Add To Your Faith
2Peter 1:5-7 kjv
Let's now explore the conduit "like precious" PistisFaith must travel through to be fruitful. You'll notice that the pipeline begins with PistisFaith and ends with AgapeLove. This is as it should be, love is the goal of all Christian effort. Love is the single thing worth us becoming fruitful in.
It might help to picture a sheet of paper divided in half. The first column lists all the things that God through Christ has provided the believer (see: kjv@2Peter:1:1-4). These things PistisFaith holds dear and seeks to process into tangible AgapeLove. The second column lists all the things the believer adds to the process (see: kjv@2Peter:1:5-7). PistisFaith seeks to move forward toward producing AgapeLove, Peter maps out for us the outbound connections for it to go through between here and there.
At first it seems that Peter lists all these thing as singular items, faith virtue knowledge temperance patience godliness kindness charity, each independent of the other. One might be led to think that they could do any of one these single things and benefit would come. Do several, even better; maybe so.
Upon further examination though the pipeline is sections of pipe connected in sequence, one pipe builds upon the next, the effect of the two compounds. Let's think of these as compounds like KnowledgeableVirtue and TemperateKnowledge not just knowledge and virtue or temperance and knowledge. It is these compound structures that I would first like to address.
So the first connection for PistisFaith to make is AreteVirtue, meaning manliness or valor. Valor is essential to the production of AgapeLove at first, more so than even knowledge or temperance or patience or godliness or kindness. For if PistisFaith is not willing to step out into the unknown and trust God even in the most foreign and hostile of situations then PistisFaith has not boots on the ground nor skin in the game.
I think that most people, myself included, would prefer having knowledge connect to faith first. We want to know what we are going to need to know before we step into a situation. Think about it. How many bible saints can you recall that were given all the necessary information by God upfront before going in? Not any, can you? One almost has to step into the situation before one can see the landscape and determine what is needing to be known first. We also have to ask would any of these saints stepped into what they stepped into had they known beforehand all that they were about to step in?
Sure, the realm of the unknown and unplanned is scary business. Sure, the foreign lands can be very dangerous places. Yes, one has to take risks. Yes, there is spiritual war, and in spiritual warfare people and reputations are bound to get hurt. No, that does not stop true PistisFaith from entering in. Why? Because PistisFaith must make it to its AgapeLove destination. Because PistisFaith has grace and peace multiplied in the epignosis of God and Christ, divine power has given it all things pertaining to life and godliness, it has escaped the corruptions of this world enough to partake/benefit from Christ's divine nature as promised it. That is what PistisFaith is and that is how PistisFaith must continue to act.
Why doesn't knowledge connect to faith first? Because logic and reason are most prone to fear and most leery to proceed with valor. Logic and reason are more than sufficient to talk one out of something, rarely though do they talk us into something virtuous. Valor is not the absence of fear, it is fear placed into its proper perspective so as to not allow it to distract us from the most God glorifying effort.
This is not to say that knowledge won't be crucial to play its part. In fact, it comes up second on this list. This is GnosisKnowledge now not the previous and often repeated EpignosisKnowledge. Where EpignosisKnowledge is more the big picture in which we are to produce abundant fruit, the recognition and acknowledgement of the person and righteousness of God and Savior/Lord, GnosisKnowledge is more the dynamic and changing details on the ground day to day.
It is one thing to brave out into the unknown country and battle the dangerous battle. It is another thing to be there and not survey the situation and strategize what is best to get through it. Granted you are not going to know until you step into it but, once in there you have to gather much needed intel, you have to discern and reason, you have to develop a plan and move forward. Much of this GnosisKnowledge will have to be sought out and received from God HIMSELF. Both God and the experience itself are the steady teacher. In one sense reverence towards the LORD is the beginning of whatever knowledge or wisdom or instruction there is. In another sense one needs to be walking about with their eyes wide open, they need to observe and absorb, not take the least detail too lightly. Therefore, this knowledge itself must be temperate.
PistisFaith has moved far enough along now that we need to be talking about TemperateKnowledge. The concept of knowledge is far far-reaching. What most people would call knowledge, rather in God's eye is not knowledge at all, nor is all wisdom is wise. Paul once reminded the Corinthians that "the world by wisdom knew not God" ( kjv@1Corinthians:1:21). The carnal mind then has out-smarted itself in it's own quest for knowledge, not to know the omnipresent and omniscient God, and to the point where the wisdom of God to them has become as foolishness. God will confound the wise of this world so that no flesh shall glory in HIS presence ( kjv@1Corinthians:1:27).
1Corinthians 1:19 kjv
There are massive libraries the size of stadiums filled with all sorts of knowledge; man made knowledge that is. Some of it is good, some of it obvious, some not so good, some down right reckless, all of it soon to end. There are great scholars who have attempted to fill their heads with any and all knowledge, but not temperate knowledge. Shouldn't we ask to what end is this intemperate pursuit?
What kind of knowledge is it that the saint is seeking? To what lasting objective will his knowledge serve? The ultimate goal in the saint's case differs from the others. His goal is to produce Christ-like AgapeLove, and by doing so glorify God. This situation he currently faces, this is an opportunity to produce AgapeLove. Faith and valor got him here, now it is how to produce this love within this situation that he now needs to know. He therefore must be temperate with his quest for knowledge that it stays on target to get this present AgapeLove opportunity going. In other words he must seek mission temperate actionable knowledge.
Temperance is self-control or self-restraint. If you cannot restrain yourself from what keeps you from producing AgapeLove, who else can do it for you? Temperance is Olympian-like focus, one body of many moving parts working in concert as one. It is a disciplined life both on and off the field, always in training, always preparing for what is next to come.
Temperance, like most of the items in Peter's list, is a fruit of the Holy Spirit working within us ( kjv@Galatians:5:22-23). Paul in that same chapter gives us a list of works of the flesh. Flesh or Spirit. Which is it going to be? How can the saint be Spirit temperate if he knows not what the flesh is capable of? If he knows not from where his flesh has tendency to attack? How can the saint fight the temperate fight without knowing the weapons and armor and coordinated battle plans of the Spirit?
Valor? Ah yes, can't do without it. We would not be to this point of the discussion without having first had it. Now that we are here, now there is the need for knowledge. Not just any knowledge, TemporateKnowledge.
Temperance? Ah yes, but to temper knowledge, not to temper valor.
Paul was said to have reasoned temperance in his defense of the Christian faith before the court of Felix and Drusilla ( kjv@Acts:24:24-25). On this occasion he reasoned temperance to be on a evangelical par with righteousness and the judgment to come. This should give us an indication of how important and convicting he thought egkrateia or temperance to be.
The word Peter uses translated for us into English as "patience" is also worthy of note:
Quoted resource: strongs 'G5281'
This word not only gives us the sense of enduring and continuance but, doing so with cheer and hope. Those are three very important elements for our consideration: cheerful, enduring, continuance. It would not be enduring if there was not something coming up against it. It would be continuing if it all was to be over in short order. It wouldn't need to be cheerful if it was already much desirable and gleeful.
Peter's construction of this suggests that forward moving faith will encounter resistance. Faith that does not meet with resistance is not faith that is moving forward. What he is asking from us is no different from what he has asked of himself. A large part of what he is asking of us requires enduring, continuing, and this with cheer.
1Peter 4:12-14 kjv
This exhortation is for every Christian that is moving faith forward towards agape, not just Pastors and Evangelists and clergy. How easy it is for us to say "this should not happen to us this way" or "this was not expected" or "we must be doing something wrong". How easy it is for us to pull off to the side, get out of the other's way, not stand out any more than we have to. This is not TemperatePatience as Peter means it, this is us at a highway rest stop with our emotional radiators over-heating.
Jesus in His "Parable of the Sower" gives a heart wrenching description of such an obtained form of faith meeting up against such a resistance just as is a sprouting seed by the birds of the air and the other harmful natural elements ( kjv@Matthew:13). Some of this resistance comes from without, say the birds of the air and the scorching heat of the sun. Most of this resistance though comes from within, how the seedling sees itself, the expectations it places upon the story-line, how it feels this new growth is to go.
Patience, endurance, continuance, who needs them? They are not needed if faith is not moving forward. They are not needed if one plans on bypassing this particular step to get to the producing of agape love. But then it is not AgapeLove that they are producing.
Faith does not just sit at the Kingdom bus stop bench sitting on its hands waiting to leave. Faith moves forward with valor, with acute and reverent knowledge, with focused temperance, it endures all resistance put against it and continues its steady march onward. How so? In what fashion? To what measure? Here Peter calls upon the word we've translated "godliness"; EusebeiaGodliness.
Quoted resource: strongs 'G2150'
Piety is a word that in our generation carries a strong negative connotation; the concept has seen a great amount of abuse. In the time of the King James translation, scholars considered piety desirable and noble, else they would not have used the word. We as modern thinkers cannot surrender the public perception of piety over to the immoral buffoonery of its many imposters. This is too important of a concept in both Old and New Testaments when done right.
It is very mush a temptation for otherwise carnal men in key religious positions to pose as pious. There is great power in it for them to do so. It should not come as any surprise to us. In both of his epistles, Peter talked about it happening in his day. He has warned us about it happening more and more in the ages to come .
The pious waters are muddy because of these counterfeits. How did Peter teach us to approach this? He taught us first to be aware of those imposters and second to point them out and stand against them. The Apostle Jude exhorted us to contend for the faith. How is it then that the waters became so muddy? Because not enough real pious people are on the watch for and stand firm enough to do this. The pious waters are muddy because of these counterfeits. The pious waters are muddy because of us.
It is not only watching and pointing and standing against however. There is already too much impious finger pointing going on in the Church. In order to do this particular thing that Peter taught, defending the faith from imposters, one has to be able to do all the things Peter has taught, as modeled for us in the "like precious faith". We cannot separate living the faith from defending the faith. Living it always comes first. Because we live it, we are best suited to defend it. The tangible fruit of our daily experience in Christ supports our further words and actions. Others have seen us, others know us, others know the types of fruit our faith in Christ has exhibited. By Christ's fruit abounding in us, they know to trust, they know that there is weight and substance. The case against these imposters is much easier to make. The others know our love for Christ and for the brethren, that it is this agape type of love. They are in solidarity, abiding in Christ by the same equal standing like precious obtained faith.
What we should observe in these many counterfeiters is the impossibility of producing true piety without first there being the occurrence of spiritual regeneration and the setting one right with the heart of God. They seek the power and glory of the position without seeking the radical change of new life within them. Paul tells Timothy that personal gain is their godliness. Jude calls them spots in your feast of charity, feeding themselves without fear, clouds without water, trees with withered fruit. So then they have the appearance of godliness, but they lack the substance. Yet, at the same time, they have crept in to positions of power without our notice. Is that their problem or ours? Which of us will be accountable for this in the end?
So there is a massive importance given to godliness. So too there is this connection Peter makes with it to patience; GodlyPatience. To live the faith and to defend it requires endurance, continuance, cheer. We spoke of resistance coming up against faith as it moves forward towards its destination AgapeLove. Now we know where a good part of that resistance will be coming from, from within our own ranks, likely from the top down.
Philadelphia is known as the city of brotherly love. Brotherly love is what the word in the Greek actually means.
Quoted resource: strongs 'G5360'
The first thing that I would like to point out about this compound BrotherlyGodliness is that there is a very thin line between philadelphia love and the love of institution. Institutions consist of bodies of brethren of course, but when the focus becomes the institution and not the persons within that body, it becomes easy for philadelphia to become the odd man out.
You'll notice that no where in Peter's well chosen words here does it say the love of Church or denomination; not even AgapeLove suggests that. My feeling is that if one focuses their kindness upon the brethren, each one of them, one does not run the risk of looking passed the brethren in their greater admiration for the institution.
The institutions of Church are vast and admirable. Some stand tall like the Pacific Redwoods, centuries old and generations wide. Cathedrals of stone and marble, vessels of silver and gold, rituals and traditions, testaments of grandeur and hope and time are what they are. In the past, many have fought for the honor of these institutions, even in times when the institution itself was not all that honorable. Some institutions have recently sprouted, and like their ancestors before many men and women pour their time and their hearts into making the institution something others can admire as well. Ah, but there you see in both instances the need for there being a truer godliness; BrotherlyGodliness.
It is a thin line; a very thin line between this love for brethren and love for institution. We must remember what it is that makes us brethren in the first place. We are brethren because of our common mutual state, sinners who have obtained as if by lots a like precious faith on equal grounds with the apostles through the righteousness of God and Savior, are experiencing the multiplication of grace and peace, finding that divine power has provided all things pertaining to life and godliness, called to glory and virtue, reliant upon the tremendous promises for escape and partaking God has given us in Christ. Besides or along with this we seek to together become fruitful in the recognition and acknowledgment of Christ Jesus by adding to our faith these stated agape defining elements. The kindness here is best stated: "how can I be of help to you brother in your pursuit of this? The opposite forms says: "there's the nursery, here's a bulletin and coffee, please make yourself comfortable, feel free to ask me if you have any questions".
One kindness is person to person, a mutual relationship to Christ. The other is come and try what we have going, come try to fit in. The modern church tries to be all things to all people. It tries to build as many things as possible into its programs and outreach, consumers can pick and choose what self-improvement they want from a cafeteria style menu. This is not to say that PhiladelphiaKindness cannot be found occurring in these things, it is to say that these thing tend to hide Christ behind an institution. Instead of us being in the body of Christ it becomes Christ being in the body of us.
By compounding godliness with kindness, Peter forces us to look at agape defining need in a much more serious light. The life of piety as compounded so far includes the valor to stand firm and move forward, the knowledge to search and find out and get a job done, the temperance to stay on track and not get distracted, the patience to endure the inevitable resistance and opposition, and to do all of this with a healthy form of piety. Now that in itself is something, but to connect all of that to a kindness to brothers and sisters, that friend is serious business.
What happens when we are not all of that and yet will still congregate and still institutionalize? What does that look like?
It looks a lot like what we have at present. Can Peter still at this late date stir us up and put us back into remembrance of what the true faith and kindness are? Knowing the true faith is essential to living it. Living the true faith is essential to promoting and defending it. It cannot be the lesser faith lived and defended. How can we make a proper defense without having lived this faith to the point of bearing a corresponding fruit? How can we bear a corresponding fruit without there being a true valor and knowledge and temperance and patience and godliness? How can there be all this without there being set a firm foundation of faith obtained through the righteousness of God and Savior?
It is obvious that Peter when he is writing us is focusing his kindness direct upon brethren and not institutions. Institution comes about only when the souls and the needs of individuals and Christ are being met. It is not love for love's sake. It is not love for institution's sake. It is not love for our own sake. It is love for God's sake, shed upon all of us for brethren's sake. And for the brethren's sake, we must keep ourselves above the fold with godliness.
Looking back at all considerations up to this, I find it startling that we now finally can come to this. The "like precious faith" has pushed us hard. It has given us several actionable items for us to be diligent about adding to it. The effect of each of these things compound the effect of the previous item and the next. PistisFaith has now reached its destination. To get here it has had to become these many transformative things. Now it has reached the possibility of it producing tangible AgapeLove. Done right it will be abundant and fruitful, this EpignosisKnowledge of Christ.
Jesus Christ is our best example of AgapeLove. It is what the righteousness of God and Savior set Him out to become. Charity is the way that the King James translators chose to explain it. Sacrifice might be an even better way. We are not just talking about our Lord's sacrifice, but also the Father's.
"Behold, what manner of love (agape) the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God..." kjv@1John:3:1
We are now "Sons of God" because of this sacrifice. HIS benevolent love was willing to sacrifice a tremendous sacrifice. Sacrifice has brought about a love feast for others. Now their love is willing to sacrifice as well.
AgapeLove is like no other love.
"Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." kjv@1John:3:16
This type of love is not based upon sentiment as most other loves, it is a sacrificial act of the will. If we were to base it on sentiment or attraction, it would likely never come about. The person receiving it may well not deserve the least bit of it just as we did not from Christ, yet Christ gave it to us, therefore we give it to others in like manner. It wasn't like we were just that close to God and just needed a little extra boost to get us the rest of the way there. No, this act of benevolence was by His sacrificial love in its entirety; we were most vile to HIM at the time. We were not anywhere near to God. We were actually heading in the opposite direction, therefore Christ was sent as an atoning sacrifice to grab us and to bring us back.
Now we see others in a similar opposing situation as we once were, therefore we AgapeLove them as does Christ. We AgapeLove them with Christ's ultimate AgapeLove. We AgapeLove them with the full influence of His AgapeLove upon ours. We also AgapeLove them with the full influence of His AgapeLove upon ours as a body of "like precious" brethren.
Why, you may be asking, does AgapeLove require PistisFaith? Why does it require valor or knowledge or temperance or patience or godliness or kindness as brethren? Because it is not AgapeLove without these things defining it, its just plain love or affection when the setting seems right. Nothing has been fought for. Nothing has had to be established or sustained or moved forward. It has come at very little expense and there is very little that has been sacrificed to keep it there. That is not AgapeLove.
Where love is often viewed with a sense of it filling or fulfilling, agape carries the sense of it emptying or pouring out. The glass had to first had an ample supply of this itself in order for it to now be drawn into another empty vessel. Christ has an ample supply from the Father, He pours into us out of His ample supply. We now receive His supply, it fills us, we pour it out. Similar to a series of pools along the busy mountain river, the supply is from Christ and it flows into us and then out to those pools further detached filling them in order that it flow back into the river, by this the entire valley is fed and made lush. This is AgapeLove. This is its love feast.