Virtue

Victory Through Virtue
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"He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time" (Daniel 7:25 ESV).

Jeff Mezera

Sometime after the Apostles were off the scene, the Christian Church took a detour from morality. It was talked about, but too few in Church leadership displayed it in their lives. Moral decay led to corruption, corruption led to deceit, deceit led to the suffering of others, and that suffering sometimes even led to murder. Note the following from the Bible Illustrator.

"As early as the days of apostles there were in the Christian Church those who would make faith suffice without virtue. Some really loving and practicing piety, have yet, in their crude theories, discredited morality and virtue, for the purpose of extolling, as they supposed, religion."

Are Christian values outdated in the Church? Is a virtuous Christian outdated? If we are to emulate Jesus Christ in our life, should we not seek to put on the highest character qualities? Is this not how we obtain victory? Throughout history, followers of Jesus have attempted to absorb the characteristics mentioned by Peter in his second epistle.

"According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:3-8).

Note that virtue is the first characteristic mentioned after faith. Though we are to try to exhibit all qualities mentioned in this passage, here we will focus on virtue, otherwise translated as moral excellence, fortitude (Wilson Diaglott), and resolution (Moffatt).

The Apostle Peter encouraged us to add these character traits so that we can make our calling and election sure. He considered moral excellence indispensable in this quest to develop proper character. This should not be surprising as it implies a steadfastness of character so necessary to our end goal of spiritual victory.

Peter himself was no stranger to failure. He knew the deep pain and regret that often follow the commitment of unintentional wrong. Here, in his letter, he aimed to persuade each of us to follow Jesus during each trial, after each disappointment, and each time we inadvertently miss the mark through a wrongful action.

Peter’s intent was to convince us that despite failure, victory is still attainable as long as virtue is the constant motive of our actions. Consistency is the key to victory. We are urged never to give up or "grow weary and lose heart" (Hebrews 12:3 NAS) during our Christian race.

The Context of 2 Peter

Consider the context of Peter’s first chapter. The list of traits begins with "Now for this very reason ..." What reason? Verse three explains that God has given us all that we need. Through the holy Spirit, He has called us to be a follower of His son. Only through this divine power can we be helped to put off the corruption that Peter mentions.

"His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and excellence" (2 Peter 1:3 NAS). At the beginning of verse five, Peter encourages us to "add" (KJV) or "supply" (NAS) the character traits listed.

The origin of the word "supply" (epichoregeo), comes from classical Greek and is used to "describe the munificence (generosity) of rich citizens who would finance a theatrical performance or fit out a warship for the state they loved ... another term derived from this word is ‘choreographer.’ It is suggested by etymologists that Peter’s list here is a chorus of Christian graces, the manner of his linking each with the others being like they are holding hands!" (Bridgeway Bible Commentary).

"It is a vivid metaphor ... in which a rich individual, called the choregos (since he paid the expenses of the chorus) joined with the poet and the state in putting on plays. This could be an expensive business, and yet choragi (plural) vied with one another in the generosity of their equipment and training of the choruses. Thus the word came to mean generous and costly cooperation" (1968, Intervarsity Press, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, 2 Peter and Jude, pages 66-67).

We must not only cooperate with God in the development of our Christian characters, but we should also cooperate with other members of the choragi. As we work together, we can encourage all members to participate in this costly endeavor in love and good works (Hebrews 10:23-24).

"His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and excellence" (2 Peter 1:3 NAS).

Peter begins in verse 5 with "Now for this very reason" (2 Peter 1:5). What reason is he discussing? The answer is in verse three, which explains that God has given us all we need to gain life and godliness through His divine power. Through the promised holy Spirit (power) and the knowledge of God’s own glory, we can put off corruption and put on godliness as mentioned in Peter’s outline of Christian growth.

"By which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire" (2 Peter 1:4, English Standard Version).

Peter reminds us that we are not alone in this quest. God will work with us to accomplish the work that He started in us (Philippians 1:6). Through the holy Spirit, and as a consequence of this power God has granted to us, He assists us to escape the sinful corruption of this world. We must put away our selfish human desires and natural understanding. Then we can seek a higher spiritual way of life. Through study of God’s word, we will grow in these vital qualities. Each Christian must cooperate with God’s work within themselves (Philippians 2:13-14). This is why consistency of moral character is so important. This is why the apostle reminds us to add to our faith, virtue.

If our faith is not put into action, we are not allowing ourselves to be developed or tested. Earnest Christians are continually being tested in order to grow in, and trust, the one who leads them.

Christian Principles at Work

"You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected ... you see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone ... for just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead" (James 2:22-26 NAS).

Virtue is applied widely to such character traits as honesty and compassion. However, in Greek, virtue primarily means courage. We need courage in order to face the trials experienced in this evil world. We need courage to maintain Christian principles when evil is all around us. We need courage to have boldness and independence amidst evildoers. We need courage to maintain firm stands on morality.

In Greek, virtue also contains the idea of energy and firmness in making changes. Courage can help us to profess our faith before men in this sinful world. Both our actions and our words must reflect this courage. Faith without these outward manifestations is dead.

In the Syriac version of the New Testament there is a suggestion that these traits are not an addition to faith, but are developed: "with our faith" (Gill’s Commentary). Perhaps, then, faith is a choice we make. It comes through effort and courage. The Biblical Illustrator says that the Greek word translated virtue "is very graphic and picturesque. It means ‘bringing in by the side of.’ " So the Apostle is saying "Bring in your diligence by the side of your faith."

A faithful Christian has many characteristics to develop, but also many to fight against. But God is at our side, and will assist us through His divine power. He will help us to resist sin that can cause our failure.

Resisting Sin

As faith grows, our courage to resist sin also increases. Through the knowledge gained by both the study of God’s Word and personal experience, we will gain wisdom to conduct ourselves according to the principles of Christ. We will draw closer to our Heavenly Father and gain the moral excellence that God requires of us. We should never be discouraged by small gains. Little by little these small gains will produce everlasting fruitage. It is only through Christ that we can do all things.

"He restores my soul; he guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake" (Psalm 23:3 NAS).

As stated previously, the Greek word epichoregeo, translated "supply," means properly to "contribute to the expenses of a chorus." It is used three times by Paul, and, in its simple form, by Peter in his First Epistle (1 Peter 4:11)" (Pulpit Commentary). It also appears in 2 Corinthians 9:10.

As an ecclesia, we can also express virtue in chorus. As we encourage each other, and proclaim the good news of the kingdom, we are expressing the virtue to which God has called us.

Victory Through Virtue

"No longer lend your faculties as unrighteous weapons for sin to use. On the contrary surrender your very selves to God as living men who have risen from the dead, and surrender your several faculties to God, to be used as weapons to maintain the right" (Romans 6:13 Weymouth).

"So that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4 ESV).

The divine nature that Peter mentions is not gained by escaping the corruption of the world, but rather by newness of life. In order to obtain this promise we must work with God to master the traits laid before us in our theme text. "Be all the more diligent to make certain about his calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our lord and savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you" (2 Peter 1:10- 11 NET). An intimate knowledge of God is the means by which we can receive the great and precious promises and later become partakers of the divine nature.

Both divine power (verse 3) and divine nature (verse 4) are mentioned in this context. If we submit to God’s divine power, we will become partakers of the divine nature. This is not automatic. It will only happen if we diligently use every means within our power and only if we continue faithful to the ethical standards placed before us by Peter’s second epistle. Then we will find entrance into the Kingdom of Christ (2 Peter 1:11).

We must be diligent as we make these characteristics our own. As we consider virtue, or courage, or moral excellence, or as we add other traits, we will mature as Christians. We will be set aside, or sanctified, by divine work in us. This is not something that can be done through human will alone.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Romans 12:2 NIV).

If we are conscientious in our efforts, we can expect help from God’s divine power which will provide all that is necessary to escape the corruption of this world and develop true godliness. This in turn will lead to our becoming partakers of the divine nature.

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things" (Philippians 4:8 NET).