2 Peter 1:5-7, “5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,[a] and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”
Reformed Christians, rightly emphasize the sovereignty of God in salvation. Throughout the New Testament, for example, we read clearly and plainly that the Lord God is the sole agent in the regeneration of His people. In 1 Peter, Peter makes this clear when he tells his readers; the Lord God has caused His people to be born again to a living hope (1 Peter 1:3). Though you and I play no role in our regeneration, this does not mean, that, as His people, we have no role in growth in grace that always accompanies genuine saving faith (James 2:14-26). Christians must make every effort to progress in their sanctification. 2 Peter 1:5-7 makes this clear when it commands Christians to add to their faith a number of godly traits.
At the outset, we need to make clear that we do not as God’s people have any power in ourselves to make ourselves holy. In 2 Peter 1:3-4, Peter says it is divine power that grants God’s people all they need for life and godliness. That means you and I are not the power source for our godliness. Since God is the source of holiness and we are fueled by the grace that He provides to His people in Christ, He is the one that will aid in our holiness. Apart from the grace of God, we would not be able to be holy at all, as John Calvin says, the entire Bible testifies that, “right feelings are formed in us by God, and are rendered by him effectual. It testifies also that all our progress and perseverance are from God.”
The Lord God is the ultimate source and guarantor of the people of God’s sanctification. Christians demonstrate that the Lord has sovereignly set them apart by cooperating with and not resisting the Holy Spirit in order to grow in holiness. Unlike with regeneration, Christians have a role to play in their sanctification. As Christians we cannot achieve sinless perfection nor should we aim towards that, or think even that our holiness in Christ results from our efforts alone. As Christians, we will never come to full obedience in Christ in this life, but we are still to be obedient, and will as we realize how holy God is and cast ourselves daily and wholly upon the mercy of Christ alone. John Calvin explains, “as to the godly, when conscious of their own infirmity, they find themselves deficient in their duty, nothing remains for them but to flee to God for aid and help.”
The Lord alone makes His people holy (Ezekiel 36:25) and does this by the grace of God through the sanctification of His people. As Christians, we are to make every effort to supplement our faith with the virtues listed in 2 Peter 1:5-8. If we are in Christ and growing in Him, we can by the power of the Holy Spirit obey the Lord Jesus (2 Peter 1:3; Romans 8:9-11).
2 Peter 1:3-5 emphasizes faith and love. Faith is listed first because without saving faith, Christians cannot be holy. Love is listed last because it is both the final goal and virtue that must undergird all the others (1 Corinthians 13:13). As you continue to seek after the holiness available to you in Christ alone, it’s crucial as we wrap up this article to ask, “Have you done so to exhibit love, or have you tended towards legalism and thinking you are rewarding God for your obedience?” Today, please strive by the grace of God for one of the virtues listed in this passage. Please don’t think that you do so because of your ability to do so, nor is it out of your ability to grow in specific areas of your Christian life. It is because of Christ alone you are being formed into the very image of Christ. We need Christ to grow in Christ, but we also need to grow ourselves in grace. As you seek to continue to grow in Christ, please do so to reflect the preeminent love of Christ by growing in at least one of these virtues listed in our passage today.