“Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours…” (2 Peter 1:1)
This is a great passage of Scripture. It is one of the greatest in all of Scripture. It is a passage that takes Jesus Christ and lifts Him up as the great Messiah, the Savior of the world who can meet the desperate needs of man. Here is Christ and here is the great gift of Christ the Messiah, the great gift of salvation.
The letter opens with a very subtle and beautiful allusion for those who have eyes to see it and knowledge enough of the New Testament to grasp it.
Peter identifies himself with a balance of humility and dignity. As a servant, he was on equal basis with other Christians—an obedient slave of Christ. As an apostle, he was unique, divinely called, and commissioned as an eyewitness to the resurrection of Christ
In these verses, Peter distills for us the essence of the gospel. He indicates this is not just “his” gospel, but the gospel revealed through Christ, attested to by the Father, and consistent with the teaching of the apostles.
When the Lord Jesus left His disciples to ascend and be with His Heavenly Father, He left the apostles in charge. It was to them and through them that His Word was to be conveyed to others (see Matthew 16:19; John 14:26; 16:12-15; Hebrews 1:1-2; 2:1-4; 2 Peter 1:12-19; 1 John 1:1-4).
He emphasizes that salvation was not attained by personal effort, skill, or worthiness, but came purely from God’s grace. Faith is the capacity to believe (Eph. 2:8,9). Even though faith and belief express the human side of salvation, God still must grant that faith. God initiates faith when the Holy Spirit awakens the dead soul in response to hearing the Word of God.
Nowhere is these verses does Peter speak of what we do to merit God’s salvation. He speaks of God’s grace and of His sufficient provision for our salvation in Christ. This passage has nothing to say about man’s contribution and everything to say about God’s perfection, power, and provision. The righteousness of which we partake is the righteousness of God in Christ which was bestowed upon us (verse 1). It was not that we sought after God (see Romans 3:11), but that God chose us, sought us, and “called us by His own glory and excellence” (verse 3).
I have always been fascinated with the lives of the twelve apostles. Who isn’t? The personality types of these men are familiar to us. They are just like us, and they are like other people we know. They are approachable. They are real and living characters we can identify with. Their faults and foibles, as well as their triumphs and endearing features, are chronicled in some of the most fascinating accounts of the Bible. These are men we want to know.
That’s because they were perfectly ordinary men in every way. Not one of them was renowned for scholarship or great erudition. They had no track record as orators or theologians. In fact, they were outsiders as far as the religious establishment of Jesus’ day was concerned. They were not outstanding because of any natural talents or intellectual abilities.
On the contrary, they were all too prone to mistakes, misstatements, wrong attitudes, lapses of faith, and bitter failure—no one more so than the leader of the group, Peter. Even Jesus remarked that they were slow learners and somewhat spiritually dense (Luke 24:25).
Yet with all their faults and character flaws—as remarkably ordinary as they were—these men carried on a ministry after Jesus’ ascension that left an indelible impact on the world. Their ministry continues to influence us even today. God graciously empowered and used these men to inaugurate the spread of the gospel message and to turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6). Ordinary men—people like you and me—became the instruments by which Christ’s message was carried to the ends of the earth. No wonder they are such fascinating characters.2
We especially identify with Peter, but not when he walked on water or stated his willingness to die for His Lord. That would be too easy for us to claim; our lives just don’t live up to such expressions. The times most common for us to associate with him are the “foot in mouth” situations, when we ‘talk before we think’ and speak on impulse rather than after careful thought. But look at the boldness on his lips (because it was in his heart) when he speaks of this precious faith! It is something he possessed and knew others could, too!
If anybody in the early church knew the importance of being alert, it was the Apostle Peter. He had a tendency in his early years to feel overconfident when danger was near and to overlook the Master’s warnings. He rushed ahead when he should have waited; he slept when he should have prayed; he talked when he should have listened. He was a courageous, but careless, Christian.
A fisherman by trade before he would ‘fish for men,’ Peter knew the value of something previous and of value. His livelihood depended upon that instinct. He was also quite willing for the transformation to take place that would move him from the physical to the spiritual.
Nature reveals that life can be transformed by taking something unattractive and converting it into something of beauty. By its chemical magic a tree or plant can take the dark soil and the waste carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and combine them with the aid of the healing warmth of the sun to produce green leaves, colored flowers, red roses, yellow tulips, blue larkspur, or a million other designs. By means of chemical processes we can take black coal and convert it into red dyes or synthetic rubber or nylon cloth.
Faith gives life a similar transforming power; the power to take trouble or adversity and make it into something lovely and inspiring.3
It reveals a needed reminder: people who stand still may avoid stubbing their toes, but they won’t make much progress. Every church needs people with the courage to try new ideas and run the risk of making mistakes. Otherwise progress never happens. “The better a man is, the more mistakes he will make, for the more new things he will try,” says management consultant Peter Drucker. “I would never promote into a top-level job a man who was not making mistakes — otherwise he is sure to be mediocre.”
A young man who was disconcerted about the uncertainty of his future and in a quandary as to which direction to take with his life, sat in a park, watching squirrels scamper among the trees. Suddenly, a squirrel jumped from one high tree to another. It appeared to be aiming for a limb so far out of reach that the leap looked like suicide. As the young man had anticipated, the squirrel missed its mark, but, it landed, safe and unconcerned, on a branch several feet lower. Then it climbed to its goal and all was well.
An old man sitting on the other end of the bench occupied by the young man, remarked, “Funny, I’ve seen hundreds of ’em jump like that, especially when there are dogs around and they can’t come down to the ground. A lot of ’em miss, but I’ve never seen any hurt in trying.” Then he chuckled and added, “I guess they’ve got to risk it if they don’t want to spend their lives in one tree.”
The young man thought, A squirrel takes a chance. Have I less nerve than a squirrel? He made up his mind in that moment to take the risk he had been thinking about and sure enough, he landed safely, in a position higher than he had even dared to imagine.
Dramatic and significant is the story of the Pilgrims. On December 21, 1620, the voyaging Mayflower dropped anchor in Plymouth Bay, with Captain Christopher Jones at her helm. It had been a grueling voyage, taking the one-hundred-twenty-ton-capacity ship sixty-six days to make the perilous crossing. There had been disease, anxiety, and childbirth among the 102 courageous passengers. Furthermore, they arrived on the black New England shore during a hard winter which ultimately claimed half of their number. However, when spring came and the captain of the Mayflower offered free passage to anyone desiring to return, not a single person accepted.
The fidelity of the forty-one men, who while still aboard the Mayflower had signed the famous Compact beginning with the words, “In ye name of God Amen,” was taking on visible meaning, these chivalrous souls had dedicated themselves to the total causes of freedom. They had come to a wilderness to carve out a better way of life. Faith prompted the voyage; faith sustained the Pilgrims and their religious convictions constrained them to raise their voices in praise. Their hardship, sacrifice, devotion, concept of government, and vigorous religion all remind us of those who sought a country.
The only thing that can defeat the faith God has given you … is you. You must use your faith, exercise your faith, engage your faith. Until it is pressed into service, faith is only potential. To use the old exercise cliche, you must “use it or lose it!”4
Some Christians are so afraid of failure that they become reserved, overly cautious, and uninvolved in life. They follow a policy of guarded living, holding back time, talents, and treasure from God’s service. Their motto is: To keep from failing — don’t try! On the other hand, those who are willing to make mistakes and risk failure are the ones who ultimately achieve great things. Instead of being filled with fear, they go forward in faith. Problems are challenges. While they may not all be solved, these courageous people would rather live with that reality than have a clean record of no
failures and no accomplishments. Benjamin Franklin said one time, “The man who does things makes many mistakes, but he never makes the biggest mistake of all — doing nothing.
I like the poem from Charles Chigna: Try to think of all the words that you could live without; make a list of all those words and throw the worst word out. It’s not a very easy task, you might just rave and rant; but don’t give up before you find the worst bad word is “Can’t.”
God has no more precious gift to a church or an age than a man who lives as an embodiment of his will, and inspires those around him with the faith of what grace can do.
In a recent sermon, Joe Stowell said, “In 1980, America’s economy was in the ditch. The Cold War was in its fury. Russia seemed bigger, more powerful than us, and America entertained the world at the Olympics in Lake Placid. I remember coming home from church the Sunday that America was playing Russia in hockey. It was in the end of the first period, and we were beating the Russians. All of a sudden I realized my stomach was in a knot. My knuckles were white, and I had this anxiety about the game. All through the second period we were ahead. Going into the third period, I knew what would happen. The Russians would score five goals at the end of the game, beat us, and we would be embarrassed again. But we won! It was such a big deal that the national networks played it again. My wife and I watched the whole thing Sunday night. Only this time I didn’t have a knot in my stomach. I leaned back on the couch and put my feet up.
“What made the difference? I could relax because I knew the outcome. When we have faith that God is working for our eternal good, we can have amazing peace even when we don’t know the outcome.”5
J. G. Stipe wrote, “Faith is like a toothbrush. Every man should have one and use it regularly, but he shouldn’t try to use someone else’s.”
Harold Sherman wrote a book entitled, How To Turn Failure Into Success. In it he gives a code of persistence. He says:
1) I will never give up so long as I know I am right.
2) I will believe that all things will work out for me if I hang on to the end.
3) I will be courageous and undismayed in the face of odds.
4) I will not permit anyone to intimidate or deter me from my goals.
5) I will fight to overcome all physical handicaps and setbacks.
6) I will try again and again and yet again to accomplish what I desire.
7) I will take new faith and resolution from the knowledge that all successful men and women have had to fight defeat and adversity.
8) I will never surrender to discouragement or despair no matter what seeming obstacles may confront me.
We have a hard time valuing old age because we misunderstand what life — either young or old — really is. We were created to glorify God. Life is prayer. Life is loving. Life is graciously accepting our circumstances with joy and reflecting God’s goodness through it all. An elderly person, who, in spite of suffering and disability, is more concerned about loving others is the best demonstration of this truth. Allowing people to grow old is not a mistake on God’s part. He intends for that to happen to us so we can learn what life is — and is not.
The faith of Christ is a most precious faith. The word “precious” (time) means of great honor and price; of great value and privilege. The faith of Jesus Christ is precious because it makes us acceptable to God. It ushers us into the very presence of God Himself.
It also means that our standing with the Lord today is the same as that of the Apostles centuries ago. They had no special advantage over us simply because they were privileged to walk with Christ, see Him with their own eyes, and share in His miracles. It is not necessary to see the Lord with our human eyes in order to love Him, trust Him, and share His glory
Peter uses a word which would at once strike an answering chord in the minds of those who heard it. Their faith is equal in honor and privilege. The Greek is isotimos; isos means equal and time means honor. This word was particularly used in connection with foreigners who were given equal citizenship in a city with the natives.
Josephus, for instance, says that in Antioch the Jews were made isotimoi, equal in honor and privilege, with the Macedonians and the Greeks who lived there. So Peter addresses his letter to those who had once been despised Gentiles but who had been given equal rights of citizenship with the Jews and even with the apostles themselves in the kingdom of God.
The faith of Jesus Christ is obtained not earned. The word “obtained” (lachousin) means to secure by lot; to receive by allotment; to be given a share or a portion. No person deserves the precious faith of Jesus Christ. No person can work and earn it. It is a gift of God, a free gift that is given to every person who believes in Jesus Christ through baptism for remission of sins.
A Christian who walks by faith accepts all circumstances from God. He thanks God when everything goes good, when everything goes bad, and for the “blues” somewhere in-between. He thanks God whether he feels like it or not. A faith that hasn’t been tested can’t be trusted.
A man can accept what Christ has done without knowing how it works; indeed, he certainly won’t know how it works until he’s accepted it.
Gerald Yann told us “By faith we are led, not against reason but beyond reason, to the knowledge of God in himself and therefore of ourselves. By hope we are kept young of heart; for it teaches us to trust in God, to work with all our energy but to leave the future to him; it gives us poverty of spirit and so saves us from solicitude. And by love we are not told about God, we are brought to him.”
God does not expect us to submit our faith to him without reason, but the very limits of reason make faith a necessity. Faith and sight are set in opposition to each other in Scripture, but not faith and reason.
True faith is essentially reasonable because it trusts in the character and the promises of God. A believing Christian is one whose mind reflects and rests on these certitudes.6
 John MacArthur, Twelve Ordinary Men..
 Albert P. Stauderman, Let Me Illustrate, (Augsburg, 1983), p. 12.
 Andrew Merritt in My Faith Is Taking Me Someplace. Christianity Today, Vol. 43, no. 7.
 Leadership, Vol. 19, no. 2.
 John R. W. Stott (1921– )