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.
Are you among the elect of God? How do you know? Do you know that your sins are forgiven? Are you sure that you are a Christian? Do you know if you are a child of God? If you are not certain of your faith, then you will not function as a Christian well enough. Assurance is not for some special Christians – every true believer ought to be assured of the faith he/she has in Christ.
Nothing is more important than for a Christian to know that he has eternal life in the Name of Christ. For this John devotes his fist letter – so that you may know that you have eternal life (1John 5:13). This sermon is meant to help you be assured of your salvation if indeed you are saved. But if you are yet to call the Lord Jesus Christ your Lord and your Saviour, then know that this sermon will mean very little to you. And I would beseech you that even before I begin, you take leave go and repent of all your sins and turn to Christ in faith. Go and cry for your salvation to the Saviour and then come back and listen how you may be assured of this salvation. This is not a small matter – it is worthy of all your attention today.
On the other hand I must point out to you the two extremes of false religions on this teaching about the assurance of salvation. On the one hand we know that we live at a time when cheap faith is being propagated and with it false assurance is pressed on those who have professed a false faith. Sinners are told to repeat the sinners’ prayers and are immediately assured that they are saved and warned against doubting. If this is what happened to you, I will tell you today, doubt what you have and be sure that you are saved – examine yourself to see whether you are in the faith. If you think you got converted by the virtue of repeating a sinners’ or rather the preachers’ repentance, then you are most mistaken what salvation is.
On the other extreme is, false religions like those of Islam, Roman Catholic, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons and they know nothing about assurance of salvation. When reaching them with the gospel, this the question that you should ask, “Are sure that God, the great Judge of the living and the dead will acquit and justify you on the last day?” or “Are you sure that you will spend eternity in the kingdom of God, in His glory?” those of these religions, would think it presumptuous to claim assurance of eternal salvation. They think that they must be 100% perfect and sinless to be assured that they have eternal life. But does this passage tell us to claim assurance when we are sinless? Does it say, “confirm your calling and election when you are sinless or by being perfect?” NO!
What is (effectual) calling?
Effectual calling is the work of God's Spirit (2 Tim. 1:9) whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery (Acts 2:37), enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ (Acts 26:18), and renewing our wills (Ezek. 36:26), he does persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ freely offered to us in the gospel (Jn. 6:44-45)
1. Being all the more diligent
Good works are only possible through the appropriation of God’s gracious aid and are absolutely necessary but is the responsibility of man. This is because Christian calling and living go together. For this reason, we exhort you both publicly and privately to pursue godliness. To make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and your virtue knowledge, etc. This diligence in godly efforts and endeavor is meant to prove the work of God in calling and electing us.
It is my prayer fro you every day that you will make every effort to confirm your calling and election. I pray that in the midst of all the uncertainties of this world, you will be assured of your salvation. False teaching makes you doubt what God has done to you. Your own sinful life make you unsure of the work of grace in you and rightly so.
‘Therefore’ brings to summary things said previously and ‘be all the more diligent’ means “put forth every effort you can muster urgently and regularly.” Peter wants the readers to realize that God calls them in their lifetime, but that they must exert themselves diligently in ascertaining and appropriating their calling and election… in order to stress man’s responsibility in regard to salvation.
Election and calling are God’s gracious redemptive acts so that in the eternity past He elected some (Eph. 1:4) so that within their lifetime, he calls them by the gospel, by His Spirit. The responsibility of man is to appropriate these eternal redemptive acts by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ. Without faith there is no way the redemptive blessings of God can be belong to a sinner. Faith is the most important hand that a man has to extend in order to receive these divine blessings. But even this faith is a gift of God. For how can a dead sinner extend any hand, except by the divine aid? The faith in view here is not a dead faith; it is not a false faith but a living and active faith that works diligently. It is the faith that comes from God so that we are heirs of faith. It is a diligent faith that makes all the effort to show that the election and calling of God have taken place.
2. Practicing the virtues
What is the evidence that you are Christian if your conduct does not show you to be one? Christian qualities are the distinguishing marks of a person who has the Spirit of God working in him. For this reason Peter calls his hearers, ‘brothers’. This is noteworthy for it is the only place the word occurs in Petrine letters, previously he uses the term ‘dear friends’. And he is acknowledging only those who faithfully show themselves to be godly and supplying the virtues of verses 5-7. Because it one of the marks of salvation is that there is evidence of the work of God in one’s life. What right do you have to say that you have been saved from sins when you live just like you have ever lived? You were saved from lies and lusts, from bitterness and resentment, from greed and covetousness, which is idolatry and many other wicked sins yet you indulge in them. So what right do you have to claim that the Spirit dwells in you?
‘Calling and election’ appear to be the wrong order – for God elects then calls… but from man’s point of view it is the calling that evidences the election, therefore he is presenting it from man’s perspective. This is important because Peter is not writing to God, he is writing from God to the people to exhort them to assurance and so he has to tell them of their no 1 responsibility.
So would you say that there is increase in your faith? Is there growth in excellence? Is there growth in knowledge? Are you firmer in self-control? Is there any evidence of godliness? Are you stronger in steadfastness? Do you love the brethren more? Do you love more brethren? This is the evidence that you practice them… but if you are the same yesterday today and forever more, then you have no moral reason for you to be assured of your salvation. If there is no Christian growth, then there is no assurance of salvation.
1. Because God has said so!
Actually the first and most important reason why you are to be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election is simply because God has said so. God has asked His elect to make every effort to confirm their calling and election. Failure to do so would be disobedience! It is actually the means that He has appointed to keep us in salvation and therefore to give them the most necessary assurance in this world of doubt.
Do you think you can be a complete Christian when you disobey God? Do you think you can fully enjoy the benefits of salvation when you lack the assurance of salvation? If you lack assurance, you become unstable and unbalanced because you ‘believe’ yet doubt! It would be imperfect faith, incomplete profession and unstable Christianity.
For us to be effective witnesses of Christ, we must be assured of salvation. How can you ask a sinner to be saved from his sins when you are not sure that your sins have been forgiven? How can you ask a Muslim if he is sure of his eternal destiny when you are not? And as I said the most astounding difference between the profession of a Mormon is that they can never be assured of their salvation because theirs is a religion of works that is without Christ and without hope? This is why Martyn Lloyd Jones says, “The best worker for God and for Christ is the man who is most certain and sure of his position before God. If a man is uncertain of his salvation and position, how can he preach and recommend the gospel?”
Look at Paul: he was so assured of salvation because he said “But I am not ashamed for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me” (2Tim. 1:12). And so Paul preached assurance: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1:6)
2. So that you will never fall
The purpose of making the calling and election sure is so that one may not fail as a Christian. The assurance of salvation comes when a believer knows that he cannot lose it. This is as a result of both diligence in study and in godliness. Your faith must be based on God’s revealed truths. But also your faith has to be visible. Assurance of the faith comes by practicing the qualities listed in vv. 5-7 as well as diligence in knowledge of what God has done in Him. First of all we know that the Holy Spirit applies to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us (Eph. 2:8), and by it uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling (Eph. 3:17). Therefore examine yourself daily to see whether you are standing. When you examine yourself and find sin, or sloth, or anything that could disqualify you – deal with it without wasting time. There are many who know that they have sin like bitterness and resentment and carry on with them. Yet a person like Nelson Mandela, knew that if he were to leave the prison gates with bitterness, resentment and lack of forgiveness, he will remain a prisoner. How much you who have been forgiven so much sin? How much more should you be willing to forgive? Do not let anything disqualify you.
3. So that you will receive a rich entrance into the Kingdom of God
How does God respond to man’s faithfulness and diligence in faith? It is by richly providing an entrance into His kingdom. The event of entrance into the kingdom, not the manner, is rich. What is richly provided? When God invites and welcomes sinners into His Kingdom, He adopts them into His Family to become His own dear children. He then lavishes them with gift upon gift; He bestows grace upon grace, lifting them from glory to glory. Clearly He overwhelms them with the glorious. Yes He enriches them with the heavenly gifts. The welcome is that of receiving gifts that God supplies without measure.
In talking about the eternal kingdom, Peter brings three things to describe it:
1) It is eternal
God’s kingdom is an eternal kingdom, a kingdom that is not limited by time and space; a kingdom that is everlasting and permanent and unfading. We rejoice that we eagerly await a kingdom that cannot be shaken, a kingdom that is not subject to any cosmic limitation such as time. Therefore we worship the Lord for such a hope.
2) Our entrance into this kingdom is in future
God has graciously brought us into His kingdom because He has richly provided for us an entrance into it. This is the great tension between what we have now, for we are in the Kingdom, and what is to come – because we yet await the final inauguration and revelation of the great Kingdom with the coming of the King with the hosts of heaven.
3) It belongs to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ
This is the Kingdom of Christ, it belongs to Him because He established it and rules it as its King. Christ reigns in this kingdom as its King. And we know that He does not change – He is the same yesterday today and forever. Therefore His kingdom does not change. And the most wonderful thing is that we shall reign with Him! Anyone who enters into this kingdom has to have this trusting relationship with Him.
v How do you know that you are saved? How do you know that you are not deceiving yourself in your profession? Do you remember any time in your life when you went on your knees and pleaded for God’s mercy and forgiveness in Christ? What is the evidence that you are saved? You are born again?
v What is the assurance of your salvation? Could you say that the assurance of your salvation rests upon the reality that God chose you in the eternity past (and so He will not change His mind); that your salvation is certain because Christ has ransomed you by His blood – paying all the penalty that was due you because of your sins, and He has secured for you an eternal place by clothing you with the robes of His righteousness; and that all these has been appropriated to you by the Holy Spirit who came and made you an heir of God and co-heir with Christ?
v Do you examine yourself daily to find out whether you are in faith?
v Are we expectantly and eagerly awaiting the revelation of our great Kingdom by our King? What are we doing in preparation to receiving this Great and Marvelous Kingdom?
v God’s call and election ought to bring untold joy and comfort in you. It ought to make you want to forever shout for joy in the knowledge that the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Rom. 8:29). For this reason there is this great promise that if we practice the qualities of godliness then we will never fall!