Week of May 12: Equipped to be fruitful disciples
By Dr. Hal Brady
Week of May 12
Scripture: II Peter 1:3-14
Periodically all of us need to do some checking on ourselves. Specifically, as people of God, we need to check on ourselves to see if we and our churches are “developing in” and “keeping faith with” our Christian character. We need to see if we are living above our various distractions and bearing fruitful lives for the kingdom of God.
Second Peter is a somewhat controversial book with almost a universal agreement of scholars that Peter is not the author. Part of the great interest of Second Peter is the fact that it was the last book in the New Testament to be written and the last book to gain entry there (fourth century A.D.). Nevertheless, as the late William Barclay, stated it:
“Here is a book of first rate importance because it was written to people who were undermining the Christian ethic and the Christian doctrine, and who had to be stopped before the Christian faith itself was wrecked by the perversion of the truth.”
Another person writing in Peter’s name is not unusual. In the ancient world, this was a practice which was very common and quite normal. Faced with heretics using the same method, the church itself issued books concerning things in which the writers were quite confident that the apostles would have said had they been facing these new circumstances. At any rate, as scholars suggest, the author of Second Peter was only putting the message the Holy Spirit had given him into the mouth of Peter. The author himself probably felt that his own name was too unworthy to appear in the book.
Note that Second Peter does not have any geographical reference to any particular audience or location. Rather, this epistle is simply addressed to those who have received “a faith as precious as ours” (1:1).
So, from our scripture lesson, what can we learn from Peter about being effective and fruitful disciples?
First, we learn that we are recipients of the Divine Power and Promises!
Everything that a person wants for life and of life God has granted by his divine power and promises. Most miraculous of all, God has freely given himself so that all of us may be filled with the fullness of God. What greater gift than God giving himself in Jesus Christ!
The promises to which Peter refers are the assurance of forgiveness and of eternal life. These promises of God have been historically confirmed through the ministry of Jesus Christ and achieved by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. These promises include “escaping from corruption in the world” and the “enabling of our partaking of the divine nature” (1:4). Jesus Christ is the person who can rid us of our fascination with the world’s lust and make us whole. He is also the person who can remove the barriers and enable our greater possibility. Read John 10:10!
As we can see, it is through Jesus Christ that our potential for the sharing of the divine nature is realized. Notice that we are not possessors of the divine nature, but sharers of the divine nature. We haven’t fully arrived, but by God’s grace are “becoming.”
Second, we learn that we are to equip ourselves with virtue!
“We are to make every effort to support our Christian faith,” says Peter (1:5). From his writings, there is also a note of urgency with this effort. It is understood that a lack of urgency here may cause us to miss the opportune moment that may never come again. Clearly, our discipleship is in danger of becoming ineffective and fruitless (this is the great concern of the church today).
There is no doubt that Peter’s overwhelming desire is an eagerness to please the Lord. That should also be our desire, as God’s people, in the 21st Century church. To be sure, salvation is by faith alone (our justification), but faith without works (action) is dead (James 2:26). Indeed, our faith must be added to if we are to be kept from the blindness and shortsightedness which forgets the grace of God that initially forgave our sins (1:9). Faith must be supplemented by works (virtues) and each quality is connected with all others and flows out of one another.
One scholar stated that the virtues Peter mentioned (seven of them) are not like the options in a buffet line where we pick and choose what we like. Rather, with Peter’s discipleship menu, we don’t have the choice of picking and choosing from the virtues. We choose and are committed to them all (goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, mutual affection and love). The new life to which we are called and empowered by the Holy Spirit includes all the virtues and others as well. They are a unity.
The point is that if we are to be effective and fruitful disciples of Jesus Christ we have to diligently and urgently grow in our faith.
Third, we learn that we are to confirm our call and election from God!
Peter says, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble” (1:10).
In the view of everything previously mentioned, Peter urges us to make every effort to confirm our call by God. To Peter, it is God’s call that gives us the privilege of fellowship with God and also our entry into the fellowship of his people. However, it is our response to God’s call in every possible effort that produces effective and fruitful discipleship.
A United States senator asked Mother Teresa, “Don’t you get discouraged when you see the magnitude of poverty and realize how little you can do?” Mother Teresa replied, “God has not called me to be successful. God has called me to be faithful.”
Peter continues, “Therefore I intend to keep on reminding you of these things…” (1:12). What we do grows out of what we remember about God, about others and about ourselves. Jesus’ remembrance of us is our strength and hope, and our remembrance of Jesus is our faithfulness and fruitfulness.
Ask the class to be specific about how their congregation is helping people become faithful, fruitful Christians.