You may be familiar with the “golden chain of salvation” as Paul lays it out in Romans 8:28-30 – foreknown, predestined, called, justified, and glorified. It is a helpful way think about how God actually works out salvation in our lives. Romans 8 is certainly not the only place in Scripture where we find a “chain of salvation”. Another helpful passage is 2 Peter 1:1-11. Peter doesn’t neatly lay out all the steps in one compact verse, but if we spend a bit of time with these verses, we can identify at least six steps. First, take a minute to read the passage for yourself:
Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.2 Peter 1:1-11
Now, here are the six steps we see in this passage:
- Called to Jesus Christ
Peter mentions our calling and election twice in these verses. If we are going to live in the presence of God, we must be called by God. How audacious it would be if we slipped through heaven’s gates and marched up to the throne of God covered in the filth of our sinfulness demanding a salvation we did not deserve! No, God must lay claim to us before we can lay any claim on Him.
2. Knowledge of Jesus Christ
Peter mentions “the knowledge of God and of Jesus” in verse two as he opens his letter and greets his fellow Christians. Then he repeats this phrase again in verse three as he begins his exhortation, and again in verse eight. Without a knowledge of the person and work of Jesus Christ we cannot know God and we cannot have a saving faith. This is why, as Paul explains in his letter to the Romans, Christians must be people who tell others about the good news of Jesus – without hearing and knowing there can be no faith, and no salvation. The knowledge that Peter is speaking of is obviously more than a superficial knowledge of certain facts. Rather, it is a knowledge which understands, at least in part, the depth and breadth of the subject at hand. To know Jesus is to know who he claimed to be, why he came to earth, what he accomplished, and where he is now.
3. Faith in Jesus Christ
Faith is rooted in knowledge. While knowledge doesn’t necessarily produce faith, faith is only produced out of knowledge. Faith in someone whom you don’t know is not faith, it is foolishness. The Christian’s faith is fixed upon the facts of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We believe they are true and that they guarantee that all the “very great and precious promises” of God are true as well.
4. Receiving the power of Jesus Christ
Faith is the means by which we receive all the riches of Jesus Christ and own them for ourselves. In verse three, Peter mentions the “divine power” which is ours in Christ – divine power which enables us to overcome our own evil desires and the evil powers of the kingdom of darkness. In other words, when we put our faith in Christ, we receive his power, his resurrection-power, to live a transformed life. Sanctification, the process of becoming like Christ, is not something we do under our own power. Rather, the engine which drives the process of sanctification is Christ through the His Spirit sent to dwell in us.
5. Growing in Jesus Christ
Sanctification is the natural overflow of Christ dwelling in us. A king who reigns in a certain area, but is unable to effect any change in that place, is not a true king. A Christian who claims to have Christ, but lives an unchanged life, is not a true Christian and Christ is not their true king. What kind of transformation is to be expected by one who possesses the divine power of Christ? Peter lists several qualities which a Christian is to be constantly growing in – goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, and brotherly kindness. If these virtues are our persistent aim, we will be fruitful and our labour will not be in vain.
6. Receiving the Kingdom of Jesus Christ
The one who knows Jesus Christ, puts faith in Him, receives His power, and lives a transformed life will then be rewarded with a “rich welcome in the eternal kingdom”. God has not kept our reward hidden out of view, nor has he demanded that we labour for his glory without any hope of reward. Instead, God has laid out before us a rich banquet which we may look forward to when the time comes. At the end of grueling work day out in the hot sun and dusty fields, there is nothing better than coming home to a delicious meal with family. It is the same in the kingdom of God. We labour on earth that we might enjoy the riches of heaven. We clip and prune the sins in our lives and work to bear bountiful fruit in the expectation that at the end of the day we get to sit down at the Lord’s table and enjoy fellowship with our God and king!