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Devotional provided by D.A. Carson
2 Peter 1:5–9 provides us with a remarkable sequence of steps. Peter knows his readers are believers. Now he exhorts them to add some things to their faith.
1) Add goodness to faith (2 Peter 1:5): Probably the kind of faith Peter does not want to see is the kind of faith that James 2 dismisses: faith that is merely intellectual, merely affirming, but devoid of transparent trust and ready obedience. Genuine faith issues in obedience—but as usual, believers are responsible to go down that track and are discouraged from mere passivity. So add goodness to faith.
2) Add knowledge to goodness (2 Peter 1:5): Some knowledge is necessary for faith, but Peter has moved beyond that point. Elsewhere Timothy is encouraged to persevere in his “doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:16); here Christians are similarly exhorted to add knowledge to goodness. Nothing is as stabilizing and as motivating as a growing grasp of the mind of God.
3) Add self-control to knowledge (2 Peter 1:6): Mere knowledge may simply puff one up (1 Cor. 8:1–3) and fail to transform anyone. But if self-control, that blessed element in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23), is present in abundance, the potential for good is incalculable.
4) Add perseverance to self-control (2 Peter 1:6): It is one thing to be self-controlled in a crisis, or for a short period of time, or when things are going well. It takes long-term perseverance to bring self-control to a shining polish.
5) Add godliness to perseverance (2 Peter 1:6): Otherwise, perseverance may turn out to be little more than a supreme effort of merely human will. God-centeredness, a genuine religious element in every virtue, transforms mere stoic resolve into transparent godliness.
6) Add brotherly kindness to godliness (2 Peter 1:7): Everyone hates the self-righteous. Self-control and perseverance, even godliness, have been known to generate rigid and unforgiving Pharisees. Add brotherly kindness.
7) Add love to brotherly kindness (2 Peter 1:7): That is better yet. For then we are mirroring, however falteringly or poorly, the character of the Master himself.
Note carefully what brackets these seven steps. First, at the front end, Peter tells us we are to “make every effort” to pursue this list, “for this very reason” (2 Peter 1:5). “This very reason” is spelled out in the previous verses (2 Peter 1:3–4). God’s glory and goodness have provided great and precious promises, so that through them we may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption of the world. For this reason, we are to make every effort to pursue these seven steps. Second, at the back end, Peter assures us that these qualities will prevent us from being ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:8–9).