As It Was In The Days Of Noah (28): 2 Peter 1:3–11 (part 4)

10Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (ESV). 10διὸ μᾶλλον, ἀδελφοί, σπουδάσατε βεβαίαν ὑμῶν τὴν κλῆσιν καὶ ἐκλογὴν ποιεῖσθαι· ταῦτα γὰρ ποιοῦντες οὐ μὴ πταίσητέ ποτε. 11οὕτως γὰρ πλουσίως ἐπιχορηγηθήσεται ὑμῖν ἡ εἴσοδος ⸆ εἰς τὴν αἰώνιον βασιλείαν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν καὶ σωτῆρος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (Kurt Aland et al., Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th Edition. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012; 2 Pe 1:3–11).

v. 10: Confirm Your Efficacious Call And Election

The contrast in v. 10 is with the preceding. “Wherefore, rather brothers…”. The “rather” (μᾶλλον) here is juxtaposed with moral and spiritual nearsightedness, the absence or antithesis of the catalogue of virtues in vv. 5–7. To lack these virtues, is to be unfruitful and useless. Verse 9 seems to envision the possibility that there are Christians (they have propitiation of sins) who are so immature as to so useless and and unfruitful. They have forgotten their inheritance, which they received by faith. Christians have this great blessing of the turning away of the wrath of God but they neglect the consequences of such a great blessing for their lives in Christ. New life and true faith must produce habitual fruit, not in order to be justified or in order to be saved but because we have been justified and we have been saved by grace alone (sola gratia), through faith alone (sola fide).

These are brothers, not strangers, to whom Peter writes. Because they are brothers, he can exhort them to be zealous (σπουδάσατε) in the formation of Christian virtue. He uses words from this family three times in this chapter, in vv. 5, 10, 15. We are to be zealous to add virtue to faith (v. 5). Here we are to be zealous to make sure of our (efficacious) call and election. In v. 15 Peter is zealous that, after his martyrdom, they not forget what they have learned from him. Holy zeal for virtue is a virtue. In the modern period (since the Enlightenment movements) we tend to use the word zealot more than the word zeal. This word can also be translated as “jealous,” but in our culture that word has taken on the connotation of a abusive boyfriend or spouse. This is not what this word group is communicating here. It signifies a godly passion for habitual Christlikeness.

Calling And Election

It is important that we understand that we have not been called because God foresaw that we would be virtuous nor does is calling contingent upon becoming virtuous. The vocation (κλῆσιν) in view here is God’s efficacious call, the effectual call of the Spirit whereby the elect are called forth from the grave, as it were, as Lazarus was called forth (John 11:43). Through the word of the Gospel, the Spirit has worked in us new life (regeneration) and with it true faith, and through that faith he has united us to the risen Christ. As a consequence of that work, he is conforming us to the image of Christ, putting to death in us the old man and making alive in us the new.

Neither does virtue make us elect. Our election (ἐκλογὴν) was unconditional. This is basic Christian truth, not a Reformed idiosyncrasy. On this we agree with Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, all the magisterial Reformers, and the Great Synod of Dort against the Remonstrants (Arminians), the Federal Visionists, and the Romanists, who (in one way or another) make election conditional upon our cooperation. God did not look down the corridors of time, as it were, from eternity to see who would be sufficiently virtuous. To make sure (βεβαίαν… ποιεῖσθαι) here means to confirm, to live in a way that accords with what God has done for us and is doing in us. It is to respond appropriately. It is to affirm that what God’s Word says of us is true. It is to affirm that what God the Son has done for us (propitiation) is true for us and that what the Spirit has done in us (regeneration and sanctification) is true. We must keep in sight the objective realities as we work out, by grace, the subjective consequences of Christ’s work in our daily Christian life.

This passage refutes one of the more scurrilous allegations against a beautiful biblical doctrine: that the doctrine of unconditional election leads to moral laziness. Quite to the contrary! It is only by the power of God’s election and call that we can begin to form even the smallest degree of Christian virtue. Without those realities, without that sovereign divine grace, we would remain dead in sins and trespasses. Without them we could not take the first steps of the Christian life. To teach that we can begin to take steps toward faith or sanctity before grace is rank Pelagianism. To teach that salvation or justification is by grace and cooperation with grace (as Rome, the Remonstrants, and the Federal Vision do) is semi-Pelagian. Peter knows nothing of such schemes.

It is when we fail to reckon with the glorious truths of calling and election that we are prone to stumble (πταίσητέ). The doctrine of unconditional election calls for a vigorous response. Peter uses the verb “to do” twice in this verse. In light of God’s unconditional favor to us, in union with Christ, as adopted sons, we are to be actively doing something: affirming God’s grace and actively forming virtue in light of that truth. This is not moral laziness or sloppiness.

Exodus And Entrance

v. 11a: This is the way of the Christian life. “For thus shall entrance (εἴσοδος) be supplied richly to you unto the eternal kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.” There has been no little confusion in the confessional Presbyterian and Reformed world (and beyond) over the last 40 years over what it means to speak of entrance into eternal life. There has been a marked tendency to confuse the sole instrument of salvation (faith) with the normal process of the Christian life. The claim is made that we receive title to eternal life sola gratiasola fide, which they call “initial salvation” or “initial justification” but we take possession of an alleged “final salvation” through our good works. Peter knows nothing of two stages or justification or salvation. Further, he teaches quite the opposite about salvation.

The Christian life is not the instrument of salvation. To attempt to make it so is a self-defeating move, since none of us, in this life, shall attain perfect sanctification. Thus, all of us fall short of the mark. This is undeniably true. In that case, we are left to going back to the dog’s breakfast of the late-medieval doctrine of congruent merit, the doctrine rejected by the entire Reformation, that God imputes perfection to our imperfect efforts unto justification and salvation.

This is all a great mistake. The imputed righteousness of Christ is entirely sufficient for our justification and our salvation. In those realities, in union with Christ, as sons freely adopted by the Father for Christ’s sake alone, we live out the Christian life. This is the ordinary path to heaven. That entrance never becomes the instrument. It is the difference between through  and is. Virtue is the path. Faith is the instrument. There is no need to turn faith into a virtue (as Rome does) nor any need to abandon virtue as the antinomians do. Peter unites the two here. Christ is richly supplying all we need: union with himself, grace, adoption, and the abiding presence of the Spirit.

v. 11b: “unto the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” In context, Peter is making a contrast between the entrance (εἴσοδος) of the believers in Asia Minor into eternal life and his exodus (ἔξοδος) from this life. The two words, translated entrance and exodus are built on the same root. This is a play on words. Just as God the Spirit led us out of Egypt (sin and death) through the wilderness (our pilgrimage in this life) into the promised land (Christ!), so he has led rebellious, even traitorous, stumbling Peter, by grace alone, through faith alone toward sanctity and some measure of virtue as he nears the end of his pilgrimage. Just as it was in the days of Noah, when the  Spirit preserved and sanctified Noah, so to he is preserving and sanctifying us as we await the coming judgment flood.

The King And His Kingdom

The kingdom about which the Romans were most concerned was their earthly empire. That kingdom has passed away. Today, relatively few Westerners can name even the greatest and most successful of the Caesars. The kingdom on which Peter is focused, however, is the eternal kingdom of Jesus of Nazareth. As near as I can tell, this is the only place in the New Testament where this expression occurs. Thus, we should  not miss the significance of the expression. Perhaps he was thinking of our Lord’s words to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world” (John 18:30; ESV). Certainly it has echoes of the way Jesus speaks of the Kingdom in Mark’s gospel, e.g., Mark 14:25: “Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (ESV). The Kingdom arrived with Jesus’ (Mark 1:15) but it has not been consummated. All who believe are in the kingdom and yet the kingdom has not been fully realized in history.

Remarkably, even though Peter has been implicitly contrasting the Kingdom of Jesus with the kingdoms of this earth (e.g., the Roman Empire), this is the only time he uses the word in the epistles. He refers to earthly kings twice in 1 Peter (1 Pet 2:13, 17), where he exports us to be subject to the king (2:13) and to honor the king (2:17). So, his characterization of the kingdom tells us much. It is not our kingdom but rather it is the “the Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Christ is Lord. There is much talk among well-intentioned evangelicals about “making Christ Lord” and about “Lordship salvation” and the like. The New Testament simply does not speak this way. Christ is Lord. To receive the Christ of Scripture by faith is to receive him as Lord. Yet the Dispensational “Lordship Salvation” doctrine, itself a response to an antinomian version of Dispensationalism (which erred by turning the recognition of Christ’s Lordship into a second blessing), errs by confusing the law and the gospel and by turning faith into works. According to Peter, as the Reformation recognized, true faith receives Christ as Lord and Savior. We cannot have him as one without having him as the other and yet we are not justified by submitting to his Lordship. We submit to his dominion becbecause we have been justified and because we have been saved sola gratia, sola fide. The Heidelberg Catechism helps a great deal here as it teaches us that the faith is in three parts: Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude. Those who, by grace, know the greatness of their sin and misery under the law, who have received the free favor of God in Christ, through faith alone, give themselves over to grateful service to their Lord and Savior.

Christ is the Lord. Christ is the Savior. We are neither. We do not save ourselves by cooperation with grace or by sanctification or by good works. Peter does not call Jesus “facilitator” but Savior and Messiah. It is he, the glorious anointed one, who “richly supplies” (πλουσίως ἐπιχορηγηθήσεται) us with entrance into the eternal kingdom. It is he who sees us through our exodus from this life into that eternal kingdom. He is our confidence, he our King and no one else. He rules our conscience through his Word and Spirit. We listen to no man who contradicts him. We are free.

As It Was In The Days Of Noah: A Commentary On 1 and 2 Peter

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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One comment

  1. For all its having been written by one who is said to be the first Pope, First Peter shouldn’t be called a Cathoic Epistle: it ought to be called a Presbyterian Epistle! It has the doctrines of election (1:2,2:8), preservation (1:5), the Evangelical principle (1:23 ff.). penal substitution in Christ’s sacrifice (2:24, 3:18), and rule by elders (5:1).

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