“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” (2 Peter 1:5–8).
THERE IS A “JUDICIAL” ASPECT TO THE GOSPEL, BUT SALVATION IN CHRIST INVOLVES FAR MORE THAN GOD’S PRONOUNCEMENT THAT WE ARE “JUSTIFIED.” Having obeyed the gospel we do indeed stand in a right relationship with God, having been pardoned from our past sins (Romans 5:1,2). At that point, however, we begin learning to be very different people than we used to be. As forgiven ones, living under God’s mercy, we participate in the process of “bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
In particular, we begin living on the basis of faith. Paul was quoting from Habakkuk when he said, “The righteous shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). In contrast to our previous self-will, our decisions are now governed by God’s will. Our operative principle is confidence in the One “whom I have believed” (2 Timothy 1:12).
As we learn to live by faith, things begin to happen that would not happen if it were not for faith. For one thing, faith commits us to a life of spiritual growth. It is the foundation upon which all of the Christ-like qualities of character are built — and the addition of these virtues to our faith is not optional. “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 1:10,11).
Believing, then, is not a simple one-time decision after which we drift through life automatically, taking it for granted that we have been saved. True faith is a “walk,” a way of living (Colossians 2:6,7). At the heart of it all is a trust in God that causes us to obey Him readily and reverently. It is a soul-deep dependence on the Father who has loved us and saved us. To believe is not only to believe, but to take the risks that only trust will take.
“The temptation to make our relationship to God judicial instead of personal is very strong. Believing for salvation has been reduced to a once-done act that requires no further attention” (A. W. Tozer).