The Life of Faith
March 10th, 1974 @ 8:15 AM
2 Peter 1:1-4
THE LIFE OF FAITH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Peter 1:1-4
3-10-74 8:15 a.m.
And we are happy to welcome you who listen on the radio to this service in the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Life of Faith. We are this day beginning our exposition of the second letter of Simon Peter. Last Sunday morning we closed in the fifth chapter of 1 Peter [1 Peter 5:10-11], and this morning we begin in the first verses of the first chapter of 2 Peter:
Simon Peter, a servant 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, 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.
[2 Peter 1:1-4]
The four verses are two given to one thing and the other two given to another thing. The first two verses speak of the faith [2 Peter 1:1-2], and the last two verses speak of the life [2 Peter 1:3-4]. In the first two verses the apostle writes he is a servant and an apostle “to them that have obtained like precious faith through the righteousness of God” [2 Peter 1:1-2]. Then the next two verses speak of “the divine power that hath given unto us life and godliness, the precious promises by which we might be partakers of the divine nature” [2 Peter 1:3-4].
And those are the two holy parts of our most holy religion: faith and spiritual life [2 Peter 1:1-4]. And those two in the Bible are inextricably woven together. In the Word of God, in the revelation of the mind and heart of our Lord, they are never separated. The commitment of faith and the spiritual life, they always are, in the Holy Scriptures, they are always welded together; they are amalgamated, they are one.
I do not know a better way to illustrate that than to go back into ancient day to visit an ancient temple. Whether the temple was in Egypt, or whether it was in Chaldea, or whether it was in Assyria, or whether it was in Jerusalem, they looked on the outside very much alike. So let us go into them and see them. Let us visit an ancient temple.
First, you will find an outer court, always that outer court. Then, inside that outer court you will find an inner building, a sanctuary, a house, and when you go through the door into that inner sanctuary, you will find a veil. And on the inside of that veil, beyond it, you would find a sanctum sanctorum, a “holy of holies,” and on the inside of that “holy of holies,” you would find the object of adoration and worship.
If you went into an Egyptian temple, let us say, going through the outward court, and then where only the priests could enter, into the holy place, then pull aside the veil, and there you would see, in Egypt, the object of their veneration, adoration, worship. What would it be? You would find a sacred ibis, or would find a sacred crocodile, or you would find a sacred leopard, or you would find a sacred cow; always some kind of a sacred animal, symbolic of the god they worshipped.
Now let us do the same thing in Jerusalem. We will go up to the house of the Lord, and there you would find an outer court. And on the inside of the court you would find a Holy Place, a beautiful temple. And when you go into the door of the temple, into which only the priests actually could enter, you would find a veil. And when you pull aside the veil, there before you you would find the holy shrine. What would it be? In the temple of Jehovah God, in the sacred city of Jerusalem, you would find an ark of the covenant, a chest. And the top of it is called the propitiatiary, the hilastērion, the holy mercy seat, overlooked by two cherubim whose wings met as their faces looked full down upon the blood of expiation [Exodus 25:17-20]. And on what are they looking? And what is on the inside of that chest? What is at the very heart of the faith of Jehovah God? Was it not two tables of stone on which were written the Ten Commandments? [Exodus 25:16, 21].
That is the high-as-heaven difference between the holy religion of God, the true Lord whose name is revealed to us in this sacred Book—that is the difference between the religious faith of those who worship Jehovah and all of the other religions of the world. At the heart of the revealed religious worship of God our Father is that holy life of faith. It is the foundation, and the superstructure is the life.
Our Lord closed the greatest sermon ever delivered, ever heard by man—the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5:1-7:29]—He closed it with these words:
For whosoever shall hear these words of Mine, and doeth them, he shall be likened unto a man who built his house on the rock:
And the rains came, and the floods rose, and the winds beat on that house; and it fell not because it was founded upon a rock.
But whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a man who built his house on the sand:
And the rains descended, and the floods rose, and the winds beat on that house; and it fell; and great was the fall thereof.
There are the two things that comprise our most holy religion: there is a foundation, and that is the faith [1 Corinthians 3:11; Jude 1:20], and there is a superstructure, and that is the spiritual and godly life [1 Corinthians 3:12-15]. And those two God welded forever together. They are like the two abutments of a great arch: without one or the other, it falls. It is like the two great pillars Jachin and Boaz in front of Solomon’s temple [1 Kings 7:21]. It is like the two olive trees that poured oil into the lamps of the Lord [Zechariah 4:11-12]—the faith, whereby is given unto us the faith in Jesus Christ our Lord, the faith and the life, “according as the divine power hath given unto us life and godliness” [2 Peter 1:3].
Now let’s take them one at a time. Let’s take first the faith that he speaks of, and then let’s take the life that he describes. First, the faith: “Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ” [2 Peter 1:1]. He uses the word “obtained.” If that is inspired, and your pastor always preaches on the assumption that the Word of God is inspired [2 Timothy 3:16]—the reason this word was used and not some other word is because of the infallible, inerrant directive of the Holy Spirit of God [2 Peter 1:20-21]—so when the apostle says “obtained, to us who have obtained the faith,” that means we got it outside of us. It wasn’t in us but it is something we procured. It is something we got. It is something that came to us from the outside. By nature, we did not have it. We obtained it [2 Peter 1:1]. We secured it. We seized it. We fetched it. We got it. It is something outside of us. Is that correct? Is that inspired Word according to the revelation of the whole Word of God? It could not be more correct. It is decisively true—for the faith is a gift of God.
Remember Ephesians 2:8-9? “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works,” not something in a man that he could do or achieve, “lest any man should glory,” lest he should boast, lest he should say, “I did it.”
Do you remember Titus 3:5? “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy did God save us, by the washing of regeneration,” by the laver, the beautiful bowl in which the priest washed before he walked into the Holy Place [Exodus 30:18-20]; “by the laver of regeneration, and by the renewing of the Holy Spirit” [Titus 3:5].
So our faith, the great foundation upon which we build our lives, is something that comes outside of us [2 Peter 1:1]. It is something that God does for us [Ephesians 2:8]. For by nature we are not saved. We are not spiritual. We are not holy. We are not children of God, not by nature. “By nature,” Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:3, “we are the children of wrath,” and in that same chapter he begins it saying that “we are dead in trespasses and in sins” [Ephesians 2:1]. So if there is a faith that is ours, it is something we obtained! [2 Peter 1:1].
I read in my studying someone who said, “My nature, my nature needs cultivating as my garden needs weeding and hoeing.” And the purport of the sentence was that all of us by nature are God’s children. “All of us are saved. Universally we belong to the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man,” the phrase they often use, “and all we need to do is to cultivate the image of God in us.”
Now, I have an answer to that, and it is simply this—that by nature, this one says, he cultivates his nature; he cultivates, he develops his nature just as he would a garden; he weeds it and hoes it—now my answer to that, according to the Word of God: he can weed and he can hoe that little plot of ground forever, but he will never have a garden, for a garden must have seed in it, and the seed must grow, it must sprout, it must germinate and it must fruit and flower, and that is something a man cannot do. A man cannot make seed, and a man cannot make germination, and a man cannot make growth, and a man cannot make fruit and flower.
All you have to do is to look at the flowers that men make. They’re made out of paper, or they’re made out of celluloid, or they’re made out of plastic. That’s the kind they make. All you have to do is to seek a man in his attempt to make life. He cannot do it. It is something from God. So it is with the faith inside of us. It is something that comes from the outside. It is something we get. It is something we seize. It is something that comes to us from outside of us; we obtain it [2 Peter 1:1].
A man can listen to courses in culture and development. He can listen to sermons, a thousand of them and still be just as he was. But if a man will come and listen to one sermon, just one, and in his heart repent of his sin, and accept Jesus as his Savior, he’ll be a new somebody. He’ll be a new creation [2 Corinthians 5:17]. It is not development; it is divine intervention [2 Corinthians 5:18-21]. It is not cultivation, it is conversion [Acts 3:19]. It is not reformation and improvement; it is regeneration! [Titus 3:5]. This is the faith. It is something that comes to us from God; so the source of our faith lies in God [Ephesians 2:8].
Now he says that “we who have obtained like precious faith,” and you have it translated here, “through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ” [2 Peter 1:1]. The word is en, and let’s just translate it plainly: “in.” “We have obtained that like precious faith in, in,” and the translators hesitated to say it—I don’t know why, somehow there is a little reluctance on the part of people to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as God Himself, the deity of the Lord—so the translators in their hesitancy put it like this: “Like precious faith, en”—they translated it “through”; we’re going to translate it exactly, “in”—and they have “God and our Savior Jesus Christ” [2 Peter 1:1].
The way the apostle wrote that is, it is a studied presentation of the deity of our Lord: “In our God and Savior Jesus Christ” [2 Peter 1:1]. Not “In God and our Savior,” but “In our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” It is the exact kind of a studied presentation of the deity of Christ in Titus 2:13: “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
These men who wrote this New Testament, these apostles of the Lord believed in the deity of the Son of God. He is God manifest in the flesh [1 Timothy 3:16]. That’s what they believed, and that’s the way they wrote it down.
Well, we hesitate at that sometimes, and certainly the disbelieving community rejects it. They scorn such a doctrine that a man should be God. “He may be a great prophet. He may be a great moral and spiritual leader. He may be a tremendous teacher and philosopher, but He is not God.”
There are two alternatives alone that are possible to us in accepting or rejecting Christ, just two, and one of them is not that He was a great moral leader and teacher. The two alternatives are this: He is either God as He said He was [John 8:58, 10:30], or else He is a consummate liar and deceiver! He is one or the other.
He led His disciples to believe that He was God, He accepted their worship as God [Matthew 14:33, 28:9], and He commissioned them to preach in His name, equal with the name of God [Luke 24:46-47]. And He is one or the other. He is not just a great moral and spiritual leader. He is either what He said He was, or He is a deceiver and a liar of the first order. And we do one or the other, not in between. The alternatives are just two. I either look upon Him as one who misleads and deceives, or I look upon Him as, “My Lord and my God” [John 20:28].
Now the apostles are with us who believe in the deity of Christ. “We have obtained like precious faith in our great mighty God and Savior Jesus Christ” [2 Peter 1:1]. And may I say emphatically here, as I’ve said so many times before, when you get to heaven, the only God you will ever feel is the Holy Spirit, and the only God you will ever see is Jesus Christ, God incarnate in the flesh [1 Timothy 3:16].
There’s no such thing in the Bible as tritheism, three gods. There is one God, and His name is Father, Son, Holy Spirit [Matthew 28:19], and we know Him as God our Father, and we know Him as God the Holy Spirit, and we know Him as God our Savior! [Matthew 28:19]. Once in a while, when I baptize, I’ll say it like that, instead of just repeating the New Testament, Matthew 28:19, “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit”; sometimes I’ll say it, “I baptize you my brother, in the name of God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.”
In the New Testament, our Christ is presented as the revelation and incarnation of God [Matthew 1:23; John 1:1, 4]. And we are idolaters worshipping the creature, just like all the other idolaters of ancient times who worshiped creatures—we are no better than they if the object of our worship is not God. When we bow the knee before Christ and call upon His name, pray in His name, we are calling upon the name of God, and we are praying to Almighty God, God incarnate, manifest in the flesh [1 Timothy 3:16]. This is Simon Peter’s word: “We have obtained like precious faith in the great mighty God and Savior Jesus Christ” [2 Peter 1:1].
Now, how do we obtain that life and how do we seize upon that spiritual impartation of the divine nature? He says, “Through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” [2 Peter 1:1]. Well, what kind of a righteousness is that? Without exception, always it is an imputed righteousness. It is a righteousness that is placed to our account. It is something God does for us [Romans 4:20-25]. I don’t do it for myself. It is something God does; a God kind of righteousness [2 Peter 1:1].
The righteousness that I have is my kind of a righteousness, and it doesn’t fit. It isn’t acceptable, and in God’s sight, He says, “It is like filthy rags” [Isaiah 64:6]. So I must have a God kind of righteousness [2 Peter 1:1].
You remember how the text of the Book of Romans begins in Romans 1:16-17?
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of the Son of God. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, to the Jew first, and to the Greek.
For therein is revealed to us the righteousness of God from faith to faith: even as it is written, The just shall live by faith. For therein is revealed the righteousness of God,
the God kind of righteousness. What kind? Ek pistis eis pistis, “from faith in the faith.” What does that mean? “For therein…I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: it is the power of God unto salvation; for therein is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith, ek pistis eis pistis, from faith unto faith!” [Romans 1:16-17].
What he is saying is that the kind of righteousness that God demands of us is a God kind of righteousness: “ek faith,” it begins in faith, “eis,” into faith, and it grows into greater faith, greater trust, greater commitment! As a man grows in grace, that’s how he grows. He begins in faith. He begins in committal and trust. He begins in taking Jesus as his Savior; it starts in faith and it ends in faith. All through the pilgrimage of his earthly life, it is trusting God more, and loving the Lord more, and looking more earnestly and fully and completely to Him. The whole life is a life of faith. That is a God kind of righteousness [2 Peter 1:1]. It is imputed to us [Romans 4:20-25].
It’s like the ancient worshiper who took a bullock or a lamb, a victim innocent, he put his hands over the head of that innocent victim, the animal of sacrifice, and there he confessed all of his sins on the head of that innocent victim. And then the priest slew it and poured out its blood at the base of the altar [Leviticus 4:27-30]. That is, in Christ we have the forgiveness of our sins [Ephesians 1:7]; in the shedding of blood, the remission of our iniquities [Matthew 26:28]; and the righteousness we have is imputed to us, it’s placed to our account [Romans 4:20-25].
That is, Jesus took our sins and died for them [1 Corinthians 15:3], and paid the penalty for them! [Isaiah 53:5-6]. And we take His holiness, His righteousness [2 Corinthians 5:21]. He has got our sins [1 John 3:2], and He suffered for them on the cross [Matthew 27:26-50]. He has all of the iniquities of our lives, and He paid for them, dying in our stead [2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13]. And we have His holiness and His righteousness. That is the God kind of righteousness! [2 Peter 1:1].
Do you remember how Paul will say it in another way? In the tenth chapter of Romans, 10:9-10: “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 shalt be saved.” Now look at it. “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; for,” now let me say it like—spell it out, “For with the heart man believeth unto a God kind of righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” [Romans 10:10]. To summarize, it is this: when I stand before God, I cannot come before Him and say, “Lord, look at the virtue of my life, and look at the unblemished nature of my life, and look at my good works, and look at all of the fine things that I did. Now, Lord, I commend myself to You, and I am going to walk on those golden streets and through those pearly gates [Revelation 21:21], and live with the redeemed of heaven, by virtue of my own goodness and my own righteousness.”
You’re not going to do that, but if you stand in the presence of the Lord, it’s going to be like this: “O Lord, I am a sinful man! And I am filled with imperfection, and blemish, and have been from the day of my conscious life until the end of my pilgrimage. My life has been marred and stained. I am a sinner man. I am a sinner. Dear God, I plead the virtue of Jesus, the merits of my Lord, the blood of Christ, and I am trusting that His mercy will reach even unto me [Titus 3:5], and that in His goodness, and love, and sacrifice, and atonement, and blood, and suffering [Isaiah 53:5-6]—Lord, Lord, I am depending upon Jesus” [Romans 10:13]. And God says when you do that, He opens the gate. He opens the door and He welcomes us in [2 Peter 1:10-11]. Not because of our righteousness, but because of the God kind of righteousness that we receive by faith [2 Peter 1:1], by imputation [Romans 4:20-25], by placing it to our account in the death of His Son [2 Corinthians 5:21].
You see, he speaks of that when he says, “Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them who have obtained like precious faith with us in the righteousness of God our Savior” [2 Peter 1:1]. Well, “like precious faith,” isos timē, isos timē,” what does isos mean? You know, I looked up in a dictionary last night, there are more words beginning with isos than you could imagine. There are pages of them in a great big dictionary. Isos is the Greek word for “equal.”
You kids that go to school, an isosceles triangle is one that has two equal sides; isos, isosceles, two equal sides. Isosceles actually means, “two equal legs, two equal sides.” It’s an isosceles triangle. Now, timē is the word for “precious, dear, costly, wonderful, glorious,” so he speaks of us who have obtained “like precious faith”: isos timē [2 Peter 1:1]. Well, what does he mean by that? Well, this is what he means: we’re not all alike in the abounding abundance of our faith. We’re just not. Even Paul said to the preachers, “Let every man preach, let him prophesy, according to his measure of faith” [Romans 12:6]. Some men kind of stumble around with the Word, they kind of hesitate before the revelation. But other men, oh, there’s just no limit to their faith, the commitment, their belief and trust. Now what he says is that no matter whether it be little or whether it be great, that it is “like, isos, timē, precious” [2 Peter 1:1]. It’s of the same kind though it may be greatly differing in size.
All right let me say it like this. A man may not have the faith of Simon Peter or of Paul. He may not have that abounding faith of those apostles, his faith may be much smaller, but it is “like, isos, precious.” That is, a little diamond or a big diamond, they’re still both diamonds. They’re just alike [Genesis 7:13-15]. They’re equal. A little diamond or a big diamond, it’s just alike, just alike. It’s diamond all the way through. It’s pure diamond, though one is a little diamond and the other is a big diamond—like precious, equal precious.
All right, let me illustrate it like this: the ark—a little snail crawls in, a little snail, and a big elephant lumbers in, but one of them is not more safe, or sound, or secure, or saved than the other. The little snail that took a long time crawling in and the big elephant that shook the very boat itself when he lumbered in, they’re both saved and safe alike. So it is with a man. One man may feebly crawl in, he just barely makes it, and another man may come in with marvelous triumph and victory, but one is just as secure and just as saved as the other [John 10:28-29].
I tell you that makes me glad, because some of us may not have the great abounding outreach of faith as a John, or a Simon Peter, or an apostle Paul, and some of us may be struggling around. Some of us may be having a hard time, but our little faith, our little faith is just as full of saving, just as precious as though it were big.
Could I illustrate that in a funny thing? That is, it’s funny to me. I read long time ago about a northern hunter way up there in Canada. And he came to a stream. And he was afraid that if he crossed it that the ice would break and he’d go right down in the cold water and drown. So he put his gun on his back and he crept up to the edge of the river. And crawling, crawling, crawling, just a little at a time, crawling, crawling, crawling, he began to cross that big stream.
And while he was out there on his hands and knees crawling, thinking any minute the ice might break, and just testing it and seeing, just crawling from the edge, crossing, while he was there, he heard a roaring sound. And there on his all fours he turned around and looked and saw, thundering out of the forest, roaring down the mountainside, he saw a team of four horses pulling a big heavy wagon of loaded logs, and the driver came roaring out of the forest, down the mountain, across the river. And that guy on all fours just looking at him, just looking at him, just looking at him—oh, I thought, how many are that way in the faith? There are some people that are just hoping, “Oh, maybe the Lord will sustain me! Oh, maybe the Lord will keep me! Oh, maybe the Lord will save me! Oh, maybe the Lord will open the gates of heaven for me! Oh, maybe the Lord will keep me!” They just barely are crawling along. And there are others of us—God bless us if you’ve got a faith like that—that just know the Lord is with us. He is going to see us through! He is not going to let us fall into hell! He is not going to let us fail! The Lord is going to take us right up into glory, and we live that life of triumph.
Now, both faiths are honored of the Lord; the little creeping one and the roaring one, both of them are honored in the Lord. Both of them will be saved, but, O Lord, if we could have a great commitment and a great faith, O God, fill us, as the text says, “isos timē,” out of faith into faith [Romans 1:17], growing in faith, growing in the love of the Lord, growing in appreciation and thanksgiving to God in Christ Jesus.
Isn’t this the beatenest thing you ever saw? I have exactly come to the middle part of my sermon, exactly. I was going to preach this morning on the faith and the life, and I’ve just now come to the life. We’ll pick it up next Sunday morning at this same time.
Now, before I give the invitation, let me urge our people, because this is one of the ways we grow in faith, let me urge our people, if you can—every night at seven o’clock we’ll be here in this great auditorium with our School of the Prophets, and let me urge you to come, and especially now on Wednesday night at seven-thirty o’clock; the pastor will be teaching his class on election and predestination.
I wish that School of the Prophets could see us jam this auditorium Wednesday night, seven-thirty. Every other night Monday through Friday it’s at seven o’clock, but Wednesday night it’ll be at seven-thirty, and the pastor will teach what God says to us about election and predestination, those that God hath chosen will come.
Somebody said to Spurgeon, “If I believed that, I wouldn’t preach. There’d be no reason to preach.” And Spurgeon replied, “My brother, there’s no comfort in this earth like the comfort of knowing God’s foreordination and God’s predestination, because,” said the great preacher, “they may not all be saved, and they may not all respond, and they may not all come, but some will come. God will always give us a harvest. He never fails.” That’s the goodness of our Lord for us.
O Christ, how could I ever thank Thee that You chose me, that You put my name in the Book of Life, and that as a little boy I was led to trust in Thee as my Savior. “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood… to Him be glory, and honor, and dominion, and power forever and ever” [Revelation 1:5-6]. Not of me but of Him. Not of us but of God.
And if the Lord has spoken to your heart, if the Spirit woos, if God says come, make it now. Do it now. On the first note of the first stanza, down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles: “Here I am, pastor, and here I come. I make it now.” Accepting the Lord as your Savior, putting your life with us in the church, as the Spirit shall lead, follow after now, while we stand and while we sing.