The following post is an extract from “Epistles of Peter” by Bro. Frank Shallieu.
2 PETER 1:5: “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge.”
“Add to your faith virtue.”
The next step in the Apostle Peter’s evaluation is virtue.
The Apostle Paul breaks down the various fruits leading up to love, but Peter is talking from the standpoint of making one’s calling and election sure and his listing gives a sequential development. The Apostle Peter, the fisherman, is now a mature Christian feeding the lambs as well as the sheep. Having been qualified with a wealth of experience, he knows that death is imminent. Likewise, Paul realized the end of his life was approaching when he said, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day” (2 Timothy 4:8).
We are not reading a textbook but a very valuable, sobering account by one who speaks from experience as well as under the guidance of the holy Spirit.
Comment: Instead of the King James wording “And beside this,” the New International
Version has “For this very reason.” The NIV makes clearer the tie-in with the “exceeding
great and precious promises” of the preceding verse. In other words, “Because of the great and precious promises–for this very reason–you need to add to your faith virtue, etc.”
“Giving all diligence” is an important phrase, and it applies to all of the steps.
Give all diligence to add to your faith virtue.
Give all diligence to add to your virtue knowledge.
Give all diligence to add to your knowledge temperance, and so forth.
The great majority of Christians are immature seed.
In the parable, seed that falls in good ground and develops to maturity brings forth “some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:23). In other words, full capacity is reached according to the content of the individual vessel. Some have
a 30 percent vessel, some have a 60 percent vessel, and the ten-talented person has a 100
percent vessel—and hence more responsibility. All three categories picture the Little Flock, children of the Kingdom in the real sense of the word.
Virtue means fortitude, strength of character.
Question: Doesn’t “virtue” also convey a morality aspect?
Answer: Yes, the breastplate of righteousness is part of virtue. From the simple rudiments of faith
and the milk of the Word, one now starts to get food that is a little stronger, and the body
grows proportionately stronger as well. The child grows, spiritually speaking, with moral
development and strength of character based on an outgrowth of faith.
Following initial faith, virtue is the first development of one who believes into Christ and starts to grow.
Many, thinking that knowledge follows faith, try to bypass virtue and want to teach and
write books when they are still babes. In the enthusiasm of our early days, we tend to be
overconfident. Those who talk that way are not mature Christians, and they betray
themselves by their immaturity of conduct, immaturity of reasoning, and immaturity in an assumed familiarity with Scripture. Thus the flesh tends to jump over virtue and go
straight to knowledge. However, Peter shows our need to go step by step by step.
Faith is the substratum of an entire Christian’s life. The just shall live by faith (Romans 1:17).
Faith in Jesus is the bottom line–faith that he is the Redeemer. We are to add to that faith, in successive order, the seven steps that Peter enumerates.
“Add … to virtue knowledge.” “Knowledge” is a broad term, for there are all kinds of knowledge.
2 PETER 1:6: “And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness.”
Peter continues to enumerate the various steps in the progression to maturity.
At the Last Supper, Jesus remarked to Peter, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32).
After Jesus’ resurrection he gently rebuked Peter three times for the three denials. At that time Jesus said to Peter, “Feed my lambs.” The second time the Master said, “Feed my sheep.” And the third time was “Feed my sheep,” after which Peter said, “Thou knowest that I love thee” (John 21:15–17). Notice the progression: (1) “feed my lambs,” and then (2) “feed my sheep” and (3) “feed my sheep.” In other words, Peter was not in the position to feed mature adults at the time of our Lord’s ascension or even after Pentecost. At Pentecost, Peter possessed the first two qualities: faith and virtue. Peter had faith: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Also, he and John spoke very boldly on the Day of Pentecost.
“Virtue” means strength, courage, fortitude.
Now when we study Peter’s epistles, we see a very different Peter from the impulsive one in the Gospels.
Peter tells us to add to or supplement our faith with virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity. In other words, Peter adds seven different qualities to the basic substratum of faith.
Let us consider “knowledge.”
Remember, Peter is speaking about character development. Regardless of the subsequent lack or fullness of development, we all start our Christian walk as babes with faith in Jesus. In his first epistle, Peter said that “as newborn babes, [we should] desire the sincere milk of the word, … [so that we] may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). As the babe feeds on milk, his bones grow and he gets a little stronger so that, spiritually speaking, he can withstand opposition and persecution. This would be adding virtue to our faith.
To add knowledge, the babe needs milk for growth. “Milk” includes the knowledge of
God’s Word, for how can we instruct others if we have not been instructed ourselves?
To knowledge, we are to add temperance or self-control.
The growth of Peter in the area of self-control is amazing! He underwent a remarkable change from his earlier impulsiveness.
Jesus said to Peter, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not [to death in crucifixion]” (John 21:18). Jesus was referring to the manner in which Peter would die. When Jesus asked, “Who do men say that I am?” impulsive Peter responded, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13–16).
Peter was a natural leader, but he needed to be instructed himself. The very fact Peter was naked in the boat after Jesus’ resurrection gives us an insight into his character. He did not want any restraints. He impulsively girt himself with his coat and jumped into the water to swim to Jesus, who was frying fish on the shore.
This same man, but a mature and developed Peter at the end of his life, said, “Add to your knowledge self-control and self-restraint.”
This self-restraint must come after knowledge.
Both of Peter’s epistles were written in the last years of his life, just before his death. How valuable is the instruction of Peter in his maturity!
When Paul discusses the various graces of the holy Spirit, he does not necessarily
enumerate them in succession. For instance, in describing love, he does not follow any
particular sequence, but Peter says, “Add to your faith virtue. Add to your virtue knowledge. Add to your knowledge temperance.” Thus Peter gives a sequence and Paul does not. The point is that the instruction of the two apostles does not conflict. Paul gives more detail but lists the graces of the holy Spirit in random fashion. (An exception would be Paul’s discussion of faith, hope, and love, which are in succession.)
Comment: It was Peter who lopped off the ear of Malchus in the Garden of Gethsemane at the arrest of Jesus. This act is another example of his impetuosity and impulsiveness.
Comment: In a practical sense, temperance could be along both material and spiritual lines. We need to have self-control over our life-style and how we expend our resources. Along spiritual lines, temperance would affect how we witness and preach the gospel. For example, as a general rule we would not deliberately make a spectacle of ourselves.
Comment: A comment in the Berean Manual says, “Moderation, self-restraint in all things–we are not to be hasty and hot-tempered, or rash and thoughtless, but evenly balanced, thoughtful and considerate.” We get this moderation through the knowledge of God’s Word.
Reply: Yes, “he that ruleth his spirit [is better] than he that taketh a city” (Proverbs 16:32).
“Let your moderation be known unto all men” (Philippians 4:5).
We should be temperate in language, money-getting, money saving, eating, drinking, joy, sorrow, at work, in the store, home, church, and schoolroom–everywhere.
Comment: On the other side of the coin, there is a danger in becoming too temperate and thus not having enough zeal for the truth, the Lord, and His service.
Reply: If we have too much self-control, we will be mute when we should speak. The other extreme is being so out of hand and rambunctious that we destroy whatever good we might do. The proper amount of self-control makes us much more effective.
Add “to temperance patience.” What is this “patience”?
The Greek word is hupomone, which means “endurance.” Hupomone conveys the thought of bearing under a burden, of enduring it and not chafing, of remaining under the burden and not giving up. The same word is used in Hebrews 12:1, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” Of course a lot depends on the makeup of the individual, for we are all different. Some brethren under trial may react without a lot of apparent cheerful endurance and yet be faithful. The circumstances must be considered. Those who run a marathon race are not very cheerful when they near the end of the race, for they are pressing on to the utmost. Those who win have an extremely strong
desire to excel and be a champion.
Comment: James 5:11, in referring to Job, uses this same Greek word for “patience.”
“Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and
have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.”
We are all familiar with Job and the conditions under which he endured.
Comment: “Patience” would be meekly submitting to discipline in every case. Add “to patience godliness.” “Godliness” is the wrong word, for that quality should be the
end, the highest step. Godliness and love are synonymous. The thought here should be
love and reverence for God, God-likeness. Thus the word “piety” is a better translation, for piety is a form of reverence. Piety can also be considered decorum, as in 1 Timothy 3:15, “Behave thyself in the house of God.”
Comment: Strong’s and the Diaglott use the word “piety.”
Reply: The Greek word is eusebeia, and a famous historian was Eusebius, a name meaning piety, a reverent one.
Comment: Reprint 2155 states that God-likeness, piety, is “that devout controlling reverence for God which yields a hearty, cheerful, loving conformity to his will–fervency of spirit in serving the Lord.”
Reply: Piety is especially fervency in spirit in obeying the Lord. He is looking for obedience in us–that is the bottom line.
Works by themselves are meaningless.
“To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams [which is offered in sacrifice and may cost a little money]” (1 Samuel 15:22).
Obedience supersedes works.
2 PETER 1:7: “And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity”
Add to piety “brotherly kindness.” There are occasions where it is difficult to love all
brethren completely and indiscriminately. In other words, there are cases where we cannot manifest love to others because of their disobedience. For instance, 1 Corinthians 5:11 says, “I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.”
The individual may not have even consecrated, but if he thinks he is a brother in truth and is a drunkard, a brawler, a fornicator, etc., we are to refrain from fellowship with him. Treating him in this manner is doing him a favor, for if he truly loves God, the truth, and the Lord’s people, he will feel he has done something wrong and will repent.
The Greek word for “brotherly kindness” is philadelphian. Some translations use “love of
the brotherhood,” and that is a better term.
We love those who fervently love God. We are drawn to such because they are of the brotherhood. Jesus particularly favored Peter, James, and John because they manifested a greater zeal for God. The incident in which Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus illustrates this favoritism (Mark 5:35–43). Another example is Jesus’ transfiguration (Matthew 17:1–9). That is the type of love we should have for the brotherhood.
We love those who love God, and the more they love Him, the more we love them.
Moreover, we are helped by their example. In the hymn “Onward, Christian Soldiers,”
when we sing the words “All one body we,” we are thinking not of individuals but of the
brotherhood, of those who love Christ and are trying to serve God.
Add “to brotherly kindness charity [love].“ If the previous step was love for the brotherhood, what is this highest type of love? It is agape love.
Comment: We love those who love God and have a special affinity for them because of our common bond, but our love must go beyond that point to where we love mankind.
Comment: This would be a principled love versus phileo love with an emotional basis.
Comment: We love the Lord, the brethren, humanity, our enemies, and also the brute
Reply: That is true, for principled agape love is broad. The Law shows how we should treat the animals; for example, they should not be unequally yoked in plowing. Agape love includes love for our enemies and doing good to them that despitefully use us (Matthew 5:44).
With this principled love, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son”
(John 3:16). Those who obey in the future will be saved, for God has made provision for the restitution of mankind. In other words, He will open the opportunity for salvation toothers besides the brotherhood. His love goes from the brotherhood to mankind and even to those who are enemies now but may not be once their eyes are opened in the Kingdom.
Only those who are incorrigible in iniquity will go into Second Death.
Remember that before Peter started the enumeration of the seven graces of the holy Spirit, he said, “And beside this, giving all diligence,” add to your faith, etc. (2 Peter 1:5).
Because we live in the world with its responsibilities and experiences, our time becomes important–the little time we have left after doing that which is right for family, employer, and others. We must give all diligence to add these seven qualities. Isn’t it remarkable that the impulsive Peter is like a statesman or a father in these epistles? True, he was a leader in the beginning of his Christian walk, but now he is more than that. In his first epistle, which was written only a couple of years before the second epistle, he called Marcus “my son” (1 Peter 5:13). Paul used the same terminology with Timothy, and that epistle was written near the end of Paul’s life. As the apostles aged in the truth, they matured. Peter underwent a radical, miraculous, almost unbelievable change from his days as a fisherman. True, he speaks according to the holy Spirit, but his own life is in harmony with that holy Spirit. He experienced these steps himself, and he is passing on the information to us. Later he says, “I am going to remind you of these things until the day I die, and the Lord Jesus has informed me that my death will occur soon.”
Comment: The verses being alluded to are quite touching: “Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shown me” (2 Peter 1:13,14).
2 PETER 1:8: “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.”
Comment: If “these things” (the seven steps above faith in verses 5–7) are in us and abound, we will make our calling and election sure. The fact that Peter uses the term “these things” five times in this chapter (verses 8–10, 12, 15) shows how important they are.
Reply: Yes, Peter is inclined to repeat words and references. For instance, the use of the
word “divine” twice in this chapter is unusual, for that word appears only three times in
the whole New Testament. The reason is that Peter recognized his own faults and weaknesses and how the Lord changed his life. He is admitting, as it were, that what God
did for him, He can do for us. Accordingly, Peter mentions the importance of developing
character and the various steps of grace that are required if we are to win a crown. We must have diligently tried to add the seven graces to our faith.
Comment: If the words “and abound” had been omitted, the meaning of the verse would have been a little different. All who get life on the spirit plane, including the Great
Company, must have these qualities, but to attain the Little Flock, to get an “abundant
entrance,” these qualities must abound in us and must increase more and more.
Reply: For example, when people do acts of kindness, are patient, etc., there is often a lack of consistency. With knowledge, some are satisfied with a certain level and stop there. These qualities must be diligently practiced if we would be more than overcomers.
Question: Is the “knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” in verse 8 the same “knowledge” that is in verse 5?
Answer: The Greek gnosis is used in verses 5 and 6, and epignosis (full knowledge) is used in verses 2, 3, and 8. The words are the same except that epignosis is expressed more powerfully, i.e. with more fullness. By faith we know (gnosis) that Jesus is the Savior, that he died for our sins, and through this knowledge we are forgiven for our sins. In addition, we should also know in more fullness (epignosis) his sermons and parables, his life and character, and how he lived to please the Father.
The “knowledge” (gnosis) of verses 5 and 6 is the second step in the various graces of the holy Spirit, but epignosis embraces all seven steps, which would include a comparison and study of Jesus’ statements and teachings. However, epignosis has nothing to do with the depth of our understanding, which is not always the same. If we have not searched the Scriptures daily, if we have not habitually familiarized ourselves with the Word of God, with the life of Jesus, with the Old Testament, etc., we will be lacking.
Comment: In the footnote for the text “If these things be in you, and abound … ye shall
neither be barren nor unfruitful,” “barren” means “idle.”
2 PETER 1:9: “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.”
To be “blind” in this sense is to be nearsighted, meaning the individual “cannot see afar
Question: What is the relationship between the first part of verse 9 and the second part? What does lacking the graces of the holy Spirit have to do with forgetting that we were purged from our old sins?
Answer: The object of our being purged from old sins is to grow in character. We are nearsighted if we do not always keep this goal in mind. Peter is saying, “It is not enough to just believe Jesus is the Savior and to be willing to suffer for him. We must have more understanding in order to please God.” Since we are imperfect and by nature fallen–our humanity is depraved–we must frequently occupy our minds with pure thoughts. Paul said, “Think on these things.” “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
If we do not feed on pure thoughts, our minds will naturally gravitate to unspiritual things.
Those who neglect or do not see the necessity of developing the fruits of the holy Spirit, are “blind,” nearsighted. Far-sighted vision would be making our calling and election sure. We are not at the goal yet, so we must keep running.
We cannot let ourselves drift in our thinking or in our actions, but must school ourselves with God’s Word.
Comment: If we stagnate and do not grow in character, we stay in the sins from which we were supposed to be purged.
Reply: We must try to distance ourselves from the old man as far as possible. Of course we cannot do this completely, for he is saddled on our backs, but we must separate as far as possible from our own reasoning and our own will.
2 PETER 1:10: “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:”
The objective is to make our calling and election sure.
If we take our eyes off the goal, we will gravitate to our natural tendencies instead of to the supernatural tendencies of the Holy Spirit.
“If ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” The thought is that if we develop these fruits of the holy Spirit and they abound in us, we will never fail but will succeed in attaining the Bride class.
Comment: The Great Company will fall or fail to a certain extent.
2 PETER 1:11: “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the
everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
If we give all diligence to developing the fruits of the holy Spirit, if we have the right heart attitude and diligently practice Christianity throughout our Christian walk, we will get an abundant entrance into the Kingdom, for we will be obeying the promptings of God’s holy Spirit.
We are given “exceeding great and precious promises” so that we might inherit the divine nature.
The “everlasting kingdom” would be the age-lasting Kingdom (Greek aionian). The 144,000 will be on the throne and reign throughout the Kingdom Age.
Bro. Frank Shallieu–for the content above which was an extract from “Epistles of Peter” The full study is on the Bible Study Library CD which can be accessed at the following link: https://herald-magazine.com/bookstore-2/#!/Bible-Study-Library/p/38387237/category=0