Yesterday we looked at the first warning sign in Peter’s second letter that we cannot obtain godliness without truly knowing Christ in a relationship. But we’ve been promised that if we do walk with Him in faith, we have His divine power to live a godly life, having escaped the corruption in this sinful world. Today we see that it doesn’t come upon us immediately, we have to purposely seek it. “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jer 29:13)
“But also for this very reason” – to escape this worldly corruption by living a life in godliness by Jesus’s own power – “giving all diligence” – which is steady perseverance in effort, giving it our all, which results in careful, energetic, and persistent work. This is the second warning that we come across in this letter: In order to continue to escape “the corruption that is in the world through lust”, we must be steady in our perseverance of knowing Jesus Christ, because “lust” is “an intense worldly desire or craving”. We must daily seek out His Word and prayerfully meditate on it, while we humbly repent of our sins, big and small.
We are told to “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” (Prov 4:23) If we are not diligent to guard against falsehood, evil thoughts, and lustful desires, our enemy Satan is standing by ready to take advantage. “Diligence” implies an intentional action of guarding our hearts, rather than a passive acceptance of everything that enters. We are in a spiritual battle, and we can’t afford to be passive. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor 10:4-5).
God has given us all we need to live like Jesus, but now we must actually use those gifts. And that means work. Before we received Salvation, God’s gift of grace, we lacked both the ability and the desire to live in Jesus’s glory and goodness. Now that we have been empowered to do so, we must “make every effort” to add the following qualities to, or alongside, our faith. In other words, we must begin to live as if what we believe is really true.
So in steady perseverance, we’re told to keep adding Christlike characters to our faith in Christ. Taken together, this list of qualities describe the life of a Christian who is participating in God’s divine nature. As shown in this list, there is a logical order to these characteristics. Each one is a necessary requirement for the quality which follows. “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, 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 Pet 1:5-7)
By faith, we came to Christ. Now, with Christ’s power, we must work to add virtue or goodness to our faith, and to add knowledge to our goodness. This is a deeper understanding of our Lord, through His Word and prayer, which informs our goodness. Merely wanting to do good is not enough; we must know what good is by knowing God.
Next, we must add self–control. Without the ability to control ourselves, our knowledge of good, and the desire to do it, are both worthless. Self-control is the moment-by-moment restraint of our worldly urges. This is the ability to make the right choice, in those moments when temptation strikes us.
Then we must add perseverance. Perseverance is the ability to practice self–control over time. Our sprints of doing good turn into marathons. Our moment-by-moment, hour-by-hour, day-by-day choices eventually turn into lifestyles. Perseverance is the ability to maintain self-control, even when the pressure of temptation continues to attack us.
Next, we add godliness. This keeps our goodness from being merely human goodness. This is godly goodness, a moral excellence which reflects the nature of God Himself instead of the temporary, earth–bound “goodness” of men.
Next we must add brotherly kindness, or affection, alongside godliness. The idea is that we become motivated to do good for each other. This is supposed to come from a sense of connectedness, usually experienced in the closest of families. Peter calls us to “make every effort” to develop a familial affection for each other so that we want to do good for one another (Gal 6:10).
Then, finally, we come to the pinnacle of these qualities: love. God is love, and the goodness of Jesus was motivated both by His love for the Father and His love for us. Paul’s term for “love” here comes from the Greek root word agape, which refers to a selfless, sacrificial concern for the good of others. It makes sense, then, that our ultimate reason to do good is the same self–sacrificing love that Christ showed for us. “For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet 1:8)
It is possible for a Christian to be fully equipped for a meaningful life of Christlike goodness, and yet to squander that opportunity; to instead choose to be ineffective and unproductive with this precious promise. How can a Christian avoid leaving that ability unused, pursuing lesser things because they were easier or more immediately attractive? Peter says that seeking the qualities he listed in the previous verses, and to have them growing in us, is the way to be effective and productive as people who know the Lord. This isn’t just going to happen to us while we’re sleeping, or not paying attention. Peter has commanded us to go to work, to “make every effort” to diligently add these qualities alongside the faith we possess. We aren’t to rest on our laurels, but instead we are to continuously seek godliness.