Spiritual Growth: (#1) Ingredients

The key word in the book of 2 Peter is “knowledge.”  It appears in some form 16 times [knowledge (1:2, 1:3; 1:5; 1:6; 1:8; 2:20; 3:18); know(s) (1:12; 2:9; 3:17); knowing (1:14; 1:20; 3:3); known (1:16; 2:21 x2)].  Value is placed on knowledge.  Christians are commanded to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

Many come into Christ knowing little but having faith in Christ.  They are described as “babes” (1 Peter 2:1-2 cf. Hebrews 5:12-14).  However, one should seek to grow, and mature (2 Peter 3:17-18; Ephesians 4:11-16; Hebrews 5:12-14; 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10; 2 Thessalonians 1:3). 

2 Peter 1 sets forth seven or eight areas in which a Christian should be growing (the count depends on how one understands the word “faith” to be objective, i.e., the system of faith, or subjective, i.e., personal faith).  Let us title this chapter, “Ingredients of Spiritual Growth.”

1.  Faith – “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith…” (2 Peter 1:5).

The words “for this very reason” points us back to verse 3 and 4.  God has given to us great and precious promises.  He has provided us with the knowledge necessary for life and godliness.  He did this so that you may partake of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4 cf. Philippians 3:20-21; 1 John 3:1-2) [Notice the pronouns.  “Us” seems to refer to  the apostles.  “You” seems to refer to those to whom Peter writes.  It is similar to Ephesians 3:3-5].

The words “giving all diligence” indicates that effort should be made to grow.  Other translations read: “Make every effort (ESV, NIV, RSV); “spare no effort” (McCord’s).  The word “diligence” (Spoude) means “earnestness, zeal” (Vine’s).  The word appears three times in the book of 2 Peter (2 Peter 1:5; 1:10; 3:14).

“Add to your faith.”  The word “faith” is actually articular (the faith), being preceded by the definite article.  Is personal faith in view, or the system of faith?  It seems most natural to understand this as personal faith.  Personal faith comes from the word of God, or system of faith (Romans 10:17).  It starts with God’s word and faith.

The word “add” or “supplement” (ESV) literally means “to bring in besides” (Vine’s).  Faith is not to be left alone.  It is to be accompanied by or supported with other graces.  Guy N. Woods comments, “The graces which adorn the Christian’s character are to be chorused into a grand symphony.” (Guy N. Woods, A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles of Peter, John and Jude, p. 150). 

2.  Virtue – “add to your faith virtue” (2 Peter 1:5).

The word “virtue” (arete) has a wide range of meanings.  Arndt-Gingrich says, “In its usual meaning moral excellence, virtue” Guy N. Woods comments, “courage and soul vigor, the manliness and the determination to do that which is right” (ibid).  Wayne Jackson comments, “moral fiber” (Wayne Jackson, A New Testament Commentary, p. 546). 

3.  Knowledge – “to virtue knowledge” (2 Peter 1:5).

The word “knowledge” (gnosis) seems to refer to greater knowledge.  I conclude this because one cannot have faith without possessing some knowledge (cf. Jeremiah 31:34; John 6:45; Romans 10:17).  Faith and knowledge go together (John 6:69; 1 Timothy 4:3).  Guy N. Woods comments, “‘Knowledge’ (gnosis) is the discrimination indicated in Ephesians 5:17 and Hebrews 5:14” (ibid). 

4.  Self-control – “to knowledge self-control” (2  Peter 1:6).

The word (egkrateia) means “self-control… the virtue of one who has mastered his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites” (Thayer).  Guy N. Woods comments, “The word is derived from en and krates, ‘one who holds himself in.’  It denotes self-government, control his own life” (ibid, p. 151).  The King James version read “temperance.”

5.  Perseverance – “to self-control perseverance” (2 Peter 1:6).   

The word (hupomonen) means “steadfastness, constancy, endurance” (Thayer).  Other translations read: “patience” (KJV); “steadfastness” (ESV); “endurance” (Zondervan’s Parallel New Testament).

6.  Godliness –to perseverance godliness” (2 Peter 1:6).

The word (eusebeia) literally means “well devout.”  It “denotes that piety which characterized by a Godward attitude, does that which is pleasing to Him” (Vine’s).  Guy N. Woods comments, “humble reverence and deep piety toward God” (ibid).  The word occurs four times in this book (2 Peter 1:3, 6, 7; 3:11).

7.  Brotherly kindness – “to godliness brotherly kindness” (2 Peter 1:7).

The word (philadelphian) means “brotherly love” (Thayer).  Other translations read: “love of the brethren” (ASV); “brotherly affection” (ESV).  Guy N. Woods comments, “As God is our Father, his children are our brethren, and the obligation to love them is clear and explicit… (1 John 5:1)” (ibid).

8.  Love – “and to brotherly kindness love” (2 Peter 1:7).

The word (agape) is difficult to define.  Vine’s says of the verb (agapao), it is “not an impulse, from the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered… In respect to God, it expresses the deep and constant ‘love’ and interest of a perfect Being towards entirely unworthy objects” (Vine’s).  Agape love “seeks the highest good of others… It is not something which simply happens and we cannot help it.  Agape is something into which we must will ourselves” (Nelson M. Smith, What Is This Thing Called Love? p. 14).

This type of love is owed to all.  This includes: (1) Family (Ephesians 5:25, 28, 33; Colossians 3:19); (2) Christian brethren (John 13:34; 15:12, 17; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 2:17; 1 John 2:9-10; 4:20) (3) All of humanity (Romans 13:8-10; 1 Thessalonians 3:12), including enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). 

For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8).

Those who have these Christian graces abounding in them will be productive Christians.  Are we productive, bearing fruit to the glory of God?

If you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10-11).

Heaven is assured if one develops and continues to possess these Christians graces.  How are we doing?

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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