For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. (2Pe 1:5-7)
For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2Pe 1:8)
For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. (2Pe 1:9)
Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. (2Pe 1:12)
I have been chewing over this passage, and the eight qualities which the apostle Peter places such a high value on.
Faith (pistis): Our confident trust in the nature of God and his revealed word. This is the foundation for our relationship with God. Without faith it is impossible to please God.
Virtue (arete): Moral excellence in action. Our faith is to have an effect on the way we live. We outwork our faith by reflecting the virtuous nature of our heavenly father and dealing with anything that tarnishes that reflection.
Knowledge (gnosis): Our intellectual grasp of the things of God. God does not want our brains to be disengaged. The outworking of our faith is to produce knowledge. The order is significant though, this is not some abstract ivory tower knowledge, nor even is it knowledge that prompts us to outwork our faith. It is knowledge that we only get once we are already doing what God has asked. We don't understand in order to obey - we obey in order to understand!
Self-control (egkrateia): Mastery over our physical appetites and desires. The flesh is not intrinsically evil (this was a heresy based on a false form of gnosis!) However the flesh is not to rule us, we are to rule over it - to master and subdue its appetites. Lack of self-control has been the ruin of many a man. So those who have knowledge and understanding will make every effort to add to their knowledge self-control. Fasting is one way (both a discipline and a devotion) we have to master the appetites of the flesh.
Steadfastness (hypomone): Resolute determined pursuit of an end, unswayed by trials, sufferings or setbacks. This is a quality of the mature Christian, who sets his course by what he has seen in God by faith, and not by what he sees in his circumstances. It comes from self-control because that is how we train ourselves to value the spiritual above the carnal.
Godliness (eusebia): Reverence and devotion towards God. It may seem strange that this quality is not earlier on, but it is our perseverance that proves our faith genuine. It is through persevering that we show in action and not just words that we have laid our lives on the altar as an acceptable act of worship.
Brotherly affection (philadelphia): The love that exists within a family. God's community is to be marked by this expression of family, and not by religious observances or doctrinal statements. But this is a love that is born from godliness - it is God who draws us together. Any other source that is attempted to try and recreate this atmosphere and environment will surely fail.
Love (agape): The ultimate expression of proactive selfless love that characterises God himself. Agape is the ultimate quality, the one which all the other qualities lead us towards. And as Paul says so clearly in his letter to the Corinthians, if we fail to lay hold of agape, all of our other activities are in vain.
May we grasp these qualities in increasing measure that we may be effective and fruitful in our knowledge of Jesus Christ.