What makes growth in Christ such a reasonable thing to pursue? For starters, every believer ought to be energized to know that God has loved them with an everlasting love. In verse 1 Peter speaks of “a faith as precious as ours”. The love of God is precious to believers, and it is natural for us to want to spend ourselves in response to His love. We love because He first loved us. Salvation is a wonderful gift to us and it is instinctive to want to respond to that gift by serving Him, by conforming to His word and to His will as we know it.
But there is something additional that ought also to motivate believers in their quest for Christian growth: it is that God has given Christ-followers a special gifting for growth and progress in the life of faith. Growth itself comes to us as a gift! As we look at 2 Peter chapter one, there comes up repeatedly an extraordinary thread of conversation and some very special language that ought to catch our attention. This shows up right away in verse one:
To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours
The actual word translated received here means more precisely to have something allotted or allocated to oneself. The import of the text is that this faith is something that falls into our possession. Peter is talking about something beyond simply having evidence of faith in our life. Faith is an endowment, as asset, a gift. Implicit in this is that there is a giver who has made this allotment ours through the grace of giving. Also, the word translated here precious contains the idea and qualification of equal preciousness, or equal worth. The believer has one and the same ownership that others in the faith also possess.
What is the difference really between faith as something we do and as something we possess? Things that we possess convey to us both certain rights and certain responsibilities. If our faith in any sense of the word belongs to us as a possession, that is wholly different thing than some kind of mad scramble to wake up every morning hoping that we will feel ‘faithful’ that day. This kind of faith ought to encourage us in that it confers upon us certain rights, and ought to provoke in us a calm and a stability of purpose that we can draw upon in all of life’s challenges.
The responsibilities of faith ought to also prompt us think of ourselves as stewards. When we are given something of value, we are stewards of that value. Our job is to protect, to use and to improve the asset that has been given. We should ask ourselves: What exactly has been given to me? Why was this given to me? How should I then use it? Peter the Apostle then goes on to say:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
The greeting here is identical to the one in Peter’s first letter. Paul, in contrast, opens his letters characteristically with the standard greeting “grace and peace to you”, but both of Peter’s letters employ greetings about grace and peace multiplied. Peter’s emphasis is upon the increase of the initial blessing.
How can we even speak about grace and peace multiplying? Christ was given on the cross for our sins one time. Didn’t that contain it all? How can grace become more than it already is? It would be true to say that there is a sense in which the grace of God has no increase. God can be no more gracious to us than in what He did at the cross. Yet, according to Peter, there is this talk about growth and increase.
The question that naturally arises in our minds at this point is this: where will the power and the ability come from for this increase? How will this be accomplished? Peter immediately speaks to this mental question by the following:
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, 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 (v. 1-12)
Notice the continuation of endowment language. We have been granted all things that pertain to life and godliness through our knowledge of Him. Also, we have been granted great and precious promises so that we might partake in His life.
So what is all this endowment language about? Gifted or endowed with what? At this particular point his focus is on “all things pertaining to life and godliness.” The gift seems not to be just about the immediate effects of Christ’s death for us to forgive our sins and justify us before God, but really all that God wants to do for us in our lives as His followers. It is not just the once-for-all winning of our salvation through the life and death of Christ. There is a life to be lived, the trajectory of growth; a goal to be attained; a battle to be fought; a prize to be claimed.
Peter unpacks this endowment further in verse four. He magnifies God’s promises as precious and great endowments through which our life in God is intended to move forward. The last endowment Peter mentions is that “you may become partakers of the divine nature.” We are endowed with God’s promises, but those promises appear to be a doorway into an even more exciting and yet mysterious possibility, that God’s own spirit and character somehow might actually operate in and through us.
This takes us into something that can be potentially a very confusing thing for us to process: how exactly does this work? How can God be at work in us in this way while we ourselves work? How does all this fit together? That topic will need to be explored further, to come to better terms with it and also to prepare for the rest of Peter’s argument.