Thursday, January 8, 2009

II Peter 1:10b Blessed Assurance

I have never enjoyed revivals. I felt this way even before I realized I was a Calvinist. When I pastored Matthew’s Memorial Baptist Church, we didn’t have a revival the entire time I was there. I read a statement on another blog that totally crystallized why I feel about revivals the way I do. The author said some churches have a “pray this prayer and you’re saved” mentality and that they encourage people to always remember that day and never doubt. This has nothing to do with anything that we find in this verse in II Peter. I know there are people who went down in VBS and prayed a prayer when they were 8 years old or so who now live in open defiance of God’s word with hate, bitterness, lust, and greed in their heart. They have a false assurance of their salvation. Peter, in this verse, writes to these Christians about true assurance of salvation.

First of all, we should remember that our salvation is not something that we brought about by our choice or because we were smart enough to realize that we need a Savior to redeem us from out sins. Our salvation, as we observed in our last study of this verse, begins with God’s “calling and choosing” of us. Salvation started with God. His Holy Spirit empowers us to live out the Christian life but it is in our living of that life that we find our assurance of salvation. Peter writes in the second half of verse 10 that our assurance comes “as long as you practice these things”. The word “practice” is in the present tense. In other words, the development and exercise of “these things” (the virtues in verses 5-7) is a lifelong endeavor. This activity is quite frankly the toughest job you’ll ever love and you will never retire from it. The Lord was pleased to save me when I was 12 years old and I have grown in Christ since then, albeit not so steadily in my college years. I’m celebrating the 12th anniversary of my 25th birthday (or 36 according to my wife.) the 22nd of February this year and I feel like I have more to learn today than I did when I started my journey. I feel like the more I learn and know the more I realize how much I need to learn and know. As Christians, we are called to live in a manner consistent with the truths of the gospel. Of course we’re going to sin. We’re still living in a fallen world with fallen flesh that loves to sin better than anything. It is only through the strength given to us by God through the Holy Spirit and Bible that we are able to do this. In fact, it is a bigger surprise to me sometimes that I am able to live for the Lord than it is that I fail and sin. The questions we should ask as we read these inspired words given to us through the pen of Peter are “Am I living what I believe? Is the pattern of my life generally consistent with the truths taught in scripture? When I recognize sin in my life, do I confess and repent of that sin?” If you can answer yes to those questions I would say you’re probably practicing the truths Peter has taught. As you see these qualities and character traits grow, you can feel assurance that your profession of faith is genuine. You will have tangible evidence that you can rely on rather than some prayer mumbled when you were a child.

Peter further assures believers that their life of godliness provides a reason to feel secure in their salvation. He says that if you “practice these things you will never stumble”. Now, Peter uses some strong language in the Greek language that doesn’t really translate to English. In saying “never” Peter uses three Greek words: “ou” (3756) which is used for absolute negation of something, “”me” (3361) which is a less intense negation and “pote” (4218) which means never, not once, ever. In fact, following the word order of the Greek a person could translate the phrase “no not stumble never, not once, ever”. I think that’s a triple negative. Regardless of how you want to count the number of negatives in that phrase, it seems pretty clear that Peter is emphatically saying that a true believer, one who is living out his or her faith, will never fail away so as to lose their salvation. “Stumble” (ptaio-4417, to trip up) is in the aorist tense which points to a stumbling that is final and from which one cannot recover, as noted by Edmund Hiebert in his commentary on II Peter. This does not mean that a believer will never sin. What it does mean is that a person who has genuine saving faith will remain faithful in spite of all their minor slip ups and falls to the very end.

As we will see in the next verse, the end of the Christian journey is arrival at home in heaven. We can have assurance of our future home in heaven by the godly lives we live here and now. As Peter has noted, we do not live godly lives to earn our salvation but rather they are the proof of God’s work in our lives.

4 comments:

St.Lee said...

GREAT post!

An 8 year old praying in VBS? Many Baptist Churches are full members who were led in a prayer when they were 3 years old and base their security on the memory they have of their parents telling them about it when they were 6!

I have often thought that this practice of leading a child in a "sinner's prayer" practically as soon as they can speak is just the Baptist version of infant baptism.

Well intentioned, but ....

Joe Blackmon said...

Lee

Thanks for your encouragement. I've never thought of leading extremely young children in a sinner's prayer in quite that way but you're right. It's almost like some folks have a used car salesman mentality where we want to get them to "sign on the dotted line".

Thanks for the comment brother.

Nathan W. Bingham said...

@Joe: Very helpful post. The Word of God is subverted when people place other means of assurance in our way. The Scripture never calls us to look back to a decision, or to a time when we prayed and really meant it. As you said, we are called to examine ourselves today to see if we are "live[ing] in a manner consistent with the truths of the gospel." If we are, then that is evidence not of my 'righteousness' or 'goodness' or 'merit', but it is evidence that the Lord, in the person of His Spirit, is graciously sanctifying me and working in my life to conform me into the image of Christ.

Joe Blackmon said...

Nathan

In terms of evangelisim and discipleship, sometimes we Christians look to anything BUT the Bible. Certainly if I see myself becoming more Christlike I know it's not because I have goodness or righteousness in me. Therefore, all the glory goes to our God for His calling and choosing us.

Thanks for your encouragement.