Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 5, 1964
NUMBER 26, PAGE 3,10b,12b

Add To Your Faith

Gordon Wilson

"And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity" (2 Peter 5-7).

Please notice that the first trait that we are to develop as Christians is virtue. What is virtue, and how can we obtain it? There are several meanings attached to the word virtue, among them: resolution, heroism, courage, moral goodness. Taking all of these together, along with the exhibitions of virtue found in the Bible, we may conclude that we are to have a determination and a desire to achieve righteousness; to want to do right.

It is a marked characteristic of the age in which we live that most people do not care whether they are right or wrong in what they do, The majority seem to be interested only in the gratification of their own interests and the fulfillment of their own wicked desires.

Contrast this attitude with that of a sincere, devoted, consecrated Christian. The true Christian wants above all else to be right in what he does, because he wants to go to heaven. The person who has developed virtue has within his heart a great longing to reach heaven's shores after life here is over. This means more to him than physical comfort, than family or friends. Those who know him are impressed with the fact that his life means little to him except as a time to prepare himself for the land beyond this vale of tears. This is the virtuous man.

Another of the traits of a Christian's character is knowledge. It is well to emphasize the importance of knowledge. Jesus said, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Jehovah declared, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee." The Holy Spirit through Peter commanded, "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."

Reference is not made here, of course, to worldly knowledge or human wisdom. These are of little importance to the Christian. It is the knowledge of God that we ought to be seeking. I am afraid that the average member of the church is not as interested as he ought to be in gaining knowledge of the Lord. Most are content to receive whatever small amount of knowledge may rub off on them from the sermon on Sunday.

There was a time, not very many years ago, when members of the church of Christ were respected for their Bible knowledge. Very few sectarians cared to encounter a Christian in discussion because of the vast amount of scripture which would be hurled at them. But now it is often the case that when a sinner asks a member of the Lord's body what to do to be saved, he must run to Johnson's commentary to search for the answer.

There is only one way to gain the right kind of knowledge and that is through study, study, study. Christ said, "Search the scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." Paul to Timothy wrote, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." Study is necessary for three things as specified: to be approved of God; to be a good workman; and to rightly divide the word. Study is essential to gaining knowledge, and knowledge is essential to full development as a child of God.

Temperance is sometimes rendered self-control, and certainly this rendering is correct. Self-control is a trait that must be added by every Christian. One who does not control himself is either controlled by another or is out of control.

In developing self-control or temperance, we should first learn to control our thoughts. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." Jesus taught that what a man says and what he does proceeds from what he thinks. Sometimes people will object that they cannot help what they think, or that they cannot prevent evil thoughts from passing through their minds. I once had a Bible teacher who said, "You can't keep the birds from flying over your house but you can keep them from building a nest there." Of course, the surest way to avoid the wrong kind of thinking is to fill your mind with the right kind of thought, (Philippians 4:4).

Second, in learning temperance we should learn to control the tongue. James has a great deal to say about the importance of bringing the tongue into subjection. "If any man among you seemeth to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain" (James 1:26). Words cannot be recalled, and injuries inflicted by an unruly tongue can seldom be healed.

Third, self-control demands that we learn to control the temper. A person who grows angry in discussion shows that he has not yet learned the grace of Christianity. Paul commanded that all anger be put away (Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8). Perhaps one of the good things about modern education is that children learn how to count to ten!

In the last place, though not the least, temperance demands that we learn to control the body. Every Christian should read Matthew 5:27-30. Here Jesus teaches against adultery and says that if a member of the body causes us to offend we should cut off the offence. It is better to be an eunuch for the kingdom of heaven's sake than to be lost with all of our sinful passions in hell. When we are able to control our thoughts, our tongue, our temper, and our body, we shall have learned temperance.

Next let us consider patience. It is altogether possible that many do not know what is contemplated in the word patience, and it is a fact that but few have fully gained this trait of a Christian's character.

Patience simply means steadfastness or endurance. We are reminded of the patience of Job: "Behold we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job . . ." (James 5:11). Job was a man who had lost his children, his cattle, and his servants. His crops had withered; his blood was so poisoned that he was covered with eruptions from the top of his head to the soles of his feet; his wife gave him no comfort, and his friends called him a sinner. Yet, even while Job was in a rage from suffering, he said of God, "Though he slay me yet will I trust him."

Job's statement is the key to patience. He trusted God always. If we have sufficient faith or confidence in the Lord we will be steadfast in our devotion to Him. It is only when we begin to doubt Him that we turn aside. Job knew that he was in the hands of God and so was patient. It is perhaps not too difficult to trust God when everything is going well and we can see on every hand manifestations of His grace. But when "luck is down," amidst the adversities of life, our patience is truly tried.

Jesus said, "He that endureth to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 10:22). Paul wrote, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing" (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Godliness is popularly thought to mean "God-likeness." It is true that the Christian is to cultivate the likeness of God in his life, but it is not possible to literally become like God. Probably the word godliness does not primarily mean God-likeness. Certainly the Greek word, eusebeia, has no such meaning. The scriptural meaning of the word is piety or reverence.

A lack of godliness is demonstrated when we see professed Christians making light of and joking about the commandments of God. Denominationalists are ungodly when they contemptuously refer to members of the Lord's church as "water-soaked", etc. because we emphasize the place of baptism in the plan of salvation.

Children of God should be pious and reverent in our daily activities. No blasphemous thought should cross our minds, and no sacrilegious word should escape our lips. Respect for the Lord and for things which are holy should be demonstrated in everything we do. "...denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world."

Peter lists brotherly kindness as a grace to be added by Christians. In Jesus Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither male nor female, neither bond nor free. We are simply brethren in the church. As brethren we ought to love one another and to treat one another with the utmost kindness.

In our physical families we have brothers and sisters and we are taught to love them. No matter what our fleshly brothers do we are ready to defend and comfort them. Of course, occasionally a brother will become a black sheep to a family and will have to be cut off from their association and outward affections. But even in such a case we are ready to forgive at the first sign of reformation.

So ought it be in the church. We have a spiritual kinship with other Christians which ought to bind us closer together in love than the strongest of physical ties. If a brother in Christ stumbles we will reach out our hand to help him recover. If one strays and becomes a disgrace to the family of God we will do everything possible to bring him to repentance and will be quick to forgive.

Brotherly kindness prohibits harsh judgment. I know that sometimes a brother will act in a way that I do not understand to be right, but rather than being too quick to condemn, I should give every benefit of the doubt. "See that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently."

The word charity today is usually employed to refer to aid to indigents; thus one who is an "object of charity." However, the word in the Bible means love. Hence the proper object of our charity is that which we should love.

God is to be the first object of our love because He first loved us and demonstrated His love in sending His Son to provide salvation (John 3:18). Christ is the object of our love because He died for us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8-8). We have love for the truth because we are saved by it (2 Thess. 2:10). We are not to love the world, neither the things of the world (I John 2:15).

In order to what charity does, it would be worthwhile to read the 13th chapter of I Corinthians. Here we learn that love: suffers long, is kind, rejoices in the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, and now abides as the greatest of all gifts. We also learn that love does not: envy, vaunt itself, become puffed up, behave itself unseemingly, become easily provoked, think evil, rejoice in iniquity; and love never fails.

All of this is sufficient to show that charity is a powerful emotion and worthy of being cultivated by the Christian.

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