"His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness" 2 Peter 1:3.

In the Second Epistle of Peter the Spirit of God addresses believers, who, with the apostle, are marked by "like precious faith." The apostle warns us against "false teachers" that will be found in the Christian circle — as he says "among you:" and he foretells the corruption that will mark Christendom "in the last days" (2 Peter 2:1: 2 Peter 3:3).

Let us remember that the apostle is not describing heathenism, but the condition of Christendom, in which our lot is cast, and as it exists in our times, for who can doubt that we live in the "last days." the awful condition of which is so vividly portrayed.

The terrible character of this corruption is brought home to us by the illustrations and figures used to set it forth. We are carried far back to "the angels that sinned" to find a parallel to the rebellion against God of Christendom. "The world of the ungodly," before the flood, is used to illustrate the violence and corruption in Christendom. The wicked lives and "filthy conversation" of the men of Sodom and Gomorrha, are used to set forth the moral degradation that exists in Christendom. The history of Balaam is referred to as setting forth the covetous practices that prevail in these last days. To find figures that adequately set forth the return of Christendom to the conditions of heathenism, the apostle uses the figure of a dog returning to its vomit, and the washed sow to her wallowing in the mire.

But there is another side to this solemn picture. The apostle not only warns us of the evil. but, for the comfort and encouragement of the believer, he shows that in the darkest moments of the last days it is still possible for the individual believer to escape the corruptions around and live a life of godliness. Moreover, he encourages us to live this life by setting before us the promises of coming glory to which the path of godliness will lead.

So that we may say, the two great truths of this second epistle are, first, to set before us the life of godliness by which the believer passes on to glory; secondly, to warn us against the awful corruptions of Christendom which are leading on to judgment.

A brief consideration of the way these truths are presented in the Epistle will make this clear. In chapter 1, the apostle sets before us the life of godliness (2 Peter 1:1-9), and the glory of the Kingdom to which it leads (2 Peter  1:11-21). In 2 Peter 2 to 3:10, he brings before us the different forms of corruption and the judgment to which they lead. He speaks of those in the Christian profession who bring in "destructive heresies;" who deny the Lord; who pursue "pernicious (or 'dissolute') ways:" who abandon themselves to covetousness and the lust of uncleanness: who act in bold self-will and defiance of authority: whose eyes and hearts are given over to sin; who speak great swelling words of vanity, and are the servants of corruption (verses 1, 2, 3, 10, 14. 18, 19). He further shows that all these corruptions lead to overwhelming judgment. In chapter 3, the apostle warns believers not to be carried away by scoffers, who, taking advantage by the long-suffering grace of God, pursue their lusts and deny that any judgment is coming (2 Peter 3:1-10). Having been warned of the corruption and the certainty of coming judgment we are again exhorted to live the life of godliness (2 Peter 3:11-18).

By opening and closing his epistle with exhortations to godliness he emphasises its deep importance. In the same strain the apostle Paul warns us that in "the last days" Christendom would have the form of godliness but without the power. If he presses upon us the path of separation, he also warns us, that having taken that path, to "Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, love, peace" (2 Tim. 2:19-22; 2 Tim. 3:1-5).

Protestantism judges the gross evils of Romanism and boasts of its separation from Rome. Again, Nonconformity may deplore the evils of Protestant nationalism, and separate from it: the Brethren, so-called may rightly condemn the evils of Rome, Protestantism and Nonconformity, and take the separate path; but let us remember that neither Protestants, Nonconformists, nor Brethren will escape the governmental judgment of God simply because they have separated from known evil, and that which is contrary to the truth. Unless the inner life of godliness, consistent with the outward path of separation is maintained, all outward position, however correct, will be of no avail.

If then we desire to escape the corruptions of Christendom, and live the life of godliness, we shall do well to consider the rich provision that God has made to enable the individual believer to live this life in the midst of the appalling evils of the last days.

Firstly, let us note, that the solid basis for the life of godliness has been laid in the cross of Christ. To this reference is made when the apostle speaks of "the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (1:1). At the cross the rights of God were maintained by our Saviour giving Himself a propitiation for "the whole world" (1 John 2:2). God is so satisfied, and glorified, by the Person and work of the Lord Jesus when He "offered Himself without spot to God," that now in perfect righteousness He can proclaim forgiveness of sins "through this Man" to the whole world, and pronounce the one that believes justified from all things (Heb. 9:14: Acts 13:38-39). At the cross the righteousness of God is satisfied; the love of God is gratified; God, Himself, is glorified; and "through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ," the believer is justified.

Secondly, we learn that not only is the believer saved and forgiven, but, being saved, God, by His divine power, hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3). We have to face the power of the flesh within, the power of the world around, and the power of the devil against us; but "divine power," which is far above every adverse power, is for us, and in this power it is possible to live the life of godliness.

 Thirdly, to encourage us to live the life of godliness, we are told that connected with it are "exceeding great and precious promises." In the course of the epistle we learn that these promises connect us with the "everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ," and the "new heavens and a new earth" (2 Peter 1:4).

Fourthly, there are unrolled before us the beautiful moral qualities that mark the life of godliness (2 Peter 1:5-7).

The apostle speaks of "faith," "virtue," "knowledge," "temperance," "endurance," "godliness," "brotherly love," and love." We are exhorted to have these qualities together, each one affecting the other so that in result there may be an even, balanced, life of godliness.
1) Faith naturally comes first, for it is by "the door of faith" we enter into blessing (Acts 14:27): and, in our practical lives as believers, without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6).
2) In our faith we are exhorted to have virtue. Virtue sets forth moral excellence. In the first epistle we read that believers have been chosen to "set forth the excellencies of Him" who has called us (1 Peter 2:9 N. Tn.). This is the same word in the original language that is here translated "virtue." The reality of the faith is proved by a change of life that exhibits some of the moral excellencies seen in perfection in Christ.
3) To set forth these moral excellencies we shall require "knowledge." Therefore in virtue we are exhorted to have knowledge. However true and sincere the heart may be, if there be ignorance as to the commands of the Lord there will be failure in obedience. As one has said, "A true heart is of vital importance; but an instructed mind as to what the will of God is, is needed to regulate and guide the warmest heart." May we not say that Martha's service for the Lord exhibited many excellent qualities, but it was not tempered by the knowledge of the mind of the Lord — the knowledge that Mary obtained by sitting at the feet of Jesus and hearing His word (Luke 10:38-42). We may well pray with the apostle Paul to "be filled with the knowledge of His will" (Col. 1:9); and, again, that "our love may abound yet more and more in knowledge," in order that we may "approve things that are excellent" (Phil. 1:9-10).
4) In our knowledge we need temperance. In Galatians 5:23, this word is translated in the New Translation, "Self-control." The possession of knowledge, apart from self-control, may lead, as with the Corinthian saints, to our being puffed up with a sense of self-importance. We are warned that if a man seeks to use knowledge to exalt himself, that man "knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know" (1 Cor. 8:2). How important then to judge ourselves so that with our knowledge there may be temperate thoughts of self — not thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think: but to think soberly (Rom. 12:3).
5) With sober thoughts of self we shall need patience or endurance (N.Tn.) with others. If by grace we have a sober estimate of ourselves we may be in danger of being impatient with a self-assertive person who possibly thinks himself to be something when he is nothing (Gal. 6:2-3). All such pretensions we have to bear with patience, considering ourselves lest we be tempted.
6) Furthermore in endurance with one another we are to have godliness, or the fear of God. Otherwise there is the danger of making endurance with the weaknesses and failures of one another an excuse for passing over actual evil in ourselves or others.
7) While ever seeking to give God His place we are not to forget what is due to our brother. With godliness we are to remember to show brotherly love.
8) Lastly we are to beware lest the love to a brother may degenerate into mere partiality, or natural friendship. It is to be love after the divine pattern. With brotherly love (philadelphia), we are to have divine love (agapee).

Commencing with faith we come at last to divine love, and thus partake of the "divine nature" of which the apostle speaks in verse 4. These, then, are the beautiful qualities that make up the life of godliness.

Fifthly, having brought before us the life of godliness, the apostle, in the verses that follow, encourages us to live the life by setting before us its blessedness and warning us of its neglect. We are told that if "these things" be in us and abound, our lives will not be unfruitful. Where these beautiful Christlike qualities are found there will be fruit for God — the Father will be glorified, and we shall be manifested as the disciples of Christ (John 15:8). Then we are warned that the lack of these things will result in spiritual blindness that cannot look afar off to the glory to which godliness leads, nor look back to the cross where all ungodliness was dealt with.

Sixthly, we are encouraged to "do these things" and thus be preserved in the present from falls, and, in the future have an abundant entrance "into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." Every believer will be in the Kingdom, but only those who live the life of godliness will have an abundant enhance. Let us remember that "these things" of which the apostle speaks in verses, 8, 9, 10, 12 and 15, are the beautiful qualities that form the life of godliness. The apostle is not speaking of preaching or teaching or the exercise of gifts, which are not given to all, and which may give prominence among the saints or before the world. He is speaking of the secret life of godliness which is open to all. We all have to beware lest we form a false estimate of ourselves through any little service. Those specially who are gifted, and much before the public eye, have to beware lest amidst the excitement of constant engagements, constant preaching, and public work before men, they neglect the secret life of godliness before God. Does not Scripture warn us that it is possible to preach with all the eloquence of men and angels, and yet be nothing? That which bears fruit for God, and will have its bright reward in the day to come, is the life of godliness from which all true service must flow, and without which no amount of religious activity will carry any blessing for the soul, even if, in the over-ruling ways of God it may be used for the blessing of others (Phil. 1:15-18).

Seventhly, to encourage us to live the life of godliness the apostle sets before us the glory of the Kingdom to which it leads. He, and two other disciples, had been eye-witnesses of this glory on "the holy Mount." There they saw the "power and coming of our Lord Jesus, which will introduce the Kingdom. There, too, they saw the "Majesty" of Christ that will be displayed in the Kingdom. There they saw that the One Who had received dishonour and shame at the hands of men, "received from God the Father, honour and glory." Further they realised that believers will be "with Him" in the day of His glory. In the closing chapter, the apostle, still having in view the manner of persons we ought to be, marked by "holy conversation and godliness" (3:11), carries us in spirit beyond the Kingdom, where righteousness reigns, into the "new heavens and a new earth where righteousness dwells."

To sum up the truth as to godliness, so blessedly brought before us in this portion of the Word of God, we learn:
The basis of the life of godliness in the cross (2 Peter 1:1):
The divine power that enables us to live this life (2 Peter 1:3):
The precious promises attached to the life (2 Peter 1:4):
The moral qualities that form the life (2 Peter 1:5-7):
The present fruit for God that flows from this life (2 Peter 1:8):
The abundant entrance into the Kingdom that the life secures; and
The glory of the Kingdom and the eternal state to which it leads (2 Peter 1:11-21; 2 Peter 3:11-14).

As these things pass before our souls we are made to realise the truth of the words of the apostle Paul: — "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come" (1 Timothy 4:8).
H. Smith.