The way we look at things and the way God looks at things are not quite the same. Jehovah God tell us this in Isaiah 55:8-9 saying clearly:
“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways My ways,’ says Jehovah. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.'”
We need to bear this in mind when we look at Second Peter 1:5-8 as we read:
“But also in this very thing, bringing in all diligence, filling out your faith with virtue, and with virtue, knowledge; and with knowledge self-control, and with self-control, patience, and with patience, godliness, and with godliness, brotherly kindness, and with brotherly kindness, love.
For if these things are in you and abound, they make you to be neither idle nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (MKJ).
If we read this in another translation version we get a slightly different picture and approach to reading the verses 5-7 especially:
“Because you have these blessings, do all you can to add to your life these things: to your faith add goodness; to your goodness add knowledge; to your knowledge add self-control; to your self-control add patience; to your patience add devotion to God; to your devotion add kindness toward your brothers and sisters in Christ, and to this kindness add love” (ESV).
This can be rewritten in a simpler way to pull out the spiritual and Kingdom arithmetic which Peter wants us to get to grips with:
You have Blessings, but ADD to them!
To Faith: ADD Goodness.
To Goodness: ADD Knowledge,
To Knowledge: ADD Self-Control,
To Self-control: ADD Patience,
To Patience: ADD Devotion,
To Devotion: ADD Kindness,
To Kindness: ADD Love.
This is what God wants us to do. It is not an idle suggestion, but a mandatory imperative for building ourselves in Christ.
For the sake of interest, let us compare this to Galatians 5:22-23a where the Apostle Paul writes a similar listing:
“But the fruit that the Spirit produces in a person’s life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
We need to note a couple of things here. First, that the phrase in the Bible clearly says “the fruit of the Spirit” and not ‘fruits.’ In other words, it is in the singular, not the plural. This are not a list of fruits, but of aspects of, or descriptions of, one fruit: Love. In fact Galatians 5:22-23a can be rewritten to more correctly emphasise the Greek understanding if we expand the list to read: “Love is full of joy, love is full of peace, love is full of peace, love is full of patience, love is full of kindness, love is full of goodness, love is full of faithfulness, love is full of gentleness and love is full of self-control.” What Paul is saying here Galatians 5:22-23 is not a list of Christian character traits, but a short list of the characteristics of Love.
It is quite clear to see that this aligns remarkably with what Peter is writing in Second Peter 1:5-8. He is listing a number of character traits which are characteristic of Love. Faith, which many Christians see as being the ‘be all and end all’ of the search for God, is seen by Paul as being just the beginning, the first step only, on the road to Love. And as we ADD, we transform and change. By ADDING, we move and develop.
Second Peter 1:5 starts out by saying: “because you have these blessings.” What exactly are these blessings to which Peter refers? They are the things we receive from the Lord when we become Christians. In fact, v4 calls them “exceedingly great and precious promises.”
It is important we understand these promises. As Albert Barnes says, “a ‘promise’ is an assurance on the part of another of some good for which we are dependent on him. It implies:
(1) that the thing is in his power;
(2) that he may bestow it or not, as he pleases;
(3) that we cannot infer from any process of reasoning that it is his purpose to bestow it on us;
(4) that it is a favour which we can obtain only from him, and not by any independent effort of our own.
The promises here referred to are those which pertain to salvation. Peter had in his eye probably all that then had been revealed which contemplated the salvation of the people of God. They are called “exceeding great and precious,” because of their value in supporting and comforting the soul, and of the honour and felicity which they unfold to us. The promises referred to are doubtless those which are made in connection with the plan of salvation revealed in the gospel, for there are no other promises made to man. They refer to the pardon of sin; strength, comfort, and support in trial; a glorious resurrection; and a happy immortality. If we look at the greatness and glory of the objects, we shall see that the promises are in fact exceedingly precious; or if we look at their influence in supporting and elevating the soul, we shall have as distinct a view of their value. The promise goes beyond our reasoning powers; enters a field which we could not otherwise penetrate – the distant future; and relates to what we could not otherwise obtain.”
I believe Christians tend to gloss over this aspect of the blessings which being a Christian endows upon us. I often hear Galatians 5:22-23 preached in support of a sermon, but it always moves from Faith on to Love. I don’t know if I have ever heard it starting at God’s “exceeding great and precious” Blessings, or of founding Faith, on these Blessings.
Albert Barnes continues, “all that we need in trial, is the simple promise of God that he will sustain us; all that we need in the hour of death, is the assurance of our God that we I shall be happy forever. What would this world be without a “promise?” How impossible to penetrate the future! How dark that which is to come would be! How bereft we should be of consolation! The past has gone, and its departed joys and hopes can never be recalled to cheer us again; the present may be an hour of pain, and sadness, and disappointment, and gloom, with perhaps not a ray of comfort; the future only opens fields of happiness to our vision, and everything there depends on the will of God, and all that we can know of it is from his promises. Cut off from these we have no way either of obtaining the blessings which we desire, or of ascertaining that they can be ours. For the promises of God, therefore, we should be in the highest degree grateful, and in the trials of life we should cling to them with unwavering confidence as the only things which can be an anchor to the soul.”
Now we understand the basis for the Spiritual and Kingdom Arithmetic being blessings, we need to go through the other characteristics from a Christian point of view, to make sure we truly understand what they mean for us in practice. Doctrine and Theology are wonderful in their own rights, but for all Christians, it is where the ‘rubber meets the road,’ that we need to concentrate.
After Blessings, we now need to understand Faith and the Christian view of faith. As James 2:20 asks, “But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” in other words, we do not just need to know this from a standpoint of theory, we need to be able to put this into practice in our daily lives.
The bible says:
Romans 10:17 “Then faith is of hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”
Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary says, “Faith is an affectionate practical confidence in the testimony of God. Faith is a firm, cordial belief in the veracity [reality] of God, in all the declarations of his word; or a full and affectionate confidence in the certainty of those things which God has declared, and because he has declared them.”
It goes on ” Evangelical, justifying, or saving faith, is the assent of the mind to the truth of divine revelation, on the authority of God’s testimony, accompanied with a cordial assent of the will or approbation of the heart; an entire confidence or trust in God’s character and declarations, and in the character and doctrines of Christ, with an unreserved surrender of the will to his guidance, and dependence on his merits for salvation. In other words, that firm belief of God’s testimony, and of the truth of the gospel, which influences the will, and leads to an entire reliance on Christ for salvation.”
“The faith of the gospel is that emotion of the mind, which is called trust or confidence, exercised towards the moral character of God, and particularly of the Saviour.”
Goodness is the state of being good; the physical qualities which constitute value, excellence or perfection. It is a godly characteristic, as we read in Exodus 34:6 of Jehovah God being “merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.”
Viewed generally, it is benevolence; as exercised with respect to the miseries of his creatures it is mercy, pity, compassion, and in the case of impenitent sinners, long-suffering patience; as exercised in communicating favour on the unworthy it is grace. Goodness and justice are the several aspects of one unchangeable, infinitely wise, and sovereign moral perfection. God is not sometimes merciful and sometimes just, but he is eternally infinitely just and merciful.
Thayer’s Greek Definitions gives this as the original Biblical meaning of the word:
“1) knowledge signifies in general intelligence, understanding.
1a) the general knowledge of Christian religion.
1b) the deeper more perfect and enlarged knowledge of this religion, such as belongs to the more advanced.
1c) especially of things lawful and unlawful for Christians.
1d) moral wisdom, such as is seen in right living.”
Knowledge is a clear and certain perception of that which exists, or of truth and fact; the perception of the connection and agreement, or disagreement and repugnancy of our ideas. We can have no knowledge of that which does not exist. God has a perfect knowledge of all his works. Human knowledge by comparison is very limited, and is mostly gained by observation and experience.
It is also learning, the illumination of the mind.
But we need to wary of knowledge, for as First Corinthians 8:1b says, “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.” filling our head with knowledge may lead to p[ride and vain glory, thinking more and higher of ourselves than we ought to do. Paul in First Corinthians 13:2 goes on to warn both the Corinthians of this danger saying “And though I have prophecies, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so as to move mountains, and do not have charity, I am nothing.”
Knowledge is a characteristic, a trait to be sought, but not an end in itself. Second Timothy 3:6 explains this saying “.. or of these are those who creep into houses and lead captive silly women loaded with sins, led away with different kinds of lusts, ever learning and never able to come to the full knowledge of the truth.” Christians are expected to come to the full knowledge of the truth when we are in Christ.
Self-control, was originally translated from the Greek ‘egkrateia’ (ἐγκράτεια) as temperance. The direct translation is akin to firstly Moderation; particularly, habitual moderation in regard to the indulgence of the natural appetites and passions; restrained or moderate indulgence; as temperance in eating and drinking; temperance in the indulgence of joy or mirth. e.g. Temperance or moderation in eating and drinking is opposed to gluttony and drunkenness, and in other indulgences, to excess. And secondly as Patience; calmness; sedateness; moderation of passion.
Self-control and temperance relate to inner control over self, especially when it comes to what may be described as pleasures of the flesh. Self-control and temperance is not the same as abstinence, or a refusal to partake, but an ability to control one’s own fleshy inner cravings.
Interestingly this word occurs in only three verses of the Bible and all occurrences are at the end of the New Testament and all relate to Christian characteristics:
Act 24:25 “And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and the Judgment to come, Felix trembled and answered, Go for this time, but taking time later, I will call for you.”
Galatians 5:23 “meekness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Second Peter 1:6 “and with knowledge self-control, and with self-control, patience, and with patience, godliness.”
Patience is also translated in the bible as Longsuffering and Meekness. It comes from the Greek ὑπομονή or pā´shens, from which patience derives. As the International Standards Bible Encyclopedia says, “Patience” implies suffering, enduring or waiting, as a determination of the will and not simply under necessity. As such it is an essential Christian virtue to the exercise of which there are many exhortations. We need to “wait patiently” for God, to endure uncomplainingly the various forms of sufferings, wrongs and evils that we meet with, and to bear patiently injustices which we cannot remedy and provocations we cannot remove.”
The word “patience” does not occur in the Old Testament, but we 6 occurrences of “patiently,” such as in Psalm 40:1 which are the translation of ḳāwāh, “to wait,” “to expect.” These are words frequently expresses the idea, especially that of waiting on God.
In the New Testament, patience typically carries in it the ideas of endurance, continuance. Patience is often hard to gain and to maintain. It is in particular in reliance on God and acceptance of His will, with trust in His goodness, wisdom and faithfulness, that we are enabled to endure and to hope steadfastly.
Webster’s says patience is “the suffering of afflictions, pain, toil, calamity, provocation or other evil, with a calm, unruffled temper; endurance without murmuring or fretfulness. Patience may spring from constitutional fortitude, from a kind of heroic pride, or from Christian submission to the divine will.”
Again, all point to patience as a characteristic which Christian ought to aspire.
DEVOTION to GOD:
The original Greek text here is εὐσέβεια or eusebeia meaning 1) reverence, respect and 2) piety towards God, godliness. It is translated as godliness, or better, Devotion to God. The meaning for us is that of a “practical piety” and
the substance of revealed religion.
Webster’s says it relates to a religious life; a careful observance of the laws of God and performance of religious duties, proceeding from love and reverence for the divine character and commands. It is Christian obedience.
The term is also used in this way in First Timothy 4:8 saying “For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable to all things, having promise of the present life, and of that which is to come.” In other words, this is not piety for display, but for transformation of one’s life to become more Godlike in a practical and useful way.
Godliness, as denoting character and conduct determined by the principle of love or fear of God in the heart, is the summing up of genuine religion. There can be no true religion without it: only a dead “form” (Second Timothy 3:5). The incarnation is “the mystery of godliness” (First Timothy 3:16).
Webster’s calls kindness “Good will; benevolence; that temper or disposition which delights in contributing to the happiness of others, which is exercised cheerfully in gratifying their wishes, supplying their wants or alleviating their distresses; benignity of nature. Kindness ever accompanies love.
And an act of good will; beneficence; any act of benevolence which promotes the happiness or welfare of others. Charity, hospitality, attentions to the wants of others, &c., are deemed acts of kindness, or kindnesses.”
It is often translated as gentleness and goodness, and in this verse as brotherly kindness. In other words, toward fellow Christians. In this context and in Webster’s definition above, it is tied hand-in-hand with love, as in love of the brethren; hence the word often used in these terms: “lovingkindness”. Though this word has fallen out of every day use, it still displays and we can understand the original intent: a loving-kindness.
Both in the Old and New Testaments we find this word translated as mercy.
Again, all characteristics to which Christians are called to aspire.
Finding a short definition and statement on Love in relation to God, the Bible or Christianity is not so easy; God, the Bible and Christianity are all about Love. It is their essence and their nature.
As the International Standards Bible Encyclopedia says:
“Love to both God and man is fundamental to true religion, whether as expressed in the Old Testament or the New Testament. Jesus Himself declared that all the law and the prophets hang upon love. Paul, in his matchless ode on love in First Corinthians 13:1-13, makes it the greatest of the graces of the Christian life – greater than speaking with tongues, or the gift of prophecy, or the possession of a faith of superior excellence; for without love all these gifts and graces, desirable and useful as they are in themselves, are as nothing, certainly of no permanent value in the sight of God. Not that either Jesus or Paul underestimates the faith from which all the graces proceed, for this grace is recognized as fundamental in all God’s dealings with man and man’s dealings with God; but both alike count that faith as but idle and worthless belief that does not manifest itself in love to both God and man. As love is the highest expression of God and His relation to mankind, so it must be the highest expression of man’s relation to his Maker and to his fellow-man.”
Simply put: Love is who God is and as Christians, people who are called to be Godlike and Christlike, it is a requirement of the character of every Christian.
When we add up the Spiritual and Kingdom Arithmetic of Isaiah 55:8-9, we come to a metamorphoses of ourselves. As we seek to understand the Spiritual and Kingdom arithmetic of Isaiah 55:8-9 we will find that God’s Word is working within us to bring us to a fuller understanding of Him. There are many things which God wants us to know, and as soon as we begin to understand and live out Spiritual and Kingdom Arithmetic, we will begin to understand the secret things of the Lord. Not only that, God will reveal more of His secret things to us. As Jesus said in Matthew 13:35 “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.” As heirs and children of the living God, Spiritual and Kingdom Arithmetic is a God-given tool to understand our destiny in Him.
Amen and Amen and Amen.