2 Peter was written at about AD60. As the name of the letter implies, the authorship was credited to Simon Peter, one of the disciples appointed by the Jesus at the beginning of His earthly ministry. The primary audience of the letter was the persecuted church in Asia Minor.
Peter knew that the time of his death was imminent and that he needed to get a very important message out to the church. In 2 Peter 3:1, we read that God’s divine power has given us everything we need to live godly lives. As a result of this, Peter says, we need to make every effort to progress in our faith. How do we do this? By adding some elements to our faith. Although these things require human effort, the results are obtained through the grace of God.
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love” (2 Peter 1:5&6)
Before we start talking about adding to our faith, we need to remind ourselves what faith is. The Bible defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1) Further down that passage, we read that “without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
One of my favourite scriptures as a young Christian and even till today is Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
Jesus spoke a lot about faith. There was a situation where a man brought his son to the disciples in Mark 9). Some of the disciples had not too long experienced the transfiguration on the mount where they saw Jesus transformed before their eyes and a voice from heaven declaring, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” (Mark 9:7)
You would have though that with what they had experienced, they would have been able to heal the boy by faith but that didn’t happen and the teachers of the law, who were sworn antagonists of Jesus took advantage of the situation until the Lord stepped in and asked what the argument was all about. (Read Mark 9: 17-29) After listening the boy’s father, the Lord’s response was, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” (Mark 9:19) Jesus then went ahead and rebuked the spirit possessing the boy and he was set free.
Faith however is the first step in the journey of a Christian. It is not enough for us to say, “I have faith” and remain at that position. This is the point Peter is establishing in his letter. There are some essential attributes that have been given to us because we are God’s children. We however have a responsibility to act on those attributes by adding them to our faith.
In this piece I am only going to concentrate on two things Peter said we should add to our faith. The first is virtue. What is virtue? Virtue is a habitual disposition to do good. In his letter, Peter is saying, “Add to your faith the habit to do good!”. The goodness being referred to here is not just about being good to people we know, that would not make us different from non-Christians. We are being encouraged to do good to those who don't treat us right as well! (Luke 6:27)
The next is knowledge. This is a very critical attribute we need add to our Christian faith. Without knowledge, we will become vulnerable to all kinds of teaching which is not in line with scripture. I always find it sad when I hear some teachings or read some writings encouraging church members to do things that aren’t scriptural. I once attended a Church where the preacher while encouraging the people to give, said, “If you don’t have any money, borrow from someone and see how the Lord will bless you” That didn’t sit well with me because I could not find anything in scripture that aligned with that kind of teaching.
A careful search of the Scripture would reveal the principles of giving. In 2 Corinthians 8:12, we read, “Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have.” Note the phrase, “Not what you don’t have”. It is therefore important that we take time to know the scriptures because that knowledge will help us validate whatever ‘truth’ we read or hear.
The other attributes Peter mentions are self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and love. He goes on to say, “The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”
The bottomline of Peter’s letter is having faith is not enough. In order to be fruitful and productive as a Christian and a child of God, we need to make every effort to add all our God given attributes to that faith.