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.
The goal Simon Peter wants his audience to experience is “the knowledge of Jesus Christ” (vs. 8). I mentioned previously that this is a comprehensive knowledge from building these 7 disciplines in our lives. The believer may struggle initially if they try to build excellence in their lives by their own strength. Also, the first attempts may not be perfect, but what the believer will find by walking with Christ, is that He will guide them to excellence in the Spirit. These disciplines are by faith and Christ will teach the believer aspects about themselves and also, about Himself. Therefore, the full experiential knowledge (epiginosko-vss. 3,8) is attained by walking with Christ to become more like Him.
Verse 8 also tells us the default nature of a believer is bareness without these qualities. These disciplines are exercised by faith and upon faith (vs. 5). Grace and peace will be dispensed by God as the believer deploys the disciplines in their lives (vs. 2). Also, those things necessary for life and godliness arrive with this fuller knowledge of Jesus Christ (vss. 3, 8).
The New Covenant promised to Israel had as its most distinguishing feature that all individuals would “know” the Lord (see Jer. 31.31-34). This means that all under (or in) The New Covenant would “know” the Lord intimately in their hearts. The Lord would now be “in” them directing and teaching His chosen ones through a new, fuller relationship provided by Christ’s sacrifice for our sins and conquering death through His resurrection. The New Covenant was promised to Israel and so it was fulfilled to Israel in that Christ fulfilled the Passover and 50 days later (Pentecost) sent The Spirit fulfilling the feast of Shavuot (weeks–7 weeks and 1 day). The embryonic church was all Jewish and they were the ones with whom The New Covenant was made. Thus, the New Covenant was made with The House of Israel and the house of Judah (Jer. 31.31). It is also inclusive to the gentiles according to promises such as Isaiah 49.6 (and elsewhere).
As I mentioned, these disciplines were to be added to the faith we have received (vss. 1,5). Therefore, after believing in Christ, as an act of faith, Peter urges us to add these qualities to our lives as a foundation for fuller understanding Christ through The Spirit. These qualities will ensure that we do not quench or grieve The Spirit.
The first of these disciplines then is virtue (some translators render arete as goodness, excellence). Generally speaking, translators have struggled to define the term as it relates to the recipients to whom Peter was writing. Originally, the term appears in ancient Greek as what characterized the Olympic contestants: physical prowess. The Greek Games eventually included poetic readings and also the term arete referred to the qualities of speaking as well. By first century usage the term is understood to connote an ‘all-around excellence.’ In vs. 3 the term is used of God in that He has called the believers either to or by this excellence (the preposition’s meaning is governed by context and so an interpretive choice needs to be made). To me it seems “to” is the better choice if the goal were seen in an idealistic sense. Christians will not be able to have complete excellence but see it as something to aspire towards. For the most part, however, either rendering of the preposition hardly makes a difference. God has inherent excellence by which He calls us or He calls us to imitation of Himself.
In connection with faith and excellence Christians are to add “knowledge” (gnosin). This “knowledge” doesn’t have to be bible knowledge necessarily since in a very real sense: ‘all truth is God’s truth.’ Many areas of study will either directly indicate God’s truth or support it indirectly. However, bible knowledge is necessary regardless of what other knowledge is gained as indicated by vs. 19: “we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” The study of the scriptures is assumed by the writers of the N.T. since they quote so much of the previous given revelation contained in the O.T.
The next discipline is self-control which Peter connects with knowledge, and, as itself, is connected with arete. Here, I wish to point out that while the disciplines are all interconnected, they are added to our faith (vs. 5) therefore they are performed in faith. Noting their progressive nature, the disciplines seem more defined as they are listed. While excellence is added to faith, it needs some knowledge to perform cogently. Overall excellence is directed by knowledge. Knowledge though may overextend itself if not corralled by self control. Self control may give up without perseverance. Perseverance may devolve into stubbornness without true godliness refining the Christian along biblical ways. Godliness can be cold if it is merely an exercise without a horizontal dimension of brotherly kindness toward others. Brotherly affection will remain earth-bound if another quality is not present: love.
Simon Peter tells his readers that great promises toward Christians will enable them to experience the divine nature and so not be mired in things which corrupt: inordinate desire (vs. 4). These disciplines continually performed and perfected contain two promises: 1. Will never stumble into sin (vs. 10), and 2. A rich entrance provided into the eternal kingdom (vs. 11).