Two Sorts of Christians
2 Peter 1:8-9
For if these things be in you, and abound…


1. Every Christian may have for his own in assured possession that whole series of lustrous beauties of character (vers. 5-7). You may be strong and discerning and temperate, etc. It is a prize within your reach; is it in any sense a prize within your possession?

2. We may each have an increasing possession of all these graces. "If these things be yours and abound," or, as the word ought more accurately to be rendered "and increase." The expression suggests that if in any real sense they are in you, they will be increasingly in you. The oftener a man lavishes the treasures of his love the richer is the love which he has to lavish. The more rigidly he schools and disciplines himself the more complete becomes his command over his unruly nature.

3. We may all, if we will, have these graces making us diligent and faithful. The meaning of the word rendered "barren" is, as the Revised Version and the margin of the Authorised give it, "idle." Well, that seems a little thing, that all that aggregation of Christian graces has only for its effect to make men not idle, not unfruitful. And it seems, to some extent, too, illogical, because all these graces are themselves the result of diligence, and are themselves fruit. But the apparent difficulty, like many of the other anomalous expressions of Scripture, covers deep thoughts. The first is this — Look after your characters and work will look after itself. The world says, "Do! do! do!" Christianity says, "Be! be! be! "If you are right, then, and only then will you do right. So learn this lesson, do not waste your time in tinkering at actions, go deeper down and make the actor right, and then the actions will not be wrong. The highest exercises of these radiant gems of Christian graces is to make men diligent and fruitful, Again, it takes the whole of these Christian graces to overcome our natural indolence. The pendulum will be sure to settle into the repose that gravitation dictates unless the clock be kept wound up, and it needs all the wheels and springs to keep it ticking for its four and twenty hours. The homely duty of hard work, the prosaic virtue of diligence, is the very flower and highest product of all these transcendent graces. Then, still further, there is a lesson here in the collocation of the words before us, namely, an idle Christian is certain to be a barren one. And now the last point in this picture of what all Christian people may be is — by the exercise of diligence and fruitfulness attain to a fuller knowledge of Christ. Literally rendered, the text reads, "towards the knowledge." There be two measures of knowledge of Christ. There is that initial one which dawns upon a heart in the midst of its sin and evil, and assures it of a loving friend and of a Divine Redeemer; and there is the higher, constantly expanding, deepening, becoming more intimate and unbroken, more operative on the life and transforming in the character, which is the reward and the crown of earth, and the crown and heaven of heaven. And it is this knowledge which the apostle here says, will follow if, and only if, we have striven to add to our faith all these graces, and they have made us strenuous in service and fruitful in holiness.


1. It is possible for a man to be purged from his old sins and yet not to be growing. It is a case of arrested development, as you sometimes see a man with the puny limbs of childhood; or, as you sometimes see a plant, which you cannot say is dead, but it has not vitality enough to flower or to fruit.

2. Further, such a one is "blind," or, as the apostle goes on to explain, or, if you like, to correct himself, "he cannot see afar off." The apostle employs a unique word to express "cannot see afar off," which, if you will pardon the vulgarism for the sake of the force, I would venture to translate "blinks." There was a time when you had clear vision. The smoky roof of your cabin was rent, and you saw through it up to the Throne, but your eyes have gone dim because you have been careless to develop your faith; and where there is no development of faith there is retrogression of faith. Therefore, all the far-off glories have faded, and the only things that you see are the things that are temporal, the material, the pressure of present cares, and the like.

3. Let me remind you of the last point in this sad picture. "He hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins." Yes! These idle unfruitful Christians have in their memories, if they would only open the cupboard door and look, a blessed gift long ago given that might, and that ought to stimulate them. They are their own worst condemnation. There was a time when they felt the burden of sin upon their consciences when they hated it and desired to be free from it. And what has it all come to? The sins forgiven have come back; the sins hated have reasserted their dominion; Pharaoh has caught them again. The moment's emancipation has been followed by a recrudescence of all the old transgressions. So they contradict themselves and their own past and contravene the purpose of God in their pardon, and, with monstrous ingratitude, are untouched by the tender motives to growth in holiness which lie in the pouring out of the blood which cleanses from all sin.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

WEB: For if these things are yours and abound, they make you to be not idle nor unfruitful to the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Goal of Christian Character
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