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

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The apostle Peter, in his second epistle gives a list of characteristics that we are to “add to” our faith, that we might be supplied an entrance into “the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1: 5-11). The first of these characteristics that we are to add to our faith is “virtue.”

The term translated in the NKJV “virtue” is the greek word (arete). Vine says that the term “properly denotes whatever procures pre-eminent estimation for a person or thing; hence, intrinsic eminence, moral goodness, virtue” (Vol. IV, pg. 189).

Thayer states that the term signifies “any excellence of a person (in body or mind) or of a things, an eminent endowment, property or quality.” Thayer states that when the term is used “specifically” as in 2 Peter 1:5, it denotes “moral vigor.” (page 73).

The Expositor’s Greek Testament defines virtue as, “a manifestation of moral power.” (Strachan, Vol. 5, page 126)

Interestingly, Clinton Hamilton, in his Commentary on 2 Peter, writes that the virtue here under consideration is that “moral excellence as summed up or embodied in the selfless love of Christ manifested in life and in death” (pg. 37). He rightly points out that the term is used only four times in the New Testament, and three of those times are in Peter’s epistles.

The term is used of Christ in 1 Peter 2:9 when Peter says that we should proclaim the “praises (arete) of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” In other words, as Christians we should be extolling the excellencies and goodness of our Lord.

In 2 Peter 1:3, Peter wrote, that we are called by the “glory and virtue” of Jesus Christ. In other words, it is Christ’s moral excellence, shown in his selfless acts, which attracts men to Him. As Hamilton states, “His moral excellence is embodied in his selfless love whereby he gave his life for sinners and always acted for the benefit of men in all circumstances” (pg. 37).

Such moral excellence should be characteristic of all those who belong to Christ. As we seek to establish what constitutes “moral vigor” or virtue, we must acknowledge that it is God who defines this, not man. In Isaiah 5, the prophet wrote, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight” (vs. 20-21). Rather, we should acknowledge that God is holy, and that He should be “hallowed in righteousness” (vs. 16). As Hamilton notes, this can be learned by examining the example of our Lord. Further, a study of God’s word is needed to ascertain what God says is moral and good. Perhaps this is why Peter links virtue to knowledge in his list of these characteristics.

The faith of a Christian, if diligently cultivated, increases his moral excellence. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is anything praiseworthy; meditate on these things.” We must work hard to establish and maintain such excellence in our lives. We must abstain in thought and action from that which is evil and defiled. We must dwell upon and engage in behavior that is righteous before God.

The “virtuous” woman in Proverbs 31 embodied such a lifestyle. The marginal note in the NKJV indicates that the term “virtuous” literally means, “a wife of valor, in the sense of all forms of excellence.” She was industrious, true to her vocation as a wife and mother, benevolent, and highly esteemed by others. She was wise, kind and feared God. As a result, it is said, “Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many daughters have done well, But you excel them all'” (vss. 28-29).

As Christians, it is important for us to realize that our faith in God must be indicated by the life we live. As Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walkworthy of the calling with which you were called…” (vs. 4:1).