Study 4 THE WAY TO BECOME A FRUITFUL CHRISTIAN
THE SECOND LETTER OF PETER
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: 2 Peter 1: 5-15
In 2 Peter 1:5-11 we are given very clear guidance about becoming fruitful Christians. The key verse is verse 8. It should be the burning desire of every Christian to become fruitful; the alternative is to remain barren and unfruitful – to be unproductive, like the withered fig tree (Mark 11:20). How many Christians are like this! – and the Lord’s desire is that each of us should be fruitful (John 15:1-16). In the KJV notice “fruit” (v.2), “more fruit” (v.2), “much fruit” (v.5), and “that your fruit should remain” (verse 16, KJV). It is only as we bear fruit that the Lord is glorified (v.8). How can we bear much fruit, how can we become fruitful Christians? The answer is very important: we shall only become fruitful Christians as we do something, strenuously, regularly and conscientiously. This is brought out in verse 5, where Peter says we must “add” – not casually and occasionally, but “make every effort”. The argument which Peter places before us is this: God has done His part in giving you the gift of faith (v.1), in bringing you to a knowledge of Himself (vs. 2 and 3), and in making you a partaker of His divine nature (v.4); now you must do your part, and you will become a fruitful Christian. Verses 5, 6 and 7 tell us that we must exercise our faith by adding to ourselves seven virtues or graces. God has given us the gift of faith, and on this foundation and by using this gift we must add – what?
1. GOODNESS (verse 5)
This means ‘moral excellence’ or ‘good character’. Compare Acts 11:24, but notice this: it is a manly goodness, a quality that is masculine, vigorous and strong – something which is greatly needed in our churches: men and women who are those of genuine and virile Christian character.
2. KNOWLEDGE (verse 5)
This means ‘wisdom’ in the sense of knowing how to act as a Christian in relationships and duties of life. If we need counsel there are some friends to whom we can gladly go to seek such counsel, and we go to them because they have knowledge and wisdom; they know what to advise and how to act and they have spiritual intelligence; but we do not have to go to man to get such knowledge and wisdom – Psalm 32:8 and Proverbs 2:6.
3. SELF-CONTROL (verse 6)
If we are characterised by this virtue it means that our desires will be under the Lord’s mastery and control, and not only those, but our judgments, tastes, speech and everything else. This is what it means to be “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). There is a special reference here to the mastery of sexual desires, which are very strong in any normal and healthy person; they are God’s gift but must be brought under and kept under control, requiring discipline. Does your body master you, or are you master of your body?
4. PERSEVERANCE (verse 6)
This is meant to convey the idea of endurance. The Christian pilgrimage is a very hard one, and as we travel on to Glory we are to “endure hardship…like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3); compare James 1:2-6 and 12. We are to be people of grit as well as grace (Hebrews 11:27 and 32-38).
5. GODLINESS (verse 6)
This is the old-fashioned word we know best as piety, or reverence, referring to a quality which is very much needed today. There is no suggestion of being sad and sombre, but we are to be characterised by a sanctity and a seriousness, a Christ-likeness (1 Timothy 2:2; 1 Timothy 4:7-8 and 1 Timothy 6:3,5,6,11). There is a beautiful illustration of godliness in action in 2 Kings 4:8-10. Do others perceive that we are holy, godly and Christ-like? – look up Acts 4:13.
6. BROTHERLY KINDNESS (verse 7)
The word is ‘philadelphia’, which means ‘brotherly affection’. We as Christians are to develop kindness to those who are our brothers and sisters in Christ – look up Galatians 6:10, and compare 1 Peter 3:8-9. What scope there is for exercising this grace!
7. LOVE (verse 7)
This should be the great characteristic of every Christian, and if we want to know what love is and how it is expressed, all we have to do is to read 1 Corinthians chapter 13. It means that we should not only love the people of God, but love all people.
These are the seven graces that we, through the exercising of faith, should constantly be adding to our lives, and we shall become fruitful Christians. What will be the result of the adding of these seven graces:
- (1) We shall no longer be barren and unproductive, but increasingly fruitful, especially in the knowledge of God – see verse 8.
- (2) We shall no longer be blind, but spiritually enlightened – see the first part of verse 9.
- (3) We shall no longer be forgetful of all that the Lord has done for us, but we shall be constantly filled with gratitude to Him for His grace to such unworthy people as ourselves – see the second part of verse 9.
- (4) We shall no longer be likely to stumble spiritually, but we shall be “strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10) – see verse 10.
- (5) We shall not suffer loss, but we shall receive a reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10-15) – see verse 11.
We must see to it that we do all in His power to become fruitful Christians.