Attributes Ladder

2 Peter 1:5-11
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

While in high school, I took every single English/Language Arts class they had available. In college, I had a double major – theology and english. For 8 years, there was never a time when I wasn’t in at least 2 or 3 classes that had to do with language and communication. To come across this exquisite example of literary genius just makes my day. And the power of these words cannot be overstated. First of all, they flow like water from a fountain, smooth and full of meaning. Second, they lie at the foundation of Christian thought. These seven verses deserve to be read through several times over.

Peter apparently leans upon a literary device called “sorites” to present this list of virtues in 2 Pet 1:5–7. Popular in Greek moralistic instruction, a sorites consists of a chain or ladder of virtues, expressed in a series of statements that each repeat the last key word in the preceding statement. Thus, each virtue necessarily proceeds from the previous one, and the sorites culminates in a single apex of all the virtues. the sequence of these virtues is a formal order, not a necessary theological order. With Peter’s list, a Christian should not assume that he must “master” one virtue before moving on to the next. Instead, the Christian continually needs to grow in all the virtues.
Giese, C. P. ©2012. 2 Peter and Jude. (p. 52). Saint Louis, MO: CPH.
As we dive into the details, we focus first on Peter’s admonition to “make every effort”. This indicates a determination toward and important goal. The list begins with “faith”, the foundation of all that we stand upon and granted to us by the Holy Spirit. Faith is not something we attain but instead is give to us by God. The list ends with that most important of attributes, love. “For the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:13) Peter very cleverly uses faith and love as the anchor point for his “ladder” (which are stridently Christian attributes) while inserting words that have a Hellenistic ring to them (virtue through brotherly affection) so that his Greek readers would be able to identify with what he is saying immediately.

Let us make no mistake here, we are not the source of any of these positive traits. That work is done in and through the power of the Holy Spirit. But as His children, we are available for this good work. And as such, our witness to the world is emboldened by these actions. This list is all about maturity, for who among us wishes to remain in spiritual infancy. Our identity in Christ demands that we strive for maturity in these characteristics. A lengthy Bible Study could be spent on examining each of these words, but I will leave you to apply them for yourself. Something for us to ponder as we grow in our faith.