2 Peter 1:8-11 “Christian Living, Part 2b: These Things are Necessary”

For these things exist and abound in you, they make you neither unworking nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For in whom these things are not present, he is blind being near-sighted having received forgetfulness of the cleansing of his former sins. Therefore brothers, be all the more zealous to confirm your sure calling and election. For by doing these things, you will never stumble. For thus the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will be richly supplied to you.


These verses continue the thought began in v. 5. The Greek preposition γὰρ (“for”) introduces this section and is littered throughout the text at hand. This “for” draws many inferences back to the command to supply the chain of virtues listed in vv. 5b-7 to the readers’ faith. There are also no fewer than three uses of the demonstrative ταῦτα, normally translated as “these things” (vv. 8, 9, 10). Each use of the pronoun points back at the list of qualities or virtues that make up the chain of faith in vv. 5-7, but the connection runs unbroken all the way back to 1:3. In 1:3-4 Peter reveals what Christ has given to his readers. In 1:5-7, Peter exhorts his readers to diligently and zealously act on this information by supplying good works to their faith. Here, in 1:8-11, Peter explains why “these things” (the diligent work of supplying excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly love, and love to their faith) are unavoidable, uncontestable, and are in every way necessary. As such, Peter provides two reasons why “these things” are necessary in the life of a believer.


Works Reveal Faith (vv. 8-9)


The initial “for” (γὰρ) creates a link back to vv. 5-7 by way of introducing an explanation. We should notice that v. 9 also begins with “for” (γὰρ) and so adds another side to this explanation. The point of these two verses is to explain the connection between “these things” (works) and Christ’s gift (saving faith). In short, Peter states that works reveal saving faith. Peter first provides a positive example of this revelation (v. 8) before introducing another parallel negative revelation (v. 9).


These Things Reveal Believers (v. 8)

For these things exist and abound in you, they make you neither unworking nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Here (and throughout this section) “these things” (ταῦτα) points back at the chain of faith in vv. 5-7. Peter encourages his readers by stating plainly that every quality that makes up the chain of faith both exists and abounds within them. By stating that these things “exist” (ὑπάρχω) Peter means that the virtues listed above are present and obvious in their lives. Not only do they exist, but they abound or overflow (πλεονάζω). It is not quite right to think of this abounding or increasing in terms of measurable increase; that is to say that one can look back and observe a 10% increase in knowledge or godliness from any given year. The term rather indicates that these qualities are more than present but are abundant and overflow in the life of the believer.[1] The point is, Peter has no doubt in his mind that these qualities both exist and abound in the lives of his audience.[2]


Both participles (existing and abounding) modify the main verb by providing the reason “these things” make the audience neither unworking nor unfruitful. The meaning of καθίστημι (make) ranges from (1) taking someone somewhere (bring, take) to, (2) assigning someone a position of authority (appoint, put in charge), but includes (3) causing someone to experience something (make, cause). The final gloss best fits the context. Yet the experience Peter has in mind is stated negatively: these things don’t cause you to experience unworking or unfruitfulness. In other words, these things have the opposite effect.


The NASB’s “useless” translates a term that literally means “anti-work” on “unworking” (ἀργός). The α augment is akin to our English “un” prefix. The term would not be used for someone who is laid off or unable to work, but for a lazy individual that refuses to take up the responsibilities given to him. Likewise, “unfruitful” (ἄκαρπος) describes a tree that fails to produce fruit despite having the most favorable conditions.[3] Though stated in a negative fashion, this verse is a very positive encouragement. Because these things are both evident and abundant in the lives of Peter’s audience, they are made to be working and fruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.


This is a personal knowledge of their Lord who is (appositional genitive) Jesus Christ. They know Him because He has revealed Himself to them when He called them (vv. 3-4). The evidence of their faith (vv. 5-7) proves that they are growing ever closer to their Lord. This is a word of encouragement to the readers. For if these things were lacking, it would spell their doom.


These Things Expose Pretenders (v. 9)

For in whom these things are not present, he is blind being near-sighted having received forgetfulness of the cleansing of his former sins


Peter changes from specific encouragement to a generalized warning. He exchanges the second person (ὑμῖν) for the first person relative (ᾦ). He is not speaking of his readers here but frames his point as an abstract warning.[4] He is not yet pointing his finger but that does not make the warning any less weighty.


Unlike his audience, Peter allows for a person who utterly lacks these things, by which he points again to the chain of virtues in vv. 5-7. The phrase “are not present” translates the negated compound from the verb of being (μὴ πάρεστιν). Peter does not imagine a scenario in which these things are few in number or are seldom employed. He paints a picture of a person in whom these things do not exist. Such a person is blind.


When not used to describe physical blindness (Matt. 9:27, 28; 11:5; 12:22; 15:30, 31; 20:30; 21:14), the New Testament uses the term τυγλός to describe spiritual blindness (Matt. 15:14; 23:16, 17, 24, 36). Spiritual blindness is synonymous with unbelief. Make no mistake, Peter is speaking of an unbeliever and uses two participles to describe and explain why he is blind.


The present tense participle μυωπάζων is translated as “short-sighted” (NASB) or “nearsighted” (LSB). This is the term from which we get our word myopic, meaning to be nearsighted. The blindness in question is not due to ignorance of the gospel. Peter does not refer to pagans who have never heard the word of Christ. Rather, Peter imagines one who has heard the gospel and yet is not able to see his need for these things.[5] The blindness in question may be able to discern light and shapes but is yet unable to see past the end of one’s nose. Though he is no longer ignorant of the light, he is no better off than those who are in complete darkness.


The aorist participle λαβὼν explains how this blindness has come about. The phrase λήθην λαβὼν is normally rendered “having forgotten” (NASB, LSB) but is more accurately translated “having received forgetfulness.” The aorist aspect points to a time prior to the nearsightedness. His spiritual myopia is a condition of his spiritual amnesia. He has forgotten, or received forgetfulness, regarding the purification of his former sins. There are several things that we must consider. First, if he has received this forgetfulness, then from whom did he receive it? Second, if he has forgotten his cleansing, is he no longer cleansed? In other words, is Peter describing a person who has lost his salvation?


The answer to our first question is obvious in the context of the letter. Beginning in chapter two Peter will address false teachers head on. However, he has already been casting sideways glances at these false teachers, knowing that he is building up to this point. He made a distinction between faith and the same faith as us (v. 1). He limited his blessing of grace and peace to those in the full knowledge of God and Jesus (v. 2). He presents the purpose of Christ’s gift as separating men from the corruption of the world into the fellowship of the divine nature (v. 4). If anyone is made to forget, it is because he has received forgetfulness from a peddler of perversion.


As for this forgotten cleansing, Peter does not indicate that anyone can lose their salvation. To suggest otherwise is to undermine his foundational point in v. 3; that Christians have already been given everything for life and godliness. This forgetfulness does not indicate that one’s memory of forgiveness has lapsed, but that redemption never happened. In the Old Testament, particularly in Deuteronomy, there is a theme of forgetfulness (Deut. 4:9, 23, 31; 6:12; 8:11, 14, 8:19; 9:7; 25:19) and remembrance (Deut. 4:10; 5:15; 7:18; 8:2, 18; 9:7, 27; 15:15; 16:3, 12; 24:9, 18, 22; 25:17; 32:7). The nation of Israel was urgently implored to never forget and always remember the covenant that Yhwh had made with them and the wondrous deeds He had performed for them. Yet they did forget. Why? Because they had not yet been given a heart to know or eyes to see (Deut. 29:4). This does not describe one who has lost his salvation, but one who has been converted without being regenerate.[6]


One who has been forgiven much, loves much. One who has been outwardly conformed without being internally transformed has no memory of a transformation that never took place. Any man in whom the qualities of vv. 5-7 are completely absent is spiritually blind and unable to see the things of Christ. He may have said the right things, but his life is unworking and unfruitful. This man is an easy mark for false teachers from whom he receives forgetfulness of the things he once professed and as such is rendered nearsighted. The works of faith (vv. 5-7) reveal believers and expose pretenders.


Works Reveal Eternity (vv. 10-11)


At this point it is obvious why works are necessary in the life of a believer. Peter has clearly explained that these things reveal belief, while their absence expose unbelief. Therefore, works of faith do more than identify where people stand. They also clarify where people are going. With so much at stake Peter renews his exhortation for these believers to roll up their sleeves and get to work before concluding with a two-fold promise of encouragement.


Exhortation to Work (v. 10a)

Therefore brothers, be all the more zealous to confirm your sure calling and election.


These first two words are significant. “Therefore” (διὸ) makes an inference based on vv. 8-9. It is because these things reveal belief and expose unbelief that Peter is going to reiterate his command in v. 5. But notice how he addresses his audience. “Brothers” (ἀδελφός) is not as common as “beloved” in Peter’s writings, though we should admit that he has already gone to great lengths to stress this kind of unity with his readers. These are men and women who share the same faith, same God, and same Lord as Peter (v. 1). They share the same gift of life and godliness as Peter (v. 3). By calling them brothers he affirms his encouragement in v. 8 where he stated that he knew these things existed in them. He has drawn a circle around himself and his readers. Here there is family. Here is the relationship. Here is another anticipation of the false teachers who reside outside this circle.


The command (σπουδάσατε) borrows from the same root found in v. 5 (σπουδὴν). Where he commanded to supply the qualities of vv. 5-7 by applying all diligence/zeal, he now uses the verbal form as an imperative: be zealous/diligent. Such a command requires a complement, which is provided in the infinitive “to confirm” (ποιεῖσθαι). The root of this infinitive (ποιέω) means to do or to make or to bring about. Peter uses the double accusative (τὴν κλῆσιν καὶ ἐκλογὴν) to present the object of this verbal action: your sure calling and election. In this calling and election, we have another example of hendiadys. This calling (τὴν κλῆσιν) is the effectual call of God upon the sinner to repent and believe. By “election” (ἐκλογὴν) Peter refers to God’s sovereign choice of those whom He redeems and those specific individuals (past, present, and future) for whom Christ died. Taken together, we see the widest spectrum of redemption from the divine perspective.


Many translations ignore the cases and function of these terms in preference to the word order. They make βεβαίαν (sure/certain/firm) the object of the verbal action (be diligent to make certain your calling and election). This is grammatically impossible because the term in question is an adjective that modifies the double accusative nouns “calling” and “election.” Peter does not command his readers to confirm that their calling and election is sure (make sure you’re really saved) but rather to confirm or work their sure calling and election (do what you’re called to do). This is not a new command in the letter but a repetition of the command in v. 5. The only difference is that this command is given in light of the weighty implications of not having these things present in one’s life. If salvation is in view, then brothers, be zealous to do what you have been called and elected by God to do!


Promise Attached to Works (vv. 10b-11)


After the imperative to zealously do the work of God’s called out and elect ones (v. 10a), Peter resumes his use of “for” (γὰρ) to introduce his reasons why believers should zealously do what they are called to do. There are two reasons provided here presented in the form of promises. The first promise is for the present (v. 10b) while the second promise is aimed at the future (v. 11).


Promise of Preservation (v. 10b)

For by doing these things, you will never stumble.


Once again Peter points back to the things listed in vv. 5-7 but this time it is not in the form of an exhortation. Now he points to the virtues to be supplied to their faith as a promise. The same root ποιέω is used again as a participle to stress that these things are to be done, worked, accomplished. When Peter says “for by doing things thins” (ποιοῦντες) he assumes that they will “be all the more zealous to confirm” (ποιεῖσθαι) them. The doing these things (v. 10) = supplying the qualities to their faith (vv. 5-7). It is necessary that this be done for their own preservation and perseverance, that they will never stumble.


The aorist subjunctive is used (πταίσητέ) to indicate a single and final fall. Peter does not have in mind the normal sin that believers experience which they must confess and repent of. Otherwise, this phrase would promise some sort of Wesleyan perfectionism. This fall is definite and final. This is the final fall of apostasy. By keeping these things present and abounding (v. 8) in their lives, they prove themselves to be believers. If this is true, then there is never a fear of falling away. Peter uses a double negation (οὐ μὴ) to state that this stumble or fall will never ever happen. What a promise to encourage believes in the present! But he continues with a second promise for the future.


Promise of Paradise (v. 11)

For thus the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will be richly supplied to you.


With another “for” (γὰρ) comes another promise. With the future indicative ἐπιχορηγηθήσεται (will be supplied) Peter again borrows language from v. 5 and his command to supply (ἐπιχορηγήσατε) these things to their faith. Yet, this is not a command but a promise. The verb is indicative rather than an imperative. The voice is passive rather than active. Peter promises that the entrance to Christ’s eternal kingdom will be richly (not sparingly) supplied to them. What then is this kingdom?


Some are perplexed by the description of the eternal kingdom. This confusion is based on two facts. First, this is the only time this phrase (αἰώνιον βασιλείαν) appears in Scripture. Secondly, even if we assume a futuristic premillennial stance (a future reign of Christ upon the earth for 1000 years), how can this kingdom be called “eternal.” There is no reason for such perplexities, for even the eternal state will be in the form of a kingdom with God and the Lamb reigning on their throne (Rev. 22:1).[7] This is an example of emphasis and not exclusion. Will the eternal state no longer be called the kingdom of Christ? Can we separate the triune Godhead so neatly? Christ’s eternal kingdom begins with His future return and never ends. The establishment of the new heavens and new earth do not change the fact that God and the Lamb reign and rule in righteousness.


This is a promise of hope. The theme which permeated Peter’s first epistle is now present in concept if not in name. The encouragement of faith (vv. 3-4) and exhortation of love (vv. 5-7) end here with a promise of hope.


Summary


With so much discussion regarding the finer points of this text, it is easy to miss the main idea. The point of vv. 8-11 is to explain the necessity of vv. 5-7 which is based on the veracity of vv. 3-4. The salvific gift of Christ (vv. 3-4) demands faithful obedience and spiritual growth (vv. 5-7) which reveals where a person stands (vv. 8-9) and where they will spend eternity (vv. 10-11). To put it mildly, our spiritual growth and maturity is a very serious matter.


Conclusion


It should be shocking to see how little emphasis modern evangelicalism places on spiritual growth. Living a life where excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly-love, and love are all present and overflowing is considered above and beyond rather than the norm. By this matrix alone it should be obvious that evangelicalism has become a faith not of the same kind which the apostles taught (1:1). If these things are missing, then the gift of salvation is missing. Christ has given us everything for life and godliness (1:3). If these things are missing, then we are blind men who have exchanged the gospel for worldliness and thus have forgotten what we claimed to have experienced in redemption. If these things are missing, then we have no promise of perseverance now or of entrance into Christ’s kingdom in the future. Let us then gird our minds for action and fix our hope completely on the grace to be brought at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:13). Let us press on to know Yhwh (Hos. 6:3). Let us supply these things to our faith with zeal, humility, and thanksgiving all the while knowing that Christ has given us everything for life and godliness. Let us resolve to be faithful.


Soli Deo Gloria!

[1]Thomas Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2003), p. 302. [2]D. Edmond Hiebert, Second Peter and Jude: An Expositional Commentary (Greensville, South Carolina: BJU Press, 1989), p. 55-6. [3] Ibid, p. 56. [4]R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of The Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966), p. 272. [5] Hiebert, p. 57-8. [6] Ibid, p. 58. [7] Ibid, p. 61-2.

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