How do I forgive this person that has hurt me so deeply? How do I engage with my wife when she seems so disrespectful? How do I love my husband when he can be so demanding and criticizes everything I do? These questions and many more have been asked of me for the past four decades. Another way of saying these things is how do I obtain Christian virtue?
Peter explains in chapter one the source of Christian virtue and the means of obtaining it.
Peter wrote to a people who had the same faith as him. Such a faith came by the means of the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ (verse 1). Virtue does not come from a heart that is sinful. Neither does a virtue worthy of God’s perfect and infinite demands come inherently from with the creature. Man cannot produce virtue; God tells us by James where virtue comes from.
“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:17) For this reason, God tells us in (2 Peter 1:1) that even our faith came by way of God’s righteousness as He sent “Christ” (sent one) to be our (savior) Jesus.
In (verses 3), we are told, “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.” If I am reading this right, “His” refers to God, therefore, it is God’s divine power that has granted us everything pertaining to life and godliness.” How can we manufacture that which comes from God’s divine power? We can’t. We can ask for it, but we cannot produce it.
We are also told in (verse 3) that everything pertaining to life and godliness came “through the true knowledge of Him.” The true knowledge of God cannot be found out by the creature, God must give it. By reason, a man can understand that there must be God because all things that possess design must have a designer. Time and chance can design nothing. Evolution is merely the figment of an Atheist’s natural bias against the knowledge of God. But reason cannot obtain the true knowledge of God any more than it can obtain the knowledge of another man. True knowledge of another living being comes from interaction.
We are further told that even our calling itself came to us by His (God’s) own glory and excellence (verse 3b). How can we produce something for which God receives the glory and it reaches the heights of God’s excellence? Not going to happen! Do you see a trend in Peter’s thinking?
Peter continues, “…For by “these” He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises.” “These” refers to everything that man receives as a result of God’s doing. When God saves a man and then produces something good in a man, He can then grant to that man His precious and magnificent promises. Otherwise, God would be granting His favor to an unworthy man.
How can a man obtain Christian virtue? He must exercise God-given faith in the precious and magnificent promises awarded him by God on the basis of God’s good work within him. It was this very teaching that caused the Apostle Paul to pen the following words.
“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12, 13)
But you still haven’t told me how to obtain Christian virtue, some will say. To them, I will say, work out your salvation with fear and trembling by placing your God-given faith in God who works within you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. The just shall live by faith, the work that is pleasing to God must proceed from faith and not self-effort.
If you want to know the difference between God’s effort within you and your own self-effort, know that one proceeds from God-given faith and the other from faith in your self.