In his second epistle, the apostle Peter said that we are to be “giving all diligence, adding to our faith virtue” (2 Pe. 1:5). I find it significant that Peter first mentions virtue as being a vital addition to our faith before talking of such things as knowledge, temperance, and patience. Adding virtue to our faith is important as we strive to do the will of our Father in heaven.
To add virtue to one’s faith, one must understand what a virtue is. As a kid, I like so many other children sometimes lacked patience. I heard many times that “patience is a virtue.” At that time, I had no clue what a virtue was! When we look at the idea of virtue, we are looking at the idea of moral excellence. Patience is a virtue because it is a characteristic that is seen as being morally good and adds to one’s character. A person having high moral standards and striving to live up to those standards is a virtuous person. For example, Proverbs 31 gives us a glimpse at a woman who is virtuous. It mentions among many other virtues such qualities as being hard working, submissive and loyal to her husband.
Being virtuous is not perfection. We strive for moral excellence. Do we always succeed? An honest man knows that the answer to that question is no (Ro. 3:23). So how does one go about adding virtue to their faith?
First, one must desire to do good to other people. We are commanded to avoid rendering evil for evil; instead, we must always follow what is good among ourselves and all others (1 Th. 5:15). The Christian should strive to do good and avoid retaliation against other people. God understands that there are people with whom we will not get along, but it is not our place to take vengeance on them. He inspired Paul to tell us to “avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay saith the Lord” (Ro. 12:19).
That virtuous woman mentioned in Proverbs 31 did her husband good rather than evil all the days of her life (v. 12). Can that be said of us in our marriages? Do we desire to be a virtuous husband or a virtuous wife? Husbands, do we love our wives as Christ loves his church? Are we willing to give ourselves up for her as He was for the church (Ep. 5:25)? Wives, do you submit to your husbands? Do you desire to do that (Ep. 5:22-24)? One who adds virtue to his or her faith must desire to do good to all people, including their family members.
Second, one must lead by example. We hear that phrase “lead by example” often, don’t we? We hear it in the political arena, academia, and we hear it (or should hear it) in the church. A person who adds virtue to their faith will not just be one who tells what to do, but he is one who shows how to do it.
As a private school teacher and as a preacher, I must lead by example. If I tell my students they should love God, they need to see that in me as well. If I preach that we should avoid every form of evil (1 Th. 5:22) but am then seen doing something I shouldn’t, my credibility is lost and I am guilty of hypocrisy, the sin which is condemned in Scripture on multiple occasions (Mt. 6:5; 7:1-5; 1 Jn. 2:4).
God expects those men who serve as elders in the church to be virtuous men, men who are willing to lead by example (1 Pe. 5:3). 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 give us qualifications a man must meet if he wishes to be appointed an elder in the Lord’s church. These characteristics are virtues because they are morally good and they add to a person’s character. The same is true for those men who desire to hold the office of a deacon (1 Ti. 3:8-13). Leaders in the church must always be adding virtue to their faith by leading by example, using the Word of God as their guide.
Third, one must love the Word of God and keep it in his heart. I love the Psalmist’s attitude in Psalm 119:97: “O how I love thy law! It is my meditation all the day.” God’s people must love God’s law and also keep his law. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15). There are those who say keeping the commandments and following book, chapter, and verse is legalism. It is not legalism, it is love!
The Psalmist also said that the law of God was his “meditation all the day.” He kept the Word of God in his mind all day long. That is how we add virtue to our faith. God’s Word instills in us virtues that the world in general does not care for. For example, the Bible shows us the importance of hard work, a virtue that has long been abandoned by many in our land. Paul said it best: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Co. 3:23).
Do we have the love for God’s Word that we should? When was the last time we sat down and read and studied the Bible in our homes with our families? We cannot expect our children to have the respect and love for the Bible if they don’t see that attitude in us. Is gospel preaching something you enjoy hearing, or do you consider it to be dull and boring? Preachers, let us always make sure that the congregations we serve are hearing balanced preaching and that they are getting into the meat of the Word!
These are not all of the ways a Christians adds virtue to his faith. There are plenty more that I could list that could perhaps fill dozens of pages. I am sure you can think of some too. May we as God’s servants always strive to add virtue to our faith and strive for that moral excellence!
Drew is the preacher at the Corinth Church of Christ in Rock Island, TN. He also teaches History, Government, and Middle & High School Bible at Boyd Christian School in McMinnville, TN.