2 Peter 1:5-11
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;…
The former verses say that God gives the knowledge of himself in the Word of promise, as the means by which grace and peace are to be multiplied; these verses say, to that must be added by you "all diligence."
I. WE HAVE HERE AN ENUMERATION OF CERTAIN GRACES OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. It begins with "faith" and ends with "love," and between these are two or three words which need attention. Next to "faith," "virtue" is mentioned; but "virtue" includes the whole group of graces, whereas Peter is thinking of something distinct. The classical meaning of the word is "manliness" - courage; so if we paraphrase it thus, we shall probably have the right idea. So with "knowledge," which is a different word to that rendered "knowledge" in the eighth verse, and here refers to "practical knowledge" or "prudence." "Temperance" is literally "self-control," and "godly reverence" is the idea in the word "godliness." "Faith, courage, prudence, self-control, patience, godly reverence, love of the brethren, love," - that is the list.
1. These are all subsequent to faith. Faith is supposed. The Epistle is addressed to those who "have obtained like precious faith through the righteousness of God and our Saviour;" and these excellences come after faith, and in the Christian have a character of their own, which nature cannot produce, and are, indeed, as much above nature as Jesus was above the sons of men.
3. Many try to be holy without saving faith; it is a useless effort; only from faith can those spiritual graces spring whose crown is love to all.
2. Every grace needs to be supplemented by another. No grace can stand alone; the text seems to urge that. The word "add" is the same as in the eleventh verse, where it is translated "minister." Each grace needs to be ministered to by another. There is not one which, if it be alone, will not speedily become an evil. One grace is to wait on, to supplement, to protect, to perfect another. For instance, to faith ministers courage - courage to confess the Christ believed in; to courage ministers prudence, for if courage be not discreet, it is destructive. Beware of being men of one grace.
3. The believer is not to be contented till he has acquired all the graces. What a list this is! The leading features of a perfect character; and Scripture gives a plain command to the Christian to acquire these. And nothing can be more assuring than this command, for God does not call us to impossibilities; and he is prepared to supply what is needed for its attainment.
II. WE HAVE HERE A DEMAND FOR DILIGENCE TO POSSESS THESE GRACES. Diligence is the burden of the passage: "Giving all diligence, add;" and in the tenth verse, "Give diligence."
1. Diligence implies that spiritual increase requires personal effort. Speedy and spontaneous sanctification is what we should prefer, but that idea is not encouraged in Scripture. It is true growth is the law of life - life naturally increases to maturity, as Peter says, "Grow in grace;" but he also says, "Giving all diligence, add." If we cherish the idea that sanctification is given immediately, as pardon is given, by one surrender of the will, as it is said, this passage ought to disabuse us; it clearly affirms that sanctification is progressive, and demands constant endeavour.
2. Diligence is encouraged by the fact that God hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness. The previous verses are, "His Divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness... whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises," etc.; when the next clause reads, "And for this very cause "(as the Revised Version has it), "giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue," and so on, we see what lies behind the diligence, what spurs it on, what sustains it. Sanctification is not human work, as it is sometimes supposed to be, when the need of effort is enforced, as though, redeemed by Christ, we have to sanctify ourselves - it is of God; yet it is through us, into our effort he will inspire his own Divine and victorious energy.
3. Diligence also involves that the increase of Christian graces comes from the personal culture of each. If the text were not in Scripture, but simply part of a sermon, it would be said to be mechanical and formal. It is to be feared the prominent features of our Christian character are often merely the result of natural disposition, or early training, or of circumstances beyond our control. Now, this passage claims that we do not leave it to accident what graces we shall have; it lays down a list of what is required of us, and bids us give all diligence to culture each. This is a discriminating, hourly, lifelong work.
III. WE HAVE HERE STRONG REASONS FOR THE PUTTING FORTH OF THIS DILIGENCE. Three reasons urged from the eighth verse to the eleventh, and they refer to past, present, and future.
1. The graces (which are the result of diligence) are the necessary means to spiritual wealth. The particular meaning in the eighth verse of the word "in" - "in the knowledge" - is shown in the Revised Version, where it reads, "unto the knowledge," and thus throws great light on the expression. The graces which come from a knowledge of Christ lead to a still greater knowledge of him - that is it. All the care we give to the culture of Christian graces leads, not only to the wealth of possessing them, but to the greater wealth of knowing Christ better.
2. The graces (which are the result of diligence) are the least that can be expected from one who is purged from his old sins. "He that lacketh these things is blind.... having forgotten that he hath been delivered from his old sins." That takes us back to the cross. It pleads our obligation to Christ, who laid down his life that we might be holy. The assurance of pardoned sin is the strongest stimulus to piety.
3. These graces are the only ground of assurance of entrance into heaven. Without them we may well doubt our election of God. Where calling and election are sure, ye shall never fall; but how can we be sure that we are among the called? Only by the fact that that to which they are called is being wrought in us. If we have a title to heaven, the spirit of heaven is already begun. - C.N.
Parallel VersesKJV: And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
WEB: Yes, and for this very cause adding on your part all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence; and in moral excellence, knowledge;