“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.” ~2 Peter 1:5-8
“But the fruit of the Spirit is … goodness.” ~ Gal. 5:22
When we think of the fruit of the Spirit, we often think of a whole list of qualities and traits that we should strive for. What we rarely think of is the first passage above. Yes, we should strive for the fruit of the Spirit, but what we often miss is that there is an order to things even then. Some traits cannot be added unless others are first in place. Think of a skyscraper: you cannot build it starting from the top. First you must lay the foundation and then add one story at a time until you reach the top. Such is the case with us spiritually. We will not love others if we are not first kind to them. We cannot gain true knowledge unless we already have a fear of the Lord. So instead of tackling the fruit of the Spirit in the order that it is listed in Galatians, I’m going to go in the order of 2 Peter.
What is virtue? Some use it as a general word for all godly traits. But what it really means is excellence or, as Strong’s definition says, manliness. It seems to imply a more general foundation for the Christian life. Virtue is not self-control or brotherly love which are more specific, potentially harder to learn traits, but is simply goodness. That is why it comes first in Peter’s list. Self-control in holding one’s tongue comes after one learns to speak kindly, which in turn comes after learning what kindness is which results from imitating those who are godly examples to us. Virtue is like the stump of a tree that the other traits spring from. Because of this, some unbelievers can be good, but not self-controlled. They may act like upright citizens and believe that man is not to murder or steal or lie. All that is goodness and virtuous. But it is not godliness. However, it is the first step towards godliness. Without having a foundation of virtue, of solid values and principles, we cannot continue to build. Only the man who orders his life according to God’s law can truly be a Christian. In other words, unless you obey God, you cannot love others or be self-controlled or patient. So my encouragement for you is this: strive with all diligence to obey God. Evaluate your life and serve Him fully for by doing so you are strengthening your foundation and practicing goodness.
Your brother in Christ,