2 Peter 1:10 says “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fail (English Standard Version).” Self-reflection and introspection are often neglected in Christianity today. Why? Are we too busy? Are we too prideful? Do we have it already figured out? Peter gets at something real quick in 2 Peter, and that is the fact that there are people who are professing to be Christian who are not really Christian. Peter gives some quick, distinctively Christian qualities before v. 10. He says in v. 5-7:
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
Peter says these qualities are the qualities of someone who can make sure he is truly called and elect by God unto salvation. Peter really gets at the heart of the matter quick, because in the rest of 2 Peter, Peter is going to lay down the gauntlet. You know Peter is serious when he opens the letter like this: “Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ…(2 Peter 1:1, ESV).” What’s my point? The point is that right off of the bat, Peter is separating people who actually have saving faith (to those who have obtained the same faith of the apostles, the faith in Jesus Christ) from those who only claim to have saving faith. How does Peter separate them? We have already seen the qualities Peter says are of those who have actually obtained saving faith in Jesus Christ:
- Virtue (or excellence)
- Knowledge (knowledge about who God is, since this is the highest form of knowledge)
- Self-Control (which is really spirit-control, though true believer’s will have the power to be self-controlled)
- Steadfastness (unwavering, unyielding trust and patience)
- Godliness (holiness, because God is holy)
- Brotherly Affection (love for the church, the brothers and sisters in Christ)
- Love (general lovingness for God and for people)
But Peter doesn’t just give a check-off list for people to see whether or not they are actual believer’s in Jesus Christ. He says for people to be diligent to make their calling and election certain. This word diligent has an urgency behind it. Peter wants people to be urgent, to not wait, to precisely and carefully self-examine themselves to see whether or not they are in the true faith. I wrote a blog about what is meant by true faith, which can be read here. Jude says something similar in Jude 3, “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (ESV).” Later, in 2 Peter 3:14, Peter again exhorts “therefore, beloved, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace (ESV).” Again, Peter says in 2 Peter 3:17, “You therefore, beloved, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability (ESV).”
In 1 John, John writes of different tests which we can do to be confident of whether we are in the faith or not. The other night during our Wednesday night youth group worship service, I read through some of these tests and made the point that these tests will either confirm for you that you are in the faith or will confirm for you that you don’t actually have saving faith. One student remarked that the tests were “harsh”. I responded in affirmation, affirming that indeed it is harsh and it is difficult. In fact, I made mention that Jesus says it is “impossible”, at least for us on our own. But with Christ, all of these things will come and will only serve to better confirm our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and that we are saved by Him and in Him.
David writes of self-examination in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (ESV)” Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23:
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (ESV)
These are but a few of the places in Scripture where we either see the writer doing self-examination or exhorting us to do self-examination, which is precisely what Peter is doing in 2 Peter 1:10. Be diligent to self-examine yourself to make your calling and election as a believer in Jesus Christ certain. The point is not to cause doubt. The point is to cause security in the life of the believer!
But, each time self-examination is either being done or is exhorted to be done, there is always a hint of false faith. So, why should we do self-examination according to Peter, Jude, John, David, and Jesus? So that we will know that we are not following a false faith, a faith which will not save. The false faith is tied into what we do, such as in the Matthew 7 passage where Jesus calls people who trust in what they do “workers of lawlessness.” Peter’s point with the qualities in 2 Peter 1 is that the qualities only serve as evidence, or proof, of existing saving faith. The qualities are qualities that are birthed out of a true faith that saves.
So, what is the true faith versus a false faith that doesn’t save? True faith is only in the person and work of Jesus Christ. False faith can be identified in a number of different ways, but here are a few identifiers of false faith:
- Belief in self-works for salvation (Matthew 7:21-23, Ephesians 2:8-9)
- Hatred for the body of Christ (1 John 3:11-18)
- Love for the world (1 John 2:15-17)
- Disobedience towards God in habitual patterns (1 John 2:4, 1 John 3:9-10)
- Denial of the person and work of Jesus Christ (1 John 2:1-6)
These are only a few, but these are a good starting point. Let’s turn the negative around and view this positively. Let’s look at the true faith which is only in the person and work of Jesus Christ. What is meant by the person and work of Jesus Christ?
The person of Jesus Christ means that Jesus is the God-man, 100% God, 100% man, and He alone is mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). But this isn’t all there is. The person of Jesus Christ is also tied to the holiness and perfection, or the righteousness, of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15). This means that Jesus is able to be our mediator because He is perfectly righteous. He alone is worthy to open the scrolls in Revelation 5:5, when one of the elders says to John, “weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that He can open the scroll and its seven seals. (ESV)” John then says in v. 6 that He sees a “Lamb, standing, as though it had been slain (ESV).” The slain Lamb is the Lion of Judah, the Root of David, the One worthy to open the scroll. Why? Because of His righteousness. So, when a person comes to saving faith, they believe in Jesus because Jesus had no sin, and thus conquered sin and death via the resurrection. Therefore, the convert believes he can have new life, or, as Jesus says in John 3, to be born again. The convert may not recognize this in full, but in simple form, this is one aspect of the gospel, of saving faith, the person of Jesus.
The work of Jesus is directly and necessarily tied to the person of Jesus. Why was Jesus able to conquer the grave? Because sin had no hold on Him, He was perfectly holy and righteous and blameless. So the saving person of Jesus means that we take on His righteousness, and the saving work of Jesus means that our sin debt is paid in full, and thus we are justified (it’s literally just as if I died – justified). The work of Jesus is known as propitiation, which is a fancy word which means that the wrath of God is satisfied for sinners in Jesus. The sacrifice Jesus made on the cross is enough to pay the price for sinners.
So, does it matter? Does it matter what we lead people to believe about saving faith? Does it matter what someone who wants to be saved believes? Well, we certainly don’t think people need to affirm every doctrine, or even these doctrines in depth in order to be saved, else salvation would be tied to doctrine more than it actually is. But, yes, it does matter what a person who wishes to be saved believes. He at minimum must believe in the person (righteousness of Christ which gives me new birth) and work (propitiation, which pays the penalty for my sin) of Jesus Christ. Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved. But what about Jesus? That He was a good man? No. That He healed people? No. That He loved people? No. That He helped people? No. Believe that He alone is the righteous One, that in Him you are born again, and that by His work on the cross your sin is paid in full. Those other things are important, and must be affirmed, but are not necessary for affirmation at the time of conversion.
What is all that? Simply, theology. A person wishing to be saved must have a theological belief about Jesus in order to be saved. The theological belief is the person and work of Jesus Christ, which is simple form of rich and deep doctrines such as imputed righteousness and propitiation. It matters what we believe. Peter, John, David, Jude, Jesus, and several others in the Bible agree. We ought not dare disagree with them. We need to re-evaluate sayings I have seen recently, such as “theology has a place, but is not primary”, or “we don’t need to be theological in order to be effective in winning people to Jesus”. Yes. We do need theology. Without it, there can be no true faith.