This is a revised version of an article originally published on January 16, 2012
2 Peter 1:1-14 contradicts almost all of the major tenets of authentic Protestantism: Christocentric salvation; Christocentric interpretation; double imputation; Christocentric sanctification; the total depravity of the saints; sanctification by faith alone; the imperative command is grounded in the indicative event; assurance based on gospel contemplationism; sanctification is not “in our OWN efforts”; the apostolic gospel.
“Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (v1).
Salvation is not Christocentric. Peter states that we obtained our faith by God the Father AND Jesus Christ.
“May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (v2).
The benefits of salvation are multiplied by the knowledge of both the Father and the Son. Of course, this knowledge can only come from the Scriptures. Obviously, knowledge of both is required for the multiplication of grace and peace. One may also note that when Peter restates this truth in verse 3, he only mentions the one “who called us” which of course is God the Father.
“The imputed righteousness of Christ” is an often heard slogan among reformed. But it is the righteousness of God that was imputed to us by the New Birth when we believed in Christ (see v1). The believer is righteous because he is God’s literal offspring. Christ lived a perfect life as a man because of who He is (the Son of God), not for the purpose of imputing obedience to us as part of the atonement in sanctification.
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (v3).
Again, God the Father is the member of the Trinity who called us. Knowledge pertaining to the Father is efficacious in sanctification.
The Total Depravity of the Saints
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (v3,4).
“Partakers” is: koinōnos from koinos; a sharer, that is, associate: – companion, fellowship, partaker, partner. Koinos means: common, that is, (literally) shared by all or several and is derived from a primary preposition denoting union; with or together, that is, by association, companionship, process, resemblance, possession, instrumentality, addition, etc.: – beside, with. In compounds it has similar applications, including completeness.
Sanctification by Faith Alone
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love” (v 5,6,7).
Obviously, if sanctification is by faith alone, Peter wouldn’t tell us to ADD anything to it.
The Imperative Command is Grounded in the Indicative Event
“For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. 10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (v8,9,10,11).
Glorification (and one could argue assurance as well) is an indicative act, but in these verses, it is contingent and preceded by imperatives. Peter uses the conjunction “if” three times to conjoin imperatives preceding the indicative.
Assurance Based on Gospel Contemplationism
One of the more hideous teachings of the Reformation is that guilt is indicative of not understanding grace. Therefore, saints will not be told to take biblically prescribed action to relieve guilt, but will be told to further contemplate the gospel. There is barely anything more powerful in the Christian life than full assurance of salvation, and Peter tells us in no uncertain terms how to obtain it: aggressively adding certain things to our faith.
Sanctification is not “in our OWN efforts.”
Authentic Protestantism, by default, disavows our effort in sanctification by continually utilizing the either/or hermeneutic: it’s either all our effort, or all of Christ. Though we can do nothing without Christ, Peter makes it clear that peace and assurance will not take place if we do not “make every effort” (ESV).
The Apostolic Gospel
“So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things” (v12,13,14,15).
Think about it. It had been revealed to Peter that his departure was near, so his ministry was focused on what he thought was the most important thing that they needed to be continually reminded of. Where is, “The same gospel that saves us sanctifies us”? Where is, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day”? Where is, “Beholding the face of Christ as a way of becoming”?
Granted, they have to believe those facts to be saved, but they must not only believe that Christ died for our sins and was resurrected three days later, they must also believe something else about those facts:
Salvation is a choice to follow Christ in that same death, burial, and resurrection. He accomplished such so that we can follow Him in it.
Salvation is an intellectual ascent AND a choice. The choice is also referred to as “repentance.” You are not only turning from an indifference to God’s truth, you are turning from who you are to whatever God wants to make you.
This is called the new birth, or the baptism of the Holy Spirit. You can do absolutely nothing to effect this new birth, you can only ask for it. It is the desire to turn from who you are to whatever God makes you. If you understand that, and want that, God has promised it to you if you ask for it.
Being saved encompasses the belief that you have passed from death to life. The Bible then commands us to proceed with life based on certain assumptions. First, we must know that we cannot be condemned for any sin. Secondly, we make it our goal to please God by putting off the former ways and learning the new ways of the Spirit. Spiritual growth is a true colaboring between ourselves and the Spirit. Our focus is putting off the old ways and putting on the new ways of the Spirit. This is the laser focus of discipleship.
A contrary focus on our supposed continued need for the same gospel that saved us, and a focus on how “sinful” we are is a denial that we have passed from death to life. Instead of our goal being love, our goal becomes a deeper and deeper appreciation of why Christ had to die for us. This is functioning on a completely different assumption:
It denies that we have passed from death to life, and makes our greatest sin that of not understanding how sinful we are resulting in a supposed lack of gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice. It assumes that the old us is still alive, and able to supply ample fodder for showing us why Christ had to die for us. Instead of the Bible showing us the new way of the Spirit, it supposedly shows us the old way of sin leading to a greater appreciation of the cross.
This is the theme we hear constantly in the institutional church, on Christian radio, and in contemporary praise music. And unfortunately, it tells us what we really believe about the gospel.
The new birth is redefined as a mere ability to see how sinful we are, and not an ability to be a transformed person—a true kingdom citizen—a true child of God. Transformation is redefined as an increased ability to see how sinful we are and plunge the depths of our total depravity. The idea that we can actually change and better learn Christ is declared to be arrogant, prideful, and… “having a righteousness of your own.”
This is a slick, deliberate play on words that subtly denies the new birth. It takes the reality that righteousness did not originate with us, and makes it tantamount to having NO righteousness that is a part of our true being. We remain unchanged except for an ability to SEE only, and the righteousness of God that comes part and parcel with being born of Him remains apart from us. We are merely vessels that “reflect” God’s righteousness, but it remains separate from our new identity.
In other words, we really don’t perform any love that pleases God, our only goal is to plunge the depths of our own sinfulness that results in God “reflecting” His love on us and others. This coincides with rhetoric we hear in the church constantly such as, “It wasn’t I who did it—it was the Spirit working through me.”
Passages like Galatians 2:20 are then twisted to make the case.
Consequently, instead of a proper dichotomy being drawn between GIFT and REWARD, salvation ends up as our reward for living a life of faith alone in… “what Jesus HAS done, not anything I do.”
Again, this not only denies the new birth, but makes “Christians” unwitting participants in a damning endeavor to keep ourselves saved by faith alone which is defined as a mere ability to see our need for a savior more and more. “Jumping directly from the commandment to obedience” is supposedly works salvation.
Jesus said, “You must be born again,” and this is exactly why He said it. Water baptism has nothing to do with a church membership found nowhere in the Bible, and it is not only about what Jesus did, it is a testimony that you have followed Christ in a literal death and resurrection.
Salvation is the abandonment of who you are, and trusting what God will do by recreating you into His own child. It is a matter of trust, because…
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.