Stop the Train! (Part 3)

Posted: May 9, 2013 in Biblical Basis

In Stop the Train, Part 1, we introduced the idea that human trafficking is a runaway freight train that will only be stopped by the intervention of some imaginary superhero, or, in reality, only by the power of God.  In Part 2, we looked at 2Peter 1:3-8 and saw that God’s power within us is sufficient for “everything,” and we dared to suggest that “everything” includes stopping the train of human trafficking.  We looked at that “divine power,” and how we receive it from God.  We ended that study with a list of eight spiritual qualities that Peter says will “render [us] neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,” if they are ours and are growing. And we concluded that the fruit of this knowledge includes the fight for justice and freedom of the oppressed and enslaved.  In this final chapter of Stop the Train, we will look at those eight qualities, and we will discover a key that will open the door to let them into our lives.   Once we unlock them, we will see how we must fight to hold on to them and see them increase so that we will be useful and fruitful in our knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and all he has called us to do, including winning the war on slavery.

2Peter 1:5 – Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NASB)

 Again, there are 8 qualities: faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.  The list is preceded by two significant clauses. The first is, “For this reason.”  That is, because we have “become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust (v.4),” we are able to seek out and acquire these qualities.  Jesus’ work on the cross and the subsequent indwelling of the Holy Spirit sets us free from the power of sin and worldly corruption. The second clause is “applying all diligence, supply,” (which is the word order in the Greek). The grace of Christ which sets us free from the world’s corruption – from our own corruption – does not lead us to a place of idleness and self-indulgence.  God’s grace is not retirement, it’s work; it’s your calling. It’s your dream job – the thing your heart has always longed to do, the work that will energize you, fill you with joy, satisfaction, and a host of other amazing qualities, and will lead you closer to the heart of Jesus.  But it’s hard work, and diligence is required.

The first step is faith and, by the time we reach verse 5, we’ve already taken it.  Peter assumes that his readers already have faith; it’s the one thing on this list that he doesn’t tell them to “supply.”  That’s because faith is necessary for us to believe and receive all the things that are in verses 3 and 4, things we discussed in part 2 of Stop the Train!

  1. God has exercised His divine power
  2. Through that power, He has granted us everything we need for life & godliness (i.e., everything).
  3. “Granted” implies grace; we don’t deserve these things.
  4. He gives us these things through knowledge of Him (i.e., Jesus Christ, see v. 8).
  5. He called us.
  6. His calling proceeds out of His glory and excellence.
  7. This is “so that…” – there is a purpose and an intended outcome in these things.
  8. That purpose is that I can partake of God through the presence of His Holy Spirit within me.
  9. This is for those who “have escaped the corruption that is in the world,” that is, those who have received Christ’s salvation.

All of these things, not just the last one, can be accepted only by faith.  So, if we have made it to verse 5, we already possess the first quality on the list.  We have faith. That’s why faith is the only quality that we are not told to “supply.”  It’s already there.

Far too many quit there.  They hear about Jesus. They accept what they’ve heard by faith. They receive His gift of salvation.  They are set free from sin.  All done.  Mission accomplished.  But that’s clearly not how Peter sees it.  To him, faith is the beginning, not the end, of our journey.  It is the first step in a long and arduous process of applying all diligence to “supply” all of these qualities until they are ours “and are increasing.”

Fortunately, Peter gives us a very powerful strategy for doing this.  Unfortunately, that strategy has been buried in almost every translation other than the New American Standard (which we are using here) or the Greek.  In other versions, we are told to “add to” our faith, goodness, etc., or to “supplement [our faith] with” these qualities.  It’s almost like we are to go out there – somewhere – find some “moral excellence,” bring it back and tack it onto our faith.  That’s a lot of work, and with no mention about how to do it.  Is it any wonder that so many people give up?

But that’s not what the Greek says. First, the word frequently translated “add” or “supplement” here in verse 5 is the same word that appears in verse 11 where the NAS again translates it “supply,” while others use words like “minister,” “provide,” or “given.”  There, in v. 11, it is clear that the source of the object (the Kingdom) is Jesus.  All of the translations agree with that.  Why, then, do so many of them translate the same word in v. 5 in such a way that we are led to believe that the source for these “qualities” is ourselves?

The second key word is the word that is translated “to” or “with” in several other translations.  The Greek, however, is the word, “en,” which simply means, “in.”  In your faith, supply … .  Don’t go “out there, somewhere” to find these qualities.  Don’t reel them in, haul them home, and tack them on to your “faith.”  These things are not found elsewhere; they are not to be found “out there.”  They are found “in” that which you already have!  Instead of running around trying to find these qualities, Peter is telling us to stay “in” your faith, and let your faith, not your self-effort, “supply” them.  Rather than looking elsewhere for something to “add to” your faith, look in your faith – look it in the eye, look at its source – look to the One who has made you a “partaker of His divine nature,” who has given you His Holy Spirit to dwell in you.  Look to the one whom the author of Hebrews calls, “the Author and Perfecter of your faith.”  Stand in that faith which He has authored in you, and permit Him to “perfect it.”

Now, I don’t think there is any particular order to the next seven qualities, nor do I believe they must be sequential.  But I think Peter is telling us that each time Jesus, by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, begins to perfect a quality within you, it gives you more to stand in as He supplies the others.

But wait, doesn’t Peter say that we are to diligently supply these things?  If the Holy Spirit is doing it, what is the work we are to be doing?  Quite simply, I think it’s the incredibly hard work of yielding – of giving up on all of the things we have dreamed of, desired, looked forward to.  Letting go of the control we think we must have.  Getting out of the way of the Spirit’s work.  And obeying what He calls you to do.  Verse 10 says, “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.”  The work is in knowing, trusting, and obeying your calling, and in “practicing” these qualities.  The Holy Spirit will supply and develop these things in your as you stand in your faith, but you – we – must “apply all diligence” to see that they are put into action.

We can’t produce faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, or love within ourselves.  All of those come from God thorough the mercy of the cross and the power of the Holy Spirit.  But, as He produces these things, we can nurture them, or we can ignore them.  We nurture them when we remain in them, and not only them but also in Christ, in His Word, in fellowship with fellow Christians, in prayer, in truth and in our calling. We nurture them when we put words and hands and feet to them, when we respond to their presence by speaking about them, by doing them, and by going wherever they take us. This, Peter tells is, is how we experience true success.  This is not the success the world desires, rather it is success in “the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

We will recall that this true knowledge of Him is the means through which God’s power flows through us (v.3).  And only by that power can we stop the “unstoppable” flow of human trafficking.  I pray that we will consider the lessons of this passage as we obey this high calling we all share.  Only by doing so will we ever see the success that He alone offers.

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