The Seven Christian Disciplines: 2 Peter 1. 5-15 (Part One)

2 Peter 1.5-7

For this reason expend all efforts to supplement to your faith excellence; then, to excellence, knowledge; then, to knowledge, self control; then, to self control, endurance; then, to endurance, godliness; then, to godliness, human kindness; then, to human kindness, love.

These qualities or disciplines that Simon Peter lists are regarded as crucially important to the early Christians since he wants to repeatedly remind his readers of their deployment in in their lives (vss. 12-13). These followers of Christ already knew the disciplines, but Peter thought they were so important as to continually remind his audience of them and to even record them for posterity before his own prophesied death (vss. 14-15). These qualities then form very important instruction for The Church of Jesus since they were given by an Apostle of Christ, and as such have received completed instruction (John 16.12-13) and are placed first in the Universal Church (1 Cor. 12.28).

Conceptually, how should these exercises or disciplines be viewed in regard to other instructions in the bible? In analyzing The Book of Proverbs it is easy to recognize the work as instruction for godly living to someone operating in the context of a redeemed community yet exposed to dangers and temptations. Solomon’s Book (divinely inspired) deals with relating horizontally among others whereas The Mosaic Law dealt primarily about the vertical relationship between a person and God (yes, of course, societal and other benefits accrued from The Mosaic Law as well). The Book of Proverbs helps believers during their time on earth to navigate their way successfully. The proverbs instructs on how to build character or discipline oneself to interact with others while on sinful earth. Neither Solomon’s Proverbs or Peter’s list of disciplines promise any direct reward for keeping them. Rather they (the disciplines) function as preparatory for other blessings.  The Book of Proverbs and the list of disciplines in Peter provide ‘a ground’ or a basis of continually living successfully on earth (2Pe.1.10: “you will never stumble”).

I propose that these qualities in 2 Peter resemble the instructions given in the O.T. book of Proverbs. In Pr. 1.2 a summary statement appears at the beginning of Solomon’s work indicating purpose: “to know wisdom and instruction” this idea of knowing (lada’at) speaks of realizing, perceiving, personal internalization according to Bruce Waltke’s study of The Book of Proverbs. This “experiencing of wisdom” that Solomon calls his listeners to in 1.2 is, in essence, what Peter says the disciplines he lists accomplishes by the term epignosko (knowledge) of Jesus Christ in 2Pet. 1.8. This is a fuller knowledge than in 1.5 since that term “knowledge” (gnosin) is distinguished as preparatory and in part toward the knowledge (epignosko) of Jesus Christ. All the elements Peter lists completes this knowledge so it seems in context that epignosko  indicates a fuller orbed  realization or an experiencing of the spiritual wisdom that is in Christ.

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