When you read the book of 2 Peter, you quickly realize that the problem of false teachers is a prominent theme. It is interesting that Peter does not tell us what these false teachers believed and taught, but rather he describes their conduct. So in light of the lifestyle of false teachers, Peter admonishes believers to give all diligence to grow spiritually. He begins and ends the book with a challenge for us to grow in grace. The greatest apologetic for the faith is not only knowing and teaching the truth, but allowing the truth to be lived out through you in spiritual growth. In 2 Peter 1:3-7, Peter gives insight into both the importance and process of spiritual growth.
Peter instructs us to give all diligence (to make every effort) to grow spiritually (2 Pet. 1:5). By only reading 2 Pet. 1:1-4, it would be easy to develop a man-centered approach to spiritual growth, focusing merely on personal discipline. While discipline is absolutely necessary for spiritual growth, it alone often leads to self-dependence, which is sinful. As Peter points out our responsibility to exercise diligence, he also informs us of a glorious provision. He says, “And beside this,” (2 Pet. 1:5), linking our individual responsibility with the glorious provision we have in Christ. The moment you received Christ, He placed you into union with His divine nature (or divine life). As a result, you received everything you would ever need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). In Christ you have access to His divine power not only to escape the corruption of the world, but also to excel in spiritual growth!
Throughout this chapter, Peter develops I call “the partnership of spiritual growth.” You should put forward every effort (fulfilling the believer’s responsibility) according to the divine nature (fulfilling God’s responsibility) to grow spiritually. This two-sided truth prevents you from actively pursuing Christ-likeness apart from God’s enablement; it also prevents you from passively waiting for God to produce spiritual growth automatically. It is actively and aggressively depending on Christ for spiritual growth.
Another passage that emphasizes this partnership is Philippians 2:12-13.
– “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” This is your responsibility.
– “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” This is God’s responsibility.
In Colossians 1:29 we see that Paul communicated this concept when he said, “Strivingaccording to His working.” And in 1 Corinthians 15:10, he says that he “labored more abundantly than they all. Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” Paul actively labored according to the Spirit’s power (or grace). A person receives spiritual life by faith in Christ, and he continues in spiritual growth by faith in Christ.
Peter is abundantly clear on this point – as a believer, you possess in Christ everything needed for spiritual growth. However, this growth is not automatic. Spiritual growth occurs when you cooperate with God through Spirit-empowered effort to add to your faith these seven virtues (1:5-7). Furthermore, a primary reason for trials is to give you an opportunity to actively depend on your sufficient Savior to develop you more fully into His image (1 Peter 5:9-10). Every circumstance in life is an opportunity to grow in grace. May you not strive in the flesh for spiritual growth, nor passively wait for God to produce it spontaneously. May you, through Spirit-empowered effort, pursue Christ-likeness.