The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Called To Be Saints (Part 10): Called by Glory and Virtue

By: Thomas Clayton Booher

2 Pet 1:3 As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.

Salvation is from sin. Since man fell, all of God’s work in relation to him has centered around the saving of the soul from sin. A. W. Pink may have been the one who popularized the tri-faceted nature of our salvation by describing it as deliverance from the penalty, power, and presence of sin. His observation serves to keep the whole matter of salvation in perspective.

Often as a child, the preaching that I heard stressed only how God saves us from hell. Not from my pastor, Clayton Howard Gray, who was the greatest pulpit preacher I’ve ever heard. Such preaching did not come from him, but others.

I remember one speaker at a youth camp located in Erie, Pennsylvania. He preached this way. Granted, there were several in our midst who were interns of George Junior Republic (we teens always referred to it as George Junior Reformatory). There were eight internees at the camp. One was named Fabian. I don’t know if that was his real name or not, but he looked like it should have been. He was bigger than I, and a lot more muscular. He wore sleeveless T-shirts. If I’m not confusing him with someone else, he had a mohawk before there were such things as mohawks. Fabian was an interesting guy. He was actually intelligent, but his upbringing did not afford useful ways to exercise his smarts.

In the particular sermon I alluded to, the speaker looked in the direction of these boys (they usually sat together) and said, “You’re not worried about going to hell, because you say you’ll just tough it out. Well, there’s no out – it’s just toughing it.” I thought that was a rather slick rejoinder, and was sure it had to make those guys think long and hard about their future, eternal destiny. Of course, over the course of the week several of the interns professed conversion – Fabian one of them. In the few days that remained, I spent some time with him, talking and assessing him as a convert. Not much had changed – actually, nothing really did. The profanity would come out, the lack of a genuine seriousness about ‘being Christian,’ his anger and get-even attitude were still there, and his lust. He remarked in a rather lecherous way how one of the girls (she was from my church) had a really nice body – from the neck down. I had great doubts about the genuineness of his profession. The problem: salvation was preached exclusively as salvation from the penalty of sin – from God’s judgment and hell. The problem was actually more fundamental than that. There was no genuine portrayal of the holiness of God and the heinousness of our sin. These guys had no good reason to convert because there was nothing that brought them face-to-face with an all-holy God.

Peter writes that God has called us ‘by glory and virtue.’ The translation could be expanded, “by means of glory and virtue.” We should note that the means by which anything is accomplished might not always be concrete. This can be illustrated using a baseball analogy. When someone steps to the plate and knocks the ball out of the park, the color commentator might say, “He hit that one by hard work,” and his companion might turn to him and say, “What are you talking about, he hit that homer by a 33 inch bat.” The color commentator was not thinking of a single, concrete, wooden stick with a certain shape. He was thinking of the history behind the home run, the character of the batter and the time and effort he invested in practice before he ever walked into the park. He was thinking of the mental attitude, work ethic, and physical sacrifice that was necessary to make the home run a possibility for the batter.

The virtue and glory of our call describes the quality of the call, what went into it, like the hard work of the batter that went into his home run. The virtue and glory are not the specific instruments by which we are called. If we were to identify the specific means, we would have to refer to God’s explicit choice that always existed in his mind. The sovereign choice to save an individual is the instrument of the call to salvation. The character of the call takes on the virtue and glory of the one doing the calling.[1]

Grace is the word most often associated with our calling. It is God’s gracious character behind the call. The call to salvation could only come if God were a God of grace. If there were no grace in God, there would be no call. We, as sinners, deserve God’s unreserved wrath. That would be just. But in grace, because of grace, out of grace God called us to be saved from that wrath, a salvation that we do not deserve.

The glory behind our calling is a motif found in Paul, and if we sample his exposition of that motif, we see that glory impinges on our salvation in several ways. In his letter to the Ephesians, he reiterates the point several times that our salvation rebounds to his glory (Eph 1:6; 12, 14; 3:21). The glory also refers to the quality of salvation itself which Paul describes as “the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints” (Eph 1:18). We see Paul prayed that the Father would grant the Ephesian Christians to be internally and spiritually strengthened according to the “riches of His glory” (Eph 3:16). In Romans, Paul identifies our call as according to his purpose and then explains that purpose in terms of the golden chain that begins with his foreknowledge and ends with our glorification (Rom 8:29, 30). Peter also understands the telic glory that will be ours when Christ returns (1 Peter 1:7; 5:1, 4, 10)

The virtue of our calling has not been brought to the forefront in our preaching as glory has, which is understandable. The New Testament writers do not dwell on it much either, at least, not in the specific use of that word. But Peter has tied the call with not only glory but also virtue.

Virtue would better be translated excellence, and the idea would be that God’s call arises not out of a second rate, ill-formed, flawed notion, but bears the mark of the most excellent wisdom and prudence of God. Paul speaks in reverent awe of God’s wisdom and prudence when he ponders our salvation (Eph 1:8; cf Rom 11:33; Eph 3:10). The excellency of our call is therefore tied precisely to the purpose of our call, which is to bring him the most glory[2] and us the most good (Rom 8:28). As such, God designed it with the greatest care, ensuring that in everything that bears on its accomplishment there is nothing that is extraneous or unnecessary nor is there anything lacking. The humiliation and suffering of Christ, his resurrection and ascension are necessary elements to the fulfilling of God’s calling us to be saints. God’s calling is worked out prudently in Christ’s work (Acts 4:27, 28; Rom 3:23-26; 1 Cor 15:20-25) and the Spirit’s operation (John 3:3-5; Eph 1:13; 2:18, 22; 3:16).

Because of the glory and excellence that is behind the call to salvation, the salvation to which we are called is complete. God saves us in every way that we need to be saved, from its penalty, power, and its presence. God has not forgiven us and declared us righteous, only to leave us to grovel in our sin. He has not made us his children without a view to our freedom from the mastery that sin has had over us. It is a call that changes from the inside out. Because of an excellent and gracious call, his divine power has given us everything necessary for a holy and godly life; it is suffused with the promise of unfailing salvation through which we may be holy, even as the one who has called us is holy, and escape the corruption of this world (1:4).

Because the promises of the call cannot be thwarted, we know we are victors, and it excites us to add to our faith and take on the great virtues of the Christian life (1:5-7).

The fellows from George Junior, Fabian at least, did not get excited about being a Christian. He did not know anything of salvation from the power of sin, nor the marvelous anticipation of being one day delivered from its presence. There was no excitement to be holy as God is holy because he had no awareness of the holiness of God. It was lacking in the preaching and, therefore, lacking in the understanding.

Our preaching and teaching should point ever back to the holiness of God, to the excellence behind our call which graciously and effectively enlightens the mind to know the hope of that call (Eph 2:18). That hope is our deliverance from sin in every facet of our existence, and drives us to make our calling and election sure (2:10, 11) by conscientiously adding to our faith (1 Pet 1:5-8) the fruit that characterizes those called by glory and excellence.

[1] Some manuscripts would translate, ‘by his own virtue and glory.’

[2] 2 Cor 4:15; Gal 1:5; Eph 1:6, 12, 14; 3:21; Phil 1:11; 4:20; 1 Tim 1:17; 2 Tim 4:18; 1 Pet 4:11; 5:11; 2 Pet 3:18; Jude 25; Rev 1:6; 4:9, 11; 5:12, 13; 7:12; 14:7; 19:1

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