8 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. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. – 2 Peter 1:8-11 ESV
Virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. Seven characteristics that should mark the life of each and every child of God. They reflect what Peter means when he says, “as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:15 ESV). These are character qualities found in the life of Jesus and, as the author of Hebrews puts it, “the Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God” (Hebrews 1:3 NLT). To be holy as God is holy, is to reflect His nature, just as Jesus did. It is to live a life that is set apart and distinctly different from all those who don’t know Him, who don’t have His Spirit living within them. These seven qualities are Spirit-induced and empowered, not man-made and self-produced. But if someone has placed his faith in Christ, these qualities should be a part of his life. That is why Peter says, “if these qualities are yours and are increasing” (2 Peter 1:8 ESV). He is not suggesting that his readers do not have these qualities. He is simply separating those who do from those who don’t. Peter knew there were those in his audience who had failed to supplement their faith with these virtues. Some of them were not even believers. They had never placed their faith in Christ. Their lives would not be marked by these characteristics, because they are essentially spiritual in nature.
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. – 1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV
So, Peter is addressing believers, reminding them that these qualities are theirs and should be increasing. That is to be the norm. That is what God intended. And their very presence in a believer’s life, and that believer’s determination to see these constantly added and increased will result in an extremely positive outcome: “they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8 ESV). The Greek word Peter uses that is translated “ineffective” is argos, and it refers to someone who is lazy, shunning their responsibilities or assigned duties. The Greek word for “unfruitful” is akarpos, and it refers to a tree that is not yielding fruit as it should. Like a barren tree, the believer whose life lacks the “fruit” of these seven qualities, is abnormal and unnatural. His life is not as God intended. It doesn’t take a high IQ to figure out that the opposites of these two negative words would be diligence and fruitfulness. But notice what Peter states is to be our focus: the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The seven characteristics Peter has outlined are to be a means to an end, a very specific end. As the NET Bible puts it: “they will keep you from becoming ineffective and unproductive in your pursuit of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ more intimately” (2 Peter 1:8 NET). That is the end game, the final goal, an intimate knowledge of Christ. And we get there, Peter suggests, by diligently adding these seven virtues to our life. When we supplement our faith in Christ with the attitudes of Christ, we grow to know Him better. We grow in our understanding of who He was and how He has called us to live. Because we can add these seven virtues only with the help of the Holy Spirit, we become increasingly more dependent upon Him. And it is He who makes Christ known to us. Jesus told His disciples regarding the Holy Spirit, “he will bear witness about me” (John 15:26 ESV). He also told them, “he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13 ESV) and “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14 ESV).
So, as we diligently add these virtues to our lives, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we grow in our knowledge of Christ. We become more like Him. We begin to see life the way He does. And our lives begin to take on His very same character and truly become Christians, not just in name, but in action and attitude.
But Peter knows that there are believers in his audience whose lives are not marked by these seven attributes. Which is why he states, “For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins” (2 Peter 1:9 ESV). Think about it. A believer who lacks virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love, is missing the whole point behind being a believer. He is living as if he was still enslaved to sin and incapable of exhibiting Christ-likeness. He is nearsighted, living with a stunted perspective on life, that never allows him to see his true identity as a child of God. He forgets that he has been chosen by God. He can’t see that he has been set apart for God’s glory and purposes. His ability to see that he is a new creation and has a new capacity to live out his faith in everyday life is cloudy and lacks focus. And he comes across as lazy and unfruitful.
Which is why Peter so strongly admonishes his readers: “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election” (2 Peter 1:10 ESV). He encourages them to get busy, to make every effort to prove their new identity in Christ by purposefully and diligently adding these seven virtues to their faith. Their presence proves our calling. They give outward evidence of our new nature and our status as sons and daughters of God. Peter promises, “if you practice these qualities you will never fall” (2 Peter 1:10 ESV). Peter is not suggesting that it is our practice of these seven virtues that keeps us saved. No, our eternal salvation has been secured by God’s grace through His Son’s death on the cross. We don’t save ourselves and we don’t keep ourselves saved by doing good works. Peter made this clear in his first letter.
…he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time… – 1 Peter 1:3-5 ESV
What Peter is trying to say is that when you “make every effort to supplement your faith” (2 Peter 1:5 ESV) with these seven character qualities, you give evidence of your new life in Christ. This evidence is not for your benefit. In other words, it isn’t intended to prove to you that you are saved, but it does reveal to the lost world around you that faith in Christ is truly life-changing. It is marked by diligent, obedient effort and fruitfulness. Jesus spoke of this very thing.
“Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5 ESV
And He went on to say:
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” – John 15:8 ESV
Those who are believers in Christ are to live lives of fruitfulness. They are to be marked by these seven characteristics that emulate the very life of Christ. And their lives will have an impact on all those around them, both saved and unsaved. And we do so with the confident assurance that our eternity has bee permanently secured for us by Christ.
For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. – 2 Peter 1:11 ESV
Our reward is in the life to come We live in this life in order to obey and portray Christ to a lost and dying world. We will face rejection and persecution for our efforts, just as He did. But we are willing to endure the suffering because we anticipate the reward to come.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.