Perseverance and Security
Topic: Expository Passage: 2 Peter 1:8–11
Read vv. 5–11
As a little kid, I was deathly afraid of tornadoes. I think I watched Wizard of Oz, a little too early in life, and those scenes of Dorothy’s house getting carried away in a tornado really messed me up! As a result, I have clear memories of times when huge thunderstorms were slamming against our house, and I was pacing around praying that a tornado wouldn’t rip our house to smithereens.
My fears were way overblown, but some of the storms we would get in the Midwest were pretty violent. What makes these powerful destructive storms? The short answer is contrary forces. Warm, humid air would push its way up from the Gulf of Mexico where it would collide with a strong cold front from the Northwest. And when those contrary forces collided, they create some crazy storms.
That’s not a perfect illustration by any stretch, but in some sense it illustrates the tension we may feel as we come to 2 Peter 1:8–11, because Peter addresses the collision point between 2 vital biblical realities—God’s sovereign and sure work of salvation and my responsibility to live a godly life. These are hard realities to reconcile.
But this collision point is profoundly practical, because how I reconcile God’s sovereign and sure work of salvation with my responsibility to persevere will shape how I know that I’m saved. There’s not much that is more foundational to a healthy faith than rightly answering the question, “How do I know I’m a Christian and that I’m going to heaven?”
So, we are going to wade through some deep water today, but it’s very important and practical water, so I hope you’ll stick with me and think deeply about what Peter has to say. The passage begins in vv. 8–9 where Peter draws a strong contrast.
I. The Contrast (vv. 8–9)
Remember that vv. 5–7 command us to diligently develop 7 attributes of godliness. Verses 8–9 describe 2 contrasting responses to this command. They contrast those in whom, “these things are yours and abound” (v. 8) with those who “lack these things” (v. 9). Verse 8 begins with the positive.
A growing faith produces a growing knowledge of Christ (v. 8). Peter imagines a Christian in whom these qualities are “yours” (they are present in your life), and they “abound.”
This person is generously adding an abundant supply of the 7 virtues. It’s like the person who prepares a massive Thanksgiving feast big enough to feed 30 people, even though he’s only hosting 5. They continually build a generous overflowing supply of food.
That’s how we are to pursue these virtues. We should never say, “Yeah, I have enough brotherly kindness. I don’t need any more of that.” No, we are always looking to generously build every Christian virtue.
Why is this so important? The person who diligently pursues godliness, “Will be neither barren (useless)…” To turn that around to a positive, “You will be useful and fruitful…” Peter uses the same word for knowledge, epignosis, that he used in vv. 2, 3. Remember that it describes an intimate knowledge of the Lord rooted in conversion.
So, v. 8 is saying that when I see that God is changing me, and I see the fruit of “His divine power,” of v. 3 causing me to develop the “divine nature” of v. 4, it assures me that Christ truly lives in my heart. I know that he loves me, and I know that he will never leave me nor forsake me. As a result, I know that he will continue to change me until I reach glory.
As I said a couple weeks ago, there is no greater privilege a sinner can enjoy than a secure intimate relationship with the God of heaven. Philippians 3:8 says it is of “surpassing worth.” We ought to give thanks for this security.
But what is particularly important to see is that this secure knowledge of Christ comes through a growing faith. I emphasize this, because I’ve heard many professing Christians complain that they don’t feel God’s presence, they don’t enjoy worship, and their Bible reading is dry, so they question whether or not they are saved.
Oftentimes, it’s not hard to see why. They aren’t “giving all diligence,” to “adding to their faith.” They’re on cruise control, halfheartedly going through the motions of godliness. They shouldn’t be surprised that God seems distant.
2 Peter 1:1–11 is clear that we can’t just sit back and wait for God to zap us with joy and spiritual security. We have to respond to God’s sovereign work by “applying all diligence” in building an abundant supply of godliness.
Is that what you are doing? Are you living the Christian life like a race car driving who is 100% focused and pushing as hard as possible? Yes, doing so is exhausting, and it takes great discipline. But the fruit is the greatest gift you can enjoy this side of glory—a “useful and fruitful knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is worth the effort.
Christian, do you want to experience the grace of God and walk securely with him? Diligently pursue a growing faith. So, v. 8 gives the positive side of the contrast, and then notice the negative in v. 9.
A stagnant faith is a dead faith (v. 9). Verse 9 describes the professing Christian who “lacks these things,” speaking of the virtues in vv. 5–7.
It may be that he has a great story about how he asked Jesus to be his Savior as a kid and got baptized. But it doesn’t make much difference today. Maybe he happily engages in sinful behaviors like drunkenness or immorality, without any guilt or conviction. Or maybe he puts on air of godliness, but it’s clearly hypocritical. He talks the talk, but he doesn’t walk the walk. What do we do with that person?
Peter describes him or her as “shortsighted, even to blindness.” So, he is blind to the spiritual realities that drive a vibrant faith. He doesn’t see the beauty of God and the gospel. When he hears truths of Scripture that ought to bring deep conviction, they just pass in one ear and out the other.
Then Peter adds that this person, “has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.” Peter assumes that the gospel is intended to change how we live. It “cleanses from old sins.” Verse 4 describes a Christian as someone who has “escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
Folks, he says that about every Christian; not just the really spiritual ones. God saves people so that we may “partake of the divine nature.” As a result, if someone does not diligently add to his faith, it’s not a minor oops. He has forgotten the core purpose of the gospel.
So, how should we view this individual, and how should you look at yourself, if you “lack these things”? Many people would simply assume that he is backslidden or carnal. In other words, he is genuinely saved and destined for heaven, but he is simply immature.
But the context demands a more severe judgment. In light of the warning in v. 9, notice Peter’s admonishment in v. 10. “Be even more diligent…” “Calling” and “election” describe genuine salvation.
So, the way I gain assurance that God elected and called me is by diligently adding to my faith. And what’s the implication if I don’t add to my faith? It’s not just that I’m backslidden; it may be that I’m not a Christian. So, vv. 9–10 clearly connect assurance to a diligent pursuit of godliness.
You might be thinking, “Hold it, v. 9 says this person ‘was cleansed from his old sins.’ That has to mean that he is truly saved.” Peter clarifies what he means in 2:20–22. Peter is speaking about the false teachers who had left the faith, and notice how he describes their spiritual condition (read).
Again, Peter uses language that normally describes genuine salvation (v. 20a). But v. 21 says these people are worse off than if they never knew the gospel. You would never say that about anyone who is going to heaven, right? Peter is clearly saying that the false teachers are unsaved and headed to the lowest pit of hell.
So, is Peter saying that they had been genuinely saved, but then they walked away from Christ and lost their salvation? No, because v. 22 clarifies that what happened with the false teachers (read).
I grew up on a hog farm, and I can tell you that you can wash a pig spick and span, but on a hot afternoon that hog will always go right back to the mudhole. Why do they do that? It’s their nature to get dirty.
The point of the illustration is that when the false teachers left the faith, they didn’t lose their salvation; rather, they revealed their true nature. They demonstrated that they were still spiritually blind and lost.
Therefore, we must recognize that when Peter uses this language about conversion in 1:9 and 2:20, he is speaking from a human perspective. God perfectly knows who is saved and who is not, but we don’t. Jesus said that at the final judgment there will be many people who are surprised when they are condemned to hell. So, sometimes it may look like someone has genuinely been converted, but in time it proves to be a false conversion. Why? Because genuine Christians who know the Lord and have received “all things that pertain to life and godliness” will add to their faith.
I want to tread carefully hear, because I used to struggle with unfounded doubts about my salvation. I know that others have a similar struggle. If you are prone to doubt, please listen to God’s Word, not the unfounded fears that Satan tempts you with, because those fears are terribly destructive.
That being said, I really want to speak to the person who potentially fits v. 9. It might be that you have grown up in the church your whole life, you prayed a prayer as a kid, you got baptized, and you are a member of Life Point. But God hasn’t truly changed your heart.
You know how to look spiritual, but you don’t feel any conviction when the Word is preached. You aren’t interested in diligently adding to your faith or knowing the Lord. Your heart is cold and hypocritical. If that’s you, the most loving thing I can say to you is that you shouldn’t blindly assume you are saved. It may be that you’ve cleaned the outside, but you are a pig at heart.
Don’t be one of those people who is surprised someday, when Christ condemns you to hell. God doesn’t want genuine believers to live in perpetual doubt, but 2 Corinthians 13:5 also urges us to occasionally, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith.”
If you have doubts, talk with someone who knows you and knows the Word and can help you evaluate the state of your soul. A godly friend can really be helpful when we are trying to evaluate such a difficult issue. We want to help you enjoy assurance, but only if it is a legitimate assurance.
In sum, vv. 8–9 set up an important contrast, but they also leave us wondering how can I ever know that I’m saved? Peter answers in v. 10 with the central…
II. The Command (v. 10a)
I opened today by talking about the violent storms that can explode when warm, humid air collided with a cold front. And this command involves a similar collision between 2 vital biblical truths—God’s sovereign work of salvation and my responsibility to persevere. Notice first…
Divine Work: God sovereignly elects and calls. Peter states that this command concerns our “calling and election.” Ephesians 1:4 states of our election that God, “Chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” God didn’t choose me, because he needed me or because I am so spiritual. No, he chose me before I could do anything to earn his favor.
Then, when I was a 6-year-old boy, he opened my eyes to the beauty of the gospel, and he called me to himself. And I came, again, not because I was so smart or godly, but because he drew me to himself. It was all grace! But God’s sovereign work is not the only side to my salvation. Rather, notice…
My Work: I must add to my faith. The only command in vv. 8–11 is the command in v. 10 to, “be even more diligent to make your call and election sure (i.e., firm).” The imperative, be diligent, is the same root Peter used in v. 5. So, Peter is again calling us to diligently add to our faith. He is commanding us to aggressively pursue godliness.
But why? So that, we will “Make your call and election sure.” On the most basic level this means that as I grow in godliness, I receive assurance that I truly am called and elect, I really am saved. In other words, as I see God convicting me of sin and changing my character, it gives me assurance that I really am in Christ, and the Holy Spirit is at work in me. I’m not just a cleaned-up pig; I’m a new creature in Christ!
That’s almost always where the NT pushes us to find assurance. If you want to know if you are saved, don’t lean on a prayer you prayed and a baptism from decades ago. No, the NT says to ask if you believe the gospel today, and if the gospel is changing you? And when you see these evidences of God’s grace, they should assure you that you are in Christ. God intends for you to be encouraged!
But this command is about more than assurance, because vv. 10b–11 clearly say that our entrance into the kingdom is in some sense contingent on the diligent pursuit of godliness. Now, we’ve hit the eye of that violent tornado, because you’re saying, “Wait a minute, salvation is by grace alone!”
That’s absolutely true, but the NT is also clear that Christians must persevere in right doctrine and practice (Col 1:21–23). Like our text, vv. 21–22 describe God’s incredible, gracious work of salvation. It’s all grace.
But v. 23 adds that all of this is only true, “if you continue in the faith.” Is Paul saying that continuing in the faith earns me salvation? No! But he saying that it is a necessary proof that I am truly in Christ.
Why? Because 2 Corinthians 5:17 states, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” If I am a new creation, I’m going to act like it. If I don’t, it may be that I’m not truly in Christ.
So, there is an important admonition in 2 Peter 1:10 for the person who is banking on that prayer and baptism from years ago but who has no interest in pursuing Christ today. True assurance only belongs to those who diligently add to their faith.
So, Christian, “be even more diligent to make your call and election sure.” Work hard to live out the challenge of vv. 5–7. “Add to your faith…” But I want to emphasize that Peter is not calling us to do so begrudgingly or with a sense of terror as if hell is nipping at our heels. No, Peter ends the text with 2 incredible promises for those who diligently add to their faith.
III. The Promise (vv. 10b–11)
Perseverance (v. 10b): Peter promises that if you diligently add to your faith, “You will never stumble.” Does Peter mean that we will never sin? Of course not. The NT everywhere assumes that Christians will sin and sometimes sin severely. Peter denied Jesus 3xs right after Jesus’ warning.
Rather, God is promising that you will never “stumble” in the sense that you fall away from the faith fully and finally. In other words, you will never abandon the faith like the false teachers had done.
Now, you might hear that and think, “That’s a great promise for a spiritual giant with a strong faith, but not me. My faith is weak. I don’t trust myself not to fall away. So, how can I ever really enjoy assurance?”
The answer is the sovereignty and faithfulness of God. Our faith is not rooted in us. God elected us in eternity past and called us to himself. Verse 1 says he gave us “like precious faith.” Verse 2 says he gave us “grace and peace…in the knowledge of Christ.” Verse 3 says “His divine power…” And v. 4 says that through all of this, “(He) has been given…”
So, I am responsible to diligently add to my faith, but I do so in the strength of God and with the assurance of his promises. And the reason I can know I will not stumble is not because I’m so strong; it’s because his promises are sure. He will never let me stumble. He will preserve my faith, and he will strengthen me to grow into his likeness. “He will hold me fast.” Therefore, a second promise the Lord gives is…
Life in the Kingdom (v. 11): This verse looks forward to the everlasting kingdom of Christ. It says that those who persevere in the faith don’t merely look forward to squeezing into the back gate of the kingdom. Rather, we are promised an entrance that is abundantly supplied.
Peter paints a picture of a warm, hearty welcome from our Lord, like when a son comes home from war. Everyone is proud of him and glad to see him. There are banners and balloons, food and celebration.
Similarly, the road of discipleship is often very difficult. God expects a lot, we sacrifice a lot, and we put in a lot of diligent work. It’s a war! But someday, it will all be over and Christ will gladly and abundantly welcome us home. It’s going to be a wonderful day.
And what’s so great about our text is that we don’t have to live in fear, wondering if it will happen. No, God says that every spiritual victory, every miniscule step toward maturity, every conviction of the Spirit, every heartfelt prayer to the Lord, and every kind deed with the affection of Christ provides a little more assurance that Christ is alive in me, and I will make it. Just as he has changed me in the past and is changing me today, he will continue to do so, until he finally and fully finishes the process, and I enter his kingdom.
In conclusion, this passage balances two important biblical realities that are hard for us to reconcile—God’s sovereign work of salvation and my responsibility to persevere. It’s a difficult balance, which is why a lot of theological thunderstorms erupt right at this point. But we must not abandon either truth. Christian, God saved you to make you holy. You must diligently add to your faith, because that’s what genuine Christians do.
But they don’t do so begrudgingly or fearfully; rather, because of God’s sovereign work in them, they love the Lord and they want to obey this will. They experience the grace and presence of the Lord. And based on these experiences and the sure promises of God, they know that they will make it. God will not let us go. He will keep us, sustain us, and glorify us. We can taste the victory of heaven, because it is so close. So, today, I’d like to close by reading the doxology in Jude 24–25. What a day that will be.