Peter’s Call for Intentional Spiritual Growth

Ryan Martin

green plant on brown soil

As we journey on our Christian pilgrimage, we believers are often tempted to laziness and inertia in our spiritual life. We like to coast. But God’s will for his people is for a more intentional spiritual growth.

The Apostle Peter was a minister of Christ well accustomed with the difficulties of ministry. In 2 Peter, he spends his whole second chapter lamenting the apostasy of certain teachers, teachers he no doubt knew personally. They had made a profession of faith in Christ (2 Pet 2:20), but they had abandoned the gospel of Jesus Christ for false teaching and immoral living (2 Pet 2:14, 21).

These former “leading lights” in the church turning away from the Savior must have pained him personally. Part of his point in writing 2 Peter is to call the believers to protect themselves in Christ against making similar missteps against Christ and his gracious gospel.

Throughout the epistle, Peter suggests several different antidotes against apostasy. Chapter 2 helps the believers understand the true colors of apostasy. Chapter 3 holds up the truth of God’s promises and the glory of the coming Eternal State, and he urges the believers to hold these promises of God by faith.

In chapter 1, Peter urges the believers grow spiritually. This, he assures them, will keep them from turning from Christ. The emphasis on spiritual growth in chapter 1 is striking. He tells them in verse 5,

make every effort to supplement your faith . . .

The list of attributes to add to our faith in verses 5–7 is surely worthy of our meditation, but my point is the urgency Peter gives to this task. Make every effort. Give all diligence to this. Spiritual growth is not a half-hearted activity, but one that requires ardor and fervency.

Peter urges spiritual growth again in verse 8.

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Again, the emphasis on our spiritual life increasing by supplementing our faith is striking. When we are constantly adding to our faith, it shows that the knowledge of Christ is a living vital part of our lives. We must not stand still, but press on as Paul himself says in Philippians 3:13–14:

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Peter emphasizes spiritual growth against in verse 9.

For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

Not growing spiritually is a symptom of spiritual nearsightedness and spiritual amnesia. We do not see spiritual reality as it really is. We have forgotten all that Christ has done for us when we are not growing spiritually.

Once more Peter presses the importance of spiritual growth on these believers in verses 10–11:

Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

He says to them, Be all the more diligent. There is again spiritual urgency for us in our progressive sanctification. We know that he has progressive sanctification in mind, for he again references those attributes we are to fold into our faith in verses 5–7: for if you practice these qualities.

In verses 3–4, Peter had told the believers that Christ is the source of all that pertains to life in godliness. That is, Christ alone is the source of genuine spiritual growth. For Peter, constant spiritual improvement in Christ is vital for all believers. In the words of Calvin (in his commentary on this passage):

Since this task is hard and one of immense labour, he bids us put off the corruption that is in us, and strive earnestly to this purpose. He means by this that there is no place for laziness or for following the calling of God easily or carelessly, but keen zeal is a necessity.

The necessity of supplementing our faith and growing spiritually is certainly incumbent upon those of us who are ministers. We need to set a good example to the flock of God in being committed to spiritual growth ourselves. May we make every effort, brothers—even those of us who are pastors, to grow spiritually in this coming year.

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Author green plant on brown soil

Ryan Martin

Pastor Columbiaville Baptist Church

Ryan Martin is the pastor of Columbiaville Baptist Church of Columbiaville, Michigan. He has received the Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy (historical theology) degrees from Central Baptist Theological Seminary. His dissertation was on the role of affections and passions in the theology of Jonathan Edwards. He is the author of Understanding Affections in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards (T&T Clark, 2019). He has also contributed to several other publications, including Hymns to the Living God (2017), the Conservative Christian Declaration (2014), the Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia (2017), and Regeneration, Revival, and Creation (2020).