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Virtue and Assurance Part 1

Written by: MacArthur Jr., John    Posted on: 04/08/2003

Category: Sermons

Source: CCN

GC 61-11

                                                    "Virtue and Assurance"

                                                            Part 1

                                                        2 Peter 1:5-7

                                                            by                                                       John MacArthur                                                       All Rights Reserved

              Now I want you to turn in your Bible to 2 Peter 1:5 to 11, I'm quite confident it will take me a few more messages to               complete our study of this text. I have been, frankly, quite amazed after being here over 20 years at Grace Church and for               the first time preaching a series on assurance to find that after every message that I have preached on this subject, at least               one person, sometimes five or six people, have come to me and said, "Up until tonight I never experienced the assurance of               my salvation." They have thanked me for speaking on this issue. They have thanked God for the clarity of His Word with               regard to assurance.

              And it's sad to think about the fact that if that's true here in our church, it must be true all over Christendom, that there are               many many Christians who do not enjoy the assurance of their salvation. It's particularly sad because God wants us to have               full assurance, so it says in Hebrews 6:11 and 10:22. He wants us, according to 1 John 3:19, to have our hearts assured. He               wants us according to Colossians 2:2 to have the full riches of assurance. Every true Christian should enjoy the reality of his               or her salvation. Not to have that assurance is to live in doubt, to live in fear, to live in a certain form of spiritual depression               and a certain kind of misery. Certainly not to have assurance means you're unable to delight in God which is inherent in the               Christian experience, and you're unable to enjoy the anticipation of all of His promises, you're unable to relish the reality of               faith and the exhilaration of hope. You see, the promise of eternal life, the promise of abundant life presupposes assurance. If               I'm going to enjoy all that is mine in Christ, I have to know I'm in Christ. I'll live in fear, misery, doubt.

              Peter is very concerned that his readers enjoy assurance. So it is a main theme in this very brief epistle. Now let me remind               you briefly of sort of how it fits. This is a very short book, just three chapters. The dominant theme of this book is chapter 2.               And chapter 2 is about false teachers, false prophets. And they are described in very clear graphic terms in the second               chapter. Now chapter 2 which focuses on false prophets and false teachers is surrounded by other teaching directed at               successfully countering their attacks. In other words, chapter 1 and chapter 3 are related to the theme in that chapter 1 and               chapter 3 tell the believer how to be equipped to deal with the false teachers. To fight off the encroaching deluding deception               of false teachers, the believer must know some things. The believer must have some accurate true knowledge. And the               question comes, what must we know? What must we know?

              Well, in chapter 1 verse 12 through verse 21 we must know Scripture, we must know our Scripture. And he deals with that.               In chapter 3 we must know our sanctification. We must know our sanctification. And in chapter 1 verses 3 to 11, we must               know our salvation. If you know the Scripture and if you know you're sanctified and set apart unto God from sin and if you               know your salvation is real, then the attacks of false teachers are thwarted. If you don't know the Scripture, and if you do               not know and are not experiencing a continued state of sanctification and if you are not sure of your salvation, you become a               ready victim.

              Now we're looking at that section on salvation, knowing your salvation. That is a very essential defense against false               teachers. If you have on the helmet of the hope of salvation, then the blows of Satan that come against you to make you               doubt your salvation and doubt the work of God are thwarted. You are protected from false teachers, demon spirits, and               Satan himself. So the first line of defense is you must know your salvation.

              And actually the whole chapter up to now has been focused on that. In verse 1 he said you must know the source of your               salvation. It is yours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. In verse 2 he said you must know the               substance of your salvation, it is predicated on grace and peace multiplied in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.               In verses 3 and 4, you must know the sufficiency of your salvation, that you have everything pertaining to life and godliness.               And now in verses 5 to 11, you must know the certainty of your salvation. You must be sure. And so, in verses 5 through               11 he speaks to the issue of certainty...of certainty. And this, beloved, is crucial if we are going to withstand the onslaughts               of false teachers. You say why. Because false teachers will always try to tell you another way of...what?...salvation...always.               But if I know where I stand in terms of salvation and there is no question, then there is no attraction from false teaching. We               have in verses 3 and 4 indicated that we have everything we need in Christ. And yet in verses 5 to 11 Peter says we have to               do everything that we possibly can to add to what Christ has done that we might experience certainty. That's quite a               paradox. Verses 3 and 4 says you have everything in Christ, verses 5 to 11 says now add to it. How can you add to               everything? That again is that marvelous paradox of being complete in Christ and yet having to do everything within our               strengths to follow Him.

              And so, we find then verses 5 through 11 give us the path to assurance. Verse 5, let's look at it, "Now for this very reason               also," now I want to stop you right there. What reason? Because we have everything in Christ, because by His divine               power, verse 3, He's granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness through the true knowledge of Him who called               us by His own glory and excellence, for by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises in order that               by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

              Let me go back over that just in summary. Because you have divine power, granting to you everything necessary for life and               godliness, because this comes to you through the true knowledge of Jesus Christ, through Him you have precious               magnificent promises, you have become partakers of the divine nature, you have escaped the corruption that is in the world               by lust, now for this reason...in other words, because of all that is yours in Christ, do this. And here again is the mystery of               spiritual life. We are given everything in Christ and yet it takes everything we have to follow up on that. Because we have all               in Christ, all the gracious resources for spiritual sufficiency, we are called upon to give maximum effort.

              Well now false teachers will successfully prey on those who doubt their salvation. False teachers will have ways of making               them miserable, sinful, doubtful, weak, fainting in their worship, their prayer, making them joyless, impotent in service,               confused about what they believe. But to those who are confident in their salvation, confident in the riches Christ has given to               them, secure and assured in the true knowledge of the Savior, the false teachers have nothing to offer. So, for this reason,               because of all we have in Christ, let's add to it in order that we might enjoy its benefit, namely assurance...assurance.

              Verse 5 then calls for a diligent effort. Now for this very reason applying all diligence. Now that gets us into the text. And               what I'd like to do is take this concept of assurance and break it down into four sections for you. And we'll just kind of               work through these sections one at a time. First is the effort prescribed, second the virtue pursued, the options presented               and the benefits promised. Let's start with the effort prescribed, we've just read it.

              I need to say as a footnote here. You would think after verse 3 and 4 you have everything pertaining to life and godliness,               God has poured His divine power into you, you have all of this, that the next statement might be...so let go and let God.               Right? That the next statement might be, Hey, relax, just lay back and let God do it. Just the opposite. The effort prescribed,               verse 5 again, "Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence in your faith." Now there's the effort prescribed.               Because of God's saving work in us and because of its complete sufficiency, it's like Philippians 2:12 and 13, work out               your...what?...your salvation. God put it in, work it out, work it out...applying all diligence in your faith and then the next               word, supply. Now that's interesting. That's an interesting statement. Let me take you into it a little deeper.

              Applying all diligence in your faith...what does the word applying mean? Well, just that. Making maximum effort. It's the idea               of bringing in every effort alongside of what God has done. God has done all of this, you bring alongside every effort. That's               the word applying. All diligence, spoude means eagerness, hastiness, it's used of someone who is in a hurry. It means zeal.               Very strong word. And so he is saying alongside of what God has done bring in every zealous, eager, hasty, hurried effort.               Pretty direct.

              And then the word supply...the word supply. What does that really mean? It means to give lavishly. It means to give               generously. It's a very interesting word, by the way, kind of a different word. It's a word that means a choir master and then               there's a preposition on the front of it. You say, "Well, how could you translate a word that means choir master by the word               supply?" Simply, because choir master had the responsibility to supply everything that was needed for his choir. And so the               word came to mean a supplier, a choir master just was synonymous with a supplier. William Barclay says this, "Perhaps the               greatest gift that Greece and especially Athens gave to men was the great plays and dramas of men like Aeschylus,               Sophocles and Euripides, works of literature and art which are still among the most cherished possessions of the world. All               these plays needed large choruses for the choruses were integral parts of them. It was therefore very expensive to produce               such plays. In the great days of Athens there were public spirited citizens who voluntarily and willingly took on the duty at               their own expense of collecting, maintaining, training and equipping such choruses. It was at the great religious festivals that               these plays were produced. For instance, at the city Dionysia there were produced three tragedies, five comedies and five               what they called derhythms(?). Men had to be found to find and equip and train the choruses for them all. It could cost such               a man a great amount of money and it was the pride of such men to train and equip their choruses as nobly and splendidly as               they could. The men who undertook these duties voluntarily out of their own pocket and out of love for their city were called               choregeo," that's the word here, and the verb choregen(?) is the verb for undertaking such a duty to supply a chorus. The               word, therefore, has a certain lavishness in it. It never means to equip in a sparing way or a miserly way, it means lavishly               and willingly to pour out everything that is necessary for a noble performance. The word epichoregia went out in to a larger               world and it grew to mean not only to equip a chorus but to be responsible for any kind of equipping. It can mean to equip               and army with all necessary provisions and supplies. It can mean to equip the soul with all the necessary and lovely virtues               for life. But always at the back of it there was the idea of a willing and lavish generosity in the equipping. And so it is that               word that the Spirit of God chooses.

              And back again in verse 5, "For this reason because of all that Christ has done for you, applying all diligence, supply lavishly,               generously,"...not in a miserly or shallow way. And then that little phrase "in your faith." Faith is assumed here. Faith is the               ground in which the flowers of sanctification grow. So, in your faith, your initial believing in Christ, you need to lavishly apply               all zeal to come alongside what Christ has done and do everything you can possibly do. That's what he's saying.

              Now, somebody might say, "Well, isn't there assurance in faith?" Yes, there is assurance in faith and the one who believes in               the Lord Jesus Christ, as we have noted on other occasions, has every reason to be assured, if you know you believe then               the God of hope can fill you with all joy and peace in believing, says Romans 15:13. There can be joy and peace just in               believing. In 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 verse 13, "We should always give thanks to God for you brethren beloved by the               Lord because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth."               In other words, these Thessalonians who were relatively new Christians could know they were saved and be filled with hope               because of faith in the truth. Faith carries with it assurance.

              Hebrews chapter 6 also notes the same truth and 1 John 5, a very familiar text, verse 13, "These things I have written to you               who believe in the name of the Son of God in order that you may know that you have eternal life." Believing can be knowing.               Having faith can impart assurance. I can know I believe, you can know you believe and believing brings salvation. And you               can have a measure of assurance.

              But I don't believe that faith, that initial saving faith, will continue to yield the fruit of assurance unless the effort is made to be               obedient to what this text says. You may enjoy that assurance initially, but if no zealous effort to lavishly supply what is               required alongside what Christ has done is made, then I believe there will be the forfeiture of the joy of assurance. And so,               there is a prescription given here and that prescription is diligently pursue the full supply of all these things. The fullness of               assurance, listen carefully, is the product of zealous effort to tap the full supply of spiritual virtue and lay it alongside the full               supply of God's gracious provision.

              So, in a very real sense assurance comes to a believer who follows this prescription. Now that is the attitude. Let's look at               the action. We've seen that which was prescribed, the effort prescribed, a consummate effort requiring lavish zealousness.               But what is it that we're doing? I understand that attitude but what's the action? What am I supposed to do? Let's look at               point two then, the virtues pursued...the effort prescribed, the virtues pursued.

              What does a believer need to pursue in his or her life to bring about the experience of assurance? Verse 5, "Supply moral               excellence and in your moral excellence knowledge, and in your knowledge self-control, and in your self-control               perseverance, or endurance, and in your endurance godliness and in your godliness brotherly kindness and in your brotherly               kindness love." Seven virtues to be pursued. And these virtues each are embodied somehow in the previous one. Out of               faith comes moral excellence, out of moral excellence comes knowledge, and so forth.

              Now I want you to look at these. We don't need to spend a lot of time, but you'll be very refreshed as you see what Peter               means. First one is moral excellence, arete, it's the word virtue...virtue. In classical times the word meant the God-given               ability to perform heroic deeds. And it came to mean the quality of someone's life which makes them stand out as excellent.               It is very rare, by the way, in Scripture but not in secular Greek. It is a noble term. It is a term of heroism. It is a term of               moral heroism, moral excellence, quality. It was usually used to refer to the proper and excellent fulfillment of something. For               example, a knife was said to be arete if it cut well. A horse was arete if it ran strong and fast. A singer was arete if he or she               sang well. Sometimes the word came to mean courage. Sometimes it meant efficient excellence or operative virtue. It never               meant cloistered virtue or virtue in a vacuum as if it were an attitude but virtue which is demonstrated in a life. So he says in               your faith with all your heart and all your mind apply with great effort, eagerness, zeal and haste the lavish supplying of moral               excellence to your life.

              Let me ask you a simple question. Where do you find the model of that excellence? Christ. That is why in Philippians               chapter 3 you have that monumental statement by Paul that lays down the pattern for all believers' behavior. He said it more               magnificently than any other place in Scripture. And what he said was, "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high               calling of God in Christ Jesus." What he was saying was I pursue Christ's likeness. He admitted I haven't attained, but I               pursue it. The goal to be like Christ, the reward to be like Christ, the goal is the reward...you remember from our study of               Philippians. Pursue Christ's likeness. Pursue excellence. Remember what we saw last Sunday morning where Paul said to               the Thessalonians, "Excel still more."

              And some have even suggested that it might mean moral energy. People who are speaking about this word seem to be               afraid, lexicographers, people who give definitions seem to be afraid that somebody will think the word has a static meaning               when it doesn't. And so some have translated it moral energy, the power that performs deeds of excellence. So, add then to               your faith moral excellence, quality of life, spiritual virtue, a sort of holy heroism.

              Now, that leads us to the second of these virtues. Verse 5 says, in your moral excellence knowledge. Moral excellence               couldn't happen unless at its heart was knowledge, right? Discernment, spiritual insight. The word "knowledge" means               correct insight, understanding, truth properly comprehended, properly understood, properly applied. And so we want to               pursue moral excellence understanding that in our moral excellence there must be spiritual knowledge, discernment. We must               know before we can live. We must understand how we are to conduct ourselves before we can conduct ourselves in that               way. Moral excellence is dependent on gnosis, knowledge of a high character and a high quality. To borrow another               theological term, illumination...having your mind illuminated or enlightened about truth. This, of course, involves a diligent               study and pursuit of the truth in the Word of God.

              Now inherent in your knowledge is another virtue, look at verse 6. In your knowledge, self-control. All bound up with a true               knowledge and true discernment is self-control. The word literally means the Greek, holding oneself in...holding oneself in.               The only other place it's used in the Bible is Galatians 5:23. And in Peter's day it was used in athletics. Athletes were               self-controlled, self-restrained, self-disciplined. They beat their body in to submission, 1 Corinthians 9:27. They abstain from               unhealthy food and wine and sexual indulgence to keep themselves holy to disciplined exercises for the sake of athletic               achievement. Controlling the flesh, the passions, the bodily desires rather than allowing yourself to be controlled by them.

              So he says pursue moral excellence realizing that at the heart of moral excellence is spiritual discernment, realizing that at the               heart of spiritual discernment is self-control. What does it matter if I discern if I don't control? How can I be morally               excellent? By the way, just as a footnote, false teachers typically claim that their true and secret knowledge had freed them               from the need for self-control. Remember, we discussed that. They preached license to indulge. They were greedy, they               were exploiters. They followed their own lusts. Peter will say all of that in chapters 2 and 3. And they restrained nothing. But               Peter reverses that. And he says any theology that divorces faith from conduct is heresy. Faith and in that faith moral               excellence, and in that moral excellence spiritual discernment and in that spiritual discernment self- control. This is essential to               Christian living...controlling fleshly desires consistent with what I know about truth for the sake of producing moral               excellence. Virtue then guided by knowledge disciplines desire and makes it the servant, not the master of one's life. That is               self-control. Self-control has to be one of the greatest of all Christian virtues.

              And there's more, a fourth. Verse 6, "And in your self- control endurance..." would be the best translation, hupomone,               patience or endurance in doing what is right, never giving up to temptation, never giving up to trial, never giving up to               difficulty, never giving up to sin. Michael Greene(?) said, "The Christianity of such a man is like the steady burning of a star               rather than the ephemeral brilliance and speedy eclipse of a meteor." This is a magnificent portrait of what we are to pursue.               We pursue moral excellence based upon spiritual discernment which produces self-control which produces endurance under               temptation without succumbing.

              By the way, this word hupomone really does resist one word definition and there is no English equivalent. In classical Greek               it isn't a common word but it used in the Scripture frequently of toil, trouble that comes against a person against his will               making life extremely difficult, painful, grieving, shocking. It even brings along the thought of death. It is used in classical   &nbs

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