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"Thought for the Week" by Elder James Horan (Rock Springs)
May 21, 2017
This week’s lesson from the “Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide”, is titled “Be Who You Are”. Don’t you just love this quarter’s study? Reading these letters of Peter makes us realize how changed the younger Peter has become. It really makes you want to meet him (and we will… one day… face-to-face).
In this week’s lesson we begin studying Peter’s last letter, written just a short while before his own crucifixion in AD 67. The central scriptural text for the week is 2 Peter 1: 1-15. In this portion of the letter, we often focus on Peter’s list of virtues. “Note that Peter has arranged these deliberately in a sequence, so that each virtue builds on the previous virtue, until it reaches a climax in love” (quarterly, Monday’s lesson). Please look at this list prayerfully and investigate carefully as to why Peter ordered them this way. He starts with faith… but then lists things we are to “add”. Isn’t faith enough? Isn’t it by faith ALONE? So a bigger question may be, what part do these “works” play in my walk of “faith”? Why focus on these “works”? Aren’t we saved by “faith”?
The Bible has never disparaged “works” or “obedience”. On the contrary, it enjoins it, commands it. But it is we who misunderstand “WHY” we are to obey. We think that “works” and “obedience” denies “faith” and is our attempt to “work the works of God” (John 6:28). We think “works” are opposed to “faith” and to Christ’s proclamation, “this is the work of God… that you believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:29). But this is not so. Obedience never was the way to Godliness. As if we can of ourselves achieve holiness on our own, by our own effort. Of course we sinners cannot achieve the righteousness that proceeds only from “faith”. So how are we to reconcile this? We are to “obey”, we are to “work”. But our “works” cannot achieve the righteousness of “faith”. Peter frames his list of virtues with the answer.
“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1: 2-4). So Peter introduces his list. And at the conclusion of his list of virtues he states, “For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1: 8). He frames his list with the concept of knowledge… knowledge about God… knowing God. As if to say, that it is this list that will lead you to knowing God. And knowing Him who is righteous, coming into contact with Him alone who is righteous, will lead you to be righteous. “Works” and “obedience” is how you come to know God. In obeying Him you come alongside Him, relate to Him, come to know Him. And when you come to really know Him, you will only trust Him (have faith in Him) more and more. That is the reason to obey. Not to be righteous, but to be united with Him who is righteous.
Because of this, James rightly states, “thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). And if this is not strong enough, he adds “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2: 24). A statement that led Martin Luther to recoil and place the book of James in a questionable light. But John adds the same understanding as Peter when he states, “Now by this we know that we know Him if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3). Again connecting obedience with knowing Him. Saying that we really don’t know Him if we don’t obey. Therefore, obedience and “works” are the way to know Him. And thus become intimate with the “Righteous One”… the only way for us sinners to become “righteous”.
So let us follow Peter’s advice. Let us add to our faith. These additions strengthen our faith in God as we see the things of God demonstrated in our lives. We shall see more and more of the beauty of holiness and our utter lack to change our heart to conform to holiness. It will drive us to our Father and to cry-out. You will pant after God, to be made anew into His image of holiness. To trust Him more and more. Do you want your faith increased? Do what He says. It is the way to want more and more. And He that asks, receives.
With brotherly love,
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