For this reason make all effort to supplement your faith with excellence, and to excellence, knowledge, and to knowledge, self control, and to self control, perseverance, and to perseverance, godliness, and to godliness, brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness, love. If you increasing practice these, they will not leave you idle or fruitless in the [personal] knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these is blind or short sighted and has forgotten he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, rather, my family, give all diligence to settle your calling and election. For if you practice theses [disciplines], you will never ever stumble. For accordingly your entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly furnished. Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these[spiritual goals] though you know and truly have them. I esteem it fitting while still in this tent to to awake your recollection of them knowing that the laying aside of my tent is at hand as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. Also, I will now be diligent to provide for your remembrance of these [disciplines] after my exodus. (2Pe. 1.5-15)
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 the term arete referred to the qualities of oratory as well. By First Century usage the term is understood to connote an ‘all-around excellence.’
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. 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, which 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.
Verse 8 also tells us the default nature of a believer is bareness without these qualities. The Greek construction is very indirect which makes its message all the more poignant. Fruitfulness in God’s Kingdom is produced through the Spirit. Much of our walk of faith should be directed by the goals Peter sets out for us. He frames the intended Christian life as spiritual development in or with faith. Paul notes a similar progression in the Christian walk in Rom. 5.3-4: Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Yes, its different in many respects, but also similar, such as acting from faith by rejoicing in suffering. Discipleship is a death where a cross is taken up for another: Christ.
Peter warns those who lack these qualities since the results are blindness and shortsightedness. The perennial question often arises: which one? It’s either blindness or nearsightedness, it can’t be both! Well, actually, it can. On some issues we can be merely shortsighted while completely blind on others. I am not sure if this is the final answer to the conundrum or if the apostle meant partial blindness.
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 fully furnished entrance provided into the eternal kingdom (vs. 11).
The qualities or disciplines that Simon Peter lists are regarded as crucially important to the early Christians since he eagerly desires to remind his readers of their deployment 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 diligently record them for posterity before his own prophesied death (vss. 14-15).