Called By Virtue
2 Peter 1:3
Virtue is defined as moral excellence.
We are called by glory and virtue.
Paul says we are called by the gospel (2 Thess. 2:14).
In the gospel the righteousness of God has been revealed (Rom. 1:16-17).
So the gospel is glorious and virtuous.
And in glory and virtue God’s righteousness is revealed.
Socrates thought that virtue is knowledge because he thought …
All living things aim for their perceived good.
Therefore if anyone does not know what is good, he cannot do what is good.
But if someone knows what is good, he will do what is good.
Of course we know that not to be true (Rom. 7:19-20).
Have you ever done something you knew what wrong?
James calls doing such things sinful (James 4:17).
We are all guilty of such things.
But knowledge is still part of virtue.
We see it coming and going.
We are given all things that pertain to life and godliness through knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue (2 Pet. 1:3).
And then we are to add knowledge to virtue (2 Pet. 1:5).
How can we do what is good and moral unless we first know it?
Knowledge is the topic for next week, but it does play a role here.
What is Virtue? How Do We Add It to our Faith?
What is Virtue?
As we mentioned, it is moral excellence. But what does that mean?
If we are called by it, it would be good to define it.
We often say that patience is a virtue.
We recognize that there are some traits that are considered virtuous, good to possess (Greeks recognized 5 virtues—later).
Doing virtuous acts is not the same thing as having virtuous knowledge.
This particular exchange occurred between Socrates and Euthydemus.
Socrates: “And what of Wisdom? How shall we describe it? Tell me, does it seem to you that the wise are wise about what they know, or are some wise about what they do not know?”
Euthydemus: “About what they know, obviously; for how can a man be wise about the things he doesn’t know?”
Socrates: “The wise, then, are wise by knowledge?”
Euthydemus: “How else can a man be wise if not by knowledge?”
Socrates: “Do you think that wisdom is anything but that by which men are wise?”
Socrates: “It follows that wisdom is knowledge?”
Euthydemus: “I think so.”
So Socrates then equates wisdom with knowledge.
Socrates further reasons that every form of virtue is wisdom.
“For just actions and all forms of virtuous activity are beautiful and good. He who knows the beautiful and good will never choose anything else. The wise do what is beautiful and good, the unwise cannot and fail if they try. Therefore since just actions and all other forms of beautiful and good activity are virtuous actions, it is clear that justice and every other form of virtue is wisdom.”
When he says “every form of virtue,” the Greeks recognized five moral virtues: courage, self-control, piety, justice, and wisdom.
This reasoning breaks down when we think of wise people who lack virtue (e.g. Solomon).
And we know of knowledgeable people who are foolish.
Knowledge isn’t enough, but requires a motivation to act on that knowledge.
So virtue is a willingness and desire to act on what is learned.
This is similar to a wise person who may not be knowledgeable.
A wise person will seek knowledge about a particular topic.
Similarly, a virtuous person will seek knowledge on a moral issue.
He will be diligent to find out what is right and what is wrong, and once that is learned, he will do the right thing—this takes self-control.
Then you begin to see how all these traits build on one another, adding to your faith.
How Do We Add Virtue to Our Faith?
Build on your foundation of faith.
We talked about faith last week.
Recall that we are building upon a foundation of faith—add to your faith.
It is a faith that we have in our God, in His power and ability, and in His promises.
It is a faith that is so very precious to us all because it is a saving faith that works!
True virtue requires knowledge of God.
We will talk more about knowledge next week, but for now we are aware that knowledge is important.
In particular, knowledge of God is important.
Without knowledge of God, we will not know how to please Him and we will be lost.
We will sin and not know that we are sinning.
At the same time, even if we know we are doing wrong, we won’t know how to make it right with God.
We recall that the grace of God teaches us to do what is right (Tit. 2:11-12).
How can we be taught without knowledge?
This enables us to look for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of Christ (Tit. 2:13).
But we continue to add knowledge to our faith and virtue!
Recognition of His glory.
Recall, we are called by glory and virtue.
The glory of God is certainly a study worthy of having.
The ladies are currently in a study on the concept of glory, so I know I cannot do that topic justice in one subpoint.
What I will say is that Thayer defines this word here as “the majesty of His saving grace.”
Glory is also a condition/state of exaltation, something we did not earn.
His saving grace exalts us, it glorifies us to something better.
It gives us a hope of being in heaven with Him.
We are called by that glory, to live according to that glory.
Think on virtuous things (Phil. 4:8).
The only other time this Greek word is used in the NT is in Phil. 4:8.
This gives us some traits of what is virtuous and praiseworthy.
We are to do more than just to think on these things, but to meditate on them, to consider them carefully (λογιζομαι).
These are things we are to be thinking long and hard about.
It is true that if we change our thinking, our actions will naturally follow.
If we keep our minds off of negative and sinful things, living as a Christian would be so much easier.
There is the old saying: Garbage in, garbage out.
Jesus talks about these things, too (Luke 6:45).
Whatever is in our hearts will eventually come out.
Adultery is impossible without lust in your heart, for example.
So we must change our way of thinking by meditating (focusing, concentrating, taking note) on these virtuous and praiseworthy things.
People seem to have a lot to say these days about the power of positive thinking.
The truth is, Christians have been saying it for thousands of years!
Thinking on good things will yield to better attitudes, better interactions with people, and a closer relationship with our Lord.
Examples of good things: raising your family in the Lord, teaching others the gospel, giving to the poor and needy, visiting those less fortunate, reading and studying the Scriptures, prayer & fasting.
When you can choose what you’re exposed to, choose good things.
This will help us to make our call and election sure!
In addition, work on the other Christian graces as well.
As we noted earlier, it requires knowledge.
In our last point, we saw that self-control was involved.
Certainly perseverance and godliness are needed, too.
Virtue means nothing to us if we cannot control ourselves, and persevere in it.
This will naturally lead us to godliness, kindness, and love—all topics of another lesson.
All of these Christian Graces are connected.
But we are to work on each one of them.
This will help to make sure of our place in heaven.
Ancient philosophy, while intriguing, does not have the answers.
Only our Lord and His inspired Word has the answers.
He spoke with an authority that amazed the people of His time.
It still amazes people to this day, though many do not accept it.
Let us be resolved to be morally excellent.
Not that we always know what to do.
But that we are resolved to please God.
Recall James 4:17.
Before we can add anything to our faith, we must first have faith.
The faith we must have is a faith that works!
The faith we must have is a faith that is obedient!
He is the author of eternal salvation to those who believe Him… no? … to those who obey Him (Heb. 5:9).
Our faith saves us, but only one that is obedient.
And we can obey His gospel by being baptized into Christ and being added to His church.
Will you do that this morning?