You’re the winner! You have been called and elected! God’s divine power has granted you all things that pertain to life and godliness, so that now you can actually become a partaker of the divine nature (2Peter 1:4). There’s a place reserved for you in the eternal Kingdom of Heaven!
Wait a minute, though. There’s something you still have to do before you claim your place in Paradise. You have to “confirm your call and election” (2Peter 1:10—the rest of the citations will be from this same epistle, so go look them up yourself!). Sounds simple enough. What do I have to do, give the last four digits of my social security number, my mother’s maiden name, or the answer to some dopey security question? Well, it’s not quite that easy, but it’s really important that we do this, because “if you do this you will never fall; so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
St Peter is of course preaching the Good News in this epistle, just as the other apostles do in theirs, and as Jesus does in the Gospels. But even though the news is good—exceedingly so, I might add—that doesn’t mean we can just lazily bask in it and expect it thus to bear its intended fruit. The Apostle makes this clear in several places.
After he says that God has granted us all we need to live a godly life, he says that this is because God has “called us to his own glory and excellence,” and that He has granted us his “precious and very great promises.” Why has He done this? It is so that “through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world,” and then be ready to share in his own divine life. Well, all that is just great, and so far it looks like He’s doing everything and we don’t have to do anything at all. What does it mean, then to confirm our call and election?
We must assume at the outset that if God has called us and made precious promises to us, we have at least to believe in Him in the first place. But evidently faith is not sufficient for the confirming of our call and election. The Apostle exhorts us: “Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue…” Now we’re starting to understand this confirmation of our election. First of all, it takes much effort, and this is because faith needs to be supplemented with virtue (he lists several of them immediately). That obviously means that faith alone is inadequate for salvation. Otherwise, he would never have said to make every effort to supplement our faith with virtue. (What is the point of making such effort if it is irrelevant to salvation?)
What happens, then, when your faith is supplemented with many virtues (in St Peter’s words, if these virtues “are yours and abound”)? Well, “they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This evidently means that if you don’t work to acquire virtue you will be an ineffective and unfruitful Christian. And if you do not supplement your faith with virtue, then you are “blind and shortsighted”—terms that are never used in the Bible for the saved.
So it’s clear that the Gospel is “interactive” Good News; we have a definite and irreplaceable role to play if we are to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. We can’t elect ourselves; that is the work of God’s grace. But Scripture says we have to confirm our election by supplementing our faith with virtue. “For if you do this you will never fall”—which must mean that if you don’t do this you are likely to fall, or at least that it is quite possible for you to fall. And that means that to put your faith in Christ is just starting out on the narrow path that leads to salvation and entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. Confirming our election with a virtuous life means that our entrance into the eternal Kingdom will be “richly provided.”
The possibility of a fall is not merely a theoretical one, because the Apostle goes on to describe the things that were actually happening in the early Church: “false teachers” arose, who brought in “destructive heresies,” and the result of following them was “swift destruction.” This is what the promises of God and the grace of Christ are meant to help us escape, and what our virtue-supplemented faith is meant to protect us from. But if you do not add virtue to faith, this is what happens: “Whatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, ‘the dog turns back to his own vomit’…”
Well, that’s quite sobering (pretty gross, too, but hey, that’s a good analogy for returning to one’s sin), and it’s a good incentive to confirm our election! But “the Lord is forbearing”—thanks be to Him!—“not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” And this “reaching repentance” is something that we may have to do repeatedly, especially if we have not yet supplemented our faith with sufficient virtue. We’re likely to fall in that case, to be unfruitful, ineffective, and blind, as the Apostle said above.
So, once we realize that we have been called and elected, let us rejoice—and then get to work! In the final verses of this epistle, St Peter warns the elect to “beware lest you… lose your own stability.” That’s why he urges them (and us) to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Grow. That takes effort, study, prayer, vigilance, in short: supplementing our faith with virtue.
Don’t waste any more time! Confirm your election, and richly provide for your entrance into the heavenly Kingdom!