The 16th century German monk, Martin Luther, with his forceful personality and powerful rhetoric lifted the church from a fearful malaise of ignorance, false piety, and error with a single phrase – sola fide. This latin phrase became the chief theological mooring for an entire generation of Christians and the root of a theological movement still in motion today. Luther was aware that the false gospel preached by the Roman Catholic church minimized the work of Christ and all but eradicated the need for authentic faith. Sola fide became the battle-cry of scores of newly-awakened saints clinging to Christ through the Word. It means “by faith alone.”
The apostle Paul also holds an exclusive view of faith. In his own words: “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” (Romans 3:28) If Paul is writing a song about salvation, the chorus is very clearly centered on faith. The writer of Hebrews ennobles faith as well in the famous passage in chapter 11 concerning those who demonstrated by their works the operation of faith in their lives. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and a host of others are immortalized in Scripture not because of their great works, but because faith was the cradle of their works.
So…what’s up with Peter!? “Make every effort to supplement your faith…. (2 Peter 1:5) Somewhere in history, Martin Luther is clearing his throat.
I suffered a neck injury in 2014 that left me lying flat on my back for 3 long, insufferable weeks. To this day, that annoying little C3 spinal disc can put me on the ground from time to time. One of my greatest reliefs is a little supplemental regimen recommended by my wife. It immediately brings a level of relief and stability to an otherwise decidedly unstable condition. But that’s just it isn’t it? When I’m taking a supplement, it infers that something is lacking. Something needs to be boosted or helped along. It isn’t good enough on its own. Surely Peter knows better than this.
What does supplement your faith mean? Peter is tapping the same well that James is drinking from. “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.” (James 2:26) Faith is indeed the grand gateway to our reconciliation, justification, sanctification, and glorification. No, it is more than a mere gateway. It is the rail tunnel rocketing us toward our lasting hope in the presence of our holy God. Faith does more than transform; it fuels, forms, and fixes us. But faith for the sake of faith, or better put, a faith that doesn’t produce anything isn’t good for much. Like a radish farmer without radishes, faith without anything to show for it just doesn’t really do it. In the words of that great theologian Shania Twain, “That don’t impress me much.”
Peter isn’t saying that faith alone is incompetent. He is saying that faith alone won’t be alone for long.
Peter opens his second epistle with a life-changing truth. Christians have “escaped the corruption that is in the world.” (2 Peter 1:4) In the very same verse he plainly states that we have not only evaded a sure death but also gained something valuable in our escape , namely, being “partakers of the divine nature.” This is the meaning of Jesus’ command to “abide in me.” (John 15:4) When we exercise faith in Jesus Christ, we not only enter into his salvation, but we also become one with him. Since we share in Jesus’ life and righteousness, we begin to live rightly as he does. Faith produces faithfulness.
Therefore, Peter longs for his readers to do more than sit in their faith. He wants them to progress in faithfulness. That is why he is eager for Christians to supplement their faith – so that their faith is useful. In fact, he says as much in the closing lines of this passage. “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:8) Peter is shaking a completely different bottle of supplements here; one that we would all do well to take on a daily basis.