As Reformed Christians, we rightly emphasize the sovereignty of God in salvation. Again and again, the New Testament tells us that God is the sole agent in our regeneration. In his first epistle, Peter makes this clear when he tells us that God has caused us to be born again to a living hope (1 Peter 1:3).
Though we play no role in our regeneration, that does not mean we have no role in our growth in holiness that always accompanies true faith (James 2:14–26). We must make every effort to progress in our sanctification. Today’s passage makes this clear when it commands us to add to our faith a number of godly traits.
This is not to say that we have the power apart from the Lord to make ourselves holy. In 2 Peter 1:3–4, we saw that it is the divine power that grants to us all that we need for godliness. Indeed, apart from the grace of God we would not be able to be holy at all, for as John Calvin says, the whole Bible testifies that “right feelings are formed in us by God, and are rendered by him effectual. It testifies also that all our progress and perseverance are from God.”
God is the ultimate source and guarantor of our sanctification. We manifest the fact that God has sovereignly set us apart as His by cooperating with the Holy Spirit in order to grow in holiness. Unlike our regeneration, we have a role to play in our sanctification. This is not to say that we can achieve perfection in this life or that our holiness results solely from our efforts. We will come ever closer to full obedience, but as we do, we will realize how holy God is, and thus we will increasingly cast ourselves upon His mercy. John Calvin writes, “as to the godly, when conscious of their own infirmity, they find themselves deficient in their duty, nothing remains for them but to flee to God for aid and help.”
God Himself makes us holy (Ezek. 36:25), and He does this by His grace through our sanctification. Let us then make every effort to supplement our faith with the virtues listed in 2 Peter 1:5–8. And let us not think that we are incapable of doing so, for if we know Christ, we can, by the power of the Spirit, obey Him (v. 3; Rom. 8:9–11).
The order of the virtues listed in today’s passage emphasizes faith and love. Faith is listed first because without true faith we cannot be holy, and love is listed last because it is both our final goal and the virtue that must undergird all the others (1 Cor. 13:13). As you have sought holiness have you done so in order to exhibit love, or have you tended toward legalism? Today, strive for one of the virtues listed but do so in order to reflect the preeminent love of Christ.