This is the fourth sermon in a series of messages on the book of 2 Peter. This message continues to discuss the list of qualities given in 2 Peter 1:5-7 that believers are urged to develop in their life of faith.
2 Peter 1:6-7 (NKJV) to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.
Most of you know that I have been doing a series of messages on 2nd Peter, and that the last two sermons have been focused on the list of qualities provided in 2 Peter 1:5-7. I have been referring to this list as a list of traits and qualities included in becoming more spiritually mature as we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord.
Last Sunday we talked about the two qualities of temperance (self-control) and patience (endurance). Before that we explored the topics of faith, virtue and knowledge. Today I want to finish the list that Peter provides here in verses 5-7 by talking to about godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity (love). Or, we could say, “godliness,” “love,” and “more love.”
As we have been doing with the other traits mentioned, let’s examine each of these words to discover what Peter is urging us to exhibit and practice in our lives as we grow spiritually in the faith.
The first word we’re considering is the word “godliness.”
Some of you may have heard the phrase, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” The way my mom used to repeat that phrase you would have thought it was in the Bible!
Erma Bombeck ― “Cleanliness is not next to godliness. It isn't even in the same neighborhood. No one has ever gotten a religious experience out of removing burned-on cheese from the grill of the toaster oven.” (www.goodreads.com/quotes)
“godliness” – εὐσέβεια A compound word. Root = “worship” Prefix = “well”; thus, worship rightly directed. (Robertson’s Word Pictures/Vincent Word Studies)
(Vincent Word Studies in the New Testament) [In secular Greek, godliness is:] "The recognition of dependence upon the gods, the confession of human dependence, the tribute of homage which man renders in the certainty that he needs their favor—all this is εὐσέβεια, manifest in conduct and conversation, in sacrifice and prayer" (Nägelsbach, cited by Cremer). This definition may be almost literally transferred to the Christian word. It embraces the confession of the one living and true God, and life corresponding to this knowledge.
The word emphasizes the inward attitude of worship and reverence and piety toward God along with conduct and other outward actions that confirm the heart attitude. The outward “motions” of worship without the genuine inward attitude is noted by Apostle Paul as “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” (2 Tim. 3:5) So true godliness is both the inward attitude and outward conduct of reverence and worship toward God whom we are totally dependent upon.
Another source states that godliness denotes character and conduct determined by the principle of love or fear of God in the heart. (Intn’l Std Bible Ency.)
(Tyndale New Testament Commentaries) – …it was the primary word for ‘religion’ in popular pagan usage. The ‘religious man’ of antiquity, both in Greek and Latin usage … was careful and correct in performing his duties both to gods and men. Perhaps Peter uses it here in deliberate contrast to the false teachers, who were far from proper in their behavior both to God and their fellow men. Peter is at pains to emphasize that true knowledge of God (which they mistakenly boasted they possessed) manifests itself in reverence towards him and respect towards men... Eusebeia is a very practical awareness of God in every aspect of life.
(Expositor's Bible Commentary, Revised) – Godliness entails both vertical and horizontal duties. It is simultaneous reverence toward deity and a sense of duty toward people.
Observing Peter’s use of the word in this list of traits in which Christian believers should be growing and maturing leads us to conclude that he sees godliness, the attitude and conduct of worship, reverence and love for God as a natural consequence of temperance and patience.
As we exercise each of the preceding qualities mentioned, we will naturally move into a life of godly attitudes and behavior.
D.A. Carson ― “People do not drift toward Holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.” (www.goodreads.com/quotes)
May God help each one of us to recognize that godliness is not something that just accidentally happens, but it is an active pursuit of God and letting His likeness shine in our lives and attitudes.
II. Love and Charity
I want to move on to consider the next two words together. In the KJV, Peter urges his readers to supply along with the performance and practice of all the other previous qualities two more traits identified as “brotherly kindness” and “charity.”
One writer says that “godliness” cannot exist without finding expression in brotherly kindness. The Apostle John says, “If anyone says he loves God and hates his brother, he is a liar.” So love is intimately connected to godliness. And love is the crowning virtue of any list of Christian character traits we must possess and express.
These terms are from two different Greek words that both mean love. In many more recent translations of the Bible “brotherly kindness” is translated as “brotherly affection,” and “Charity” is translated as love.
“brotherly kindness” – φιλαδελφία; Another compound word, brother (adelphos) and love (philéo).
“charity” – ἀγάπη; love.
In comparing the two words, they are similar in the sense that they include expressions of affection, fondness, and devotion.
Philéo usually includes the idea of love and affection for someone to whom one is closely connected by blood or by faith. It includes true concern, care and hospitality for those with whom there is a strong bond. Philéo is often associated more with emotion and warm feelings of compassion toward another person with whom we have a connection.
Agapē, on the other hand, is a specific kind of love that is demonstrated in sacrifice and unyielding commitment. Agapē is rooted in God and His nature; not in the object of love. It is the ability to express genuine concern and appropriate loving actions in spite of the qualities of the person being loved. Charity (agape) is God’s nature of self-giving love flowing through us into the lives of others who need it.
One writer compares the two terms like this:
(Tyndale New Testament Commentaries) – In [brotherly kindness] (philia) the partners seek mutual solace [or comfort and support]... [the] feelings are aroused because of what the loved one is. With agapē it is the reverse. God’s agapē [love] is evoked not by what we are, but by what he is. It has its origin in the agent, not in the object. It is not that we are lovable, but that he is love.
When we practice brotherly love, we carry out actions and deeds of love for those whom we have developed a deep connection and bond either through family or through faith and have grown to appreciate them as a dear friend. We do deeds of kindness and affection for them because we feel a closeness and fondness for them, as well as warm feelings of appreciation. We’ve grown to love them because of their character and who they truly are.
Charity (Agapē love) on the other hand, requires us to do a lot of the same kinds of deeds and actions, but it is not necessarily because the other person is so nice or pleasant or deserving. It is because of God’s nature that is imparted to us through the Holy Spirit and we demonstrate God-like love because of who He is, not because of who the other person is.
A few weeks ago I spoke to you about love and we looked at some of the verses in 1 Cor. 13 as it describes this agapē kind of love.
We talked about qualities of this God-like love such as: Believes all things (Thinks the best); Suffers long; Is kind; Not arrogant; Keeps no record of wrongs.
It is fairly easy to practice these qualities with people whom we have a good relationship with and have come to have brotherly love toward them. But it is not easy at all to practice these qualities toward people who are not in a good relationship with us and in all appearances do not deserve this kind of loving treatment. Yet, that is what God calls us to do.
The more that we are able to demonstrate this divine love, the more it gives evidence of our spiritual growth and maturity. Jesus told His disciples that the one thing which would identify them as His disciples was their love for one another. It is not our doctrine, as important as that is. It is not our conservative or liberal viewpoints. It is not anything else that will communicate “Disciple of Jesus” except how we demonstrate love to one another.
Let us close by singing They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love.