Over the last couple of weeks, we have talked about the hope and confidence found in none other than Christ Jesus. Because of our knowledge of Him, He has provided us with “His divine power,” which in turn gives us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2nd Peter 1:3). That is ours! That said, we walk with the awareness that Satan is active in this world, looking for “whom he may devour” (1st Peter 5:8). His efforts seek to destroy the redeemed and keep the captive… well… captive. There is still another element in all this, us. Consider the caution Peter concludes his letter with, “beware, lest you also fall from your own steadfastness” (2nd Peter 3:17). The writer of Hebrews says, “Help each other so that none of you will be fooled by sin and become hard to change” (Hebrews 3:13, ETRV). Growth in Christ, as was noted last week, helps us to continuously be “useful to God” (2nd Peter 1:8, ETRV) while at the same time, helps us to “never stumble” (2nd Peter 1:10). Spiritual growth is less about achieving and more about cultivating the blessings given to us in Christ. With this in mind, let us consider two things that Peter encourages his readers to pursue diligently.
“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence,
add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge…”
2nd Peter 1:5
The very first thing that Peter encourages his readers to pursue is virtue; your translation may use the word goodness. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as conformity to a standard of right, particular moral excellence. According to Strong’s, the Greek word carries the idea of a gracious act, uprightness, i.e., excellence. Thayer defines it as any particular moral excellence. One author says, “the basic meaning of the word indicates the quality by which one stands out as being excellent.” Simply put, it is the determination to do what is excellent in God’s sight in all situations. Paul uses the same word at the end of Philippians 4:8, when he says, “… if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.” Virtuous things is something Paul encouraged the Philippians to mediate upon. Also, when the apostle Paul writes about the need to “put off, concerning your former conduct” and “put on the new man” (Ephesians 4:22, 24) or “put to death members which are on the earth” and “put on” (Colossians 3:5,12), he is, in essence, talking about the pursuit of virtue. How important is this pursuit? Paul encourages Timothy to “be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1st Timothy 4:12). Why? Paul goes on to explain, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1st Timothy 4:16). The pursuit of virtue is not simply about transformation; it is about our ability to influence those around us.
Along with virtue, Christians are encouraged to pursue knowledge. Although we have obtained the knowledge of Christ, there is still more knowledge needed. Why is it important to grow in knowledge? Psalm 119:11, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” There could be no better reason than that very thing; still, there is more. We gain some insight from Hebrews 5:14 (ETRV), “But solid food is for people who have grown up. From their experience, they have learned to see the difference between good and evil.” Our world has a difficult time discerning good from evil. What was once evil is now said to be good, and to think otherwise is evil. Crazy! But why would the Holy Spirit guide Peter to urge them to grow in knowledge? Listen to 2nd Peter 2:1, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you….” Paul wanted the church in Ephesus to grow so they would “no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Ephesians 4:14). Growing in our knowledge helps to protect us from the deceitfulness of sin. It also protects us from Satan’s efforts to deceive us through false teaching, something that is every bit as real today as it was then.
Knowledge links us to our ability to be useful to God while at the same time keeping us from stumbling. It reminds me of something critical, “The foundation of all human excellence must be laid deep in the blood of the Redeemer’s cross and in the power of his resurrection.” Let all of our efforts to grow be because of Him and for Him.