How May We Supply Virtue to Our Faith?
“Supply to your faith virtue.”—2 PETER 1:5.
1, 2. Why should we expect Jehovah’s people to do what is virtuous?
JEHOVAH always acts in a virtuous way. He does what is righteous and good. Therefore, the apostle Peter could speak of God as the one who called anointed Christians ‘through His glory and virtue.’ Accurate knowledge of their virtuous heavenly Father had shown them what was needed to pursue a life of true godly devotion.—2 Peter 1:2, 3.
2 The apostle Paul urges Christians to “become imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Ephesians 5:1) Like their heavenly Father, Jehovah’s worshipers should do what is virtuous in any situation. But what is virtue?
What Virtue Is
3. How has “virtue” been defined?
3 Modern-day dictionaries define “virtue” as “moral excellence; goodness.” It is “right action and thinking; goodness of character.” A virtuous person is righteous. Virtue has also been defined as “conformity to a standard of right.” For Christians, of course, the “standard of right” is determined by God and made clear in his Sacred Word, the Bible.
4. What qualities mentioned at 2 Peter 1:5-7 must Christians work hard to develop?
4 True Christians conform to Jehovah God’s righteous standards, and they respond to his precious promises by exercising faith. They also heed Peter’s counsel: “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) A Christian must work hard to develop these qualities. This is not done in a few days or years but calls for a lifetime of continued effort. Why, supplying virtue to our faith is a challenge in itself!
5. What is virtue from a Scriptural standpoint?
5 Lexicographer M. R. Vincent says that the original classical sense of the Greek word rendered “virtue” denoted “excellence of any kind.” Peter used its plural form when he said that Christians were to declare abroad the “excellencies,” or virtues, of God. (1 Peter 2:9) From a Scriptural standpoint, virtue is described not as passive but as “moral power, moral energy, vigor of soul.” In mentioning virtue, Peter had in mind the courageous moral excellence that servants of God are expected to manifest and maintain. Since we are imperfect, however, can we really do what is virtuous in God’s sight?
Imperfect but Virtuous
6. Though we are imperfect, why can it be said that we can do what is virtuous in God’s sight?
6 We have inherited imperfection and sin, so we may wonder how we can really do what is virtuous in God’s sight. (Romans 5:12) We surely need Jehovah’s help if we are to have pure hearts, from which virtuous thoughts, words, and actions can come forth. (Compare Luke 6:45.) After sinning in connection with Bath-sheba, the repentant psalmist David begged: “Create in me even a pure heart, O God, and put within me a new spirit, a steadfast one.” (Psalm 51:10) David received God’s forgiveness and the help needed to pursue a virtuous course. Hence, if we have erred seriously but have repentantly accepted the help of God and the congregation elders, we can return to a virtuous path and remain on it.—Psalm 103:1-3, 10-14; James 5:13-15.
7, 8. (a) If we are to remain virtuous, what is necessary? (b) What help do Christians have in being virtuous?
7 Because of inherent sinfulness, we must carry on a continuous inner battle to do what the course of virtue would require of us. If we are to remain virtuous, we can never allow ourselves to become slaves of sin. Instead, we must be “slaves to righteousness,” always thinking, speaking, and acting in a virtuous way. (Romans 6:16-23) Of course, our fleshly desires and sinful inclinations are strong, and we have on our hands a conflict between these and the virtuous things that God demands of us. So, what is to be done?
8 For one thing, we need to follow the leadings of Jehovah’s holy spirit, or active force. We should therefore heed Paul’s counsel: “Keep walking by spirit and you will carry out no fleshly desire at all. For the flesh is against the spirit in its desire, and the spirit against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, so that the very things that you would like to do you do not do.” (Galatians 5:16, 17) Yes, as a force for righteousness, we have God’s spirit, and as a guide to right conduct, we have his Word. We also have the loving help of Jehovah’s organization and the counsel of “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47) Thus, we can wage a successful fight against sinful tendencies. (Romans 7:15-25) Of course, if an unclean thought should come to mind, we must dismiss it promptly and pray for God’s help to resist any temptation to act in any way lacking virtue.—Matthew 6:13.
Virtue and Our Thoughts
9. Virtuous conduct calls for what kind of thinking?
9 Virtue begins with the way a person thinks. To enjoy divine favor, we must think about righteous, good, virtuous things. Paul said: “Brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things.” (Philippians 4:8) We need to set our minds on righteous, chaste things, and anything lacking virtue should not appeal to us. Paul could say: “The things that you learned as well as accepted and heard and saw in connection with me, practice these.” If we are like Paul—virtuous in thought, speech, and action—we will be good associates and fine examples in Christian living, and ‘the God of peace will be with us.’—Philippians 4:9.
10. How will the personal application of 1 Corinthians 14:20 help us to remain virtuous?
10 If it is our desire to remain virtuous in thought and thus please our heavenly Father, it is necessary that we apply Paul’s counsel: “Do not become young children in powers of understanding, but be babes as to badness; yet become full-grown in powers of understanding.” (1 Corinthians 14:20) This means that as Christians we do not seek knowledge of or experience in wickedness. Instead of allowing our minds to be corrupted in this way, we wisely choose to remain inexperienced and innocent as babes in this respect. At the same time, we fully understand that immorality and wrongdoing are sinful in Jehovah’s sight. A keen heartfelt desire to please him by being virtuous will benefit us, for it will move us to avoid unclean forms of entertainment and other mentally corrupting influences of this world that is lying in Satan’s power.—1 John 5:19.
Virtue and Our Speech
11. Being virtuous calls for what kind of speech, and in this regard, what examples do we have in Jehovah God and Jesus Christ?
11 If our thoughts are virtuous, this should have a profound effect on what we say. Being virtuous calls for clean, wholesome, truthful, upbuilding speech. (2 Corinthians 6:3, 4, 7) Jehovah is “the God of truth.” (Psalm 31:5) He is faithful in all his dealings, and his promises are sure because he cannot lie. (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Titus 1:2) God’s Son, Jesus Christ, is “full of undeserved kindness and truth.” While on earth, he always spoke the truth as he had received it from his Father. (John 1:14; 8:40) Moreover, Jesus “committed no sin, nor was deception found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2:22) If we are truly servants of God and Christ, we will be truthful in speech and upright in conduct, as if “girded about with truth.”—Ephesians 5:9; 6:14.
12. If we are to be virtuous, what types of speech must we avoid?
12 If we are virtuous, there are types of speech we will avoid. We will be governed by Paul’s counsel: “Let all malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you along with all badness.” “Let fornication and uncleanness of every sort or greediness not even be mentioned among you, just as it befits holy people; neither shameful conduct nor foolish talking nor obscene jesting, things which are not becoming, but rather the giving of thanks.” (Ephesians 4:31; 5:3, 4) Others will find it refreshing to be in our company because our righteous hearts impel us to avoid unchristian speech.
13. Why must Christians control the tongue?
13 A desire to please God and say virtuous things will help us to control the tongue. Because of sinful inclinations, all of us stumble in word at times. Yet, the disciple James says that “if we put bridles in the mouths of horses,” they obediently go where we direct them. Hence, we should work hard to bridle the tongue and try to use it only in virtuous ways. An uncontrolled tongue “is constituted a world of unrighteousness.” (James 3:1-7) Every kind of evil trait of this ungodly world is associated with the untamed tongue. It is responsible for such damaging things as false testimony, reviling, and slander. (Isaiah 5:20; Matthew 15:18-20) And when an unruly tongue makes abusive, cutting, or slanderous remarks, it is filled with death-dealing poison.—Psalm 140:3; Romans 3:13; James 3:8.
14. What double standard in speech must Christians avoid?
14 As James indicates, it would be inconsistent to “bless Jehovah” by speaking well of God but then misuse the tongue to “curse men” by calling down evil upon them. How sinful to sing God’s praises at meetings and then go out and speak evil of fellow believers! Both sweet and bitter water cannot bubble forth from the same fountain. If we are serving Jehovah, others have a right to expect us to say virtuous things instead of speaking distasteful words. Let us therefore shun evil speech and seek to say things that will benefit our associates and upbuild them spiritually.—James 3:9-12.
Virtue and Our Actions
15. Why is it so important to avoid resorting to devious ways?
15 Since Christian thought and speech must be virtuous, what about our actions? Being virtuous in conduct is the only way to have God’s approval. No servant of Jehovah can abandon virtue, resort to being devious and deceitful, and rightly think that such things would find acceptance with God. Proverbs 3:32 says: “The devious person is a detestable thing to Jehovah, but His intimacy is with the upright ones.” If we cherish our relationship with Jehovah God, those thought-provoking words should deter us from plotting mischief or doing anything devious. Why, among the seven things detestable to Jehovah’s soul is “a heart fabricating hurtful schemes”! (Proverbs 6:16-19) Consequently, let us avoid such actions and do what is virtuous, to the benefit of our fellow humans and the glory of our heavenly Father.
16. Why must Christians not engage in any hypocritical actions?
16 Displaying virtue requires that we be honest. (Hebrews 13:18) A hypocritical person, whose actions do not harmonize with his words, is not virtuous. The Greek word rendered “hypocrite” (hy·po·kri·tesʹ) means “one who answers” and also denotes a stage actor. Since Greek and Roman actors wore masks, this word came to be used metaphorically for one who puts on a pretense. Hypocrites are “unfaithful ones.” (Compare Luke 12:46 with Matthew 24:50, 51.) Hypocrisy (hy·poʹkri·sis) may also denote wickedness and cunning. (Matthew 22:18; Mark 12:15; Luke 20:23) How sad it is when a trusting person is victimized by smiles, flattery, and actions that are only pretenses! But it is heartwarming when we know that we are dealing with trustworthy Christians. And God blesses us for being virtuous and unhypocritical. His approval rests upon those displaying “unhypocritical brotherly affection” and possessing “faith without hypocrisy.”—1 Peter 1:22; 1 Timothy 1:5.
Virtue Is Active Goodness
17, 18. As we display the spirit’s fruit of goodness, how will we deal with others?
17 If we supply virtue to our faith, we will strive to refrain from thinking, saying, and doing things that are unacceptable to God. However, displaying Christian virtue also requires that we practice active goodness. In fact, virtue has been defined as goodness. And goodness is a fruit of Jehovah’s holy spirit, not the product of mere human effort. (Galatians 5:22, 23) As we manifest the spirit’s fruit of goodness, we will be motivated to think well of others and to commend them for their good qualities despite their imperfections. Have they served Jehovah faithfully for years? Then we should show them respect and speak well of them and their service to God. Our heavenly Father takes note of the love they show for his name and their virtuous works of faith, and so should we.—Nehemiah 13:31b; Hebrews 6:10.
18 Virtue makes us patient, understanding, compassionate. If a fellow worshiper of Jehovah is suffering distress or depression, we will speak consolingly and seek to give him some comfort, even as our loving heavenly Father comforts us. (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4; 1 Thessalonians 5:14) We sympathize with those who sorrow, perhaps because of the loss of a loved one in death. If we can do anything to alleviate suffering, we will do it, for a virtuous spirit prompts loving, benevolent action.
19. How are others likely to treat us if we are virtuous in thought, word, and deed?
19 Just as we bless Jehovah by speaking well of him, others are likely to be blessing us if we are virtuous in thought, word, and deed. (Psalm 145:10) A wise proverb says: “Blessings are for the head of the righteous one, but as regards the mouth of the wicked ones, it covers up violence.” (Proverbs 10:6) A wicked and violent person lacks the virtue that would endear him to others. He reaps what he sows, for people cannot honestly give him their blessing by speaking well of him. (Galatians 6:7) How much better it is for those thinking, speaking, and acting in virtuous ways as Jehovah’s servants! They win the love, trust, and respect of others, who are moved to bless them and speak well of them. Moreover, their godly virtue results in the priceless blessing of Jehovah.—Proverbs 10:22.
20. Virtuous thoughts, speech, and actions can have what effect in a congregation of Jehovah’s people?
20 Virtuous thoughts, speech, and actions are sure to benefit a congregation of Jehovah’s people. When fellow believers have affectionate, respectful thoughts toward one another, brotherly love flourishes among them. (John 13:34, 35) Virtuous speech, including sincere commendation and encouragement, fosters a warm feeling of cooperation and unity. (Psalm 133:1-3) And heartwarming, virtuous actions incite others to respond in a similar way. Above all, the practice of Christian virtue results in the approval and blessing of our virtuous heavenly Father, Jehovah. May we therefore make it our aim to respond to God’s precious promises by exercising faith. And by all means let us put forth earnest effort to supply to our faith virtue.
What Are Your Answers?
□ How would you define “virtue,” and why can imperfect people be virtuous?
□ Virtue calls for what kind of thoughts?
□ How should virtue affect our speech?
□ What effect should virtue have on our actions?
□ What are some benefits of being virtuous?
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Since sweet and bitter water cannot bubble forth from the same source, others rightly expect Jehovah’s servants to say only virtuous things