#1 A Faith of Equal Standing
This blog entry is part of a series through the book of 2nd Peter.
Text: 2 Peter 1:1
“Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
A Faith Of Equal Standing
If we are not mindful of grace, we end up classifying one another’s position before God based on superficial credentials instead of sheer faith. The Apostle Peter wants to set this worldly perspective straight right from the start. Who exactly is it that has "a faith of equal standing?" Anyone and everyone who has believed in Jesus Christ for salvation. Whether you have been a Christian for five minutes or fifty years, according to the Word of God you have a faith of equal standing to every other believer who has ever lived! This is a profound symbol of God’s pardoning grace for repentant sinners.
God’s love is not gifted in increments based on performance and achievement. Maybe in your profession you have something like an annual review. In these meetings your work is assessed and scrutinized by your boss. Depending on the measure of your performance, your pay may increase or decrease, you may receive a promotion or you could lose your position altogether. In the world, everything hinges on your ability to measure up, but this is the exact opposite of how God works. From the first moment that our heart turns to Christ we are gifted "a faith of equal standing" with every other true believer who has ever lived. It is not that God isn’t interested in helping us grow up into the salvation we have been given, but rather that Christ is the only measure of our merit, not ourselves. Our faith is of equal standing because the faith of every Christian is based on the perfect life and sacrificial death of Jesus. It is his standing before God that is gifted to us. In a sense, you could say that our “pay” and our “position" are based on the annual review of Jesus Christ, and his spotless record means eternal glory for all who believe. This is what Peter means when he says, “…by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Our “equal standing” is based solely on the finished work of Jesus Christ. The bedrock message of the Christian faith is that God’s saving love is a free gift provided for you, not anything that you could ever provide for God.
A Unique God-Given Function
Peter has been called by God to serve the Church as an “apostle,” and you see him mention this in the opening of his letter. “Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ.” Why does he make sure to share that? Because "equal standing" does not necessarily mean equal function. In other words, by clarifying his calling as an apostle Peter is saying, “I’m not implying that I am more important than you because of my apostleship, instead I am saying that although we are equals I still have a unique God-given job to do.” It is important for us to understand that Peter is in no way saying that our "faith of equal standing" negates the importance of our unique God-given function. Others have made this point well by using the phrase, “Unity does not necessarily mean uniformity.” We are unalterably equal before the throne of God, and we are also each given unique gifts and callings to be used for the common good.
God’s design for the upbuilding of his people is the ministry of all his saints, one to another. In other words, God has gifted each of us in such a way that is meant for the strengthening and encouraging of the whole. Where this reality becomes tense is in the area of submission to church leadership. It is not hard to submit to the authority of a pastor who is encouraging you with truths that you desperately want to hear, but it is much harder to submit to a pastor who is lovingly pointing you to an area where you need to grow in obedience to God. We are tempted to say, “What right do you have to point these things out in my life?” But in order for that leader to be faithful to his God-given calling he must share that loving truth with you. In fact, it would be unloving and disobedient for him not to. This is the foundational opening of Peter’s second epistle. “Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, equal among brothers, yet called by God to lead.”
The primary intention of Peter’s letter is to help believer’s grow up into the salvation they have received. He is going to share some truths with us that we will be tempted to ignore and reject. This is why he opens his letter by reminding us that God’s love for us is not based on our performance whatsoever. Our standing before God is based solely on the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ in our place. We will need to remember this as we unfold the verses ahead, lest we become discouraged and start trying to perform, trying to put together a righteousness of our own.
Rest in the faith of equal standing that you have been freely given through Christ, and be humble to receive and faithful to serve in the functions God has appointed for the blessing of his people.