The Virtuous Christian Life
Romans 5:3–5; 2 Peter 1:3–9
Romans Lesson #054
March 22, 2012
This is such an important section that I want to go back and just hit the high points as we make our progression. In Romans 5, Paul introduces a group of virtues. Paul says in verse 2, “through whom [Christ] also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope [confidence] of the glory of God.” Hope in the Bible always speaks of a confidence, a certainty, and not a wishful optimism but a certain absolute always looking forward to the fulfillment of a promise. A promise made by God, therefore it is guaranteed in terms of its certain future fulfillment.
I want you to pay attention to this phrase “glory of God” because we are going to see something similar to it in 2 Peter 1:3 where we are reminded we grow through the knowledge of Him “who called us by glory and virtue.” That term glory is a term that is often used as a synonym for the character of God.
Romans 5:2, we “rejoice in hope of the glory of God,” that is, His character because that is what guarantees and stands behind all the promises which focus on that future destiny.
Verse 3 “And not only that, but we also glory [rejoice] …” It is the same word used in verse 2 (rejoice in hope), so most English translations changed to a different word, but it should stay the same so that we understand that there is a consistency here. Verses 3–5 “… glory in tribulations [adversities], knowing [because we know] that tribulation produces perseverance [endurance]; and perseverance, character; and character, hope [confidence]. Now hope [confidence in God] does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
The focal point here is on hope in terms of the spiritual life and the fact that this is grounded in the certainty of our salvation. From God’s perspective, there is an integral connection between our past, present and future salvation. We are saved at the cross: one decision, trust in Christ as Savior is our justification by faith. This is phase 1 salvation or justification salvation. We have ongoing spiritual growth—phase 2 salvation. Then future glorification salvation – phase 3.
In the mind of God, there is an integral connection between these three. What Paul is explaining here is how removed from “this grace in which we stand,” which is our position as saved new creatures in Christ, to the growth process to its ultimate culmination in the plan of God.
Hope is a “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). So it is not a wishful optimism, a dead hope, a hope in hope, or hope for hope’s sake because the alternative is just a nihilistic pessimism. It is hope in a certain reality that is indicated by the resurrection of Christ. Our hope is in God (1 Peter 1:21). We are to be able to give a solid, well-reasoned, constructed answer to people for the hope that is in us.
That is important because there is not a canned answer. People ask us questions, and they come from all kinds of directions. We need to really internalize and understand what the Word of God teaches because when people ask questions of us and we get those opportunities to explain why we believe what we believe, it is never (trust me!) in all my years from the direction of whatever it is we have studied. It is just going to be based on the knowledge that we have in our own soul.
In Romans 5:2–4, we see this stair step of virtues. We start with rejoice in hope [confidence]. We also rejoice because we know that adversity produces endurance. Then endurance leads to character, and character leads to confidence.
adversity ----> endurance ----> tested, approved character ----> confidence (hope)
(THLIPSIS) (HUPOMONE) (DOKIME) (ELPIS)
Last time I introduced you to a new term – a new concept to me as well. This was a logical device that originated with the Greeks called a sorites. It was a form of logic that was developed in Greek philosophical thought that was related to a chain of syllogisms or a chain of individual items, where the items each build on the previous one. You move from maybe your minor premise to a conclusion. It is thought historically that this developed from Eubulides of Miletus (an island off Greece).
The term sorites comes from the Greek word SOROS, which means heap. Because it related to a puzzle that was referred to as the heap, and so that is why it was called SOROS, and the type of logic was sorites. It was on the idea that would you describe a single grain of wheat as a heap? No. Would two grains of wheat be a heap? No. Would three grains be a heap? No. You can follow that on out until you get to would 500 grains of wheat be a heap? No. Would 1000 grains be a heap? Well, maybe. If 999 is not a heap, and you said if you go from 0–1, you do not have a heap; then why is the addition of one little piece of wheat to 999 make it a heap?
One of the other forms of this kind of logic related to what was called the Liar. Most of these have a paradox imbedded in these. There is a certain aspect of a conundrum or puzzle related to these kinds of logical puzzles. The liar says that he is lying, so is what he says true or false? If a liar says that he is lying, how do you know? If he is lying, then he is telling the truth. How can he be telling the truth if he is a liar?
There was another example of this called the Bald Man. Would you describe a man with one hair on his head as bald? What if he has two hairs or three? You can see it is the same thing as the Heap. If he has 1000 hairs on his head, is he bald? What about 1001? If he is no longer bald with 1001, how did one hair make that much difference?
That was the idea.: moving from one step to another through a series of logical chains to reach a conclusion. We see this exemplified in a lot of different types of literature in developing certain statements. There are a number of these sorites in the Scripture. Sometimes they are referred to as a ladder. That is the term I am using here is the virtue ladder which is developed in these passages – there is a progression.
But there are some things that we need to try to understand that these progressions are not the same in every passage. We also looked at James 1:2–4. In verses 3-4, there is a sorites. “Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience [endurance]. But let patience have its perfect work [end role or end game], that you may be perfect [mature] and complete, lacking nothing.” When we add that, we see that there are more different stages mentioned by James than by Paul in Romans, but there is a certain similarity. They are talking about the same thing but are using different vocabulary and emphasizing perhaps different intermediate stages in light of the theme of what they are teaching in their particular book.
trial ---------> testing ------> endurance ----> perfect work maturation
(PEIRASMOS) (DOKIMION) (HUPOMONE) (TELEIOS)
What I am pointing out here is that the writers of Scripture do not have a hard and fast, 6-stage process that they all refer to. Spiritual growth is not a rigid, mechanical thing. There are mechanics involved. If you watch a ballerina on stage, there are mechanics to ballet. There are mechanics to music, to art, to anything in life. Watching a ballerina dance on stage is anything but mechanical. Watching an artist draw is anything but mechanical. Watching a concert pianist is anything but mechanical, yet it is grounded on mechanics. Mechanics has to do with the fact that you have to understand certain basic techniques and procedures in order to eventually produce something that has beauty, esthetic value, and is very smooth.
I used to hate that when I was taking piano lessons or later in junior high and high school playing trombone and having to play technique exercises. How boring. But you learn basic skills and get certain things in the muscle memory in your fingers or in your embouchure, and that would enable you later to play better and have a much more artistic result because you had mastered the mechanics.
The writers of Scripture under inspiration of the Holy Spirit are making it clear that there are certain stages in the growth process that we all pass through that are similar but do not present just a hard and fast stage 1, stage 2, stage 3 that are the same for every writer. That brings us to the other side of spiritual growth, which is that it is dynamic.
There are certain mechanics, certain basic elements that are there, but they do not develop in the same way and in the same order in every person. Some things certainly follow in the same order because there is a logical relationship, but we grow at different rates and at different stages because we are different people. One person has a sin nature that trends toward asceticism, and another person has a nature that trends toward licentiousness.
Another person has a sin nature that is heavy on his area of weakness that is producing a lot of overt or mental attitude sins, while another person has a sin nature that does not emphasize overt or mental attitude sins so much but emphasizes a lot of personal morality, which is generated by his own flesh and not by God. Isaiah refers to this in Isaiah 64:6 “our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.” They do not measure up to His absolute standard. That does not mean that they are not good, but it is a relative good. It is a good in relation to what other human beings produce, but in terms of God’s absolute standard, it is a relative good.
In these lists that we find in passages such as Romans 5, 2 Peter 1, James 1, Galatians 5; these are similar but different. They are a list of virtues and often contrasted with vices. Virtue is a term that we get our English word from, the Latin word virtus, but the Greek word that we find in the Scripture is ARETE. They named the camp for the teens up in Colorado Camp Arête, and it refers to moral excellence. That is its core meaning, but it is not quite how the New Testament uses it.
We are not going to find our understanding of the New Testament meaning of virtue by studying Plato or Sophocles or Aristotle because the background for the New Testament is not 5th or 6th century Greek thought—it is the Old Testament. The concept of virtue in the New Testament is not quite the same as you would find it in Greek philosophical thought. There is an overlap of meaning, but it is not going to be identical. The thinking of Peter as a Jewish fisherman had its foundation and framework in the Hebrew Scriptures of the Old Testament.
It is interesting that in the Old Testament, the word ARETE is only used in the Septuagint five or six times, in which case it refers to the praise of God in relation to His absolute standard of righteousness and justice. God is praise worthy because of who He is. It is not used of human beings. We have a different concept going on because what they bring into the New Testament is foundationally a concept of virtue that is related to the character of God. That is profound once you sit down and begin to work with that a little bit. An extremely important observation for us to make is why is that word used somewhat rarely in the New Testament? Peter uses it a couple of times, and Paul uses it a couple of times, and that is about it. What is the significance of this in terms of biblical thought?
One of the places that Peter uses it is in 1 Peter 2:9. Both 1 and 2 Peter, Hebrews, James, and Jude are Jewish epistles which are written to Jewish believers in Jesus, as Messiah. The common background of thinking, the shared lexicon between the writer of these epistles and their audience is clearly going to be the Old Testament. In addressing these Jewish believers in 1 Peter 2:9, Peter says “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” The Greek word translated praises is arête. It is talking about the excellence of God’s character that is praiseworthy. That is too many words to use to translate it, but that is the idea that we can proclaim the quality of God’s character: His righteousness, justice, grace, love, all of that which is manifest in the way He works with His creatures. I think that is an important way to understand this concept of virtue in the New Testament.
Classically, Plato categorized four virtues which became standard in Greek thought. A note on the background in Greek thought: Originally the word arête had the idea of a person, object or animal that exemplified the perfection of that person, object or animal. So a dog that approached the ideal dog would have the virtue of dogness. A man who exhibited all the positive qualities of manhood would be described with the Latin idea of virtus, which focused on the male who had those qualities of moral excellence related to a man. He exhibited courage, honor, and self control. A flower would approach the excellence of flowerness and would have the virtue of a flower. The term virtue is a word that would have a lot of different ideas and nuances depending on the context and what it was related to.
That was the original meaning of virtue as an object, person or animal that exhibited the best of what that individual thing was supposed to be. As Greek thought developed, Socrates used the term to include a more moral or ethical sense. In his thinking, the maturing or growing person who was gaining knowledge and insight into the world around him and into his purpose and meaning in life, which Socrates referred to as the good, exhibited virtue by growing and maturing in that particular area as he gained insight into the good and lived in light of it.
Plato took that and developed it into the four classic virtues of wisdom, courage, prudence and justice. Aristotle was Plato’s student. Plato was an idealist, so he is operating from a purely rationalistic viewpoint: You are starting with ideas in the mind and then working your way out to understand reality. With Aristotle, you start with sense perception, and then on the basis of what you learn through your senses through empirical analysis, then you develop your understanding of everything in the world. He started with the idea of virtue and also held to the idea that Socrates had introduced that it had a moral or ethical sense.
Aristotle developed that idea of ethics to include two different kinds of ethics. A practical virtue included courage, temperance and generosity, which he called DIANOETIC. DIA meaning through, and NOUS is the Greek word for mind. So it was a more thoughtful, mental attitude type of virtue: ways in which the mind worked, reason was used which included insight wisdom, knowledge, and art. For him art was not drawing; art is producing something in life.
Why is that important? Greeks have this tradition of developing this whole idea of virtue, so there is a very strong moral and ethical nuance within pagan Greek thought. I am using the word pagan in its standard dictionary meaning, that is, non-Judeo/Christian, non-biblical thought. They write all kinds of things exploring the idea of virtue, and then they come to the Old Testament, which is God’s revelation to man through Moses, Joshua, David, the prophets, and we do not find the word. Now that is an important thought to meditate upon.
I think that is because the Bible and God’s thinking comes from a different starting point than Greek thought. Greek thought starts within man, but God starts with Himself. We read at the very beginning in Genesis 1:1 that God created the heavens and the earth. There is no defense of God because God is the one who created the entire human race and knows that every human being has imbedded within him something called the imago dei in Latin (image of God). Genesis 1:26-27 “… let Us make man in Our image … male and female He created them.”
Those are really important verses to think about in relation to this whole concept of virtue because God created Adam and Even in His image. First of all, it means that a human being was to reflect or resemble God in certain ways. A human being, male and female, possesses this whole quality of imageness, and it was taking the infinite character of God. Infinite applies to every aspect of God’s character: His knowledge, presence, power, righteousness, justice, ethical virtues. When God creates man (Adam) as opposed to the angels, He compresses His character into a finite representation. That is really hard to get our mental fingers around, but what that means is that every human being in that pre-fallen case of Adam was designed to be finite representation of God. So you can look at man, a human being being what God intended him to be, and there is an echo of that original meaning of arête. A thing approaches its intended design; it has virtue. It’s not because the Greeks got it right; it is that there is a residual element of certain truth that hangs around within human thought.
So man is created to be this representation of God, so you look at man and can see God. Man was created perfect and righteous. It is an untested righteousness, but it is still righteous. He is as righteous as God is because he is in the image of God. It is an untested, unqualified righteousness, and that is the purpose of the test in the garden related to the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. What happens in the Garden of Eden? Satan has taken on the form of a serpent in order to entice the woman. The serpent was the most subtle of all creatures, indicating that he is tricky, cunning, and he has thought through an approach to the woman that is going to entrap her.
Eve gets sucked right in, and she begins to question God. Satan says, “Has God really said this?” with the implication “Is this really the right thing? Is this really good? Isn’t God holding something back from you?” She begins to evaluate God. What made her an evaluator or judge of God? Nothing. Rather than saying, “God said we are not to eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” and then turning her back on the serpent and walking away; the wheels start turning, and it is not long before she is looking and lusting after that fruit. She thinks somehow God is withholding something from her. She eats, and then she leads Adam into that sin.
After the Fall, we talk about them as being corrupt. There is something that happens within the nature of mankind as mankind, so that they are not what they were prior to that disobedience to God. Now they have been corrupted by sin. It does not mean they are as bad as they can be; it does not mean that they are always going to do bad, evil things; it does not mean that every human being is an Adolph Hitler or Joseph Stalin or Iran’s Ahmadinejad. It means that every human being has a predilection towards disobedience to God, and in doing that, he is capable of doing horrible things. Or he can do good things that may have horrible consequences. His imageness though has not been changed. It has maybe been defaced or marred or distorted, but we are still in the image of God. Something has happened to that, so it is not what it was prior to the Fall.
We go through the Old Testament and have all the things that happened. We have the pre-flood civilization and the worldwide judgment on man where God says the thoughts of the human heart are evil continuously. Not a good commentary on the basic predisposition of the mind. Then after the flood, the first thing that happens is the rebellion against God at the Tower of Babel. God decides He is going to go to Alternate Plan B, which He always knew about from eternity past, and He selects Abraham to work through.
We come to the New Testament and the fulfillment of the messianic promises in Jesus who is also the eternal second person of the Trinity. Jesus is eternal God; He is the incarnation of God. God recognized that no human being could pay for sin because they can only pay for their own sin, so God has to provide that payment.
The picture of that from the Old Testament is the sacrifice at Passover. There is a substitution there that God is going to bring a judgment of death in the 10th plague upon the Egyptians and everyone in Egypt, so God gives a solution to the judgment to Moses and the Israelites. They would take a lamb chosen on the 10th of Nisan, evaluated until the 14th to make sure it is without spot or blemish. On the 14th, it will be sacrificed, and the blood is going to be applied to the door, so that in the application of that blood to the doorpost, God will pass over the house and not bring the judgment of death on the firstborn in that household. So there is a substitution. This is a gift from God and not something that is based on the inherent virtue, morality, ethics or religiosity of the people inside the house. It is based on the fact that they hear what God’s command is, and they obey it because they believe it to be true.
In the New Testament, we read in the Gospel of John one of the most significant statements about who Jesus is. In John 1:1–3, we read “In the beginning was the Word [Logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him [deity], and without Him nothing was made that was made [Creator, active agent in creation]”, which is what Paul states in Colossians 1.
We are introduced to this concept of the Logos as a complete, divine person distinct from but identical to the Father - multiple personalities within the unity of the Godhead. In Judaism, a problem developed with that but only after the 2nd temple was destroyed. Before that, there were clear indications of a multiplicity of personality in the Godhead. The verse you will often hear in discussions with Jews is that they are strict monotheists because in Deuteronomy 6:4, it says “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” The word that is used there in the Hebrew for one is echad, which is not a singularity but is a unity of multiplicity.
There is another form of the word one that is used to indicate a singular item that is not a plural in terms of unity. The reason we know this is because of a statement that Moses makes at the end of the second chapter in Genesis after God has created Eve and brought her to the man. Moses says in verse 24 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to this wife, and they shall become one flesh.” It is the word echad. The same word that you have in Deuteronomy 6:4. But you have two persons who become a unity in marriage, so that the concept of God being a unity of persons is not foreign at all to the Hebrew Scriptures.
When we get into John 1:14, we read “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory …” This is the Word that was with God and was God (John 1:1). Watch this word glory in Romans 5. We know from Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That is a term that incorporates and encapsulates all God’s essence. Glory stands for the character of Jesus, a term for divine glory.
John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us ...” The infinite, 2nd Person of the Trinity became a finite representation of God. This is what Paul develops later as the second Adam. “… the glory [full essence of the Father] as of the only begotten of the Father [unique one of the Father], full of grace and truth.
John 1:18 “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” The Greek verb is EXEGEOMAI, where we get our English word exegesis, which means that He is the one who unpacks the meaning of something for us. Jesus is the one who discloses and reveals to us through a visible, finite representation of His character who God is.
Something is going on related to character transformation in these virtue ladder verses. Romans 8 is the conclusion to Paul’s development of the basics of the Christian’s spiritual life, which begins to be introduced in Romans 5, but the core chapters are 6, 7 and 8. Romans 8:28–29 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…”
There is that word image again. In Genesis 1, image is a finite representation of who God is. Man was created in order to serve God, to rule over God’s creation, and to reflect the essence of God’s character to men.
What is the Greek word that was used to refer to the excellence of God’s character five or six times in the Old Testament? It is arête. It does not have anything to do with the Greek concept of arête, but it was used by the translators of the Septuagint in Psalms and Isaiah 64. It was used in order to express the moral excellence, the praiseworthy character, the righteousness and justice of God, which is how it comes over into the New Testament. Isaiah 42:8, 12; 43:21; 63:7.
All Jewish authorities long before the time of Christ recognized that God had turned off the volume, and He was not revealing Himself anymore. The Old Testament Canon is shut down and closed, and they finalize it. There is nothing new added to it. That does not mean the Jews quit writing because there are other books that are written about what is going on in the Jewish community, and some of these books have become part of what is called the Apocrypha. These are books that were hidden and were not part of the canon.
Jerome, who lived in Bethlehem in the AD 300s, translated the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament into Latin. That Latin translation became known as the Vulgate. The Pope wanted Jerome to include the Apocrypha in the Vulgate, so he did against his desires. The introduction to the Vulgate said that the Apocryphal books were not part of the Bible. Neither Jerome nor any Jewish authority had ever accepted them as part of the Old Testament canon, but they said they are good because they teach something about what happened between the Old Testament and the New Testament. They are worthy of our study but are not the Word of God.
Nobody read that introduction, so what happens in the history of the early church and the Roman Catholic church is people thought because the Apocrypha was within the front cover and back cover of the Bible, it was just like all the other books and that lead to its eventual inclusion in the Roman Catholic Bible.
Those books of the Apocrypha were written during the time of the Hellenistic empire. This is the term used to refer to the Greek empire after Alexander died that was split up between four of his generals. In terms of the Middle East, you have the Ptolemies down in Egypt and the Seleucids who controlled roughly Syria and what we now know as Turkey. They are constantly fighting with each other and what is between Syria and Egypt: Israel. The Jews who had returned from the Babylonian exile/captivity are constantly being used as pawns between the Egyptians and the Syrians.
The language they are beginning to use all the time is Greek, along with Hebrew and Aramaic. So Greek thought begins to influence them, and Hellenism begins to dominate the culture of the Jews. It is exacerbated by the fact that once the Seleucids rise to power, you have Antiochus the Great (Antiochus III) and then his son Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who is the real evil one in the Old Testament and is used as a type of the future Antichrist. They try to stop Jewish worship. Antiochus Epiphanes burns all copies of the Scriptures. If anyone is caught circumcising an infant, the infant and the parents will die. If anybody is caught observing the Sabbath, they will die. It is a complete anti-Semitic suppression of anything that is uniquely Jewish.
This is the same period of time that the 1, 2, 3, 4 Maccabees are written, and in these books you have the use of ARETE (virtue). It is the first time it really shows up in extra-biblical literature, Jewish literature, with a Greek meaning. When it is translated into the Septuagint, it is not used with that meaning. It refers to the character of God.
When we get to Romans 8:29, we are told that the destiny that God has set for every Church Age believer is to be conformed to the image of His Son. Man and woman are created in the image of God to be a perfect, finite representation of God in terms of His character and abilities and to rule over His creation. Adam’s sin of disobeying God plunges the entire human race into sin, and that image is not erased but it is effaced, marred, distorted and has to be repaired. It cannot be fixed by man; it can only be fixed by God.
How does God do it? He sends a Savior who pays the penalty for sin, a Savior who is the exegesis or the explanation of the character of God, who in His life displays the character of God. John 1:14 says “… we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” When the Son is crucified, buried, resurrected and ascends to heaven, the goal that God has for every believer is to conform them in their spiritual growth to that image. The excellence of that image is called ARETE. So when we think of ARETE(virtue) in the New Testament, get rid of the Roman concepts, get rid of the Greek concepts, and deal with the way it is used biblically in terms of manifesting within our character the character of Christ. That is what this is all about. We manifest the character of Christ through us, and that can only happen through a change that occurs through God the Holy Spirit.
We “proclaim the praises of Him …” (1 Peter 2:9) through spiritual growth. This is what happens when we get to 2 Peter 1:3. Here we learn that the opening phrase should be understood as a causal statement. What is the focal point of the phrase “His divine power”? It is the character of God as seen through the lens of a power word. Often that happens in languages where we use one characteristic of something to stand for the entirety of the thing that we are talking about because that is the one aspect or character of the thing that we are really emphasizing but not to the exclusion of everything else. It is not that God’s power gave this to us to the exclusion of His righteousness, His justice, His love, His virtue as we will see.
2 Peter 1:3 “as His divine power [all that God is, His divine ability] has given to us all things that pertain [relate] to life and godliness …” These really relate to two different things. Life relates to physical life, which only is fully experienced by us once we are regenerate. Before that, we are the walking dead, like zombies. We think we are alive, but Jesus came to give us life. We died when Adam ate from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We became spiritually dead. Life has to do with once again we can experience the fullness of life that God has for us, and He is going to give us all the necessities of life that we require in order to fulfill His purpose for us.
The second word is godliness (EUSEBEIA) and is related not just to God-likeness but to showing reverence and loyalty to those to whom it is due. This is a concept that I have really been working through in the last 2-3 weeks to get a fuller understanding of the word EUSEBEIA and how it relates to the concepts of faith and love.
I think it is always interesting how the Holy Spirit works. I can be reading on five or six different subjects, and there are times when everything clicks together. They are not even related. It is just the dynamics of God’s revelation and the Holy Spirit in our life.
This word EUSEBEIA is similar to the Greek word piety (why it is often translated piety, pietas in Latin) and focuses on the idea of showing reverence and loyalty. Then I’m reading in a completely different book on archeology trying to prep for going to Israel this summer, and I’m reading a statement in a paragraph. In ancient covenants, when a king conquered another country, he would impose a surrender document (we would say today), a new covenant or contract describing the relationship between this defeated power and his power as “you are now supposed to love me.” In a conquered nation, you do not have warm feelings about your conqueror. That idea of love as expressed and used in those covenant documents is just like Deuteronomy where we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and strength. This idea of love in a covenant context was not talking about having warm feelings about God or the person who initiated the contract, but it is loyalty.
EUSEBEIA has to do with the new life we have in relationship with God and showing loyalty to Him so we can fulfill what God intended us to be. See how that once again impinges on the original meaning of ARETE being all that we are intended to be. The first stair step in this virtue ladder in 2 Peter 1:5 “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue…” is going to be faith, PISTIS.
I remember years ago when I was first beginning to get a handle on the issues in the lordship debate, I read the 1st edition of John McArthur’s book, The Gospel According to Jesus, where he argues his whole lordship theory. He changed in subsequent editions because a number of people pointed it out that PISTIS normally has the meaning of the act of belief. It is a noun that describes the act of believing something, but in virtue ladders where there is a series of virtues, PISTIS does mean faithful. That is where McArthur got the idea that when Ephesians 2:8 said “For by grace, you have been saved through faith…”, he wanted to translate it faithfulness.
Ephesians 2:8 is not talking about a series of virtues; it is describing the act of believing. The noun PISTIS can have 3 different meanings according to BDAG. The meaning related to its use as a noun when it is standing alone is the act of believing, but when it is related to a series of virtues, it has the idea of being faithful. This is talking about a person after salvation, talking about their Christian growth. The faith rest drill is an act of believing God, but it is an act of learning how to be faithful in doing that, so that we do not just do it occasionally, but we learn to make this a habit pattern in our life.
Faith is used in that sense here in 2 Peter 1. We have imbedded within these ideas of eusebeia and love which is the final step in the stair step down in verse 7 “to godliness [EUSEBEIA] brotherly kindness [PHILADELPHIA], and to brotherly kindness love.” Love has to do with loyalty, not emotion. Godliness has to do with manifesting the character of God in terms in faithful loyalty to Him and manifesting the kind of character he created man to manifest—His character. That can only be produced by God the Holy Spirit, which is why we find a parallel between this passage and the fruit of the Spirit passage in Galatians 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
This is one of those sorites passages. They are not given in a logical order here; they are if you understand the context because the commandment Paul gave in Galatians 5:13–14 is to love one another. That is why it is the first fruit mentioned because what he is talking about is how do you do that? It is by walking by the Spirit. The fruit of that is first of all love.
Self-control is the same word in Galatians 5:23 that we have in the list of 2 Peter 1:6 “to knowledge self-control …” All of these need to be broken down so we understand the internal dynamics and relationships, but I want you to come out of this understanding a couple of things. First of all, while there are certain connections that are similar in spiritual growth, it is a dynamic not a static process. It is not the same for everybody. There are certain things that are logically and temporally based on other things. For example, we have to have a trial, a test. We have to endure the test and that develops perseverance. Certain things have to go in a certain order.
Other things do not necessarily go in that order. They are the virtues, moral excellence, or the mirror or reflection of the character of God that is developed in our life. We cannot develop this on our own, but it has to be done by walking by the Holy Spirit. That is why 2 Peter 2:8 says “For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” How do you become fruitful? By walking by the Spirit who produces the fruit of the Spirit. These passages all intersect, and it is critical for understanding aspects of the Christian life.
The bottom line is that it is not just a matter of sitting, learning the Word, and it is going to automatically happen. What is imbedded in all of this are mandates that we have to do certain things or not do certain things under the filling ministry of God the Holy Spirit in response to what the Word of God says.
The simple one is “Study to show yourself approved unto God …” I need to be filled with the Holy Spirit and need to study. That is a command to study. That is not any different from any of the other commands that talk about doing certain things or not doing certain things, having certain qualities in your life and not having certain qualities in your life. It is still volitional. The Holy Spirit is not going to produce the fruit apart from your volitional engagement in doing what the Word of God says to do when you are in that situation.