Thursday, October 30, 2008

II Peter 1:5-7 The Goal of the Christian Life-Completeness in Christ Part I

I have played saxophone since I was in 5th grade. When I studied music in college, I found some things easier to do than others. I could play long, lyric, expressive passages pretty easily. Technical, fast material was more difficult for me. Successful musicians, on the other hand, are complete musicians. For instance, my saxophone teacher, Jack Sharp, could literally play or do anything musical. He was one amazing dude. His competence in one area complemented his skills in other areas and all his musical abilities worked together to make him a finely tuned playing “mo-sheen”. In much the same way, Peter exhorts believers to develop their spiritual skills so that they may be complete.

Notice the bedrock upon which these godly traits rest—Peter writes to that by applying all diligence “in your faith, supply moral excellence”. Peter calls out to those who “have received a faith of the same kind” (v 1) as he had. This has to be the starting point for any person to be able to live these godly characteristics. A person has to be convinced of the truth of the gospel and the word of God and that conviction must produce real change in the person’s life and character. Peter is not just talking about a head knowledge which might allow a person to make a 100% on a Jesus Pop Quiz. He is talking about a faith that was so strong that a person would be willing to face death for the truth they believed in. Furthermore, the faith he referred to was individual. He says “your faith”. The Church is a corporate organism—the Body of Christ. However, we are not saved corporately but individually. Each person that comes to faith in Christ and bows to Him as their Savior and Lord does so on their own knee. They submit to Him and place their faith in Him. No one else’s faith can save them but their own.

Peter calls for the believer to incorporate 7 characteristics with their faith. First of all, he calls for them to, along with their faith, “supply moral excellence”. The word translated “supply” is the Greek word “epichoregeo” (2023). This word was used at one point to describe someone with the responsibilities of providing for the needs of a large chorus like the chorus that was used for Greek plays. It carries the sense of providing lavishly well beyond the point of need. A Christian is to, alongside of their faith, exercise these other characteristics not one after the other but one along with the others. These are not beads on a string or checking off items on a shopping list whereby one item is placed in a spiritual shopping cart after another but instead the believer is to be like a well trained musician who while playing a technically challenging piece also plays the piece as beautifully as possible. Believers, therefore, supply these characteristics in concert with their faith as a symphony of praise to God the Father.

Peter says that believers should supply along with their faith “moral excellence” which translates the Greek word “arĂȘte” (703). As I understand it from what I’ve been able to read, this word has the idea of completely fulfilling a purpose. For instance, it might be used of a good tool that was able to be used for a job or a plot of land that plentifully produced crops. It is used in verse 3 of this chapter to describe God who is of course complete, perfect, and whole. We should seek to display moral excellence by living the Christian life as we have been called to and empowered to by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, as Peter writes, we should seek to develop along with our moral excellence “knowledge”. Now, as we began to study this epistle we observed that there were those from outside the church that were claiming that you could start with Christ but to really be spiritual you had to uncover “secret knowledge” that, just coincidentally, they could help you discover—probably for a price. As Peter has said, and will say again, the Bible is the complete handbook of spiritual knowledge and “everything pertaining to life and godliness”. However, a person can have head knowledge of Jesus and be lost as a goose. They can know a lot or think that they know a lot and not know Him. And make no mistake, brothers and sisters, our knowing should result in our doing. If we are truly saved by our faith and we are doing our best to live out our faith then as we learn more about God and His word it will change the way that we live. If it doesn’t, we have a problem and we need to examine ourselves to see if we are really in the faith.

While these 7 characteristics that Peter refers to are not added like links on a chain we can clearly see in this verse that they work together synergistically as we grow and mature in Christ. Praise God that He’s still working on me.

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