What if you were given the opportunity to talk to Simon Peter in person today. What would you ask? One question I may ask is, “How can I be more effective and fruitful for Christ?” I wonder what his answer would be?
Well, he has already given the answer to that question. How? Because he has given us a list of virtues that he states the Christian should cultivate and increase in their lives with the result being more effectiveness and fruitfulness.
Regarding this list of virtues he states, “if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8). It is a recurring theme in this epistle for us to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord (1:2,3,8; 3:18).
Now before we look at these, I have to state that this is not a legal code that we should gain some merit with God if we follow, but the outworkings of a regenerated heart, those who are partakers of the “divine nature” (v.4). Let’s look at these eight virtues:
8 Virtues – Effectiveness
Faith: Faith is a gift given by God (Eph 2:8), and it has an object, Christ. At the same time, the Bible speaks of faith also being subjective, as something we exercise. It is our subjective trust in our Lord and Savior and therefore the basis of the believer’s spiritual life. Why is faith listed first? Kistemaker, in his commentary on 2 Peter notes, “Faith is the root of all the other virtues Peter mentions. These other virtues are unattainable until the step of faith is taken. Moreover, because of our trust in Jesus, our faith has its source in him” (the following quotes also taken from the same source).
Virtue (Goodness): This relates to one of God’s characteristics (v.3). “Because it is a divine attribute, we ought to reflect this virtue in our lives. Our daily conduct should be a demonstration of moral excellence.”
Knowledge: This is using our minds in all we do. “Furthermore, knowledge and faith go hand and hand, for faith is strengthened through knowledge and the increase of knowledge is rooted in trust.”
Self-Control: We exercise self-discipline by placing our trust in God. “….self- control is a virtue the believer must practice (1 Cor 7:9; Gal. 5:23; Titus 1:8). A Christian ought to maintain his self-control in complete reliance on God.”
Steadfastness (Perseverance): “This word means “to remain under” a particular conflict.” The previous virtue, self-control, is a particular conflict that we remain under. Sometimes we do better than others, yet we are to persevere. “[Perseverance] originates in faith, for the believer knows that God is in complete control of every situation.”
Godliness: Godliness was also mentioned in verse 3 as granted to believers by “His divine power.” “A Christian practices godliness when he is fully conscious of God’s presence in every circumstance.”
Brotherly affection: “The term implies that we express our love to the brothers and sisters in the church and that we “love one another deeply from the heart” (1 Pet. 1:22).
Love: Love complements brotherly affection. Kistemaker explains, “…Peter does not want us to restrict our love to the members of the church. He knows the teaching of Jesus, “Love your enemies” (Matt. 5:44). Love is a debt we owe our fellow man (Rom. 13:8), without exception. In other words, whereas we can limit the application of brotherly kindness to the Christian community, we are unable to restrict the practice of love.
Now we have seen those “ladder charts” where when we get one of these virtues down, we move to the next. It makes a nice and enticing chart or presentation, yet Peter does not mean that we must take these successively as if one depends on the other, rather “that we must cultivate all of them at the same time and see them grow and develop (1 Thess. 3:12). The consequence of this development is that we are not ineffective and unproductive in our spiritual lives.”
So what happens if we are not cultivating and increasing these virtues? Peter answers in v. 9.
“For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.”
So on the flip side, any Christian who is lacking these eight virtues is essentially ineffective and unproductive. Peter leaves us with no option to dismiss them. We must make these qualities “increase” (v. 8) remembering that we have been “cleansed from [our] former sins (v.9).”
And finally……. “be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”
So Christian, if these qualities are yours, your duty is to see that they are increasing. In doing so, they will keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Peter exhorts us again to grow in the knowledge of Christ. Increase these virtues in your life. Remember your former sins have been cleansed. Be diligent and eager to make your calling and election sure.