2 Peter 1:8-9

2 Peter 1:8‑9  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 9
The apostle enforces the importance of that diligence to which he had exhorted saints by a twofold consideration expressed in verses 8, 9. In the first of these he points out the blessing of being thoroughly furnished in our practical state for every good word and work; and in the second, the blighting effect of negligence as to our state.
“For these things being in you and abounding make [you] not idle nor unfruitful for the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ: for he with whom they are not present is blind, shortsighted, having forgotten1 the cleansing of his old sins.”
These varied qualities, set forth in a just order, were all of them requisite for the Christian character. The disciple is not above his teacher, nor the bondman above his lord. The Christian follows Christ and is His witness in the ways of every day. “Ye are our epistle,” says Paul to the Corinthian saints when recalled to obedience, “written in our hearts, known and read of all men, being manifested that ye are Christ's epistle ministered by us, written not with ink but Spirit of a living God, not on stone tables but on the heart's fleshy tables.” The new divine nature does not imitate outward points of moral propriety, but beholds Christ objectively, which with delight in His perfection works inwardly. Hence it participates in everything that pleases God, and is particularly vigilant where an awakened conscience has felt and judged special failure. So we read here “These things being in you.” Divine life works energetically in every right direction.
But the apostle was led to seek more. He urges that these things should “abound” also; and this they do where Christ dwells in the heart by faith. No doubt the words in Eph. 3:1717That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, (Ephesians 3:17) go out immensely farther; but Christ is and must be the spring and strength of the heart for all that is acceptable to God. The exercise of the heart in the full confidence of Christ's love promotes growth in what is good. These things are therefore not only a real subsistence in the Christian, but also abound in dependence on His grace. Nor do troubles distract, if instead of intensely occupying ourselves with them, we are simple in casting the burden on Him, who cares for us, and delights in hearing the cry of faith's confidence in Him, and gives His own peace to guard our hearts and our thoughts by Christ Jesus. If we be ever so pained, the new nature, while in no way sparing self in ourselves or others, gives us to turn to its own congenial occupation with what is pure, true, noble, just, lovely and of good report, to think on these things, rather than to be occupied with evil.
What is the effect? They “make you not idle nor unfruitful for the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It was a change for the worse when the A. V. for “idle” rendered the word “barren,” and led so many readers and preachers to guess what the difference could be between “barren” and “unfruitful.” But there is no room for doubt or difficulty. The first word is elsewhere properly translated “idle” in the A. V., as it should be here; and so Tyndale, Cranmer and the Geneva V. had given. Wycliffe and his follower, as well as the Rhemish, have “voide” or “vacant” (as the last), which can hardly be said to have any just sense.
If the practical characteristics of Christianity abound in the saints, they themselves would be neither idle nor unfruitful. How unworthy to be idle, not only as standing in so blessed a relationship and possessed by grace of a new nature so excellent and repellent of every evil thing! How unworthy to be fruitless, if branches in the True Vine, such as those whom the Father purges that they may bear more fruit (John 15:22Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. (John 15:2), 1 Peter 1:1717And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: (1 Peter 1:17))! “Herein is my Father glorified that ye bear much fruit; and ye shall be my disciples” (John 15:88Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. (John 15:8)). So the apostle Paul prays for the Philippian faithful that they might be pure and without stumbling for (or, against) Christ's day, “filled with the fruit of righteousness that is through Jesus Christ unto God's glory and praise” (Phil. 1:1111Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:11)).
The holiness of the new nature makes all sin to be hateful in the believer's eyes. But as the flesh is still in us, and ready to work and manifest itself, there is the constant necessity of prayer and the word watchfully applied in self-judgment. The brotherhood too has unceasing claims that we should never wink at sin but abhor it both in brotherly affection and yet more strongly in that love which strengthens us in keeping His commandments and in rebuking a brother's disobedience and every iniquity. And if we cleave with purpose of heart to the Lord, can we be insensible to mankind around who remain, as once we were, unintelligent, disobedient, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another? If idle in confessing earnestly according to our measure the saving grace of God in the gospel, we cannot be but unfruitful “for the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Where is our heart then for God and His Son, for saints or for sinners? For what are we, since our deliverance, left in such a world as this? Is it not that God in all things may be glorified, as far as His children are concerned, through Jesus Christ, to whom is the glory and the might for the ages of ages, Amen?
But the other side is next noticed, and we do well to take heed. “For” (this is the true connective, not “but”) “he with whom they are not present is blind.” How sad that such a description should apply to one bearing the Lord's name! For had not Peter in his First Epistle set forth Christians as loving Him whom they had not seen, and not now looking on but believing, they exult with joy unspeakable and full of glory? Theirs was no mere natural but supernatural sight in God's wonderful light. What a fall from divine privilege to be “blind,” or even short-sighted! It is the lack of spiritual perception by the neglect of communion with God, the result of habitual indifference and self-seeking, to the slight of Christ, and grief of the Spirit.
It is explained by the next word, “shortsighted”: the things afar off, the heavenly, are no longer the objects before the eyes of the heart. Thus things that are near and before all mankind absorb the mind. It is a worldly spirit actively at work after the things of the world, and not those which the Father loves. Because all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world, as the apostle John urges. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever. The knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ is hindered and its separating power annulled, if we thus look, not at the unseen, but at the seen; for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal.
Another immense loss too follows: “having forgotten the cleansing of his old sins.” It is not that a soul may here deny the truth of the gospel, or oppose his justification by faith of Christ and His work. But enjoyment of peace with God is gone. For the Holy Spirit, instead of bearing present witness to his spirit that he is a child of God, testifies to his inconsistent and evil state. The doctrine, however certain and true, that the worshippers once purged have no more conscience of sins ceases to be his joy, and becomes forgotten. His conscience is not clear but troubled as to his condition, instead of being trustful and bold before God. Till he is thoroughly self-judged, he feels when he reflects that his own heart condemns him; and if so how much more must the God who is greater than our hearts, and knows all things!
Is it not in this duty and sense that he incurs forgetfulness of the cleansing of his old sins? It is not that he either gives up the truth or despairs as to himself; but there is no comfortable consciousness of that cleansing of our sins which the very gospel proclaims to every believer. How can it be otherwise in that government which God as Father keeps up with His children in our time of sojourn here? When the cleansing of one's old sins is truly remembered, it acts on the soul to cleave to Him who for us died and rose, and strengthens us to hate evil of every kind, especially in our own ways. To forget the profession of being purged from one's sins is to lose the power and duty of practical purity; and to be a Christian becomes but a name.