John 1:4 & 2 Peter 1:1-10 — (part 10) — Calling and Election Made Sure – LeGrand Baker

From one perspective, almost everything that is really important in our lives begins as a random happenstance, such as the chance meeting of someone who will become a dear and trusted friend. However, that makes little sense to me. It seems to me that if we made covenants before we came here, our doing so would have been ill-advised if our lives here were to be left to haphazard, unplanned eventualities.

Therefore, I believe that almost everything that is important is based on the covenants we made at the Council in Heaven. That is empowering. We do not have to fret because we do not have to fulfill obligations like those assigned to other people, and we do not have to be perfect like someone else. Our responsibility is to be ourselves and to do what we covenanted to do.

Now that belief seems to be bit awkward on the surface, because we cannot remember what we said we would do, how we said we would do it, or who we said we would love. A primary function of the Holy Ghost is to teach us what those covenants were and what we should do to fulfil them. Some are long term, like “get an education so you will be qualified.” Others are immediate, like “talk to that stranger about the gospel because he will listen.”

In addition to those specific covenants we made, there are some things everyone must do to qualify for the celestial kingdom. Many of them can be accomplished while we are in this world. Otherwise, they may be accomplished in the next world. But whenever it is we have an opportunity to fulfill them, the criteria for being a celestial person does not change. The scriptures say that many times. Two explicit examples are:

5 For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world (D&C 132:5).

20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.
(D&C 130:1-23)

Another example is the 25th Psalm. It is my favorite because it resonates with us personally and speaks to us plainly about those covenants, and it attaches them to eternal blessings. Psalm 37:11, which was quoted by the Savior in the Beatitudes, says “the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” However it is Psalm 25 that identifies the meek as those who keep the covenants they made at the Council in Heaven and says their “seed shall inherit the earth.” It reads in part,

9 The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are mercy [hesed] and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies. {1}
11 For thy name’s sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great.
12 What man is he that feareth the Lord? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.
13 His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth
14 The secret [sode] of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.(Psalms 25:9-14). {2}

The promise in verse 14 could not more unequivocal. “The secret [sode] of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.” The word secret is sode, and is a specific reference to the decisions made at the Council in Heaven. {3}

The promise is if they “fear” the Lord “he will shew them his covenant.” The word “fear” carries no connotation of being afraid, and “respect” is not completely adequate. It means to honor, esteem, give deference to, but all of those feelings are founded on devotion and love. The psalm says that if we live to be sensitive to his instructions, and love the Lord, he will teach us when and how to fulfil those covenants.

Some of the covenants are as eternal as we are. For example, Psalm 82 depicts the members of the Council in Heaven making a covenant that sounds very much like charity and the law of consecration. {4} The law of consecration is what one does when charity is what one is. Keeping that covenant is our most constant source of happiness during our journey through linear time. Modern revelation reiterates its importance while we are in this world (D&C 42, 85, and 105). How well we keep that covenant is the ultimate criterion upon which our eternal salvation will be determined. The apostle Peter gave us the perfect guidelines about how to achieve that end.

The letter that is 2 Peter was his final instructions to the Saints. He says he knew he was about to be killed. The epistle begins with a poetic description of the early Christian temple service which he says contained “exceeding great and precious promises” that will enable one to “be partakers of the divine nature.”

Peter followed that promise with instructions about how to make one’s calling and election sure. In a sermon based on 2 Peter, the Prophet Joseph said,

There are three grand secrets lying in this chapter, [2 Peter 1.] which no man can dig out, unless by the light of revelation, and which unlocks the whole chapter as the things that are written are only hints of things which existed in the prophet’s mind, which are not written concerning eternal glory. {5}

Peter’s letter was addressed “to them that have obtained like precious faith with us.” The Greek word that is translated as “faith” is pistis. Its modern English equivalent is “contract” or “covenant.” {6} As becomes increasingly apparent in the next three verses, Peter was using this reference to the covenants to represent the entire early Christian temple service.

1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith [the Greek word is pistis, meaning the covenants] with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,
3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust [lust is wanting anything too much].

Peter then says, in addition to those covenants, we have to do the following:

5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
8 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.
9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall (2 Peter 1:1-10).

Peter has divided this criterion into two separate groupings. The first are four steps in the spiritual development of one’s Self:

1. add to your faith/pistis — the ordinances and covenants we receive. It is given to us by God’s authority, and is a sustaining power that we may live to and depend upon.

2. virtue — the word actually means “manliness (valor),” strength, integrity, honesty, intelligence. {7} It is what we are; our power to do what must be done.

3. knowledge — of truth. “And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come (D&C 93:24).” Knowledge is something we are given and are expected to act upon. We have only as much free agency as we have knowledge of reality. Without sufficient knowledge of both the principles and their consequences, we are free to guess but not really free to choose. If we knew all truth, our agency would be absolute.

4. temperance — self control, the way we conduct our own lives, doing nothing in excess. Freedom is the power to choose and to do, but abdicating that power to our inability to control what we do is a form of slavery.

The second grouping is four steps about our attitudes and relationships with other people:

5. patience — We must be patient, especially with children; but also with ourselves; and even with God as is eloquently expressed in Psalm 25.

6. godliness — the Greek word means “reverence.” It is also about our attitude and actions toward other people. To revere something or someone is to rejoice in the goodness and beauty of their reality. We can never seek to hurt anything or anyone whom we revere. {8}

7. brotherly kindness — in this verse, the King James Version uses the phrase “brotherly kindness,” but elsewhere in the New Testament that same Greek word is always translated as “brotherly love” which has a somewhat stronger connotation. Strong # 5360 (first edition, 1890) reads: “philadelphia; fraternal affection: brotherly love (kindness), love of the brethren” Philadelphia is a focused love, love for an individual, implicitly a reciprocated one-on-one relationship.

8. Charity expands that focused love to everyone. It seems to me that a major characteristic of God is his ability to love everyone equally and at the same time to focus his love just on one individual without diminishing his love for everyone else. (My parents could do that with their six children. Each one of us knew he or she was Dad and Mom’s favorite, and each one also knew that all the others knew they were the favorite as well. That is a beautiful thing for me to remember.)

In the first four steps Peter outlines what one must do to qualify one’s Self to serve others. The second four are the steps that qualify us for eternal life. Even though they are presented in a sequence, each of them must be developed in small steps, often simultaneously with the others because they build upon each other. Peter continues,

8 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.

9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.

10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: (2 Peter 1:1-10)

As far as I know, to make our calling “sure” is to fulfill the covenants we were called to fulfill—that is, to keep the covenants we made at the Council in Heaven. When we have done that, our election will have become “sure” also.

It is important to note that there is nothing there to suggest that anyone else has to even notice what we are doing, what we have done, or who we are. The qualities of greatness have almost nothing to do with what the world (or even many members of the church) thinks of is being “great.” True greatness has only to do with the qualities of one’s soul. That greatness shines from our eyes and illuminates our whole person. It is the single thing that defines who and what we are.

If love is the engine that drives our actions, and if we obey because we choose to, then both love and obedience together are the single expression of the “eternal law of our own beings.” {9} They define who we were at the Council, who we are just now, and who we will always be. It is that truth/light/love by which we shine, and that we acknowledge in others, and share with God and his children that enables us to be included in their celestial community.

The wonderful thing about Peter’s grouping is that it is a list—that is, we do not complete one item before beginning the next, and it is also a sequence where one follows the other. For example, one cannot master patience if one has little self control, and charity is impossible without “brotherly kindness.”

The other positive aspect of Peter’s catalogue is that, except for pistis which he uses to represent the Christian temple covenants, and charity which is a cleansing gift of the Spirit, no covenant or ordinance is necessary to cultivate any of the other qualifications for salvation. Persons who lack the covenants and ordinances but have those personal qualities in this world go into the next with tremendous advantage. In the spirit world, their lack can easily be taken care of by vicarious priesthood ordinances. I believe those refining qualities are what Joseph meant when he explained to his friends,

18 Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
19 And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come (D&C 130:18-19).

As I read those verses, “principle of intelligence” is the quality of one’s soul, while “knowledge and intelligence” require our diligence in keeping the covenants and honoring the ordinances that validate them. Whether we achieve those ends in this life or the next does not seem to be at issue. What is at issue is that the rules are set. We are not immediately condemned by our sins because we can repent. But in the very end, the standards of excellence are established and there will be no wiggle room to get around them. Nephi’s testimony stands as a beacon.

23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do (2 Nephi 25:23).

As is often so, it is to Alma that we turn for the last word. He explains that the Savior’s mercy enables us to repent, but it is his justice that enables our salvation.

15 And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.
16 Now, repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be, affixed opposite to the plan of happiness, which was as eternal also as the life of the soul.
17 Now, how could a man repent except he should sin? How could he sin if there was no law? How could there be a law save there was a punishment?
18 Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man.
19 Now, if there was no law given—if a man murdered he should die—would he be afraid he would die if he should murder?
20 And also, if there was no law given against sin men would not be afraid to sin.
21 And if there was no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, or mercy either, for they would have no claim upon the creature?
22 But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.
23 But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice.
24 For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved.
25 What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God.
26 And thus God bringeth about his great and eternal purposes, which were prepared from the foundation of the world. And thus cometh about the salvation and the redemption of men, and also their destruction and misery (Alma 42:15-26).
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FOOTNOTES

{ 1} For a discussion of hesed, see in this website: “Ether 12:27 – weakness, strength, and humility; & pistis, hesed, and charity – LeGrand Baker.”

{2}Psalm 25 is also full of temple code. You can find my discussion of the psalm in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, first edition, 525-543; second edition, 378-90.

{3} You can find a discussion of sode in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, first edition 195-209; second edition, 139-48.

{4} For a discussion of Psalm 82 see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, first edition, 227-45; second edition, 162-74.

{5} Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols., introduction and notes by B. H. Roberts (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1932-1951), 5:401-02; . Joseph Smith, The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph, compiled and edited by Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, (Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1980), 205.

{6} “Moroni 7:19-39 — ‘faith in Christ’ — pistis, covenant, contract – LeGrand Baker.”

{7} Strong # 703, “Manliness (valor)” is the definition in my 1890 edition. My newer, more politically correct edition prefers a definition that means just a nice-person.

{8}Strong # 2150.

{9} In Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, the chapter called “Alma 13: The Quest for Self: to Know the Law of One’s Own Being,” first edition, 801-06; second edition, 564-67.

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