This will probably be my favorite blog post ever.
Everything I am about to say about 2 Peter 1:5-7 assumes that you have already read verses 3-4 and understand them. We can do the things in verses 5-7 BECAUSE we have great and precious promises and have been made partakers of the divine nature. If you don’t have the power of verses 3-4, then verses 5-7 will be nothing but a goal that cannot be achieved.
There are seven steps listed in verses 5-7. We are to be growing in all of them, but when we see them as a sequence, we find a beautiful picture of the Christian life:
Faith is where we begin. Unless we are born again by faith, we cannot see the kingdom of heaven, neither here on earth or in eternity, for the kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom. Faith is what gives you access to grace, and grace will make you a new creature, “created in Christ Jesus for good works.”
Some Bible versions translate this “moral excellence.” When we come to Christ, we come with a knowledge of what is moral and virtuous. That knowledge is not necessarily accurate, but the first thing that Peter tells us to “diligently” add to faith is virtue. The newly born again Christian should, and usually does, begin to live a moral life as best he knows how. This is called repentance.
We do not learn in the world what is truly virtuous. We learn that from God. As we begin to walk in virtue, we should make every effort to add knowledge. What really pleases God? The Scriptures and our brothers and sisters guide us in this. As we walk further down the path Jesus is leading us on, circumstances and the Spirit within us will refine our knowledge of what is pleasing to our Master.
Knowing what is pleasing to God and doing it are two different things. As James says, “Let us be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving ourselves” (1:22). Our increasing knowledge needs self-control added to it, lest we be found mere actors rather than real Christians.
A little self-control is a good thing. Continuing in self-control is more difficult. We must add perseverance to our self-control. When trials come, when hardships come, when times of boredom set in, we must persevere.
The longer you walk with God–that you really walk with God, depending on him, knowing that apart from him you can do nothing–the more your virtue, self-control, and perseverance will set into your soul. The Word of God (which is Jesus himself, not only the Scripture) has a goal to separate your soul and spirit (Heb. 4:12). The Spirit of God dwells in your spirit, mixing with it to become one just as husband and wife should become one in flesh (1 Cor. 6:16-17).
We want more than obedience. We want godliness. That comes as we put to death our soul, denying its desires, and live by the desires that are set in our spirit by the Spirit of God. This will never happen without the trials that are required to produce the patience of the previous step (Jam. 1:2-4; Rom. 5:3-5). Those trials produce brokenness in us, destroying our trust in ourselves. God’s light can shine from us through the breaks and cracks that he has created in our soul so that his Spirit can shine from your spirit.
The result is not just righteousness, nor just good deeds. The result is godliness.
The end result is nothing short of divine, and we all long to be godly in this way. The path to godliness, however, comes through self-control and perseverance.
As we become godly, our tempers are tamed. Our pride is broken. We begin to be able to be more concerned for our brothers and sisters than for ourselves. We are finally able to produce real kindness, real care for those around us.
We would like to think we love. We should try to love, and we should grow in love, but real love, agape love, is far above what we mortals understand. It takes a long path of our effort (virtue, knowledge, self-control) and God’s intervention in our lives (troubles sent to create perseverance) just to get us to brotherly kindness!
The word for brotherly kindness, interestingly enough, is philadelphia. There is a phileo form of love that is true friendship. Agape, though, comes from God.
This is the ultimate goal. To love is indeed something we can choose. We can act in love. However, true agape (the Greek word used in 2 Pet. 1:7) can only come from God. We must grow into it. Those who have become godly and are walking in philadelphia, the love of the brethren, begin to find love inside of them. It is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5), and the pure live in it.
The Holy Spirit lives in all of us who belong to Christ. There is infinite love inside of him, but that does not mean it is accessible to you or given to others. Your soul can be a hard shell around it, or be mixed with your spirit and dilute or completely block the divine nature Jesus created deep within you when you believed in him. That is why the Word of God (again, in Heb. 4:12-13, that’s clearly Jesus, not the Scriptures) must divide the soul from the Spirit.
It is a long path to truly walking in love. That is why we should be so excited about the trials that come our way. We want agape to be all that comes out of us. A bad day, a cold, a broken down car, or even cancer and chemotherapy. If it allows the agape love of the Spirit of God to pour out of us, then let us fall on the stone of stumbling and be broken. There is no greater goal for the Christian than to be like him. God has predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29).
That is God’s hope, and Peter explains to us the route in three short verses.
Note in reference to related articles below: WordPress suggests related articles to me when I blog, and I choose from among WordPress’ suggestions. So if an article is listed at the end of a post of mine, it’s because I chose it. Sometimes that’s just to let you see an alternative opinion and how people came to it. Today, though, I want to specifically recommend “Am I depending on God or Myself?” It’s a good blog, and I highly recommend Jerry Bridges’ books, at least as far as they address the spiritual disciplines of a Christian.