In 2Peter 1:5-7 Peter points to seven things we need to add to our new life, and they are virtue, knowledge, self control, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. But, what is meant by these things, and how are they added to our new life? According to 2Peter 1:5, we are to supply these things “in your faith”, that is, referring back to the faith mentioned in 2Peter 1:1, “in faith add…” In other words, using the faith you have been given (2Peter 1:1) supply or add such and such to the ‘new life’ you have been given (cf. 2Peter 1:3). The ‘adding’ is the part we play in partaking of divine nature. We have been empowered with all things (2Peter 1:3) pertaining to ‘life’ (our new life which is Christ in us – Colossians 3:4) and ‘godliness’ (God manifest in flesh – i.e. the Gospel or the “knowledge of God, even Jesus our Lord” – 2Peter 1:1-3; cf. 1Timothy 3:16). To these things add…
In this study we will concern ourselves with the first four of these seven characteristics we need to add to our life in Christ. These four operate on our inner life or our heart and our will as opposed to how others see us. The first of these, virtue (G703) concerns excellence. In 2Peter 1:3 Peter mentioned God’s virtue (G703), but in 2Peter 1:5 it is man’s virtue. In 2Peter 1:3 God acted out of the excellence of his character to give us all things, not because we deserved his gifts, but because of his own good name—because he promised to do so. In the Septuagint this same Greek word is used of God’s glory at Habakkuk 3:3, and that of the Messiah’s in Zechariah 6:13. In Isaiah 42:8 the same Greek word is used of God not permitting idols to share in his praises. Rather Isaiah 42:12; 43:21 and 63:7 show men are to speak of the praises of God. In fact, Isaiah 43:21 tells us that God formed us especially to do that. In 2Peter 1:5 Peter tells us to eagerly add what might be termed boldness in mentioning God’s praises or boldness to tell others why God is praiseworthy. In other words the believer needs to cultivate an inner boldness to extol God.
Next, Peter says the believer needs to supply knowledge (G1108, gnosis) This is not the same Greek word Peter used in 2Peter 1:2, 3 and 8. There, it is epignosis (G1922), which Thayer defines as ‘precise or correct knowledge.’ The Septuagint uses epignosis in Proverbs 2:5 to say that, if one sought understanding and knowledge like one searched for hidden treasure, he would find the epignosis (i.e. the precise or correct knowledge) of God.
In Hosea 4:6 the Septuagint claims the people have no knowledge (gnosis – G1108), because they pushed aside the precise or correct knowledge (epignosis – G1922) of God. The knowledge (gnosis) of God is too great to fully comprehend (Romans 11:33), but Christ enriches the knowledge (gnosis) of the believer (1Corinthians 1:5), so that he is able to comprehend the things of God (1Corinthians 2:10-13). Those who don’t have the Spirit of God are unable to understand spiritual matters (1Corinthians 2:14), and not only so, but they even seek to take away the key to knowledge (gnosis) by forbidding others to believe (cf. Luke 11:52; Matthew 23:13).
On the other hand, all things the believer might value in this world, but were lost in favor of gaining knowledge (gnosis) of Christ, is counted as waste one would have thrown to the dogs (Philippians 3:8). Gnosis, as used by Peter in 2Peter 1:5-6, seems to be that knowledge of Christ that we can acquire out of the Gospel, which is the certain knowledge (epignosis) of Christ. The one is knowledge I have gained, while the other is hidden in Christ, himself (Colossians 2:2-3), and unsearchable in magnitude (Ephesians 3:8). Therefore, Peter tells the believer to eagerly and with boldness seek to increase in the knowledge (G1108) of God.
The third characteristic Peter tells the believer he needs to supply in his walk in Christ is temperance (G1466). Temperance or self control is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23) but it is also something which can be preached or taught (Acts 24:25). It is found in 4Maccabees 5:34 as a synonym for the Law: “I will not belie thee, O law, my instructor! or forsake thee, O beloved self-control!” For the believer, however, Christ is set up as Image to which he desires to be conformed (2Corinthians 3:18). Therefore, as we with boldness increase our knowledge of Christ, we need to add temperance or our effort to submit ourselves to our acquired knowledge by conforming to that Image of Christ that we have come to understand (WWJD).
Peter’s final inner characteristic that the believer needs to add in faith to his life in Christ is patience (G5281). Patience is needed in that, after we have done the will of God, we might receive what God promised (Hebrews 10:36). Thayer defines patience as that characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose. 4Maccabees uses this same Greek word to praise the endurance of the Jews during their war with Antiochus Epiphanies, saying it was endurance (G5281) not might that won them the victory (4Maccabees 1:11). Moreover, even the tyrant noted the endurance of the Jews, pointing it out as an example to his own soldiers.
Paul also uses this Greek word to say that believers “glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation works patience, and patience experience, and experience hope” (Romans 5:3-4). So that, “if we hope for what we don’t see, we with patience wait for it” (Romans 8:25). Of course, this idea fits very well into Peter’s argument, assuring his readers of the eventual reward of Christ’s judgment on their behalf. Therefore, if they boldly extol the praiseworthiness of God in the Gospel of Christ, continually seeking to model Jesus’ own behavior in the face of trials, then in their endurance they will reap their reward at the coming of Christ.