Virtue and Assurance

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Virtue and Assurance

Riverside Indonesian Fellowship
Published by Stanley Pouw in 2010 · 28 November 2010

Peter writes this great section in 2 Peter in order that believers may experience the assurance that God desires for them, given the fact that the enemy, the devil, is the accuser of the brethren and always wants to hit us with blows of doubt to make us doubt our salvation.

To fight off the deluding deceptions the believer must know the truth; knowledge is the key to defeating false teachers. They cannot deceive you if you know the truth, the truth about doctrine and about your spiritual condition.

He says in verses 5-7, “you must add moral excellence and in your moral excellence knowledge, and in your knowledge self-control, and in your self-control perseverance, and in your perseverance godliness, and in your godliness brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness love.” Where you pursue those virtues you will experience assurance.

Then down in verses 8 and 9 which we come to tonight, there are two options presented. In order to enjoy assurance I must consider the options presented in verses 8 and 9. Here you have two options and you can go either way, accepting or rejecting the pursuit of these virtues and the effort that is prescribed. Peter makes the results of these two options very clear.

2 Peter 1:8-11, “For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

In order to experience assurance in my life I have to take the positive option in verse 8. If you see these virtues in your life, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love, if you see those virtues and you see them on the increase, Peter says in verse 8, they make you neither useless nor unfruitful.

So in other words, Peter says in verse 8, when your life does not manifest these things, these virtues, you are useless and unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now look at the phrase at the end of verse 8 because it's important. He says that if you have these virtues you neither are useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. That phrase "in the true knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," shows us that he is referring here to true Christians.

On the other hand if he looks at his life and he doesn't see moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love, if he doesn't see it increasing in his life, if he's not pursuing those things it says that he is blind and short-sighted (verse 9).

Now follow me further in verse 9, "For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins." He's forgotten that God saved him from his former sins, from his old sinful life.

The knowledge of Jesus Christ recorded at conversion came as illumination to those who were blind in their pagan ignorance. But Christians who do not carry through the moral implications of this knowledge have effectively become blind to it again.

Peter develops the benefits in verses 10 and 11. This is really where the whole argument comes to its great climax. Notice verse 10, "Therefore, brother," now here the word "therefore" ties everything up. On the basis of everything I have said, "Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make your call and election sure."

How do you do that? Follow along, verse 10, "For if you do these things." In other words, as long as you pursue these moral virtues, as long as you diligently pursue these increasing virtues, as long as you pursue a holy life, as long as you pursue spiritual growth, you will demonstrate that you were called and you were chosen.

Look at the end of verse 10..."You will never stumble." You will never fall in to doubt, despair, depression, grief and fear about your spiritual condition. You'll always have confidence, you'll always have assurance. Why? Because you're pursuing these virtues, you see them on the increase, you know that God is producing them in your life and because you can see it, you know you've been elected before the foundation of the world.

God is saying to you through Peter that assurance is directly tied to how you live your life now. Everybody would like to be sure about their salvation, nobody wants to live their life in doubt. And yet I would guess that there are still many Christians who live in doubt.

Some people say, "Well, all you have to do to be assured is to go way back to some point in time when you walked the isle and said you give your life to Jesus and signed on the dotted line, that's all the assurance you ever need."

But that's not what Scripture says here. If you want to make your calling and election sure, you're going to make it sure by virtues that are visible in your life, produced by the Spirit of God as you pursue those virtues.

In verse 11 he says it as directly as it could be said, "for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” What's he saying here? He's saying in the future when you enter in to the eternal Kingdom; you will receive an abundant reward.

The entrance into the eternal Kingdom looks at our hope in the future. Now we have already entered the Kingdom at salvation, we passed from death unto life from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's Son, we are now living in the present form of the Kingdom, we are under the rule of Christ. And we are in the Kingdom in that sense.

But we are still looking for the future fulfillment of the eternal Kingdom and the eternal Kingdom is associated with rewards. This part of the Kingdom in which we live now is associated with salvation. The eternal feature of the Kingdom, that which comes in to full fruition in the future, is the blessing of eternal reward. It is beyond time. It is beyond space. It is in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And that, by the way, beloved, is the goal of our pilgrimage. Some people say that you can come to Jesus Christ and believe in Him at a moment of time and then live any way you want without any consequences.

Some say it's nice to pursue moral virtue, but if you don't you'll still get to heaven. That's true if you're truly a Christian but if you choose option number two you will live in doubt and depression, in fear and in despair and you will worry about your spiritual condition and continually wonder if you're really saved because you're not seeing the increase of those moral virtues.

And beyond that, when you enter into the Kingdom, you will find that you are not going to receive an abundant supply of reward in that day. You will receive praise from God but it will not be to the degree that it might have been if you had pursued virtuous things.

We need to live our Christian lives in the light of our eternal reward; we are called to lay up treasures in heaven, we are called to pursue the virtuous things of gold, silver and precious stones and not the lesser things of wood, hay and stubble (1 Cor. 3:12-13). For those who have diligently, faithfully pursued holiness, their reward will be abundantly supplied in proportion to their effort.

Now I agree that every one of God's children when they go to heaven will receive an abundant supply. But Peter here is saying that there is a generous special sense of reward for those who have pursued virtue diligently.

I believe that all Christians bear some fruit, but apparently there is an option that some Christians choose and that is to make a minor effort at spiritual virtue while some make a major effort at it.

Scripture does say that God gives richly to all the saved (Rev. 21:24). Scripture does say that He gives them all things richly to enjoy (1 Tim 6:17). Scripture does say that all believers are forgiven according to the riches of His grace which has been lavished on us (Ephesians 1:7).

Scripture does say that God intends in the future ages to come to show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward all the saved (Ephesians 2:7). Scripture does say that according to His mercy He poured out His Spirit richly on us in the new birth (Titus 3:5). Scripture does say there are riches of the glory of His inheritance in all the saints (Ephesians 1:18).

Scripture does say that all the saved have the riches of the glory of His mystery which is Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). Scripture does say that He is abundant in riches to all believers, Jew and Gentile, who call upon Him for salvation (Romans 9:23-24). Scripture does say that He has supplied all the saved with the Holy Spirit and all manner of manifold grace (Luke 11:13).

So since He has lavished upon all believers such enormous generosity and rich grace and blessing, since all believers will have some faithfulness and some fruitfulness, they will all experience some blessing and some abundance in glory.

Though all of that is true, this verse in this context is saying that as you diligently supply the virtues of Christian character in your life, God will reciprocate by continuing to increase the abundance of the supply which you receive when you enter into His eternal Kingdom.

There are then degrees of reward which God will give to His beloved children based upon their faithful diligent pursuit of righteousness. Abundant sowing will mean abundant reaping. Rewards of grace in eternity will correspond to the work of grace in time. And there will be degrees of reward in heaven, proportionate to your faithfulness in this life.

At the moment of salvation the fact of our entrance into the eternal Kingdom was settled, but the manner of that entrance was not settled. How grandiose our eternal reward in heaven is relates to how diligently we pursue virtue here on earth.

The promise of God is that if I pursue virtue in this life, I will enjoy the best of life which is to be assured of my eternal home and I will enjoy forever and ever and ever the greater reward because of my diligence by the Spirit of God's power now.

Benjamin Warfield years ago wrote this, "Peter exhorts us to make our calling and election sure, precisely by diligence in good works. He does not mean that by good works we may secure from God a degree of election. No. He means that by expanding the seed of spiritual life which we have received from God in to its full potential by working out our salvation, of course not without Christ but in Christ, we can make ourselves sure that we have really received the election to which we make claim.

Good works become thus the mark and test of election. And when taken in the comprehensive sense in which Peter is here thinking of them, they are the only marks and test of election. We can never know that we are elected of God to eternal life except by manifesting in our lives the fruits of and virtue, knowledge and temperance, patience and godliness, love of the brethren. It is idle to seek assurance of election outside holiness of life. Precisely what God chose His people to before the foundation of the world was that they should be holy. Holiness because it is the necessary product is therefore the sure sign of election," end quote.

A person who is at all conversant with the spiritual life knows as certainly whether he indeed enjoys the light of God's blessings or whether he walks in darkness, as a traveler knows whether he travels in sunshine or in rain.

Look at your life. You don't see moral virtue, you don't have any evidence to verify your salvation. Look at your life. If you see these beginning virtues in your life, not obviously in perfection, but they are there and increasing, you know you walk in the light.

What are the practical impacts on my life? The doctrine of assurance and the experience of assurance is important, first of all, because it makes us love and praise God for saving grace and for His eternal promise. If I know I'm secure forever, I'm going to be praising God for that and loving God for that.

Secondly, it not only makes us love and praise God but it drops joy into all our earthly duties and trials. If I know I'm saved no matter what happens in this life it maintains joy in the midst of it. Why? Because no matter what comes temporally, I know my eternal destiny, right? So assurance allows me to rejoice in any difficulty.

Thirdly, assurance makes us zealous in obedience and service. If I know I'm truly saved and if I know I'm truly headed for heaven, then I know my responsibility is to obey my king. Assurance doesn't breed apathy, doubt does, it breeds care and interest. Doubting discourages service, assurance encourages it.

Fourthly, assurance gives us victory over temptation. Because in the midst of the strongest temptation I know I belong to God and therefore I know that there's no temptation taken me but such is as common to man but God is faithful who will not allow me to be tempted above what I am able but has with the temptation made a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13).

On the other hand, if I have no assurance of my salvation, then temptation discourages and depresses me and I wonder if I'm able to even deal with it, and I wonder if it is not going to damn me when I fall victim to it.

Fifthly, if I have assurance it makes me content though I have little in this world. If I have assurance of salvation I am confident that I have riches in the world to come. And I have confidence that my God will supply all my needs according to His riches and glory by Christ Jesus.

But if I'm not sure I'm saved, then I'm grasping for everything this world has to offer. And if I'm not sure there is an eternal reward for me, then I want to fill up this life with all I can get. And when things don't go right I feel cheated all the more.

Number six, if I have assurance it pacifies a troubled conscience. Even when I feel guilty, even when I feel unworthy, even when I feel sinful and wicked and dirty and wretched, my conscience is comforted in the assurance of my eternal salvation.

Number seven and finally, if I have assurance it removes my fear of death. If I know I'm a Christian then I can face death in full confidence that I'll go from this life into the world to come where Jesus Christ will greet me. God says you can make your calling and election absolutely sure and you never need to stumble in to doubt and despair, all you have to do is pursue these virtues. Amen?


© 2017 Ferdy Gunawan

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