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The Golden Chain

2 Peter 1:5 (ESV) … “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge...”

Gaining entrance into Heaven ought to be our goal. There we shall know and be fully known. There we shall live under the fullness of “very great promises.” The way forward is the way of faith. Interestingly, if making a commitment to faith in Christ is what establishes our relationship to God, Peter moves on in verses 5–9 to remind us that continuing in faith, or growing in faith, is what provides “entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (v. 11).

Let’s take a look at how “supplementing your faith,” to use Peter’s exact language, is the road map we must take if we are to keep from falling. Verses 5–9 read:

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

The first three verses are commonly referred to as a list of virtues. In reality they are much more, for when things are merely placed in a list, each item stands independently, each has an identity on its own. Here, however, each characteristic is connected to what follows. In fact, the repetition of each word demonstrates that Peter intends us to view them as inseparably linked to one another. In light of this, even the sequence in which they appear matters.

To put an image on it, we could liken verses 5–8 to a golden chain or to stairs that lead one to the stars. Each stair or characteristic is built upon the strength of the previous one. And each subsequent one rises to a higher plane. Put differently, they form a ladder that leads us from our earthly faith in Christ to everlasting life. (See John 1:51 as fulfillment of Genesis 28:10–17).[1]

[1] Helm, D. R. (2008). 1 & 2 Peter and Jude: sharing christ’s sufferings (p. 195). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

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