Striving For Excellence
Growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ requires developing a Christ-like character…
- Involving eight graces in conjunction with each other – 2 Peter 1:5-8
- Faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, love
- Involving all diligence to abound in these eight graces – 2 Peter 1:5, 8
We saw that this “spiritual construction project” begins with faith…
- For without faith it is impossible to please God – Hebrews 11:6
- For faith is the catalyst making it possible to grow “I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mk. 9:23b)
But developing a Christ-like character does not occur by “faith only”
- To faith we must add virtue
- The word “supply” or “add” (epichoregeo) indicate that these two must work together
- So upon the foundation of faith, to grow in the knowledge of Jesus requires that we add the quality of virtue…
THE DEFINITION OF VIRTUE
Rarely Used In The New Testament (Gk. – arête; areth)
Paul uses it once: “…if there is any virtue” (Phil 4:8.)
Peter uses it four times:
1) “…show forth the excellencies (praises – KJV) of him” – (1 Pet. 2:9)
2) “… that called us by his own glory and virtue” (2 Pet. 1:3)
3) Twice in our text (2 Pet 1:5)
It has been variously explained as:
1) “excellence” (Wycliffe)
2) “manly excellence” (JFB)
3) “courage, fortitude, vigor, energy” (Clarke, Barnes)
A. T. Robertson says that it is an “old word for any preeminence (moral, intellectual, military)
The Greeks used the word:
1) To describe “any mental excellence or moral quality or physical power” (Robertson)
2) To represent a concept of “excellence” in all phases of life, to which they strove to attain (mental, moral, physical)
My Understanding Of “Virtue”
It has the meaning of excellence, striving for moral perfection
The connection of virtue with faith:
1) We begin with faith (confidence and trust in God and Christ)
2) We must add the quality of virtue (the desire to excel and be strong in our faith)
Virtue is the quality of striving for excellence in our faith-based relationship with God and Jesus Christ.
That such a quality is necessary to grow in the knowledge of Jesus should be evident…
THE DEMAND OF VIRTUE
Spiritual Life Demands Virtue
Without virtue, faith soon dies
1) Faith without works is a dead faith – James 2:26
2) When faith is joined by virtue (a desire for excellence in our service to God) …
a) Our faith will be a dynamic faith
b) For works will certainly follow one who is “striving for excellence”
Without virtue, we cannot grow
1) Growing in the knowledge of Jesus requires:
a) “giving all diligence” – 2 Peter 1:5, 10
b) That we “abound” in these graces – 2 Peter 1:8
2) When faith is joined by virtue (striving for excellence) …
a) Diligent effort will be made
b) Abounding in these graces will be the goal of our faith ©
Discipleship Demands Virtue
Christ taught His disciples to strive for excellence – Matthew 5:48
1) He died to make it possible – Hebrews 10:12-14
2) He established offices (functions) in His church to ensure it – Ephesians 4:11-13
Paul considered excellence in disciples the objective of his ministry – Colossians 1:28-29
1) He therefore encouraged the Corinthians to this end – 2 Corinthians 7:1
2) He told Timothy that this was the design of Scripture – 2 Timothy 3:16-17
How can we hope to grow as disciples, to truly come to know our Savior and Lord, unless we add to our faith the quality of virtue?
Without a strong desire for excellence, especially in our relationship with Christ, our faith will be weak and possibly die altogether! So let’s consider…
THE DEVELOPMENT OF VIRTUE
The Importance Of The Word…
The purpose or design of the Word is to make us perfect – 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Give ourselves to reading and meditating upon it, and …
1) We shall be like a strong fruitful tree – Psalm 1:1-3
2) We shall grow in wisdom and understanding – Psalm 119:97-99
We are therefore encouraged to meditate upon that which contains virtue (as surely the Word does!) – Philippians 4:8
The Value Of An Apostolic Example…
We are also encouraged to emulate Paul – Philippians 4:9
He described and displayed his own striving for excellence – Philippians 3:12-14
1) Never consider yourself as having reached it – Philippians 3:12a
a) Don’t remain satisfied with the spiritual condition you are in
b) Admit that you always have room to grow
2) Forget what lies behind – Philippians 3:13a
a) Don’t rest on your “laurels” (past accomplishments)
b) Don’t allow past “mistakes” to prevent future progress
3) Reach forward to what lies ahead – Philippians 3:13b
a) Look ahead with optimism
b) Keep your eye on the prize that awaits – 2 Timothy 4:8, 18
4) Press on – Philippians 3:12b, 14
a) Never give up
b) Be like the runner in an endurance race – Hebrews 12:1-2
Develop this “mindset” (cf. Phil. 3:15), and we will have developed the “arete” (virtue) our faith needs to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ!
Finally, a thought or two about…
THE DEMONSTRATION OF VIRTUE
In Our Personal Lives…
Does our daily walk with God suggest we are striving for excellence?
Are we seeking to excel in our relationship with God?
1) By reading His Word daily (listening to Him)?
2) By praying without ceasing (talking to Him)?
Are we seeking to excel in our service to God?
1) Determining and developing our talents?
2) Using those abilities in service to God and others?
If we have added virtue to our personal walk of faith, our progress will be evident to others – 1 Timothy 4:13-16
In Our Bible Studies And Assemblies…
Does our involvement in the services of the church suggest we are striving for excellence?
Do we utilize opportunities to increase our faith?
1) By attending the Bible studies offered by the church?
2) By preparing for them, and being an active contributor to the studies?
Do we exercise opportunities to encourage others?
1) By attending the assemblies of the church?
2) By participating in the services, exhorting others before and after?
If we have added virtue to our public walk of faith, we will be an example worthy of others to emulate – Philippians 3:17
The Christian who adds virtue to their faith does not remain stationary…
He or she will not be content with their current level of faith and service
Like Paul, they will desire to press on
For they are striving for excellence!
When a Christian adds virtue to their faith…
They are more likely to add other qualities to their faith
Such as knowledge, self-control, etc.
For they are striving for excellence!
To grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, then, let us seek to add to our faith the quality of virtue!