Jesus stressed the importance for all Christians to be effective and fruitful (Matt 25:31-46; Lk 3:9; Jn 15:2). He said: ”Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matt 7:19) St. James (2:17) said: ”Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” In other words, faith without fraternal love and charity is ineffective and unfruitful. St. Paul said: ”And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13:13) Hence, faith without love is useless. Do you consider your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ effective and fruitful? Do you know that all Christians are called to supplement their faith with divine qualities so as to be effective and fruitful?
In 2 Pet 1:1-4, St. Peter emphasizes the sovereignty of God in salvation; salvation has been accomplished by God, through Christ, apart from human works or merit. He also stresses the sufficiency of God’s provision for our salvation and sanctification. In verses 5-8, St. Peter provided a list of eight qualities that all Christians should strive for so as to be effective and fruitful (2 Pet 1:5-8). The sequence of the qualities, which begins with faith and ends with love, is presented such that each quality builds upon the one(s) before it. According to Peter, these qualities are the character traits of God (2 Pet 1:4).
The first quality is faith. According to St. Peter, faith is given, for the readers of 2 Peter are those who “have received a faith of the same kind as ours” (2 Pet 1:1). Faith is something we have received, not something we are to supply—because faith is a gift from God (see Rom 8:28-30; Eph 1:3-6; 2:8).
The second quality is moral excellence or virtue. The excellence or virtue of God is His glorious nature, and is the ultimate good we should pursue as the goal of our character for His glory. Doing so cultivates a mindset receptive to the knowledge of God and His ways as revealed through the Scriptures. Moral excellence is different from the “excellence” sought after by the secular world which is largely based on worldly standards and appearances.
The third quality is knowledge. The knowledge of God is essential to our growth in Christian character and our ability to recognize and avoid those who teach what is false. Besides doctrinal knowledge, which is knowledge based on Scripture, we must also have experiential knowledge of God. This experience is not divorced from Scripture; rather, it is the experiencing of Scripture (see Col 1:9-12).
The fourth quality is self-control or temperance. Living a godly life requires us to master the flesh and make it our servant, rather than allowing it to be our master. Sin uses the flesh to keep us in bondage (Rom 7:14-21). Satan and the world encourage us to live according to the flesh. But being a child of God requires that we live no longer for the flesh or in the power of the flesh. Our flesh still has a strong attraction, as Paul’s words in Romans 7 and our own experience make painfully clear. Only by God’s grace can we overrule the lusts of this world, and since His grace is sufficient for us, we must do our part by diligently striving to do our best in this regard. The temptations of the flesh must be resisted and brought under control, and we are to heed the prompting of the Spirit of God, as He speaks through the Word of God (Rom 8:1-8; 1 Cor 2:1-16; 3:16-17).
The fifth quality is perseverance or fortitude. If self-control is connected with pleasure, perseverance is connected with pain. Our natural tendency is to pursue pleasure and flee from pain. The gospel calls for us to identify with Christ, which includes identifying with Him in His suffering (Matt 16:24; John 16:33). Perseverance is the frame of mind and character which persists in doing what is right even though doing so may produce difficulties, suffering, and sorrows. It is the commitment to suffer and do what is right in order to share in Christ’s glory for eternity. Perseverance was exemplified by our Lord Jesus Christ in His Passion and encounter with the devil in the desert (Lk 4:1-13).
The sixth quality is godliness or piety. Godliness is used in the New Testament to express the idea of inner piety or spirituality. It is the attitude of reverence which seeks to please God in all things. It desires a right relationship with both God and men. Godliness brings the sanctifying presence of God into all the experiences of life (see Matt 23:23; James 1:27; Col 3:8-10). Godliness, as an attitude, permeates all the Christian virtues that Peter lists, as it is the motivating factor behind our growth as Christians. Godliness is required, then, for those who seek God and for those who seek to be more like the Divine Nature (2 Pet 1:4).
The seventh quality is brotherly kindness. Brotherly kindness is the love saints should have for one another as fellow-believers. It is a love based in part on what we share in common with the One we love. This does not mean that brotherly love comes automatically. If it were, Peter would not have found it necessary to command us to pursue it with diligence, not only in his second epistle but also in his first (1 Pet 1:22). Sin not only alienates men from God, it also alienates them from one another. Thus, when men come to faith in Christ, they are united with Him and also with their fellow believers. This union crosses every barrier, racial or social. While God has removed the barrier between fellow-believers (Eph 2:11-16), we must strive to practice and preserve the quality of fraternal love.
The eighth and final quality is love (Greek: Agape). Agape might be defined as a deliberate desire for the highest good of the one loved, which shows itself in sacrificial action for that person’s good. That is what God did for us (Jn. 3:16). That is what He wants us to do (1 Jn. 3:16). Thus the Spirit of the God, who is love, is freely given to us, in order to reproduce in us that same quality (Rom 5:5). Agape is universal in scope. It is a love which applies both to believers and to non-believers. Agape is not prompted by what the other person is or does, but by a love rooted in what God is. It is the love of God which flows through us. As we love one another we manifest the perfections of God to men (Matt 5:43-48).
In conclusion, St. Peter in his second epistle gave us a list of qualities to become effective and fruitful Christians, rooted in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet 1:5-8). He urges us to pursue holiness, actively striving to manifest God’s divine nature in our lives, not only because this is our destiny (Rom 8:28-30) but because it is our duty (Eph 4:11-16). And we are to actively do so not only because of what it promises but also because of what it prevents. When we pursue spiritual growth with God’s grace, we will be received into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Pet 1:11). If we cease to grow spiritually, we become ineffective, unfruitful, short-sighted, blind and forgetful, and will set ourselves up for a fall (2 Pet 1:8-10). May we take the counsel of St. Peter to heart, and seek to obey them by the grace of God to His glory.