Monday: Love, the Goal of Christian Virtue

Read 2 Peter 1:5-7; Romans 5:3-5; James 1:3-4; and Galatians 5:22-23. What similar theme appears in these texts?

It was common among philosophers in the ancient world to list virtues. Such lists are often called a “catalogue of virtues,” and there are several examples in the New Testament (Rom. 5:3-5; James 1:3-4; Gal. 5:22-23).

Love Covers All

Image © Gilbert and Arlisle Beers

It was highly likely that Peter’s readers were familiar with such lists, although there are interesting differences between what a philosopher might list and what Peter lists. Note that Peter has arranged these deliberately in a sequence, so that each virtue builds on the previous virtue, until it reaches a climax in love!

Each of the virtues Peter uses has significant meaning:

  • Faith: In this context, faith is nothing less than a saving belief in Jesus (see Gal. 3:11, Heb. 10:38).
  • Virtue: Virtue (Greek arête), a good quality of any kind, was heralded even among pagan philosophers. Yes, faith is crucial, but it must lead to a changed life, one in which virtue is expressed.
  • Knowledge: Peter surely isn’t talking of knowledge in general, but rather the knowledge that comes from a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
  • Temperance/Self-control: Mature Christians are able to control their impulses, particularly those impulses that lead to excesses.
  • Patience/Steadfastness: Steadfastness is endurance, especially in the face of trials and persecution.
  • Godliness: In the pagan world, the word translated here as “godliness” means ethical behavior that results from a belief in a god. Within the New Testament it also carries the concept of ethical behavior that results from belief in the one true God (1 Tim. 2:2).
  • Brotherly kindness: Christians are like a family, and godliness will lead to a community in which people are kind to one another.
  • Love: Peter brings the list to a climax with love. He sounds like Paul, too: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13, NKJV).
Before Peter begins the list of virtues, he says that we should “make every effort” (2 Pet. 1:5, NET) to attain these virtues. What does he mean by that? What part does human effort play in our desire to live godly, faithful lives?

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Source: Daily Sabbath School Lessons