“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – II Peter 1:5-8
I often wonder, “Why do I need to add all of these qualities to my faith? Isn’t faith self-controlled, godly, and all of these other adjectives by nature?”
I pondered these questions for a few weeks, and I’ve decided that our initial faith in God is one factor that inaugurates our Christian lives. We are confident that the Lord is real, is who he says he is, and will do what he says he will do. We are certain of these things even though we cannot see him (Hebrews 11:1). When we become Christians, our faith is immature, and all sorts of sins impact our faith: selfishness, jealousy, lust, hate, and laziness. In turn, these qualities pollute our faith and make us “ineffective and unproductive.”
Consider the analogy I provided in “Faith, Hope, and Love Part II.” Faith is the vehicle that moves our love for God (Galatians 5:6). If my faith (which I imagine as a navy blue, 1989 240 Volvo) is beat up by sin because I don’t take care of it, the scratches, dents, peeling paint, and filthy interior are unimpressive and unconvincing to my passengers and observers. Neither my fellow Christians nor my non-Christian neighbors will be inspired to follow God when they observe my shabby faith.
With this in mind, the author of II Peter offers great wisdom. As we mature as Christians and continue to allow the Lord to refine our character, we add goodness to our faith rather than evil. Knowledge of God replaces unfamiliarity. Self-control replaces unrestraint. Perseverance replaces defeat. Mutual-affection replaces dislike. Love replaces hate. My beat up 1989 240 Volvo is restored with a new paint job. The dents are popped out, and the interior is deep cleaned. My faith becomes attractive, and observers want to know more about it.
As our faith gains more of the qualities described in II Peter 1:5-8, we become more effective and productive in our ministries. Because we operate with greater goodness, people see that the Lord is good. Self-control prohibits us from engaging in sin that often tarnishes our testimonies. Perseverance strengthens our faith during trials that drown out the voice of God because our knowledge of and trust in the unseen is unshakeable.
I think faith is the final quality we add to our faith because we cannot experience “faith expressing itself through love” (Gal. 5:6) without first achieving faith expressing itself through goodness. So, in adding goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, and mutual affection to our love, both our faith and our love become “mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4).