During the first year of their marriage, my parents lived on the third floor of Dad’s parents’ three-story farmhouse in Raritan, New Jersey. My paternal grandfather gave them a portion of his land on which to build their first house. Dad did most of the construction himself. He would come home after a long day at work and then spend hours each evening building a home for him and Mom.
Mom told me recently that it actually took him a whole year to complete the project. She said she did not know where he got the blueprint from, but that he followed it meticulously. It wasn’t too long after they moved into that house that I came along. Although we moved about fifteen miles away before I turned four, I can still remember—more than sixty years later—“the house that Pat built!”
We Are All Under Construction
In 2 Pet 1:2-11, the Apostle Peter makes it very clear that every Christian is not only “under construction,” but is also a person who is working in the construction business.
Every believer is a builder.
Indeed, in this passage Peter explains how to build a life of quality that will make a difference for all eternity.
The Apostle explains that by our dependence on His Divine resources (vv 3-4), and by our diligence in the human process (vv 5-9), we can build a spiritual house, a life of Christian character that will be effective and productive for God, and which will result in His bestowing and our receiving an abundant and extravagant eternal reward (vv 10-11).
But, how exactly can we do it?
One thing is certain: we definitely need a good blueprint.
We also need to be sure we have all of the necessary resources to complete this construction project according to its Biblical specifications. That is why verses 2-3 are so encouraging:
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust (2 Pet 1:2-3).
Here is some really good news: God has already made generous provision for everything we need for life and godliness.
We have everything we need for spiritual vitality and personal piety.
We have everything we need to live for Him and to behave like Him.
These provisions are readily available to us from Him, through our knowledge of Him.
In other words, the more we know about Who He is and what He does, the more Divine power we have at our disposal to build the super-structure of Christ-like character into our lives.
Knowledge Is Power
Why is this truth so important? Have you ever heard the saying that “knowledge is power?”
You know, there is a sense in which that is true—at least in the spiritual realm of life. For you see, when it comes to your knowledge of Jesus Christ, the greater your spiritual enlightenment, the greater your spiritual enablement.
Your knowledge of Him is the source of your Divine power from Him. A power upon which you must depend if you are going to build the kind of life that will bring glory to Him along with an abundant and extravagant reward for you.
Furthermore, the text informs us that we not only have the Divine resource of the personal power of His incarnated Word, but we also have the Divine resources of the “exceeding great and precious promises.”
The Greek term that is translated “precious” (timia) is one of Peter’s favorite words. In fact, he often used it in his letters with reference to Jesus Christ—the incarnated Word of God (1 Pet 2:4, 7). In the incarnated Word of God we find a precious Person. Then, in 2 Pet 1:4, Peter adds that in the written Word of God we also find precious promises. For example, we have the precious promise that we can share in His excellence in this life—here and now. “…That through these you may be partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4b).
What does it mean to “be partakers of the divine nature?” We partake of the divine nature in that when we are saved by the Son of God, we are immediately sealed by the Spirit of God. He dwells within us (cf. John 14:16; 1 Cor 6:19).
It is His filling that enables us to “escape the corruption that is in this world through lust” (2 Pet 1:4).
So, yes, we have this precious promise that we can share in His excellence in this life. Furthermore, we have the precious promise that we will share in His excellence in the life to come. “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:13).
Talk about a precious promise!
So, when it comes to the superstructure of Christian character that you and I must build, in order to be used by God and thus receive a rich reward, we have the heavenly resources of His Divine power and His precious promises at our disposal.
How to Build
This leads us to consider the human process that we must all be diligent in.
“But also, for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith…” (2 Pet 1:5).
In this verse Peter tells us first how to build. We need to work at it!
You see, in order for this building program to be successfully completed, it will require every ounce of energy you can muster. This project demands diligence, and patience, and perseverance, and endurance.
The verb in the phrase “add to your faith” (epichorēgēsate) in verse 5 is in the imperative mood not the indicative mood. In other words, this statement is not an elective. It is not optional. On the contrary: it is essential if we are to please the Lord and win His approval. We cannot afford to be casual or lackadaisical about our Christian life. But, rather, we must be intentional in our work.
Our Building Materials
Now, having instructed us on how to build—by making every effort to add to our faith—Peter then proceeds to inform us as to what we will need to use to build this superstructure of Christ-like character.
The Biblical blueprint specifies seven special building blocks—virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.
In later articles, I hope to treat these in detail. In this article, I only want to make a general observation or two.
First, if this house that we are to build is going to stand, then it must be built on the foundation of faith in Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul said it like this in 1 Cor 3:11, “For no one can lay a foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ” (NIV). So, you must be able to say, in the words of an old gospel song, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
If you try to build any one or more of these traits into your life, apart from a personal faith in Jesus Christ, it just won’t work, and what you build will not last.
However, once you have a foundation of faith resting on the solid footing of Jesus Christ, then you can and must think about framing the rest of the super-structure of Christ-like character, beginning with the flooring of virtue (or, moral excellence) and capping it off with the roofing of love.
These are the building blocks that are to be used in the framing and fashioning of Christians in and under construction. They describe the very nature and character of Jesus Himself.
According to 2 Pet 1:8, these qualities must be ever increasing, because this kind of steady growth is what keeps you from becoming useless and fruitless. And that’s important, because on that day when at last you stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, the degree to which you are rewarded will be determined by your usefulness and fruitfulness in this life.
Don’t Be Shortsighted
Peter warns in verse 9, “For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness.”
The Greek word that is translated “shortsighted” is myōpazōn, from which we derive our English word “myopia,” which is defined as short-sightedness or near-sightedness.
Now, if a person is near-sighted, then it means that his close vision is normal, but his distant vision is blurred. Therefore, to be spiritually myopic is to be short-sighted. It is to be so focused on the temporal that we lose sight of the eternal. It is to be so engrossed in the here and now, that the then and there becomes rather fuzzy and hazy. And so it is to fail to live in the words of another old gospel song, with “eternity’s values in view.”
The word myōpazōn was also used, by the way, to refer to the blinking or shutting of the eyes.
Peter seems to imply that that is what some of us intentionally do. We willfully shut our eyes to the truth that we no longer belong to ourselves and we must not live just for ourselves because we have been bought at a price. And so, in that sense we become blind to the fact that we are to live for the glory of God (1 Cor 6:19-20) and should make it our goal to please Him (2 Cor 5:9). If I may paraphrase the saying—we become so earthly-minded that we are of no heavenly good.
And you had better believe that kind of living will have a bearing on one’s future reward.
For you see, there is coming a day when every Christian will have his life work open for inspection. For the Apostle Paul reminds us all in Rom 14:10 and 12, “For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” and “each of us shall give an account of himself to God.”
Peter is also thinking of the Judgment Seat of Christ when he adds, “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure” (2 Pet 1:10).
Now, please do not misunderstand: Peter did not mean to imply that some of those to whom he wrote might not have been saved. They were indeed saved. In fact, he said in verse 1 of chapter 1, that they had indeed “obtained a like precious faith” Then he reminded them in verse 9 that they had indeed been “cleansed from old sins.”
He was not calling their justification into question. But he did want them to verify it.
That’s what the verb “make sure” in verse 10 literally means. He wanted them to “confirm” their salvation.1
But that begs the question, to verify it for whom? For themselves? No. He wanted them to verify it for others. As Peter said, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Pet 2:12 NIV).
You see, there is a sense in which our lives are open for inspection here and now by the world. And, believe me, there is nothing they would love more than to see you and me trip up spiritually and fall down morally. But we won’t, so long as these qualities are ours and are increasing. For the Apostle Peter adds in verse 10, “For if you do these things you will never stumble” (NIV). If you make the time and take the time to become more and more like Christ, then you won’t even wobble, let alone stumble.
However, if you don’t do these things, you may very well stumble. You may indeed trip up spiritually and fall down morally. And when that happens, what do those in the world think? They cannot help but wonder, “What kind of a Christian is this?”
There is a sense in which our lives are open for inspection by the world in the here and now. But there is also a sense in which our lives will be open for inspection by the Lord in the then and there, when we stand at last before the Judgment Seat of Christ. If you and I have built upon the foundation of our faith so that we will be effective and productive in our work for the Savior, then, as Peter concludes in verse 11, “an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
The words “for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly” in the NKJV are translated “you will receive a rich welcome” in the NIV. Peter used the same word, epichorēgeō, that we found earlier in the command to “add to your faith” (2 Pet 1:5 NIV). However, this time it is in the passive voice. A rich entrance will be supplied or added by God for the believer who added to his faith the character qualities Peter outlines. What he is suggesting is that if you are lavish in how you build your life for Him, then He will be extravagant in the reward He gives to you.
My Dad went home to be with Jesus on March 24, 2013. He was 86 years old.
Shortly before the second anniversary of his “graduation to glory,” I called my mom and reminisced a bit. It took her by surprise when I steered our conversation to “the house that Pat built” during their first year of marriage. She could not believe that I even remembered it. I was still pretty much a toddler when we moved a couple of years later about fifteen miles away to North Plainfield, NJ, where I eventually graduated from high school.
We talked about the professional—almost phenomenal—quality of my dad’s work. He took it seriously, just as he did his faith in Christ.
He was not at all ineffective or unproductive as a Christian man, husband, father, business man, and church worker. He stuck to the Divine blueprint, and relied on Divine power as he built upon the foundation of his faith in Jesus Christ.
When he is summoned to the Bema, and his life work will be tested, I suspect that he will bask in the applause of crucified hands, and revel in a lavish reward accompanied by the divine accolade, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And I will cheer for him.
1 Editor’s note: Another option is that “make your call and election sure” concerns not showing others that you are born again, but confirming to yourself and others that you will be chosen to rule with Christ and to have the abundant entrance reserved for believers who overcome. In his commentary on 2 Peter Zane Hodges says, “Peter wishes his readership to produce in their lifestyle appropriate verification that they are “royal” people, destined for high honor in the coming kingdom of God…They shall prove themselves ‘chosen’ for divine reward” (Second Peter: Shunning Error in Light of the Savior’s Return, p. 31).