Tag Archives: 2 Peter 1:5-11

Editorial: “For If These Qualities Are Yours And Are Increasing…” (September, 2016) — Jon Mitchell, Editor

It is so easy to take our Christianity for granted.  I say this not only from honest personal introspection but also from the admissions of many of my brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the years that they too at times fail to heed the warning from Paul to the Corinthian church which was the foundation of my editorial in the last issue of the Carolina Messenger“Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Co. 10:l2).

Yet one can’t help but notice a sharp contrast between Paul’s warning to Corinth and the exhortation given by Peter at the end of his life to his faithful spiritual family:  “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall” (2 Pe. 1:10).  Put side by side, the divine imperative given through these two apostles would be this:  Always be careful to never fall.  Here’s how to make sure that never happens.

I remember the first time I read the qualities listed by Peter in 2 Peter 1:5-7 which make up the theme of this issue and of which he was referring in verse 10.  It was on the occasion of preparing for my very first Wednesday night devotional as a youth minister intern in Greenville, Illinois, in the summer of 1999, only seven months after my graduation from Harding and when I was just beginning to consider the possibility that I could dedicate my life to the ministry.  Perhaps it was due to the majority of my life up to that point being filled with mandatory math classes from kindergarten through early college, but I remember my first thought upon reading the passage being that it was very much like a mathematical formula.  Basically what Peter was saying to Christians was, “Diligently add virtue to your faith, knowledge to your virtue, self-control to your knowledge, and so on…and the sum will be eternity with God!”

The diligence factor is an important part of this spiritual formula which cannot be overlooked.  One could even say it’s what starts and ends the formula in that “giving all diligence” (NKJV) or “make every effort” (ESV) is commanded even before the first commanded addition to our faith (v. 5) and is commanded towards the end of Peter’s discourse with his command to “be all the more diligent” (v. 10).  Diligence is also implied in the statement found in verse 8:  “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

For all our adamant and legitimate refusal to acknowledge any legitimacy in the erroneous Calvinistic tenet commonly known as “Once Saved, Always Saved,” our Creator and Master knows how easy it is to unconsciously adapt that same mindset into our Christian mindset.  Our Savior knows how simple it is to conclude that simply because we were immersed in water for the forgiveness of our sins into the Lord’s church of which there is only one, worship according to the New Testament pattern by observing communion and giving of our means every Sunday in a worship service which is without instrumental accompaniment or any other man-made additions or subtractions, and adhere to biblical church organization by refusing to call our preachers “pastors” because the New Testament gives elders and bishops that particular designation, we have no need to focus on any other aspects of Christianity.  We were saved by our obedience to sound doctrine concerning salvation and continue to observe sound doctrine concerning worship and the church, and that’s quite a lot more than those deceived souls over in the denominational world are doing…so that’s the only thing that really matters in the end, right?

Sure, I may not know the Bible nearly like I should.  Yes, I tend to hold grudges pretty easily.  Okay, I tend to gossip, complain, and jump to conclusions quite a lot.  All right, so there’s not that much difference between me and your average non-Christian except for my church attendance…and okay, other than my belief in God and my willingness to “Amen” his teachings when preached from the pulpit (as long as I feel that they apply more to the rest of the church — especially you — than they do to me), there’s quite a lot of difference between Jesus and me.  But that’s okay, because I was baptized, it was immersion, I worship without a piano, and I’m a member of the church of Christ.

God wants more.  He is pleading with us and warning us to be more than churchgoers who believe in Jesus.  He wants us to know Jesus.  He wants us to act like him and follow him.  In addition to our faith, God wants us to have the same virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love that Jesus has.  He wants us to not only initially obtain these qualities, but diligently grow in them each and every day of our lives.  Only by purposefully and diligently pursuing these traits will we never fall and stay saved because we will never take our Christianity for granted.   Instead, we will continually repent of our faults and be encouraged by our growth and God will be pleased and continue to help us and forgive us.

— Jon

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Adding Love To Brotherly Kindness — David R. Pharr

Editor’s Note:  This article was adapted from a lecture given by the author at Freed-Hardeman University in 1984.  Used by permission.

It is not surprising that “charity” (KJV), love, would be included in the list of Christian graces which are needed “to make your calling and election sure.”  It may be assumed that love is something one either has or does not have regardless of his own effort.  In fact, the Bible teaches that love is not only the supreme trait (1 Co. 13:13), but that it is something we can, and should, cultivate. Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians was: “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you” (1 Th. 3:12).

Love is the grace of a special commandment.  Jesus said: “[A] new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another, as I have loved you” (Jn. 13:34).  Love always was a priority. It is before, above, and inclusive of all other rules for human relationships (Ro. 13:8ff).  What, then, is “new” in Jesus’ commandment? It is that it goes beyond “Love thy neighbor as thyself” (Le. 19:18), calling for love like Christ’s love.  It is a “new commandment” because of the new measure of love it sets before us. Certainly love is not peculiar to the gospel.  Rather, the New Testament gives new light on an old precept.  As someone stated it, “It is an old book in a new, expanded edition.”  The “golden rule” has become the “platinum rule.”

Love, therefore, is a grace we have in common with our Lord.  This may be one reason why love is greater than faith and hope (1 Co. 13:13).  Without love we cannot know God or have fellowship with him (1 Jn. 4:8, 16).  Peter said that as Christians, we are “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pe. 1:4).  So much of what is called “love” is sensual and selfish.  Jesus’ whole life was a demonstration of what love really means.  Usually we tend to think of the cross as proof of his love, but we need to remember that his love was not shown in just one single, supreme act, but in a lifetime of caring for others.  We must grow in grace that we may “walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us” (Ep. 5:2).  Jesus did not love us for what we could do for him, but for what he could do for us.  This is especially seen in the events of John 13, the occasion of the last supper.  First, consider how he reacted to the treachery of Judas.  Here was love overcoming hate.  We notice the emphasis in verse one that his love never failed.  Love washed his disciples’ feet.  Is it not a fact that most of the time the challenge is not whether we can keep from hating, but whether we can keep from being selfish?  The cross was only a few hours away, yet, knowing this, he continued to love sacrificially and without self-pity.  Even toward Peter, who failed to grasp the situation, and who seemed most concerned with his own self-confidence, Jesus could be patient and forgiving.

Love is the grace that identifies disciples.  “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (Jn.13:35).  The converse is also true.  Nothing denies discipleship as does an unloving spirit.  Jesus knew the impact that a church united in love would have on the world (cf. Jn. 17:21, 23).  But even unbelievers can see through claims of a church filled with selfishness, suspicion and strife.  Sound doctrine without sound hearts makes only an empty sound (1 Co. 13:1ff).  How can men be his disciples (learners) when they fail to learn experimentally what is his special commandment.  Those who serve Christ must wear his colors.  They have “put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness” (Co. 3:14).

Not only does this grace help to identify the church to the world, it also assures a disciple of his standing with God. “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. . . .  My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.  And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him” (1 Jn. 3:14-19).  Genuine love provides the capstone of confidence for the faithful.

Love is a grace that is never is finished.  Some commands are completed at one time (i.e., baptism), but love is a continuing grace.  The use of the Greek present tense in 1 John 3:14 indicates “keep on loving.” It is an obligation that is never completely fulfilled.  It is without limits.  We never reach a time when we have loved enough.  There is no limit as to whom we should love, how long we should love them, or whether we have loved to a sufficient degree.  Instead it is a grace that should be always growing, ever expanding (1 Th. 3:12).

Finally, let’s consider that the grace of love is a common grace.  It is not command to a few, but to all.  Some people have more talent than others.  Some are more influential than others.  But everyone of us — rich or poor, educated or unlearned, skillful or clumsy, known or ignored — everyone of us has the same privilege of love.  One may be unable to deliver a sermon, compose a song, or write a book, but he can have as full a measure of this grace as any man, and this is the one thing that matters most (1 Co. 13).

drpharr@msn.com

David is a member of the board of directors and the former editor of the Carolina Messenger.  He is an elder of the Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ in Rock Hill, SC.

Adding Brotherly Kindness To Godliness — Martin Kent Miller

One of the greatest earthly benefits of a Christian life is the encouragement and refuge found in brotherly kindness. We often think of the joy and support we receive from brothers and sisters who show us kindnesses in many ways; from simple words of reassurance to gifts that we can never repay. We gain from these actions and expressions some of the stamina needed to endure life in a world that is working against us. And while we recognize the importance of brotherly kindness – “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ep.  4:32) and “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.” (1 Th. 5:11) – do we comprehend the essential nature of growing this Christian trait in ourselves?

Reading 2 Peter 1: 5-7, we find instructions that are preceded by a reminder of the wonderful promises we have in God and Christ. Peter brings to our memory the fact that, through the Word, we have all that we need both in our pursuit of righteousness and for our physical life – “…His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…” (2 Pe. 1:3). It is this reminder that makes the next few verses so urgent and lasting for the Christian.

When we ponder “brotherly kindness,” we often remember the things that others have done for us. And while this recollection is important, a higher mission yet is to consider our lives in comparison to the examples we find like that of Dorcas (Ac. 9:36ff). The Christian life demands frequent periods of careful self-examination for the very purpose that Peter encourages here—growth. So often we fall into the trap of complacency, pleased with the accomplishments we can claim and forget that our spiritual life is a journey, not an achievement.

Peter tells us that because of the promises, the knowledge, and the escape that God provides, we are to be diligent in our efforts to grow. It is striking that so often in the New Testament, the instructions given are communicated with a sense of urgency. When we read that we are to add virtue to our faith, we also see that we are to do this with eagerness. Our focus on Christ centers on an urgent pursuit of conforming our lives to Christ’s example.

Energized with an understanding of the importance of perseverance in our growth, we read on to see the pattern for that progress. Peter says, “…add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love” (2 Pe. 1: 5-7). Faith is clearly the beginning for the baptized believer, but it cannot be the terminal point—the end of the line, so to speak. If we are to be pleasing to God (He. 11:6), we must supplement our faith with virtue. Faith grows from a realization to a motivation for action and a desire to develop a reliable moral strength. Philippians 2:12 instructs us to “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…because “…it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

As we grow, our knowledge increases; not by some miraculous occurrence or osmotic process, but by applying our sense of urgency to studying the Word. Centuries removed from the lifetime of Christ, the only way we can know Him is through the Word of God. And as we work toward an understanding of God’s Word, we reach realizations about the perfect example given in Christ. One such insight is that the growth Peter encourages in 2 Peter 1 is in fact the adoption of Christ’s characteristics. Ephesians 4:13 says, “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

Our progress toward knowledge then guides us through the journey of spiritual growth. We are to strive for the self-control, the perseverance, the godliness, the brotherly kindness and, ultimately, the love as exemplified by the life of Christ. And we have to be careful of the progression described by Peter. As a school child many years ago, I was somewhat awed by another student who skipped an entire grade. He was smart enough to comprehend and process information faster than the rest of us, and so he moved along at a quicker pace. It’s not that he was allowed to ignore the material taught in that by-passed grade; he simply mastered it in less time. The point of this observation is that Peter reveals a progression through which we must all grow. We simply cannot have self-control without knowledge, godliness without perseverance, and certainly not love without brotherly kindness. The concept is that of Isaiah 28:10: “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.”

My emphasis on brotherly love is not coincidental.  While the first six virtues from 2 Peter 1 are not characteristics that we develop in complete isolation, brotherly kindness is the first of those virtues that cannot be learned or matured without human interaction.  Romans 12:10 says, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love…” and Hebrews 13:1 reads, “Let brotherly love continue.”  But can it be said of us, that which was spoken to the church in Thessalonica, “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you…” (1 Th. 4:9a)?

We can endeavor to grow while acknowledging the godly characteristics that Peter lists, but if we believe that our knowledge can be perfected without brotherly love, we will never be counted as reflections of Christ’s love. So as we diligently pursue the patterns of growth and Christian character found in 2 Peter 2 and, indeed throughout scripture, let us strive toward the goal of love demonstrated by Christ. When we consider the brotherly kindness others have shown toward us, let us pause to acknowledge the other Christ-like virtues demonstrated through their lives. And then let us understand that the final word of 2 Peter 1:7 is agape — self-sacrificing brotherly love.

martinmiller10@mac.com

Martin is the associate minister of the Duncan Church of Christ in Duncan, SC.  He and his wife Jennifer both graduated from Harding University and have three children and one grandchild.

Adding Godliness To Steadfastness — Roger L. Leonard

The second epistle of the apostle Peter was written to strengthen God’s saints in view of two challenges: persecution and false teachers. Dunn stated that the theme of 2 Peter is “Spiritual growth, as seen in each chapter: Chapter 1 – The Ingredients of spiritual growth (vs. 5-11). Chapter 2 – Opponents of spiritual growth – false doctrine, false attitudes, false promises, and false living. Chapter 3 – Motivation for spiritual growth – the coming of Christ.” (605)

Peter begins his letter by saying of God that “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (1:3).  Notice how “godliness” is seen up front as a critical aspect of the believer’s life.  The ultimate goal of the letter is for the child of God to take on the “divine nature” (1:4) and “abundantly enter the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (1:11).

Beginning with verse 5, Peter wrote, “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue (moral excellence, NASB), to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.  For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pe. 1:5-8, NKJV).

Lenski states:  “In v. 8 ‘barren and unfruitful’ imply that Peter thinks of the seven as fruits of faith.”  With regard to adding these fruits together, Lenski further states that “all of them are to be traced to faith.” (266)  It should be further noted that these “fruits” are accomplished in an order, and that one cannot move forward without having added the previous steps.

The Meaning of Godliness

So we come to our assigned word in this growth process: “godliness” (v. 6).  It comes from the Greek word Eusebia, which can have several meanings depending on use and context.  In a broad, secular sense, Bauer says it means “piety, reverence, loyalty [exhibited towards parents or deities],” and in a stricter, biblical sense, “fear of God…and in the LXX [Greek translation of the Old Testament] only of awesome respect accorded to God, devoutness, piety, godliness (412).

First, consider the word eusebia as “godly.”  It is found in the New Testament as an adverb two times.  The first is in Paul’s warning to Timothy:  “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Ti. 3:12).  The second is in Paul’s letter to Titus, where he wrote that God’s grace teaches us that “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Ti. 2:12).  Note how both passages are in reference as to how to “live godly.”  Peter uses it again as a noun to refer to “the godly” (2 Pe. 2:9).

Second, eusebia is found in the Greek New Testament as “godliness” in its various forms some fifteen times, four of which are in 2 Peter (1:3, 6, 7; 3:11).  We will examine some of these later in this article.

Wayne Jackson states that godliness “does not mean God-likeness,” as we often often say, but “God-towardness” (unpublished).  It is then that quality of life which honors, respects, reveres, worships, and obeys God.

The Location of Godliness in the Christian’s Growth

It is critical again to notice that in this growth process, before one can possess the qualities of “brotherly kindness” and “love” (agapeo) which follow “godliness” in Peter’s list, they must first possess godliness.  Duane Warden wrote concerning our text:  “Persevering in faith, the Christian pursues the goal of godliness.  The word is oriented more toward disposition than it is toward action.  It signifies a presence of mind where God is always near.  It is a pious frame of mind that draws Him into every realm of life.” (333)

Consider the order of spiritual progress in the words of the Lord Jesus:  “…‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the great and foremost commandment.  The second is like it.  ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Mt. 22:37-40, NASB).

Before one can love others, they must first love God with all their being.  At this point one attains godliness as a fruit in their life.

The Practice of Godliness

Considering other references for eusebia, note the following:

  1. It is a quality of life for which to pray (1 Ti. 2:2).
  2. It is the opposite of giving heed to fables (1 Ti. 2:10).
  3. In contrast with “bodily discipline,” godliness “is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Ti. 4:8, NASB).
  4. In contrast with “men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain,” Paul says “godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment” (1 Ti. 6:5, NASB).
  5. Pursuing godliness can prevent one from stumbling (2 Pe. 1:11) and departing from the faith (1 Ti. 6:10-11).

     

Now for application.  We may often refer to someone as “godly.”  What is it about that person that makes us say that?  They are humble.  They are kind.  They are generous and sacrificial.  They know the Bible and repeat its teaching.  They respect both God and their fellow man.  They care for the lost.  They edify the saved.  They are reverent in worship and are sober-minded.  They are prayerful in all matters.  They do not compromise their character.  They walk and talk as a person who knows the Lord Jesus and God the Father.  It is obvious that they live to make their “calling and election sure” (2 Pe. 1:10).

rt.leonard@yahoo.com

Roger and his wife Alisa live in Valdosta, GA.  He graduated from Lipscomb University in 1988 and the Nashville School of Preaching in 1992.  He preaches for the Adel Church of Christ in Adel, GA.

Sources

Dunn, Frank J. 1996.  Know Your Bible. Houston: Firm Foundation Publishing House.

Lenski, R.C.H. 1966.  The Interpretation of The Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude. Augsburg Publishing House.

Bauer, Walter, et al. 2000. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. University of Chicago: Chicago, IL.

Jackson, Wayne. Unpublished audio recording.

Warden, Duane. 2009. Truth For Today Commentary—1 & 2 Peter and Jude. Resource Publications: Searcy, AR.

Adding Steadfastness To Self-Control — Robert Bedenbaugh, Jr.

It would be profitable to do a Google search of online images which have to do with patience.  You’ll find pictures, cartoons and memes, mostly including some encouragement (even some Bible verses) and referencing many aspects of life…financial, emotional, marital, even spiritual.  Why is there such an emphasis on the importance of steadfastness?  Everyone agrees that “patience is a virtue.”  Bible verses about being steadfast, patient, enduring, forbearing, and persevering occur repeatedly in scripture.  Our answers to these questions progress from lesser to greater importance.

Why Do Christians Bear Up Under Trials And Hardships? 

Ourselves.  We begin with the least important motivation, ourselves.  “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (Ja. 1:2-4).  Notice the results of the testing trials.  There’s joy, endurance, and the completion to come.  Endurance is ONLY brought about by testing the very faith we claim to hold so dear.  Having gained the ability to endure, we’re proverbially “complete, lacking nothing.”  How so?  Because we can face future trails and say, “Bring It On.”  How could Paul ask, “O Death, where is your sting?  O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Co. 15:55)  He knew there’s a temporal, mortal, corruptible body but also an eternal, immortal, incorruptible body that will…endure.

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.  Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Ro. 5:3-5)  The benefits of persevering through tribulations are character, hope, a lack of disappointment, and knowledge that God’s love and Holy Spirit permeate our lives plus this inspired permission to glory in those tribulations knowing these benefits are present.  “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him”  (Ja. 1:12)  Our ability to endure what comes at us in life reveals both our love for Him and assurance of the crown of life.

Our Siblings.  Our Christian family is one of the best benefits for believers.  Yet, like our physical family, our spiritual family requires enduring others.  There are two reasons we endure centering around our Christian siblings.

Sometimes, we endure because they’re the source of our trials.  Consider when Jesus said on one occasion, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you?” (Mt. 17:17,cf. Mk. 9:19; Lk. 9:41).  Contextually, Christ was having to endure His own disciples.  They were the source requiring His endurance.  Predictably, we’re also called and encouraged to endure one another.  “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” (Co. 3:12-13).  “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ep. 4:1-3).  Can it be any clearer?  As blessed as we are to have them, our own spiritual family is, at times, the source of our need to practice patience.

Other times, we endure mindful that our spiritual family are superior to our trials.  “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but, in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Ph. 2:3-4).  Often, we go to chapter two of Philippians to discuss theological facts about Christ (vs. 5-11), but those verses appear within the greater context of how we are to treat one another.  The “mind” Paul speaks of beginning in verse 5 is the attitude he commands of us in verses 3-4.  When a given trial is linked to a fellow Christian, rest assured, they’re more important than your trial.  What is to be done “through selfish ambition or conceit”?  Nothing.  Instead, focus on what best for them.  Ask yourself, “What do THEY really need out of this situation?”  For the benefit of our siblings, our spiritual family, our brothers and sisters in Christ, we patiently endure.  Our Lord and Savior and example of suffering did the same.

How Do Christians Bear Up Under Trials and Hardships?

Our Savior.  Our Savior is our Head.  “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.  You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin” (He. 12:1-4).

We endure by “looking unto Jesus” and considering.  He is the perfect, sinless, only-begotten, one-of-a-kind Son of God and even He had to suffer.  He is our leader, the Head of the Church.  If He was required to endure, who are we to ever think we deserve a better existence?  We sing “Follow Him” and “Footprints of Jesus” (among other songs) for the encouragement they provide in pointing us to and reminding us of our King Jesus and the love and endurance He showed toward us and exemplified for us.  “He the great example is, and pattern for me.”  Where He leads, we must follow.

Our Savior is our Healer.  “For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.  For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth’ who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” (2 Pe. 2:20-24)  He, who knew no sin, endured the punishment for our sins and we garner to ourselves the benefit of spiritual healing.  How?  “…by whose stripes you were healed.”  How could any of our trials or hardships compare to His?

Our Savior is our Helper.  “Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ” (2 Th. 3:5)  Succinctly put, “We need help.”  We’re divinely directed by the scriptures into the patience of Christ.  No one should pretend to fully understand Divine direction.  We know it’s there “because the Bible tells me so” and that’s enough.  Take heart, fellow Christians.  We are not alone.  We have a Helper.

In conclusion, we offer personal encouragement.  Is there some specific trial you’re struggling to endure?  First, re-read the thoughts above about Christ and study His suffering in scripture.  Second, recall Acts 5:41:  “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”  The disciples were joyful that they were counted worthy to suffer, especially for the cause of Christ.  Third, reflect on Peter’s words in John 6:68-69:  “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Where else can we go?  Jesus gives life (Jn. 6:33, 63), has the words of life (6:68), and is the life (11:25; 14:6).  Where else would we want to go?  Focus on Christ.  Fourth, reassure a friend. If you’re on social media, do a Google search of those images of patience and post one.  Your friends and connections, Christians and non-Christians, could use the encouragement, too.  Why?  Because patience, perseverance, steadfastness, endurance…really IS a virtue.

robertbedenbaughjr@gmail.com

Robert worships at the Seneca Church of Christ in Seneca, SC, with his wife, Heather, and their daughter, Savannah.

 

Adding Self-Control To Knowledge — Tim Bench

The mastery of one’s own desires, wants, and passions is often the most difficult step for a Christian, and yet it is very much an unavoidable and demanded spiritual facet of biblical obedience. This is an elusive goal, wherein one is able to effectively harness and control oneself versus the seemingly endless supply of worldly temptations and snares, requiring both dedication as well as maturity.

Strong defines “self-control” or “temperance” from the Greek word enkrateia (transliterated as egkrateia in some sources), meaning “mastery of one’s appetites and passions, power over oneself in the sense of persistence or restraint.”  Thayer calls it “the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions”.  In addition to its usage in 2 Peter 1:6, it is also interesting to note that these terms are referred to as part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Ga. 5:22-23), by Paul in his discourse to Felix (Ac. 24:25), and are listed as one of the described traits of an elder (Ti. 1:8).  They would ultimately even become the source of names and foundational beliefs of latter emerging groups, as documented in The Ecclesiology of St. Clement and Dr. Everett Ferguson’s Encyclopedia of Early Christianity.

Steve Hamilton writes in his work, “Temperance”:

In the first century, the Greek word “enkrateia” from which we get our English word “temperance” as translated in the King James Version meant abstinence as a form of self-control. Josephus wrote in The War of the Jews (2, 8, 2), “These Essenes reject pleasures as an evil, but esteem continence [enkrateian], and the conquest over our passions, to be virtue”….  Continence means the “total abstinence from sexual activity.”… This is exactly how this word in its verb form is used in 1 Corinthians 7:9. It reads, “but if they cannot exercise self-control [enkrateuomai], let them marry” (NKJV). The idea of moderation for the exercise of self-control would certainly have been an inappropriate connotation for this verse. Obviously, the exercise of self-control in this passage is abstinence from fleshly desires.

Abstinence in the exercise of self-control should be the connotation that is carried with the Greek word “enkrateia” wherever it is found in the New Testament; not moderation. When the Apostle Paul reasoned with Felix over the exercise of self-control (“temperance”, KJV) in Acts 24:25, he was instructing Felix to control himself by abstaining from his fleshly desires. When the Apostle Paul instructed the Corinthians how to obtain the imperishable crown as an athlete in 1 Corinthians 9:25, he was telling them to be abstinent (“temperate,” KJV) from all fleshly desires. The same could be said in all the other passages where this Greek word is found (Gal. 5:23Tit. 1:82 Pet. 1:6).

According to Forerunner Commentary:

In the New Testament, the most common Greek word for self-control (temperance, KJV) is enkrateia. Its root meaning is “power over oneself” or “self-mastery.” Self-control, in its widest sense, is mastery over our passions. It is the virtue that holds our appetites in check, controlling our rational will or regulating our conduct without being duly swayed by sensuous desires. Moderation is a key element in self-control.

Why would temperance or self-control be of such paramount importance for a Christian? Consider the inspired command given through Peter.  “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Pe. 2:11).  Remember also the words given to us from the Spirit through Paul:  “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  So I do not run aimlessly; I do no box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Co. 9:25-27).  The words of the apostle Paul on self-control are every bit as relevant in the twenty-first century as they were in the first century. Like Paul, are we intent on bringing our “body” under “control” for Christ?  Unless we can control ourselves, we will be controlled by desires of the flesh just as the majority of the world is largely controlled by physical desires and wants.  Our biblical charge is to be the very antithesis of the vile world around us (1 Pe. 2:9, 2 Co. 6:17; 7:1, Ro. 12:2; Ep. 5:11, Jn. 15:18-19), mirroring Christ as much as we can to a world largely opposed to the very message of the Gospel and Jesus himself.  Having self-control would include controlling our outward actions and thoughts (Mt. 5:28, 30) as well as the words we speak (1 Pe. 3:10, Ep. 4:29, Ja. 1:26; 3:8).  If we ignore the vital role of self-control, we will inevitably fall to the forces of  temptation (1 Pe. 5:8; 2 Co. 2:11).

Christians must discipline their bodies and minds and bring them under control in order to obtain salvation.  This is a necessity of the Christian faith.  Rather than being a slave to the body and the physical desires of this world, we must focus on making our bodies servants for the Master.  We must ultimately deny ourselves and our earthly desires and whims, and take up the cross of Christ and follow Jesus with all of our very being (Mt. 16:24; 22:37; Lk. 10:27).  Behaving like the rest of the world and allowing ourselves to follow primal physical desires is not the New Testament pattern for living.  A Christian with no self-control, undifferentiated from the world, is ultimately no Christian at all.  This is not an easy task and in essence flies in the face of our very nature.  Yet being a follower of Christ requires us to behave contrary to our physical nature.  If we desire to have eternal life, we must bring our bodies and hearts into subjection via self-control.

“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.”

— Proverbs 25:28

tulsa4@aol.com

Tim graduated from ACU in 1990.  He preaches and teaches at various churches of Christ in West Texas, and is a member of the Oldham Lane Church of Christ in Abilene.

 

Adding Knowledge To Virtue — Adam Carlson

In 2 Peter 1:5, Peter instructs his readers to grow in knowledge. Peter understood that knowledge is an essential part of life, especially the Christian life.  It should constantly be increasing and supplementing our faith. Understanding this, it is imperative to have a working knowledge of Scripture, which is the focus of this article.

How To Grow In Knowledge

Read the Scriptures. If one is to grow in biblical knowledge, it is logical to go to the Scriptures themselves and spend time in simply reading them.  Ezra did this in the time of Nehemiah so the people would have a better understanding of the Law of Moses.  “And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand.  And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law…They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Ne. 8:3, 8).

In another example which shows the importance of reading, consider when a copy of the Law was found after being neglected during the time of Josiah.  “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found.  For great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us” (2 Ki. 22:13, emp. mine).  One can’t have the knowledge God desires if he doesn’t take the time to read the Word.

Similar instruction is found in the New Testament as well.  Paul reminded Timothy to give attention to reading in addition to exhortation and teaching (1 Ti. 4:13).  It is noteworthy that Paul saw fit to mention reading first.  Again, if one desires to have a good knowledge of Scripture it must first be read.

At times it may be a good idea to consult reliable reference tools, such as concordances or commentaries, to gain a better understanding.  While caution must be exercised with outside resources, it can be beneficial to one’s study as long as it is understood that such are simply tools not to be elevated to the same level as Scripture.

Apply what has been read. Reading is beneficial and absolutely critical when it comes to obtaining knowledge, but it must be realized that reading alone isn’t enough. What is read must be applied to our everyday lives; otherwise it’s of no benefit. It is important to remember the words of James:  “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like” (Ja. 1:23-24, emp. mine). Knowledge is a good thing but it must be put to use (He. 5:14).

Why We Must Grow In Knowledge 

To understand the importance of spiritual growth, it is equally important to understand why one must grow in knowledge.  The reasons will be discussed in the succeeding points:

To go from infants to maturity. Physical development of the body and mind take place as a child grows from infancy to adulthood.  Likewise, Christians must do this in a spiritual sense.  There are instructions regarding this.

Immaturity was why Paul wasn’t able to address Corinth as he wished to do (1 Co. 3:1-3).  The Hebrew writer faced the same problem, which prompted his point that a knowledgeable Christian is one who is able to go beyond the basics (He. 5:12-6:1).  Peter likewise reminds his readers to grow in this manner (1 Pe. 2:2).

A lack of knowledge is one of the reasons some of the problems within the Lord’s church exist.  If there were an unusually high infant mortality rate, there would be action taken to determine the reasons why and how to prevent it.  Yet, in a spiritual sense some never grow past infancy.  It is the duty of mature Christians to assist them in their growth and walk in Christ.

To withstand false doctrines and Satan. One of Paul’s great concerns for his brethren is found in his letter to Ephesus.  His desire was for them to not be “children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ep. 4:14).

There are numerous warnings about false doctrines and those who teach them throughout Scripture.  They are written within the inspired pages so that we may not be deceived by error.  Some brethren are led astray by these things simply because they do not study the Scriptures as God intended them to be read; rather, they look at them through the lenses of their presuppositions.  Studying in context without preconceived biases will prevent this from being an issue.

In addition to false doctrine, Paul’s other concern was Satan himself.  Thus, he further instructed the Ephesians to withstand the devil by putting on the armor of God (Ep. 6:11ff).  Just as a soldier must be adequately equipped to meet his enemy on the battlefield, Christians must be equally prepared to meet our spiritual enemy.  Knowledge is one way in which this can be accomplished.

Conclusion

As seen from this study, growth in knowledge isn’t an option.  It’s a command.  So let’s continue to grow in knowledge!

adamcarlson130@hotmail.com

Adam graduated from the Tri-Cities School of Preaching and Christian Development in 2011 and since 2013 has been preaching at the Valley Church of Christ in Kingsport, TN.  He is the son of the late Richard and Carla Carlson (the former of whom had been a valued member of the Carolina Messenger board of directors).