Peter wrote to stir up his readers (2:13). He wanted to arouse their thinking, to wake them up from any spiritual slumber. And so he comes out of the gate with, what seems to me, is a bit of a brain twister. As I sit quietly and chew on the first chapter of Peter’s second letter, I’m noodling on what appears to be a gospel paradox.
Read the opening verses of 2 Peter and the gospel elements are all there. Our standing before God is solely because of the righteousness of Christ credited to our account. It’s only through His divine power that we can know true life and godliness. We weren’t the ones who found Him, but He’s the one who called us. And that not because of our performance, but only because of His precious promises. What’s more, we’ve escaped the bondage of sin, not because of any self-disciplined goodness, but in that, through regeneration, He has reconstituted our spiritual DNA that we might partake of the divine nature.
By grace alone. Through faith alone. In Christ alone.
But amidst all this rest in the gospel, Peter seeks to stir it up.
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. . . . Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
(2Peter 1:5-7, 10-11 ESV)
Make every effort . . . supplement . . . be all the more diligent. Huh? What’s with that? Does that fit with the gospel?
It does. And that, it seems to me, is this gospel paradox.
That the more I appreciate the work is truly finished, the more I’ll want to work. The more I see myself robed freely in His righteousness apart from any righteousness in myself, the more I’ll pursue righteousness. The more I understand that I have been saved through faith alone, the more I’ll make every effort to add to my faith that which is consistent with my faith. The more I understand that He has called me to abide in His Christ-supplied rest, the more I’ll seek to make that calling sure.
My effort not a requirement for salvation, but a response. My diligence not a means to earning His love, but a demonstration that I know I’m already loved with an everlasting love. Wanting to supplement my faith, not in order secure my salvation, but to fully engage with the Spirit as together we work out my sanctification.
We have been wondrously redeemed, and that not of ourselves, thus, we invest ourselves in fully realizing our redemption. Because we stand upon no merit of our own, we determine to walk in a way that honors and exalts Him alone.
This, says Peter, is the way. The way that keeps us from falling. The way that provides for our glorious entrance into His eternal kingdom. The gospel way. A paradoxical way.
Our effort. Our diligence. Only through His power. Only by His grace. All for His glory.