Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

Index by Subject

The Christian Graces

The second epistle of Peter, chapter 1, lists a group of attributes which each Christian should seek to add to his character. In verses 5-7, Peter wrote, “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.”

The context indicates that the Christian life is one of growth. The individual who becomes a Christian can rightly be said to be a “babe” (cf. 1 Peter 2:2). He is to “desire the pure milk of the word” so that he may “grow thereby, if indeed [he has] tasted that the Lord is gracious.” (vs. 2-3). An aspect of this growth is the diligent addition to the Christian’s faith of the graces mentioned in 2 Peter 1:5-7: virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love.

Such Growth Makes the Christian Fruitful

In verse 8 of the passage, Peter wrote, “For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Of course, the opposite is true. If these graces are not incorporated into the Christian’s character, he will be unfruitful and barren. This is why “all diligence” (cf. vs. 5) must be given to this work.

Our Lord stated in John 15, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away; and every branch that bears fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (vs. 1-2). Verse 9 of our text states, “For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.” It should be obvious from these passages that God does not consider this work to be optional. These are graces we must add to our lives.

In contrast, note the benefits of such additions. As already noted, it helps us to be fruitful. But, such fruitfulness, as stated in verses 10-11, keeps us from stumbling as well. And, as a result, “an entrance will be supplied to [us] abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

How Do We Grow?

The simple answer is, as stated in the text, by “adding” these graces to our character. But, as a practical matter, it should be noted:

“the more one is positively involved in the practice of them, the more he will grow in them. On the other hand, every unkind act done by a person tends to render that person’s heart less kind in its basic disposition. Just as physical exercise can strengthen a man’s physical heart, proper spiritual exercise can strengthen his spiritual ‘heart’ (spirit, soul, mind).” (The Spiritual Sword, Editorial, Thomas B. Warren, Jan. 1981)

The diligence mentioned in verse 5 is properly understood as this type of spiritual exercise. Paul commonly used this idea in describing the Christian’s effort to improve himself spiritually. “But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8).

As physical exercise does some good, building and strengthening muscles, spiritual exercise equips a man for an eternal spiritual existence in the presence of God.

It is important to note the need for balance in this exercise. A weightlifter who neglects any particular body part will be disproportionate in his body. (The cartoon character Popeye comes to mind, with his skinny biceps and massive forearms). It would be inappropriate for the Christian to grow in a few of these graces, but to be lacking in others. A man who grows in knowledge, but lacks brotherly kindness; or who is courageous in his defense of his faith (virtue), but lacking in self-control; this man is woefully lacking in his attempt to be fruitful. Just as balance is necessary in physical exercise, the Christian should incorporate each of the Christian graces into his life.

In later articles we will be examining each of the eight graces, beginning with faith, and ending with love. As we do, remember the need to diligently add each to your life and character.