The Lord left us with specific instructions on how to deal with the brethren – no matter how old a brother or sister is in the Lord! How does God want us to treat those who are younger in the faith? For that mater, how does God want us to treat anyone in the faith? Peter’s account of how we should behave ourselves in this area is quite clear.
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; (2Pe 1:5)
And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; (2Pe 1:6)
And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. (2Pe 1:7)
For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2Pe 1:8 )
Let’s list the characteristics Peter instructs us to add to our faith along with Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary definition for that characteristic. I must say that this brings conviction to my heart:
1. Virtue – Moral goodness; the practice of moral duties and the abstaining from vice, or a conformity of life and conversation to the moral law. In this sense, virtue may be, and in many instances must be, distinguished from religion. The practice of moral duties merely from motives of convenience, or from compulsion, or from regard to reputation, is virtue, as distinct from religion. The practice of moral duties from sincere love to God and his laws, is virtue and religion.
Those who have been saved for many years and have grown in the Lord should exercise these characteristics rather than harshly instruct the spiritually younger. We should not instruct the spiritually younger if we are not living virtuously – in other words, we should practice what we are about to preach.
2. Knowledge – A clear and certain perception of that which exists, or of truth and fact; the perception of the connection and agreement, or disagreement and repugnancy of our ideas. We can have no knowledge of that which does not exist. God has a perfect knowledge of all his works. Human knowledge is very limited, and is mostly gained by observation and experience.
Also, we should be knowledgeable in what we are teaching the spiritually younger and not just voicing an opinion. We should stand ready to back up what we are stating with the Scriptures.
3. Temperance – Patience; calmness; sedateness; moderation of passion.
Why would the Lord put temperance here? Why would we need temperance toward new believers? I found this quite interesting actually. Sometimes we are so passionate about a certain topic that we lose our patience when a younger believer questions why we believe it. This truly opened my eyes today. How many times have I been quick to admonish a younger believer over using the NIV or “social drinking”! I surely was not practicing a moderation of my passion in these areas. I should, instead, with that patience share that knowledge of Scriptures to back up my passion. It’s the Word of God that will have the best impact on the spiritually younger believer… not my opinion. It’s the Word of God that taught me … why should it be any different for them? In fact, this can go even further and include those in our church who have been sitting under the teaching for years yet still are babes in Christ. Not all children grow at the same pace – so why should I think that all believers will grow at the same spiritual pace. Our temperance is so necessary so that we do not blast them or bull doze them with our beliefs but gently encourage them with the Word.
4. Patience – A calm temper which bears evils without murmuring or discontent
Hmmmmm, what a statement! Do I bear evils without murmuring or discontent when I practice my patience?
5. Godliness – A religious life; a careful observance of the laws of God and performance of religious duties, proceeding from love and reverence for the divine character and commands; christian obedience.
Do I practice christian obedience? Before I am quick to correct another believer, I must remember Christ’s words in Matt. 7:5 “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
6. Brotherly kindness – Toward your brothers and sisters in Christ: Good will; benevolence; that temper or disposition which delights in contributing to the happiness of others, which is exercised cheerfully in gratifying their wishes, supplying their wants or alleviating their distresses; benignity of nature. Kindness ever accompanies love.
Do I contribute to the happiness of my brothers and sisters in Christ? If not, why not? Or do I ignore them and/or burden them with my actions or words?
7. Charity – In a general sense, love, benevolence, good will; that disposition of heart which inclines men to think favorably of their fellow men to think favorably of their fellow men, and to do them good. In a theological sense, it includes supreme love to God, and universal good will to men.
I love Noah Webster’s definition under brotherly kindness – he states “Kindness ever accompanies love.” When we truly love the brethren, we will be kind to them. Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: (1Pe 3:8 )