what the Apostle does here is to supply reasons and inducements to help these Christian people to put into practice his exhortation with respect to furnishing their faith with those other graces; for he has shown that one effect and result of doing that would be that they would make their calling and election sure. Not only would they be saved, they would know that they were saved; and they would have a joy and assurance in the happiness and the certainty of that knowledge of God as Father, and of their relationship to Him in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
But now I am anxious to consider with you these further reasons, the further inducements, which are put forward by the Apostle in his attempt to persuade the Christians to furnish out their faith with these other graces. The appeal made here by the Apostle is something which is very typical and characteristic of the New Testament teaching everywhere with respect to holiness and sanctification. There are two general comments which one can make immediately with respect to it, because it is so characteristic of the New Testament method. The first is that the New Testament appeal for holiness is never in terms of a law. The New Testament never comes to us presenting us with a law; it never comes to us merely dictating to us that we ought to do this and we ought not to do that. It does not deal with us as children in that sense. It does not, as it were, insult us by putting us under a rigid law; and anyone who has a view of holiness which is in that sense legalistic has departed from the essential teaching of the New Testament. That is not the way in which the New Testament teaches holiness. It puts it rather as an appeal to our reason, as an appeal to our understanding. The New Testament presents it in this kind of way, as if to say, if you claim you have believed certain things, if you really mean what you say, don’t you see it follows inevitably and of necessity that you ought to do certain things? In other words, the New Testament, in its appeal for holiness, is always reasonable and rational. You claim, it says, that you believe certain things; you claim that you have become a certain type of person; very well, follow out your own logic, put into practice and apply what you yourselves really claim to believe. Of course, if you do not claim to believe, there is no appeal; but if you do claim to believe, well then, says the New Testament, be reasonable. You believe that you are the sons of God, `partakers of the divine nature’, therefore, because of it, don’t you see that it is inevitable you should of necessity furnish your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, etc.? The New Testament makes holiness the most reasonable and commonsense thing imaginable, and its whole case with respect to those who are not concerned about holiness is that they are utterly unreasonable and self-contradictory.
That brings me to my second comment, which is that according to the New Testament itself there is nothing which is so utterly unreasonable and illogical as a professing Christian who objects to the New Testament call to holiness. It savours of something that is completely illogical. Now the New Testament is not at all surprised that people who do not claim to be Christian object to this standard. The New Testament is not at all surprised that men and women outside the church are not interested in these things, or that they should regard the Christian life as something which spoils and ruins life, and makes life really something utterly hateful. The New Testament is not surprised that the people outside speak like that. It expects them to take that view of itself and its teaching. It does not expect the non-Christian to like it, indeed it expects to arouse antagonism. Some of you may recall the advice that Martin Luther gave to his friend Philip Melanchthon when he was setting out on his career. `Always preach,’ said Luther, `in such a way that if the people listening do not come to hate their sin, they will instead hate you.’ The non-Christian of necessity regards the Christian way of life, and the holiness that is taught in the New Testament, as something utterly distasteful, something narrow. He regards it as an impossible standard. But, says the New Testament, if a Christian feels like that about it, well then he is just contradicting himself. He calls himself a Christian and claims to believe certain things; and yet he feels that its demands are too great and too stringent, and says that they make life impossible. Now that, according to Peter in these verses, and according to the New Testament everywhere, is to be utterly illogical and unreasonable, and to put ourselves in a hopeless and self-contradictory position. There is no better test of whether we are truly Christian or not, than our reaction to this exhortation of the Apostle. How do I feel when I face this exhortation, to add to my faith virtue, etc.? How do I feel when I face the call to deny myself and take up the cross and follow Christ? Is it against the grain? Do I feel opposed to it, do I dislike it, is it objectionable to me? I say my reaction to these questions proclaims exactly where I stand; and ultimately one of the tests as to whether my profession is of any real value or not, is my response to this New Testament appeal. That is the argument which Peter works out here in detail, and he puts it in this way.
There are three main reasons why we should all want to give this diligence to making our calling and election sure, why we all should be straining every nerve to furnish our faith with these other qualities. Two of the reasons are positive and the other is negative. Peter puts a positive argument first, then the negative one in the middle, and then ends with a positive argument. But perhaps it will be more convenient for us, and for our memories, if we start with the negative and then go on to the two positives.
The negative reason for furnishing our faith with virtue and knowledge, and so on, is given in verse 9. Put in the form of a principle, it states that not to add to our faith virtue, and so on, is to display an ignorance of the fundamental purpose of the Christian life. This is how Peter puts it—`He that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.’ So that a man who is not concerned about making his calling and election sure, who is not concerned about pressing on to holiness, and fitting out his faith in all these ways, is a man who, according to the Bible, is ignorant of the fundamental purpose of the Christian life. Peter says in the first instance that he is short-sighted—‘he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off’. He is a man who cannot see distant things; he is a short-sighted man; he is a man who only sees that which is immediately in front of him. He does not see the distant scene; he is a man who is only concerned about the temporal and the present. He is a man who wants to enjoy life here and now, and forgets the other life that is to come. He is a man who sees so much of the world round about him, and its glittering prizes, and its so-called happiness and joy and everything for which the world lives, that he sees nothing else. He sees that which is right in front of him, but cannot see the things that are further away. What the Apostle obviously means therefore is that this type of person does not see the ultimate end of the Christian life: he does not see the final goal. He is a man who claims to have set out on a journey, but he has forgotten where he is going; he has forgotten why he started out, and the purpose he had in starting out. What is the goal of the Christian life? what is it that we are ultimately attaining unto? what is our final goal and destiny? There is no question about that in the New Testament. The object of it all is that we may see God and enjoy Him for ever. Very well, says Peter, if that is the ultimate goal, if you see that, as a Christian, the end you are ultimately out to attain is to see God, and to spend eternity in His holy presence and enjoy Him for ever, if you believe that, then this is the argument.
There are certain statements made about that ultimate goal and objective, and here are some of them. `Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’ I want to see God. Very well, what have I to do? Purify my heart—it is inevitable. Or listen to the Epistle to the Hebrews saying the same thing: `Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.’ I want to see the Lord. Very well, says the writer, follow after holiness, for without it no man shall see the Lord. Or listen to John in his First Epistle saying the same thing again. `Every man that hath this hope in him’ (that is, of seeing Christ) ‘purifieth himself, even as he is pure.’ That is the way the New Testament puts it. Do you say you want to see God? Well, remember that God is holy and perfect and pure; and if you really want to see Him you haven’t a moment to spare, or a second to waste. Begin to purify your heart. Be pure as He is pure. If you do not do these things, you are short-sighted, you cannot see afar off, you are blind, you have forgotten what you really set out to do.
But not only that, says Peter; such a man has `forgotten that he was purged from his old sins’. In other words, he is a man who not only cannot see forwards, he cannot see backwards either. I have no doubt that when Peter wrote these words he was an old man. Perhaps he was getting near the end of the journey in a physical sense, and it struck him as being a very good analogy and illustration. A short-sighted man, he couldn’t see forward, and he couldn’t see backward. `He has forgotten that he has been purged from his old sins.’ What does he mean by that? That he has forgotten the initial purpose of the Gospel, he has forgotten the whole point of salvation! Why did the Lord Jesus Christ ever come into this world? What is the purpose of the Incarnation? Come back to the first chapter of Matthew and there you will find the answer is given. `His Name shall be called Jesus.’ Why? `Because he shall deliver his people from their sins.’ That is why He came. He would never have left the courts of heaven but for that. Do I believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God? Do I believe in the Incarnation? Do I see why the Substance of the Eternal Substance vacated the courts of heaven and came on earth? There is only one answer; He came to deliver His people from their sins. Why did He die on that Cross on Calvary’s Hill? What is the meaning of it? What do the communion bread and wine represent? Why was His body broken and His blood shed? Is it just a picture, is it just a dramatic incident? No, the purpose and the object which He had in doing it has been stated once and for ever by the Apostle Paul in the second chapter of the Epistle to Titus, and the fourteenth verse, when he says that `He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.’ You believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God; you believe that He went deliberately to that death on the Cross on Calvary’s Hill? If you believe these things, says Peter, the logic of it is this—if you believe that He humbled Himself and divested Himself of the insignia of His Godhead, that He came and shared the life of men and women, that He suffered the contradiction of sinners for so long, that He was there in the garden sweating drops of blood, that He endured the shame and the agony of the Cross that you might be delivered from the power and pollution of sin, that you might be made perfect, spotless and holy—if you believe that that is the background to and the beginning of your whole position, there is only one thing to do, you must get as far away from sin as you can, you must hate it. If you believe He delivered you from it, how can you continue in it? You cannot! You must give all diligence to making your calling and election sure. You must be anxious to furnish your faith with virtue and knowledge, with temperance and patience, and all these other things. The man who does not do that has forgotten that he has been purged from his old sins; he has forgotten the whole purpose of the Incarnation and the humiliation of Christ and the agony and the death on the Cross and the glorious resurrection. He is utterly inconsistent with himself. He says he believes on the Lord Jesus Christ in order that he may be delivered from his sin, and yet he continues in sin. He is guilty even of making merchandise of the Cross of Christ. Such a man has forgotten the very initial and fundamental purpose of the Christian life.
But to proceed to the second argument. Peter exhorts men and women thus diligently to make their calling and election sure in that way, because to do these things produces an active and a fruitful life. That is the message of verse 8. `For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Now it is generally agreed that the word `barren’ is a mistranslation. The margin in the Authorised Version puts the right word—it is the word `idle’. If these things be in you, they make you that ye shall neither be `idle nor unfruitful’, etc. Now that is the second reason for doing these things; and you see it is a positive one. The trouble with so many of us Christians is that our Christian life is a very idle one. We say we believe these things, but what do we do about them? We are very active in connection with other things in which we believe; if it is a club we take our part; if it is a game we enter into it wholeheartedly; if it is business we put our energy into it. Yet, here, we claim that God is interested in us, and that Christ has died for us—here we make the biggest claim a man can ever make—but what are we doing about it? Is it leading to any sort of activity?
I wonder how we fare when we compare ourselves with our own forefathers? Sometimes I wonder whether the main difference between the modern Christian and the Christians in the last century is not just at this very point—that they were so active and we are so idle. Those men believed in prayer meetings. They went to prayer meetings, and they prayed; they had their fellowship meetings, their class meetings, their society meetings. They wanted to talk about these things, about the spiritual life and the problems of the spiritual life. They lived their Christian life; they organised missionary societies. There was a great activity in their life. But somehow the idea has crept in that to be a Christian means a general subscription to certain views, and an occasional attendance at the House of God and the means of grace. We sit and listen, we receive, but we do nothing—there is no Christian activity in our lives. Let every man examine himself in the light of this word.
`Very well,’ says someone, `I do see that and recognise it; I have to admit and confess that I am idle in my Christian life. What have I got to do, what is your exhortation to me, that I may get rid of this spirit of idleness that seems to have descended upon me?’ Now here the Apostle has something very important and vital to say. Peter at this point states that activity must always be the result of character; and that is a very fundamental distinction. We must be something and become something before we do anything. Let us not misunderstand the Apostle’s exhortation here. He is not just exhorting us to be rushing ourselves into activity. Neither Peter nor anybody else in the New Testament ever believed in mere bustling and busy-ness, and rushing hither and thither in order that we may be very active. That is not the New Testament’s appeal at all. The New Testament is not interested in activity for its own sake. The New Testament is not interested in mechanical efforts and activities. In the church today we have multiplied our institutions and our conferences, and there are people who are tremendously active; but it is not the activity that is spoken of in the New Testament. The Apostle puts it like this. He does not exhort these people to be busy in doing things; he exhorts them and urges them to strive to become like Christ. That is how he puts it. Beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue and to virtue knowledge, etc. Then, he says, `If these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall not be idle.’ You see how it works. Peter urges you to concentrate on becoming a holy man, because if you become a holy man you will of necessity become an active Christian. That is the difference between the true Christian method and carnal busy-ness. We are to be diligent in the cultivation of the virtues and graces of Christ, for if we do that, `if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall not be idle’. Your activity then will be determined by the Holy Spirit and not by your own fleshly excitement, not by your own nervous pressure, not by your own delight in being busy and active. It will be the outcome of a nature like that of the Son of God Himself. He went about doing good, He was what He was, and did what He did, because of His holy nature; and you must be like Him, says Peter.
Then he goes on to show that this kind of activity will be a fruitful one. That other type of activity, that mere mechanical activism, is not very fruitful. Just look at it as regards the church today. Look at the busy-ness and the organised activity of the church. But what is it producing, to what is it leading? Though we have multiplied our organisations and institutions, the number of church members is dwindling, the number of people attending places of worship becomes less and less, and the world is not better. The busy-ness is unfruitful; but if we indulge in true Christian activity it will become fruitful as well. And it will be fruitful in this way. If we concentrate on developing the Christian character we become attractive to others. Men and women, when they look at us, will see good people and holy people, and they will ask, `What is it that these people have got, why are they so charming and attractive, what is this peace and composure they possess, what is this atmosphere of holiness and goodness that we sense in them, what is it that they have which we lack?’ If we develop character, it will draw. Not only that, it will make us sympathetic and understanding; we shall be able to understand and consider their problems. In addition, it will give us knowledge and understanding, and we shall be able to teach. When therefore they come to us in distress and anguish of soul, we shall be able to give a reason for the hope that is in us, we shall be able to guide them to Christ, we shall be able to comfort their hearts with the promises of the Gospel.The man who is busy in a carnal sense cannot do that; but the man who is truly Christian is a man who has something to pass on. A Christian is one who is like Christ Himself; and if we endeavour to develop the character of Christ, our lives must become fruitful. We read of Him, `Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.’ The little children went to Him; the outcasts, the distressed, went to Him, though He was sinless and spotless. What was it? Ah, it was just His grace. And we are to be like that; and so we are to put our energy into cultivating these graces. Then we shall not be idle, and our lives will be fruitful even as His life was fruitful.
But that brings us to the last reason for cultivating these graces, and this again, I would remind you, is positive. We are to add to virtue knowledge, etc., for this reason, that it leads to a happy and a glorious end to life. You see the Apostle’s logic. It means that you start in the right way, you are continuing in the right way, and it will mean that you will end in the right way. If you only do these things, says Peter, you will cover the whole of your life. As we contemplate this last argument we see once more the utter folly of neglecting these things. We see once more how blind and short-sighted the man is who does not give diligence to add to his faith virtue and knowledge and other graces. What a short-sighted man he is! He has forgotten the thing that is coming to meet him.
Once more I would say that there is nothing perhaps which so tests and reveals exactly where we are and where we stand as the way in which we face the end. The thing that ultimately is going to test the value of our professed Christian faith is the way in which we face old age, is the way in which we face death. Haven’t you sometimes been rather sadly disappointed when you have watched certain people in old age? It can be rather tragic sometimes. Old age tests us, for when we enter that stage our natural powers are failing. So many of us in this life and world live on our own activity. That is why many a man dies suddenly after he has retired from business; and often a wise doctor will advise such a man not to give up altogether, but to go two or three times a week to his business. The man has been living on his business, and after he has retired there is nothing to keep him going. That also applies in connection with Christian work. A man may live on his own preaching instead of on Christ, just as a man can live on his business. But when old age has come he cannot do these things; his powers are failing him, and he cannot appreciate the things of the world. And there he is, left to himself! That is the test. How does one face old age, how are we going to die? Well, says the Apostle, the man who adds to his faith is the man who dies gloriously and triumphantly—`so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’. You notice how Peter plays upon words. Take that word `ministered’; do you know that that is exactly the same word as the word `add’ in verse 5? ‘Ministered’ unto you—if you do certain things an entrance shall be ministered unto you—you minister these things, and this entrance will be ministered unto you. You will die gloriously and triumphantly. How does it work? This is what Peter says. When I come to be an old man, and when I come to die, if I am truly Christian, death to me will be but an entrance, an entrance into a glorious life. I can put that best by contrasting it with what Tennyson said. Do you remember how Tennyson describes death? He puts it like this:
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea.
No!—with the greatest possible respect to the great poet—that is not Christian. The Christian when he dies, does not cross the bar and set out to sea. No; it is rather, as Charles Wesley put it:
Safe into the haven guide,
0 receive my soul at last
—that is the Christian view of death. It is going home, it is entering into harbour, `An entrance will be ministered unto you’. Not a setting out on to an uncharted ocean, not going vaguely into some dim, uncharted world. Not at all, but an entrance into the haven, going home. What does it all mean? It means that the Christian dies like that because he knows God. He has striven diligently to know Him better and better. He knows Christ. He knows where he is going. He does not feel lonely as he is dying, because Christ is with him. He has promised, `I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee’, and `When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee’; and He is there. He does not feel a stranger, and he knows something about the land to which he is going. He has been meditating upon it, he has been looking at it by faith. He has been looking at `the things which are unseen and eternal’; he has `set his affection on things above’. Therefore he faces death and says, I am going home, I am going to be `with Christ which is far better’. So the fear of death is gone—he does not object to going because he knows exactly where he is going, and to whom he is going. He thinks also of the `abundant’ entrance. What does that mean? It means something like this. The Christian who has responded to Peter’s appeal and who has been giving all diligence to living a full Christian life, does not die full of regrets at his failures and shortcomings; he is rather one who can say with Paul, as he views the end, `I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown’. That is the way the true Christian dies. He has been giving this diligence, he has been living the life, so he does not feel guilty; he does not feel that he has been wasting his time. He does not say, `If only I could go back, I would be better’. There are no bitter regrets, he is sure of `the abundant entrance’. He is not just saved `as by fire’.
And over and above that, he gets an abundant welcome. He is met by the angelic hosts of heaven. He is like the man Lazarus that our Lord spoke of. You remember the angels came and took him into Abraham’s bosom. That is how the Christian dies. You remember how John Bunyan puts it. He describes Christian and Hopeful’s going and he says that a multitude of the heavenly hosts with harps in their hands met them, and sang songs which no man could understand but those, and such as are thought worthy to be admitted into that blessed place. The welcome of the angels and the glorified spirits!
But above all, as the Christian is entering the harbour a voice says, `Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world—enter the joy of your Lord.’ That is how the Christian dies.Don’t you feel, as you hear that, that you want to say with one of old, `Let me die the death of the righteous and let my last end be like his’? Well, there is but one way which guarantees the abundant entrance in the everlasting Kingdom. It is this: `Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.’ If you want to have the abundant entrance furnished, ministered, unto you when you come to die, give all diligence to furnish your faith with—or minister unto your faith—virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, love. You minister these, and the other will be ministered unto you. [41-52]