MEMBERS: Dazed and Confused: Does 2 Peter 1:1-12 Teach Pietism? (Transcript)

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Jimmy Buehler: Welcome to the members’ podcast. Before we get rolling, we just want to say a quick thank you to those members who support us. We are so grateful for your partnership in the gospel. I don’t know all of your names and I don’t know what all of you look like, but it is a humbling thing to think that you still support us in financial ways, through your prayers, and through your sharing of this material. Thank you for that.

We are going to continue our Dazed and Confused conversation from 2 Peter 1. Jon, why don’t you tee us up about where we’re going today?

Jon Moffitt: Real quick: for those of you that haven’t done it yet, go over to our website theocast.org/members and you can start listening to the members podcast on your phone, on your favorite podcast app, including the 300-plus episodes that we have now. You can go back to our old archives.

One of the things we get asked about a lot and a lot of the encouraging I do with some pastors is how to transition people out of pietism. Because really, if you think about it, there are two things that we do as Christians. One, we lead people out of the darkness and into the light through the gospel, right? We lead them out of death and into light, and it’s a glorious transition to watch the Spirit work through the power of the gospel. The second thing that we should do is we need to lead people out of bondage into freedom – and you do that the same way, which is through the gospel.

There are people who are saved unfortunately in a legalistic context where their assurance is very shaky. They understand the gospel, but yet there’s confusion when it comes to understanding their security in Christ. 2 Peter is a great place to go because a lot of times people will use that to call into question their assurance, but I think it’s a great place to stand on your assurance. It is glorious picture of the entirety of the Bible, where before you ever have instructions, you always have the gospel. Just like when you’re reading a novel, if you start on page one of the Bible, in Genesis 1, it starts with the glory of God, the creation, and the fall of man. What is the first thing that God does following those? He promises them the gospel, He promises them a Messiah who is the one to come and crush the head of Satan, the seed of Eve, which is Jesus. What instructions does He give to Adam and Eve as it relates to the promise? There are no instructions. He first grounds their assurance. There are instructions about what to do until you get into Noah. Well, there are instructions like the sacrificial system set up – we don’t know where that came from; there was a side conversation that was never recorded apparently. The point of it is that He first grounds them before He gives them instructions.

The same thing is true of the Abrahamic covenant. He grounds them in the promise of Him doing things before He hands Abraham instructions on being the people of God. I would say that the Mosaic covenant was never intended to be given to the people of Israel so that they could earn their salvation – that was not the original intention of it. It was to prove they couldn’t. It was given so they could be in the fellowship of it but the promise of the gospel being given is always rooted in what’s been done. Being able to use 2 Peter is a great section to not confuse anyone, but I think it actually establishes our assurance in Christ’s promises and not pietism.

Justin Perdue: Some thoughts for pastors in particular or those in the local church context who are going to be teaching God’s word, and setting a tone for the assembly in that regard, there are certainly times where we need to warn people and we need to, in one sense, figuratively shake people who are in hard-hearted, unrepentant, high-handed sin. No doubt about that. Because they’re going toward a path of destruction. It’s going to be terrible for their lives and all that. They could harm others and we need to warn them appropriately that this will not go well for them. But the resting heart rate, so to speak, of the church and of Christian teaching toward godliness is modeled well here by Peter and other apostles in the way that they write their epistles.

To pick up a little bit on what Jon is saying, we always ground people in their standing before the Lord in Christ, their identity in Jesus, their status as justified, and then we talk about how we are to live in the church from there. If you were to think about a pastoral posture, there is some misunderstanding that’s out there as to how we grow in the faith and what motivates us. A lot of guys get up on a pulpit and that their posture is one of cracking a whip from behind like, “Let’s get in gear. Let’s get going. Take this seriously or you’re going to be damned at the end of this thing.”

The pastoral posture that I would rather have, that I think is more of what we see in the apostles, is more of a pulling from the front and pointing to Christ: here is who He is, here is what He has done, here is who we are. We’re safe. Here’s what pleases God. Here’s what’s good for our neighbor. Let’s do this. I think that is the regular tone and tenor of Christian teaching.

Keep in mind that these guys are writing in two contexts: either a Jewish context where there’s a rampant kind of works righteousness thing going on, or they’re writing into Gentile contexts where people have never heard God’s Law and they don’t know what’s good and bad according to it. So the apostles are having to tell them, “Here is how the redeemed lived together in the church under the gospel.” It’s not works righteousness. Sometimes we forget that too because we’re well steeped in morality and in even a Judeo-Christian understanding of morality. We assume that everybody just knew that already when the apostles are writing these things – and I don’t think they did.

Jon Moffitt: If you keep reading, he says in verse 12, “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in that truth that you have.” This is what Justin just said. Then he says this, “I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able to at any time to recall these things.”

He can’t just mean the obedience here because what does he do? He sandwiches the reminders of the promises and our forgiveness. I think he means all of it. He goes, “When I’m gone, I want you to be so ingrained to recall the promises and your responsibility.” The pietist in us always wants to point back to required obedience and I don’t think that’s what he means.

Justin Perdue: When he goes on in verses 16-21 to talk about the prophetic word, the fact that we have something that’s even surer than what he saw on the Mount of Transfiguration, and we have the word of God. What is the word of God about? The word of God is about redemption. It is about what God has done. It is about those great promises that He referenced in verses 3-4: God’s power and God’s faithfulness to you. I think that’s clear even in where he goes next after verse 15. We have the word of God, and the word of God is about this, and you’re always going to be remembering and recalling what God has done and what He has told you to do as part of the covenant community.

Jimmy Buehler: I think verse 16 and onwards are key where he talks about having the prophetic word, and looking to how God Himself has designed the Christian life to work itself out.

When you study church history, particularly ancient church history, and you look at the ways that the church had to be on guard against all sorts of nonsense about what it meant to be a true godly person, or what it meant to be a Christian, I think what Peter is doing here is he’s saying, “Don’t you see this?” In verse 16 he says, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power…” It’s like he is saying that what he had just said in 2 Peter 1:3-15 is what the Christian life looks like. It is not some magical, mystical, outside-of-the-bounds-of-Scripture way to live. Often, is this not the plea of pietism, that there is a secret that you need to unlock in order to live the Christian life? That there is something that you are missing that you need to go outside of the bounds of the gospel in order to truly live a Christian life. I think what Peter is doing here is saying no. This is what it looks like to make your calling and election: you remember the gospel, you remember how God has loved you unconditionally in spite of your sin, in Christ, and you look to your neighbor and you say, because of what God has done for you in Christ, you are able to supplement the faith that you have with virtue, godliness, and self-control. It is not this ascetic approach, monastic approach, or myth-driven approach to the Christian life. Peter is saying don’t buy into that nonsense. When you begin to see the epistles in that light, that they are for us as well but there are also clear contexts in which they are written, you’re going to begin to see the reasons why he’s using this language. The reason why he is being so harsh here is because he’s talking about this. So keep that in mind as you begin, particularly pastors, to preach passages like this.

Justin Perdue: If you think about, again, the pattern of the epistles and even the language of stirring people up – Peter uses that language in 2 Peter 1 – there is the language of stirring up in Hebrews 10 that we all mutually do for one another. What is that on the heels of? That’s on the heels of some of the most glorious verses and chapters in all of Scripture about the sufficiency of the work of Christ, the place of the Christian, how Jesus is the fulfillment of everything that has come before him, and how he has secured our redemption. He has atoned for our sin, it made perfect satisfaction for us, and he’s perfected us for all time. But if you think about the other epistles that are written by other apostles, in particular the Pauline pattern of always giving people their identity and their status and everything, and then talking about how they’re to live together. Where does Paul always go? If we’re talking about Ephesians, this is true – he immediately goes into context of the local church, living life together, and their love for each other. In Galatians, after having made wonderful defenses of the gospel and how there is no room for works at all in terms of our standing before the Lord, chapter 6 is all about gentleness, loving each other, restoring each other, and all these things. In Romans, immediately he goes into loving each other and how we deal with weaker brethren and things like that. It seems that for the apostles, there is a legitimate outflow of the gospel in terms of how we live together in love, grace, mercy, charity, and patience, and that seems to be where they go all the time. They don’t immediately go to this really hyper-introspective personal righteousness piece. They go toward what the gospel means for you as you live with your neighbor. That’s an observation we make all the time here on Theocast, but that drum needs to continue to be beaten because pietism makes it all about you and your own personal performance for your own sake versus this is actually about us as the people of God; it’s about you loving your brothers.

Jon Moffitt: I think this is proof that Scripture does teach a saint-sinner reality because they speak to the saint side, “You’re secure in Christ by faith alone. Now here’s how to deal with the sinner side of you.” Because the two are not matched up. That’s called glorification. The moment you are fully glorified, sinner no longer exists. We will not be saint-sinner in heaven. Praise be to Jesus. I cannot wait. Lord, come quickly, be it your will. Tomorrow would be nice, but it’s your will be done. This is a perfect section of Scripture to say, “Look, here is a saint-sinner reality.” Peter is speaking to the saints who are secure in Christ by the promises of God. “Here’s how to deal with the sinful flesh as it wars against the Spirit, and don’t forget that you’re grounded in Christ.”

Being able to have two things: Law-gospel distinction, which we haven’t really mentioned yet. He does give Law in here, which is the third use of the Law. But what does he do? He separates it from the gospel. He never says the Law achieves your assurance for your salvation. We have everything we need for life in godliness in the promises of Christ. Here’s where you were to obey, but remind yourselves this is how you are secure.

So you have a saint-sinner reality and you also have a Law-gospel section here. In my opinion, if you collapse saint-sinner and you collapse Law-gospel, you are going to have such a mess of not knowing what to do for people. They’re going to basically assume that if they are ineffective and not increasing, they are not legitimate children of God. I’ve seen it happen.

Jimmy Buehler: We’re glad to do these Dazed and Confused episodes. They are all over the Bible. Maybe we should do a Dazed and Confused episode from the Old Testament sometime.

To our members, thank you for supporting us and listening to us rant and rave about some of our favorite things. We sure do appreciate your love, support, and your partnership.

Again, we just want to point you to theocast.org. We’re continuing to put out some resources. Also, our new mini podcast, Ask Theocast, where we take some of these complex questions and we try to answer them in four minutes or less – be sure to check that out as well. We are beginning to do a bit more writing in terms of some primers as well as little articles and blog posts. Be sure to check that out at theocast.org.

Thank you for listening. We’re excited to see you next week.

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