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  • Paul Reich

Divine Power for Godliness

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

The Power for Transformation - Part 4: Christ's divine power provides everything we need for a vibrant and godly life. We access this divine power through ongoing and growing intimacy with Him.

 

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

 

I have a healthy respect for the power of electricity. My first “shocking” experience happened as a child when my bread was stuck in the toaster. Not knowing any better, I grabbed a knife from the drawer to pry out my bread. In the process, I inserted the knife into the toaster slot and inadvertently touched one of the heating elements. These many years later, I still remember the jolt I received because of my childish lack of electrical acumen. Needless to say, I never did that again. I always unplug the toaster when I need to use a metal utensil to extract a stuck piece of bread.


My next experiences with the “buzz” of electricity took place when my brothers and I experimented with the electric fence used for pasturing our black angus cattle. Our experiments included touching the fence with long blades of grass and joining hands while one of us touched the fence . . . among other acts of youthful ignorance and curiosity. Though the voltage of an electric fence is much higher than 110V or 220V used in home applications, it is considerably safer because it uses a pulsing current with a much lower amperage. Nonetheless, the jolt from an electric fence is not pleasant and it is strong enough to keep thick skinned cattle from transgressing its boundaries.


Though electricity has inherent dangers, it is one of the greatest discoveries of the last three centuries. Virtually every household convenience, media device, and computer advancement of the modern world Is made possible by electricity in its various forms. Similar to plant life needing the flow of sap for growth and fruit production, and animal or human life needing the flow of blood and other complex systems for growth and reproduction, so also most manmade technologies require a power or energy source of some sort. Over the centuries, man has learned to harness the forces of nature such as wind and water or utilize a fuel such as wood, coal, gas, or uranium to produce power. In fact, many of these forces and fuels are also used to generate electricity which in turn supplies power to vast portions of our world.


Divine Power


Just like all living things need a life force to grow and reproduce and just like mechanical machinery and electrical appliances need a source of energy to function and be productive, the same is true spiritually. To live the Christian life and produce spiritual fruit, we need spiritual life, we need spiritual power. This is the message of the vine and branches covered in last week’s blog post. In this week’s post, I will use electricity as an analogy for spiritual power to reinforce and build on the concepts presented in my previous post.


In his second epistle, the apostle Peter tells us that we have a divine source of power that provides everything we need to live a fulfilling, victorious, and godly Christian life.


2 Peter 1:3 (NASB)

3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.


This verse and the verses that follow are loaded with insights for living a fruitful and victorious Christian life. In fact, Peter states directly that those who have the qualities and practice the principles that he outlines in this passage will be “neither useless nor unfruitful” and “will never stumble” (2 Peter 1:8-10). These are powerful claims. Therefore, understanding this passage becomes critical for successful Christian living.


In this post, I will lay the foundation by covering verses 3 and 4, and we will look at verses 5-11 in next week's post. When meditating on this passage 15-20 years ago, in particular verses 3 and 4, the image of a light bulb came to mind. At that time, I developed the diagram below to help me preach on this passage.



A new light bulb has the capacity to give light, but does not have a self-contained source of power. It can only give light if it is connected to a power source. Like a branch needs to be attached to the vine and have the sap of the vine flowing into it to bear fruit, a light bulb must both be attached to the source of power and have electrical current flowing into it to give light. Screwing the bulb into the light socket gives it access to the source of power and turning the light switch on allows the electric current to flow into the bulb, enabling it to light up.


The power source for the Christian life is divine, it is supernatural. The divine power of Christ has provided everything we need for life and godliness both in this life and in eternity. Nothing is lacking. His supply is wholly sufficient for all we need to experience life in its fullest sense. Note that life comes first, before godliness. It is not possible to live a godly life, apart from the vital lifeforce of the indwelling Holy Spirit.


Life and Godliness


Life is an important theme in the New Testament. The life that God has for us is more than mere physical existence or even psychological consciousness. The life of the indwelling Christ includes a living relationship with the Father and the Son (John 17:3; 1 John 5:20), it includes heart satisfaction (John 4:10-14; 6:35, 7:37-39; 10:10), it includes spiritual vitality for living victoriously over sin (Romans 6:4, 8:2, 8:9-13; Galatians 2:20), and it includes the promise of eternal life (John 3:16; Romans 6:23; Titus 3:7; 1 John 2:25).


Not only has Christ provided everything we need for life, He has also provided all we need for godliness. The Greek word that we translate “godliness” is eusebeia, from eu, meaning “well” or “good” (compare eulogy, “good words”; and utopia, “a good place”), and sebomai, meaning, “reverence, devotion.” Godliness describes someone who is devout both in faith and in practice toward God. A good synonym would be piety.


In his book, The Practice of Godliness, Jerry Bridges defines godliness as "devotion to God which results in a life that is pleasing to Him."[1] John MacArthur writes, "to be godly is to live reverently, loyally, and obediently toward God.”[2] So, the essence of godliness is wholehearted devotion that expresses itself in worship and a life that honors and pleases God. In a broad sense, godliness is moral Godlikeness or Christlikeness. It is divine life in us expressing itself through us in Godlike character and behavior because of our heartfelt devotion to Him.


True godliness flows from the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit in our lives. It is not a fabricated façade of religious externalism. The apostle Paul warns about some “having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5 NIV). These false believers have an external religiosity but are devoid of the Holy Spirit’s power for living a truly godly life. Paul’s words remind me of Jesus’ description of some of the religious leaders in His day who displayed an external piety but were full of death and wickedness on the inside.


Matthew 23:27–28 (NIV)

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.

28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.


Knowing Christ


So, the source supplying all we need for life and godliness is Christ’s divine power. Peter then tells us that we access this divine power through a “true knowledge” of Christ. In other words, knowing Christ is the power line that connects us relationally to Christ and makes His power available. Epignoskō, the Greek word translated “true knowledge,” is not just factual information about someone. Rather, it speaks of an accurate, personal, and experiential knowledge. Robert Utley said it well, “The gospel is a person and He must be experienced, not just theologically defined.”[3]


We first come to know Christ at salvation when we are born of the Spirit by faith. This places us “in Christ” and “Christ in us,” both inserting us into the light socket and turning the light switch on, thereby connecting us to the flow of His Divine Power and enabling us to escape “the corruption of the world” (2 Peter 1:4; 2:20). As noted in my previous blog on "the power of abiding", it takes both union and communion to give access to a constant flow of His divine life. A light bulb can be inserted in the socket, but unless the light switch is turned on, there is no power to supply the bulb. It is only as we walk in unbroken habitual fellowship with Christ and allow His Word to richly dwell within us, resulting in obedience to His commands, that we are truly abiding in Him (see previous post).


Peter warns that believers who “have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning” (2 Peter 2:20). He is insistent that we apply “all diligence” in adding seven virtues to our faith so that we are “neither useless nor unfruitful,” and “will never stumble” (2 Peter 2:5-10). He further warns that the one who does not have these qualities “has forgotten his purification from his former sins” (2 Peter 2:9). In other words, believers can impede God's moral plan for their lives. Much like a resistor reduces the flow of electricity, a believer can “resist” the Holy Spirit’s work in his life, and much like the light switch can “shut off” the flow of electricity, a believer can thwart the power of the Spirit from producing godliness in his life.


We have a part to play in sustaining ongoing connection to the power source through maintaining and growing in our intimacy with Christ. In addition, it is only as we walk under the control of the Spirit, that we will overcome sin. Yielding to the flesh in effect shuts off the Spirit’s power and results in committing sin (Romans 6:12-13; 8:2-13; Galatians 5:16-25).


We must guard against “quenching” the Holy Spirit by resisting or suppressing His work in our lives (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Here, the context describes both the empowering work of the Spirit for spiritual gifts as well as the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. We can quench the Spirit in both regards.


We must also guard against “grieving” the Holy Spirit, through sinning (Ephesians 4:30), where the context discusses a wide range of sins including falsehood, anger, unwholesome talk, stealing, bitterness, slander, malice, immorality, greed, drunkenness, and more. Rather than grieving the Spirit, Paul commands us to continually "be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18). In other words, we are to walk in a continual flow of the Spirit’s power in our lives.


To be filled with the Spirit means to come under the Spirit’s control just like to be "filled with rage" (Luke 4:28; Acts 19:28) or "filled with fear" (Luke 5:26) or "filled with sorrow" (John 16:6) or "filled with wonder" (Acts 3:10) or "filled with jealousy" (Acts 5:17, 13:45) or "filled with joy" (Acts 13:52; Romans 15:13; 2 Timothy 1:4) or "filled with comfort" (2 Corinthians 7:4) means to be under the control of these emotions and the state of mind that accompanies them. Similarly, "the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace" (Romans 8:6) and those who walk under the control of the Spirit will overcome sinful desires and produce the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25).


In our last post, we saw that sin can separate us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2; Psalm 66:18, 1 John 1:5-6) and needs to be confessed or it will hinder our fellowship with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. It is only through our open and ongoing fellowship with Christ and the unhindered flow of the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives that we can be energized to live the Christian life. So, if we have broken fellowship with Jesus through sin, we need to turn the light switch back on by readily confessing our sin. This will restore our fellowship with Christ and once again allow the Holy Spirit to fill us with His power. It is this open, personal, and experiential knowledge of Christ that gives us ongoing access to His power.


In fact, knowing Christ is an important theme in 2 Peter.

  • Through knowing Christ, we experience abundant grace and peace (1:2).

  • Through knowing Christ, we have access to His divine power that gives us all we need for life and godliness (1:3).

  • Diligently adding seven virtues (goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, affection; and love) to our faith will prevent us from being useless and unfruitful in our knowledge of Christ (1:8).

  • Through knowing Christ, we escape the corruption of the world (2:20).

  • And finally, Peter closes His epistle with an appeal to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (3:18 NIV).

To encapsulate what has been said, our Christian lives are energized by the divine power of Christ that provides all we need for life and godliness as we maintain ongoing and growing relational intimacy with Christ. As with abiding, our primary focus should not be on producing godliness, but rather deepening our relationship with Christ, for apart from truly and experientially knowing Him, we cannot produce the light of godliness. However, by placing our focus on knowing Christ, which includes growing in our love for Him, hearing His voice, and discovering His heart, we will experience a spiritual vitality that will supply all we need to live a spiritually rich, victorious, and godly life that is pleasing to God.


Peter finishes verse 3 with a reminder that Christ "called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3). It is not because of any personal merit or work on our part that Christ called us; it is solely by His glory and excellence. "By His own glory" refers to the power of His own magnificence, majesty, and splendor and for His own honor and praise. "By His own excellence" refers to His power acting on our behalf initiated because of His own goodness and virtue.


Divine Nature


In addition to God's glory and excellence being the means by which God calls us, His glory and excellence are also the basis by which He granted us precious and magnificent promises that enable us to partake of the divine nature.


2 Peter 1:4 (NASB)

4 For by these [His own glory and excellence] He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.


Here in verse 4, Peter restates from a different angle what he previously stated in verse 3. In the same way that we access Christ's divine power through knowing Him, we partake of the divine nature by means of great and precious promises. Through these promises that are fulfilled in the redemptive work of Christ on the cross, we can participate in the power source of the divine nature and escape the sinful behaviors of this fallen world.



Numerous promises in the Old Testament foretell of the coming of Christ and the new relationship we would have with God under a new covenant. Among the best known is Ezekiel 36:26-27.


Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NIV)

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.


This Old Testament promise foretells of a time when God would change the hearts of His people and place His Spirit in them, giving new power to obey Him. These along with other Old Testament promises foretelling the events of the Gospels were fulfilled in Christ's death, resurrection, and ascension. By the fulfillment of these promises through Christ and through the sending of the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to become partakers of the divine nature.


Partaking of the divine nature does not mean that we become part of the Godhead or that we become gods. Rather, it means that because of our union with Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we have a new nature and ability to resist sin and moral corruption. Peter is reminding us that because we have the Holy Spirit living in our hearts, we are able to express the moral characteristics of God including godliness and the other virtues he outlines in this passage.


Corruption is in the world because of sinful desires. It is through the promises of the Gospel as foretold in the Old Testament and declared in the New Testament that we come to know Christ. And it is through knowing Christ that we escape the corruption in the world (2:20), and receive the Holy Spirit, experiencing new desires (Galatians 5:16-17). Having a desire to please God is evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. As we allow the Spirit to control our lives, we will continue to live in victory over the moral corruption of this fallen world.


Not only do we escape the moral corruption in the world, one day we will escape the physical corruption and decay that also came into the world through sin. At Christ's return, our mortal, aging, and decaying bodies will be freed from the corruption of this world and transformed into immortal and incorruptible bodies (1 Corinthians 15:50-58). Creation will also be released from the futility brought on it through man's sin (Romans 8:20-23).


Closing


Through His divine power and divine nature, Christ has given us everything we need for a vibrant and godly life. We experience His divine power as we maintain an ongoing and growing relationship with Him. This relationship is only possible because of the great and precious promises of the Gospel, fulfilled in Christ's redemptive work and the sending of the Holy Spirit. By these promises we are partakers of the divine nature and are empowered to live a godly life that overcomes the sinful corruption of this world.


Based on this solid foundation, Peter instructs us to add to our faith seven virtues that result in numerous spiritual benefits for our lives. These virtues and benefits will be the focus of my next post.



REFERENCES

[1] Bridges, Jerry. The Practice of Godliness. The Navigators, 1996, 16.

[2] MacArthur, John. 1 & 2 Peter: Courage in Times of Trouble. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007, 70.

[3] Utley, Robert James. The Gospel according to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Volume 2 in Study Guide Commentary Series. Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International, 2000, 276.

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1件のコメント


sharon
2021年4月22日

Paul, I continue to be thoroughly blessed by your posts! Thank you for all the work you have been doing to make this complex subject easier to understand. The last one on abiding was particularly helpful, since I have been seeking to learn to abide more closely. For some reason my comments didn't show up, but it was excellent.

いいね!
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