Ah, that little word “if” again! This quotation is from 2 Peter 1&2. This is Peter’s final message as he realises he is soon to die. He sees evil growing and false believers coming to the fore who “promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. For IF, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first” (2:19,20).
What is the false promise of freedom? A glaring example today is the slogan in some churches, ‘Once saved, always saved’. This unbiblical interpretation astonishes those who know their Bibles! Can it be that after you are initially ‘saved’ (and in the First Century you showed this by being baptised in water), was it then that grace covered all your future sins regardless? A remarkable kind of freedom!
Now take careful notice of Peter’s words in chapter 1. He tells his readers that he and they have been “granted … all things that pertain to life” and “having escaped the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire … (therefore) make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful …” (1:3-8).
It is helpful to look at other translations to get the fullest meaning behind some of these qualities. Some Greek words cannot be translated effectively by one English word. For example virtue has been rendered as integrity and knowledge can be the act of knowing, in the sense of having a relationship.
Finally, note verse 10. “Therefore brothers (and sisters) be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for IF you practice these qualities you will never fail.” Let us make real progress in making sure we “never fail”.