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Growing Toward Fruitfulness by Adding to Your Faith

Date: September 25, 2022
Teacher: John McLeod
Scripture: 2 Peter 1:2–11

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Outline

  1. The Foundation of a Fruitful Life (vv. 2-4)
  2. The Path to a Fruitful Life (vv. 5-8)
  3. The Reward for a Fruitful Life (vv. 9-11)

2 Peter 1:2–11 (ESV)

  • (2) May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
  • (3) His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,
  • (4) by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
  • (5) For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,
  • (6) and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,
  • (7) and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
  • (8) For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • (9) For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.
  • (10) Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.
  • (11) For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Introduction

Did you hear the story about the new preacher that was called to the small rural church? The church was excited. The Preacher was excited. They had heard him preach a few times and invited him to come be their new pastor. All was well for the first couple of weeks, but then around weeks three and four the church began to be a bit confused and concerned. He had preached the same sermon for the last three Sundays. Each week, he would come into the pulpit prepared and preach with passion, clarity, and conviction. It was a good sermon. Everyone thought so. They would go home after the service, and the following week, it would be the same sermon.

After a few weeks of this, one of the mature, courageous members pulled the preacher aside one Sunday and cautiously asked why he kept preaching the same sermon over and over again. The preacher just smiled and calmly said he’d move on to his next sermon once the church started putting this one into practice.

Well, here we are in our third week in our series we are calling, “God’s Agenda: Your Growth.” In a way, this is the third try at this sermon. However, rather than being a rebuke to a complacent church, I’d rather like to think we’re are getting at an important biblical theme from three different passages, preached by three different preachers.

Each September, we preach a short series of sermons on either one of the three loves of our Vision Statement (Love God, Love One Another, Love Your Neighbor), or one of our four core values (Doctrine, Spirit-filled, Relationships, and Spiritual Growth). This year, we are choosing to focus on the topic of spiritual growth.

Daniel preached from John 15. “God’s Agenda: Your Growth”

  • pruning — God never prunes too fast or too deeply / involves cutting things off for future fruitfulness and growth
  • abiding — staying connected to the vine / if my words abide in you
  • John 15:16 (ESV) — You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide

Mike preached last week from Colossians 1. “God-centered Fruitfulness”

  • Spiritual growth is not merely growing in knowledge
  • Colossians 1:10 (ESV) — …walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
  • Mike reminded us of the need to grow deep roots in the Gospel and in knowing God in order to bear good fruit.

This morning, I’ll be preaching from 2 Peter 1.

In some ways, these are all the same basic outline. Spiritual growth is empowered by God, requires effort on our part, and will receive a reward. Each passages covers this ground in different ways, but they are certainly communicating some of the same truths.

Spiritual Growth is actually a very broad topic, but the elders chose to focus on a somewhat more narrow aspect of growth in this series. Each of our sermons is attempting to connect in some way how our spiritual growth leads to spiritual fruitfulness.

Please don’t check out today! The Lord has some important things to say to us through this passage, and in our own individual ways, we need to hear the same sermon over and over a few times before we really get it. The main thing that we need to catch today is that Growing Christians produce spiritual fruit by God’s power.

In our passage today, we’ll see:

  1. The Foundation of a Fruitful Life (vv. 2-4)
  2. The Path to a Fruitful Life (vv. 5-8)
  3. The Reward for a Fruitful Life (vv. 9-11)

Pastoral Prayer

  • Those who feel stagnant in their spiritual lives
  • Those who are eager for a new season of spiritual fruitfulness
  • Home Group Leaders and Home Groups — that they would be a catalyst for spiritual growth this year.
  • Members who have had a difficult time connecting in a small group, that they would find the right group for this season of growth.
  • Recent attenders — to find community and Christian fellowship here that would benefit their spiritual growth.
  • Ministry Team Leaders — a new season of fruitfulness for developing their ministry or team
  • My prayer partner, Pastor Maurice Wright and New Dimensions Fellowship Church (18th pastoral anniversary) — celebration tonight.
  • Help from the Holy Spirit for each of us as we hear this text and this sermon to know how to apply it to our lives.

I. The Foundation of a Fruitful Life (vv. 2-4)

The Problem

Before we look at the glorious foundation for a fruitful life, I want us to jump ahead in the text and identify the problem we are trying to avoid. We’ll talk about verse 8 in the positive sense later on, but for now I want us to consider the danger it is warning us of.

2 Peter 1:8 (ESV)

  • (8) For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

If we do the things Peter is commanding, we will avoid this problem. What is the problem? It’s possible to be ineffective and unfruitful in our knowledge of Jesus.

We could all identify Christians that we would say live ineffective or unfruitful Christian lives. They talk a good spiritual game, but when it comes down to it, we don’t see much spiritual fruit in their lives. I don’t even mean this in a sinfully judgmental way. There can be many earthly reasons for this lack of spiritual fruit, but the reality still stands.

We also know that if we’re painfully honest, we may be in this situation ourselves at this very moment, or have been there at various times in our spiritual life.

It is possible that a lack of any spiritual fruit could demonstrate a complete lack of real spiritual life. Peter is highlighting some false teachers and their characteristics in this letter (see Chapter 2). But, he is also clearly expecting that some genuine believers would have seasons like this. He is clearly addressing “Brothers” in this passage (v. 10). He begins the letter addressing “those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours.”

This exhortation from Peter in vv 3-11 is meant to help these brothers make some changes in their lives to become more effective and fruitful and to confirm their calling.

The Foundation

2 Peter 1:2–4 (ESV)

  • (2) May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
  • (3) His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to (by) his own glory and excellence,
  • (4) by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

There is a lot packed into these three verses. In fact, Peter wrote vv. 2-11 as one really long sentence in Greek, but our English translations break it up into several sentences.

Verse 2 begins like a typical greeting in a New Testament letter—grace and peace be multiplied to you. How do we access that grace? Through the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord.

Then Peter continues with some really astounding truths.

  • His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness (v. 3)

Peter will eventually give us some commands to follow, but he is beginning with some indicatives—some statements of what is true. He leads off with the truth that Jesus in his divine power has given us everything we need to live a godly life. (Don’t miss this strong affirmation of the deity of Christ—his divine power.)

Different translations treat “all things that pertain” a little differently.

  • everything required (CSB)
  • everything necessary (NET)
  • everything we need (NIV)

The verb here is perfect tense, “has given.” This has already happened. It is a fact that Jesus in his divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness.

I can hear your objections already. “It doesn’t feel like I have all that I need.” There is no doubt that living our lives in light of this truth can be difficult, but that doesn’t change the truthfulness of Peter’s claim. We should note that he doesn’t say he’s given us everything we want, but all things necessary.

How has he granted this to us, you ask?

2 Peter 1:3 (ESV)

  • (3) …through the knowledge of him who called us to (by) his own glory and excellence,

This knowledge is mentioned in verse 2 and in verse 3. It’s a stronger form of the word we’ll find later in vs. 5. The knowledge here goes beyond mere knowledge of facts about who Jesus is, and is connected to our calling—our conversion.

This knowledge about of our Lord is explained in vs. 4.

2 Peter 1:4 (ESV)

  • (4) by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

Peter doesn’t tell us which specific promises he is referring to, though it seems to refer most directly to the promises of the Gospel message, since by them we become partakers of the divine nature, which I take to mean being united to Christ in salvation.

This is one of the primary passages which we use in our systematic theology to describe the sufficiency of scripture. We know the promises of God and the person of Christ through what has been written and recorded in the Bible. And in the Bible, we have all of the truths we need for life and godliness.

So, what is the foundation of a fruitful life?

  • God has poured out grace to us by giving us knowledge of Jesus and salvation through the promises given to us in the scripture.
  • Through this knowledge of Jesus and his promises, we have escaped the corruption of the world, and become partakers of the divine nature.
  • Through Jesus’ divine power, we have received everything we need to live a godly life.

In other words, salvation AND living a godly life are all of God’s grace, and not dependent on our works of righteousness. This is important to state clearly because Peter is now going to give us commands that are to be obeyed to life a fruitful, growing Christian life.

II. The Path to a Fruitful Life (vv. 5-8)

2 Peter 1:5–8 (ESV)

  • (5) For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,
  • (6) and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,
  • (7) and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
  • (8) For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Peter lays out the path to a fruitful life. He grounds it in the grace of the gospel at the beginning of v. 5, “for this very reason.” For what reason? Because God has given us everything we need to become partakers of the divine nature and to escape the corruption of this world. Or we might say that God saved us for something. Paul says something similar in Ephesians.

Ephesians 2:10 (ESV) — For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Make Every Effort

Now comes the personal challenge: “Make every effort!” (Giving all diligence; do your best). This is not a half-hearted measure. The original term here involves a generous personal sacrifice. Peter is saying that we need to be “all in” in the personal effort category.

It is generally uncomfortable to make every effort! It comes with some degree of personal cost. (Example from Hunt for Red October—“Go to 115% on the reactor!”)

What is it that we are to give our every effort toward? What do you expect to hear Peter say next? In my experience, we want to go straight to the fruit-bearing activity at this point. (“Share the gospel.” “Feed the hungry.” “Give generously to the poor.” “Serve the church with your spiritual gift.”)

Instead, Peter goes to less tangible heart issues or virtues. Many of these are included in other moral virtue lists that Peter’s readers would have been familiar with.

Supplement / Add / Supply - ἐπιχορηγέω

How comfortable are you with the idea of “adding” to faith? Peter is telling us to make every effort to add to our faith. He has gone to great lengths to explain that our salvation is on a firm foundation of grace alone in vv. 2-4. But Peter doesn’t hold anything back to instruct us that though salvation is by grace, that we must add other things to faith for a life of growth and fruitfulness.

The ESV translates as “supplement.” Other translations may say “add” or “supply.” The word means “to provide at one’s own expense.” Don’t think of “supplement” as merely adding some extra vitamins to supplement your normal diet. Think of it, rather, as providing at your own expense the tools that you need to do your job correctly.

So I think it’s safe to say Peter is not suddenly teaching synergism, that we cooperate with God in our salvation. This whole section is bracketed with the grace of God in our salvation.

But, he is also clearly not teaching let-go-and-let-God. He’s describing something that takes real effort.

We do not automatically become more virtuous as if God infused virtue into us intravenously; we need to make plans and expend effort.

Peter H. Davids, Pillar, 179.

Peter now lists 8 unique virtues which Christians need to supply or add. The first is the basis for all, which is faith.

1. Faith - πίστις

Faith could be translated faithfulness. This was a virtue even in the secular society of Peter’s original audience, though it referred to faithfulness or loyalty to one’s friend or family.

In this case, however, Peter clearly means faith or faithfulness to God. In fact it is this trust in and dependence on God by which any of these other virtues can be added at all.

2. Virtue - ἀρετή

This is the same word for Jesus’ “excellence” we saw in verse three. It refers to moral excellence. It is the desire and commitment to do what is morally right.

There is some debate as to whether we should read these eight virtues as necessarily building upon one another in this list. Peter lays them out rhetorically as if each builds off the one before it. Most of the commentaries I read leaned toward seeing these as eight ingredients in a healthy, growing Christian life.

I would agree that one mustn’t wait to pursue a virtue farther down the list just because he doesn’t have “all” of one of the other virtues. But, there is some order to Peter’s list. It begins with faith and ends with love.

I like to imagine this list of virtues like laying a brick wall or building a pyramid. You have to lay several bricks or stones in the foundational layer before you can build on top of it. Your foundation has to be even larger to build up to the third layer. You’re always adding more to the lower levels to add additional layers on the top.

The first virtue after faith is virtue itself—the pursuit of moral excellence. We are to conform our lives to what is morally excellent. We must not allow our theology of salvation by grace through faith to make us lazy toward pursuing virtue.

Application Questions:

  • Are there areas of your life you subtly believe you can leave outside the lordship of Jesus?
  • Are there areas in my life where I allow a little moral compromise? (A few lies; a little too much to drink; a little selfishness; a little pride; a little covetousness)

3. Knowledge - γνῶσις

After faith and virtue, Peter instructs us to add knowledge. He told us already that we have some knowledge of Jesus and salvation in vv. 2-3.

We should think of this knowledge as growing in the knowledge of God and what he requires of us—knowledge of God’s word.

Romans 12:2 (ESV) — Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

We have all met individuals who have some commitment to growing in knowledge without a firm foundation of faith and virtue underneath. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 8 that this kind of “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” This was often Jesus’ critique of the Pharisees as well. They would strain at understanding the most minute detail of the law with their heart far from God (lack of faith and virtue).

Application Question:

  • Does my study of God’s word show that I am giving all diligence to grow in my knowledge of God’s word and ways?

4. Self-control - ἐγκράτεια

Self control also shows up in Gal 5:23 (Fruit of the Spirit). This is the restraint of one’s emotions, impulses, or desires (BDAG).

Now that we have some trust in and dependence on God, a commitment to live a virtuous life, and knowledge of what God requires, what could possible get in our way? Well, I often don’t feel like it. My emotions and desires often run contrary to God’s will for my life.

Application Questions:

  • Am I the master of my emotions or are they the master of me? How often to I act against my emotions to do what is right or for the good of another person?
  • When I don’t have any external restraints (social pressure, parents, government, laws), do I restrain my own impulses or desires or do I always give in?

5. Steadfastness - ὑπομονή

If self-control is resisting my own impulses and desires, steadfastness is standing up under an external trial or difficulty. (endurance, fortitude, patience, perseverance)

In order to bear good spiritual fruit, one must be able to be patient under trial. The Bible is full of examples of individuals who had to persevere under difficult circumstances. Consider Job, Joseph, or Daniel.

Romans 5:3–5 (ESV) — Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Application Questions:

  • Am I willing to patiently endure whatever suffering God brings my way to grow in steadfastness?

6. Godliness - εὐσέβεια

Godliness is a general term that refers to piety or living in proper relationship to God. When we look at a person and say, “she is really godly,” what do we mean? It really is a combination of the virtues we’ve seen so far. She trusts God and lives in dependence on him. She is morally virtuous. She knows who God is and what God requires. She sometimes must act against how she feels to do what is right. She even stays faithful in the midst of suffering and difficulty. Godliness is seeing your whole life in its proper orientation to God. It includes piety and worship and submission to God.

Don’t forget where we began in verse 3.

  • 2 Peter 1:3 (ESV) — His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,

Application Questions:

  • Do I examine all of my life (attitudes, desires, words, actions) in relationship to God?
  • What keeps me from acknowledging God in all things?

7. Brotherly Kindness - φιλαδελφία

Brotherly kindness (φιλαδελφία) refers to familial affection. On of the unique aspects of Christianity is that this familial love goes beyond blood relatives and includes all those in the faith. We are so used to speaking of one another as brothers and sisters in Christ that we may forget how strange that would sound to others.

Romans 12:10 (ESV) — Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

Application Questions:

  • Does my brotherly kindness extend beyond my blood relatives to my friends?
  • Does it extend beyond my friends to my brothers and sisters in Christ—even the ones that can be difficult?

8. Love - ἀγάπη

The climax of the virtues does not end at brotherly, familial affection. It goes on to doing good to those who have no claim on us.

1 John 3:16 (ESV) — By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

In comparing these different loves, one commentator says:

In friendship (philia) the partners seek mutual solace; in sexual love (erōs) mutual satisfaction. In both cases these feelings are aroused because of what the loved one is. With agapē it is the reverse. God’s agapē is evoked not by what we are, but by what he is. It has its origin in the agent, not in the object. It is not that we are lovable, but that he is love.

  • Michael Green, Tyndale NT Commentary, 90.

This love is not an emotion.

The important point to keep in mind is that love is a virtue, not an emotion. Christians are not encouraged to feel warmly about each other or even to like one another; they are instructed to act lovingly toward one another. Thus Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 speaks about what love does, how it acts, not how it feels.

  • Peter H. Davids, Pillar, 184.

Application Questions:

  • Is your life characterized by doing good to others, even at personal sacrifice to yourself?
  • How does Christ’s love for you stir you up to love others?

Well, that’s the end of our wall of virtues.

III. The Reward for a Fruitful Life (vv. 8-11)

2 Peter 1:8–11 (ESV)

  • (8) For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • (9) For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.
  • (10) Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.
  • (11) For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Now let’s look at the consequences or rewards of walking in this path of a fruitful life.

The first two consequences are in this life, the third is in the life to come. First, verse 8 tells us that we will be effective and fruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus. In verse 10, Peter tells us we’ll never fall. Don’t think of this as never sinning; more like stumbling off of the path of eternal life. Finally, the reward is that we will be provided an entrance into the eternal kingdom. Remember that we started with grace—Jesus has provided everything we need? Now we are clearly back into that same territory. It’s not that somehow we earn this eternal reward. We really haven’t contributed to it. It is richly provided for us by God’s grace.

There are also negative consequences if we don’t add these virtues to our faith, and these consequences are significant.

We have already mentioned the possibility of being ineffective and unfruitful. But, it gets worse. If you don’t have (possess) these virtues and if you’re not increasing in them, you’ll become spiritually blind.

  • 2 Peter 1:9 (ESV) — For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

This blindness affects our view of the future—we’re nearsighted, and can only see the present. We’ll also have amnesia about the past—we’ll forget that we have been cleansed of our sins.

Peter reminds us of the urgency in vs. 10.

  • 2 Peter 1:10 (ESV) — Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

This connects us back to vs 5, “make every effort.” The consequences of NOT adding these virtues is significant, so “be all the more diligent” to do them.

The virtues themselves are not the fruit.

One final aspect of this passage which we need to understand is that the virtues are not themselves a fruitful life—they enable a fruitful life. They are the path to the fruitful life. You might think of them as a matrix through which your fruitfulness will be lived out.

I’ll attempt to explain what I mean. Let’s use this matrix of 8 virtues to show what’s required to be spiritually fruitful in two different contexts.

Virtue Missionary Stay at home mom
Faith Dependence on God for provision Trusting God — didn’t expect to have children yet
Virtue A commitment to moral purity in the midst of a pagan culture. Pursuing the Fruit of the Spirit
Knowledge What does God’s word say about reaching others across cultural barriers? Understanding God’s calling as a wife and mother
Self-control Pressing on even when discouraged. Overcome impulses to anger toward kids
Steadfastness Political Persecution. Slow progress. Potentially years with no visible fruit. Persevering in the midst of ungrateful family members or complaining
Godliness Maintaining a life of worship and devotion without an established faith community  
Brotherly Kindness Growing in affection for individuals from a different culture.  
Love Ministering and speaking motivated for the good of those you’re serving  

Whatever context the Lord is calling you to serve and bear fruit, you will need to add these virtues within that context if you want to be effective and fruitful.

  • marriage
  • parenting
  • job / vocation
  • ministry team or service in the community
  • hospitality
  • evangelism

Conclusion / Application

Expect that as you attempt to serve others and bear good fruit that you will be confronted by your need for these 8 virtues over and over again, pointing out areas you need to grow.

Remember:

  • God has given all that we need for life and godliness. This is a fact. But it is only true for those who have put their faith and trust in Christ alone for salvation. No attempt to add these virtues to your life will be successful without the empowering of the Holy Spirit of God. If you are not resting in Christ alone for salvation and eternal life, put your trust in him today. The prayer team down front will be happy to pray with you and explain how you can place your trust in Christ.
  • Growing spiritually is more than just growing in knowledge. We often default to excusing lack of fruitfulness because we think we need to keep learning more.
  • In order to put these virtues into practice, you do have to actually be applying yourself to fruit-bearing things. Don’t think of these only as “church” activities. It may be in your workplace or your home.
  • But, you may need to explore some opportunities to serve the body of Christ here at Cornerstone.
    • See the ministry team listing at cornerstoneapex.org/serve
  • Don’t forget to pray for fruitfulness.
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