I am enjoying my study of the New Testament. I appreciate the individual writing style of each of the apostles, and I am quite fond of the Apostle Peter. I found the principle that I would like to discuss today in his writings (2 Peter 1:4-7).
4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
5 And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
Peter tells us in these verses that we must gain these Christlike attributes in order to become like Christ or to partake of the “divine nature.” As I read the above characteristics, I wondered if Peter wrote them in a specific order. I know that faith, the first principle that Peter lists, is the first principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I also know that charity, the last principle written by Peter, is the true love of Christ and what we must possess in order to return to His presence. However, I do not know the order of the remaining attributes, so I decided to learn a little more about them and went to the Bible Dictionary.
The first principle of the gospel is faith in Jesus Christ. It is defined in the scriptures as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). If we have faith, we “have hope for things which are not seen, which are true” (Alma 32:21). We do not receive any witness of our faith “until after the trial of [our] faith” (Ether 12:6). So faith is to hope for things that are true but not seen, and the witness of faith does not come until after the trial of faith is over.
I was surprised when I did not find virtue in the Bible Dictionary, but I found this idea online. A person who has virtue “displays wisdom, courage, kindness, good manners, courtesy, modesty, generosity, and self-control in their life.” He also “perform[s] good acts” and gives “the best of himself.” So the principle of virtue covers a lot of different behaviors and must come after faith in order.
I did find knowledge in the Bible Dictionary and learned that knowledge is “one of the attributes of God. I also learned that “Knowledge of divine and spiritual things is absolutely essential for one’s salvation.... Knowledge is not obtained all at once, even by revelation, but line upon line, precept upon precept.” We know that knowledge is essential for salvation and that we cannot gain it all at once. This means that the pursuit of knowledge must be a lifelong effort.
I did not find temperance in the Bible Dictionary, but I found this understanding online. Temperance means to be the master of our own desires and passions and to be in control of our own behavior, including how much we eat or drink. I once asked a stake president why obedience to the Word of Wisdom was so important. He answered that we cannot listen to and be obedient to the Holy Spirit if we are addicted to harmful substances. So we need to have the knowledge of what is right and wrong and then we must be obedient to that knowledge in our words and actions.
The next principle is patience, for which I again went online for this definition. Patience is “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” Its synonyms are: “forbearance, tolerance, restraint, self-restraint, stoicism.” So as we gain knowledge and practice temperance, we must also practice patience.
This brings us to godliness. Again I went online to find this definition: “the quality or state of being spiritually pure or virtuous.” Synonyms are: “blessedness, devoutness, holiness, piety, piousness, sainthood, saintliness, sainthood, sanctity.” It makes sense that godliness follows temperance and patience because it seems to be the next step to take towards charity.
The next principle is brotherly kindness. I again checked the Bible Dictionary before going online. I actually had a difficult time finding a simple definition of brotherly kindness because it appears to be the same as brotherly love. “Brotherly love in the biblical sense is an extension of the natural affection associated with near kin, toward the greater community of fellow believers, that goes beyond the mere duty … to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” It appears that it is brotherly kindness that helps us accept everyone into the family of God as spiritual brothers and sisters.
This brings us to charity, the last of the attributes listed by Peter. I found this definition in the Bible Dictionary: “The highest, noblest, strongest kind of love, not merely affection; the pure love of Christ. It is never used to denote alms or deeds or benevolence, although it may be a prompting motive.” This is the highest Christlike characteristic that is known.
From the above definitions, it appears that Peter listed the attributes of faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity in a specific order and on purpose. He starts with faith, the first principle of the gospel, and takes us up the steps of development until we reach charity.