God’s Word for You
2 Peter 1:8-9 Idle faith
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, June 18, 2022
8 For if you have these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being idle and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have these qualities, he is blind; shortsighted. He has forgotten that he has been cleansed from the sins of his past.
The qualities were given in verses 5-7: faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. When these grow in us, the Apostle assures us that such godly qualities, motivated by faith (the foremost of the qualities) will keep us from being idle and unproductive. An idle faith does the kingdom of God no good, not in the world, and not in the heart where that faith sits idle. Idle faith sits by while souls are being lost, but it also does nothing at all that is godly. It behaves as if it is not faith, which is unbelief. An idle faith masquerades as if it is still part of the world. Why? Because that person is afraid the world will see that he is a Christian, and he may lose his place in the world, with his friends, in his business, or some other position he cherishes in this lifetime. He sees his faith as a ticket he might use later (when he dies), but that he does not want to have to use just yet.
An idle faith also forgets the words and promises of God, and is easily led away from the forgiveness of sins because such a faith, crumbling and decaying like some remnant of fruit tossed into the compost, is rotting away and forgetting what it once was. It begins to believe that it must do something to earn forgiveness, or that belonging to the church is all that is really required. That man has forgotten the most important pillar of his faith. In fact, he has knocked that pillar over and smashed it. That pillar is justification by faith alone, which is what Peter means when he says: “He has forgotten that he has been cleansed from the sins of his past.”
We need to remember that the chastisements of God are a blessing for our spirits. Why? Because without them, we forget our past sins, even the sins for which we have been forgiven, and then we run the danger of being overcome by them once again. Jesus warned one man he healed: “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (John 5:14). Later in this letter, Peter will describe a sow that has been washed. Will she stay clean? “She will go back to her wallowing in the mud” (2 Peter 2:22).
Luther says: “These and other passages of Scripture are warnings to guard against sin in the future, because, as in the case of sickness, a relapse is more difficult to cure than the first disease” (LW 1:225). And Jesus warns about a man cleansed of an evil spirit: “It says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ And when it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first” (Matthew 12:43-45).
A scar reminds me to be more careful, or I will earn more scars. The memory of an argument will remind me to be more understanding, more loving, more compassionate, or many other things for which I am at fault. Infections, diseases, lost property, lost friendships, and many other things can serve as chastisements to remind us to beware the condition of our souls, and to remember the sins in our past—sins that have been forgiven—which are sins to be avoided in the future and especially in the very present moment, today, and right this very moment. When we see or fear that we are falling into sin, we should fall to our knees and beg for God’s forgiveness and help. A daily prayer that is the simplest to remember can be the hardest for some to confess: “I have sinned. Have mercy on me.” Let it be a natural prayer, never thoughtless, always heartfelt, and often said: “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
“Great are your mercies, O Lord. Preserve my life according to your word” (Psalm 119:156).
Pastor Timothy Smith