The Life Of Faith
March 10th, 1974 @ 10:50 AM
2 Peter 1:1-4
THE LIFE OF FAITH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Peter 1:1-4
3-10-74 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television, you are sharing with us the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Life of Faith. Last Sunday morning we concluded with The First Epistle of Peter [1 Peter 1:5], and this Lord’s Day we begin with his second letter [2 Peter 2:1]. And these are the beginning verses:
Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ—a slave 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,
According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness…
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature.
[2 Peter 1:1-4]
Those four verses are divided into two parts. The first has to do with our faith. He is addressing those who “have obtained like precious faith,” in the knowledge and in the righteousness of God our Savior [2 Peter 1:1-2]. Then he speaks of the spiritual life that inevitably is a concomitant and corollary, “According as His divine power hath given to us life and godliness” [2 Peter 1:3]. And those two things, the faith and the spiritual life, are the two great things of our holy religion. It is composed of that: one, a vital living faith that unites us to God, that gives us the nature of heaven; and second, the godly spiritual life that inevitably ensues. In the Bible those two are amalgamated. They are inextricably combined and conjoined. In the Holy Scriptures, there is no such thing as separating the two: the life from the faith and the faith from the life.
Could I illustrate that by looking at the temples of the ancient world and the worship of the gods of the ancient world? Had you visited the ancient temples in Egypt, in Assyria, in Chaldea, and then had you visited the temple in Jerusalem, you would have found them externally very much alike. There would be a court and inside the court, there would be a temple, a naos, a sanctuary. Then when you entered into the sanctuary, there would be a veil. And on the other side of the veil, there would be a sacred shrine: the god that was worshiped. But there was a vital, everlasting distinction and difference between the worship in the temple of a pagan god and the worship of the true God in Jerusalem. Let us go, let’s say, into a temple in Egypt and look at what is inside at the heart of the temple in ancient Egypt. There would be an outside court and then inside the court, the naos, the sanctuary. And on the inside the naos, the sanctuary, you would have found a veil. And then, when you pulled aside the veil, there you would have found the great central image of the ancient worship. What would you see there at the heart of the temple worship in ancient Egypt? This is what you would see: when you pulled aside a veil, you would see there a sacred ibis, or a sacred crocodile, or a sacred leopard, or a sacred bull, or a sacred cow.
Now let us go to the holy temple of Jehovah God in Jerusalem. We go into a court, and we’re familiar with the court, and then inside the court there is the naos, the sanctuary, the temple. Then we go through the door and there we see a veil, hiding away, shutting out from common view, the sacred shrine. We go through the holy place and pull aside the veil and look inside the Holy of Holies. What do you find there? You find in the Holy of Holies the sanctum sanctorum. You find an ark of the covenant [Exodus 25:16], and, on top of the ark, a propitionary, a hilastērion, a mercy seat. And above that mercy seat are two cherubim, looking full down upon the symbol of God’s grace, and the wings of the cherubim meeting above them [Exodus 25:17-20]. And, when they looked down on the mercy seat, where the blood of expiation is sprinkled, and looked down further into the heart of the ark, what would you have found? What was there at the very heart and center of the faith of Jehovah God? You would have found the two tables of stone, written on by the finger of God [Exodus 31:18]; the Ten Commandments [Exodus 25:21].
That is the great everlasting difference between the religion of the Almighty God revealed in the Bible and all of the other pagan religions of the world. Not one of them had any at heart the great moral spiritual life built upon the faith of God. But the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ and the religion of this Book has at its heart the spiritual commitment of the soul and the life to Jesus [Matthew 11:29, 16:24]. And those two, in our most holy faith, are inextricable. They are conjoined. They are one. Like the two abutments that hold the great arch; like the two great pillars built before the temple of Solomon; like the two olive trees that pour their oil into the lamps of God; the faith and the life, God and the spiritual commitment, are intertwined and interwoven.
The greatest sermon that was ever preached by Jesus, called the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5:1-7:29], closes with these words:
He that heareth My words, and doeth them, shall be likened to a man who built his house on a rock:
And the rains descended, and the floods rose, and the winds beat on that house; and it fell not, because it was founded on a rock.
But he that heareth My words, and doeth them not, is like unto a man who built his house on the sand:
And the rains fell, and the floods rose, and the winds beat on that house; and it fell: and great was the fall thereof.
The foundation is the faith, and the superstructure is the life of commitment and devotion; and those two are one in God. We build upon the great confession of our faith in Jesus Christ [Hebrews 6:1]. And the super-structure, the life of faith is one of holiness, and godliness, and tribute, worship, adoration, and honor to our great and living Lord. So we speak this morning of the faith, “Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith” [2 Peter 1:1].
Now if you have been in this church, you know that the pastor believes that every word in God’s Book is inspired. It is God-breathed [2 Timothy 3:16]. It is chosen by the Holy Spirit [2 Peter 1:20-21]. So when I look at that word, “to them who have obtained like precious faith” [2 Peter 1:1], then I can see that, by inspiration, the Holy Spirit directed the apostle Simon Peter to use a word that means “to receive.” The faith is outside of us; it is objective. It is not in us, it is something we procure. It is something we secure; it is something we receive. It is something on the outside of us, this faith upon which we build our hope and our worship and our life in God. Is that true? Is that in keeping with the revelation of the Lord in the Holy Scriptures? That the faith that saves us is something from the outside; it is something we receive? It is something God must do for us; is that true? Am I born with that faith? By nature, am I given to it? Do I just backslide into holiness? Do I just drift into godliness? Am I somehow saved already, and all I need is just for the inward salvation that I am born with by nature to be cultivated? Is that true?
The apostle writes here that the faith of Jesus Christ that saves us is not in us; it’s something outside of us. We’re not born with it. It is something we get, we secure—we obtain it [2 Peter 1:1]. And that is the universal presentation and revelation of the Word of God. Paul wrote it like this in Ephesians 2: 8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves.” It’s not in you. “And that not of yourselves,” it comes from God. It comes from outside of us; it is something we obtain, we secure; “not of works,” not of my cultivation, “lest I should boast” that I did it [Ephesians 2:9].
Or take again, in [Titus 3:5]: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done,” but by His grace, in His mercy are we saved by the laver, “the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Spirit” [Titus 3:5]. My salvation is something that God gives me. And my disposition to holiness and godliness is something that God does for me, because by nature I am not that way.
In my studying, I ran across a man who said, “My nature needs cultivating and development as one would weed and hoe a garden.” Now what he was saying was—in his thesis, in his message, sermon—what he was saying was that we are already saved. We are already in the kingdom. That by nature, we’re children of God; and so all we need to do is to cultivate our nature, to cultivate our salvation that we already have, that we’re born with. And then he gave the illustration, “as one would weed and hoe a garden.”
Now I have this to say to that theologian: he can weed and he can hoe that piece of ground forever, but he will never have a garden. For to grow a garden you must have seed, and it must germinate, and it must grow, and flower, and fruit, and that is a work of God! No man can make even a little seed. He can analyze it; he can reproduce its chemical formula. He can make it look exactly like a seed, but it is something without life; God must do that! God creates the seed; God makes it germinate. God makes it flower and fruit, and this is what God must do for us in our hearts.
“By nature,” Paul says in Ephesians 2: 3, “By nature, we are children of wrath. By nature,” he says, “we are in trespasses and in sins,” dead; we are a corpse! [Ephesians 2:1]. And a teacher could speak to a corpse forever, and it would never rise. A preacher could preach to a corpse forever, and it would never live. A physician, a doctor, a professor; they can administer all of their scientific gifts and geniuses, but the corpse is dead forever. Only God can speak life and resurrection to a dead corpse! [Ephesians 2:1]. And it is so with us who are dead in trespasses and in sins, our salvation is something from the outside. It is something God must do for us [Ephesians 2:1]. We must be born again—spiritually born anōthen, “from above” [John 3:3]—if we are ever in the kingdom of heaven. It is not reformation; it is regeneration [Titus 3:5]. It is not cultivation; it is conversion [Acts 3:19]. It is not development; it is divine intervention. This is the faith: it is something God gives us, and something that we obtain [2 Peter 1:1].
Next he says here, “to them that have obtained like precious faith,” and it is translated, “through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ” [2 Peter 1:1]. The word is e-n. And the word en is like our “in,” so instead of translating it “through,” let’s translate it “in.” En, in: “who obtained like precious faith in” [2 Peter 1:1]. And now the translators have a hesitation. I don’t understand, but that’s a part of our stubborn human nature. For when they translate the words, they make it as though our faith in “God and our Savior Jesus Christ,” as though there were somehow, some difference between God and the Lord Jesus Christ. It has that feeling when you read it like this: “Obtained our faith in God and our Savior Jesus Christ” [2 Peter 1:1].. But Simon Peter never wrote it that way. This is the way he wrote it: “To those of us who have obtained like precious faith in our God and Savior Jesus Christ” [2 Peter 1:1]. It is a studied avowal of the deity of our blessed Lord. It is an exact studied word, as you find in Titus 2:13: “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and Savior Jesus Christ” [Titus 2:13]. These men have no hesitancy in avowing the deity of our Lord. They don’t stumble before it. They don’t draw back from it. To them, Jesus is God our very God, the essence of God, homoousias, the very essence of God Himself. Whatever God is, Jesus is; God in the flesh, God manifest [Colossians 2:8-9]. And Simon Peter writes it here, “We who have obtained like precious faith in our God and Savior Jesus Christ” [2 Peter 1:1].
Now there are many, many who are very willing to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, and a great example, and a great tower of spiritual strength, but not God. The Lord God has not given us that option. He just hasn’t. We have two options about Jesus, and there are just two. One: He is either God as He said He was [John 10:30], or else He is the grossest imposter; He is a deceiver and a liar of the first order. For Jesus taught His disciples that He was God [John 20:27-28] and the disciples worshiped Him as God, and they presented Him in the Holy Scriptures as God [John 1:1]. And He is not God if He is a deceiver, and if He is an imposter, and if He is a liar, and if He misled the disciples into error. That’s one or the other; we don’t have any other option. And for a man to say Jesus is a great example, and a great moral leader, and a great prophetic teacher, but He is not God; that man is incapable of spiritual, philosophical, metaphysical discernment. He needs a course in hermeneutics. We have one of two choices: He is what He said He was—God, or He is a mistaken, self-deceived liar. He is one of the two. Now to us who believe, this is the gift of faith, “we who have obtained like precious faith in the great God and Savior Jesus Christ” [2 Peter 1:1].
There is one God. He has three names: His name is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Tritheism is as repulsive and objectionable as polytheism. One is as bad as the other, and there’s no such thing in the Bible as tritheism, three Gods. There is one God, just one, and His name, singular, is Father, Son, Holy Spirit. I have three names; God has three names. And we know God as “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” His three names. There are actually people, I’ve talked to them—there are actually people who think, when they get to heaven, they’re going to see three Gods—three Gods. There will be a God named Father, and there will be a God named Son, and there will be a God named Holy Spirit; they think that. They had as well be heathen, pagan idolizers! There is no such revelation in the Holy Book. When you get to heaven, there is one God you will feel: Holy Spirit. There is one God you will see: Jesus Christ. And there is one God who is God overall: the Father, blessed forever. And these three are One. We know God as our Father, we know God as our Savior, we know God as the Holy Spirit in us, but there is one God, one essence, one homoousias, one. And this is the revelation of the Holy Scriptures.
In order to emphasize that, sometimes in the baptismal service I will say, using Matthew 28:19, “I baptize you, my brother, my sister, in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Sometimes I’ll say it like this: “I baptize you, my brother, I baptize you, my sister, in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.” Or sometimes, I’ll say it like this: “I baptize you my brother, my sister, in the name of God our Father who made us, and God our Savior who died for us, and God the Holy Spirit, our great Comforter and Keeper, who preserves us.” But they are all three One. We know them in three different experiences, but the essence, the heart central reality is unity—not plurality or diversity. And that is the Word of the Lord. “We who have obtained like precious faith in our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” [2 Peter 1:1].
Now he has here how it is that this holiness and righteousness is imputed and imparted to us: “We who have obtained like precious faith in the righteousness of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” [2 Peter 1:1]. So the righteousness that we have is one that is imputed to us. It is one that we obtain. It is not one that we ourselves possess, nor that we inherited by our fallen natures, but it is a God kind of righteousness, “in the righteousness of God our Savior Jesus Christ” [2 Peter 1:1].
You see, when I come before God and stand before Him with my works, my righteousness, the Lord looks upon my goodnesses as filthy rags [Isaiah 64:6]. That’s what He says in the Holy Word. And when I stand before God and say, “Lord, I am worthy to mingle with Thine angels in glory and with Thy redeemed saints, for dear God, look at me! Look at the fine life that I’ve lived, and look at all of the good works that I did, and look at the good thoughts and the good deeds of my life. Lord, I in myself, I am worthy, without spot and without blemish. I am meritorious. I am ready; prepared to walk those golden streets, to enter those pearly gates, and to be numbered with the redeemed in heaven. You see, I have done it myself. I have saved myself. I am pure and good!” And here I present myself before God as one ready to enter with the saints of glory. There’s not a man living that could stand in the presence of the Lord God Almighty who knows all of his thoughts, all of the secret compartments, places, and rooms in his heart and in his life, and every deed that he has done, and every imagination of his soul. There’s not a man living who can stand before God and say that. What he has to do is, when he stands before the Almighty, he has to confess, “Lord, I’ve been a sinner, and a fallen man from the day of my consciousness. I have lived a life full of blemish and full of mistake. I have no other thing than shortcoming. Evil has attended me and dogged and hounded my steps every part of the pilgrimage of this earthly life.”
Well then, how can a man stand before God in that great final day? We do it with a God kind of righteousness, an imputed righteousness: “We who have obtained like precious faith in the righteousness of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” [2 Peter 1:1]. It is something we have obtained. It is something God has given us.
Paul wrote of it like this: the text of the great doctrinal epistle to the church at Rome, the Book of Romans. The text is Romans 1:16-17:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth;
the Jew first, and…to the Greek. For therein is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith:
Even as it is written that The just shall live by faith.
What does that mean? The gospel that saves us: “For therein is the revealed the righteousness of God,” ek faith, eis faith, “from faith into faith”: as it is written The just shall live by faith” [Romans 1:17]. What that means is this: that we are saved not by our righteousness, but by a God kind of righteousness, the righteousness which is of God in Christ Jesus [2 Corinthians 5:21]. As Paul wrote in the thirtieth verse of 1 Corinthians: “For by the grace of God, Jesus is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification” [1 Corinthians 1:30], it is a God kind of righteousness—not ours, but a God kind—one imputed to us from the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the tenth chapter of the Book of Romans, verses 9 and 10, the apostle wrote:
For if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in thine heart that God raised Him from the dead—that He lives—thou shall be saved. For with the heart one believeth unto righteousness—for with the heart one believeth unto a God kind of righteousness—and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
[Romans 10:9, 10]
In the Old Testament; it was figured in type like this: a lost sinner, a sinner man took an offering, a lamb, a bullock; and up to the altar of God. And there, he laid his hands on the head of that innocent victim and confessed all of his sins. And then, the innocent victim was slain by the priest, its blood poured out at the base of the altar [Leviticus 4:27-30]; an expiation was made. The animal took the punishment and the man walked away, in type, in symbol, washed and free, righteous in the sight of God. That is a type and a figure of what Christ in His righteousness hath done for us. He has taken our sins, the penalty of all our transgressions and iniquities, and He carried them in His own body on the tree [1 Peter 2:24]. There He suffered for us [1 Peter 2:21]; He died in our place [1 Corinthians 15:3; Romans 5:8]. And our sins, all of them have been atoned for—expiated, paid for—the penalty paid in His death on the cross [2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13]. And I? I have His righteousness, His holiness, His goodness; it is imputed to me. He took my sins. I take His holiness and purity and righteousness, and the life that I now live in the [flesh], I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” [Galatians 2: 20]. It is a God kind of righteousness.
So this is the way that the Christian man pleads when he stands before God at the great and final day. He says, “Dear God, all the days of my life I’ve been a sinner and I’m conscious of it and know it. Evil and mistake and shortcoming have attended my way. I’m a lost man, Lord. I’m a sinner man. But Lord, I plead the mercy [Titus 3:5], and the love [John 3:16], and the atonement [Romans 5:11], and the sacrifice, and the sufferings of Jesus [Matthew 27:32-50]; for His sake, Lord, accept me as being holy and pure and righteous, and number me among those who have been redeemed by the blood of the crucified One” [1 Peter 1:18-19]. And when a man approaches God’s great judgment bar, with a plea of the blood of Christ, the righteousness of Christ, the holiness of Christ, God imputes it to him. God takes the holiness and purity of the Lord and clothes the sinner with it. That’s the Revelation typology when it says the saints are clothed in linen, pure and white [Revelation 19:8]. It’s a God kind of righteousness, one that God gives us in the suffering and in the death of our Lord Jesus Christ [Matthew 27:32-50]; one that we obtain by faith [2 Peter 1:1].
Allow me one other moment. “To us who have obtained like precious faith through the righteousness of God, our Lord Jesus Christ” [2 Peter 1:1]. Look at that: “like precious faith,” them who have obtained “like precious faith” [2 Peter 1:1], isos, “equal”; time, “precious,” dear—isos, “equal.” All of you fellows that are in school, you look at an isosceles triangle: that is, it has two sides that are equal—an isosceles. I looked in the dictionary last night, there are pages of words that begin with “i-s-o.” Isos, equal, equal faith: “To us who have obtained like precious faith” [2 Peter 1:1], equal faith.
How in the world could that be, that I could deign, or feign, to have a faith like Simon Peter, or the apostle John, or the apostle Paul? Doesn’t mean that, doesn’t mean that; it means kind, structure, the content of the thing, what it’s made like. A little diamond and a big diamond: the little diamond is just like the big diamond, exactly—molecule for molecule, structure for structure—except one is little and one is big. But it’s the same; it’s diamond. So with the ark, in crawls the little snail and in lumbers the big elephant. But inside that ark, whether it’s a little snail or whether it’s a big lumbering elephant, it’s just the same [Genesis 7:14-15]. They’re safe alike, just alike. And any man who has faith as a grain of mustard seed [Luke 17:6]—sometimes it may be little and trembling and timorous, but if he’s that, he’s saved, and safe, and sound, just as much as Simon Peter or the apostle John or the apostle Paul. It’s a like precious faith [2 Peter 1:1].
You know, sometimes I think of one of the funniest stories I ever read in my life that illustrates that exactly. There was a hunter, up in Canada, in the far north, and he came to a stream that was frozen, a river that was frozen, and he didn’t know whether the ice would bear up his weight. So he got down on all fours and he began to creep from the edge to the stream, and just barely moving—thinking at any time the ice might break and he’d drown in the cold waters below. So he was crawling, gradually moving from the edge into the river, and while he was gradually crawling, timorous and afraid, he heard a great roar back of him. He turned his head and there, roaring out of the wilderness, out of the forest, there came a wagon, drawn by four big horses, loaded with heavy logs. And that driver roared out of the forest, down the mountainside, across the stream. And there was that wee, timorous man, down on all fours, just a lookin’ at that thing, just a lookin’ at that thing. That’s exactly how people are: some of them wee, timorous beasties that crawl and just barely getting in. “Oh, I wonder if I’m going to make it. Oh, I wonder if I’m going to fall into hell. Oh, I wonder!” Five feet from the golden gate, “I’m going to stumble and not make it. Oh, I wonder what’s going to happen to me, oh dear, dear, dear!” They got just a little, tiny faith. And there are others that will roar out of the mountains and across the stream of life and ride up on the other side into the gates of glory. But one is just as safe as the other, just as safe—no difference at all, just as safe. She said she likes that! Oh, I like that, too. Thank God for it. Thank God for it.
We’re not saved according to the size and the illimitable proportion of our faith. It’s just enough faith to get us to Jesus. If I can just get—as that poor women said, “Just touch the hem of His garment” [Matthew 9:21], I will be whole, “Just to touch the hem of His garment” [Matthew 14:36]. That’s what he means, “like precious faith” [2 Peter 1:1]. May not be as robust as a Simon Peter, may not be as deeply understanding and theological as Paul, may not be as sweet and trusting as the sainted John, but if I come to Jesus by faith, if I come to Him by faith [Ephesians 2:8-9], I am just as saved, just as safe, and just as sound, and just as secure as the apostles who lean on His breast. Isn’t that a marvelous hope and a precious promise?
We are far beyond our time. We stand now to sing our hymn of appeal. In the balcony round, you, on this lower floor, you, down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, “Here I come, pastor, and here I am. Today I open my heart to Jesus. I take Him as my Savior the best I know how [Romans 10:8-13]. It may a weak stammering, stumbling commitment, but I am ready to make it. And God help me to grow in the faith, from faith into faith, beginning with faith, growing in faith.” Or to put your life in the circle and circumference of this dear church, you are welcome [Hebrews 10:24-25]. A father and mother, and a child, a couple, or just you; while God presses the appeal to your heart, would you make the decision now? Do it now, and in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming. “Here I am, pastor, here I am. I make it now,” while we stand and while we sing.
most important things in our holy religion – faith, the spiritual life
combined in the Scriptures
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 (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 2:3)
Its object is Christ, who is God
Faith in our God and Savior Jesus Christ (2
Peter 1:1, Titus 2:13)
No hesitancy in avowing deity of our Lord
There is one God – He has three names(Matthew
Its method is the righteousness of God
a. Type and figure of
the sacrificial lamb
A God kind of righteousness (Galatians 2:20)
The efficacy, virtue, worth
“Like precious faith”
are not saved according to size and limitable portion of our faith