THE ABUNDANT ENTRANCE

 

God asks of all believers three things: Full-orbed character, full-orbed conduct, and full-orbed testimony all to be crowned with glory at Christ's coming; and full-orbed character is the root of all. So the Apostle (2 Peter 1: 5) says: "Yea, and for this very cause" - namely, because God has endowed us with such a wrath of possibility, the limitless promises just named - "adding on your part all diligence" - every kind of holy concentration - "to your faith" - the sole foundation that saves: the only quality of the seven they were not to furnish, for it was already there: he has just addressed them as those who have obtained a like precious faith in the righteousness of Christ - "supply" - add, furnish: for we are not born with these added graces, nor are we born again with them, except in germ and principle - "virtue" - courage, manliness; "and to your virtue, knowledge" - for knowledge is vital for our shaping our life so as to please God; "and to your knowledge, temperance" - self-control, self-government; "and to your temperance, patience" - the dogged persistence of the long-winded runner; "and to your patience, godliness" - doing everything, habitually, Godward; "and to your godliness, brotherly-love" - the family affection for all the redeemed; "and to your brotherly-love, love" - love in its widest and most catholic scope. "For if these things are yours and abound, they make you" - look after your character, and your work will look after itself - "to be not idle nor unfruitful unto the knowledge" - the after-knowledge (see Greek) - "of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Now the Apostle reveals the peril of our having a saved character without these graces. "For he that lacketh these things" - that is, the six qualities that can be built on the one saving foundation of faith - "is blind" - short-sighted; smoke-darkened, fogged: it is the technical term used by medical men, "myopia," for short-sightedness: apt to shut his eyes, so as not to see -"seeing [for he is not totally blind] only what is near" - absorbed in this world, not in that which is to come - "having forgotten the cleansing from his old sins" - therefore he is a soul once purified by the blood of Christ, but now is confirmed a backslider that he has become oblivious of his purging at conversion, and (it may be) of his baptismal bath. He now either doubts whether he was ever converted at all; or he denies it; or he is now so intent on earthly things, so absorbed body and soul in the world, that he has simply forgotten "the fact of his ancient, pre-conversion sins having been purged away" (Dean Alford). His old sins are purged, not his present sins: for God never forgives unabandoned sin; and to cloak a believer's present, known sin with the Atonement is not only unscriptural, but anti-scriptural. So partial blindness is the consequence of his obvious neglect: to such a soul all prophecy is taboo: seeing only things that are near, the coming [millennial] Kingdom has long vanished from his gaze: like the wealthy Laodicean, he lacks eye-salve: having forgotten the Cross, he has long ceased to seek the Crown: he is idle and unfruitful, for he has never cultivated the graces that prevent sloth and cure barrenness.

 

Therefore here the Apostle bases his exhortation. "Wherefore, brethren" - in a tone of affectionate appeal - "give the more diligence" - the passage "reeks" of diligence - "to make YOUR calling and election sure." "The Apostle," as Dr. Warren well says, "has shown the danger of such souls as forget their own purging; but there are many who remember it too much." But a vital theological problem arises here. What is THIS "calling" and THIS "election" which it is IN OUR POWER to "make sure"? It is manifest that it is not the calling and election to eternal life: for (1) that choice dates from "before the foundation of the world" (Ephesians 1: 4); (2) it is wholly sundered from our works, either before or after faith (Ephesians 2: 9); (3) it is irrevocable, immutable, irreversible, for "the calling of God is without repentance" (Romans 11: 29); and so any attempt on our part to make it [i.e., eternal life] sure would be unbelief. *

 

[* Either Calvinist or Arminian, if he would bind us to the election as being the election to eternal life, involves us and himself in the gravest difficulties: for if so, our eternal security is partly of our own making, and its final finish is ours; and without the six graces super-added to faith [eternal] salvation is insecure, and even impossible. Calvin actually changes the Scripture thus, - "give diligence to make the witness to your calling and election sure": which draws down Dean Alford's just if severe rebuke, - "a wrestling of plain words and context." (Panton).]

 

The very order of the words betrays the secret. Unlike the election to [eternal] salvation, which precedes the calling by thousands of years, this election accompanies the call, and the call precedes: for the "call" is this, - "Walk worthily of God, who calleth you" - is calling you: this call is a question of the "walk," and is a call to those already believers INTO HIS OWN KINGDOM AND GLORY" (1 Thessalonians 2: 12, R.V.). It is a call, not to grace, but to glory. Both the calling and the election seized Paul on the way to Damascus. Speaking of the Prize for which he ran, he says: "I press on, if so be that I may apprehend that for which also I WAS APPREHENDED by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3: 12). Christ seizes every convert for the Prize, and this election finally falls upon the godly walk.

 

So the Apostle now clinches the call. "For if ye do these things" - not what gain promotes, or lust suggests, but what God COMMANDS - "ye shall never stumble"; never come to grief (Lange): more literally, and more suggestively, "while ye do these things" - while you are building on the one saving foundation the lovely superstructure of a full-orbed character; so long as you are thus building, constantly and carefully, grace on grace - "YE SHALL NEVER STUMBLE" - shall never so stumble as to lose the Prize.

 

Thus the full-orbed character, while purely the product of the grace of God, is sharply contingent on our own efforts. What light is here shed on sanctification! "These things" - the exquisite graces - do not come as a matter of course; they do not spring out of accident; they do not come by the new birth, taken by itself alone; they do not come by a sudden attainment of sinlessness; they are not such a promise of God that if we do not have them, He is responsible; they neither come without effort, nor remain without culture: on the other hand, they are inherent in the "all things that pertain unto godliness" just named; and they are gloriously possible and absolutely certain to consecrated co-operation with the golden promises and omnipotent grace of God.

 

So now the Apostle reveals the election that falls upon the full-orbed character that responded to the call. "For thus" - thus, and thus only [the word "thus" means, 'in this manner; in the following manner or way; to this specified degree,']; by sanctification added to justification; addition after addition, growth upon growth - "shall be RICHLY supplied unto you" - not meagrely, but a wealth of glory meeting a wealth of grace - "the entrance into the eternal* kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." "The adverb," as Dean Alford says, "indicates high degrees and fullness of glory; not the fact of this entrance taking place, but the fact of its being 'richly supplied.'" But it is more than that. It is not an abundant rank, but an abundant entrance; and into an everlasting kingdom a rich or abundant "entrance" can only be a prior entrance: beyond, the Kingdom is without a terminus, but at this end [the evil age in which we are now living] - it has two entrances - the scanty, of the just saved (1 Corinthians 3: 15); and the abundant, of the full-orbed overcomer. "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection" (Revelation 20: 4). Supply grace, says the Apostle, and God will supply the glory: the Apostle plays upon one word (in the Greek) - add the six virtues to the one foundation, and God will add the abundant, or Millennial, entrance into the Kingdom without end. "The gifts of God are followed by our diligence: our diligence by the entrance into the Kingdom" (Lange). In the words of Dr. Alexander Maclaren: "There is a being 'scarcely saved,' and there is 'an entrance abundantly'; and the principle that lies here is plain - that the degree of our possession of the perfect Royalty of heaven depends on our faithfulness here on earth."

 

[* The Greek word "aionios" translated "eternal," can also be translated "age-lasting," if the context so indicates, says Dr. A. L. Chitwood. Here is a classic example! See also Gal. 6: 8; Heb. 5: 9 etc.]

 

So the Apostle says, "make haste": all must be done between the cradle and the grave.

 

'Our life is long.' Not so, the Angels say

Who watch us waste it, trembling while they weigh

Against eternity one squander'd day.

 

'Our life is long.' Christ's word sounds different:

'Night cometh; no more work when day is spent.'

Repent and work to-day, work and repent.

 

Lord, make us like Thyself: for thirty-three

Slow years of toil seem'd not too long for Thee,

That where Thou art, there Thy Beloved might be.

 

Lord, make us Thy Host, who day nor night

Rest not from adoration, their delight,

Crying, 'Holy, Holy, Holy!' in the height.