Spiritual Growth as Confirmation of Election

by Mike Ratliff

For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 ESV)

Doctrine is a vital part of the true Church. Many of us may disagree on some things pertaining to our faith and still call one another brother or sister, but there are some things, from the sound doctrines from God, that are non-negotiable. I am constantly amazed when those who disagree with the clear exegesis from God’s Word will counter with human philosophy or attempt to use human reason to void what the Bible actually says. The veracity of God’s Truth is unimpeachable no matter who believes it to be so or not. One of those clear truths from God’s Word that is under severe attack in our time is the role and extent that regeneration plays in the life of the believer. Some claim that all that is required to be “saved” is the saying of some prayer or saying that he or she agrees with some “truth.” God’s Word tells us, however, that regeneration is a washing that changes everything (Titus 3:5). There will be solid and observable changes in those saved by grace through faith as a gift from God. 

Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: (2 Peter 1:1 ESV)

1 σιμων πετρος δουλος και αποστολος ιησου χριστου τοις ισοτιμον ημιν λαχουσιν πιστιν εν δικαιοσυνη του θεου ημων και σωτηρος ιησου χριστου  (2 Peter 1 WHNU)

The Apostle Peter used two words to describe himself in v1. The first is δουλος, which is the Greek word for a slave. The second is αποστολος, which is the Greek word for a delegate. Each of these words points to another to whom the δουλος belongs and the αποστολος serves. That would be in Peter’s case ιησου χριστου (Jesus Christ). This is something missing in a very big way from much of what calls itself the Church in our time. The elders, pastors, or Bible teachers err badly if they approach their calling outside of being submissive and obedient in every way to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. The message that is given that does not glorify God because it teaches what is not true according to God’s Word reveals one who is not serving within these parameters.

To whom is the epistle addressed? Peter is writing to all who have obtained (λαχουσιν) the same or equal (ισοτιμον) faith (πιστιν) as his. This is another thing that we must grasp and never forget. The saving faith of the Apostles is no different than the saving faith we have obtained if we are indeed in Christ. That last part of v1 reveals that our right standing in this πιστιν are so by the righteousness (δικαιοσυνη) of our God (θεου) and Saviour (σωτηρος) Jesus Christ (ιησου χριστου). The word σωτηρος describes one who is the “deliverer” of those whom he saves. The righteousness we have obtained is that of Christ Himself. Peter’s greeting in v1 lays it out there plainly my brethren. Those truly in Christ obtained their salvation because of the work of their deliverer whose righteousness is imputed to all whom He saves.

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:2 ESV)

2χαρις υμιν και ειρηνη πληθυνθειη εν επιγνωσει του θεου και ιησου του κυριου ημων (2 Peter 1:2 WHNU)

The word Peter used here that is translated as knowledge (επιγνωσει) is a strengthened form of “knowledge” implying a larger, more thorough, and intimate perception. Our faith is built on knowing the truth about God. Contrary to what many false teachers are spewing out today, Christianity is not a mystical religion, but is based on objective, historical, revealed, rational truth from God and intended to be understood and believed. In this verse we learn that as God reveals more and more knowledge to His people the more grace and peace are multiplied. What we must never forget my brethren is that some will say amen to that last sentence, but then go off on tangents outside the bounds of this truth and knowledge from God, going into fantasy and myths that are nothing but lies from our enemy who is working to discourage and deceive. Therefore, I amen that God will, by His multiplied grace and peace, impart His knowledge to you. When He does this then we can clearly see and recognize what is truth and what is not. Then we can obey Him in all things.

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, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV)

3ως παντα ημιν της θειας δυναμεως αυτου τα προς ζωην και ευσεβειαν δεδωρημενης δια της επιγνωσεως του καλεσαντος ημας δια δοξης και αρετης  4δι ων τα τιμια και μεγιστα ημιν επαγγελματα δεδωρηται ινα δια τουτων γενησθε θειας κοινωνοι φυσεως αποφυγοντες της εν τω κοσμω εν επιθυμια φθορας (2 Peter 1:3-4 WHNU)

The word translated “knowledge” here is επιγνωσεως, which is another form of the same word from v2. Do you see how important it is for Christians to know the truth from God? All the things that pertain to life and godliness come through it and this has been granted to us by His divine power. This is why we must be determined defenders of the truth. A fellow who was determined to silence me as I wrote the truth about Rick Warren and the Purpose Driven Church model tried to make me back off by using the argument that what we needed to do was just get along and tolerate our differences. That sounds good to the secular mind, but it is not what we are called to do as slaves of our Lord Jesus Christ. We stand firm in God’s truth and we warn the brethren of the lies that are not according to the knowledge imparted to us from God by God.

All in Christ have been called to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises. It is through these promises that we may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sin.  In v3 we are told that our salvation and resultant godliness comes through the knowledge of God which is imparted to us. In v4 we are told that it is by this knowledge being imparted to us that we learn of the promises made to us and through this we both live reverent, loyal and obedient lives before God and we live as partakers of the divine nature. What does that mean? To be a partaker of the divine nature is just an expression of the result of being born again or born from above. Those truly in Christ are new creations and are, therefore, different (John 3:3; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23). The precious promises of salvation result in becoming God’s children in this present evil age (John 1:12; Romans 8:9; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27). Through this, we share in God’s nature by the possession of His eternal life. We are not divine, but we are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). We have the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19,20). Our glorification in eternity will be the completion or fulfillment of this promise (Philippians 3:20, 21; 1 John 3:1-3. Here is that passage from 1 John 3:1-3. It is one of my favorites and I like to mediate on it and rejoice in these great promises.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3 ESV)

God’s truth was not meant to be bottled up and used in dry religiosity, but to be devoured and loved by His people who rejoice in it and are changed by it to be conformed unto the image of Christ Himself. This entails responsibility on our part however.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. (2 Peter 1:5-7 ESV)

5και αυτο τουτο δε σπουδην πασαν παρεισενεγκαντες επιχορηγησατε εν τη πιστει υμων την αρετην εν δε τη αρετη την γνωσιν  6εν δε τη γνωσει την εγκρατειαν εν δε τη εγκρατεια την υπομονην εν δε τη υπομονη την ευσεβειαν  7εν δε τη ευσεβεια την φιλαδελφιαν εν δε τη φιλαδελφια την αγαπην  (1 Peter 1:5-7 WHNU)

Carefully read this passage my brethren. The word “supplement” in v5 is the Greek word επιχορηγησατε, which describes one who gives lavishly and generously. In Greek culture, επιχορηγησατε was used for a choirmaster who was responsible for supplying everything that was needed for his choir. It never meant to equip sparingly, but to supply lavishly for a noble purpose. Therefore, we must understand that God has given us faith and all the graces necessary for us to walk in godliness before Him. We must do that plus Peter is telling us here that we are to add to all that by our diligent devotion to personal righteousness the things on this list.

The first is virtue (αρετην).  This is the God-given ability to perform heroic deeds in Classical Greek. It also came to mean that quality of life which made someone stand out as excellent. This is describing to Christians a noble life demonstrated in life by a moral energy, which is the power that performs deeds of excellence. The second addition to our faith is knowledge (γνωσιν). Notice that this is not the same word used above in describing the knowledge of God and His truth. This knowledge means understanding, correct insight, and truth properly comprehended and applied. To add this to our faith means that we must diligently study and pursue the truth in the Word of God. Please notice that this means we do not listen to certain false teachers and preachers who do not preach or teach these truths. This is why so many these days have resorted to feeding themselves these truths.

The third addition to our faith is self-control (εγκρατειαν). This describes one “holding oneself in.” In the 1st Century this word was used to describe athletes who were to be self-restrained and self-disciplined. For us we are to control the flesh, the passions, and the bodily desires, rather than allowing ourselves to be controlled by them (1 Corinthians 9:27; Galatians 5:23).

We are commanded to add to our faith virture, guided by knowledge, which disciplines desire and makes it the servant, not the master of our lives. Peter was a very wise man having learned this directly from our Lord and proving how far he was from this until after restored to Him after the resurrection.

To these things, we are commanded to add steadfastness (υπομονην). This is also translated as perseverance. This is a patience or endurance in doing what is right, never giving in to temptation or trial. This spiritual staying power will die before it gives in. This virtue can endure, not simply with resignation, but with a vibrant hope. To steadfastness, we are to add godliness (υσεβειαν), which describes believers being godly, which is to live reverently, loyally, and obediently toward God. To godliness, we are to add brotherly affection (φιλαδελφιαν). This describes our willing, mutual sacrifice for one another (1 John 4:20). To brotherly affection, we are to add love (αγαπην). This love is sacrificial and done for what is best for the one loved. This doing is not necessarily what the one loved wants, but what is best for them (1 Corinthians 13; 1 Peter 4:8).

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. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:8-11 ESV)

8ταυτα γαρ υμιν υπαρχοντα και πλεοναζοντα ουκ αργους ουδε ακαρπους καθιστησιν εις την του κυριου ημων ιησου χριστου επιγνωσιν  9ω γαρ μη παρεστιν ταυτα τυφλος εστιν μυωπαζων ληθην λαβων του καθαρισμου των παλαι αυτου αμαρτιων  10διο μαλλον αδελφοι σπουδασατε βεβαιαν υμων την κλησιν και εκλογην ποιεισθαι ταυτα γαρ ποιουντες ου μη πταισητε ποτε  11ουτως γαρ πλουσιως επιχορηγηθησεται υμιν η εισοδος εις την αιωνιον βασιλειαν του κυριου ημων και σωτηρος ιησου χριστου (2 Peter 1:8-11 WHNU)

This is self-explanatory. If we obey these commands, which are details of Paul’s teaching from Romans 12:1-2 to become living sacrifices who are transformed by the renewing of our minds, then we will be effective and fruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we do not then the opposite will be true of us, which means we will be so nearsighted (μυωπαζων) that we will be blind (τυφλος). This is spiritual blindness. These are the professing Christians who are unable to discern his or her true spiritual condition, and thus can have no assurance of his or her salvation. This spiritual blindness is like amnesia. Those in it are unable to discern their own spiritual condition and will not confidence about their profession of faith. They will be dominated by doubt and fear because they lack the spiritual excellencies listed above.

We are to make our calling and election sure by doing those things Peter listed above. The falling Peter mentions is into doubt, despair, fear, or questioning. Those who do practice these things will grow in godliness and assurance and enjoy the very fact that they are in Christ and can look at the proof of these qualities in their lives and know for certain that only God could produce them there for they are totally unable to do it themselves. The goal is given to us in v11. Those who walk this way will be receive a richly provided entrance into Heaven when the time comes.

My brethren, the teaching that people can do some religious act and be assured of their salvation while there is no discernable change in how they live in the world is a doctrine of demons. We are saved by grace through faith not by works. On the other hand, the faith that saves will produce good works (Ephesians 2:10). God has richly provided for our paths of spiritual growth. Let us abandon spiritual mediocrity and pursue the knowledge of our Lord and add to our faith these things that will enable us to be discerning, wise, and fruitful Christians in God’s Kingdom.

Soli Deo Gloria!

4 thoughts on “Spiritual Growth as Confirmation of Election

  1. Thank You dear brother Mike, for the confirmation God gave me in what I said to a friend just this morning. Without the regenerating power of His Spirit, our understanding only becomes more worldly, and false. I dearly pray that God opens the eyes and ears of His Church to not only hear and accept this pure doctrine, but also, to desire to live that sanctified life for all to see so that others may desire His calling to follow.

  2. Thank you Brother Mike!

    You have plainly illustrated what is the difference between regeneration by the power of the Word through the Spirit and the recycling of heresies in the form of modern day ‘spiritual disciplines”, pragmatism and “jump thru the hoop” evangelism.

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