The Letters of Peter
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 6 - A Spiritual Addition Sum

Reading: 2 Peter 1:5-11.

First, to bring into view the object, the goal, the reason; ultimately it is a rich or abundant entrance into the eternal Kingdom; that is, not a scraping in, just managing to be there, arriving anyhow, somehow, but an abundant entrance, an entrance in full and rich supply.

Immediately unto that end a state is necessary, and that state is said to be fruitful "unto the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" by means of clear far-sightedness of vision. Now unto this fruitful knowledge, a spiritual far-sightedness, the apostle gives us this sum of things which are to be added.

Things which are to be Added to Faith


"To faith... virtue". It is a word which just means the quality of excellence, the thing which is of pre-eminent estimation. Here, of course, it is moral excellence. He has used the word about God just a few sentences before (verse 3): "Him that called us by His own glory and virtue" or excellence. "Now," says the apostle, "to your faith add this quality of excellence." It is all an appeal to refuse anything that is second or third rate, anything that is make-do; a discontentedness with anything short of the highest standard, just the highest standard of spiritual and moral excellence. That is virtue.


"To virtue knowledge", to be knowledgeable Christians, not Christians who are ignorant, without understanding, but who are all the time seeking to be people who know in a right sense; really bent upon knowing the Lord; not just getting along, wandering through life, taking it as it comes, but really bent upon knowing the Lord; adding knowledge.


"To your knowledge temperance". The word here unfortunately translated 'temperance' in the Authorized, is better translated 'self-control'; the will is called into operation and that is self-control. In our whole being there are powers which are for good, but which can run away with us and become our master. In the realm of our bodies there are appetites and so on. Our souls with their cravings can take possession of us and we may become their slaves. The word is: now, by the Holy Spirit within, we are to take hold of ourselves, we are to bring our wills into play and to say, "No" definitely and positively, to anything lawless in our tendencies, in our passions, desires and appetites, and bring them within control. "I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage" (1 Cor. 9:27); and, speaking of the competitors in the Olympic games with which so many of his converts were familiar, he repeatedly pointed out the necessity for self-discipline in training. Now Peter uses the word which means just that. It means bringing yourself under control, having the mastery of the forces of your being which would run away with you, whether they be physical or mental or soulical.


"And to self-control, patience" (A.V.) and to Peter the word for patience is 'endurance' (R.V.). Add endurance. Do not let it be spasmodic, up one day and down the next, variable, but this feature and virtue of endurance, persistence, keeping on.


"To patience or endurance, godliness". Peter uses this word quite a few times in this second letter. It simply means what is consistent with God. Old translators used to translate it as piety. It is a Puritan word which came into disrepute and was used rather to imply weakness. People were called pious. But the word 'godliness' is just that; what is consistent with God, God-likeness.


"And to godliness love", "love of the brethren; and to love of the brethren, love" - a double emphasis upon this matter of love.

The Outcome of the Addition

Now summing up those seven things, the apostle brings them all to bear upon one word, which again, unfortunately, is not properly translated. "If these things are yours and abound, they make you to be not idle nor unfruitful unto the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ". He does not use the same word as he has used before when he said, "Add knowledge" he uses now the larger word, epignosis, which is "full knowledge." "Unto the full knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ". That is the object, that is the thing which governs. The full knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ demands diligence, virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, Godlikeness, love, and if these things are in you, you will come to the full knowledge of the Lord Jesus and will not be unfruitful.

Then he says, "He that lacks these things is blind, seeing only what is near". That is a very terse phrase, 'seeing only what is near': near-sighted, a very little world. Look at each of these things and take them out and see what a little world you have without them, but what a big world these things introduce. Adding knowledge is enlarging our world; and you do not lose by seeking excellence. You certainly do not lose by self-control. Sooner or later, the person who does not exercise self-control over appetites and so on will become a very selfish person and a selfish person is always a person of a little world. The person with self-control says, "I see there are greater values in saying 'No' to that; there is something to be gained by just putting it back." The person without self-control takes the thing without a second thought as to what lies beyond. It is a little world you have if you only see what is near. With adding "these things", you have far-sightedness, and your world is a much bigger one, and the world in which you move is the world of the full knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and the end is an abundant entrance to the everlasting kingdom.

Bunyan's picture in his second 'Pilgrim's Progress' with Patience and Passion is one of the best illustrations of this thing. Patience is quite prepared to go without, to say "No" and to wait. Passion grabs at everything, wanting it now, not content to wait. That is what Peter was saying and it is, of course, of very apt application to those Christians in the conditions in which they were when Peter wrote to them this letter. He comes to us and says, "Is it a full knowledge of the Lord Jesus that you are after, a large world of spiritual fulness, an abundant entrance into the Kingdom, not just scraping in? Well, that is the way." Add knowledge, be out to know the Lord; add to your knowledge virtue on the way for the highest excellence of life and character; self-control - by the aid of the Holy Spirit bring the will into operation to say, "No" and "Yes" at the right time. So your world is enlarging, your range extending, and you are getting away from the mere, near-at-hand things.

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