Sunday, April 13, 2008

Making Your Calling and Election Sure

Making One's Calling and Election Sure
3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
10Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Greek word translated "sure" is the adjective bebaios. Moulton and Milligan give us helpful insight into this word. They write:
Deissmann (BS, p. 104 ff.) has shown very fully how much force the technical use of this word and its cognates to denote legally guaranteed security adds to their occurrence in the NT.4
A particular example is drawn from a Greek papyrus which is translated, "and I will further guarantee [parexomai....bebaia] the property always against all claims with every guarantee [bebaiosei ]." J. B. Mayor writes of the Greek phrase for "make sure" in 2 Pet 1:10 that it equals the simple verb bebaioun and means "'to certify,' 'confirm,' 'attest'."5
This should make it clear that we are in no way required to conclude, as does the standard Greek lexicon, that the meaning here is "to confirm the call, i.e., so that it does not lapse."6 As Paul has told us, "the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable" (Rom 11:29).
Still less can this text mean that Christians are to confirm their call and election (to eternal salvation) to themselves. Such an idea is completely foreign to this passage (and to the NT!). Peter has just finished addressing his readers as "those who have obtained like precious faith with us" (1:1). Moreover, in vv 3-4 he unmistakably treats them as Christians whom God has richly endowed. To suggest that despite these direct statements by the apostle, his readers are still uncertain about their "call and election" to eternal life, is to force on the text an alien theological presupposition. This idea is not the product of exegesis at all, but the torturing of the text into conformity with a preconceived opinion.
In light of the comments of Moulton and Milligan and of Mayor (quoted above), the meaning of this verse should be obvious. Given its legal usage, the phrase bebaion...poieisthai can mean "to certify," "to offer valid confirmation"-i.e., to others. That is, when a Christian develops the character qualities of vv 5-7, he is producing valid evidence for others to observe that God has indeed "called" and "chosen" him. This is similar to James's doctrine of justification by works before men.7 The unsaved are not likely to believe that we are in God's favor on our own say-so alone. But a life filled with moral virtue and capped with love (v 7) can be very persuasive. As the Lord Jesus put it: "By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).
If we understand the text this way, we can look again at the words your call and election. If the word election (eklogh = selection, choosing) referred to our being chosen before time (as in Eph 1:4), it is surprising that the phrase is not reversed: "your election and calling." That sequence would conform, for example, to Rom 8:30 where we read "whom He predestined, these He also called."
It seems probable, therefore, that we have here one of the many verbal allusions in the Petrine epistles to the teaching Peter had heard from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The sequence call-choose brings to mind the famous statement by our Lord that "many are called, but few are chosen (eklektoi , italics added). These words, however, occur only twice in the Gospels, both instances being in Matthew (20:16; 22:14). But there is little reason to doubt that Peter must have heard them many times. In the Gospels, we only have a fragment of our Lord's spoken words (see John 21:25).
In any case, this statement by Jesus occurs in eschatological contexts both times it is used in Matthew. In one of these places, it concludes the parable of the workers in the vineyard (20:1-16) and follows the vineyard owner's decisive pronouncement about the wages of the workers (vv 13-15). In the other place, it follows the parable of the wedding supper (22:1-14) and follows the host's decisive command to expel the improperly dressed man (vv 12-13). It is beyond the scope of this article to expound these parables here. Suffice it to say this, clearly the parable about the vineyard workers refers to Christian service up to our Lord's return, while the man in the parable of the wedding feast has not prepared himself for the host's review and represents a believer unprepared for the Judgment Seat of Christ.8
From both parables it is plain that the "choice" is made after the "call"! The vineyard workers are all "called" to labor (i.e., "invited;" the Greek verb is of the same root as "calling" in 2 Pet 1:10), but the "choice" about their wages is made when the vineyard owner appears in the evening. Some are "chosen" to receive pay equal to those who have worked longer. In the wedding feast situation, many are "invited" and many turn down the invitation. But even one who came poorly dressed is not "chosen" to participate, although he had been "called" (invited).
What does all this mean for our text here? Clearly Peter encourages the building of Christian character (vv 5-7) which, in turn, leads to Christian activity and fruitfulness (v 8). This kind of lifestyle leads to pay, as it did for the vineyard workers in Matthew 20. (The common Greek word in the NT for "reward" [misthos ] basically means pay.) Unlike the poorly dressed man who appeared at the wedding feast, the lifestyle Peter commands will prepare his readership to be properly "clothed" when they meet their Lord. Indeed, he states just such a desire for them at the end of the epistle:
Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him, without spot and blameless...(3:14, italics added).
We propose, therefore, that Peter's words do not refer here to a pre-temporal election to eternal salvation, which by its very nature would precede the call to salvation. Instead, all Christians have been given a "royal" summons by God Himself, "who calls [us] into His own kingdom and glory" (1 Thess 2:12). And a supremely significant part of that glory is the privilege of co-reigning with Christ (2 Tim 2:12; Rev 2:26-27; 3:21). But not all Christians are chosen to co-reign! Paul writes: "If we endure, we shall also reign with Him" (2 Tim 2:12, italics added); and he also wrote, "and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together" (Rom 8:17b, italics added).
Peter, therefore, wishes his readership to produce in their lifestyle appropriate verification that they are "royal" people, destined for high honor in the coming kingdom of God. By doing these things (i.e., the things Peter is talking about), their road into the glories of that kingdom will be smooth. They will not stumble on that path and thus run the risk of losing the rewards they are "called" to obtain (see 1 Cor 9:27). Instead, they shall prove themselves "chosen" for the divine reward.
This understanding of v 10 finds immediate support in v 11. All born-again Christians will enter the kingdom of Christ, but those who develop the Christian character described in this chapter will have a special kind of entrance. For so, says Peter, an entrance will be supplied to you ABUNDANTLY! The word "abundantly" translates the Greek adverb plousiws , which more precisely means richly. (The adjective/noun plousiws is the usual word in the NT for "rich" or "rich man.") This idea recalls the Lord's teaching in Luke 12 where He censures the life of the rich fool with these words:
So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich [ploutwn ] toward God (Luke 12:21, italics added).
This important statement in Luke is followed by an exhortation from Jesus to His disciples (see Luke 12:1) not to be concerned by their daily needs, but to rely on God for them (12:22-31). Verse 31 concludes the exhortation by urging that God's kingdom be given priority: "But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you."
The very next statement by our Lord also relates to this kingdom ("It is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom," v 32, italics added) and is followed by an exhortation to lay up heavenly treasure (12:33-34). Clearly, the seeking and gaining of the kingdom and of heavenly treasure are interwoven themes in the teaching of our Lord. The doctrine they pertain to is the doctrine of rewards.
This is equally true of 2 Pet 1:10-11. Salvation from hell is not in view. Heavenly reward is the real theme. The holy and fruitful lifestyle of vv 3-8 can be a demonstration-a verification-that an individual Christian has not only been "called," but actually "chosen," for great reward in God's future kingdom. As he or she diligently pursues this pathway, doing the things that Peter has enjoined, he will be able to avoid any serious spiritual fall (you will never stumble). Thus his pathway can climax in a rich entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Everlasting wealth, or treasure, can be his in an everlasting kingdom.