Peter gave an interesting list of Christian graces in the first chapter of 2 Peter. It is a relatively popular portion of Scripture but likely one that is not studied enough.
The passage begins with the words “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge” (KJV, 2 Pet. 1:5). Peters continues well past 2 Peter 1:5, adding to the various Christian graces he speaks of. However, to study the passage properly, each word must be considered.
As a result, the current focus will only be on faith and virtue.
Before these two fruits of the Spirit are mentioned, it must be known that Peter already laid a foundation. The passage is not to be taken as an island but rather a part of the whole.
The beginning of Peter’s letter tells the reader that Jesus Christ has given everything the Christian needs for life and godliness.
Based upon Christ’s divine power, the Christian has an ample supply to live the Christian life for the glory of God. Thus, doctrine, once again, forms the foundation for Christian living. In other words, knowledge of Christ and His work equips the Christian to do what the Bible says.
It is not enough for the Christian to know that he must add virtue to his faith. He must be well aware that the divine power of Christ has given him all he needs to perform the task.
Therefore, Peter could say that the Christian must diligently add virtue to his faith. It is also essential to know the diligence Peter had in mind continues through his list in 2 Peter. Therefore diligence was not intended to end after one adds virtue to his faith.
What is faith?
Definitions are important. Words are important. There is a lot of misunderstanding in the world based upon ignorance of words and their meanings. So what is faith? The question is important.
The Bible has much to say about the matter. It tells the reader, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). The short definition should be considered carefully.
Faith is an assurance of things hoped for. The assurance is a solid conviction based upon the Word of God. Faith is a conviction of unseen things. Thus, faith is not based on scientific evidence.
While apologetics and defending the faith have significance, it is essential to realize that faith is based upon believing what cannot be seen.
In other words, Christians do not believe the Bible because an archeological dig affirms its credibility. Instead, Paul has stated, “(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)” (2 Cor. 5:7).
Physical sight and faith are somewhat contrary to one another. As a result, faith and hope will not be needed in heaven because the Christian will be in the presence of God. Instead, only love will remain (1 Cor. 13:13).
Faith is what sees the invisible God, not the eyes. So the author of Hebrews has said, “By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible” (Heb. 11:27).
Faith gets someone to God and allows him to see what cannot be seen.
The importance of faith
As a result, faith is important. But the question may still be asked, “Why is it so important?” Scripture says, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is. And that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6).
The words are rather telling. It is impossible to please God without faith. The words are meant to be taken as they are stated. The Christian should not seek to interject what is not there. When someone is without faith, he can do nothing to please God.
Thus, faith is foundational for all the other Christian graces.
How to grow in faith
Then the question may arise, “How do I grow in my faith?” Faith is first a gift from God. Paul speaks of faith as a gift in Ephesians 2:8-9. God gives faith, and this reality also is stated relatively plainly in Hebrews 12.
Scripture says, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…” (Heb. 12:2).
Sometimes the Christian can seek to bear too much of the load. He may often forget the words of Christ when He stated, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).
Thus, it is essential for the Christian to realize that Jesus is both the Author and Finisher of the Christian’s faith. He is the Vine, and the Christian is a mere branch. This is not meant to be an exhaustive study, but Jesus is the greatest answer to a wavering and struggling faith.
What is virtue?
But then Peter tells the Christian to add virtue to his faith. The Greek word translated as virtue is arete, which means valor and excellence. So what is ultimately at stake is adding moral excellence to faith. Thus, faith is meant to be closely connected with a moral character.
The thought of a Christian continuing in unrepentant sin contradicts the Word of God. This does not mean that there is no such thing as besting sins. But to live in a constant state of rebellion towards God is a mark of an unbeliever, not a believer.
For instance, John has said, “We know that whosover is born of God sinneth not…” (1 John 5:18). The idea is not sinless perfection but rather the overall course and direction of one’s life.
Peter is seeking to tell of a life that stands out among the rest. The Christian is called to be salt and light. By adding virtue to faith, He will fulfill the calling of being a light in a dark world.
The importance of virtue
The importance of virtue and moral excellence can be seen in Peter’s first letter. He stated, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, and holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).
The word translated as “praises” in the preceding verse is the same word translated as “virtue” in 2 Peter 1:5. Thus, the Christian is not to develop his own idea of what virtue looks like. Instead, he is to show the moral excellence of the One Who has called him.
As a result, the Christian must add virtue to his faith. He is called to be virtuous and out of the darkness. At the same time, Paul could say, “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15).
Moral excellence will make the Christian shine as a light in the world.
How to grow in virtue
But then the question arises, “How do I grow in moral excellence?” Peter had previously stated that the Christian must be diligent in his approach to godliness.
However, before He said that, he stated, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that called us to glory and virtue” (2 Pet. 1:3). Jesus Christ has called the Christian by His Own glory and excellence.
Thus, the Christian is called by Jesus, to Jesus, to be like Jesus.
The conclusion must be drawn from the statement that Jesus is the One Who will help the Christian grow in His moral excellence. It may be desired to find a different way to grow in moral excellence than drawing such a simple conclusion.
After all, Jesus was the answer to the faith problem as well. Nevertheless, the Christian must see that Jesus is the answer.
Father, I pray that You would help me to be more like Jesus. I also pray that You would allow me to see that Jesus is willing to help me grow. In Jesus’ name, Amen.