Effectual and Fruitful in the Knowledge of Our Lord Jesus Christ

by Mike Ratliff

[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. (2 Peter 1:8 ESV) 

The Doctrine of Imputation is a wonderful blessing for the Christian. Christ’s Righteousness and perfect obedience to the Law were both imputed to the account of every believer at their justification. That means, in God’s sight, each and every one of us in Christ are as blameless in his eyes as Christ himself. I was asked on Thanksgiving before our meal to “briefly” state that for which I was most thankful. How can I separate the atonement and all the eternal blessings that await all of us in Christ and just single out one thing? I knew that it would be very confusing for some of those in attendance to talk about the doctrine of imputation so I simply said I was most thankful for God’s Grace. 

One of the most precious passages to me in the New Testament is Hebrews 12:1-2.

[Jesus, Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith]

            [12:1] Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and [w]sin which clings so closely, and [x]let us run [y]with endurance the race that is [z]set before us, [2] looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, [a]who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising [b]the shame, and [c]is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

(Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV) 

[Cross References]

=======================================================

[w] See Eph. 4:22

[x] See 1 Cor. 9:24

[y] See ch. 10:36

[z] ch. 6:18

[a] Luke 24:26; Phil. 2:8; [Isa. 53:11]

[b] Ps. 22:6, 7; 69:19; Isa. 53:3

[c] ch. 1:3 

Even though we have the perfect righteousness of Christ imputed to our account and his perfect obedience to the Law, as is clear throughout the New Testament, we are called to mortify the sin that still resides in our flesh as we walk in repentance. I have been a Christian for a long time and learned that much of what is taught in most churches is a man-centered gospel and moralistic therapeutic deism that teaches believers that when the Bible talks about “transformation” it means that the marker for success is sinlessness. To fail, that is, to sin again, means that there must be something wrong with “us.” The problem is not “us,” but with the pragmatic system that our enemy has gladly instituted across the board in most of Protestant Christianity.

The transformation that we are continually taken through by God will never result in sinless perfection in this lifetime. In fact, the more mature in Christ we become as we become more and more knowledgeable in Christ it becomes plain just how sinful we really are, which makes grace the most precious thing for those who know their Lord well.

5 Καὶ αὐτὸ τοῦτο δὲ σπουδὴν πᾶσαν παρεισενέγκαντες ἐπιχορηγήσατε ἐν τῇ πίστει ὑμῶν τὴν ἀρετήν, ἐν δὲ τῇ ἀρετῇ τὴν γνῶσιν, 6 ἐν δὲ τῇ γνώσει τὴν ἐγκράτειαν, ἐν δὲ τῇ ἐγκρατείᾳ τὴν ὑπομονήν, ἐν δὲ τῇ ὑπομονῇ τὴν εὐσέβειαν, 7 ἐν δὲ τῇ εὐσεβείᾳ τὴν φιλαδελφίαν, ἐν δὲ τῇ φιλαδελφίᾳ τὴν ἀγάπην. 8 ταῦτα γὰρ ὑμῖν ὑπάρχοντα καὶ πλεονάζοντα οὐκ ἀργοὺς οὐδὲ ἀκάρπους καθίστησιν εἰς τὴν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐπίγνωσιν· 9 ᾧ γὰρ μὴ πάρεστιν ταῦτα, τυφλός ἐστιν μυωπάζων, λήθην λαβὼν τοῦ καθαρισμοῦ τῶν πάλαι αὐτοῦ ἁμαρτιῶν. 10 διὸ μᾶλλον, ἀδελφοί, σπουδάσατε βεβαίαν ὑμῶν τὴν κλῆσιν καὶ ἐκλογὴν ποιεῖσθαι· ταῦτα γὰρ ποιοῦντες οὐ μὴ πταίσητέ ποτε. 11 οὕτως γὰρ πλουσίως ἐπιχορηγηθήσεται ὑμῖν ἡ εἴσοδος εἰς τὴν αἰώνιον βασιλείαν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν καὶ σωτῆρος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. (2 Peter 1:5-11 NA27)

5 Also, for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue and to virtue knowledge, 6 and to knowledge self-control, and to self-control endurance, and to endurance godliness, 7 and to godliness brotherly love, and to brotherly love, love 8 for if these things are yours and are abounding, you will be neither unproductive nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted unto blindness having forgotten the cleansing of his past sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, rather be diligent in making calling and election sure, for these things if you do things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you. (2 Peter 1:5-11 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1) 

The key to understanding this passage is found in v8. As we are taken through the sanctification process, working out our salvation with fear and trembling, mortifying our sins, we are transformed by the renewing of our minds because we are becoming living sacrifices. Our minds are being renewed (Romans 12:2). That means they are taking on spiritual maturity in Christ. That means our “knowledge” of Christ by walking with him and, obeying him, as we learn to walk in repentance, et cetera, grows. In 2 Peter 1:8 we see that the goal in our spiritual growth is to become productive and fruitful in our knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. As we know our Lord better and we walk in joy and humility because of that, we will also do as Peter instructs in vv5-7 because what he is describing there is the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). What is our part?  Do you see anywhere in here where it is profitable to be self-promoting, or self-assertive, or prideful, or antinomian? No, I did not either. Our part is to deny self, take up our crosses and follow Jesus.

Notice that those who attempt to fight the battle of self-perfection instead of total submission to God in this by dying to self, taking up ones Cross and following Jesus is like one who is short-sighted unto blindness having forgotten the cleansing of his past sins. That was subtle, but those who try to fight this battle outside of the right parameters are trying to atone for those sins that Christ has already paid for. All that comes from this is spiritual misery, doubt, and bondage to life on the religiosity treadmill of works-righteousness.

As I stated above, I have been a Christian a long time. I have served at many levels in many churches, in 1992 even at the “management” level if you want to call it that when we had no pastor. During that period, the closest I ever felt to my Lord was during that period of being without a job (I had lost my job right after being elected to chairman of the Deacon body). We had no elders so the Church Council, of which I was chairperson since I was Chairman of the Deacons, handled that function. The Pastor would normally be the chairperson, but he left so that left me. Over the next several months, we did the work that was normally done by the Pastor and since we had none that meant me and the top more mature Deacons functioned in every capacity that was called for until we found one. I remember being totally overwhelmed and out of my comfort zone nearly every day. I remember calling the other deacons to step up to the plate and be men and I just lead. It was very interesting that I found a new job and we got a new Pastor in the same week. I was out of work about 6 weeks. I grew spiritually and learned something about myself during that time that I would never have learned if that had never have happened. I was sinful and God still answered my prayers. He still used me and caused me to see that my sins were all paid for at the Cross and my repentance and ability to live in sinless perfection was unrealistic and not expected, but what was expected was my continual brokenness over those sins and my work at mortification in taking up my cross and following Jesus. In this, he answered my prayers and used me in spite of my utter uselessness unless I abided in Christ.

Now, another unexpected thing happened with this revelation. It made me an outsider in those churches, especially the one in which all that took place. We were there until 2000 then God moved us from the OKC area to Tulsa. We were there about 18 months before God moved us to the Kansas City area in 2001. We have been here ever since. In any case, in Tulsa we were part of a very large SBC church there that was not that much different than the one we left in the OKC area, just bigger. Then we arrived in the KC area and became part of a much smaller SBC church. I became a Deacon there and Bible teacher. However, all that God had taught me through that massive intervention was still working through me and I could not be comfortable with the man-centeredness and moralistic therapeutic deism being handed out there, even though I didn’t know exactly what to call it at that time. However, God did and when the Pastor there tried to do an end-run and bring in the Purpose Driven paradigm, I knew what that was and tried to resist it, failed, and left. That was in 2006.

Since then, all of this understanding of how the Atonement works and what the Gospel is and what it isn’t and what our role as Christians is supposed to be and what it is not supposed to be in our sanctification and the evangelicalism, et cetera, has all been coming together for me into a much more cohesive and understandable form. What is surprising for me is how complicated man has made everything and how truly simple, yet profound, God’s ways really are.

Works righteousness is insidious and has invaded and polluted so much of what most people think of as Evangelicalism. Those who are in bondage to that may believe their sanctification is really up to them, and their continual failures at it keep them in despair because of that, but we are obligated to tell all who will hear that that is not the message for Christian sanctification found in the New Testament. As long as God allows me to tell the truth about this to his people, I will and I pray for all the captives to be free and those leaders who misunderstand God’s Word about these doctrines to surrender to the truth and then preach the truth.

Soli Deo Gloria!

8 thoughts on “Effectual and Fruitful in the Knowledge of Our Lord Jesus Christ

  1. Being hard-wired by nature for works-righteousness, our flesh does love to hear that message. That’s one tip-off that it is a lie. The Truth of man’s depravity and the sinlessness of Christ alone is found only in the Scriptures, which declare God’s redemptive grace toward the elect. Good counsel from you and from my morning reading today, James 3:

    “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

  2. What is even more amazing with all this is that in the past, and being weaned on John Wayne movies, we were probably even better at the “works” then those around us who preach it teach it and walk this works religion. We handled everything just like John Wayne, we depended on nobody, and just got it done, and done well, and expected the others would do the same. Yet our Lord saw it good to pull us out from among them, and, like Saul, who also got things done in a more “efficiant” manner then his contemporaries, was reduced to Christ.
    It was then that he realized that his life was ” Not I that live, but rather Christ through me.” Today I realize that I can do nothing on my own, for I am hopeless and helpless without Him and His Work in and through me and all His other disciples. Yet those former folks wonder just went wrong with us, and feel that we fell away and were not of them any more (…and they would be twisting scripture to fit their error and their being wrong twice actually made them right about us! LOL)
    Mike and Manfred, I assume you two both understand these sentiments completely, as do many of your respective readers… Carry on “you (formerly) wayward sons…there will be Peace when you are done.”

    (Yes we were delivered from that worldly music too!)

  3. WOW blind, deaf, and yet able to comment against Truth… Shouldn’t they at least pull out their bibles and compare your version to theirs and dialogue about that? Using the Word instead of “elder tradition” to form opinions? Silly me goats always abuse sheep, tares live to choke out the production of the wheat…

  4. Mickey, the operative code word in the proof texts of the “elder tradition” is found in the following statement from one of them, “You need to get rid of all that Greek and Hebrew and modern translation stuff and get back to the real truth, the 1611 KJV, because if you did you would see the truth like we do….” In other words, the proof text one of the he was using to base ALL of his arguments for works righteousness was Romans 8:1 from the KJV, which, if you compare it with the ESV, or, more importantly, the Greek text, you will see that the part he is using to support his point is a Textual Variant that is found ONLY in one of the 4 Greek manuscripts that Erasmus had access to when he put together is Greek N.T. Now we have much more reliable Greek manuscripts that are much older that show that that text was probably just a scribe’s note that was not supposed to be added to the text to begin with. Go compare Romans 8:1 from the KJV and then the ESV and then put that verse in the underlying context of what Paul was talking about and you will see that the part that included that is missing in the ESV does not fit with the context and, in fact, teaches works-rightoeusness.

  5. Walking in the Spirit does not equate to flesh works in any case.
    Perhaps they might consider this link…paying particular attention to the Geneva which pre-dates the King James, and of course discount the work of one Cyrus Scofield who has his own works issues…
    Cross references on the right would be looked at in the KJV as well as the ESV and not in the NIV I would suggest for him/her as well.
    http://bible.cc/romans/8-1.htm

    1. Jesus plus my works=a hinderence.
    2. Jesus through a decreased me=His Work through me, operative words His Work…
    3. My dead works for him= (see 1 above.)

    But their escatology should allow you to believe anything you want, without condemnation, which is what they always expect from you regarding their universalism…

    Herd driven mentality verses shepherd lead life.

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