Skip to content

Christians Are Saved by Grace. But Then What?

  • by

In part one of this series, we examined the biblical pattern of reminder, and especially Peter’s effort to remind his readers of the basic truths of the Gospel, which he declares in 2 Peter 1:12–15. By repeatedly coming back to the essentials, Peter sought to prevent his readers from being led astray by false teachers who denied Christ and the Gospel. Pastors today should take a lesson from Peter and be deliberate in urging the essentials of the Gospel on their own congregations.

Now, in part two, we’ll consider what is the “old, old story of Jesus and His love”1 that we need to be told and to tell again. In 2 Peter 1:1–11, the apostle’s greeting and opening exhortations provide us with a rough outline of basic Gospel truths as he affirms his readers’ redemption by Christ, reminds them of the promises of God in which they hope, and urges them on to the sanctification to which they’re called. As we consider these words today, they can remind us of the truths to which we must always return.

Grace, Peace, and Knowledge

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:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:1–2)

In these verses, Peter wants to remind his readers of the fact that what unites them is not a shared concern about the problems of the world, not a shared concern about the persecution of the day, and not a common opposition to falsehood that is all around them (though he will go on to address these matters in chapter 2). Rather, what unites them is a shared faith. All of them have trusted in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died on a cross for our sins, was raised from the dead on the third day, and ascended to the right hand of God, from which He will return to judge the living and the dead and dwell with His people forever.

This shared faith comes “by the righteousness of God our Savior.” When you study this text, you have to wrestle with the question of whether this phrase is a reference to the impartiality of God (His acting in a right way, undiscriminating in the disbursement of grace) or to the imputed righteousness of Christ (the righteous standing of Jesus that God considers to be ours before His throne of judgment). Regardless of which Peter means, both are biblical doctrines and fundamentals of the Gospel that we ought to remember.

God’s provision for us is grounded in His relationship with us.

As a remarkable display of His righteousness, God has chosen to save individuals from every tribe and tongue. All people of all nations have sinned and are equally worthy of God’s judgment of death (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). For those of us who have been united to Christ, however, God counts our sins against Christ on the cross, and Christ’s good works are accounted to us—not because of any good that we have done but simply because He is good and generous.

Peter then greets them with the wish that “grace and peace” would be “multiplied to them.” That is what all of us really need: grace first, and then peace. As Paul says in Romans 5:1, “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The righteous standing we’ve received by faith is a gift of God. It is God’s grace to us. And the result is that we are no longer enemies of God but at peace with Him, adopted as sons and daughters into His very family.

This grace and peace comes through the “knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” The knowledge of God is a gift of His grace, and by it, men and women are constituted as believers. As God reveals who He is to us and makes known His eternal plan in the Gospel of Christ, we may take hold of the righteousness He offers by grace and indeed live at peace with Him. This knowledge is more than an acceptance of the facts; it is the Holy Spirit’s renewal of our minds (Rom. 12:2), by which the eyes of our hearts are enlightened (Eph. 1:18) so that we may grasp at all that God is and does. It is through this spiritual knowledge and love of God that we may embrace Him by faith at all.

There is no true Christian life without this grace of God that brings us to Jesus Christ. We cannot have knowledge of God on our own, nor can we make peace with God by our own efforts. The one hope for humankind is the salvation that Christ achieved for us at the cross. We must always remind ourselves and our fellow Christians that salvation is by grace through faith and not by works.

And, of course, Peter’s hope is that this grace would be “multiplied.” His point is not that Christians can be more or less saved. Rather, it is that once being united to Christ by faith, they may then grow more and more into the image of Christ as the Holy Spirit sanctifies them. It is to this subject he turns as he moves from greeting to exhortation in the following verses.

Believe in God’s Power and Promises

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:3–4)

Peter’s readers were antagonized by those who were bold, arrogant, and apparently powerful. They needed a reminder of the power of God. So Peter writes, “Don’t forget that God has given us everything that we need for life and for godliness”—not all the health and wealth we want but all the spiritual and material provision we need to live the Christlike life to which He has called us.

God’s provision for us is grounded in His relationship with us. He has initiated this wonderful friendship not on account of something that He’s seen in us but on the basis of “his own glory and excellence.” And His power has granted us everything we need not only for the commencement of our relationship with Him but also for its continuance and completion.

God’s power is like the power of a trans-Atlantic jetliner, able to offer sustained thrust for the whole journey. It would be no good to be shot out of a cannon in New York and expect to land in London. You’d have a wet landing somewhere not far from where you started! And there are people who come to church Sunday by Sunday so that a pastor can reload them in the cannon and fire them out again for another hundred yards. This is not Gospel living. The Christian life is meant to be a heavenward flight sustained by divine power.

Furthermore, God has given us “precious and very great promises”—all of which are affirmed and guaranteed by the life, work, and ongoing presence of our Lord Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20). These promises offer us the assurance of God’s presence and power with us: “Through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” We participate in the divine nature when we are filled with God the Spirit, united with God the Son, and adopted as children by God the Father. As the Spirit unites us with Christ as God’s children, we may enjoy freedom from the power of sin in our lives and increasing holiness as we grow into the image of Jesus Christ.

There is no Christian life without God’s power at work in us. There is only moralism. There is only futility. And yet the temptation confronts us always, having begun by God’s power, to go forward by human effort (Gal. 3:3). Effort is necessary, but on its own, it is empty. Pastors must always remind themselves and their congregations that the power for the Christian life comes from communion with and dependence on the God who saved us and has promised to be with us.

“Make Every Effort”

For this very reason, 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 or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5–11)

Only after having acknowledged his readers’ salvation by grace and having reminded them of God’s power, which carries them on, does Peter say, “Make every effort.” Human effort is clearly inadequate, but it is nevertheless indispensable. It always follows God’s grace and is evidence to us of that grace. We don’t merit God’s grace by our efforts, nor can we lose God’s grace by lack of effort or other failures.

We “make every effort” because there is no New Testament warrant for “letting go and letting God.” We do not coast to maturity on the power of our conversion. The key to Christian maturity, according to Peter, is not “letting go” but adding on—to “supplement your faith.” There is to be a joyful, submissive cooperation by the believer to God in the Christian life so that we might bring glory to Him.

There is no Christian life without God’s power at work in us. There is only moralism. There is only futility.

Peter then introduces three very important if-then ideas. The first “if” to note is in verse 8: “If these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” They will result in all of our days counting for something and counting for someone. The purpose of God’s sanctification is to make us into people who enjoy and glorify God, loving Him and our neighbors and doing the good works He has prepared for us.

In verse 9 comes the second “if,” as Peter essentially says, “If anyone does not have these things, then he is nearsighted, he is blind, and he has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.” In other words, this kind of individual has somehow or another lost sight of their personal interest in what Jesus has done upon the cross. When a person does not make progress in the Christian life, it is directly related to a loss of wonder at who Jesus is and what He has done. Such an individual has forgotten that he has been forgiven and that God can and will continue to transform his life. He is unable to make sense of where he’s going.

The third and final “if” is in verse 10: “If you practice these qualities you will never fall.” This is a promise of assurance. One Puritan commentator has written, “This jewel of assurance does not fall in the lap of any lazy soul, nor can any expect to attain to it, … in whose hearts grace is without exercise, and whose conversation is without fruitfulness.”2 In other words, if we find ourselves growing in grace—not perfect by any means but consistently growing more Christlike—we can be confident that God’s Spirit is at work in us.

The complementary warning comes in the book of Hebrews: “If we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment” (10:26–27). If we are not assured of our salvation by the evidence of God’s power at work in us, we should examine ourselves to see whether we are of the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). Of all the tests we could take, none has either greater rewards for passing or greater punishment for failing on the day of judgment.

It is crucial, therefore, that we remind ourselves and our congregations of these things. We cannot be satisfied with people who have merely affirmed the Gospel of grace and made a verbal profession. We must remind them always of the purpose to which they have been called as we look to see their calling and election secure, built on the foundation of Jesus Christ and demonstrated by a growing likeness to Him (1 Cor. 2:10–15).


The great antidote to failure in the Christian life is to have the Gospel told to us again and again and again—to have our gaze turned to the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ so that we might understand that none of us can put ourselves in a right standing with God by means of our own endeavors or the intercession of religious professionals. The only way we’re put in a right standing with God is by coming and trusting that in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, He atoned for our sins. By the grace of God we may believe it, and by His grace we must repent and walk in the way to which He has called us.

This article was adapted from the sermons “Back to the Basics” and “The Great Escape” by Alistair Begg. Subscribe to get weekly blog updates.

Back to the Basics Article Series

Part One: “‘The Old, Old Story’ That Never Gets Old

Part Two: “Christians Are Saved by Grace. But Then What?”

Part Three: “The Sole Authority of God’s Word” (Coming May 8, 2024)


Arabella Katherine Hankey, “Tell Me the Old, Old Story” (1866). ↩︎

Alexander Nisbet, An Exposition of 1 and 2 Peter (1658; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1982), 231. ↩︎

Associate AI Pastor
Spiritual Support