Growing Spiritually

Reflection: 2 Peter 1: 1 – 11

Apart from the warnings on false teachers, Peter’s last epistle addressed the unchanging centrality of the gospel, the necessity for believers to grow in the faith and to know God. From the Gospels, we are aware how his own faith had been sorely tested prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, and was eventually strengthened by his resurrected Lord through 40 days of instruction (Acts 1:3). He wrote as an older man, decades later, that his faith is no different from theirs (‘of equal value: v.1), reaffirming the common origin of their radicalized changed life in Christ (v.2). Speaking now in the inclusive second person plural, Peter identified that those who know God have everything they need for life and godliness, that is, they have everything they need for eternal life by taking hold of His divine promises (v.3-4). Growth and moral transformation were his emphases.

How would a believer know that he is growing in faith? Like all things to do with faith alluded to by Peter, character formation starts from the inside out. On the one hand, a work of God, with the initial gift of faith at the point of salvation, but coupled with the believer’s diligent pursuit in his subsequent walk of faith in experiencing this divinely-empowered transformational process (v.3), without which, try as they might in their own capacities, these qualities will not develop (1 Peter 1:14-16; Rom 8:12-13). Hence, with their sincere cooperation, this life force of God Himself in the believer will bring about change gradually, ultimately moulding them to be like His Son. Peter lists a few virtues to be attained, and these should not be read as a stepped process; that is, one virtue leading to another. God’s presence in their lives will leave no stone unturned as He convicts of patterns of weaknesses and sins (reversing this list from positives to negatives to give us a comparative appreciation of the virtues) involving immorality, a heart devoid of the knowledge of God’s will, unbridled self-indulgence, half-heartedness in the walk of faith, irreverence, lack of love for fellow believers, and hostility (vv.5-7). And if these qualities are not existing and increasing, Peter maintained that the believer would be ineffective and unproductive for God’s use. He was quite blunt, calling them, literally blind and myopic, having forgotten the work of Christ’s sacrifice for them (v.9).

The heart of Christian growth is to humbly recognize that there is a definitive divine objective in our salvation, and to have this sense of purpose indelibly etched into our consciousness. To forget it is to disregard God’s redemptive purpose for us (Ps 103:1-5), but to persistently evoke its memory is to compel us to keep running the race of our high calling in Christ (vv.10-11). If we are not profoundly aware that Christ is an active participant in our life, His involvement is inevitably excluded from the daily humdrum decision-making routine over matters that swirl around us each day. Brother Lawrence of ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’ exemplified this crucial awareness. Peter deemed this process so critical that he concluded with a strong moral appeal to the whole church to strive harder and eagerly to make certain of their calling and election in Christ, for by exercising these qualities, they will not be unfaithful to Christ (vv.10-11). We are that Body.