The Christian Virtues in Their Completeness
2 Peter 1:3-11
According as his divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…


1. Grant. "Seeing that his Divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness." The grant has reference to life and godliness. The first of these words is to be understood of healthful condition; the other is to be understood of that supreme regard to God, on which healthful condition depends. The grant is not of life and godliness, but of all things that pertain unto life and godliness, by which we are to understand the gracious influences that have been liberated by Christ - the Holy Spirit in his manifold gifts, the benefit of Christian institutions. Who is to be thought of as the Granter here? The nearer reference is to Jesus our Lord, and it is not superfluous to say of him, as it would be to say of God, that it was his Divine power that made the grant. It was the Divine power of him who afterward became man that was exercised when man was created and was then granted all that was necessary for securing life by godly conduct. The requirements were greater when man fell. Jesus bore what man as involved in sin deserved, so as to be constituted our Lord with Divine power to grant unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness. When he has such power to grant, nothing can be wanting of what is needed for our spiritual prosperity and the production of a godly type of character.

2. Communication of the grant.

(1) Knowledge. "Through the knowledge of him that called us by his own glory and virtue." This is the second introduction of knowledge in the intensive sense. It is here regarded as the channel through which are communicated to us "all things that pertain unto life and godliness." Thus it is that knowledge is power. To know God is to have a way of being supplied with all that we need. It is to have an inexhaustible fountain of blessing. It is to feel the quickening and transforming power of his perfections. But it will be noticed that it is the knowledge of God under a particular aspect, viz. of him that called us. Weiss says, "appointed us to the consummation of salvation ;" but this is brought into view afterwards. Here it is what in God causes our calling. For "called us to glory and virtue" is a great blunder: it is "called us by glory and virtue," i.e., these in God. It was a desire to manifest himself, or a regard for his own glory, that led him to call us. That is the first declaration of the cause; the second declaration is that it was his virtue or moral excellence, on which his glory in calling us rests. It is the same word which is used in the plural in 1 Peter 2:9, translated "excellences." The singular here points us to the sum of all that is excellent in God, of which there comes to be glorious manifestation. "Praise him," says the writer of the hundred and fiftieth psalm, "according to his excellent greatness." It was the transcendent character of his excellence, for which it becomes us to praise him, that led to his calling such as we were. Archangelic excellence would have passed us by; but there was an excellence in God far above all created excellence that led to his making use of the vilest materials.

(2) The reflection of God in the promises. "Whereby he hath granted unto us his precious and exceeding great promises." It is through knowledge that the grant is communicated to us; it is well to have the grant also in definite written form, which we have in the promises. These promises are characterized as precious, which characterization more naturally comes first, as in the Revised Version. They contain all that we need of light for our minds, of solace for our hearts, of strength for our wills, of stimulus for our desires. They are not only precious, but exceeding great, i.e., precious in the superlative degree. It is in Ephesians that we are directed to God as "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." God has promised to open the windows of heaven, and pour us out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it. But let it be noticed that there is given an explanation of the promises being exceeding great in their preciousness. It is because they are granted by God's glory and virtue. They are, therefore, to be regarded as the reflection of what he is. They express all that he would bestow upon us - how, with his fullness, he would fill our emptiness, with his riches our poverty.

(3) Aim of the promises.

(a) Positively. "That through these ye may become partakers of the Divine nature." The teaching here is not with regard to our God-like constitution ("For we are also his offspring"), but with regard to what with our God-like constitution we may become. The language employed is strong and peculiarly attractive to some minds. We are not to think of deification, or absorption into God. But let us form no mean conception of what, encouraged by the promises, we may become. By the nature of God we understand those qualities which exist in him in an infinite degree. We are to become, in the last result, partakers of the Divine nature; i.e., we are to have the same qualities up to our measure. Even now we can think the same thoughts, be thrilled with the same joy. "God becomes a real Being to us in proportion as his own nature is unfolded within us. True religion desires and seeks supremely the assimilation of the mind to God, or the perpetual unfolding and enlarging of those powers and virtues by which it is constituted his glorious image. The mind, in proportion as it is enlightened and penetrated by true religion, thirsts and labours for a God-like elevation. Let it not be inferred that we place religion in unnatural effort, in straining after excitements which do not belong to the present state, or in anything separate from the clear and simple duties of life" (Channing).

(b) Negatively. "Having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust." In the world we do not find that healthful action, those attractive forms, which God intended for society; we have instead diseased action, forms from which we are repelled. This corruption is in the world by lust, i.e., the prevalence of the lower over the higher principles of our nature. Where there is the inversion of the Divine order, society must go to corruption. From this corruption we have not entirely escaped, inasmuch as lust is not entirely subdued in us; but with our becoming in the last result partakers of the Divine nature, it will be our privilege to have escaped for ever from the blighting, putrefying influences that prevail in the world.


1. Condition of development. "Yea, and for this very cause adding on your part all diligence." There is a great improvement in the translation here. One idea which is brought out is that what we are to do is to be in answer to the Divine doing. Christ does his part in granting all things that pertain unto life and godliness, and through the knowledge of God, who promises all that is needful for our being partakers of the Divine nature; we are to bring in by the side of, i.e., contribute our part. It is also distinctly brought out that the Divine doing is no reason for our doing nothing, but the very opposite - a reason for our doing. What we have to contribute on our side is diligence, i.e., in connection with opportunities for the exercise of the Christian virtues which are to be named. This is only in accordance with analogy. God supplies the qualities of the soil and the heavenly influences; and the farmer supplies diligence. Because God sends the sunshine and the rain, man is to be up and doing, not allowing his opportunity to slip by; so because Christ is so liberal in granting, because the promises are precious in the superlative degree, for that very reason we are to bestir ourselves.

2. Order of development from faith.

(1) Virtue. "In your faith supply virtue." The faith is here regarded as already present. If we have not yet believed, what we have got to do is to cooperate with God in believing. "This is the work of God [required by God], that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." Faith is here specially to be thought of as the laying hold on the Divine power in Christ that grants, or the laying hold on the Divine promises. "Be not afraid, only believe," Christ said; that saying, however, is not to be pressed to mean that faith, undeveloped, is everything. We are here taught that faith is only the root, and it must be carried out into its proper development. There are seven virtues needed to make it complete; and there is a certain order in which they follow each other. The connection is closer than is brought out by the "add to" of the old translation. The proper connecting, words are "supply in," the idea being, in each case, of that which goes before being incomplete, unless there is supplied in it as its complement that which follows after. Beginning with faith, we have to supply in our faith virtue, which is to be understood in the special sense of moral energy, or "a strenuous tone and vigour of mind." Faith is leaning on God, or allowing God to work. When there is only that side of things, there is the quietism to which Madame Guyon gives expression, "I can no longer will anything." To quiet leaning on God, passivity under the working of God, there is necessary, as its complement, personal force.

(2) Knowledge. "And in your virtue knowledge." Let us suppose that we have supplied in our faith personal force: is that enough? Where there is a stopping at this, there is a zealotism, the expression of which is," Let us be on fire: let us only be forcible." But in forcibleness there must be supplied, as its necessary complement, knowledge. There is a different word here from what was formerly used. The idea is that there must be enlightened judgment - an apprehension in every moment of what is the right application of the force.

(3) Temperance. "And in your knowledge temperance." Let us suppose that we have supplied in our force knowledge: is that enough? Where there is a stopping at this, there is scientism, the expression of which is, "Let us have abundance of light; let us not be imposed on; let us know the right way of things." But in this knowledge there must be supplied, as its necessary complement, temperance, i.e., the subjection of our appetites, desires, affections, tempers, to knowledge, which is very difficult, seeing that we are strongly tempted from within to be guided, not by what we know, but by what is pleasing to us.

(4) Patience. "And in your temperance patience." Let us suppose that we have supplied in our knowledge self-restraint: is that enough? Where there is a stopping at this, there is a rigorism, of which the expression is, "Let us abstain; let us mortify self." But in this self-restraint there must be supplied, as its necessary complement, patience, which is a sustaining by self, or putting one's shoulder under the burdens, and especially the hardships of life.

(5) Godliness. "And in your patience godliness." Let us suppose that we have supplied in our self-restraint patience: is that enough? Where there is a stopping at this, there is a stoicism, of which the expression is, "Let us be insensible to pain; let us be heedless of difficulties." But in this patience there must be supplied, as its necessary complement, godliness, or a God-regarding, especially God-fearing, disposition, without which there cannot be subduedness, sweetness, or stay, in patience.

(6) Love of the brethren. "And in your godliness love of the brethren." Let us suppose that we have supplied in our patience godliness: is that enough? Where there is a stopping at this, there is a one-sided religiousness, of which the expression is, "Let us pray; let us attend conscientiously on the public means of grace." But in this godliness there must be supplied, as its necessary complement, love of the brethren, i.e., of those who are our brethren in Christ. "For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (1 John 4:20); "And every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him "(1 John 5:1).

(7) Love. "And in your love of the brethren love." Let us suppose that we have supplied in our godliness love of the brethren: is that enough? Where there is a stopping at this, there is a narrow-heartedness, of which the expression is, "Let us make the Christian circle our home; let us choose the society of those who have the same thoughts and the same hopes." But in this love of the brethren there must be supplied love or philanthropy - love for all that bear the Divine image and for whom Christ died.

3. Importance of development with reference to knowledge.

(1) Positively. "For if these things are yours and abound, they make you to be not idle nor unfruitful unto the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." By "these things" we are to understand the seven virtues which are to be supplied in faith. These are regarded as actually subsisting in us or belonging to us. There is a difference between their thus being in us and their abounding in us. There is a difference between an infant's finding of strength and the consciousness of a giant's strength. There is a difference between a rudimentary knowledge and a knowledge that can be effectually applied to every question of duty that comes up. There is a difference between the mastery of a single appetite and the full mastery of all our appetencies and tempers. There is a difference between a patience that is untried and a patience that can stand the severest test. There is a difference between a sense of the Being of God and the deepest awe in the realization of his perfections. There is a difference between a sense of brotherhood in Christ and the full flood of Christian brotherliness. There is a difference between an interest in a single case of reclamation and a large-hearted philanthropy. Given, then, that these virtues are not merely in us, but abound, they make us, literally, put us in a position, to be not idle nor unfruitful. If there are certain elements in a tree, they make it to be not idle; i.e., it discharges its functions, it puts forth fresh shoots and leaves and blossoms. And making it not idle, they also make it not unfruitful; i.e., in due season it is laden with fruit. So if these virtues are in us, and in abundant measure, they make us to be not idle; i.e., we do in the right manner. And making us not idle, they also make us not unfruitful; i.e., there are good results. The goal toward which we are to be fruitful is the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is not the knowledge that is mentioned as one of the seven virtues, but the mature knowledge that has been twice mentioned. It has been regarded as the means; now it is regarded as the end. Showing diligence in the practice of the seven virtues, we are to come to a rich appreciative knowledge of Jesus Christ (who interprets God to us). Paul takes our aim to be the being able "to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge." Peter brings into view the knowledge of Jesus Christ as our Lord, i.e., able in his surpassing power to accomplish all things for us.

(2) Negatively. "For he that lacketh these things is blind, seeing only what is near, having forgotten the cleansing from his old sins." We are to practice the virtues; for there is a great disadvantage in lacking them. The lacking here is not merely the not having them in abundance, but the not having them at all. James says that "faith without works is dead." Peter says here that "he who has not supplied the seven virtues in his faith, instead of appreciating Christ, he is blind," i.e., to his real worth. His idea of blindness he brings to this focus - that he is shortsighted. The word is taken from a certain contracting of the eyelids in order to see. He sees what is near, but does not see what is far off. The things of this world bulk largely in his eyes; the distant realities of the eternal world do not come within his vision. The explanation of this kind of blindness is his having lapsed. There was a time when he was baptized. Then he was regarded as cleansed from his old sins; and did not that seem to indicate a certain appreciation of Christ? But having forgotten his cleansing, Christ has not worth in his eyes.


1. Condition restated. "Wherefore, brethren, give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure." This is the only use of the address "brethren" in the Epistles of Peter. It indicates greater closeness and urgency in his exhortation. He proceeds in "wherefore the more" on the advantage of having the seven virtues in abundance, and the disadvantage of lacking them. What he exhorts them to is increased diligence. The tense used points to their making this diligence a lifelong thing. They were to give diligence with regard to their calling and election, i.e., by God into his kingdom, the latter word referring to the actual separation of the called from the world. This calling and election, looked at from the lower side, was a matter of uncertainty; they are exhorted to make it a matter of certainty to allow no doubt to rest on their interest in Christ and title to the kingdom. It is not said how they are to make their calling and election sure; but the very want of specification points to what was formerly specified, viz. the practice of the seven virtues; and this is confirmed by what follows.

2. Importance.

(1) Negatively. "For if ye do these things, ye shall never stumble." In "for" there is a falling back on the condition. "Doing these things" may refer to making their calling and election sure; but it is to it as a multiform act, viz. as covering the practice or the seven virtues. If they did these things with due diligence, they would never make such a stumble as would prevent their entrance into the kingdom.

(2) Positively. "For thus shall be richly supplied unto you the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." It is here that there comes into view the full scope of the condition laid down. It is a condition upon which their interest in a kingdom depends. It is no mean kingdom; for it is the kingdom presided over by their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The kingdom of Christ is essentially the same in the present and in the future; but in its present outward conditions it is to come to an end, in its future conditions it is to be eternal. It is the entrance into the eternal kingdom that is here promised. Coming to a kingdom is usually celebrated; so the entrance here must be regarded as a glorious event. This entrance is a gift; and yet it corresponds to previous diligence. This is strikingly brought out in the form of the language. To those who have supplied the seven virtues in their faith it is promised that there shall be supplied unto them this glorious entrance. But stress is laid upon the kind of entrance. There is a difference between reaping sparingly and reaping bountifully. There is a difference between a righteous man's reward and a prophet's reward. There is a difference between being saved as by fire, and being saved with a golden reward or a silver reward or a reward to be compared to precious stones. So there is a difference between a bare entrance and an entrance that is richly supplied. The richly supplied entrance is only for those who have in the highest degree been diligent in the practice of the seven virtues. Let this highest prize be the object of our ambition. Let us not be content with a bare entrance; let us, by increased diligence, enrich the entrance that we are to have. - R.F.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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:

WEB: seeing that his divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and virtue;

The Bounty of God
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