In his second letter Peter warns the church about the corrupting influence of false teachers, but he begins by outlining what the faith of those who have accepted Christ as Saviour is all about. He saw faith as a precious thing that has to be protected from those who seek to destroy it through false doctrine and unbiblical practices.
The source of faith
“Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord” (2 Peter 1:1-2).
This precious faith is not ours because we are nice, churchgoing people; instead it comes only through the righteousness of God in Christ. This righteousness is imputed to us at the moment we believe in Christ as Saviour. “And he [Abraham] received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also” (Romans 4:11). This righteousness is given through the grace of God in accordance to our faith in the saving blood of His Son. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Therefore, if our righteousness is in personal merit, then good works will be the source of our hope, which of course is the very opposite to Biblical faith. “Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:9) … “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5).
We see then that this “precious faith” can only be “obtained” from God, and being precious we ought to treasure and protect it. False teachers cannot steal away the faith of those who are reading, studying and meditating on the word of God. Instead of their faith decreasing, they find that it actually increases as they delight in the Scriptures. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
The scope of faith
“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:3-4).
This kind of faith also encourages us to live godly in this world. “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10). The Lord has not left us to wander aimlessly through life while trying to live up to the principles set out in His word, instead He has given us “precious promises” to build and strengthen our “precious faith”. There is no excuse for not living holy, godly and righteous lives, for God has equipped us for every trial, temptation and trouble that we might encounter. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Added to this He has given us “the whole armour of God” so that we can “stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). Only those who have this “precious faith” can clothe themselves with the armour and use the weapons God has supplied. Those who are God’s people will remain standing when everyone else has fallen. “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13). True faith trusts in the promises that God has made and is certain that He never reneges on them. “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
The sum of faith
“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins” (2 Peter 1:5-9).
Here Peter describes the sum of “precious faith”, that it, what it entails and how it is manifest in our daily lives. He lists seven virtues that no Christian can do without, and clearly states that those who lack them are blindly wallowing in sin. How can any true believer think that Christ saved them so that they could continue to live sinful, ungodly and worldly lives? As mentioned in verse 3, God has “given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness”, so something is obviously wrong if holiness is not our lifestyle.
There are the gainsayers who reject this teaching by adopting the notion that once a person is saved, no matter what he or she does, they cannot lose their salvation. Even if that doctrine is correct, what an obnoxious and abominable way to thank God for the wonderful gift He has given to us! Surely a follower of Christ desires to please the Lord and add these virtues to his or her life. Those who teach otherwise should be avoided. “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself” (1 Timothy 6:3-5).
The security of faith
“Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10-11).
Faith that is not exercised through living faithfully for Christ is in reality dead and useless. “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). There is no eternal security where faithlessness, disobedience and ungodliness exist. It is at this place some will “fall” from their “calling and election” and thus have no “entrance” into “the everlasting kingdom.” Peter encourages believers to make “sure” the faith that they have. This actually means to build up faith through the knowledge of Christ. The stronger the faith is, the less likely it will fail. The walls of the Castle of Faith will quickly crumble if they are built with the morals of the world rather than the virtues of the Spirit. “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith” (Jude :20).
It is false security indeed when people trust in good works, religion and false doctrine, but how sad that so many refuse to accept the need for godliness in their lives! They feel secure in putting their faith in the assurances of popular theologians who convince them that they are safe for eternity no matter what evils they do. The faith they have constructed is as secure as a house built upon sand (see Matthew 7:21-27). True Christians need to be security conscious about their “precious faith” and not allow anything to undermine the foundation God has laid in their lives. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal” (Matthew 6:19).
Faith is precious; therefore we need to keep it away from all contaminates and everyone who would seek to take it away from us. Something this precious cannot be neglected or abused through worldliness and unrighteousness. Those who have this “precious faith” are thankful for the “precious blood of Christ” that saved them (1 Peter 1:19), because unto those who believe “he is precious” (1 Peter 2:7). Now is definitely the time to “take forth the precious from the vile” (Jeremiah 15:19).