Grace, Power, and Knowledge

“Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” —II Peter 1:2,3

GOD’S grace is his unmerited favor, and how unworthy we all are of his favor! Peter expressed the desire that God’s grace, and the peace which comes through a knowledge of his love, be multiplied in the hearts and lives of those who have espoused the divine cause. God is always willing to multiply his blessings to us, although we lack the capacity to receive and appreciate his grace in all its full abundance.

In order to increase in grace and knowledge we must empty our hearts and minds of earthly aims and ambitions, for these selfish desires prevent our lives from being filled as they might otherwise be with the grace of God. True, we may be surrounded on every hand by manifestations of God’s favor, yet if we have selfish hearts of unbelief the blessings which the Lord has made so abundantly available will not bring the peace and joy of heart which they otherwise would.

Peter explains that grace and peace are multiplied unto us “through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.” How strongly this emphasizes the importance of knowledge, not worldly knowledge, but a knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. This knowledge is revealed to us through God’s great and loving plan of salvation, which is to be found in his Word. The Prophet Jeremiah wrote that we should glory in the fact that we know God, who delights to exercise loving-kindness in the earth.—Jer. 9:23

We read that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Our text explains that God has given us “all things that pertain unto life and godliness,” and his beloved Son is one of these gifts. All of God’s provisions for life and godliness are motivated by his love, and are manifestations of his grace, but they are made available to us by his power.

It was by divine power that the Logos was born of a woman, and thus became flesh, for the suffering of death. It was divine power that sustained the Redeemer throughout the three and one-half years of his ministry, and enabled him at the end to be triumphant in laying down his life. Because of this, life has been provided—provided, that is upon the basis of our acceptance of this precious gift of God, and faithfulness in doing his will.

In order to accept Jesus as the gift of God’s love we must know about him, and about the vitally important place he occupies in the divine plan of salvation. This knowledge reaches us through the Scriptures, and the Scriptures were provided by the power of God, or by divine power, as our text states it. The Bible speaks of divine power as the Holy Spirit of God, and it was the Holy Spirit that gave us the Word of God.

Peter informs us concerning the Old Testament Scriptures that holy men of old wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (II Pet. 1:21) These Scriptures foretold the coming of Jesus to be the Messiah. They forecast his birth, his ministry, his suffering, and his death. They also prophesied his resurrection from death, and his exaltation. These messages of the Holy Spirit outlined the Heavenly Father’s will for Jesus, and it was by his obedience to this will that his sacrifice as our Redeemer was acceptable to God.

However, as a natural man, Jesus could not understand the full meaning of what had been written concerning him so there was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon him at the time of his baptism, which brought about, figuratively speaking, an opening of the heavens for him. Then there was a miraculous revelation of the divine truth which had already been recorded by the prophets as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

To the extent that it was possible, Jesus imparted this truth of the divine plan to his apostles. However, being natural men who had not yet received the Holy Spirit themselves, their ability to grasp the great truths of the divine plan was limited. But Jesus promised the Holy Spirit, and this promise was fulfilled by the gift of the Holy Spirit which came upon the waiting believers at Pentecost. This resulted in a miraculous revealment of truth to the apostles, enabling them to understand the many things which Jesus had said to them. Thus we have in their sermons and epistles a further rounding out of the divine plan for the blessing of mankind in general, and of the Heavenly Father’s will for us who have now accepted God’s precious gift of his beloved Son.

Altogether, then, through the prophets, the teachings and example of our Lord Jesus, and the teachings of the apostles, divine power has furnished us with all the truth we need to guide us in the way of life and godliness. Writing to Timothy, the Apostle Paul said, “All Scripture, divinely inspired, is indeed profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for that discipline which is in righteousness; so that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly fitted for every good work.”—II Tim. 3:16,17, Diaglott

Through the Old Testament Scriptures, the meaning of which was miraculously revealed to him, Jesus was provided with the necessary information to guide him in the doing of the Father’s will. Just so, the divinely inspired Scriptures as a whole now furnish the information relative to our association with Jesus in the great plan of salvation.

The Scriptures reveal that by nature we are members of a fallen and condemned race, and that we cannot please God by works of our own righteousness. It is essential always to keep this in mind in order that we may be kept humble before the Lord. The Scriptures also reveal that we can be acceptable to our Heavenly Father through the merit of Jesus’ redeeming blood. To obtain this standing before God through the blood of Jesus, it is essential that we repent, and demonstrate our acceptance of God’s gift by the consecration of our all to do the divine will, which is to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. We have the assurance of the Word that if we take these necessary steps we will be “accepted in the Beloved.”

During the present age God’s will for his people is expressed through the invitation extended by Jesus when he said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matt. 16:24) This means following Jesus into death. Jesus was a perfect man, and he began his ministry in the prime of his life, yet so zealous was he in doing his Father’s will that at the end of three and one-half years he was physically unable to carry his own cross to the place of crucifixion. So, following him into death means more than simply espousing his cause until we die. It calls for a vigorous sacrificing of time and strength and means, until our offering is consumed. This is why the Christian way is narrow and difficult.

In Jesus’ teachings we find much information as to what it means to walk in his steps. Concerning our attitude toward others, especially our enemies, Jesus said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”—Matt. 5:44-48

The Greek word here translated perfect means ‘complete’. Jesus has reminded us that his Heavenly Father bestows the common blessings of sunshine and rain upon both the good and the evil; that he is complete in the bestowing of his benefactions. And he admonishes us to do the same—not to be partial, but all-comprehensive in the bestowing of our blessings. This is an exacting test of discipleship, but it is one of the facets of godliness concerning which the Holy Spirit has revealed the Father’s will.

Again Jesus said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.” (Matt. 6:19,20) Here is another facet of true godliness, one which requires great faith to accept and to put into practice. Paul tells us that faith is the evidence of things unseen. (Heb. 11:1) We cannot see the treasures we are laying up in heaven, but if we can believe that through our faithfulness in following in the Master’s footsteps these treasures are being laid up for future use, then the treasures of this world will seem of little value by comparison.

Jesus elaborates upon this viewpoint somewhat. He said: “I bid you put away anxious thoughts about food and drink to keep you alive, and clothes to cover your body. Surely life is more than food, the body more than clothes. Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow and reap and store in barns, yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. You are worth more than the birds! Is there a man of you who by anxious thought can add a foot to his height? And why be anxious about clothes? Consider how the lilies grow in the fields; they do not work, they do not spin; and yet, I tell you, even Solomon in all his splendor was not attired like one of these. But if that is how God clothes the grass in the fields, which is there today, and tomorrow is thrown on the stove, will he not all the more clothe you? How little faith you have! No, do not ask anxiously, What are we to eat? What are we to drink? What shall we wear? All these are things for the heathen to run after, not for you, because your Heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Set your mind on God’s kingdom and his justice before everything else, and all the rest will come to you as well. So do not be anxious about tomorrow; tomorrow will look after itself. Each day has troubles enough of its own.”—Matt. 6:25-34, New English Bible

“Set your mind on God’s kingdom,” Jesus said. The Common Version reads, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God.” We rejoice as we look forward to the time when the blessings of human health and life will be flowing out to mankind through the agencies of the messianic kingdom, but we rejoice even more when we contemplate the share in the rulership of that kingdom which God has promised to us. Jesus said, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”—Luke 12:32

In his vision on the Isle of Patmos, John saw those who had been beheaded for the witness of Jesus and the Word of God. John saw them come up in the first resurrection to live and reign with Christ a thousand years. Those who qualify for this high position are those who are faithful in following in the footsteps of Jesus, suffering and dying with him as his witnesses. The attaining of this high position with Jesus is the consideration of their lives. Material food and the other necessities of this human life will be given no more consideration by them than is necessary, and should be given no anxious thought at all.

Paul wrote, “Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests by made known to God. And the peace of God which passeth all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:5-7, RSV) Today we can say that the Lord is present, and therefore we appreciate all the more the importance of seeking first the long-promised kingdom which so soon will be established. But the kingdom and its interests will be something less than first in our lives if we permit anxiety over our temporal needs to divert our attention from our true spiritual interests.

In Peter’s prophecy concerning the end of the age and the time of our Lord’s second presence, speaking of the various aspects of this present evil world, he said, “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness.” (II Pet. 3:11) The Greek word here translated ‘conversation’ means more than merely the things we say. It comprehends our whole walk in life, our daily conduct, including, of course, the use we make of our tongues.

And what manner of persons should we be? What is holy conduct and godliness? Peter has given us at least a partial answer to the question in the opening chapter of this epistle. After telling us, as in our text, that divine power has given unto us all things which pertain to life and godliness, “through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue,” he continues, “Whereby,” that is, by divine power, “are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these we might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”—II Pet. 1:4

The inspirational power of the promises of God concerning our glorious hope of exaltation with Christ to live and reign with him, has much to do with preparing us for the divine nature. We have faith in these promises, and we are admonished to add to that faith, and diligently so, “virtue: and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance [self-control]; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness love.” What a comprehensive summary this is of a life of godliness, and how diligent we should be in seeking to attain these various virtues, which in reality are the fruits and graces of the Holy Spirit!

Peter explains further, “If these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We need the knowledge of Christ, and of his Heavenly Father, but this knowledge is of little value to us unless, through our own diligence in its use, it bears the fruits of godliness.

God does not coerce us. His power has made every provision for the great salvation which he has offered us, and guarantees all the necessary help to attain to it, but we must cooperate by doing our part in diligently bringing our every thought into captivity to his will as it is expressed through his Word. We are assured that if we do this we will make our calling and election sure, and that an abundant entrance will be ministered unto us into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Paul knew, as stated by Peter in our text, that all things pertaining to life and godliness are given to us by divine power, and he expressed his willingness that these blessings of his Heavenly Father through his beloved Son should cost him all earthly things, including life itself. He knew by experience what it meant to deny self and to take up his cross and follow his Master. Even while languishing in a Roman prison, not knowing what the morrow might bring, he was still happy that he had made the sacrifice. Paul was interested only in the one thing, which was to finish his course through the complete consummation of his sacrifice.

Speaking of some of the things which he once held valuable, Paul wrote, “Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the Law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the Law, blameless.” But, as Paul explains, “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the Excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the Law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”—Phil. 3:5-9

How highly did Paul esteem the knowledge of God and of Christ Jesus! He knew that this knowledge had reached him by divine power, through the Word of truth. And he knew that to continue growing in grace and knowledge it was essential to keep his sacrifice on the altar. At the beginning of his walk in the narrow way, the Lord had made clear to Paul that his course was to be one of suffering and his experiences had proved true to this forecast. Now, in prison at Rome, he would perhaps reflect on some of the experiences in which he had had the privilege of proving his worthiness of God’s grace through Christ, but this did not deter him in the least from facing the future in which he knew that the sacrifice and suffering would continue.

Yes, Paul was still willing to have the knowledge of God and of Christ cost him everything of earthly advantage—“that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship [partnership] of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” (Phil. 3:10,11) Paul knew that the mighty power of God which had raised Jesus from the dead had been with the Master throughout the entire course of his earthly ministry, to sustain him as a new creature in his every time of need.

And Paul wanted to experience the benefits of that power through his own faithfulness as a partner in the suffering and sacrificial death of Jesus. Just as the Heavenly Father, through his promises, had set a great joy before the Master which enabled him to endure the cross and to despise the shame, so Paul was encouraged and sustained by the hope of sharing in the first resurrection and being with Jesus in the heavenly phase of his kingdom.

Paul continued, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those [earthly] things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” One with less faith and courage might well have wondered, under the circumstances, if it were worthwhile to continue serving the Lord. His whole life as a follower of the Master had been largely one of affliction. Stonings, imprisonments, stripes on his bare back, misrepresentations, trials among false brethren, weariness and other hardships had been his lot. But Paul was not daunted by any of these things.

Instead, he was determined faithfully to press on in the same rugged and narrow way. He was reaching forth unto those things which were before, and he wanted to continue pressing toward the mark, knowing that in doing so there would be further sacrifices, additional hardships. But Paul knew also, even as Peter states in our text, that divine power would continue to provide all the necessary help in order that he might ultimately apprehend that for which he had been apprehended by Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:12) May this also be our earnest desire and determination, that through divine grace and power we too may attain unto life and godliness, and share with Jesus and all his faithful followers in the future work of blessing all the families of the earth.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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