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"The Golden Mean"
Ken Emilio   
Studies in II Peter

"This epistle was written for a warning that we prove our faith by our good works and yet, that we do not trust in our good works" - Martin Luther

There is a false teaching called "cheap grace." This states that because God's salvation is a free gift there is nothing you can do too earn it. The doctrine of "Saving Faith" through "Grace Alone" is indeed true. But within the teaching of "cheap grace" there is a subtle heresy which says that we can have assurance that we are going to heaven and still not do any good works nor keep the commandments of Christ. Peter saw this problem and wrote against.

Luther puts it this way…

"The reason Peter wrote this second epistle was that he saw how the true, pure doctrine of faith was being corrupted, obscured and suppressed. He wished to meet two kinds of error and to guard it on both sides, namely: that we attribute not to our works the power to justify us and make us acceptable to God, which belongs to faith alone: and in the second place, that no one should think that faith exists without being accompanied by good works."

The evidence that we are children of God is that we act like it. Notice in verses 3-14 of Chapter one, Peter states that God has granted us all things that pertain to life. This is His grace - His free gift. Peter then goes on to state that because of God's grace we can now become "partakers" in the Divine nature. God's nature is shown to us in Jesus Christ. What was the nature of the man Jesus? He loved God and then loved God's people. He expressed this love by doing good works.

The works of Jesus proved His nature. The Divine Nature knows the Word, it heals the sick, it feeds the hungry, it rescues those in bondage, and it gives life. These characteristics are Divine and not necessarily human. It is God who heals, feeds, rescues, (saves), and gives life. How does God do these things?

The Spirit of God does His work and answers prayers by dwelling in us as we minister to His children by our works. The works of Jesus are our example. If we claim that we are His and do not do what He did then we are not His. We are deceived.

Peter identifies certain "qualities" or characteristics of the believer in verses 5-6. These are virtue (strength) and knowledge (of God), which gives rise to self-control with steadfastness (endurance or patience), godliness and brotherly affection. These qualities are also part of the Divine nature which we are to cultivate. Peter tells us that we are to be diligent and make every effort to supplement our faith with these qualities.

Peter does not say that when we become Christians we magically get these qualities. Peter says that we must work for them and practice them so that they will increase. (V-8, 10). Developing and practicing these qualities involve doing good works not just words and good feelings.
"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?" (James 2:14)…. "For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead." (James 2:26).

It is not easy to balance the doctrine of Justification (declared righteous by God alone), and our working to keep the commandments of God and Christ. But both are necessary. Both are Biblical. We must strive to maintain the balancing point, the measured and thoughtful mid-point, which Martin Luther called keeping the "Golden Mean."


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Sources;

Commentary on Peter&Jude - Martin Luther
Translated by John Nichols Lenker
Kregel Classics 1999, Grand Rapids, MI

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