“[Because of the Divine power we now possess] make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.”
—2 Peter 1:5-7 (TNIV).
The voyage of life, the rolling, cascading journey, has about it a purpose. Yet many live without purpose and certainly without front-of-mind goals that are visible to the outside world by virtue of that thing called “growth.”
I’ve had seasons of life when I felt the steepness of the growth curve was essentially harsh and unfair—a wishing that it would cease immediately. That type of enforced growth that God “blesses” us with is not the growth I’m referring to. The pertinent growth is that of a disciple’s chosen path; a destiny of willing and obedient development.
This is where the passage out of Second Peter comes in. It’s an urgent plea from the Rock to leave no stone unturned in our vibrant journey toward attaining moral excellence. And when we look a little closer we find there’s a process of exercising one virtue in the development of another, and so forth—the Amplified version reveals this.
Faith to Goodness
All it takes to believe is faith. Yet, to outsiders that’s beside the point. They want to know, and more—see, the difference believing in Christ actually makes. Goodness (or moral excellence) is the basic activity of right dealing with people—it’s at once noticeable in how we treat others and ourselves. Anyone can say they have faith, but it’s others who notice goodness.
Goodness to Knowledge
Once we’ve the ability of appropriate concern and it directs us toward active good, we must then build upon our knowledge. It’s critical the order here. Many skip goodness and go on in their pride toward knowledge. Let’s put it this way; any dodo can learn information—it’s how it’s applied that’s the key!
Once we’ve appropriately come to know goodness, and only then, we are then in a position to invest in our education relating to learning of the Lord Jesus: his purpose, life, ministry—his Passion, resurrection and now position at the right hand of the Father, and all things besides. Theology is a vast, magnificent topic.
Knowledge to Self-Control
Strangely, it’s knowledge of the faith and of theology that effectively informs matters of further moral development. As we engage the mind we kick start a process of research and enquiry and the patterns of thinking then begin to work in some unexpected, yet delightful, ways.
Knowledge is not the same as intellect. Good knowledge will lead us to self-control; it’s moral knowledge we’re talking about, not simply information. That’s an important distinction to make.
Self-Control to Perseverance
Herein lays the “hope” connection. We only persevere when there’s the hope of something good before us. Both self-control and perseverance have about them a longsuffering patience of waiting—the ability and the tenacity to wait.
Perseverance is going through to the bitter end; it’s the very essence of moral courage. And when effected correctly, those persevering do so out of a peaceful, accepting base, not expecting things to turn for the better. They wait for the results, patiently.
Perseverance to Godliness
What do all these virtues (thus far) lead to? The answer is godliness: “a very practical awareness of God in every aspect of life.” No matter our present-day circumstances, we have over us this cloak of godliness that pervades our operations and our being.
Godliness to Mutual Affection (or Brotherly Kindness)
The outworking of godliness is a great many things, but principally it’s the desire, even longing, to live for others. Godliness, of its own, does not produce in us good works to others; we must add the effort of going into people’s lives in productive, useful ways. We’re to roundly treat entire humanity with the love of a brother or sister.
Mutual Affection to Love
The summum bonum, love. This is the supreme good. It’s an unconditional love for all people. It’s a more intense form of love than the former love; Greek: philadelphia (brotherly love). It’s the love of the Lord Jesus, pure and simple. It’s passionate love that would give of itself for another:
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
—John 15:12-13 (TNIV).
Spiritual growth for the spiritual person should be the number one goal to life. It seems a gross waste to be saved only to never ‘go on’ from those infantile days, and never to walk in mature faith as seen in our relationships with God and others.
© S. J. Wickham, 2009.
 E. M. B. Green, 2 Peter and Jude - Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press/Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), p. 79. Cited in Dick Lucas & Christopher Green, 2 Peter & Jude - The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1995), p. 60.