And to Knowledge, Self-Control

2 Peter 1:3-11 has always been one of my favorite passages. I won’t quote the whole thing here. I wrote a blog on a portion of that passage that is one of my favorites.

Today, I want to address an even smaller portion:

Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowlege, self-control …

In fact, I just want to focus on one step, adding self-control to knowledge.


What sort of knowledge do you picture adding to your faith and virtue?

For a lot of my younger Christian life, I added knowledge about doctrines that the “cults” disputed. I added knowledge about the Trinity to dispute with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and United Pentecostals. I added knowledge about spiritual gifts and the plan of salvation to dispute with the Way International. I added knowledge about salvation by faith alone to dispute with the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) and the Churches of Christ.

I also added a lot of knowledge about the “cults” themselves.

Then, when I found out about all the disputes among evangelical denominations, I added more knowledge. I added knowledge about eternal security and losing one’s salvation. I added knowledge about the baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, and the use of spiritual gifts.

I spent two years building a model for the tribulation, the wrath to come, the rapture, and completely outlined Daniel’s seventieth week.

Then I got into the “deeper” Christian life, and I added knowledge about the church, unity, mysticism. Then I found The Ante-Nicene Fathers, and I even wrote a book that was accepted for publication by Scroll Publishing.

The book, which was never published, argues for a more honest approach to the Bible using four topics: baptism, church government, salvation by faith, and something else I forget. (Hey, that was 20 years ago.)

The book was well researched. The arguments were powerful. The book was passed around in manuscript form among friends and a couple small churches.

I would never recommend anyone read it now.

I couldn’t see it at the time, but the only real purpose for all that knowledge was disputation.

I am not saying that disputation is a bad thing. The apostles did it, and I still dispute a lot. There is a place for disputation.

However, I want to suggest a new way of looking at our goal of gaining knowledge. (Gaining knowledge is commanded in the passage we are looking at.)

Add to Your … Knowledge, Self-Control

Does an understanding of the timing of the rapture require self-control from me? How about a better explanation of the Trinity?

Does the knowledge I’m gaining require me to add self-control?

The knowledge Jesus passed on requires immense self-control. “Don’t hate your brother, or you’re a murderer.” “Forgive, or your heavenly Father won’t forgive you.” “Do not store up treasures for yourself on earth.” “Take no thought for tomorrow.” “Do not return evil for evil, but bless those who curse you.” “Do not look at a woman in lust, or you’ve already committed adultery with her.”

Let’s get out of the Sermon on the Mount, where all those came from. “Whichever of you does not forsake all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” “If you love your father or mother more than me, you are not worthy of me.” “If you want to be great in God’s kingdom, become the servant of everyone.”

When Jesus adds knowledge, I not only need self-control, I need a breathing treatment to get over the terror of what I’m facing as a Christian.

Is all that even possible?

Well, if I’ll quit adding knowledge I’ve chosen for myself, I might be able to find out if the fact that God has made me “a partaker of the divine nature” and given us “great and precious promises” are really enough for us to “escape the corruption that is in the world through lust.” I might be forced to walk in the Spirit and find out if that really causes me to “not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” I might be forced to cry out to God and find out whether “sin will have no power over you because you are … under grace.”

Pertinent Early Christian Quotes

Trypho: “Moreover, I am aware that your precepts in the so-called Gospel are so wonderful and so great, that I suspect no one can keep them; for I have carefully read them. …”

Justin: “If, therefore, God proclaimed a new covenant which was to be instituted, and this for a light of the nations, we see and are persuaded that men approach God, leaving their idols and other unrighteousness, through the name of Him who was crucified, Jesus Christ, and abide by their confession even unto death, and maintain godliness.” (Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew 10,11, c. AD 155)

To [humans]alone He imparted the privilege of looking upwards to Himself, whom He formed after His ownimage, to whom He sent His only-begotten Son, to whom He has promised a kingdom in heaven, and will give it to those who have loved Him. And when you have attained this knowledge, with what joy do you think you will be filled? Or, how will you love Him who has first so loved you?

And if you love Him, you will be an imitator of His kindness. And do not wonder that a man may become an imitator of God. He can, if he is willing. For it is not by ruling over his neighbours, or by seeking to hold the supremacy over those that are weaker, or by being rich, and showing violence towards those that are inferior, that happiness is found; nor can any one by these things become an imitator of God. But these things do not at all constitute His majesty.

On the contrary he who takes upon himself the burden of his neighbour; he who, in whatsoever respect he may be superior, is ready to benefit another who is deficient; he who, whatsoever things he has received from God, by distributing these to the needy, becomes a god to those who receive [his benefits]: he is an imitator of God. Then thou shalt see, while still on earth, that God in the heavens rules over [the universe]; then thou shall begin to speak the mysteries of God; then shalt thou both love and admire those that suffer punishment because they will not deny God; then shall thou condemn the deceit and error of the world when thou shall know what it is to live truly in heaven, when thou shalt despise
that which is here esteemed to be death, when thou shalt fear what is truly death, which is reserved for those who shall be condemned to the eternal fire, which shall afflict those even to the end that are committed to it. Then shalt thou admire those who for righteousness’ sake endure the fire that is but for a moment, and shalt count them happy when thou shalt know [the nature of] that fire.

I do not speak of things strange to me, nor do I aim at anything inconsistent with right reason; but having been a disciple of the Apostles, I am become a teacher of the Gentiles. I minister the things delivered to me to those that are disciples worthy of the truth. For who that is rightly taught and begotten by the loving Word, would not seek to learn accurately the things which have been clearly shown by the Word to His disciples, to whom the Word being manifested has revealed them, speaking plainly [to them], not understood indeed by the unbelieving, but conversing with the disciples, who, being esteemed faithful by Him, acquired a knowledge of the mysteries of the Father? …

Then the fear of the law is chanted, and the grace of the prophets is known, and the faith of the gospels is established, and the tradition of the Apostles is preserved, and the grace of the Church exults; which grace if you grieve not, you shall know those things which the Word teaches, by whom He wills, and when He pleases. For whatever things we are moved to utter by the will of the Word commanding us, we communicate to you with pains, and from a love of the things that have been revealed to us. (Anonymous, Letter to Diognetus 10-11; AD 80-130)

End Notes

No references today. You have to find all those verses yourself.

I am not saying that the things I mentioned at the start of the blog are all bad. Christians are in disagreement about those things. It would be good if you knew something about those subjects. Remember, though, that anger, division, schisms, and jealousy are works of the flesh. Do not fool yourself into thinking you’ve been chose by God for righteous indignation. There’s a 99.99% chance you haven’t. “The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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