Virtue: The First Quality Which Faith Supplies

2 Peter 1:5



a.      Somewhere I read this story which illustrates the quality we have come to study: “There was a boy named Harry who worked for a Scottish shoemaker named Dan.  It was his chief responsibility to pound out and dry leather for shoe soles.  It seemed an endless operation to him, and he wearied of it many times.  ‘What made my task worse was the fact that, a block away, there was another cobbler shop that he passed and as I looked in the window, he often noticed that this cobbler never pounded the soles at all, but took them for the water, nailed them on, damp as they were.’

One day he ventured inside and timidly asked, ‘I notice you put the soles on while still wet.  Are they just as good as if they were pounded?’  He gave the boy a wicked leer as he answered, ‘They come back all the quicker this way, my boy?’  The boy related the instance to his employer and suggested that he was perhaps wasting time in drying out the leather so carefully.  The honest cobbler stopped his work and opened his Bible to the passage that reads, ‘Whatsoever ye do, do all to the Glory of God.’

‘Harry,’ he said, ‘I do not cobble shoes just for the four bits and six bits that I get from my customers.  I am doing this for the glory of God.  I expect to see every shoe I have ever repaired in a big pile at the judgment seat of Christ, and I do not want the Lord to say to me in that day, ‘Dan, this was a poor job.  You did not do your best here.’  I want him to be able to say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”  (H.A. Ironside, Illustrations of Bible Truth, Moody Press, 1945, pp. 37-39)


b.      That man was close to the first quality with which Peter says we must make every effort to supplement our faith: virtue


-          Yet, virtue may be the most underrated and neglected matter on this path to growth

-          It insists that faith must issue in the will to do the best thing and in the courage to do the right thing, and in the thoughtfulness to do the lovely thing.


1.      The meaning of this term.


a.      A comparison of several versions reveals something of the shades of meaning in the word here translated “virtue.”


                                                              i.      Elsewhere in this context, the ESV has “excellence” (v. 3)

                                                            ii.      NASB has “moral excellence”

                                                          iii.      NIV put it “goodness”

                                                           iv.      “Moral courage or “uprightness” are also part of it.


b.      Definitions offered in Bible dictionaries add to the picture.


                                                              i.      “Whatever produces pre-eminent estimation of a person or thing” (Abbott-Smith)

                                                            ii.      “All Christian excellence, especially manliness and courage in the performance of duty” (Rave-Klingman)

                                                          iii.      “Goodness, excellence, of any kind” (Lidell-Scott)


c.       The observations of scholars who have commented on this passage help, too.


                                                              i.      B.W. Johnson – “Moral courage, the natural fruit of trusting faith in God.”

                                                            ii.      G.N. Woods – “Courage and soul vigor, the manliness and determination to do what is right.”

                                                          iii.      Michael Green – concrete deeds of excellence … practical goodness.


d.      When we put these lines of thought together, we see that our understanding of virtue needs to include all of the following:


                                                              i.      Moral excellence

                                                            ii.      Moral goodness

                                                          iii.      Moral courage


2.      The places in the NT where this term appears.


a.      Philippians 4:8


b.      1 Peter 2:9


c.       2 Peter 1:3,5


3.      Virtue modeled in the life of Jesus


a.      As he overcame the approaches of the tempter – Lk. 4:1-13


b.      As he did the right thing in the face of danger – Mk. 3:1-5


c.       As he extended the hand of kindness to people who needed it so badly – think of John 4 or 8


4.      What virtue might look like in our lives


a.      It might be the Christian in business who is courageous enough to surrender profit rather than submit to an unethical business practice.


b.      It might be the Christian wife and mother who makes a practice of goodness and faithfully serves the Lord even without the interest and support of her husband.


c.       It can be the Christian young person who, in attitudes, values and beliefs, imitates the Lord rather than what popular culture is watching, listening to, and doing.


d.      It could be a Christian at work or school who does his or her best without cheating, cutting corner, or taking advantage.


e.      It is the church leader offering the Lord not only what it right, but also what is excellent.


5.      How virtue may be developed with out faith


a.      Turn away from the lusts which war against the soul, and conduct yourself in an honorable manner.  1 Peter 2:11,12


b.      Focus your thought-life on things which are commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise.  Phil. 4:8


c.       Be active and noble in the service of Christ, giving him your best and first.  2 Pet. 1:8