2 Peter 1:5-11 Graduating From the School of Christ

2 Peter 1:5-11 Graduating From the School of Christ May 25, 2013

2 Peter 1:5-11 Graduating From the School of Christ

2 Peter 1:5-11 Graduating From the School of Christ

Some of us here are graduating from school. We have spent years learning certain skills, which we hope to be able to apply in our lives. Perhaps some will learn more precise skills for a job as an apprentice. Perhaps others will go to college to learn “higher education.” (As if going twelve years was not high enough.) I would submit that in 2 Peter we can look at spiritual growth in the same way. A student goes through a series of periods or classes in the day to go to school, you learn different subjects. When you go to the school of Christ, you will also learn special skills.

These subjects can be seen in two different ways: First, one progresses through each skill until one reaches the skill of love. Second, one graduates from each skill directly to the next. It begins with faith and ends with love.

This list is similar to the list of fruits in Galatians 5 and James 3:17. When one compares all three, it is clear that these are qualities which should be in every Christian.  James shows the result of wise or right living. Galatians shows us the result of Spirit-living. 2 Peter reveals the results of holy living. The Holy Spirit guides us to right living. Therefore, the Holy Spirit leads us to right living.

This is such a huge passage to get my mind around, but as I look at it, I recognize a growing kind of pattern to the list:

We start with proclaiming our faith in Christ Jesus as our Savior. Then we set out to do the good things that we know Jesus wants us to do. We soon realize that there is much we need to learn if we are going to follow his teachings. The more we learn, we begin to discover areas of our lives that we need to change requiring a measure of self-control. Some of these changes may be difficult for us, and we may struggle to persevere in them. As we make these changes we will show more godliness in our manner. This godliness should express itself in brotherly kindness to others, and ultimately a measure of love that only Christ can help us to attain.

EIGHT SKILLS TO LEARN IN THE SCHOOL OF CHRIST

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.” (2 Peter 1:5–7, HCSB)

1. Faith (“pistis”)

All Bible-believing Christians have to start here with the first step of faith: believing God and his Word. It is fundamental to Christian life (see Eph. 2:8–9). But do not stop there, for Christians are also to be like mathematicians and add to their faith.

The first skill is to have faith. Our journey with Christ begins with faith. It ends with faith.

“For in it God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:17, HCSB)

Without faith we can’t please God.

“Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6, HCSB)

Faith is the first skill we need to learn in the school of Christ.

All Bible-believing Christians have to start here with the first step of faith: believing God and his Word. It is fundamental to Christian life (see Eph. 2:8–9). But do not stop there, for Christians are also to be like mathematicians and add to their faith.
To faith, we have to add the second skill:

2. Goodness (also known as virtue, or moral excellence) (“areten”)

Faith which is honoring to God is to have the character of goodness and moral excellence. Faith must be accompanied by an excellent character. In order for my faith to be believed, I have to be morally sincere and real. I have to follow my faith by my actions.

To goodness, I have to add the third skill:

3. Knowledge (“gnosis”)

Why are we to add virtue before knowledge? I believe it’s because if my mind is cluttered with pornography and violence, I won’t be able to extract knowledge about life from the Word because I’ve filled my spirit with the junk food of the world. Moral excellence is that which makes room for us to take in the Word and gain knowledge of the Lord.

If faith is to be active obedience to God, then we must have “knowledge” (epı́gnōsis) of God and of His will for us. This knowledge is everything I have learned, what I have discovered. This knowledge is in stark contrast to our former ignorance which led us to live former lusts.

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance.” (1 Peter 1:14, HCSB)

To knowledge we add the fourth skill:

4. Self-control (“enkrateia”)

To know is vitally important, but it is not enough. We are to do what we know we should do. In many of our lives, there is a great gulf between our knowledge and our conduct. It was to this problem James spoke when he wrote, “to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).

Why is temperance, or self-control, to be added to knowledge? Because as I gain knowledge, if I’m not very, very careful, I will begin to say, “Now that I have knowledge about this, I can handle it.”

A dear pastor friend of mine who had been mightily used by the Lord began to say, “My studies have convinced me that Jesus drank alcohol.” And he went on to develop an extensive argument for why Christians should be able to drink. This led him and his wife to wine-tasting events, which led to nightclubs, which led to dancing with other people, which led to divorce. In the name of knowledge, this dear brother sacrificed temperance—and lost his family and ministry as a result.

Peter warns us that as we add knowledge, we must be sure we don’t get caught up in a pharisaical pseudo-intellectualism that makes us feel that, because we’re a cut above others, we can indulge ourselves in ways that will destroy us.

The Greek word for “self-control” is enkráteia, which is sometimes translated as temperance. It is one element of the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:23. In the real sense of the term, it means more than self being in control. A more descriptive and accurate term would be “God-control.” Only when we are under the control of the Holy Spirit can we be self-controlled. To self-control we add the fifth skill:

5. Perseverance (“hupomonen”)

Both James and Peter write a great deal about the virtue of “perseverance” (hupomoné́). This word means “enduring, continuance or patience” and comes from the root word hupoménō which can mean “to bear trials, to have fortitude, to abide or to endure.” In our vernacular, we would say perseverance means “hanging in there.” There are only seconds which separate those who fail from those who succeed in running most races. Too many people drop out of the race just before it is to be won. Those who persevere by “hanging in there” are those who win the prize. To perseverance, we add a sixth skill:

6. Godliness (“eusebeian”)

The Greek word for godliness, eusébeia, means “godly, pious, or devout.” Godliness cannot be fabricated. We cannot merely pretend to be godly. The quality of godliness comes from God Himself. He must give that quality of life to us. We receive it as we are dead to self and alive to God and as we allow the Spirit to live within us. The fruits of the Spirit are attributes of the character of God. The more we are possessed by God, the more we will act like Him and the more His character will be revealed in our lives.
As you can see, these six skills are personal skills which God teaches us. He expects us to learn these skills because they benefit us in our lives. However, as we keep going to school, we learn that these skills have a purpose. It is like learning in elementary and secondary school. Eventually, what you learn in school will get applied. We start seeing the application as we learn the next two skills. As a matter, if we have trouble learning these first six skills, we will have trouble performing the next two skills. They both are skills related to love. To godliness, we add a seventh skill:

7. Brotherly affection (“philadelphia”)

“Brotherly kindness” or “brotherly love” is a special kind of love. The Greek word is familiar to us today. It is philadelphia. Peter uses this word in instructing us regarding the importance of having love of the brethren.

“By obedience to the truth, having purified yourselves for sincere love of the brothers, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,” (1 Peter 1:22, HCSB)

Paul teaches us to be kindly, affectionate to one another in brotherly love

“Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10, HCSB)

This is one of the amazing qualities of the church of Jesus Christ. We are to love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ—and are members one to another

“Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27, HCSB)

We must live out our faith by having a love for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

8. Love (“agape”)

There is a wonderful quality of love between brothers and sisters. That is philadelphia. There is an even deeper quality of love which knows no limits and has no conditions. It is agápē—the very quality of the love of God. In fact, the most simple and profound definition of agápē in all of literature is simply this: “God is agápē” (1 John 4:8).

Agápē is the highest expression of love and the ultimate mark of the Christian lifestyle. By it we shall be recognized as the disciples or followers of Christ.

“By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”” (John 13:35, HCSB)

Agápē is also a part of the fruit of the Spirit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith,” (Galatians 5:22, HCSB)

Peter believes in the priority of love. In his first letter, he wrote, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’”

“Hatred stirs up conflicts, but love covers all offenses.” (Proverbs 10:12, HCSB)

“Above all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8, HCSB)

Because John tells us that love is the proof that we have passed from death to life (1 John 3:14), it is easy to see why He places charity, agape, perfect love at the top of the list.

In the foregoing steps, then, we have the progression of growing in our faith. Begin with a vital faith in Jesus Christ and then add virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.

Just as a student learns different subjects, he also learns how they relate each subject to one another. A student learns how math is related to science. He learns how the English language plays a part in World History. He learns how government and economics are interconnected. We call this interdisciplinary skills. The same is true with these attributes. They compliment and help one another.

To use the fruit illustration from Galatians 5, one can imagine a fruit tree with different fruits on the tree. There are apples, bananas, grapes, oranges, and other fruits. Some Christians grow more faith, other grow more goodness, still others grow better at self-control. Is one fruit better than another? No. They are all equally good, because they equally come from God.

In 2 Peter, we see that one graduates from the school of Christ, once one has learned each skill. You know, in school, sometimes you have to take “remedial” classes. That means that you didn’t learn the skill. So you have to take classes below what you need. So you take more math classes until you can graduate from algebra. You take more reading classes until you can graduate from English. The same is true with God. He makes you take more faith tests until you learn to trust Him more; more tests of self-control until you learn to give up more control to Him; more tests of endurance until you learn to have patience; He tests your knowledge until you understand what you need to know about Him; He gives you chances to test your brotherly affection classes until you learn to get along with others; He gives you more opportunities to express love with others until you learn to really love one another.

These tests happen in labs. You may go to a Sunday School class to learn the textbook answer. How do you really learn these skills? You go to the lab. You get out and interact with people, with what God wants you to do. These skills are learned around people, not around a desk and four walls (or a pew and a pulpit). Instead of the science lab, you learn these skills in the lab called life.

There are three benefits to learning these skills in the school of Christ:

BENEFITS THAT COME WITH CHRIST-LIKE LEARNING

1. Fruitfulness

“For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:8, HCSB)

The first benefit is fruitfulness. Learning in school teaches the student to be like the teacher. Jesus said:

“Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.” (John 15:4–5, HCSB)

2. Vision

“The person who lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing from his past sins.” (2 Peter 1:9, HCSB)

Just as going to school opens our eyes to more than we learned at home, when we learn in the school of Christ, we increase our spiritual vision. We stop short-sighted. We see further into the future of what God has planned for us.

If we forget what God has done for us, we will not be excited to share Christ with others. Through the blood of Jesus Christ we have been purged and forgiven! God has opened our eyes! Let’s not forget what He has done! Rather, let’s cultivate gratitude in our hearts and sharpen our spiritual vision. Life is too brief and the needs of the world too great for God’s people to be walking around with their eyes closed!

3. Security

“Therefore, brothers, make every effort to confirm your calling and election, because if you do these things you will never stumble. For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly supplied to you.” (2 Peter 1:10–11, HCSB)

If you walk around with your eyes closed, you will stumble! But the growing Christian walks with confidence because he knows he is secure in Christ. It is not our profession of faith that guarantees that we are saved; it is our progression in the faith that gives us that assurance. The person who claims to be a child of God but whose character and conduct give no evidence of spiritual growth is deceiving himself and heading for judgment.

Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

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