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“Peter’s Ladder” is a list of virtues that the apostle gives in his second epistle. He writes: “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love” (2 Peter 1:5-7). Let us look at these virtues closely:
The faith of the believer trusts God and is confident that His plan for life will fully satisfy the desires of the heart. God can do little for the man who does not believe in Him (Hebrews 11:6). Therefore, Peter encourages the believers to trust the Lord, “that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7).
The believers are counseled to strive for excellence in character. By heeding such counsel, they will have moral perfection in their lives by God’s enabling power. Thus, virtue and faith go hand in hand (Matthew 5:8). Those who cultivate the Christian virtues will forsake sin and consecrate their lives to God (Romans 6:14–16; 8:14–17). However, to be virtuous does not mean that one is sinless, but it does mean that his motives are good, he lives above sin by God’s grace, and he is pressing to the mark of God’s high standard through Christ (Philippians 3:13–15).
In connection with moral excellence, the Christian should seek God’s knowledge. This type of knowledge refers to the practical understanding of God’s thoughts and plans for His children rather than merely an intellectual knowledge. The basic facts concerning the existence of God and the plan of salvation must be studied carefully by those who desire to accept Christ as their Savior. The apostle Paul stirs the believers to be, “enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge” (1 Corinthians 1:5; 12:8).
This virtue means “self-control” (Acts 24:25). It signifies moderation in all things and complete control over every passion and appetite. Excesses of every kind should be eliminated. The previous virtuous will be of little help if not accompanied by self-control on the believer’s part (Galatians 5:23).
This virtue means endurance and steadfast perseverance under adversity (Romans 5:3; Matthew 10:22; 1 Corinthians 13:7; James 1:12; 5:11). “Patience” also signifies courageousness that cannot be shaken by fear or danger. In the natural man, who has not been born again by the Holy Spirit, persecution and delay often produce only impatience or even surrender to temptation (Matthew 13:21). But in those who are spiritual, and under the influence of the Spirit of love, affliction, and trial produce more perfect patience (1 Corinthians 13:7).
The ultimate example of Christian patience in affliction was illustrated by Jesus especially during the last hours before His death. Through all the harsh cruelty, suffering and insults, Jesus endured all pain and bore Himself with majestic patience.
This virtue means “piety” or reverence towards God (1 Timothy 2:2). The Christian’s respect for God should shape his every word and action. To claim loyalty to the lofty standards of God and yet live no better than the worldly people is a form of dishonesty and hypocrisy. This virtue will prevent the believer from becoming Pharisaical and it will keep him humble.
This virtue means to be gentle, considerate, and mild. Kindness is having gracious nature that is actuated by the Spirit of God. A kind person is always seeking to reveal by word and deed an understanding sympathy for, and appreciation of, the character and hardships of others. The Bible teaches, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10). Believers are to regard each other affectionately, as children of the heavenly Father (Mark 3:35).
Charity (Gr, agapē) means “love” (Matthew 5:43; 1 Corinthians 13:1). This is the true Christian affection that desires only the good of others. Agapē is love that is based on knowledge and reason. It is ready to sacrifice self for the well being of others. This is what God feels for men, and what He wishes men to feel for one another.
Love is the greatest of all virtues (1 Corinthians 13:13) and it must govern all what man does (1 Corinthians 16:14). All the virtues unite in this greatest virtue; and all others fail without it (1 Corinthians 13:1–3). A person who has charity does no harm to his brother (Romans 13:10).
It is impossible for one who is equipped with the virtues of “Peter’s ladder” to be an idle member of the church. These eight virtues listed, will propel him to work for others and for his Lord’s kingdom (Titus 2:7; 3:14).
The apostle Peter includes a promise for the believers that Christian service, given through the work of the basic virtues that have been listed in “Peter’s ladder,” will be certainly rewarded. He says, “if you do these things you will never stumble” (2 Peter 1:10). As a cultivated field is expected to produce good crops, so the Christian life, when backed with every spiritual virtue, is sure to produce godly fruits (Matthew 13:8).
In His service,
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