Religion and Life
September 25th, 1960 @ 10:50 AM
2 Peter 1:1-4
RELIGION AND LIFE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Peter 1:1-4
9-25-60 10:50 a.m.
You who listen on the radio are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. In our preaching through the Bible, last Sunday evening we concluded the first letter of Simon Peter; and this morning we begin the second letter of Simon Peter. If you would like to turn to it in the Bible, you can easily follow the message from the Book, the second letter of Simon Peter. I have divided the passages from 1 through verse 9 into two sermons. The sermon tonight begins at verse 5, and it is entitled The Seven Christian Graces, The Seven Divine Excellencies. And the sermon this morning is an exposition of the first four verses of the first chapter; and it is entitled The Precious Faith and the Blessed Life, or if you were to shorten it, Religion and Life. There is first the faith:
Simon Peter, a servant, a bondservant, slave, a doulos, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord –
thus for the faith; now, the blessed life –
According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 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.
[2 Peter 1:1-4]
Thus for the blessed life, and the two go together. In the nature of God and in the need of man, they are never to be severed or separated. "What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" [Mark 10:9]; the two go together, the faith and the life, the religion and the devoted commitment of the soul.
That was the distinctive thing that characterizes the true revelation of God in the Old Bible, in the Old Testament. Had you in the days of Egypt, had you in the days of Jerusalem, gone up to the temple in Memphis or gone up to the temple on Mt. Moriah, you would have seen outwardly a thing very much alike. Had you gone up to the temple in Memphis you would have found an outward court, an inward sanctuary, a porch, a holy place, a veil, a sanctum sanctorum, and on the inside of the holy of holies you would have seen an inner and a sacred shrine. Had you gone up on Mt. Moriah, there would be that same outward court, there would be the sanctuary, the porch, the Holy Place, the veil, and in the Holy of Holies, the sacred shrine. But had you gone up into the temple at Memphis, and the sacred high priest with all of his glorious robes had escorted you beyond the veil, on the inside of the sacred shrine, you would have found a sacred ibis, or egret, or heron, or crocodile, or cat, or leopard. But had you pulled aside the veil and entered into the Holy of Holies in the temple of Jerusalem, there inside the ark you would have found the Ten Commandments written by the finger of God [Exodus 31:18]. And that weddedness, that unity of purpose and destiny is the most salient characteristic of the religion of the Bible, the blessed faith and the holy life.
And those two are always to be together: the foundation, which is the faith, and the superstructure, which is the life. Without the foundation, without the faith, without the doctrine, we build on the sand. But if we have just a foundation, how could we discover in it a cover from the day of the storm? For you could hardly hide yourself in concrete pilings and hidden stones buried in the earth. They are both together. Like Ezekiel’s vision in chapter 37: the valley of dry bones, dry bones, dry bones, and when God called them together, He placed over them sinew and flesh and skin, and they stood up a people for God [Ezekiel 37:1-10]. It takes both of them; the frame, the bones, and the flesh. Like the two abutments on an arch, without which it falls, it collapses; like the two pillars in front of the temple, for glory and for beauty, Boaz and Jachin [1 Kings 7:21]; like the two olive trees that pour oil into the beautiful lamps of God [Zechariah 4:3, 11-12]; so it takes both of them, the precious faith, the blessed life, to honor God and to dignify and glorify man.
So he first speaks, as he ought first to speak, of the precious faith: "Simon Peter, a doulos and an apostolos of Jesus Christ, a slave and a missionary, a slave and a sent one of Jesus Christ to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus the Lord" [2 Peter 1:1]. First of all, he speaks of the source of our faith: "to them that have obtained it" [2 Peter 1:1]. Then if we obtained it, it is outside of ourselves; it is not in our nature that we possess it. It is a gift of God:
By grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should say, I did it, look at me; lest he should boast. By grace are ye saved through faith, a gift of God.
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy, He saved us.
[Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5]
If we obtained it, then it is something that we acquired, it is something that was given us, it is something that we have received; it is outside of ourselves. No man backslides into holiness, nor is any man irresistibly driven into a life of devotion; by nature we are children of wrath [Ephesians 2:3]. "We are dead in trespasses and in sins" [Ephesians 2:1]. And if we live, if we are saved, it is a gift of God [Ephesians 2:8]; it is something we have received, we obtained it.
Somebody said in criticism of this great revelation of the truth and the doctrine of God, somebody said, "My nature needs just cultivating and developing. Like my garden: it needs just weeding and hoeing." That’s correct; but you can weed and you can hoe your garden forever, and you’d never have a garden unless somehow there is placed in your hands and in your possession seed that can be planted and that God gives life and flower and fruit. So it is with the human heart and the human nature: except God places in our souls the incorruptible seed of the Word, we bear nothing but vanity and futility and emptiness, weeds unto God. What we need is not development but regeneration [Titus 3:5]. What we need is not weeding and hoeing and cultivation; what we need is conversion! [Matthew 18:3; Acts 3:19; Acts 28:27]. It is a gift of God that a man can live, that he can believe, that he can be saved [Ephesians 2:8]. The hands that open to us someday the gates of heaven are the hands that also must open unto us the gates of grace and salvation. The source of our faith is in God. It is something we receive outside of ourselves.
Then he speaks of the object of our faith. In your King James Version of the Bible, you have it translated, "the faith which we have obtained through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ" [2 Peter 1:1]. Well, that’s all right; but the Greek word is in. So let’s just keep it; why change it? "This precious faith that we have received, this faith in the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ," and isn’t it a strange thing how men hesitate, and even these translators hesitate to address Jesus as God? In this Book here it is written, "In the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ" [2 Peter 1:1]. And that is exactly what Simon Peter wrote. This great faith that God has given us is in our God and Savior Jesus Christ. He addresses this faith toward God; and he calls that God by His name, our Lord Jesus Christ [2 Peter 1:1]. For He is either a God, or He is a villain. I could not imagine a vice that would be greater than for a man to lead his disciples to adore him as God, when all the time he is a crude imposter. Our Lord is either what He said He was, and our Lord is either all that the Bible says that He is, or else He is the vilest, grossest, grandest imposter and deceiver this world has ever known, and we are idolaters who bow before Him. For when you bow before anything but God, you are an idolater. When you worship anything but God, you’re bowing before the work and the creation of a man’s hands. Not the Creator but the creature, if you worship any but God. He says our faith is in our God and Savior Jesus Christ [2 Peter 1:1]. Who else but God could bear the weight of the sin of humanity [Titus 2:13], and who else but God is the same yesterday, and today, and forever? [Hebrews 13:8]. Our faith is in God, whose name is Jehovah Jesus [2 Peter 1:1].
I wish we had an hour just to expatiate upon it. Now look at the method of our faith. We received it; it is in God whose name is the Lord Jesus. Now look at the method of our salvation: "A like precious faith in the righteousness of God, of our God and Savior Jesus Christ" [2 Peter 1:1]. How are we saved? We are saved in the righteousness of our Savior, the Lamb without spot and without stain and without blemish [1 Peter 1:19]. We are saved like the Old Bible revealed that we should be saved. And if you’ve been attending or listening to these eight-fifteen services, God gave us all of these revelations, and all of these symbols and types, all of these figures and adumbrations in this Old Bible, that He might teach us a language, that He might show us what God thinks, that we might understand God’s thoughts after Him. And God wrote those things out in types, and in figures, and in pictures, and in symbols, like you teach a child. Blocks and pictures and big words, so all of these things in the Old Testament are blocks and pictures and symbols that God might teach to us the language of heaven, that He might explain to us the nomenclature of glory. There did He place a sacred altar and by the side of the altar invited a sinner to bring a lamb, and over the head of the lamb, with his hands on the head of the victim, to confess his faith and his sins, and ask pardon [Leviticus 4:27-29]. And then in the stead of the sinner, in the place of the sinner, as a substitute for the sinner, the victim was slain by the side of the altar, and his blood poured out, and the body of the victim offered up unto God [Leviticus 4:30]. The lamb hadn’t sinned; it was to be without spot, without blemish, the firstling of a flock. You see God was teaching by picture and symbol. It is death for sin, but that we might not die, God offered a substitute [2 Corinthians 5:21]. And the judgment, and the wrath, and the punishment, and the penalty of our sin fell upon our Substitute [1 Corinthians 15:3]. And you call that a sacrifice.
That’s what God called sacrifice. And in order that we might understand what it means when we say, "Jesus is our Sacrifice," God did that in picture form, the sacrifice is a substitute for a sinner [Leviticus 4:27-29]. And we confess, we lay our hands on the head of our Substitute; and He in His purity, without blemish, in His righteousness and holiness, He dies in our stead, and His righteousness is imputed unto us [2 Corinthians 5:21]. His holy life is our holy life. His pure, stainless obedience is our pure and stainless obedience. He died in our stead [1 Corinthians 15:3]. And it’s in His righteousness, the God kind of righteousness, that we’re saved. That’s why I had you read the passage this morning, and most of us stumbled over that word, "propitiatory, propitiation, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation" [Romans 3:25], to be the blood of the mercy seat, to be the sacrificial victim. God set Him forth, that we might be saved in Him [John 3:16-18; 1 John 2:2, 4:10].
And I must hurry. Then he speaks of the virtue and the value and the worth of that faith: this faith which is given us of God, this faith which is in our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, this faith that saves us through the vicarious atonement, the sacrificial Substitute of Jesus for us. And then he speaks of its efficacy, and he calls it, "to them who have obtained a like precious faith" [2 Peter 1:1]. You know in those Greek words there are volumes. This word translated "like precious," isotimos, time is "precious," like a jewel, like a gem; and isos, you have that word isos in a triangle, a triangle that has two sides that are equal, both sides are alike, is called an isosceles triangle. That’s built on two Greek words: isos means "equal," and sosceles is "legs"; two equal legs; isosceles triangle, equal, two equal sides. That’s the word that is translated here "like," the same in kind. Not that we have the same faith that Simon Peter has in degree maybe, but if you have faith in God, in our Savior the Lord Jesus, it’s the same faith as the great faith of a mighty apostle like Peter or Paul; "a like precious faith" [2 Peter 1:1], that is an equal in value, in worth, in intrinsic effectiveness, in efficacy, in ableness.
Let me illustrate that. One fellow has a great big diamond, big as a headlight. There it is great big diamond. Poor fellow working out here for fifteen dollars a week will buy for his bride a little bitty diamond. It’s just as much a diamond, just as, may not be as big, but it’s still a diamond. And when you use the word "diamond," this is a diamond, this little one; well, this is a diamond, the big one, but the little one is also a diamond. So it is with a man’s faith. Little faith, little faith, trembly faith, wee-wobbly faith, crawling into heaven on hands and knees and half scared to death is just as safe and just as secure as big faith that goes courageously and triumphantly in, both of them saved alike.
Oh, let me illustrate it this way. In the ark [Genesis 7:14-15], in the ark the great big elephant lumbers in; there he goes, the mammoth of the jungle or the bush, wherever he lives. There he goes, the big elephant lumbers in. And there he stands in the ark in all of his mammoth, gigantic proportion, there is the elephant. And lo me, what do I see a-creepin’ and a-crawlin’ in but a little snail. There he comes, and there he is behind one of the studdings there in the ark, little bitty snail just clinging over there on a board somewhere; both of them saved alike and one as secure as the other. Great eagle swoops out of the blue of the sky and goes in that door, and the little wren hops in that door, and there the eagle perched up there on a beam somewhere, looking at all creation; and the little wren hopping around on the floor in some corner somewhere, picking up a seed or two; both of them secure, both alike. "Like faith" [2 Peter 1:1], same thing, whether it’s big or whether it’s little, it’ll save you. Wee timorous beastie out there, scared you’re going to be lost, afraid you’re not going to make it; you’re going to make it. You’re going to make it because that faith, like a grain of mustard seed, is mighty under God for the saving of the soul [Matthew 17:20].
May I say it again? In the north woods, a hunter in the wintertime came to a frozen creek. And he got down on his hands and knees, and lest he fall through the ice, he began to crawl out from the bank into the middle of the stream, attempting to cross the frozen creek. And while he was timorously, gingerly, feebly, afraidly, while he was a-crawlin’ out there across the stream, lo me, there came roaring down the mountainside a heavy wagon loaded with heavy logs; and when the driver got to the creek, he roared across it, wagon, logs, team and all, and there that guy was crawling there, barely, barely making it. That’s the way with some folks, but one is just as safe as the other. Lot of folks get to heaven scared to death, weak and wobbly, feeble; but it’s the same kind of thing Simon Peter says, as what’s big, as what’s triumphant. I wish we all had faith like Paul, but we don’t. And I wish we all had faith like Simon Peter, but we don’t. And if God were to save us according to the bigness of our faith, I suppose most of us would miss the door. But thank the Lord, it’s the same thing whether it’s little and timorous, or whether it’s big and great: "To them who have obtained this like, same kind of a faith that is dear and precious" [2 Peter 1:2].
Ah, we must hurry because the main part of my sermon is the life; and I just now got to it. The precious faith, the blessed life: "According as His divine power hath given unto us life and godliness, glory and virtue: it is exceeding great and precious promises" [2 Peter 1:3-4]. Oh, we don’t ever get away from that, this thing given to us. Why, I just got through preaching here that our faith is given to us; it is a gift of God [2 Peter 1:1]. And now I read where Simon Peter says that our life, our godliness, the virtue and the glory whereby we adore and exalt His name, that also is given to us [2 Peter 1:3]; for, as you begin to think of it, it is the prerogative of God to give life. Even going back to that little garden, even the tiniest seed in that garden, God must give it life [Matthew 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-31; 1 Corinthians 15:37-38]. A chemist can make that seed spot for spot, centimeter for centimeter, milligram for milligram, cover it, make it look exactly like a real seed; but he can’t put the germ of life inside of it. To give life is the prerogative of God. So it is with a man’s life. We are corpses the Book says before God; "dead in trespasses and in sins, by nature the children of wrath" [Ephesians 2:1-3], says the Book. And we stand before the corpse of a man who is lost, and disobedient, and he rejects Christ, and he’s dead, he’s dead to God, he’s dead to heaven, he’s dead to the hope of glory; he is a corpse, he’s dead. And the preacher stands up and he says, "Live," and he stays dead. And the deacons and the teachers and the church and they all say, "Live," and he stays dead. He’s still a corpse. And the Spirit of God breathes into his heart and into his soul the breath of life, the gift of faith, and the Lord says, "Lazarus, come forth" [John 11:43], and he that was dead came forth, by His divine power [John 11:44]. When we’re saved, we’re saved by the same great power that created this universe and flung it out into space [Genesis 1:1-25, John 1:3-4]. That same great regenerating able power of God raises us from the dead; and we live in His sight Christian people [1 Thessalonians 4:13-17].
There’s a Matthew, and look he’s writing the First Gospel. And there’s the blasphemer Saul of Tarsus, look, he’s preaching the faith of the Lord Jesus, the Son of God [Acts 9:1-6, 19-22]. And there’s Mary Magdalene, out of whom He cast seven devils, pure and holy in His presence [Colossians 1:22]. And there’s Zaccheus, who extorted from the people taxes to which he had no right; and now he’s restoring everything that he took with unfair price and method and restoring fourfold and giving away for God’s poor [Luke 19:2-8]. And there’s the thief on the cross. And he’s the companion of Jesus, as he enters glory, as he enters Paradise [Luke 23:43]. Wouldn’t you have like to have been there at the gate that day, when Jesus came walking in, and by His side a blood-bought, deep died thief of a sinner?
Why, I don’t need to stop there. Look around you, look around you, up here, and there, and down here, and back yonder, and up here in the choir, on the platform, and all around. Trophies of grace, regenerated, saved, born again, by the power of God, when He breathed into us the divine life, and we were made partakers of His holy nature [Hebrews 3:14]. I must quit.
I suppose one of the joys of heaven will be maybe God will give us a planet somewhere, and just say, "Now take the Book, and from now for eternity, just preach as long as you want to." Reckon there’ll be any saints there to listen to the preacher? Reckon there would be, I tell you the prospect is delightful.
Whenever a man will take that Book and he’ll tell the people what it says and what God means: I had a long part of my sermon prepared this morning on the exceeding great and precious promises. Why, every syllable is an ocean, and every verse is a world. It is the unfathomable riches of God in Christ Jesus; the Word of the Lord [John 1:1-14].
Now while we stand and sing our song, somebody to give his heart in trust to Jesus, somebody to put his life with us in the church, would you come this morning? You know I prayed last night, earnestly, "O dear Lord, give us a harvest at all three services on Sunday, tomorrow." Bless you; we had a wonderful harvest this morning at the eight-fifteen o’clock hour, a wonderful harvest. God wonderfully blessed us. Now dear Lord, bless us again. Bless us again. Somebody come into the Lord in faith, somebody coming to us in our church, a family you; one somebody you, in the balcony, anywhere, down a stairway, or into the aisle and here to the front, "Here’s my hand, preacher, I’ve given my heart to Jesus. Here I am, and here I come." Or, "Here’s my whole family, pastor, here we are." Would you make it now? Would you make it this morning? On the first note of that first stanza would you come? While we stand and while we sing.
most important things in our holy religion – faith, the spiritual life
to be severed or separated (Mark 10:9)
of the Old Testament vs pagan religions of the day
Externally very much alike
Inside, beyond the veil,in the heart of the shrine
a. Pagan religions had
a sacred ibis, or animal
Inside Holy of Holies was the Ark of the Covenant, containing the Ten
is the faith; the superstructure is the life of commitment and devotion (Ezekiel 37, Matthew 7:24-27)
II. True and saving faith
source is in God (2 Peter 1:1, Ephesians 2:8-9,
It is not a thing that grows by nature in our hearts (Ephesians 2:1, 3)
Its object is Christ, who is God
Faith in our God and Savior Jesus Christ (2
Peter 1:1, Hebrews 13:8, Titus 2:13)
Its method is the righteousness of God(1 Peter
Imputed righteousness(Isaiah 64:6, Romans
1:16-17, 10:9-10, 1 Corinthians 1:30)
a. Type and figure of
the propitiatorysacrifice (Leviticus 4:27-29)
A God kind of righteousness (Romans 3:25, 1 John
2:2, 4:10, Galatians 2:20)
The efficacy, virtue, worth
"Like precious faith" – equal in value, worth, intrinsic effectiveness
is the prerogative of God to give life
power of God raises us from the dead(Ephesians
2:1-3, John 11:43)
Trophies of grace, made partakers of His holy nature (Luke 19:8, 23:43)