“To them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 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: 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 of the world through lust. And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 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.” 2 Peter 1:1b-8
Everything Is In Christ.
We do not need to look anywhere else but to Christ Jesus, for everything has been given to us in Him for life and godliness. vs. 3. These precious promises come to us through the knowledge of Jesus Christ. This is extremely important, for every device that Satan uses is for the purpose of drawing us off from Christ, to seek blessings somewhere else.
The Key Is Faith.
It is to faith that all the other things must be added. It is not adding in the proper sense, for faith includes all of these things, and they grow out from faith. Faith is the principle that drives the whole Christian life, for without faith it is impossible to please God, and it is by faith that the just live. The word "add" means to “supply abundantly”; to draw out from faith all things that are promised to us. Paul says a similar thing to Philemon, “That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.” (vs. 6).
Not a Ladder.
The things to be supplied to (added to; drawn from) faith are not to be thought of as rungs that are added to a ladder in order to rise higher. Rather, virtue is drawn from faith and completes faith. There can be no virtue without faith, and faith is useless and dead without virtue. So it is with all the other things listed. Patience grows out of temperance, and patience completes temperance. Without temperance there can be no patience, and without patience temperance is a useless concept. Neither must we climb up one rung in order to reach another. We do not have to have perfect faith before we can add virtue; neither must we perfect knowledge in order to add patience.
What is described is the full Christian character; the beautiful nature of Christ that we partake of through the precious promises that are given to us. The new creation is an organism, where all the parts depend upon one another, complete one another, and complement one another. This is the New Man in Jesus Christ.
Add Virtue to Faith.
“Virtue” means manliness, in a generic sense: manliness in distinction from animals, not distinguished from woman. A virtuous person is one who has become truly human. Man was created to love God and to live for God's glory. The virtuous man lives according to the commandments of God, not as the beasts of the field. Without faith, none of our good works are accepted by God, but without the good works of virtue, faith is not true faith but is dead and useless, according to James. True faith always leads the child of God to obedience, so he finds his true humanity as the creature God made him to be.
Add Knowledge to Virtue.
Moral sense without knowledge can be deadly. In this century we have seen the destructiveness of people who fancied themselves as those destined by history to bring in a more just society. The horrors of revolution swept over land after land. Why? for justice, brotherhood, and equality. How superior the communists and their sympathizers were. Just as Robespierre, the mastermind of the bloody French Revolution, was known as the “Voice of Virtue,” so modern revolutionaries attach themselves to some high and noble cause, and in the name of that cause spread destruction and misery around them.
Very often young Christians, enflamed with a desire to be obedient to Christ, neglect knowledge, and their virtue becomes lawless and destructive. It takes knowledge to correctly identify what is God's will and to distinguish between gnats and camels.
But there can be no true knowledge without obedience (virtue). Only Christ's true disciples know the truth that makes them free (John 8:31,32). But it takes knowledge to complete and perfect virtue. In terms of this the Heidelberg Catechism (Q. 91) reads:
Q. What are good works?
A. Those only which proceed from true faith, and are done according to the Law of God, and His glory; and not such as rest on our own opinion or the commandments of men.
Add Temperance to Knowledge.
There are few things worse than knowledge run amok. Temperance literally means “power within,” or self-control. Temperance is the governor on the engine of knowledge that keeps it from becoming destructive. “Knowledge puffs up,” the apostle said. Temperance enables us to see what is important, and what is not important. It brings things into proportion. The intemperate man strains at gnats and swallows camels. He is very concerned about the mote in his neighbor's eye, but unconcerned about the beam in his. There are many intoxicants far more deadly than drugs and alcohol.
Pride is one of the most deadly intoxicants, for it distorts our view of ourselves and of others. Temperance, or self-control, enables me to rightly evaluate myself, so that I am not puffed up by what I think I know; and to rightly evaluate the gifts and virtues of others. It enables me to think clearly and soberly; so that I do not think more highly of myself than I ought; and so that I esteem other better than myself.
Knowledge is the true foundation of temperance, for true self-knowledge, the true knowledge of God, and the true knowledge of my neighbor are basic to any idea of self-control. Without soberness (temperance), knowledge runs amok; vainglorious men and women, puffed up in their self- intoxication, spread misery, shame, and ruin about them. Temperance gives us balance, avoiding extremes. The drunken man weeps over nothings, is angry at trifles, and sleeps it off in the gutter. The sober man knows when to weep, when to get angry, and knows that it is a shame to sleep in the gutter.
Temporary self-control is useless. What good does it do to control my temper for one hour if I lose it the next and play the fool? What good does it do to refrain from drunkenness for one year, if I spend the next year in jail for drunken driving? What is one day or one hour of self-control worth?
“Patience” means continuing on in well-doing. It means not quitting, not giving up, not laying down on the job. It means “endurance,” not giving up when the going gets tough. The word means “staying under,” remaining at the post of duty, under the authority of the Lord.
I have often said that “It is not how a man starts out that counts; it is how he ends up.” That is true to a point; for what good is a seed that does not produce a plant? If there is no life in the seed, it is useless. So it is with faith, which is dead without works. But true faith is not dead, and good things come from true faith, because Christ is not dead. So the statement about ending up is only partly right. If a person begins with true faith, he will end up all right, for it is through faith that the righteous man lives.
Without self-control (temperance) no patience ever comes. Note the progress: Faith is perfected by virtue, which is perfected by knowledge, which is perfected by temperance, which is perfected by patience. But patience grows out of temperance, which grows out of knowledge, which grows out of virtue, which grows out of faith. Everything is included in faith in Jesus Christ, just as the tree is in the acorn and the adult is in the child.
Add Godliness to Patience.
Without godliness, patience is just stubbornness and pig-headedness. There must be a purpose and goal for our endurance. We are not to endure, just for endurance sake. Jim Jones and his followers in Guiana drank the kool-aid, toughed it out, and died. They were not noble.
Patience does not mean we never change our ideas, nor change our behavior. The glory of God and the kingdom of God must always be the goal of faith and the goal of the Christian. Godliness will require you to change your sinful ideas and your sinful practices and attitudes. Stubbornness is no virtue.
“Godliness” means “good reverence,” and has to do with the duties of religion. Without godliness, patience is just toughing it out; it becomes an end in itself; self-affirmation and pride. Sometimes being tough and standing firm is just “showing off.”
So patience is perfected by godliness. But many people never reach godliness because they give up too soon. “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed,” Jesus said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Do you think that it is a simple matter to know the will of God? The testimony of all the saints refutes that idea. Neither does the will of God come to you in a flash of intuition: “Ask, and it shall be given; seek and ye shall find....” “Search as for hid treasures.” Is knowing God a light and frivolous matter?
The road to heaven if often a long and difficult one and only those with true faith can make the journey. But the journey, though difficult, has a definite goal in view. The Christian is not like the mountain climber who climbs “just because it is there.” We do not endure hardship, just because we love to be troubled. True patience endures for the glory of God, and for the truth of the Gospel. So Godliness is the fruit of patience, but the necessary perfection of patience.
Add Brotherly Kindness to Godliness.
Without brotherly kindness, godliness can be a very deadly thing. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? and this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also” (I John 4:20, 21). Unless godliness is perfected by brotherly kindness, our religion is just an abstraction and a flutter in the head. It is not true that people can love God and not stand people. We are to be kind to each other, to bear one another's burdens, to guard against wickedness.
How many injuries have been done to God's people in the name of “godliness”! Lying, slander, evil-speaking, betrayal, etc. Often the most unloving actions and words are excused by a form of godliness. But godliness must precede brotherly love, for without godliness, brotherly love becomes sentimental and sloppy and may do more harm than good. But without brotherly love to perfect godliness, it becomes perverted, narrow, and judgmental. We betray one another in the name of God. Some have committed all manner of sins and crimes in the name of God. Some even have slaughtered the saints, thinking that they did God service.
Add Charity to Brotherly Love.
Charity is the highest form of love. There are other kinds of love. Sexual love and human love see something desirable in the object of love and pursue that object for the desirable trait. In other words, the lover expects to receive some benefit from the object of love.
But charity (as described in I Cor. 13) is the kind of love that God had toward his people "in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Charity does not require a benefit from the object of love. Other kinds of love say more about what is loved than who loves. A beautiful girl may be the object of sexual love for a depraved man. Not so with divine love. Because this love is not merited but comes simply as grace, such love says far more about the person who loves than the person who is loved.
God's love was commended toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. That says nothing about us, but a great deal about God. Other loves have their source in the object; this love has its source in the subject.
This Charity kind of love rests upon brotherly love. Communion and covenant is the foundation of this love, for you cannot discover this love by yourself. It has never been known by the isolated and cut-off professing Christian, for it is antithetical to such Christianity.
But brotherly love needs this kind of love to complete and perfect it. Without charity, brotherly love becomes cliquish, sectarian, more and more restricted, as we associate more and more with our friends and think only of the people we like. Charity for all men perfects my love for the saints. Charity teaches me to do good to all, especially those of the household of faith. Charity teaches me to pray for all men, not only for those who love me, but also for my enemies. Charity teaches even slaves to be subject to their masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward (1 Peter 2:18).
One Final Word.
There is not one word in this passage about money, health, fame, or “ministries.” Evidently the value system of the Holy Spirit is in conflict with much of modern values. When the saints go marching in, how much of our valued treasures will prove to be wood, hay, and stubble? The inner man that we so much neglect, the Holy Spirit values a great deal.
The true reward is in verse 11: “for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” “Ministered” is the same word as “add” in verse 5. If we abundantly supply our faith, then we will be abundantly supplied in the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. What more is there?
Pastor C. W. Powell
Trinity Covenant Church RCUS
6050 Del Paz Drive
Colorado Springs, CO 80918