Useful and Productive Christians – 2 Peter 1:5-9

For the past few weeks, we have been seeing where our confidence comes from. We have learned that God is not impressed with out good deeds. Instead, He knows that we are sinners who could never live up to His holiness. So, the only way we can be seen as righteous by God is when we put our faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross. Our sins were transferred to Jesus and His righteousness was transferred to us.

With that understanding, we need to consider what God desires of each of us after we have put our faith in Jesus. Our relationship has been made right with God, now how does He want us to live? He certainly doesn’t want us to continue in sinful living. So how do we sinful people mature as Christians and live lives that are pleasing to the Lord? First, we need to grow spiritually.

  1. The characteristics of spiritual growth (2 Pet. 1:5-7)

    As each of us seeks to grow in the Lord, there are two things that will enable us to do it. First, we must rely on the Holy Spirit as He must produce fruit in us. Second, we must work on our own personal character. Both of these influences are needed for spiritual growth. And when we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, godly character will be developed in each of us.

    As we look at these verses, note that we are being reminded of our side of the equation. There are certain things that God wants every Christian to be doing.

    We need to be diligent (5a).

    While our salvation rests on what God has done, our continuing Christian experience requires something called diligence. What is diligence? It is effort put forth by those who want to accomplish something. We are not a spaceship that once pushed will always keep traveling forward. We must put forth effort to do what God tells us to do here. “It takes every bit of diligence and effort a Christian can muster, along with the enabling power of the Holy Spirit … to bring in alongside of his faith a complement of virtue” (Gangel 865). But what must we be diligent about?

    We need to diligently add to our faith (5b-7).

    Faith in Jesus is where everything begins. But God never intended us to just believe and then sit down in an armchair to watch Him at work. Instead, we are given seven qualities that we need to “bring in alongside” our God-given faith (Rienecker 769). God has given us our faith. Now we need to work alongside the Holy Spirit to build upon what God has begun.

    Moral excellence – “The quality by which one stands out as excellent” (Rienecker 769).

    This quality is seen in people who want to do their best in every area of their life. They are known for excellent moral decisions, can be trusted to do the job they are given, and stand out in a crowd of people who will do wrong if it makes things easier. Moral excellence is an excellent way to point out you are a Christian. This is first on the list because this shows the change made in you by God. Are you morally pure and becoming stronger in this area?

    Knowledge – It “refers specifically to the ability to discern God’s will and orient one’s life in accordance with that will” (Moo 45).

    Not just any knowledge will do. We need knowledge about God and His will for us. Just recently, Microsoft and Google released Artificial Intelligence on computers. I have heard that you can ask the computer a questions about anything and get an answer. But the answer may or may not be correct as the “knowledge” is only as good as what is programmed into it. In order for you to know God’s will, it would be best for you to go to His instruction manual, the Bible. Read it. Meditate on it. Apply it to your life.

    Self-control – “control one’s passions rather than be controlled by them” (Barbieri 97).

    Apparently, the false teachers of Peter’s time claimed to have a superior knowledge from God that allowed them to live without any self-control. “They are characterized by sensuality (2:2), inflamed by sinful desires (2:10); they live for soft and comforting pleasures (2:13), never cease thinking of adultery (2:14), and are enslaved to corruption (2:19)” (Schreiner 300). If you are a Christian, you need to understand the place that self-control should have in your life. God wants us to be a reflection of his character to the world. When we don’t do that, it gives a bad picture of God to the world.

    Perseverance – “that inner power of endurance developed by persistent self-control” (Hiebert 54).

    Boxing would be a hard sport to master. Constant punching takes a lot of energy. But the more you practice, the stronger you become, and the longer you can compete. God wants each of His children to persevere through temptation and persecution. Notice how perseverance is built upon self-control. The more we practice self-control, the more we will become accustomed to bearing up under troubles and temptation. We will begin to… persevere.

    Godliness – “reverence that seeks to please God in all things. … It keeps the believer from becoming hard and defiant toward opponents or succumbing to the temptation of a mere stoical endurance” (Hiebert 54).

    Godliness may not be a term that is easily understood today. If I asked if you were a godly person, what would you say? If I asked if you were God-like, you would immediately disagree. And yet, we are to pattern ourselves after the character of God. So, it is right and good to be God-like. We become godly when our thinking and actions match how God thinks and acts. As we think and act like Him, He will be pleased that we are becoming more like Him.

    Brotherly kindness – “the warm, brotherly affection between those who are spiritual relatives in the family of God” (Hiebert 54).

    Do you love your Christian brothers and sisters? “Such brotherly affection toward other Christians must be cultivated, for it entails difficult duties, such as a willingness to bear one another’s burdens and to forgive shortcomings and failures” (Hiebert 54). 1 John 4:20 – “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” So, allow God to work in you and to produce brotherly kindness for others.

    Love – “desires the highest good for the object of his affection. … It does not condone or gloss over sin in the one loved but willingly engages in self-sacrificing action to procure his highest good” (Hiebert 55).

    This is love the way God loves. “It is the ‘glue’ that holds all the rest of them [these characteristics] together, the quality without which all the others will be less than they should be” (Moo 47). Love is such a throwaway word today. It can be said without thinking. But stop and think. Are you willing to do the hard things when it comes to loving others? Are you willing to love others when it is not convenient?

    We have looked at seven characteristics that God wants us to add to our faith. All of these characteristics should be present in our lives. We may do better with some than others but we should always be working on developing these characteristics, especially because of what Peter says in the following verses.

As each of us seeks to grow in the Lord, there are two things that will enable us to do it. First, we must rely on the Holy Spirit as He must produce fruit in us. Second, we must work on our own personal character. Both of these influences are needed for spiritual growth. And when we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, godly character will be developed in each of us.

2. The incentives for spiritual growth (2 Pet. 1:8-9)

When I was a car salesman, the owner would give incentives for us to sell more cars. If we sold ten cars in a month, he might give us a $500 bonus. That was a good motivation to work harder. While Christians should not be motivated for financial gain in their spiritual growth, there are some incentives that God gives that should motivate us in an appropriate way. What are the incentives given here?

I want to be useful and productive (8).

If you are a Christian, you should have the desire to please the Lord. To be useful and productive for Him, each of us needs to be adding and abounding. Peter has already told us to add these characteristics to our faith. Now he assumes that we are doing that. But he doesn’t say that you will someday arrive at the right level and then peak. He says that we are to be adding and abounding. The idea is that you are not simply satisfied with mediocrity; you strive for greatness in your spiritual life. It is not a pride thing. Instead, you are wanting to be the best you can for the Lord and for others.

What will result from adding and abounding? As you grow in your spiritual character and faithfully seek to increase in each one, God will cause you to become useful and productive. Instead of becoming barren or unfruitful, you will grow in your knowledge of the Lord Jesus. A chicken that no longer lays eggs is called barren. A tree that no longer produces fruit is called unfruitful. Both are no longer providing what they were made for. “Too many Christians are content simply with being Christians, happy simply to know they won’t go to hell. But the true Christian never rests content with such a minimal (albeit important!) level of Christian experience” (Moo 47).

Let me ask you a question. Have you become useless and unproductive for the Lord? If so, would you repent of this and determine to add godly character to your life. Instead of being a lazy Christian, become someone who is actively seeking to be productive for the Lord. If you do this, you will also accomplish a second incentive.

I don’t want to forget what God has done (9).

We have all seen it. Someone professed faith in Christ as a child, but as they grew older, there was little evidence of any life change. My mother taught many neighborhood children in her home Bible club. A number of children were moved by the teaching of the gospel and turned to Christ. But later in their lives, they slipped away and were no longer interested in spiritual things. What happened?

Peter tells us that those who lack the seven qualities listed above can become short-sighted and forgetful. A short-sighted person is someone who can only see what is directly in front of them. They only think about the immediate and can’t see what will happen in the future. This person’s focus is on what will bring him or her immediate pleasure and happiness and they don’t realize that they will one day stand before the Lord to answer for the way they lived their life. If you have become like this, please allow God to open your eyes to His plan for your life.

But even worse is this person’s forgetfulness about his past. Because he does not see the need for diligent, spiritual exercise, he walks about with “spiritual amnesia” (Hiebert 58) forgetting that God forgave him of the sins he is no longer guarding himself against. Can you imagine forgetting what God has done in your life? Sadly, some back slide so much that they forget that they are even saved. And some make you wonder if they ever were.


Let me ask you a personal question. Have you ever come to the place where you saw yourself as a sinner who needed to be saved by God? And when God convinced you of this, did you repent of your sins and put your faith in Jesus. If so, the Bible tells us that you have been born again. God now sees the righteousness of Christ in you instead of your sinfulness. That is the first step.

Now let me ask you another question. As we read through this passage of Scripture, would you say that you have been growing as a Christian or have you been declining? Faith without these godly characteristics is lacking what God intended. Those who claim to have faith and show no evidence of growth are either not truly born again or have forgotten what God has done. Either situation is terrible. Are you seeking to add these qualities to your life? If not, ask yourself why. It may be that you have never been born again. Or it may be that you have not been diligent. If this is you, please take a moment to talk with God and make things right with Him. With His help, get back to where you are diligent and useful for Him.


Barbieri, Louis A., First & Second Peter, Chicago: Moody Press, 1977.

Gangel, Kenneth O., “2 Peter” in Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983.

Hiebert, D. Edmond, Second Peter and Jude, Greenville: Unusual Publications, 1989.

Moo, Douglas J., The NIV Application Commentary: 2 Peter and Jude, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.

Rienecker, Fritz and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976.

Schreiner, Thomas R., 1, 2 Peter, Jude, Nashville: B&H, 2003.

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