5 “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, 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.“ (2 Peter 1:5–7 ESV).
The Holy Spirit commands believers, through the Apostle Peter, to supplement, or add, to their saving faith. This supplementation is not contributing to their justification but rather it is a necessary component of each believer’s sanctification. Sanctification is the believer’s growth in holiness.
Believers are to add to their faith virtue or godly character and moral excellence. To virtue, believers in Christ are to add knowledge. To knowledge, believers in Christ are to add self-control. To self-control believers in Christ are to add steadfastness. To steadfastness, believers in Christ are to add godliness. To godliness, believers are to add brotherly affection. To brotherly affection, believers are to add love.
There is a wonderful balance in the last two attributes of sanctification. Brotherly affection is what believers in Christ are to specifically display towards fellow believers in Christ. Love (ἀγάπη; agape) is the self-sacrificial love of the will that believers in Christ are to not only display towards fellow believers in Christ (John 13:34; I Corinthians 13; I Peter 4:8; I John 4:7-11), but also to one’s enemies and unbelievers (Matthew 5:43-48). I Thessalonians 3:12 says, “And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you.” The word the Apostle Paul used in I Thessalonians 3:12 is also agape. It is also the word for love found in John 3:16.
What does agape love look like when practiced by believers in Christ? Again, let’s briefly examine I Corinthians 13:1-8a which says, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.”
Agape love is patient and kind. It is not envious or boastful. It is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing. It practices the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endure all things. Finally, agape love never ends.
The qualities of agape love which the Apostle Peter instructed believers to add to their sanctification in Christ are practical and applicable towards not only the church but also to those outside of the fellowship of Christ. In other words, agape love ought to be displayed to both believers and unbelievers.
God calls believers in Christ to love both people groups: those who love Christ and those who do not. Therefore, there is no excuse for unloving thoughts, attitudes, speech and behavior by the follower of Christ.
One Christian author writes, “As Christians, how we treat other people speaks louder to the world regarding the authenticity and validity of our beliefs than the doctrines we teach, the creeds we confess, or even the moral and good lives we try to live. If we are self-serving, self-promoting, unforgiving, and arrogant in our relationships, that will drown out what we have to say. When we hold grudges against fellow Christians, cling to pride, and refuse to forgive each other, we may affirm the skeptic’s suspicion that Christianity is a facade of moralism with no real supernatural power to change people’s hearts.”
“Jesus said if we only love those who love us, we are in accord with the way the world operates, and there is no benefit for us (Luke 6:32). Jesus said we are to love people who hate us and wrong us. We are to pray for them and meet their needs and endure their scorn. The apostle Paul exhorts us to bear “with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col. 3:12–13). These things are impossible apart from God, and so when they are present in our lives, the unbelieving world sees something unfamiliar to them, something divine, and something they know they need. They see the Spirit of Jesus Christ at work in us.”
May we be obedient to add to our faith, agape love.
Soli deo Gloria!