Advancing After Obtaining “a Faith”
“Supply to your faith virtue, to your virtue knowledge, to your knowledge self-control, to your self-control endurance, to your endurance godly devotion, to your godly devotion brotherly affection, to your brotherly affection love.”—2 Pet. 1:5-7.
1. What really makes a treasure valuable, and how might this be illustrated?
A VALUABLE treasure that remains buried in the ground serves no useful purpose. It differs little from a rock hidden by a layer of soil. But the treasure does have the potential for benefiting its possessor and even others. It could be used to help the sick and the needy, or it might be wisely invested. If a large sum of money is involved, it could create job openings and thus enable many persons to make a living. Truly, when a treasure is used in a productive way, it becomes more valuable.
2. According to 2 Peter 1:1, what precious possession have Christians obtained?
2 The spiritual treasure in the possession of God’s servants has even greater potential for the accomplishment of good. In his second letter to Christians, the apostle Peter speaks of this precious treasure, beginning with these words: “Simon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith, held in equal privilege with ours, by the righteousness of our God and the Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 1:1) “Faith,” that is, the faith essential for everlasting life, was the priceless treasure that had come to belong to those whom the apostle addressed.
3. Why could Peter describe the faith of those to whom he wrote as being “held in equal privilege with ours”?
3 This faith was not the exclusive possession of Peter and the other apostles or of all who, like him, were Christianized Jews. It was shared in common with the entire body of believers, both Jews and non-Jews. The Most High God had made it possible for them to obtain this faith. By means of the message of the “good news” that was preached, he drew persons to himself through his Son. (John 6:44) He opened up the hearts of individuals, making them responsive to his “word,” or message.—Acts 16:14; Rom. 10:8.
4. How is faith obtained “by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ”?
4 As the apostle Peter noted, this faith was obtained “by the righteousness of our God and the Savior Jesus Christ.” The Almighty made it possible for men of all tribes, peoples, nations and races to receive this priceless possession. In thus showing no preference for any individuals when forgiving sins on the basis of his Son’s sacrifice and accepting repentant ones as his people, Jehovah God displayed his righteousness, his fairness, his impartiality. This is the very point that Peter made at the time he brought the “good news” to the Italian centurion Cornelius and his relatives and close friends. “For a certainty,” the apostle said, “I perceive that God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34, 35) Our Savior Jesus Christ reflects that same impartial spirit. He surrendered his life for persons everywhere.—1 Tim. 2:5, 6.
Advancing in Knowledge of God and Christ
5. After obtaining a faith, what responsibility do we have, and what is essential in fulfilling it?
5 After having “obtained a faith,” disciples of Jesus Christ come under personal responsibility to conform ever closer to God’s will for them. Accurate knowledge will help us to do this. The apostle Peter stressed the importance of accurate, full or complete knowledge, saying: “May undeserved kindness and peace be increased to you by an accurate knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”—2 Pet. 1:2.
6. (a) What is meant by having an “accurate knowledge of God and of Jesus”? (b) How do we come to have such knowledge?
6 Our having an accurate knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” means knowing them as persons—their qualities, ways and dealings—and imitating their flawless example. (Compare Jeremiah 22:15, 16; Matthew 7:21-23; 1 John 2:3-6; 3:5, 6.) By our advancement in learning and in applying the principles of God’s Word, we come to know the Father and his Son better and better. This results in our enjoying undeserved kindness and peace to an ever greater degree.
7. How is “undeserved kindness” increased “by an accurate knowledge of God and of Jesus”?
7 It is only by doing what is pleasing to Jehovah God and Jesus Christ that we continue to receive divine help and guidance. Because we are sinful humans, we have no merit on our own. So whatever our Maker does for us is an expression of his undeserved kindness. Nevertheless, our being recipients of divine undeserved kindness depends on our striving to be like our heavenly Father and his Son. When this is true in our case, we can approach Jehovah God with full confidence that he will answer our petitions. The Christian apostle John stated:
“Whatever we ask we receive from him, because we are observing his commandments and are doing the things that are pleasing in his eyes. Indeed, this is his commandment, that we have faith in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and be loving one another, just as he gave us commandment. Moreover, he who observes his commandments remains in union with him, and he in union with such one; and by this we gain the knowledge that he is remaining in union with us, owing to the spirit which he gave us.”—1 John 3:22-24.
8. How is “peace” increased “by an accurate knowledge of God and of Jesus”?
8 When we possess, not just knowledge, but full, rounded-out knowledge of our heavenly Father and his Son, we see clearly what is pleasing in their sight. We remain in union and at peace with them, enjoying an intimacy with them as their friends. Consequently, our progress in coming to know Jehovah God and his Son more fully leads to the enjoyment of increased peace. This is so because of our avoiding to an ever greater degree attitudes, speech and action that are contrary to the example of our God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
9. What effect does sinning have on our peace with God?
9 On the other hand, by sinning, we would be disrupting our peace with the Most High, as we would be acting against his will. Only God’s forgiveness, based on our sincere repentance and faith in the atoning benefits of Christ’s sacrifice, can bring a restoration of peace.—1 John 2:1, 2.
Let “Divine Power” Move You to Action
10. What can help us to enjoy undeserved kindness and peace in increased measure?
10 Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, of course, want us to enjoy undeserved kindness and peace in increased measure. Therefore, we should cooperate with them by making a determined effort to come to know them better. One way in which we can do this is by reflecting appreciatively on what Jehovah God, by means of his Son, has done in our behalf. The apostle Peter wrote: “His divine power has given us freely all the things that concern life and godly devotion, through the accurate knowledge of the one who called us through glory and virtue. Through these things he has freely given us the precious and very grand promises, that through these you may become sharers in divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world through lust.”—2 Pet. 1:3, 4.
11, 12. (a) Why is “divine power” associated with “accurate knowledge”? (b) How is this illustrated in the case of Christians at Thessalonica?
11 Note that Peter associated “divine power” with “accurate knowledge.” This is most appropriate, for God’s word, or message, regarding his Son, the “good news,” can have a powerful impact on the lives of people. This is well illustrated in what the apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “The good news we preach did not turn up among you with speech alone but also with power.” (1 Thess. 1:5) The preaching of the “good news” at Thessalonica brought results. It was not a matter of persons’ hearing words and not acting on them, that is, it was not a matter of “speech alone.” The Thessalonians who embraced Christianity were moved to act, indicating that the “good news” had exerted power. These Christians became an example to other believers in faithfully enduring persecution for the sake of righteousness and in continuing to bear witness to everyone about the “good news.”
12 Because Thessalonica was a seaport, believers there were brought in touch with seamen, merchants and others from distant places. The Thessalonian Christians made good use of their opportunities to share the “good news” with others. As a result, their faith came to be talked about far and wide. When Paul and his companions declared and taught the truth publicly in other cities, they were told about the Christians in Thessalonica. Commenting on this, the apostle wrote:
“From Thessalonica the word of the Lord rang out; and not in Macedonia and Achaia alone, but everywhere your faith in God has reached men’s ears. No words of ours are needed, for they themselves spread the news of our visit to you and its effect: how you turned from idols, to be servants of the living and true God, and to wait expectantly for the appearance from heaven of his Son Jesus, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus our deliverer from the terrors of judgement to come.”—1 Thess. 1:8-10, “The New English Bible.”
13. How have we personally experienced the effect of “divine power” in us, and so what should we continue to do?
13 Similarly, we believers today have felt the “divine power” at work in us because of our accepting the “good news,” God’s word, or message. That “good news” has caused us to make changes in our lives, to conform ourselves to the divine will. We have also been moved to declare the “good news” to others. The divine power that is exerted through “accurate knowledge” contained in the “good news” has given us everything that we need for “life and godly devotion.” Thus, on account of the divine power, we can live an upright life, with eternity in view. And we should continue letting the divine power help us to become more Christlike in conduct and activity.
14. How does Jehovah God do the calling “through glory and virtue”?
14 The manner in which Jehovah God calls or draws individuals to himself should serve as a strong encouragement to make progress in Christian living. The apostle Peter referred to “the accurate knowledge of the one who called us through glory and virtue.” Jehovah God does the ‘calling’ or ‘drawing’ through his Son. It is particularly in Jesus Christ that “glory and virtue” are manifest to humans. The Christian apostle John wrote respecting the Son: “The Word became flesh and resided among us, and we had a view of his glory, a glory such as belongs to an only-begotten son from a father; and he was full of undeserved kindness and truth.” (John 1:14) In the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, John and the other apostles saw a glory, a splendor, a magnificence that could only be displayed by someone who perfectly reflected the image of the heavenly Father. Moreover, the apostle John, along with James and Peter, witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus Christ. At that time “his face shone as the sun, and his outer garments became brilliant as the light.” (Matt. 17:2) Just as glory is linked with the Son of God, so is virtue. Jesus Christ was outstandingly virtuous, a man of moral excellence. Even the traitorous Judas Iscariot acknowledged: “I sinned when I betrayed righteous blood.” (Matt. 27:4) So it has been through the “glory and virtue” reflected in the Son that Jehovah has done the calling.
God’s Promises—An Incentive for Making Advancement
15. Why are the God-given promises “precious and very grand”?
15 God’s marvelous arrangement for salvation as revealed in the “good news” gave first-century Christians “precious and very grand promises.” These promises were precious or valuable in providing comfort, encouragement and sustaining power in facing the world’s hatred. When we consider that the believers to whom Peter wrote looked forward to sharing in Christ’s glory as joint heirs in his kingdom, we must agree with the apostle that they had received “very grand promises.”—2 Pet. 1:4a.
16, 17. What effect do the divine promises have on believers?
16 What did these promises do for first-century believers? Peter’s answer is: “Through these you may become sharers in divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Pet. 1:4b) In other words, the promises of God furnished the basis for their becoming “sharers in divine nature.” The hope of first-century Christians was for them to be associated with Jesus Christ in the heavenly kingdom and to be like him. (Rom. 8:17) Since the Son is ‘the reflection of God’s glory and the exact representation of his very being,’ all who come to be like Jesus Christ are also like the Father. (Heb. 1:3) The apostle John wrote: “Beloved ones, now we are children of God, but as yet it has not been made manifest what we shall be. We do know that whenever he is made manifest we shall be like him, because we shall see him just as he is. And everyone who has this hope set upon him purifies himself just as that one is pure.”—1 John 3:2, 3.
17 Thus, by sharing in the glory of the Son of God, spirit-begotten Christians become partakers of “divine nature.” This grand hope based on God’s sure promises provided strong incentive for them to do their utmost to purify themselves of all worldly defilement. The apostle Peter made the same point about being clean, for he showed that “sharers in divine nature” had “escaped from the corruption that is in the world through lust.” “Lust,” a passion for that to which a person is not entitled, is the source of the world’s corruption or defilement. It is from this defilement that believers had escaped when they availed themselves of God’s means of salvation and then applied themselves in conforming to the divine standard of holiness, cleanness or purity. As was true of first-century believers, the promises contained in the Scriptures can move us to continue purifying ourselves.
More than Faith Is Needed
18, 19. After obtaining a faith, what should we be doing in harmony with 2 Peter 1:5-7, and why?
18 All true servants of God today have benefited from the divine power exerted through the “good news” and from the wonderful promises associated with it. That is why we have good reason to prove ourselves to be persons who reflect a Christian personality and are active in helping others, especially spiritually. The apostle Peter urged: “Yes, for this very reason, by your contributing in response all earnest effort, supply to your faith virtue, to your virtue knowledge, to your knowledge self-control, to your self-control endurance, to your endurance godly devotion, to your godly devotion brotherly affection, to your brotherly affection love.”—2 Pet. 1:5-7.
19 We are not to be satisfied with having mere faith or belief. Rather, in response to or as a consequence of our having received the capacity for faith from our heavenly Father, we should want to develop other fine qualities that give evidence of our having faith. The apostle Peter urged that we ‘contribute all earnest effort,’ exert ourselves diligently with all the strength that we have, to become more like the Son of God.
20. What is meant by adding virtue to our faith?
20 Our adding virtue to faith would mean that we would strive to be persons of moral excellence in imitation of our Exemplar, Christ. Such virtue, or moral excellence, is a positive quality. Its possessor not only refrains from doing injury to his fellowman but also seeks to do good, responding to the spiritual, physical and emotional needs of others. Virtue is really active goodness. Thus the life of a virtuous person is not merely distinguished by negative things, as by his shunning sexual immorality, uncleanness, dishonesty and other practices that are divinely disapproved. In the first century C.E., the Pharisees prided themselves in not being “as the rest of men, extortioners, unrighteous, adulterers.” (Luke 18:11) But they were not virtuous, for they despised the common people and showed no mercy, pity or compassion.—Mark 3:1-6; John 7:47-49.
21. Why is it important to grow in knowledge?
21 Apart from knowledge, virtue as exemplified in Jesus Christ cannot exist. Knowledge is needed to distinguish right from wrong. (Heb. 5:14) It is also essential for evaluating just how positive good is to be expressed in a given situation. (Phil. 1:9, 10) Unlike credulity, solidly based faith is not shaken by knowledge. Hence, our being diligent in applying the Holy Scriptures will strengthen our faith as we continue to grow in knowledge of Jehovah God and his Son.
22. (a) Why is knowledge essential in cultivating self-control? (b) What is the relationship between self-control and endurance?
22 This knowledge serves to restrain us from giving in to sinful passions, becoming immoderate and unbridled in conduct or in other ways becoming guilty of a serious failure to reflect the divine image in attitude, word and action. Yes, knowledge contributes to our having self-control, the capacity to control or bridle one’s person, action or speech. By continuing to exercise self-control, we will have the essential quality of endurance. When subjected to pressures from the world in the form of daily cares, persecution or the allurement of pleasures or material possessions, we will not indulge our desires for a change from our position as slaves of God and Christ but will exercise self-control.
23. (a) How does endurance come about? (b) What is godly devotion, and how does it manifest itself?
23 The inner strength that endurance produces can also help us to resist giving in to sinful passions, compromising when suffering persecution, or becoming preoccupied with daily cares, pleasures or material possessions. This endurance stems from relying on the Most High for strength and guidance. (Compare Philippians 4:12, 13; James 1:2-8.) Godly devotion, or reverentialness, should be added to endurance. Such reverentialness distinguishes the entire life course of a genuine Christian. It manifests itself in a wholesome regard for the Creator and due respect and concern for humans made in God’s image.—1 Tim. 5:4.
24. Why can there be no reverentialness apart from brotherly affection?
24 Apart from brotherly affection, there can be no godliness, or reverentialness. The apostle John stated: “If anyone makes the statement: ‘I love God,’ and yet is hating his brother, he is a liar. For he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot be loving God, whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20) Consequently, we need to exert ourselves in developing deep affection for fellow believers, thus ‘supplying brotherly affection to our godly devotion.’
25. To whom should love be shown, and why?
25 Love is the outstanding quality that should be especially evident in our lives. This kind of love is not to be limited to our Christian brothers. While we have affection for our spiritual brothers, love is to be shown to all mankind. This love is not dependent on the moral standing of the individual. Like God’s love for mankind, it is shown even toward enemies. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ said:
“You heard that it was said, ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ However, I say to you: Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you; that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous. For if you love those loving you, what reward do you have? Are not also the tax collectors doing the same thing? And if you greet your brothers only, what extraordinary thing are you doing? Are not also the people of the nations doing the same thing? You must accordingly be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”—Matt. 5:43-48.
26, 27. What will happen when we supply to our faith the essentials that Peter enumerated?
26 What results when virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godly devotion, brotherly affection and love are added to faith? The apostle Peter answers: “If these things exist in you and overflow, they will prevent you from being either inactive or unfruitful regarding the accurate knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”—2 Pet. 1:8.
27 Yes, the result is activity and fruitfulness. When we supply to our faith the essentials that the apostle enumerated and make them a part of us to the point of overflowing, we will not be standing still, inactive, dead spiritually. Our spiritual advancement will continue. We will be manifesting the fruitage of a Christlike personality and making expressions about the “good news” to others. With godly qualities lodging in our hearts, being truly a part of us, we will be motivated to think, speak and act in a divinely approved way.—Compare Luke 6:43-45.
The Importance of Making Progress
28. What is the situation of a professed Christian who fails to make spiritual progress?
28 If a person were to fail in making advancement as a Christian, he would come into a position of grave spiritual danger. The apostle Peter said of such a one: “If these things [previously named] are not present in anyone, he is blind, shutting his eyes to the light, and has become forgetful of his cleansing from his sins of long ago.”—2 Pet. 1:9.
29. Why is a person who lacks the fruitage of a Christlike personality blind by choice?
29 The individual who fails to make spiritual progress, whose profession of faith lacks the fruitage of a Christlike personality, is spiritually blind. He does not see what it means to be a Christian. This blindness is deliberate, for his acceptance of the “good news” required that he continue to work in becoming more like his Master, Christ.
30. What should ‘a cleansing from sin’ move a Christian to do?
30 Such a person would also have lost sight of the fact that he was cleansed from his sins on the basis of Jesus’ shed blood. In harmony with the cleansing received at the time of his becoming a baptized Christian, he should have continued working hard in remaining clean, in fact, in conforming to a greater degree to the divine standard of holiness. His failure in this respect could easily lead to apostasy, to his rejecting completely the sacrifice of the Son of God.
31, 32. In view of the grave danger resulting from a failure to advance as Christians, what counsel of Peter should be heeded?
31 Because there exists some spiritual danger from failing to make progress as Christians, we do well to exert ourselves in making improvement in reflecting the divine image. Commenting on this, Peter said: “For this reason, brothers, all the more do your utmost to make the calling and choosing of you sure for yourselves; for if you keep on doing these things you will by no means ever fail. In fact, thus there will be richly supplied to you the entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”—2 Pet. 1:10, 11.
32 Surely all who have been ‘called and chosen’ by God to be his people should make a determined effort to remain such. Peter’s inspired writings showed that, by continuing to add to their faith Christlike qualities, they would not fail in reaching the goal of their faith—salvation. Nothing would debar them from gaining entrance into the “everlasting kingdom” of Jesus Christ. Entrance into the kingdom would be “richly supplied.”
33. What may be involved in a Christian’s having his entrance into the kingdom “richly supplied”?
33 It would be a glorious entrance, with their Christlike qualities reflecting radiantly. However, the expression “richly supplied” may also point to a superlative degree of blessedness to be enjoyed by those who have truly exerted themselves in the race for life.—Phil. 3:14.
34. How might a superlative degree of blessedness be illustrated?
34 The difference between life and life accompanied by special blessings might be illustrated by two ship captains. One may skillfully maneuver the ship through a storm, bringing the vessel safely to shore. But the other captain may experience shipwreck during the same storm, saving only his life. While both captains escaped with their lives, the one whose ship remained intact would certainly enjoy greater happiness and honor.—Compare 1 Corinthians 3:12-15.
35. Even though everlasting life is a gift from God, why is personal effort required in gaining it?
35 While life is a free gift from God, we are called upon to show our sincere desire for that gift by doing our utmost to please our heavenly Father. It is a gift, for we sinful humans could never attain it on our own merit. But we could fail to receive it if our life course gave no evidence of our really appreciating and wanting this gift. May we, therefore, be diligent in being truly Christlike in attitude, speech and action. Then, with divine help, we can be certain of success, not losing out on life nor on any additional blessings that our heavenly Father may bestow on us for being fruitful.
36. As shown by Peter, what factors do not rule out our need for reminders?
36 Therefore, we do well to remind ourselves of the importance of faithfulness. This is what the apostle Peter wanted the readers of his second letter to do. He wrote:
“For this reason I shall be disposed always to remind you of these things, although you know them and are firmly set in the truth that is present in you. But I consider it right, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to rouse you up by way of reminding you, knowing as I do that the putting off of my tabernacle is soon to be, just as also our Lord Jesus Christ signified to me. So I will do my utmost also at every time that, after my departure, you may be able to make mention of these things for yourselves.” (2 Pet. 1:12-15)
Like those to whom Peter directed his words in the first century, we may know the importance of preaching the “good news” and making improvement in displaying a Christlike personality. We may be firmly established in Christian truth to the extent that we have come to know it. Yet, especially when faced with trials or perhaps the clever arguments of false teachers, we do need the reminders that Peter set forth.
37. How was Peter a fine example in giving reminders?
37 It is good for us to keep in mind why he wrote these reminders. The apostle knew that he was going to die soon, for Jesus Christ had personally told him that he would experience a martyr’s death. (John 21:18, 19) This prospect did not cast a pall of gloom on Peter. But he determined to use the time remaining for strengthening his brothers, encouraging them to be active and fruitful. Thus, even after his departure in death, they could draw encouragement from his reminders and use them in building one another up.
38. What should we be doing with the reminders set forth in Peter’s letters?
38 May we likewise find encouragement in Peter’s letters and strengthen others by calling attention to his reminders. Then, as we look with confidence to the fulfillment of Jehovah’s marvelous promises, may we continue to proclaim the “good news” and make advancement in being more like our heavenly Father and his Son.
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“Supply to your faith virtue, to your virtue knowledge”
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‘Supply to your endurance godly devotion’
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‘Supply to your godly devotion brotherly affection’
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‘If these things exist in you, they will prevent you from being inactive or unfruitful’