Are you developing these Christian qualities that will keep you from ever falling?
Several months ago a middle — aged woman, well known in the Pasadena, Calif., congregations of God's Church, died of cancer. She died in the faith. She was a fine person, and wholly converted. Every time Ambassador College students went to visit her at her bedside, they themselves came back cheered and fortified. This lady was full of encouragement, full of smiles. She hardly ever talked about her terrible illness. And not only did this woman have faith to be healed, but she was sure she would be healed. Yet she died! Why? Did she have the right attitude? Yes, she did. Did she have faith? She certainly did. Then why did she die? Probably all of us have known people like her, and we have asked ourselves similar questions. We wondered why some people with, apparently, much less faith — and sometimes, seemingly, less converted attitudes — are healed, while others, like this woman, die. Pastor General Herbert W. Armstrong has stated that if healing does not take place in this life, it will occur after the resurrection. That is greatly encouraging. But isn't it true that when we repent of our sins and call for the elders of God's Church to pray for us and to anoint us that we should expect to be healed (Jas. 5:14-15)? Why, then, will some have to wait until the resurrection of the dead to be totally healed? The apostle James devoted practically his whole epistle to the subject of faith — living faith, faith that always produces fruit. But he also revealed a much neglected truth that holds the key to healing. He wrote, "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead" (Jas. 2:17). But the woman who died had faith and works! She did the best she could to lead a Christian life. Why will she have to wait until the resurrection to be healed? While the epistle of James deals primarily with faith, the two epistles Peter wrote put the accent on hope; as for the apostle John, he, in his three letters, expounded on what love IS. These three virtues combined — faith, hope and love — reveal to us the works of faith. Interestingly enough, the apostle Peter groups these works in three simple verses, as he writes: "And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity" (II Pet. 1:5-7). Do you actually understand the full meaning of these words? Peter mentions seven supplements – seven important works — that are to be added to faith. These seven works make our faith a living faith, not a dead one. In any language, words are used to express ideas, but they often have different connotations in people's minds. God expresses His ideas through the Bible. We must therefore grasp the spiritual intent of His words to fully understand the Bible's meaning.
Peter wrote, under God's inspiration, that the first supplement to faith — the first of the required works — is virtue. In the original Greek, this word appears four times in the New Testament, but it is not always translated "virtue" in the various English versions. Some translate it as "excellence," "strength," "right conduct" or even "wonderful deeds." In essence you must conduct yourself according to God's way in order to have living faith. You must show courage and strength, and you must excel in your task. Peter also wrote, "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light" (I Pet. 2:9). Here the same Greek word that is elsewhere translated as "virtue" is rendered "praises." Interesting, isn't it? The words "praise" and "wonderful deeds" (Revised Standard Version) are used as equivalents of the Greek word elsewhere translated "virtue." Therefore, to have living faith (remember, "Faith without works is dead" — James 2:26), you must produce "wonderful deeds" or have a "praiseworthy conduct" in God's sight. That's what God wants you to do.
Let us now examine the second work that must be added to your faith to make it live. Peter states, "And beside this, giving all diligence, add ... to virtue knowledge" (II Pet. 1:5). Why should knowledge come right after virtue? The answer is obvious: to enable us to rightly determine just what are good and praiseworthy deeds. That knowledge only comes from God. Consequently, you need to study the Bible and learn what God wants you to do. Your deeds must be evaluated by His standards and not your human standards. Without divine revelation, you cannot have this essential knowledge. Today humanity as a whole has much knowledge of material things, but is lamentably ignorant of spiritual truths. Men can send highly sophisticated spacecraft into space and take remarkable pictures of the planets. Astronauts can set foot on the moon and return to earth safely. Nevertheless, that kind of knowledge, however awe-inspiring, does not produce living faith. It cannot save a person. Your faith must be supplemented with the knowledge of God's will and His ways. "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge," says your Creator. "Because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children" (Hos. 4:6). The prophet Micah clearly shows what is the true knowledge that needs to be added to your faith: "He [God] hath shewed thee, 0 man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God" (Mic. 6:8). Simple and beautiful words, provided you grasp their spiritual intent. To do justly is to live by every word that proceeds out of God's mouth; to love mercy is to be good to your neighbor — to love him as you love yourself; to walk humbly with God is to do His will, and to have no other gods before Him. Unfortunately, ever since the beginning, the world has rejected this knowledge.
After supplementing your faith with virtue and knowledge, you must exercise temperance or self-control. "And beside this, giving all diligence, add ... to knowledge temperance" (II Pet. 1:5-6). Of what value can knowledge be if you don't put it to use — or if you lack self-control? More often than not, people know what they are supposed to do, but they lack the character to do it. Misuse of anything leads to sin. For instance, there's nothing wrong with eating and drinking. But too much eating and drinking can be sin. Do you now see why God wants you to add to your faith — as a working part of it — self-control? You must learn to resist temptation, to stop before you come anywhere near breaking God's law. The best and surest way to resist temptation is to get closer to God, but you can only get closer to Him by doing His will. That's having self-control or temperance. God's Spirit in you will give you all the help you need, because "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance" (Gal. 5:22-23).
To virtue, which is good conduct or praiseworthy deeds, you must add godly knowledge; to knowledge, self — control or temperance in order to resist evil; and to self-control, steadfastness or patience (II Pet. 1:6). Patience is one of the most important — and one of the hardest — things to practice. Without it you cannot grow in grace and knowledge, practice virtue, acquire knowledge or exercise self-control. That's why the apostle James wrote: "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing" (Jas. 1:2). To one degree or another we all lack patience. We often get upset and irritated when others don't do what they are supposed to do, but we are very tolerant with ourselves. How grateful we should all be to God that He does not lose patience as we do! To have patience is to set your ideas, your goals, your mind on positive things — with faith — all the time. Patience never gives up, no matter what. It enables you to remember that God loves you and that He always knows what's best for you. Throughout history, all the people of God and every disciple of Christ had to learn to be patient. Today, in this era of corruption, as we eagerly wait for God's Kingdom to come, some of us have not patience enough to wait. Some of God's people quit! They must have forgotten that God's timing is always best, and that our faith is strengthened when we patiently wait on Him.
Just what is godliness (II Pet. 1:6)? How does the Bible define it? To be godly is to have a godlike attitude. You must learn to gradually think like God and behave like Him. God commands you to "lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" (I Tim. 2:2). Indeed, you have to endeavor to be godly and respectful in every way — to think and act as God does — to be patient and kind as He is. Unfortunately, the much misunderstood words pious or piousness have been substituted for godliness in some English versions of the Bible, and people are confused. Godliness is synonymous with true Christianity or true religion. In fact, in the Revised Standard Version, this is how the same Greek word has been translated in I Timothy 2:10: "But by good deeds, as befits women who profess religion [godliness]." As you can see, to practice godliness is to have godlike religion – the true religion. Faith without godliness is dead.
So far we have briefly examined five of the seven supplements or works Peter tells us to add to our faith. The last two concern love toward our neighbor: first, love or "brotherly kindness" (II Pet. 1:7) toward God's people; second, love toward all mankind. The "brotherly kindness" mentioned in this verse is translated from the Greek word philadelphia, which literally means "brotherly love." This love is one of the works of your living faith. God's Church has members all over the world. Some are poor — much poorer than you; some are sick and very old; many are of a different race than you. Nevertheless, they all are your brethren. You must have brotherly love for every one of them. How often do you pray for God's people around the world? Do you love them as you do your closest friends in your local congregation? Are you concerned about their particular problems, their difficulties and hardships? You lack living faith if you don't. God commands you to have brotherly love — philadelphia — for all members of His Church. Whatever their age, their education, their nationality and their race, they are your brethren — members of God's spiritual family — who share with you God's most precious gift: His Holy Spirit. This is the type of concern you should have for all of your brethren in Christ. You must pray for them, suffer when they suffer, rejoice when they rejoice. That, indeed, is brotherly love — a dynamic supplement to your faith. The woman I described at the beginning of this article did have brotherly love. She truly expressed it. When people went to see her, it was she who encouraged them. They returned home fortified rather than depressed, because they saw God's Spirit working in and through her. She died in a beautiful attitude. She will be resurrected – totally healed — to live forever expressing brotherly love. Can she have wished anything more rewarding? In nearly all of his letters, Mr. Armstrong asks you to pray for him as well as for all the ministers and for the Church as a whole. Do you do it? Or is your faith without works?
The final supplement — the seventh work — to living faith that Peter lists is charity, love for all mankind (II Pet. 1:7). The brotherly love alone — or philadelphia — is not sufficient; you must love (agape) every human regardless of his character. Do you really love everyone, including your enemies? Don't you sometimes criticize others, see the evil in them, overlook their good deeds? Don't you judge them instead of being a light to them? Without question, there is much wrong in the world, and you, as a Christian, should not be a part of it, nor should you judge it. The whole world today desperately needs God's Kingdom to come. Christ didn't only die for His true followers. He died for every single human being. In fact, when a man came to ask Christ what were the two great commandments, Christ answered: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself' (Matt. 22:37-39). Christ is not only talking here about brotherly love, but of the love (agape) for all mankind, which is the highest form of love. He expressed agape for every single human being when He died for our sins. Consequently you, too, through His Spirit, must have agape for everything — including those who hate you and who persecute you. Examine your heart. Is your faith truly supplemented with the seven works the apostle Peter mentions in this section of his second epistle? In concluding this section, Peter wrote, "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things [if you practice these works of faith], ye shall never fall" (II Pet. 1:10). What a tremendous promise! If you have living faith — faith supplemented with these seven works — you will never, never fall. You will never give up. "For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (verse 11). That's your precious, ultimate reward. Let your faith be truly supplemented with the works of the Holy Spirit!