“For this reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-11)
In this wonderful passage we read the apostle Peter insisting that supplementing our faith in Christ is the key to remaining faithful and having the assurance of heaven. It is immaterial to me who might agree or disagree with that statement. I will take my stand with the apostle of our Lord. I do find it interesting that in his book, Biography and Sermons, Marshall Keeble included a sermon titled, “Five Steps to the Church; Seven Steps to Heaven” (pgs. 51-64). He illustrated his sermon with a chart showing two ladders. The first ladder represented the way into the church; the second ladder showing the way to heaven. His point was that his denominational friends were trying to climb the second ladder without climbing the first. That point can still be pressed with equal force today the same way it was in 1930!
In the 1820’s Walter Scott would ride into a town to preach a gospel meeting. Scott would find a group a children and ask them to hold up five fingers. He taught them that each finger represented faith, repentance, confession, baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit. He told the kids to go home and repeat the same to their parents and tell them that he would be preaching the same things that night. Since that day, I supposed, preachers have talked about steps to salvation. And there have been those who denied that any such steps existed.
Some of our own brethren have said that dead men do not climb ladders. The idea being that before coming to Christ we are spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1), and are unable to “climb ladders.” Others insist that we do not contribute anything to the purchase price of salvation. How many times have you heard it said that salvation is by 100% grace? Some insist that our salvation is atonement, not attainment. It is also insisted by some that salvation by grace means accepting Jesus as our Savior, and as a result of his “finished work” on the cross, we are saved. These are things we have heard from our brethren over the years. My question to you is how does all of this square with 1 Peter 1:5-11?
In my preparation for a recent sermon on this passage I came across some very interesting comments from a Calvinistic denominational writer. Whereas some of our brethren loathe the idea of steps this writer embraced them: “Rather than summarizing this goal in a single word, Peter chooses to describe it as a series of ascending steps. Verses 5b-7 describe, like the steps in a staircase, eight Christian virtues that must be added, one to the other, as we move upward in our pursuit of spiritual maturity.”[i] As if to contradict the idea that salvation is by 100% grace, he says, speaking of these virtues: “No, the issue is not one of having them or not having them, the issue is one of growing in the degree to which the Christian exhibits them. We must not be content, Peter suggests, with a B- in ‘goodness’ or ‘knowledge’ or ‘self-control’ or ‘godliness’ or ‘brotherly kindness’ or ‘love.’ We should not be content until we have an A+ in each one.”[ii] Finally, against the contention that salvation is simply a matter of accepting Jesus and his “finished work” on the cross, Moo says: “In 2 Peter 1:9-10, then, I think that Peter is simply reminding us of the human side of salvation. Our effort in responding to God’s grace in our lives is essential if we are to confirm that God has truly chosen us as his people and if we are to receive God’s royal welcome into heaven.”[iii]
So, can anyone seriously contend that, if we strive to follow the teaching of the apostle Peter in this passage then, we are trying to help the Lord out? Can anyone seriously argue that we are bargaining with God on a 50/50 basis? And, if this passage reflects the idea of ladder climbing is it because of anything said by a preacher of the American Restoration Movement, or because of what Peter said? Only those who are “alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11) can climb this ladder, and that after they have climbed the first one!
It is nothing short of amazing to me that a Calvinist writer can see the truth more clearly than some of our brethren. I am not saying this to agree with a Calvinist. I am saying this to agree with Peter, and if a Calvinist agrees with the apostle, then, we both agree together! As Marshall Keeble always said, “The Bible is right!”
[i] Douglas J. Moo, The NIV Application Commentary: 2 Peter and Jude (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 44.
[ii] Moo, 47.
[iii] Moo, 60.