NOT FALLING AWAY
FROM ALBERT BARNES BIBLE COMMENTARY
4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises;" that by these ye might be
partakers b of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
4. Whereby. 'Through which' —in the plural number, referring either to the glory and virtue in the previous verse, and meaning that it was by that glorious Divine efficiency that these promises were given: or, to all the things mentioned in the previous verse, meaning that it was through those arrangements, and in order to their completion, that these great and glorious promises were made. The promises given are in connection with the plan of securing life and godliness, and are a part of the gracious arrangements for that object. Exceeding great and precious promises. A promise is an assurance on the part of another of some good for which we are dependent on him. It implies, (1,) that the thing is in his power; (2,) that he may bestow it or not, as he pleases; (3,) that we cannot infer from any process of reasoning that it is his purpose to bestow it on us; (4,) that it is a favour which we can obtain only from him, and not by any independent effort of our own. The promises here referred to are those which pertain to salvation. Peter had in his eye probably all that then had been revealed which contemplated the salvation of the people of God. They are called exceeding great and precious because of their value in supporting and comforting the soul, and of the honour and felicity which they unfold to us. The promises referred to are doubtless those which are made in connection with the plan of salvation revealed in the gospel, for there are no other promises made to man. They refer to the pardon of sin; strength, comfort, and support in trial; a glorious resurrection; and a happy immortality. If we look at the greatness and glory of the objects, we shall see that the promises are in fact exceedingly precious; or if we look at their influence in supporting and elevating the soul, we shall have as distinct a view of their value. The promise goes beyond our reasoning powers; enters a field which we could not otherwise penetrate—the distant future; and relates to what we could not otherwise obtain. All that we need in trial, is the simple promise of God that he will sustain us; all that we need in the hour of death, is the assurance of our God that we shall be happy for ever. What would this world be without a promise. How impossible to penetrate the future! How dark that which is to come would be. How bereft we should be of consolation. The past has gone, and its departed joys and hopes can never be recalled to cheer us again; the present may be an hour of pain, and sadness, and disappointment, and gloom, with perhaps not a ray of comfort; the future only opens fields of happiness to our vision, and everything there depends on the will of God, and all that we can know of it is from his promises. Cut off from these, we have no way either of obtaining the blessings which we desire, or of ascertaining that they can be ours. For the promises of God, therefore, we should be in the highest degree grateful, and in the trials of life we should cling to them with unwavering confidence as the only things which can be an anchor to the soul. That by these, Greek, 'through these.' That is, these constitute the basis of your hopes of becoming partakers of the divine nature. Comp. Notes on 2 Cor. vii. 1.
Partakers of the divine nature. This is a very important and a difficult phrase. An expression somewhat similar occurs in Ileb. xii. 10: 'That we might be partakers of his holiness.' See Notes on that verse. In regard to the language here used, it may be observed, (1,) that it is directly contrary to all the notions of Pantheism—or the belief that all things are now God, or a part of God—for it is said that the object of the promise is, that we 'may become partakers of the divine nature,' not that we are now. (2.) It cannot be taken in so literal a sense as to mean that we can ever partake of the divine essence, or that we shall be absorbed into the divine nature so as to lose our individuality. This idea is held by the Budhists; and the perfection of being is supposed by them to consist in such absorption, or in losing their own individuality, and their ideas of happiness are graduated by the approximaition which may be made to that state, But this cannot be the meaning here, because (a) it is in the nature of the case impossible. There, must be forever an essential difference between a created and an uncreated mind. (b) This would argue that the Divine Mind is not perfect. If this absorption was necessary to the completeness of the character and happiness of the Divine Being, then he was imperfect before; if before perfect, he would not be after the absorption of an infinite number of finite and imperfect minds, (c) In all the representations of heaven in the Bible, the idea of individuality is one that is prominent. Individuals are represented everywhere as worshippers there, and there is no intimation that the separate existence of the redeemed is to be absorbed and lost in the essence of the Deity. Whatever is to be the condition of man hereafter, he is to have a separate and individual existence, and the number of intelligent beings is never to be diminished either by annihilation, or by their being united to any other spirit so that they shall become one. The reference then, in this place, must be to the moral nature of God; and the meaning is, that they who are renewed become participants of the same moral nature; that is, of the same views, feelings, thoughts, purposes, principles of action. Their nature as they are born, is sinful, and prone to evil, (Eph. ii. 3;) their nature as they are born again,[begotten again - Keith Hunt] becomes like that of God. They are made like God; and this resemblance will increase more and more for ever, until in a much higher sense than can be true in this world, they may be said to have become 'partakers of the divine nature.' Let us remark, then, (a) that man only, of all the dwellers on the earth, is capable of rising to this condition. The nature of all the other orders of creatures here below is incapable of any such transformation that it can be said that they become 'partakers of the divine nature.' (b) It is impossible now to estimate the degree of approximation to which man may yet rise towards God, or the exalted sense in which the term may yet be applicable to him; but the prospect before the believer in this respect is most glorious. Two or three circumstances may be referred to here as mere hints of what we may yet be:
(1.) Let any one reflect on the amazing advances made by himself since the period of infancy. But a few, very few years ago, he knew nothing. He was in his cradle, a poor, helpless infant. He knew not the use of eyes, or ears, or hands, or feet. He knew not the name or use of anything, not even the name of father or mother. He could neither walk, nor talk, nor creep. He knew not even that a candle would burn him if he put his finger there. He knew not how to grasp or hold a rattle, or what was its sound, or whence that sound or any other sound came. Let him think what he is at twenty, or forty, in comparison with this; and then, if his improvement in every similar number of years hereafter should be equal to this, who can tell the height to which he will rise? (2.) We are here limited in our own powers of learning about God or his works. We become acquainted with him through his works —by means of the senses. But by the appointment of this method of becoming acquainted with the external world, the design seems to have been to accomplish a double work quite contradictory—one to help us, and the other to hinder us. One is to give us the means of communicating with the external world—by the sight, the hearing, the smell, the touch, the taste; the other is to shut us out from the external world, except by these. The body is a casement, an enclosure, a prison in which the soul is incarcerated, from which we can look out on the universe only through these organs. But suppose, as may be the case in a future state, there shall be no such enclosure, and that the whole soul may look directly on the works of God—on spiritual existences, on God himself— who can then calculate the height to which man may attain in becoming a ' partaker of the divine nature?' (3.) We shall have an eternity before us to grow in knowledge, and in holiness, and in conformity to God. Here, we attempt to climb the hill of knowledge, and having gone a few steps—while the top is still lost in the clouds—we lie down and die. We look at a few things; become acquainted with a few elementary principles; make a little progress in virtue, and then all our studies and efforts are suspended, and 'we fly away.' In the future world we shall have an eternity before us to make progress in knowledge, and virtue, and holiness, uninterrupted; and who can tell in what exalted sense it may yet be true that we shall be 'partakers of the divine nature,' or what attainments we may yet make?
OH YES WE NOW PARTAKE OF THE DEVINE NATURE OF GOD. AS JESUS SAID IF YOU LOVE HIM, BOTH THE FATHER AND HE WOULD COME AND DWELL WITHIN US. THEY COME VIA THEIR POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, WHICH COMING FROM THE GODHEAD, IS THEIR VERY NATURE, AND THIS NATURE IN US CAN DO WONDERFUL THINGS, CERTAINLY STRENGTHENING US TO BE ABLE TO NOT FALL AWAY - Keith Hunt
Having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. The world is full of corruption. It is the design of the Christian plan of redemption to deliver us from that, and to make us holy; and the means by which we are to be made like God, is by rescuing us from its dominion.
5. And beside this. Something here is necessary to be understood in order to complete the sense. The reference is to ver. 3; and the connection is, 'since' (ver. 3) God has given us these exalted privileges and hopes, in respect to this, (Greek…being understood,) or as a consequence fairly flowing from this, we ought to give all diligence that we may make good use of these advantages, and secure as high attainments as we possibly can. We should add one virtue to another, that we may reach the highest possible elevation in holiness. Giving all diligence. Greek, 'Bringing in all zeal or effort.' The meaning is, that we ought to make this a distinct and definite object, and to apply ourselves to it as a thing to be accomplished. Add to your faith virtue. It is not meant in this verse and the following that we are to endeavour particularly to add these things one to another in the order in which they are specified, or that we are to seek first to have faith, and then to add to that virtue, and then to add knowledge to virtue rather than to faith. The order in which this is to be done, the relation which one of these things may have to another, is not the point aimed at; nor are we to suppose that any other order of the words would not have answered the purpose of the apostle as well, or that any one of the virtues specified would not sustain as direct a relation to any other, as the one which he has specified.
The design of the apostle is to say, in an emphatic manner, that we are to strive to possess and exhibit all these virtues; in other words, we are not to content ourselves with a single grace, but are to cultivate all the virtues, and to endeavour to make our piety complete in all the relations which we sustain. The essential idea in the passage before us seems to be, that in our religion we are not to be satisfied with one virtue, or one class of virtues, but that there is to be (1,) a diligent cultivation of our virtues, since the graces of religion are as susceptible of cultivation as any other virtues; (2,) that there is to be progress made from one virtue to another, seeking to reach the highest possible point in our religion; and, (3,) that there is to be an accumulation of virtues and graces—or we are not to be satisfied with one class, or with the attainments which we can make in one class. We are to endeavour to add on one after another until we have become possessed of all.
Faith, perhaps, is mentioned first, because that is the foundation of all Christian virtues; and the other virtues are required to be added to that, because, from the place which faith occupies in the plan of justification, many might be in danger of supposing that if they had that they had all that was necessary. Comp. James ii. 14, seq. The Greek word rendered 'add,' there is an allusion to a chorus-leader among the Greeks, and the sense is well expressed by Doddridge: 'Be careful to accompany that belief with all the lovely train of attendant graces.' Or, in other words, 'let faith lead on as at the head of the choir or the graces, and let all the others follow in their order.' The word here rendered virtue is the same which is used in ver. 3; and there is included in it, probably, the same general idea which was noticed there. All the things which the apostle specifies, unless knowledge be an exception, are virtues in the sense in which that word is commonly used; and it can hardly be supposed that the apostle here meant to use a general term which would include all of the others. The probability is, therefore, that by the word here he has reference to the common meaning of the Greek word, as referring to manliness, courage, vigour, energy; and the sense is, that he wished them to evince whatever firmness or courage might be necessary in maintaining the principles of their religion, and in enduring the trials to which their faith might be subjected. True virtue is not a tame and passive thing. It requires great energy and boldness, for its very essence is firmness, manliness, and independence.
And to virtue knowledge. The knowledge of God and of the way of salvation through the Redeemer, ver. 3. Comp. chap. iii. 8. It is the duty of every Christian to make the highest possible attainments in knowledge.
6. And to knowledge temperance. On the meaning of the word temperance, see Notes on Acts xxiv. 25, and 1 Cor. ix. 25. The word here refers to the mastery over all our evil inclinations and appetites. We are to allow none of them to obtain control over us. See Notes on 1 Cor. vi. 12. This would include, of course, abstinence from intoxicating drinks; [Barnes is very wrong here….alcohol, wine and song drink as the books of Moses often puts it, is no condemned by the Bible - Keith Hunt] but it would also embrace all evil passions and propensities. Everything is to be confined within proper limits, and to no propensity of our nature are we to give indulgence beyond the limits which the law of God allows. And to temperance patience. Notes on James i. 4. And to patience godliness. True piety. Notes on ver. 3. Comp. 1 Tim. ii. 2; iii. 16; iv. 7, 8; vi. 3, 5, 6, 11.
7. And to godliness brotherly kindness. Love to Christians as such. See Notes on John xiii. 34; Heb. xiii. 1. And to brotherly kindness charity. Love to all mankind. There is to be a peculiar affection for Christians as of the same family; there is to be a true and warm love, however, for all the race. See Notes on 1 Cor. xiii.
8. For if these things be in you, and abound. If they are in you in rich abundance; if you are eminent for these things. They make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful. They will show that you are not barren or unfruitful. The word rendered barren, is, in the margin, idle. The word idle more accurately expresses the sense of the original. The meaning is, that if they evinced these things, it would show (1) that they were diligent in cultivating the Christian graces, and (2). that it was not a vain thing to attempt to grow in knowledge and virtue. Their efforts would be followed by such happy results as to be an encouragement to exertion. In nothing is there, in fact, more encouragement than in the attempt to become eminent in piety. On no other efforts does God smile more propitiously than on the attempt to secure the salvation of the soul and to do good. A small part of the exertions which men put forth to become rich, or learned, or celebrated for oratory or heroism, would secure the salvation of the soul. In the former, also, men often fail; in the latter, never.
9. But he that lacketh these things is blind. He has no clear views of the nature and the requirements of religion. And cannot see afar off. The word used here, which does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament, means to shut the eyes; i. e., to contract the eyelids, to blink, to twinkle, as one who cannot see clearly, and hence to be near-sighted. The meaning here is, that he is like one who has an indistinct vision; one who can see only the objects that are near him, but who has no correct apprehension of objects that are more remote. He sees but a little way into the true nature and design of the gospel. He does not take those large and clear views which would enable him to comprehend the whole system at a glance. And hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. He does not remember the obligation which grows out of the fact that a system has been devised to purify the heart, and that he has been so far brought under the power of that system as to have his sins forgiven. If he had any just view of that, he would see that he was under obligation to make as high attainments as possible, and to cultivate to the utmost extent the Christian graces.
10. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence. Ver. 5. 'In view of these things, give the greater diligence to secure your salvation.' The considerations on which Peter based this appeal seem to have been the fact that such promises are made to us, and such hopes held out before us; the degree of uncertainty thrown over the whole matter of our personal salvation by low attainments in the divine life, and the dreadful condemnation which will ensue if in the end it shall be found that we are destitute of all real piety. The general thought is, that religion is of sufficient importance to claim our highest diligence, and to arouse us to the most earnest efforts to obtain the assurance of salvation. To make your calling and election sure. On the meaning of the word calling, see Notes on Eph. iv. 1. On the meaning of the word election, see Notes on Rom. ix. 11; 1 Thess. i. 4. Comp. Eph. i. 5. The word rendered election here, occurs only in this place and in Acts ix. 15; Rom. ix. 11; xi. 5, 7, 28; 1 Thess. i. 4; though corresponding words from the same root denoting the elect, to elect, to choose, frequently occur. The word here used means election, referring to the act of God, by which those who are saved are chosen to eternal life. As the word calling must refer to the act of God, so the word election must; for it is God who both calls and chooses those who shall be saved. The word in the Scriptures usually refers to the actual choosing of those who shall be saved; that is, referring to the time when they, in fact, be come the children of God, rather than to the purpose of God that it shall be done; but still there must have been an eternal purpose, for God makes no choice which he did not always intend to make. The word sure, means firm, steadfast, secure. Here the reference must be to themselves; that is, they were so to act as to make it certain to themselves that they had been chosen, and were truly called into the kingdom of God. It cannot refer to God, for no act of theirs could make it more certain on his part, if they had been actually chosen to eternal life. Still, God everywhere treats men as moral agents; and what may be absolutely certain in his mind from the mere purpose that it shall be so, is to be made certain to us only by evidence, and in the free exercise of our own powers. The meaning here is, that they were to obtain such evidences of personal piety as to put the question whether they were called and chosen, so far as their own minds were concerned, to rest; or so as to have undoubted evidence on this point.
The Syriac, the Vulgate, and some Greek manuscripts, insert here the expression 'by your good works;' that is, they were to make their calling sure by their good works, or by holy living. This clause, as Calvin remarks, is not authorized by the best authority, but it does not materially affect the sense. It was undoubtedly by their 'good works' in the sense of holy living, or of lives consecrated to the service of God, that they were to obtain the evidence that they were true Christians; that is, that they had been really called into the kingdom of God, for there is nothing else on which we can depend for such evidence. God has given no assurance to us by name that he intends to save us. We can rely on no voice, or vision, or new revelation, to prove that it is so. No internal feeling of itself, no raptures, no animal excitement, no confident persuasion in our own minds that we are elected, can be proof in the case; and the only certain evidence on which we can rely is that which is found in a life of sincere piety.
In view of the important statement of Peter in this verse, then, we may remark, (1.) that he believed in the doctrine of election, for he uses language which obviously implies this, or such as they are accustomed to use who believe the doctrine. (2.) The fact that God has chosen those who shall be saved, does not make our own efforts unnecessary to make that salvation sure to us. It can be made sure to our own minds only by our own exertions; by obtaining evidence that we are in fact the children of God. There can be no evidence that salvation will be ours, unless there is a holy life; that is, unless there is true religion. Whatever may be the secret purpose of God in regard to us, the only evidence that we have that we shall be saved is to be found in the fact that we are sincere Christians, and are honestly endeavouring to do his will. (3.) It is possible to make our calling and election sure; that is, to have such evidence on the subject that the mind shall be calm, and that there will be no danger of deception. If we can determine the point that we are in fact true Christians, that settles the matter—for then the unfailing promise of God meets us that we shall be saved. In making our salvation sure to our own minds, if we are in fact true Christians, we have not to go into an argument to prove that we have sufficient strength to resist temptation, of that we shall be able in any way to keep ourselves. All that matter is settled by the promise of God, that if we are Christians we shall be kept by him to salvation. The only question that is to be settled is, whether we are in fact true Christians, and all beyond that may be regarded as determined immutably. But assuredly it is possible for a man to determine the question whether he is or is not a true Christian. (4.) If it can be done, it should be. Nothing is more important for us to do than this; and to this great inquiry we should apply our minds with unfaltering diligence, until by the grace of God we can say that there are no lingering doubts in regard to our final salvation.
For if ye do these things. The things referred to in the previous verses. If you use all diligence to make as high attainments as possible in piety, and you practise the virtues demanded by religion, vers. 5-7. Ye shall never fall. You shall never fall into perdition. That is, you shall certainly be saved.
11. For so an entrance In this unto you. The same Greek word is here used which occurs in ver. 5, and which is there rendered add. See Notes on that verse. There was not improbably in the mind of the apostle a recollection of that word; and the sense may be, that if they would lead on the virtues and graces referred to in their beautiful order, those graces would attend them in a radiant train to the mansions of immortal glory and blessedness. See Doddridge in loc. Abundantly. Gr., richly. That is, the most ample entrance would be furnished; there would be no doubt about their admission there. The gates of glory would be thrown wide open, and they, adorned with all the bright train of graces, would be admitted there. Into the everlasting kingdom, etc. It is here called everlasting, not because the Lord Jesus shall preside over it as the Mediator, (comp. Notes, 1 Cor. xv. 24,) but because, in the form which shall be established when 'he shall have given it up to the Father' it will endure for ever. The empire of God which the Redeemer shall set up over the souls of his people shall endure to all eternity. The object of the plan of redemption was to secure their allegiance to God, and that will never terminate.
12. Wherefore I will not be negligent. That is, in view of the importance of these things. To put you always in remembrance. To give you the means of having them always in remembrance; to wit, by his writings, Though ye know them. It was of importance for Peter, as it is for ministers of the gospel now, to bring known truths to remembrance. Men are liable to forget them, and they do not exert the influence over them which they ought. It is the office of the ministry not only to impart to a people truths which they did not know before, but a large part of their work is to bring to recollection well-known truths, and to seek that they may exert a proper influence on the life. Amidst the cares, the business, the amusements, and the temptations of the world, even true Christians are prone to forget them; and the ministers of the gospel render them an essential service, even if they should do nothing more than remind them of truths which are well understood, and which they have known before. A pastor, in order to be useful, need not always aim at originality, or deem it necessary always to present truths which have never been heard of before. He renders an essential service to mankind who reminds them of what they know but are prone to forget, and who endeavours to impress plain and familiar truths on the heart and conscience, for these truths are most important for man.
And be established in the present truth. That is, the truth which is with you, or which you have received.—Rob. Lex. on the word used. The apostle did not doubt that they were now confirmed in the truth as far as it had been made known to them, but he felt that amidst their trials, and especially as they were liable to be drawn away by false teachers, there was need of reminding them of the grounds on which the truths which they had embraced rested, and of adding his own testimony to confirm their Divine origin.
Though we may be very firm in our belief of the truth, yet there is a propriety that the grounds of our faith should be stated to us frequently, that they may be always in our remembrance. The mere fact that at present we are firm in the belief of the truth, is no certain evidence that we shall always continue to be; nor because we are thus firm should we deem it improper for our religious teachers to state the grounds on which our faith rests, or to guard us against the arts of those who would attempt to subvert our faith.
SO WE SEE IN THIS SECTION OF SCRIPTURE, A PRESCRIPTION FOR NOT FALLING AWAY. WE ADD TO OUR FAITH IN THE GOSPEL OF GOD AND CHRIST, THE VIRTUES GIVEN:
VIRTUE - FIRMNESS, BOLDNESS
KNOWLEDGE - EVER GROWING IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST - chapter 3:18
TEMPERANCE - BALANCE IN ALL THINGS, CONTROL OF MIND AND BODY.
PATIENCE - STEADFAST ENDURANCE, STICKING TO THE FAITH NO MATTER WHAT COMES.
GODLINESS - SANCTIFICATION IN HOLINESS, AS PAUL ONCE SAID, "HAVE THIS MIND IN YOU WHICH WAS IN CHRIST JESUS."
BROTHERLY KINDNESS - LOVE TOWARDS OTHERS, DOING GOOD TO ALL OTHERS, LOVING YOUR ENEMY; DOING UNTO MANKIND WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE THEM TO DO TO YOU.
CHARITY OR LOVE - THE LOVE OF GOD IN YOU, WHICH IS REALLY ALL THE ABOVE, THE VERY NATURE OF GOD IN US, THE NATURE THAT THE FATHER DESIRES US TO HAVE MORE THAN WE EVEN ASK FOR.
DOING THESE THINGS WILL MAKE OUR CALLING AND ELECTION SURE, AND WE SHALL NEVER FALL.
PETER HERE BREAKS DOWN FOR US WHAT IT MEANS TO HAVE THE NATURE OF GOD IN US. AND SO ONE DAY WE SHALL BE FULLY LIKE JESUS, FOR WE SHALL SEE HIM AS HE IS - 1 JOHN 3:1-2. WE SHALL THEN FULLY BE THE SONS OF GOD - REVELATION 20:7.