Make every effort…add to your faith 2 Peter 1:5

29 Aug

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith…(2 Pet 1:5a) 

“I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.”[1]

These words were likely not the words of someone who knew much about hard work and dedication. They might not have understood the concept of  a good day’s “effort.”

Where there is life, there must be growth. The new birth is not the end; it is the beginning. God gives His children all that they need to live godly lives, but His children must apply themselves and be diligent to use the “means of grace” He has provided. Spiritual growth is not automatic. It requires cooperation with God and the application of spiritual diligence and discipline. “Work out your own salvation. . . . For it is God which worketh in you” (Phil. 2:12-13). Because of all the God-given blessings in vv. 3,4, the believer cannot be indifferent or self-satisfied. Such an abundance of divine grace calls for total dedication.

The Christian life is not lived to the honor of God without effort. Even though God has poured His divine power into the believer, the Christian himself is required to make every disciplined effort alongside of what God has done (cf. Phil. 2:12,13; Col. 1:28,29). [2]

Peter listed seven characteristics of the godly life, but we must not think of them as seven beads on a string or even seven stages of development. The word translated “add” really means “to supply generously.” In other words, we develop one quality as we exercise another quality. “Add” is to give lavishly and generously. In Greek culture, the word was used for a choirmaster who was responsible for supplying everything that was needed for his choir. The word never meant to equip sparingly, but to supply lavishly for a noble performance. God has given us faith and all the graces necessary for godliness (vv. 3,4). We add to those by our diligent devotion to personal righteousness.[3]

These graces relate to each other the way the branch relates to the trunk and the twigs to the branch. Like the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23), these qualities grow out of life and out of a vital relationship with Jesus Christ. It is not enough for the Christian to “let go and let God,” as though spiritual growth were God’s work alone. Literally, Peter wrote, “Make every effort to bring alongside.” The Father and the child must work together.

Peter calls for diligent, disciplined, life-long effort on the part of the Christian (verse 5a). This is a discipleship text which requires discipline and self-denial. It is a challenge to every Christian for all the days of their lives. No Christian ever works his way through this text to move on to other pursuits.

The Christian’s efforts are based on the sovereignty of God and the sufficiency of His provisions (verses 1-4). Peter has already laid the foundation for the Christian’s exertion. In verses 1-4, Peter emphasizes the sovereignty of God in salvation. Salvation has been accomplished by God, through Christ, apart from human works or merit. Peter also stresses the sufficiency of God’s provisions for our salvation and sanctification. God has provided all that is necessary for life and godliness (verse 3).

Peter says that we must bend all our energies to equip ourselves with a series of great qualities.  The word he uses for to equip is epichoregein which he uses again in verse 11 when he speaks of us being richly gifted with the right of entry into the eternal kingdom.

This is one of the many Greek words which have a pictorial background.  The verb epichoregein comes from the noun choregos, which literally means the leader of a chorus.  Perhaps the greatest gift that Greece, and especially Athens, gave to the world was the great works of men like Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, which are still among its most cherished possessions.  All these plays needed large choruses and were, therefore, very expensive to produce.  In the great days of Athens there were public-spirited citizens who voluntarily took on the duty, at their own expense, of collecting, maintaining, training and equipping such choruses.  It was at the great religious festivals that these plays were produced.

For instance, at the city of Dionysia there were produced three tragedies, five comedies and five dithyrambs.  Men had to be found to provide the choruses for them all, a duty which could cost as much as 3,000 drachmae.  The men who undertook these duties out of their own pocket and out of love for their city were called choregoi, and choregein was the verb used for undertaking such a duty.  The word has a certain lavishness in it.  It never means to equip in any cheese-paring and miserly way; it means lavishly to pour out everything that is necessary for a noble performance.  Epichoregein went out into a larger world and it grew to mean not only to equip a chorus but to be responsible for any kind of equipment.  It can mean to equip an army with all necessary provisions it can mean to equip the soul with all the necessary virtues for life.  But always at the back of it there is this idea of a lavish generosity in the equipment.

So Peter urges his people to equip their lives with every virtue; and that equipment must not be simply a necessary minimum, but lavish and generous.  The very word is an incitement to be content with nothing less than the loveliest and the most splendid life.

But there is something else at the back of this.  In verses 5 and 6 Peter goes on that we must, as the Revised Standard Version has it, add virtue to virtue, until the whole culminates in Christian love.  Behind this is a Stoic idea.  The Stoics insisted that in life there must continuously be what they called prokopemoral progress.  Prokope can be used for the advance of an army towards its objective.  In the Christian life there must be steady moral advance.  Moffatt quotes a saying that, “the Christian life must not be an initial spasm followed by a chronic inertia.”  It is very apt to be just that; a moment of enthusiasm, when the wonder of Christianity is realized, and then a failure to work out the Christian life in continuous progress.

That brings us to still another basic idea here.  Peter bids his people bend every energy to do this.  That is to say, in the Christian life the supreme effort of man must co-operate with the grace of God.  As Paul has it:  “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12, 13).  It is true that everything is of faith; but a faith which does not issue in life is not faith at all, as Paul would heartily have agreed.  Faith is not only commitment to the promises of Christ; it is also commitment to his demands.

Bigg well points out that Aristotle, in the Nicomachean Ethics, says that there are three theories of the source of happiness.  (i)  It is something which can come by training, by learning and by the formation of right habits.  (ii)  It is a matter of divine allotment, the gift of God.  (iii)  It is all a matter of chance.

The truth is that, as the Christian sees it, happiness depends both on God’s gift and on our effort.  We do not earn salvation but at the same time we have to bend every energy towards the Christian objective of a lovely life.  Bengel, in commenting on this passage, asks us to compare the Parable of the Ten Virgins, five of whom were wise and five of whom were foolish.  He writes:  “The flame is that which is imparted to us by God and from God without our own labour; but the oil is that which a man must pour into life by his own study and his own faithful effort, so that the flame may be fed and increased.”

Faith does not exempt a man from works; the generosity of God does not absolve a man from effort.  Life is at its noblest and its best when our effort co-operates with God’s grace to produce the necessary loveliness.

Verses 5-7 contain a list of character qualities for which God has made provision and for which every Christian should strive. This is not a list of imperatives, duties, or activities. Peter is not writing about “how to,” but about the kind of person the Christian should strive to become. The character qualities we are to pursue are also the character traits of God. Peter has written in verse 4 that God has provided for us to become “partakers of the divine nature.” These character qualities he then lists are the particular character qualities of God which should also be evident in our lives.

What does growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ involve?” First, it involves the development of eight “graces.” These “graces” are briefly defined…

  1. FAITH is “conviction, strong assurance”
  2. VIRTUE is “moral excellence, goodness”
  3. KNOWLEDGE is “correct insight”
  4. SELF-CONTROL is “self-discipline”
  5. PERSEVERANCE is “bearing up under trials”
  6. GODLINESS is “godly character out of devotion to God”
  7. BROTHERLY KINDNESS is “love toward brethren”
  8. LOVE is “active goodwill toward those in need”

We must “abound” in these “graces” Only then can it be said that we are “growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ” Therefore it something more than simply increasing our “intellectual” knowledge of Jesus Christ! Though such knowledge has a place, it is just one of the graces necessary. Peter is talking about growing in a full and personal knowledge of Jesus Christ, which comes by developing the “Christ-like” attributes defined above. The more we grow in these “graces”, the more we really “know” Jesus (for He is the perfect personification of  these “graces.”

That it involves more than intellectual knowledge is also evident from the Greek word used for knowledge in 2 Peter 1:2-3, 8: the word is epignosis {ep-ig’-no-sis}, meaning “to become thoroughly acquainted with, to know thoroughly, to know accurately, know well.”  Such knowledge comes only as we demonstrate these “Christlike graces” in our lives.

Second, it involves developing these graces in conjunction with each other, we notice the word “add” (or “supply”) in verse five. Before each grace mentioned, the word is implied. The word in Greek is epichoregeo {ep-ee-khor-ayg-eh’-o}, originally, to found and support a chorus, to lead a choir, to keep in tune.” “Then, to supply or provide.” This word therefore suggests the idea of “each grace  working in harmony with the others to produce an overall effect”

Peter gives us a list unlike any other list in the Scriptures. In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul lists the “fruit of the Spirit.” First Timothy 6:11 has yet another list of godly qualities the Christian should pursue. None of the New Testament lists are exactly alike, which suggests that Peter has given us a selected list and that there are other character qualities to pursue. It also implies Peter’s list was compiled for a particular reason. I believe this list of qualities was chosen because of the false teachers who will seek to distort the truth of the Scriptures and seek to seduce men to follow them. If the character qualities of verses 5-7 are also the attributes of God, they are in dramatic contrast to the character of the false teachers and their followers.

A purposeful order and relationship is evident in this list of character qualities. This list of character qualities is not presented in a way that suggests a random order. Each quality builds upon the qualities before it. The sequence of qualities begins with faith and ends with love. These qualities are similar to the ingredients in a cake recipe where all ingredients are needed, but they should be added in the proper order.

It is not only prayer that gives God glory but work. Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, whitewashing a wall, driving horses, sweeping, scouring, everything gives God glory if being in his grace you do it as your duty. To go to worship gives God great glory, but to take food in thankfulness and temperance gives him glory too. To lift up the hands in prayer gives God glory, but a man with a dung fork in his hand, a woman with a slop pail, gives him glory too. He is so great that all things give him glory if you mean they should.

It is our best work that God wants, not the dregs of our exhaustion. I think he must prefer quality to quantity.

Work and play are an artificial pair of opposites because the best kind of play contains an element of work, and the most productive kind of work must include something of the spirit of play.

Work is man’s great function. He is nothing, he can do nothing, he can achieve nothing, fulfill nothing, without working. If you are poor—work. If you are rich—continue working. If you are burdened with seemingly unfair responsibilities—work. If you are happy, keep right on working. Idleness gives room for doubt and fears. If disappointments come—work. If your health is threatened—work. When faith falters—work. When dreams are shattered and hope seems dead—work. Work as if your life were in peril. It really is. No matter what ails you—work. Work faithfully—work with faith. Work is the greatest remedy available for mental and physical afflictions.

Work is not a curse, it is a blessing from God who calls man to rule the earth and transform it so that the divine work of creation may continue with man’s intelligence and effort.

The verb epichorego (add) has a colorful and fascinating history. In Greek drama the plays were put on by the combined effort of a poet (who wrote the script); the state (which provided the theater); and a wealthy individual called a choregos, who paid the expenses. This called for a generous but sometimes costly effort on his part. In Peter’s view, God has written in the blood of Jesus the captivating script for a Christian life; the world is the theater wherein it will be played out; but the believer must cooperate by expending his diligent efforts to make the script come alive in vivid display.

The idea of ‘diligence’ describes a determined zeal which marks a daily goal. It is what Jesus asks for in Matthew. 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” 

It begins with faith (pistis); everything goes back to that.  For Peter faith is the conviction that what Jesus Christ says is true and that we can commit ourselves to his promises and launch ourselves on his demands.  It is the unquestioning certainty that the way to happiness and peace and strength on earth and in heaven is to accept him at his word.

The first characteristic of the growing Christian has a uniqueness to it—the Christian is not instructed to supply faith. Faith is a given, something upon which the Christian builds. According to Peter, faith is given, for the readers of this epistle are those who “have received a faith of the same kind as ours” (verse 1).

Faith is something we have received, not something we are to supply—because faith is a gift from God (see Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:3-6; 2:8).

Faith is the beginning point of this search for excellence. Everywhere in the New Testament it marks the beginning of the Christian life (Acts 3:16, Romans. 3: 28).

Faith begins as saving faith and then becomes the faith without which it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6); whatever does not originate through faith is sin (Romans 14:23).

Our faith is based upon the revealed word of God (2 Peter 1:4; see Romans 10:8, 17). Our faith is tested, proven, and strengthened by the trials and adversity God allows to come into our life (1 Peter 1:6-7). Faith is not only the basis for belief but also the basis for our behavior (see Hebrews 11).

Our Lord Himself is the object and the source of our faith; Christ is also the model for our faith. It is easier to think of the Lord Jesus as the object of faith than to think of Him exercising faith. But His faith was exercised when He submitted to the will of the Father by taking on human flesh and suffering and dying at the hands of sinful men (1 Peter 2:23).

If you have not come to a personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you cannot possibly pursue the course Peter prescribes in our text. To enter into that “faith,” which is of the same kind as the apostles (verse 1a), you must know God through Jesus Christ and find the righteousness you desperately lack in none other than Jesus Christ (verse 1b). Knowing Him brings grace and peace (verse 2).

Only by His power are we granted everything necessary for life and godliness (verse 3). The basis of our salvation is the work of Christ, and the basis for our future hope is the promises of God. All we need to know about these is recorded in God’s Word (verse 4a).

Trusting in God’s provisions, as revealed in God’s Word, makes us partakers of the divine nature and delivers us from the corruption of fleshly lusts (verse 4b). Taking on the divine nature does not happen quickly; it happens by the process of sanctification (verses 5-11). While this sanctification is individual, it also takes place through the body of Christ, the church (Ephesians 4:11-16).

The process of sanctification is completed not in this life, but when we are with Him in glory (Philippians 3:8-14; 1 Peter 5:10; 2 Peter 3:13; 1 John 3:1-3).

[1] Jerome K. Jerome (1859–1927)

[2]MacArthur, J. J. 1997, c1997. The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.) . Word Pub.: Nashville

[3]MacArthur, J. J. 1997, c1997. The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.) . Word Pub.: Nashville

1 Comment

Posted by on August 29, 2022 in Christian graces


One response to “Make every effort…add to your faith 2 Peter 1:5

  1. Terry Davenport

    August 29, 2022 at 12:18 pm

    Very good . Thanks for sharing this.

    Sent from my iPad




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