Respond to God’s Promises by Exercising Faith
“He [Jehovah God] has freely given us the precious and very grand promises.”—2 PETER 1:4.
1. What enables us to exercise true faith?
JEHOVAH wants us to exercise faith in his promises. Yet, “faith is not a possession of all people.” (2 Thessalonians 3:2) This quality is a fruit of God’s holy spirit, or active force. (Galatians 5:22, 23) Hence, only those led by Jehovah’s spirit can exercise faith.
2. How does the apostle Paul define “faith”?
2 But what is faith? The apostle Paul calls it “the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.” The evidence of these unseen realities is so strong that faith is equated with it. Faith is also said to be “the assured expectation of things hoped for” because those who possess this quality have a guarantee that everything promised by Jehovah God is so certain that it is as good as fulfilled.—Hebrews 11:1.
Faith and Jehovah’s Promises
3. What will anointed Christians experience if they exercise faith?
3 To please Jehovah, we must exercise faith in his promises. The apostle Peter showed this in his second inspired letter, written about 64 C.E. He pointed out that if his fellow anointed Christians exercised faith, they would see the fulfillment of God’s “precious and very grand promises.” As a result, they would “become sharers in divine nature” as joint heirs with Jesus Christ in the heavenly Kingdom. With faith and Jehovah God’s help, they had escaped from being in bondage to this world’s corrupt habits and practices. (2 Peter 1:2-4) And just think! Those exercising true faith enjoy the same priceless freedom today.
4. What qualities should we supply to our faith?
4 Faith in Jehovah’s promises and gratitude for our God-given freedom should move us to do our utmost to become exemplary Christians. Said Peter: “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 Peter 1:5-7) Peter thus gives us a list we would do well to commit to memory. Let us take a closer look at these qualities.
Vital Elements of Faith
5, 6. What is virtue, and how can we supply it to our faith?
5 Peter said that virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godly devotion, brotherly affection, and love are to be supplied to one another and to our faith. We must work hard to make these qualities vital elements of our faith. For instance, virtue is not a quality that we display apart from faith. Lexicographer W. E. Vine points out that at 2 Peter 1:5, “virtue is enjoined as an essential quality in the exercise of faith.” Each one of the other qualities Peter mentioned is also to be an element of our faith.
6 First, we must supply virtue to our faith. Being virtuous means doing what is good in God’s sight. For the Greek word here rendered “virtue,” some versions use “goodness.” (New International Version; The Jerusalem Bible; Today’s English Version) Virtue motivates us to avoid doing bad or causing harm to fellow humans. (Psalm 97:10) It also prompts courageous action in doing good for the spiritual, physical, and emotional benefit of others.
7. Why should we supply knowledge to our faith and virtue?
7 Why does Peter urge us to supply knowledge to our faith and virtue? Well, as we face new challenges to our faith, we need knowledge if we are to distinguish right from wrong. (Hebrews 5:14) Through Bible study and experience in applying God’s Word and in exercising practical wisdom in daily life, we augment our knowledge. In turn, this enables us to maintain our faith and keep on doing what is virtuous when we are under trial.—Proverbs 2:6-8; James 1:5-8.
8. What is self-control, and how is it linked to endurance?
8 To help us meet trials with faith, we need to supply to our knowledge self-control. The Greek word for “self-control” denotes the ability to get a grip on ourselves. This fruit of God’s spirit helps us to show restraint in thought, word, and conduct. By persistence in exercising self-control, we supply to it endurance. The Greek term for “endurance” signifies courageous steadfastness, not sad-faced resignation to inescapable hardship. It was for the joy set before him that Jesus endured the torture stake. (Hebrews 12:2) God-given strength associated with endurance bolsters our faith and helps us to rejoice in tribulation, resist temptation, and avoid compromise when persecuted.—Philippians 4:13.
9. (a) What is godly devotion? (b) Why supply brotherly affection to our godly devotion? (c) How can we supply love to our brotherly affection?
9 To our endurance we must supply godly devotion—reverence, worship, and service to Jehovah. Our faith grows as we practice godly devotion and see how Jehovah deals with his people. Yet, to display godliness, we need brotherly affection. After all, “he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot be loving God, whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20) Our hearts should move us to show true affection for other servants of Jehovah and to seek their welfare at all times. (James 2:14-17) But why are we told to supply love to our brotherly affection? Evidently Peter meant that we must show love for all mankind, not just our brothers. This love is shown especially by preaching the good news and helping people spiritually.—Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20.
10. (a) How will we act if virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godly devotion, brotherly affection, and love are supplied to our faith? (b) What happens if a professing Christian lacks these qualities?
10 If we supply virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godly devotion, brotherly affection, and love to our faith, we will think, speak, and act in God-approved ways. Conversely, if a professing Christian fails to display these qualities, he becomes blind spiritually. He ‘shuts his eyes to the light’ from God and forgets that he has been cleansed from past sins. (2 Peter 1:8-10; 2:20-22) Let us never fail in that way and so lose faith in God’s promises.
11. What can we rightly expect of loyal anointed ones?
11 Loyal anointed Christians have faith in Jehovah’s promises and exert themselves to make his calling and choosing of them sure. Despite any stumbling blocks in their path, we can expect them to display godly qualities. For faithful anointed ones ‘there is richly supplied the entrance into the everlasting kingdom of Jesus Christ’ through their resurrection to spirit life in heaven.—2 Peter 1:11.
12. How are we to understand the words of 2 Peter 1:12-15?
12 Peter realized that he would soon die, and he expected to receive an eventual resurrection to heavenly life. But as long as he was alive in “this tabernacle”—his human body—he tried to build faith in fellow believers and rouse them up by reminding them of the things needed for divine favor. After his departure in death, Peter’s spiritual brothers and sisters could bolster their faith by recalling his words.—2 Peter 1:12-15.
Faith in the Prophetic Word
13. How did God provide faith-strengthening testimony about Christ’s coming?
13 God himself bore faith-strengthening testimony about the certainty of Jesus’ coming “with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:30; 2 Peter 1:16-18) Lacking evidence, pagan priests told false tales about their gods, whereas Peter, James, and John were eyewitnesses of Christ’s magnificence in the transfiguration. (Matthew 17:1-5) They saw him glorified and heard the sound of God’s own voice acknowledging Jesus as His beloved Son. That acknowledgment and the brilliant appearance then granted Christ were a bestowal of honor and glory on him. Because of this divine revelation, Peter called the site, likely on a spur of Hermon, “the holy mountain.”—Compare Exodus 3:4, 5.
14. How should our faith be affected by Jesus’ transfiguration?
14 How should Jesus’ transfiguration affect our faith? Peter said: “Consequently we have the prophetic word made more sure; and you are doing well in paying attention to it as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and a daystar rises, in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:19) “The prophetic word” apparently included not only Hebrew Scripture prophecies about the Messiah but also Jesus’ statement that he would come “with power and great glory.” How was the word “made more sure” by the transfiguration? That event verified the prophetic word about Christ’s glorious coming in Kingdom power.
15. What is involved in paying attention to the prophetic word?
15 To strengthen our faith, we must pay attention to the prophetic word. This involves studying that word, discussing it at Christian meetings, and applying its counsel. (James 1:22-27) We must let it be “a lamp shining in a dark place,” illuminating our hearts. (Ephesians 1:18) Only then will it guide us until the “daystar,” or, “the bright morning star,” Jesus Christ, reveals himself in glory. (Revelation 22:16) That revelation will mean destruction for the faithless and blessings for those exercising faith.—2 Thessalonians 1:6-10.
16. Why can we have faith that all the prophetic promises in God’s Word will be fulfilled?
16 God’s prophets were not merely astute men who made wise predictions, for Peter said: “No prophecy of Scripture springs from any private interpretation. For prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will, but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20, 21) For instance, David said: “The spirit of Jehovah it was that spoke by me.” (2 Samuel 23:1, 2) And Paul wrote: “All Scripture is inspired of God.” (2 Timothy 3:16) Since God’s prophets were inspired by means of his spirit, we can have faith that all promises in his Word will be fulfilled.
They Had Faith in God’s Promises
17. What promise was the basis for Abel’s faith?
17 Jehovah’s promises were a basis for the faith of the ‘great cloud’ of his pre-Christian witnesses. (Hebrews 11:1–12:1) For example, Abel had faith in God’s promise about a “seed” that would bruise “the serpent” in the head. There was proof of fulfillment of God’s sentence on Abel’s parents. Outside Eden, Adam and his family ate bread in the sweat of their faces because the cursed ground produced thorns and thistles. Likely Abel noted Eve’s craving for her husband and saw that Adam dominated her. Surely she spoke about the pain of her pregnancy. And the entrance to the garden of Eden was guarded by cherubs and the flaming blade of a sword. (Genesis 3:14-19, 24) All of this constituted an “evident demonstration” assuring Abel that deliverance would come through the promised Seed. Acting in faith, Abel offered God a sacrifice that proved to be of greater worth than that of Cain.—Hebrews 11:1, 4.
18, 19. In what ways did Abraham and Sarah exercise faith?
18 The patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob also had faith in Jehovah’s promises. Abraham exercised faith in God’s promise that all families of the ground would bless themselves by means of him and that his seed would be given a land. (Genesis 12:1-9; 15:18-21) His son Isaac and grandson Jacob were “heirs with him of the very same promise.” By faith Abraham “resided as an alien in the land of the promise” and awaited “the city having real foundations,” God’s heavenly Kingdom under which he would be resurrected to life on earth. (Hebrews 11:8-10) Do you have similar faith?
19 Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was about 90 years old and well past childbearing age when she exercised faith in God’s promise and was empowered “to conceive seed” and give birth to Isaac. Thus, from 100-year-old Abraham, “as good as dead” as regards reproduction, eventually “there were born children just as the stars of heaven for multitude.”—Hebrews 11:11, 12; Genesis 17:15-17; 18:11; 21:1-7.
20. Although the patriarchs did not see the complete fulfillment of God’s promises to them, what did they do?
20 The faithful patriarchs died without seeing the complete fulfillment of God’s promises to them. Yet, “they saw [the promised things] afar off and welcomed them and publicly declared that they were strangers and temporary residents in the land.” Generations passed before the Promised Land became the possession of Abraham’s offspring. Throughout their lives, however, the God-fearing patriarchs exercised faith in Jehovah’s promises. Because they never lost faith, they will soon be resurrected to life in the earthly domain of the “city” God made ready for them, the Messianic Kingdom. (Hebrews 11:13-16) In a similar way, faith can keep us loyal to Jehovah even if we do not see the immediate fulfillment of all his wonderful promises. Our faith will also move us to obey God, even as Abraham did. And as he passed a spiritual heritage on to his offspring, so we can help our children to exercise faith in Jehovah’s precious promises.—Hebrews 11:17-21.
Faith Vital for Christians
21. To be acceptable to God today, what must be included in our exercise of faith?
21 There is, of course, more to faith than having confidence in the fulfillment of Jehovah’s promises. Throughout human history, it has been necessary to exercise faith in God in various ways if we are to enjoy his approval. Paul pointed out that “without faith it is impossible to please [Jehovah God] well, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Hebrews 11:6) To be acceptable to Jehovah today, a person must exercise faith in Jesus Christ and in the ransom sacrifice God has provided by means of him. (Romans 5:8; Galatians 2:15, 16) It is as Jesus himself said: “God loved the world [of mankind] so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life. He that exercises faith in the Son has everlasting life; he that disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.”—John 3:16, 36.
22. The Messianic Kingdom will bring about the fulfillment of what promise?
22 Jesus plays a vital role in the fulfillment of God’s promises about the Kingdom for which Christians pray. (Isaiah 9:6, 7; Daniel 7:13, 14; Matthew 6:9, 10) As Peter showed, the transfiguration verified the prophetic word about Jesus’ coming in Kingdom power and glory. The Messianic Kingdom will bring about the fulfillment of another promise of God, for Peter wrote: “There are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” (2 Peter 3:13) A similar prophecy was fulfilled when Jewish exiles in Babylon were restored to their homeland in 537 B.C.E. under a government with Zerubbabel as governor and Joshua as high priest. (Isaiah 65:17) But Peter pointed to a future time when “new heavens”—the heavenly Messianic Kingdom—would rule over “a new earth,” righteous human society living on this globe.—Compare Psalm 96:1.
23. What questions about virtue will we next discuss?
23 As loyal servants of Jehovah and followers of his beloved Son, Jesus Christ, we yearn for God’s promised new world. We know that it is near, and we have faith that all of Jehovah’s precious promises will be fulfilled. To walk acceptably before our God, we must strengthen our faith by supplying to it virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godly devotion, brotherly affection, and love.* At this point, it may be asked, How can we display virtue? And how will our being virtuous benefit us and others, especially our Christian associates, who have responded to God’s promises by exercising faith?
Faith and virtue are discussed in this issue of The Watchtower. Knowledge, self-control, endurance, godly devotion, brotherly affection, and love will be considered more fully in future issues.
What Are Your Answers?
□ How may “faith” be defined?
□ According to 2 Peter 1:5-7, what qualities are to be supplied to our faith?
□ What effect should Jesus’ transfiguration have on our faith?
□ What examples of faith were furnished by Abel, Abraham, Sarah, and others of early times?
[Picture on page 15]
Do you know how Jesus’ transfiguration can affect a person’s faith?