Unpacking the Gift
© 2021 C. O. Bishop
2nd Corinthians 9:15; 2nd Peter 1:3-11
Yesterday was Christmas. We watched a small boy open the gifts he was given. As he opened each one, he dutifully recited ‘Thaaannk youuuu!”, even when, occasionally, it was obvious he really did not know what the gift was.
The adults cautioned him to “look at it more carefully,” and they helped him read labels, so that he knew this little kit (for example) included parts to build three different projects, each of which was an exciting toy, but which could be deconstructed and rebuilt into yet another toy. But since there were other gifts to open, he did not get to actually unpack the gifts and learn to use them. And, I recall that, when I was a child, I often had more fun playing with the wrapping paper and the boxes in which the gifts arrived. I was distracted from the real gifts.
Each of us here has received a precious gift from God. In 2nd Corinthians 9:15, Paul gives thanks for that gift, saying, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” But, I would venture to guess that without having “unpacked” that gift at least a little, we would have a difficult time explaining why it is an “unspeakable gift.” The child, in the story above, said “thank you” very politely, but he had no idea what the gift really was. So: how well do you understand the Gift God has Given?
The gift is Jesus: each of us received that gift, the moment we trusted his completed work at the cross as the full payment for our sins…God’s chosen sacrifice in our behalf. We read about that gift in John 3:16, and many other places: “God so loved the World that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
We received that gift by faith, and each of us has thanked God many times for that gift. But have we really “unpacked it?” You see, the truth is, Jesus includes a great deal more than “just” eternal life. He offers more than “just” forgiveness for our sins.
He offers abiding Grace by which to live in troubled times. He offers Joy to look beyond the sin-ravaged landscape of this world and to see the secure promise of His coming, His inevitable victory, and the Eternal Kingdom of light and joy and righteousness which will unfold thereafter. I have to admit that the portion of His gifts beyond that promise is quite dim in my mind. But the portion we are supposed to be unpacking now is fairly clear…and I am still working on it.
How do we “unpack” that gift?
One thing we can do is to read about it in God’s Word, the Bible. 2nd Peter 1:3-11 gives us a beginning “outline” by which to begin unpacking God’s Gift.
The Gifts and the Goals
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
God has already given us a number of gifts: some He gave to the whole human race, whether believers or unbelievers. Life and the Creation around us were given to all. He gave Himself at the Cross for all humans as full payment for our sins. Some gifts He gives specifically to believers, irrespective of whether they are actually walking in obedience…all those gifts are theirs because they are in Christ, and, whether they are aware of them or not.
But there are some gifts He wants to “add to the mix,” which must be diligently pursued by a believer, in order to appropriate them. They are still gifts, but in a matter of practical application, they are goals. So… What is the difference?
Verse three says that God has already given us all things that pertain to life and Godliness. No believer is re-born a “spiritual cripple” who is “lame from re-birth.” In your new self, you have been given the ability to choose to walk with Jesus. You have come to know Him, so you have access to all the rest. Verse four tells us how we are to see these realities worked out in our lives:
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.
How? “Exceeding Great and Precious Promises!” Peter says that by means of those promises in God’s Word, we have the privilege of beginning to partake in the character, and nature of God, Himself…and that in so doing, we escape the corruption that is in the World through the ungodly desires of our old natures. In reality, this is part of our inheritance in Christ: we are His real children, and we should expect to grow into His likeness. If we are unpacking the Gift of God’s Love and Grace, then that is one of the things we should be finding.
Collectively, the desires of the World and those of our old natures are completely in opposition to all that God is. His Righteousness and Holiness are utterly repugnant to them. We escape the corruption of the world and the flesh through the application of God’s Word to our lives.
Diligent application of His Word produces further results: We could think of them as goals.
We could read this as “following the directions to see what the gift can do.” When that little boy opened his gift kit, there were three toys the kit could build. But they were not to be built by random experimentation. If he wants to achieve the specific three toys promised, he will have to carefully follow the directions.
Diligence in applying the “exceeding great and precious promises” (as well as the rest of the admonition and correction and encouragement in God’s Word) will produce the following things:
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.
So, there are seven things to look for:
- Brotherly kindness
- Charity (Agapé love)
Please note that all of these things are still under the condition Jesus spelled out in John 15:5, saying “apart from me ye can do nothing.” Is it possible to produce a “cheap imitation” of each of these things by our own efforts? Certainly, it is! But all these things, if produced by the flesh, (our old sin nature) are contaminated by the flesh. The Old Self is not only corrupt, but is continually being corrupted. So, for the realities of each of these values to be born in us, they have to be coming from an ongoing walk with Jesus, in full fellowship with Him. Let’s look at each of them individually:
- Virtue: (Greek: arête…force or strength) It is strange: all my life, I thought that the word “virtue” meant something similar to “piety… being a “goody-two-shoes”.” But it doesn’t mean that at all: it means “strength of character.” God wants to produce that strength of character in each of our lives.
- Knowledge: (Greek: gnosis…experiential knowledge: not just “stuff to know and tell.” This comes from an ongoing relationship with Christ, on a daily, moment by moment basis.)
- Temperance: (Greek: ephrateia…self-control, or continence. We are not to just be tossed around, by every thought, or circumstance, but we are to be controlled by our new nature.)
- Patience: (Greek: hupomonē… endurance…pressing on. It doesn’t mean just “waiting,” but rather, persevering, in the face of hardships and disappointments.)
- Godliness: (Greek: Eusebia…piety or reverence. This is the person and character of Christ “seeping out” all over the life of the believer, so that we literally “smell like Jesus.”)
- Brotherly kindness: (Greek: Philadelphian…actually, this is the “brotherly love” word. This is the general friendliness and kindness and care that we are to have toward others.)
- Charity: (Greek: agapé…Agapé love…the unconditional, committed love expounded upon in 1st Corinthians 13:1-8.) Not feelings, but actions, in every case.
So, the idea is that by diligently applying God’s Word to our lives, these changes should be the result: and that all of them (the real thing) are from God, not “drummed up” by self-effort or self-improvement schemes.
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. The idea behind all of these virtues in a believer’s life is to make us fruitful. Orthodoxy only means “having right opinions.” If right opinions is all I have, and these character traits are missing, then the “correct opinions” have never gotten out of the “library” into the “living room.” They have not become a practical, living reality. A person may have strict adherence to a creed of some sort, and even a form of godliness, but Jesus warned that this can be counterfeit. The Pharisees had all of that and they hated Jesus. James pointed out that the demons are “monotheistic,” too! They know there is “only one God!” They have seen Him face-to-face! So, can see: “having all your doctrinal ducks in a line” is not the real issue: Having an ongoing, faith-based, obedient walk with Jesus is always the issue, and it is evidenced by the fruit of that relationship: the agapé love which coats and fills all aspects of our lives.
We can see two possible extremes in life: Both are tragically real.
- one who is not a believer, but whose opinions and behavior patterns are really pretty good: they seem to be a good person!
- one who actually does know Jesus as his Savior, but whose life does not reflect that reality, nor is he well-schooled in theology. They may seem a really bad example, but they are genuine, and quite common in scripture as well as in life.
The one individual is convinced because of his good works that he does not need God’s grace. Especially because he compares himself with those who claim the name of Jesus, but do not live for Him, he is convinced that he must be “good enough!” And, even more sadly, some of those he points to may themselves be deceived, thinking that “somehow, they slipped into God’s family, and their troubles are over!”
We need to see that in this passage, Peter is addressing those who definitely are believers, and who have begun to grow in their faith: He exhorts them to press on and grow more! He also gives them things to look for in their own lives to see whether the “growth” is genuine.
James did much the same, giving us clues by which to recognize Godly wisdom, as opposed to the wisdom of the world, the flesh, or the devil. (James 3:13-18. “13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. 14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. 15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”)
These seven fruits are what we should look for to see how we are progressing. He also warns that a believer who lacks these attributes has forgotten that Jesus purged him of his old, sinful way of life, and has become judicially blind, through the willful disregard for God’s Word.
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.
We really do not want to be blind to God’s Word, or deaf to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: 11 For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
So…if we know that we have received the Lord, then we need to give diligence to be “digging in” and growing in Him. God’s Word is what will make us grow: remember 1st Peter 2:2 “…desire the sincere milk of the Word that ye may grow thereby.”
This is the constant invitation (and command) from God: that we draw near to Him in Bible-study and prayer, so that He can draw near to us, by His indwelling Holy Spirit, and help us to walk with Him in obedience. We know that!
As believers, we eventually will be in the new heaven and earth with Jesus. (We know that, too!) But He asks that we enter in now: not being lax, and just figuring that all of it will eventually happen. Hebrews 10:19 calls us to enter into the holy place now, by faith, through the person and work of Christ. This is not about Salvation: it is an invitation (and command) to believers: people who are already saved.
The unspeakable gift we have already received is Jesus Christ. As you continue to “unpack” that gift and get to know Him, and learn to understand what He has provided for you, then all the things we have discussed here will become a regular part of your life.
You can enjoy the daily privilege of entering God’s presence by faith, through the avenue opened to us by the blood of Jesus at the Cross. You can enjoy the overflowing consciousness of the presence of God in your daily life: knowing He is there and being confident in His Grace and Love and Guidance.
You can experience His Spirit reaching through you to others around you, touching their lives with His Grace, and drawing them to Christ. Your growing understanding of His Word will protect your mind against false teaching or “pious-sounding nonsense.” You will see a growing sense of stability in your walk with God. And, best of all, you will be increasing in your personal, experiential knowledge of God. You will be able to say with Paul, “Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!”
Please: if you have received Him as your Savior…get moving on getting to know Him… really “unpacking the gift of God!” Don’t be distracted like a little child, by “the wrapping paper and the box it came in!”
Lord Jesus, please stir up the spirit within each of us, to daily seek your face and learn to truly know you!