Thoughts on 2 Peter 1:5-7

The verses I want to comment on in this post are 2 Peter 1:5-7. The ESV1 text reads:

[5] For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, [6] and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, [7] and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

Verses 3 and 4 very much spoke about what God had done and was doing to redeem His people and restore His Kingdom. From verse 5 Peter switches from God’s activity to our response. He begins ‘for this very reason, make every effort’. So the believer is to ‘do things’ in response to God’s offer and our acceptance of divine nature made available through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. They don’t earn our salvation in any way but are our (super)natural response to what God has already done.

It is important to see and understand the sequence of things the believer is to do:

Firstly, it begins with faith. Faith is not something we do so much as do as have and receive. We can’t ‘do’ faith, but we can exercise it. If you don’t have faith, you can encourage or foster it. Derek Prince spoke of Romans 10:17 where Paul says, ‘So faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the word of God’. Derek made the point that ‘faith comes’ so if you don’t have it, you can get it. And it comes from hearing the word of God. We can encourage and grow faith by hearing the word of God read, prayed and preached. So our response to God must begin with faith–belief in what Jesus did upon the cross and belief that He sacrificed His life to pay the price for my sin.

Secondly comes virtue. Virtue doesn’t mean what I thought it meant. The Greek word translated as ‘virtue’ is arete and can be translated as valour, excellence, manliness or virtue. We are to proceed with the best of intention and effort. It’s not how we look, but how we live.

Third is knowledge, but as I mentioned in the previous post it is not knowledge simply about things, but of things. Knowing versus knowing about.

Fourthly comes self-control. The Greek word here is enkráteia which means continence(!), but includes the idea of temperance. On a broader view it encompasses the idea of holding it together, not losing it.

Fifthly is steadfastness. It is the Greek hypomone. It is endurance, constancy, patient continuance.

Sixthly is godliness. This includes such characteristics as piety and holiness–more like what I thought virtue was about.

Seventhly is brotherly affection. I find it interesting that this comes near the end of Peter’s list. I think the reason for this is that ‘brotherly affection’ (Greek philadelphia) needs to be based on the preceding qualities Peter has spoken about. Our affection, if well founded, will be for all believers.

Eighthly and finally is love. The Greek here is agape–the highest form and expression of love. No surprise that this is last. It goes beyond affection for fellow believers to include humanity. And because of that, it is the most difficult. Genuine love will be in the light of faith, with virtue and self-control and steadfastness evident and growing. It is love based on knowing God and displaying that through increasing godliness; and it is greater than brotherly/familial affection.

On a final note, there is a deal of overlap between these qualities and the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23.

  1. Scripture quotations taken from the ESV. Copyright by Crossway. ↩︎