THE POWER OF GOD
By Pastor Glenn Pease
In may of 1883 strange noises were heard over a hundred miles away coming from the island of Krakatoa between Java and Sumatra. Some Dutchmen chartered a boat and visited the island to investigate. They heard rumbling deep in the earth, and saw geysers of steam shooting up here and there. They left the island, and three months later this island paradise blew sky high. In the words of Lewis Dunnington it was, "The most awful, cataclysmic contortion of the earth's crust that the world had ever experienced." Cracks opened up again and again, and ocean water poured into Molten white hot lava until 14 square miles of the island was hurled into the sky. The Royal Society of London said, "It made the mightiest noise which, so far as we can ascertain, has ever been heard on the globe.
It was distinctly heard 3000 miles away four hours later. Here is a mini example of what Peter says in 3:10 will happen on the Day of the Lord when the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire. It was a mini example of judgement day, but a fantastic demonstration of destructive power. It created a title wave 50 feet high tearing across the Indian Ocean at speeds up to three hundred fifty miles per hour. It destroyed 163 villages with all their inhabitants. It reached Cape Horn in 17 hours, and on the way it destroyed 5000 ships. One Dutch ship was carried 2 miles inland. Dust from the pulverized island rose 20 miles into the air, and it was carried around the globe. Six months later the sky over St. Louis, Missouri was green and yellow from that dust.
Scientists went to visit the island in 1884, and they found no life at all. Two years later in 1886 they returned, and they found ferns, four varieties of flowers, two kinds of grass, butterflies, ants, caterpillars, morning glories, mango and sugar plum. Birds which carried the seeds of all this vegetation were there in abundance. It was again a paradise, and again a mini example of God's plan after the world is destroyed. Peter says in 3:13 that we look for a new heaven and new earth.
The events on the island of Krakatoa illustrate the events of all history from paradise lost to paradise regained. It illustrates the power of life over the power of death even in nature. Nature, of course, is God's plan, and we see this same fact in the spiritual realm. Sin blew man's paradise and harmonious relationship to God all to pieces. But as the birds were God's agents in nature to restore life to the island, so the Dove of the Holy Spirit brings new life into the desert of man's soul. When men respond and drink of the water of life that Jesus offers, the desert blooms as a rose.
The whole point is that the power of life, good, and godliness will always triumph over the power of death, evil and wickedness, provided we are in the right relationship to the source of this power. Peter says in verse 3 that God's divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us to His glory and virtue. Everything necessary for the abundant and godly life is potentially ours through the knowledge of God. Knowledge of God is the means by which we gain the power of God. From beginning to end the Christian life is a matter of the power of God working in us. By believing in Christ and receiving Him as Savior we are given, says John, the power to become the children of God. The Christian life from that point is a matter of the energy of God flowing through us.
The English word energy is taken from the Greek word frequently used by Paul. In Gal. 2:8 he writes, "He who energized in Peter for the mission to the circumcised energized in me also for the Gentiles." The Greek is translated in the New Testament as worketh, wrought mightily, or operated. The idea is God's energy working in man's life to empower them for service. Here are a few verses in which we see this word being used. Col. 1:29 says, "I labor, striving according to His energy which energizes in me in power." Eph. 3:7 says, "The gift of the grace of God which was given to me according to the energy of His Power." Phil. 3:13 says, "It is God who energizes in you both to will and to energize for His pleasure." I Cor. 12:6 says, "There are diversities of effects of energy; but it is the same God who energizes all in all."
There are more, but these make it clear that Jesus meant what He said when He claimed His disciples could do nothing without Him. He meant nothing that is a part of the spiritual life, for He is the source of energy. To be without Christ is to be without power. On the other hand, Paul said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." All things is what Peter is saying also. God has granted us all things by His power that pertain to life and godliness. Peter does not hesitate to speak boldly about the power of God, the provision of God, and the purpose of God, in this verse. Let's consider now-
That which God makes available through His power is what we are looking at. It is frustrating to read passages like this superficially because they seem to be so far beyond our experience. Peter says that God has granted us all things that pertain to life and godliness. This being so, we should have no lack, but be perfect Christians. If God has provided everything, what can be lacking? But he goes on to tell them that they must labor diligently to add all kinds of things to their faith in order to be effective and fruitful. So they both have everything, and yet have a great deal yet to acquire. It is obvious then that we are dealing here with the difference between potential and actual.
In this verse Peter is saying that God's provision is complete. There is absolutely nothing that you need in order to be the best possible Christian that is not available. The potential for everyone of us to be all that we can be in God's plan is a reality. Any lack and any failure to attain this ideal is due to inadequacy on our part, and not God's lack of provision. The raw material is available, but what is needed is the labor to put it together. Markham captured this idea in poetry.
We men of earth have here the stuff
Of Paradise-we have enough!
We need no other stones to build
The stairs into the Unfulfilled;
No other ivory for the doors;
No other marble for the floors;
No other cedar for the beam,
And dome of man's immortal dream.
Here on the path of everyday;
Here on the common human way,
Is all the busy God would take
To build a heaven, to mold and make
New Edens. Ours the task sublime
To build Eternity in Time.
The poet has expressed the very thought of Peter. We do not need anything more, for all is provided to accomplish the ideal. All that is necessary now is to build. The problem is never supply, but labor. We must cooperate with God, or all His provision will be of no benefit. In other words, even the almighty power of God will not make the Christian life easy, for it costs to make real in life what God has made potential by His grace. God demands our cooperation before His provision can become actualized in experience.
A man purchased a bouquet of American Beauty Roses, and he exclaimed, "See what God wrought." The florist said, "Wait a minute." He disappeared into the green house, and he came back holding a plain common rose, and he said, "See what God wrought." Then he took the bouquet of beautiful roses and said, "See what God and man wrought." The florist was right. Some of the finest things in nature God will not do without man's cooperation. Hybrids with all their superior quality cannot be raised by depending on the laws of nature alone. They can only survive, as they came to exist in the first place, by man's cooperation with the forces of God in a new venture. They are only potential by God's power, but they become actual by man's cooperation.
The Christian life is a hybrid life. It is a combination of the divine and human. If the human element fails to cooperate, the same things happens which happens to a hybrid plant. It reverts back to a common plant, and the Christian slips back into the natural life. This need never be, however, for God has provided all that is necessary for the commencement, continuation, and completion of the Christian life.
How do we lay hold on this amazing provision? Peter says it is through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and virtue. Peter keeps bringing this back to the knowledge of God as the means by which we become open to His power, and acquire His provision of all things. We cannot escape this idea as the key to all Peter says. R. H. Benson rightly said, "There is but one thing in the world really worth pursuing-the knowledge of God." Out problem with this basic truth is that we impose our modern concept of knowledge on the Scripture, and we limit it in a way that is not valid.
To know in the biblical sense means that one's mind, heart, and whole being is involved. To know is used to describe the most intimate relation of man and wife. Adam knew Eve and she conceived a child. To know means far more than mere intellectual acquaintance. To know is to love, and to express that love. The bible does not divide man up into unrealistic segments as we tend to do. We disect man into intellect, emotion and will. This is alright for the sake of study, but we tend to think that real people operate like our descriptions on paper. In reality they do not do so. They are really more like the biblical picture. They do all that they do as a whole. They do not love with the heart apart from their mind and will. They do not choose with the will apart from their emotions and intellect. They do not learn with their mind apart from their feelings and will. Man is a whole, and when the Bible refers to knowing God, it means as a whole man, and not just the intellect. To know God is to love Him and to obey Him. Knowing God is a commitment of the total person.
Jesus will say to some in the day of judgment that "I never knew you." He is not confessing to a lack of omniscience, but He is saying that I never had an intimate relationship of love with you. Whatever knowledge there was involved was only a matter of the head, and the heart was not included. We need to think with the mind of Christ when we consider the knowledge of God as the means by which we gain the power and provision of God. It is through a wise, loving, intimate, obedient relationship to God that we gain all things necessary to life and godliness.
Peter tells us God's purpose in calling us. We are called to His own glory and excellence. Every Christian has the highest possible calling. No Christian need ever feel insignificant, for he is called to the glory and excellence of God. Felix Adler wrote, "The object of religion is to rescue man from his insignificance, and to reveal to him his eternal self." In Christianity alone man finds this goal fulfilled, for only the Christian is called to the heights of becoming Christlike. Only a Christian can become partaker of the divine nature and display the glory of God. The big question is, are we answering the call?
Glory is greatness and honor. When we speak of the glory of Greece, or the glory of Rome, we mean the marvelous greatness, power, and splendor that characterize them in their golden age. The glory of any country is her honor. Sir Walter Scott wrote-
Stood for his country's glory fast,
And nailed her colors to the mast.
The glory of America is the greatness in honor of her history, and the benefits she has bestowed upon mankind. Likewise, the glory and excellence of God is His majesty, honor, and praise worthiness for all his benefits given to man through Christ. To be called to the glory of your country is to be called to participate in the heritage, honor, and blessedness of her past, and to demonstrate the virtues that made her great that they might be preserved for the future.
Applying this to the call of God to His glory we see why we lack so much of the provision of God. We are not fulfilling His purpose. We are not being good soldiers of Christ aiming to defend His glory and honor. We are not magnifying His majesty and message of love in life. The problem always comes back to our failure to cooperate with God's plan. We break the circuit by our ignorance and indifference, and so we lose the power of God, and in turn, we lack the provision of God to fulfill His purpose. The Great Wall of China was an enormous project costing immense expenditure in labor and lives. It should have provided them with full security, but it did not do so because of gatekeepers who were bribed, and the enemy was able to enter and conquer. It was the human element that failed, and the same is true in the plan of God. God has provided all that is necessary for security and victory, but the human element fails to cooperate and the purpose of God is not fulfilled. Peter goes on to tell us of the many things that we can add to our lives to cooperate with God. But the bottom line is that any lack we have in life is not due to God's lack of provision, but to our lack of cooperation in using that provision to experience His power.