#55 A PRECIOUS FAITH

At the beginning of his second letter Peter, speaking as a Jewish Christian, assures his readers, who include Gentle Christians, that they have received ‘a faith as precious as ours’ – there is no difference between their faith, as ordinary Christians, and his faith, as an apostle. And there is no distinction in God’s eyes between their faith, as Gentile Christians, and his faith, as a Jewish Christian.

God had confirmed to Peter the inclusion of the Gentiles in the Gospel [Acts 10:1-40]. And Peter, given the observable evidence of God’s inclusion of the Gentiles, defended the acceptance of the Gentiles as equal in Christ, without the imposition of Jewish law [Acts 11:1-18; 15:1-21].

Peter has not forgotten this powerful demonstration of God's inclusion of the Gentiles on the same basis as the Jews: by faith alone in Christ alone, and by mentioning it here assures his Gentile readers of their equality with him in Christ.

When Peter writes in 2Peter 1:1 of this ‘precious faith’ received by both Jew and Gentile, it is not clear whether he is thinking of his readers’ personal response of faith, or of the faith content of the Gospel, which they believe and through which they are saved. Personally, I believe it is referring to the Gospel content, which the New Testament often calls ‘the faith’, but it could be both. Both are important. Both are indeed ‘precious’.

Peter says several things about this ‘faith’:

It is ‘precious’, that is, it is valued, honoured, esteemed. Peter has already expressed in his first letter that the blood of Christ, which purchased our salvation, is ‘precious’ [1Peter 1:19; different word, but the same root]. If the purchase price is extremely valuable, then the thing purchased is also extremely valuable. Peter has also told us that Jesus Christ himself is ‘precious’ [1Peter 2:4,6,7]. Christ and his blood are both ‘precious’, and both are the key components of our Christian faith.

It is something that is ‘received’ – it is therefore something that is given to us. The Greek word used is not the normal word for ‘receive’, but the word used to refer to the casting of lots. In other words, this ‘faith’ has been allotted to us (by God). We did not get it as a result of our own efforts, but totally independent of our efforts and merit, as a result of God’s decision and God’s gift.

It is identical for all who have received it. Peter calls it ‘a faith as precious as ours’, [‘like precious faith with us’ KJV]. The faith his readers have received is the same precious faith that was received by the apostles [the ‘us’]. There is no distinction, no elite, no inferior/superior division. All, whether leaders of God people, or God’s people, have the same precious faith.

In this Peter’s words reflect the words of Paul when he fought for the equality of Gentile Christians and Jewish Christians in several of his letters. In Romans, he wrote ‘there is no difference’ in the acquittal both have freely received in Christ [3:22-24]. In Galatians he wrote ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ [3:28]. In Ephesians he wrote ‘he himself is our peace ... you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household ...’ [2:14,19; read 2:11-22].

It is received ‘through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ’. And here it is good to pause and ask the question ‘What is this ‘righteousness’ of Christ that Peter mentions here?

This ‘righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ’ is the righteousness of Christ credited to those who believe in him: His totally innocent life, and his death in which he himself fully bore our guilt and its legal penalty. At all points in his life and in his death, he fulfilled the righteousness required by God’s law.

As Peter put it in 1Peter 3:18 ‘Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.’ Christ, the innocent one, died for us, the guilty ones. He bore our sins in his body; he took our place under the just judgement of God upon our sins. We are acquitted, declared ‘not guilty’, forever exempt from the judgement, the condemnation and the wrath incurred by our sins.

It is that righteousness of Christ for which Paul counted all his perceived personal ‘righteousness’ to be rubbish [Philippians 3:7-9]. It is that righteousness of Christ of which Paul described as: ‘a righteousness from God, apart from law ... (that) comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference ...’ [Romans 3:21,22].

It is a legal righteousness, and a declaration of legal innocence, an acquittal. It is not about how morally good we are, but about our legal standing before God, the judge of all the earth. It is the legal innocence of Christ credited to those who believe.

Because of this amazing righteousness of Christ, credited to us, we have this ‘precious faith’ – this utterly amazing grace, this incredibly good news: the gospel.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2018