In the previous post we studied faith, the basic theme of our life that we enhance with all of the characteristics of 2 Peter 1:5-11. Each characteristic supports and enhances the other and, when taken together, will prevent us from stumbling. We will spend our lives nurturing these traits but we will enrich our lives by the effort.
To our faith, we must add virtue. Other translations read “moral excellence” and “goodness.” Our faith demands commitment to the high moral ideals taught and exemplified by Jesus. In 1 Peter 1:16, Peter records God’s words, “Be holy for I am holy.” God has called us to live holy lives in an unholy world. We are to be lights in the world by reflecting in our lives the greatest light of all, Jesus.
We do not attain moral excellence on our own; the word of God teaches us how to live righteously. The church in Corinth existed in the midst of an extremely wicked city. According to a saying of the time, if one were to act like a Corinthian it meant he was very immoral. Yet, even in this wicked city, men and women changed their lives to become like Christ. Consider 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
The Corinthians were involved in many kinds of immorality but the gospel changed them. If you read both epistles to the Corinthians you realize that they had many spiritual problems to resolve, yet they were growing towards perfection in Christ. We may have little or much to do in adding moral excellence to our lives but it is an essential trait of the Christian.
This trait not only emphasizes the high moral standard we must embody but the courage to maintain that standard though persecuted. In the Roman times in which Peter penned this letter, the valiant soldier who stood his ground and fought courageously exemplified virtue. The Christian is a battle against the forces of evil and must stand courageous in the face of the enemy, 2 Corinthians 10:3-6. Our courage must reflect the power and strength we receive from our faith, Ephesians 6:10. We often sing, “On every hand the foe we find drawn up in dread array. Let tents of ease be left behind and onward to the fray…the earth shall tremble ‘neath our tread, and echo with our shout.” Do you have this courage?
In 1 Peter 4:1-4, Peter shows that our moral excellence will cause some conflict with our associations in the world. Some people do not want to stand out for their moral convictions in a world that considers morals something to be determined on a case-by-case basis. They may rationalize decisions instead of following God’s high standard. In so doing they become weaker and morally inept.
We must have moral courage. The courage of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego who faced a fiery furnace rather than bow to the idol of Nebuchadnezzar. The courage of Daniel who faced what seemed to be a certain death in the lion’s den rather than disobey God. The courage of David who, indignant at the blasphemy of Goliath, ran to meet the giant in battle. The courage of countless others who suffered persecution, torture, and death because they would not deny the Lord. Great faith needs great courage.