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Sunday, February 19, 2023: “Responsibility of Those Called” Commentary (The ISSL Curriculum)

By |2023-02-11T02:29:51-05:00February 11th, 2023|Sunday School|

                             Sunday, February 19, 2023

Lesson Text:  James 2:1-12; Time of Action:  around 45 A.D.; Place of Action: James writes from Jerusalem

Golden Text:  “Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” (James 2:5).

 

I. INTRODUCTION. Have you ever noticed that it takes only a couple of seconds to form an impression of a person and twenty years to change that impression?  We all tend to quickly take a look, examine our feelings, and come up with an evaluation.  Judging and showing partiality are major problems with all people, and especially with believers.  Living in God’s kingdom requires that believers make some major adjustments in the way they treat others.  Too often we give in to worldly pressure to value people according to wealth and rank.  Churches forsake poor neighborhoods, shun persons from unsavory backgrounds, and refuse to condemn sins of greed and injustice.  This is why James had to give the instruction found in this week’s lesson.

 

II. BACKGROUND FOR THE LESSON. The writer of the book of James was Jesus’ half brother (see Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Galatians 1:19). Mary’s younger children didn’t believe in Jesus during His earthly life (see John 7:5), but they joined Jesus’ followers after His resurrection (see Acts 1:14).  It’s very possible that James was converted by the risen LORD (see I Corinthians 15:3-7).  He also became the leader of the Jerusalem church (see Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; Galatians 1:19; 2:9, 12).  James wrote to the “twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (see James 1:1).  This refers to Christians Jews.  After the death of Stephen (see Acts 7:58-60; 8:1-3), the persecution of believers increased and believers in Jerusalem were scattered throughout the Roman Empire.  Since these early believers in Jesus Christ didn’t have the support of established churches, James wrote to them as a concerned leader, to encourage them in their faith during those difficult times.  James began his letter by outlining some general characteristics of the Christian life (see James 1:1-27).  In this week’s lesson, James addresses what appears to be a very specific problem among the Jewish Christians living outside the land of Israel, due to the Diaspora or scattering of the Jews.  The problem that James was addressing occurred when these believers met in their gatherings or worship services.  It was a severe problem—the showing of partiality or favoritism.  James’ words in our text seem to be rooted in the laws of Exodus that were against all favoritism in judgment.  No one was to be partial toward the poor or against the poor (see Exodus 23:3, 6).  Our lesson begins with chapter 2.

 

III. THE INJUSTICE OF PARTIALITY (James 2:1-4)

          A. Faith and partiality (James 2:1).  In our first verse, James begins with a startling statement: My brethren, have not the faith of our LORD Jesus Christ, the LORD of glory, with respect of persons.”  This statement was startling because in the Greek this verse reads “My brethren, do not with respect of persons have the faith.”  In other words, James was saying that we are not demonstrating “faith” in “our LORD Jesus Christ” if we show “respect of persons” or favoritism.  This is the sin that James is condemning.  The words “respect of persons” literally means “receiving of faces” or to “look at a person’s face.”  The idea is that the focus is on what the person looks like instead of on the person, resulting in an uninformed judgment.  To have “respect of persons” really means giving more “respect” to one person than another because of outward appearance alone.  When James said “have not the faith of our LORD Jesus Christ,” he was appealing to his readers not to allow their “faith” in “Christ” to be contaminated by acts of favoritism.  Such acts are inconsistent with “faith” in “our LORD Jesus Christ,” because He never showed partiality.  “Jesus” is also described as “the LORD of glory” because just as God’s “glory” was seen visibly by His people in the tabernacle and the temple, His “glory” was now personified in “Jesus Christ.”  This presents us with a question.  If “Christ” is our “glory,” why do we “glory” in others?  By showing favoritism, we exalt men and take away from Christ. 

          B. Inequity in the assembly (James 2:2-3).

               1. (vs. 2).  In this verse James begins to give an illustration of his command in the previous verse.  He said For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment.”  James may be giving a hypothetical illustration, but he could also be stating something that had actually happened.  James pictured two men who come into the “assembly.”  The Greek word translated “assembly” can also be translated “synagogue.”  Since these were early Jewish Christians, they may still have been worshipping in synagogues.  The two men who enter are no doubt strangers, and the regular worshippers know nothing about them except what they see at that moment.  The first one introduced is a man “with a gold ring, in goodly apparel.”  The words “with a gold ring” literally mean “a gold fingered man” indicating that he could have had on more than one “ring” to show his status.  The “goodly apparel” refers to fine clothes, or clothes that were openly brilliant and splendid.  This man had all the marks of being wealthy.  Into that same assembly came “also a poor man in vile raiment.”  This second man had no money and his “raiment” or clothing was “vile” or disgusting.  It’s hard to imagine a greater difference in appearance than these two men.

               2. (vs. 3).  In this verse, James continues his illustration saying “And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool.”  The congregation is faced with a moral test, and they fail it miserably.  Quickly sizing up the rich man, someone in the assembly has “respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place.”  Based simply on what they see the people give the rich man special attention and lead him to a choice seat.  The “poor” man receives no such respect.  Someone tells him to “Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool.”  The “poor” man is told to “stand” in a certain spot, or “sit” down on the floor.  Both options given to the “poor” man are equally degrading.  He was given the options to either “stand” in an inconspicuous place where he couldn’t be seen, or “sit” on the floor by the “footstool” of the one speaking to him.  It’s noteworthy that the one speaking to the “poor” man not only has a good seat himself, but he has a “footstool” as well.  Yet he doesn’t even have the courtesy to let the “poor” man sit on the “footstool!”  The “poor” man is unwelcome based on his appearance alone.  Note:  Imagine two men driving into the church parking lot today.  One drives a new luxury car, the other an old rattletrap.  Which one would be more likely to get preferential treatment?  We tend to usher the people of affluence to the front of the sanctuary, while others are shown a seat in the back.  Don’t be deceived.  It’s not about what a person has on, or where he or she sits in the sanctuary.  What really matters is one’s heart condition (see I Samuel 16:7).  When God looks at a person, He sees His own creation and loves each one equally.  We must learn to do the same.

          C. False judging (James 2:4).  James now drives his lesson home by asking a question that expects a positive answer—an answer that will condemn his readers’ actions.  So in this verse he asked Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?”  James was saying that when we are “partial” or showing favoritism, we also become judges of evil thoughts.”  In other words, those making distinctions between rich and poor in their midst, have set themselves up as critics who pass judgment on the basis of unjust reasoning—outward appearances.  No doubt they reason that the rich can add wealth and prestige to their church, but the poor can’t.  As a result, they treat them differently.  This is unjust!  Jesus receives all people equally, but those whom James is writing to are unwilling to do what Jesus would do.  Note:  It’s easy for us to see the injustice of what James’ readers were doing.  But we are prone to commit the same sin.  Wealth is not the only criterion by which modern churches make unjust distinctions.  Discrimination is just as often on the basis of education, age, race, nationality, gender, or marital status.  God only makes spiritual distinctions, and by these we too must be bound.  But all other distinctions have no place in the church.

 

IV. THE INCONSISTENCY OF PARTIALITY (James 2:5-7)

          A. The blessing of the believing poor (James 2:5).  In this verse, James says to his readers, Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?”  James called on his readers to “hearken” or to listen and pay attention.  Referring to them as “my beloved brethren” assured them of James’ love.  With a question that required an affirmative answer, James challenged his readers to think.  First, he asked “Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith?”  There is some mystery surrounding God’s choice of “the poor,” for Scripture does not teach that He chooses people on the basis of social class.  But it is true that a higher number of “poor” people than rich people are believers (see Matthew 19:23-24; I Corinthians 1:26-29).  Ironically, the “poor of this world,” meaning those who are “poor” by man’s standards are often “rich in faith” or full of “faith.”  Their very poverty drives them to trust God more deeply.  The “rich” man has no need to question how his bills will get paid or where he will get his next meal.  But the “poor” man has to learn to depend on God.  The “poor” man trusts that God will supply his needs.  Even though he doesn’t know how or when, he still believes.  The “poor” who are “rich in faith” are the ones who have become heirs of the kingdom which he (God) hath promised to them that love him.” Their “rich faith” is accompanied by pure “love” for their Redeemer, and He honors them with an eternal inheritance (see Luke 6:20-23).  We should be mindful that not all “poor” people will gain this inheritance, and not all rich people will miss it.  However, the “poor” are more likely to have the “faith” and “love” to enter God’s kingdom, while the “rich” have a tendency to rely on themselves, making it much more difficult to honor God.

          B. The behavior of the unbelieving rich (James 2:6-7).

               1. (vs. 6).  In this verse James argues that partiality is not only unjust, but also illogical.  He said But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?”  If James’ readers realized that God chooses “the poor” of this world who are rich in faith, then it wouldn’t make any sense to dishonor “the poor.”  This is the meaning of “ye have despised the poor.”  It is even more illogical to honor the “rich” because James asked “Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?”  This question points out two separate evils or sins.  One is social oppression.  The word for “oppress” is used in the Old Testament to show the exploitation of “the poor” (see Jeremiah 7:5-7; Amos 4:1-2).  The second evil that the “rich” were guilty of was persecution of believers, here described as being brought “before the judgment seats.”   How ironic it is that the people being honored in the assembly by believers were the same ones prosecuting them in court for their faith.  It may be that some believers hoped that by flattering the “rich,” or those who were persecuting them, they could turn away their opposition.  However, such thinking would be unworthy of Jesus Christ, and it is a technique that’s bound to fail.

               2. (vs. 7).  Here James asks another question to show how illogical it was to honor the rich.  He asked “Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?”  This question makes it clear that “the rich” people that James’ readers were honoring were unbelievers.  They were wealthy Jews who had rejected Jesus and were intent on exterminating His followers.  The term “blaspheme” means to slander or “to speak evil of someone.”  James said that “the rich” who were being honored were blaspheming, or slandering that “worthy name by the which ye are called.”  Of course, that “name” is Jesus, the “name” by which we are all called to be Christians.  Since the very One who gave meaning to James’ readers’ faith was being blasphemed, it made no sense to him that they honored those who were doing it.  It should make no sense to us either.  So why do it?

 

V. THE INIQUITY OF PARTIALITY (James 2:8-12)

          A. The proper interpretation of the law (James 2:8).  In this verse James wrote “If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well.”  Although many of James’ readers were showing favoritism to the rich just because they were rich, in this verse James indicates that it is also possible that some people honored the rich out of sheer “love” for their “neighbor.”  In this case, they would be fulfilling “the royal law according to the scripture.”  This is a reference to the latter part of Leviticus 19:18, which is “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”  James referred to this part of the “law” as “the royal law.”  It might be called this for at least two reasons.  First, it was emphasized by Jesus, the King of kings (see Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-31).  Second, it is a “law” above all others with regard to human relationships.  Paul told the Romans that one who loved his “neighbor” was fulfilling the entire “law” relating to one’s fellow man.  He wrote that “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (see Romans 13:10).

          B. Transgressors (James 2:9-10).

               1. (vs. 9).  James goes on to say in this verse But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.”  The phrase “have respect to persons” means to show favoritism.  James is saying that if we are “respecters of persons,” or showing favoritism, we “commit sin” because we are “convinced (or convicted) of the law as transgressors.”   In other words, we are convicted by the royal “law” of love and become “transgressors” of that “law.”  The word “transgressors” refers to lawbreakers, those who deliberately cross over a prescribed boundary.  That person knows the boundary, but defies it anyway.  In this case, he or she ignores the law’s prohibition against partiality (see Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 1:17; 16:19); so the royal “law” testifies that the person is a “transgressor” or “law” breaker.

               2. (vs. 10).  In this verse, James forms a conclusion saying “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”  The “law” is God’s moral standard.  As such, it must be taken as a whole, not in parts.  Being very good in one area of morality does not make up for falling short in another area.  Someone might argue that showing partiality is only a small breach of the “law.”  But James answered saying that even if a person keeps “the whole law” or all of God’s Word, but breaks just “one point, he (or she) is guilty” of breaking all the “law.”  Obedience to many “laws” cannot make up for breaking one “law.”

          C. Priorities (James 2:11).  To further prove his point, in this verse James said “For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.”  James declared that the reason why breaking one “law” is the same as breaking them all is because all of it comes from One Lawgiver.  To disobey any part of it is to violate His will and reject His lordship.  James declared that the One who said “Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill.”  Since the same God who forbade “adultery” also forbade murder, if a person commits murder but not “adultery,” he or she is still a “transgressor of the law.”  Therefore, whoever commits one sin, but not the other is still guilty, because he or she has crossed the boundaries set by God Himself.

          D. The law of liberty (James 2:12).  In our final verse James said “So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.”  The phrase “So speak ye, and so do” means that our words and our actions should pass the scrutiny of being “judged by the law of liberty.”  The “law of liberty” refers to all of God’s Word, especially the gospel message which brings “liberty” or freedom to those who receive Christ (see John 8:32).  When believers stand before the judgment seat of Christ, our words and actions will be judged by the Holy Scriptures (see II Corinthians 5:10).  Note:  “The law” is no longer an external set of rules, but it’s a “law of liberty,” or a “law” that gives freedom.  We are free from the external compulsion to keep a set of commands, but we are motivated by faith and love.  We are liberated not to sin, but to do God’s will from a pure heart (see John 8:32-36; Romans 6:14-18; Galatians 5:13-14).  God will judge us on how we respond to this freedom.

 

VI. Conclusion. The image of Jesus Christ becomes apparent in a Christian community where everyone is treated with equal respect and compassion. That image becomes hidden in a fellowship where such factors as wealth or poverty affect the way members are treated.  As Christians, we should not patronize the rich or discriminate against the poor.  In Jesus Christ, believers are on equal footing regardless of such factors as race, culture, and economic status.  In this week’s lesson, James teaches that showing partiality on the basis of external appearances is a serious matter to God.  He receives all who come to Him through faith in Jesus Christ, both rich and poor.  Can we do any less?

 

 

 

***The Sunday School Lesson; The International Sunday School Lesson Curriculum***

Sunday, February 19, 2023: “Responsibility of Those Called” Practical Points For Discussion (The ISSL Curriculum)

By |2023-02-11T02:14:26-05:00February 11th, 2023|Sunday School|

                             Sunday, February 19, 2023

Lesson Text: James 2:1-12

King James Version (KJV)

I. THE INJUSTICE OF PARTIALITY (James 2:1-4)

1. My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.

2. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;

3. And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:

4. Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

 

II. THE INCONSISTENCY OF PARTIALITY (James 2:5-7)

5. Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?

6. But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?

7. Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?

 

III. THE INIQUITY OF PARTIALITY (James 2:8-12)

8. If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:

9. But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

10. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

11. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.

12. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.

 

New International Version (NIV)

I. THE INJUSTICE OF PARTIALITY (James 2:1-4)

1. My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.

2. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in.

3. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,”

4. have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

 

II. THE INCONSISTENCY OF PARTIALITY (James 2:5-7)

5. Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?

6. But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?

7. Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

 

III. THE INIQUITY OF PARTIALITY (James 2:8-12)

8. If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.

9. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.

10. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

11. For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

12. Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom,

 

 

 

PRACTICAL POINTS FOR DISCUSSION:

Preferring the rich over the poor is a worldly and sinful attitude (James 2:1-4).
A man’s true wealth lies in the amount of faith he has (James 2:5).
The rich have a tendency to rely on themselves, making it much more difficult to honor God (James 2:6-7).
We are not to show love based on a person’s merit, but only because God first loved us (James 2:8-9; I John 4:19-20).
If we are guilty of any sin, we are guilty of breaking the whole law (James 2:10-11).
The LORD repays our mercy with His mercy, but our judgment earns His judgment (James 2:12).

 

 

***The Sunday School Lesson; The International Sunday School Lesson Curriculum***

Sunday, February 19, 2023: “Blessing of Godliness” Commentary (The UGP Curriculum)

By |2023-02-11T00:54:38-05:00February 11th, 2023|Sunday School|

                             Sunday, February 19, 2023

Lesson Text:  II Peter 1:3-14; Time of Action:  67 A.D.; Place of Action: Unknown

Golden Text:  “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our LORD Jesus Christ” (II Peter 1:8).

 

I. INTRODUCTION. Over and Over again we hear the claim that Christianity takes the fun out of life.  But in reality, that’s not true.  It’s exciting to discover what God can do for us daily when we fully trust Him.  When we lean on our LORD Jesus for all that we need, we can live a godly life of exciting faith.  Our lesson this week shows us that God has not left us alone to somehow find a way to live a godly life.  He has already put all the resources in place for us to succeed.

 

II. THE LESSON BACKGROUND.  The book of First Peter was written just before the time that the Roman Emperor Nero began his persecution of Christians. Second Peter, from which our lesson comes, was written about three years later, (between 66 and 68 A.D.), after the persecution became more intense.  First Peter was a letter of encouragement to the Christians who suffered, but Second Peter focuses on the church’s internal problems, especially on the false teachers who were causing people to doubt their faith and turn away from Christianity.  In this second letter, Peter argues against the heresies of the false teachers by denouncing their evil motives, and reaffirming Christianity’s truths—the authority of Scripture, the primacy of faith, and the certainty of Jesus’ return.  Unlike First Peter which was addressed to Jewish Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor and to believers everywhere (see I Peter 1:1), Second Peter is not addressed to any particular group, so it is accepted that Peter was writing to Christians everywhere (see II Peter 1:1).  At the time of this letter, Peter knew that his time on earth was limited (see II Peter 1:13-14), so he wrote about what was on his heart warning believers of what would happen when he was gone, especially about the presence of false teachers.  Our lesson comes from the first chapter of II Peter.    

 

III. DIVINE POWER (II Peter 1:3-4)

          A. Particular privileges (II Peter 1:3).  This verse says According as his (God’s) divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him (Jesus Christ) that hath called us to glory and virtue.”   Here Peter expands on the previous verse 2 by telling his readers how the growth in the knowledge of God takes place.  The word “life” here refers to the eternal spiritual “life” received through trusting Jesus Christ (see John 10:28; 17:2), and “godliness” describes the believers’ attitude and conduct as measured by God’s standard.  “Godliness” is a way of life that properly reverences God.  It was important that these believers knew that God’s “divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness.  In other words, God has fully equipped all believers with everything we need concerning eternal “life” and “godliness” or the way we should live as believers.  Peter is talking about spiritual growth.  The power to grow does not come from within us, but from God.  What God has given to us to live godly lives lacks nothing as indicated by the phrase “hath given unto us all things.”  Whatever we need to live “life” to its fullest, and please God has been given to us “through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.”  The pronoun “him” here refers to Jesus Christ.  God has given us all we need because of our knowledge of Christ (see Philippians 3:8-10), and has also called us to share in Christ’s “glory and virtue.”  The word “glory” is used in the New Testament to mean “something or someone held in high esteem” and can also be translated as “praise,” “honor,” ‘brightness,” or “splendor.”  Therefore, “glory” refers to all of God’s attributes and characteristics.  The term “virtue” refers to inner moral excellence.  This was demonstrated by Jesus during His earthly ministry.  Since God has “called us (Christians) to glory and virtue,” we are to also show the same inner moral excellence that Jesus showed.  This is a calling to be God’s children, which includes all aspects of “godliness” or living by God’s standard (see Ephesians 1:4-5), as well as Spirit-directed living (see Romans 8:14; I Corinthians 6:19-20).

          B. Precious promises (II Peter 1:4).  In this verse, Peter continues to write Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”  The word “Whereby” refers back to the divine power and divinely granted knowledge of God mentioned in the previous verse.  Because we are God’s people we have been given “exceeding great and precious promises.”  To Peter, our “promises” are breathtaking.  Many of God’s great “promises” relate to eternity and the many heavenly rewards that believers anticipate receiving.  However, the “precious promises” that Peter is referring to here are those we enjoy in this present Christian life.  Therefore, God’s “precious promises” for the believer include the forgiveness of sins, answered prayer, the presence of the Holy Spirit, God’s guidance, and eternal life (see I John 2:25), just to name a few.  The phrase “that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature” tells us that the “precious promises” of God are the means by which we share in His “divine nature.”  The word “these” refers to God’s “exceeding great and precious promises.”  Sharing in God’s “divine nature” does not mean we can become gods.  It means that as we commit our lives to Christ and pursue holy living we become more like Him (see II Corinthians 3:18).  As a result, people ought to be able to see something of Jesus in us in our daily lives.  This is possible because we have “escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”   Simply put, since we belong to God we are no longer in the grip of sin and “corruption” that comes from our “lust.”  The Greek word for “lust” in the New Testament refers to “a strong desire,” usually an evil one.  The three areas in which we can sin all involve “lust” (see I John 2:16).  But through regeneration, or the new birth we have a new nature which produces new desires and helps us overcome sin in our lives (see II Corinthians 5:17).  This does not mean that we cannot be tempted to sin or surrender to the things that draw us to ways of the world.  It does mean that “divine” power is available to help us in overcoming the fascination we have with the world and evil desires.  We have already been delivered from sin’s power (see Romans 6:13-15); one day we will be delivered from sin’s very presence (see Revelation 22:14-15).  The point is that because God’s people, Christians, or believers in Jesus Christ have taken on the “divine nature,” we have “escaped the corruption” of the world and should be growing in godliness (see verse 3).

 

IV. DISCIPLESHIP PRIORITIES (II Peter 1: 5-9)

          A. Add to your faith (II Peter 1:5-7).

               1. (vs. 5).  This verse says And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge.”  The phrase And beside this” refers to our standing in Christ mentioned in verse 4.  Peter’s readers were encouraged to give “all diligence” and “add to your faith.”  In other words, we are to make every effort to “add to” our initial “faith” that saved us (see Romans 12:3; Ephesians 2:8-9).  Since we are partakers of God’s divine nature, there is no reason for us to be slack in our efforts to live the Christian life.  Instead, Peter says that “diligence” is required.  The word “diligence” refers to earnestness, zeal, or effort.  In other words, spiritual growth takes effort and should not be seen as optional but as standard equipment for the dedicated disciple of Jesus Christ.  “Faith” is the starting point of Christian character and Peter told his readers to make an effort to “add to your faith.”  Without “faith” we cannot please God (see Hebrews 11:6).  “Faith” itself is a gift of God (see Romans 12:3), so even where “faith” is concerned God’s grace is shown.  We are to exercise this gift of “faith” and add further fruit or character to our “faith” in Jesus Christ.  “Faith” is the root of salvation and is at the very foundation of our Christian commitment (see Hebrews 11:1). But “faith” does not cease when a person comes to Christ.  Our “faith” must grow and develop.  The following list of character traits given by Peter are similar to what Paul called the fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23).  Peter said that the first quality to “add to” our “faith” is “virtue” which means moral goodness.  When Christians do not demonstrate moral goodness, our failures are quickly seen by unbelievers as a sign of hypocrisy.  Therefore, we need to live as blamelessly as possible.  Not only will this benefit us in our own spiritual growth, but it will also be a wonderful testimony for Christ.  To “virtue” we are to add “knowledge.”  While we may think this refers to the “knowledge” of the Scriptures, Peter was probably thinking more of “knowledge” in the sense of practical wisdom or the ability to know the right path to take.  It is discernment (see I Kings 3:9; Ecclesiastes 8:5; I Corinthians 2:14; Hebrews 5:14).  Of course, gaining “knowledge” or discernment does require Christians to be students of the Scriptures (see Acts 17:11; II Timothy 2:15; 3:16).

               2. (vs. 6).  Peter goes on to say And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness.”  To “knowledge” we are to add “temperance” or self-control.  When demonstrating “temperance” we actually control our desires instead of being controlled by them.  It helps us avoid indulging in sinful desires.  True believers in Christ are to be examples of self-control.  For sure, most of us have to admit that there are many areas in our lives that need restraining.  The Holy Spirit in the believer produces “temperance” as a fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23).  The next quality we are to add to “temperance” is “patience” which is better understood as endurance or perseverance.  The primary idea is steadfastness.  “Patience” is especially important during times of persecution and testing.  To “patience” we are to add “godliness.”   This term refers to reverence or piety or simply living a life that is like God.

               3. (vs. 7).  In this verse Peter continued to add to the list of qualities believers need to have.  He said “And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.”  To “godliness” we are to add “brotherly kindness” which translates the Greek word “philadelphia” which literally means “brotherly love.”  This speaks of the affection that should flourish among brethren in Christ; an affection that manifests itself in joyful acts of “kindness” toward one another.  In the family of God, “brotherly” love must be the norm!  To “brotherly kindness” the believer is to add  “charity” which in the Greek is the word “agape” and is often translated “love” (see Matthew 5:44; Romans 13:8-9; Ephesians 2:4; 4:16; 5:25).  This “charity” is self-sacrificing love as demonstrated by God in sending His Son into the world (see John 3:16), and as demonstrated by Jesus on Calvary (see John 10:17-18).  It is what identifies true believers (see John 13:35); and it is the crowning virtue to be added to our faith (see Colossians 3:12-14).  As the Apostle Paul pointed out, we can be extremely gifted, possess great faith, and even make great sacrifices, but without “charity” or self-sacrificing love we are nothing (see I Corinthians 13:1-3).

         B. Abound in your faith (II Peter 1:8-9).

               1. (vs. 8).  Here Peter writes “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our LORD Jesus Christ.”  The phrase “if these things be in you, and abound” refers to the qualities that are to be added to faith (see verses 5-7).  But Peter says that these qualities must “abound” meaning that they are to increase in measure.  It’s not enough to show these godly qualities every now and then; instead, they must be shown on a regular, daily basis.  The purpose of having these ever increasing qualities added to our faith is so that the believer would “neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our LORD Jesus Christ.”  The word “barren” is often used in Scripture to describe a woman who cannot have children, but here it means “ineffective” or “useless.”  Certainly a follower of Jesus Christ shouldn’t want to be thought of like that.  Jesus wants His servants to be fruitful (see John 15:1-8).  A Christian life that is not actually growing is not producing anything for God’s kingdom and is an “unfruitful” life.  Our goal should be to grow or be fruitful “in the knowledge of our LORD Jesus Christ.”  The word translated “knowledge” here refers to full or complete “knowledge” (see Ephesians 1:17-19), and implies that effective, fruit-bearing believers are to have a deeper “knowledge” of what it means to serve Christ.  This is because we are constantly growing “in the knowledge of our LORD Jesus Christ.”  The heart of our Christian life is a vital experiential “knowledge” of Jesus Christ (see Philippians 3:10).  The reason we want to grow in Christian character is because we want to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ.

               2. (vs. 9).  This verse says “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.”  The words “these things” refer back to the Christian qualities we need to add to our faith.  Peter said that the one who “lacketh” or fails to develop the characteristics of a godly person listed in verses 5-7, is “blind and cannot see afar off.”  This means that the one who is not growing is “blind” to heavenly things which are in the future.  He only sees earthly things which are near, and is only living for the present instead of eternal values (see Matthew 6:19-24).  When we accept Jesus Christ, our spiritual eyes are opened (see Acts 26:16-18).  But if we fail to grow, we reveal that we are spiritually shortsighted, not becoming all that God intended for us to be.  The apostle also says that the one who does not grow in faith is not only “blind” to spiritual things but also he (or she) “hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.”  The word “purged” means “to cleanse.”  This is the reason a person receives salvation; to have his or her sins forgiven and having a right relationship with the LORD.  Then the believer becomes a new creature (see II Corinthians 5:17).  He or she has a new way of life, and is to mature in Christian character.  If godly qualities are not present, the believer “hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.”  Sadly, the believer who is not growing and bearing much fruit has somehow lost sight of the fact that he or she has been “purged” or cleansed of his or her “old sins.”  Remembering that Jesus saved us is more than enough motivation for spiritual growth (see John 15:4-6; Galatians 5:22-23).  The truth is that the world can produce in the believer a spiritual deadness that causes us to forget that we have been pardoned as well as forget the new life we have decided to follow.

 

V. DILIGENT PERSEVERANCE (II Peter 1:10-11)

          A. Faith’s evidence (II Peter 1:10).  In light of the Christian qualities we need to add to our faith, Peter said in this verse “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.”  Instead of the believer forgetting that their sins have been purged and forgiven, Peter said “give diligence to make your calling and election sure.”  To “give diligence” means to be “zealous,” or “earnest,” or more simply, “to work hard at something.”  Here, we are told to keep working hard “to make your calling and election sure” because the world always threatens to lure us away from Christ.  The phrase “to make your calling and election sure” does not imply that a saved person can lose their salvation, because they can’t (see John 10:27-29; 17:12).  It simply means that a regenerated or born again person should be giving evidence daily of their salvation and the change Jesus has made in his or her life.  A person’s godly behavior is evidence that Jesus has cleansed him or her from their past sins and their “calling and election” are “sure” or guaranteed.  The words “calling” and “election” describe our salvation.  In our “calling” God gives us the opportunity to hear the gospel message and to either accept it or reject it.  “Election” refers to the foreknowledge of God in that He has always known who will accept or reject the gospel (see I Peter 1:2).  Even though we are the elect according to the foreknowledge of God, we must still repent, believe the gospel (see Mark 1:15), and then live according to the gospel (see Acts 2:41-42; Philippians 1:27).  Peter reminded his readers that if they lived by “these things” or the qualities that he had listed, they “shall never fall” or fail in their faith.  The person who is truly born again will show fruit and persevere to the end.

          B. Faith’s Reward (II Peter 1:11).  For those who persevere in the faith, Peter said in this verse For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ.”  This simply means that if we do the things Peter mentioned in verses 3-7, we will be richly welcomed into the “everlasting kingdom of our LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ.”  In addition, this “entrance” or entering “into the everlasting kingdom of our LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ” will be “ministered” or given to us “abundantly.”  The imagery Peter is presenting here is of a victorious Olympic contestant entering his city, not through the gate but through a special “entrance” of honor made in the wall that encircled the city.  Even now, believers are already part of Christ’s “kingdom,” but one day we will be welcomed into the eternal or “everlasting kingdom” (see II Timothy 4:18).

 

VI. DEPARTURE PREDICTED (II Peter 1:12-14)

          A. The need for reminders (II Peter 1:12-13).

               1. (vs. 12).  In this verse Peter says Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.”  The word “Wherefore” means that what Peter is about to say was based on what he had already said.  As an apostle of Jesus Christ, Simon Peter took his responsibility to teach his fellow Christians seriously.  So he said “Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things.”  The apostle wanted his readers to know that he would continue to remind them of the things that make for spiritual growth.  He knew that if he didn’t, he would be “negligent.”  He knew like we do, that people have a tendency to forget, so there is always a need for us to be reminded of Christian truth.  Therefore, he would “always” remind them of “these things” which refer to the godly qualities he mentioned in verses 3-7 that cause spiritual growth in the believer.  Part of Peter’s motivation to put his readers “always in remembrance of these things” or godly living, must have been his commitment to obey Jesus’ command when He told Peter to strengthen other believers spiritually (see Luke 22:32).  Note:  Of course, there are many ways in which we can keep the teachings of Jesus alive in our memories.  Obviously, continued teaching and review of scriptural truths will keep these things before us.  So that believers would not forget His great sacrifice, Jesus ordained a memorial the night before His death.  At the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples, “this do in remembrance of me” (see Luke 22:19).  Peter also recognized that these believers already knew those things when he said “though ye know them.”  Since they already knew about godly living, it should’ve been no problem for them to “be established in the present truth.”  This means that Peter’s readers were to be firm in the “truth” that was already present within them.  There’s one thing about God’s Word that we don’t ever have to worry about; it was the truth yesterday, it’s the truth today and will still be the truth tomorrow!

               2. (vs. 13).  Peter went on to say “Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance.”  As long as he was alive in his physical body, or as he put it “in this tabernacle,” he knew it was “meet” or “the right thing to do” to remind his readers of the truths they had been taught.  Peter’s desire was not just to restate facts.  He wanted to “stir” (to arouse from sleep or lethargy) up the believers to get them to see the importance of living according to the truth.

          B. The privilege of martyrdom (II Peter 1:14).  Our final verse says Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our LORD Jesus Christ hath shewed me.”  Peter knew that his life would soon end.  That’s what he meant when he said “shortly I must put off this my tabernacle.”  When he spoke of “this my tabernacle,” Peter was referring to his own body.  The “tabernacle” was a tent, a temporary abode for God (see Deuteronomy 31:15; II Samuel 7:6; Psalms 76:1-2), and so are our bodies (see II Corinthians 5:1, 4).  But one day we will receive new resurrected bodies (see I Corinthians 15:42-58; Philippians 3:20-21).  The apostle said that the knowledge of his death came directly “even as our LORD Jesus Christ hath shewed me.”  In other words, Peter was told of his death by the LORD Himself.  This probably refers to Jesus’ words in John 21:18-19.  Knowing that he would soon leave his fellow Christians was another reason Peter spoke with such urgency.  He wanted these believers whom he felt responsible for to remember vital truths after he was gone.            

VII. Conclusion.  God has already given us all that we need to live godly lives.  It is simply a matter of our using these resources: applying His Word and its promises and acting in God’s power.  Like Peter’s readers, although we may be established in the present truth (see II Peter 1:12), we still need continuous reminders.  Regular instruction including Bible study and Sunday school is also necessary for all believers to keep growing in the faith (see Hebrews 5:12-14; 10:25).

 

 

 

***The Sunday School Lesson; Union Gospel Press Curriculum***

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