Never Alone in Virtue
May 21, 2018 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
This is part four in a multi-part series on Peter’s “road map” he gives for gospel growth in 2 Peter 1. Like many of you, I long to be effective and fruitful, especially in my spiritual life. Peter promises in the midst of this chapter, “if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful…” My interest is peaked. Let’s discover together Peter’s path of gospel growth.
We finally come to consider the list of virtues in 2 Peter 1:5-7. I want to take a couple of weeks to look at this list. This week, let’s give this list some context, or framework, for how to interpret and apply the eight virtues.
First, we should take note that this is not the only list of virtues commended in the New Testament. Paul gives several lists: Roman 5; Romans 12; and Galatians 5 are the most prominent. James even has a list in James 1 where he commends similar virtues. Let’s compare 2 Peter 1 and Galatians 5:
2 Peter 1:5-7
Galatians 5:16, 22-23
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.
But I say,
walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh…. But the fruit of the Spirit is
patience, (synonym for steadfastness)
faithfulness, (same word as 2 Pet. 1:5)
self-control; against such things there is no law.
I think this parallel is extremely helpful. We often hear/read Galatians 5 and remember that this list is the “fruit of the Spirit.” It is the Spirit’s working in our lives. But the context begins with the command to walk “by the Spirit.” We have a responsibility to see these virtues growing in our lives.
With 2 Peter 1, the command up front, driving the entire list and sentence, places responsibility on us. Therefore, we can read this list and feel the weight of pursuing such virtues. But half of the list can be found in Galatians 5. This reminds us that we are not alone in “adding” virtue in our lives.
The command in 2 Peter 1:5 can simply be translated “supply.” A literal translation of the Greek would read, “applying all diligence, supply your faith with virtue…” This word “supply” is used only four times in the New Testament. Galatians 3:5 says, “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you…” Colossians 2:19 says, “the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments” (NAS). And 2 Peter 1:11 says, “there will be richly provided [supplied] for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom.”
Why highlight all the uses of this verb “supply”? Every other use of the verb points to the work of God. God supplies the Spirit. God supplies the body with its parts. God will supply the entrance to the kingdom. Now Peter commands the church to “supply” their faith with virtue. Peter does not want his listeners to think of this command as an independent exercise for believers. It is a cooperative work with the God who “has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (1:3).
This is a vital truth to keep in mind as we hear commands and read lists in the New Testament. We must never create a false separation between what God does for us and what we are responsible to do. God works alone for our good and benefit. But we never work alone in responding to his promises.