V is for Virtue
“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue…” (II Peter 1:5a, ESV)
Step # 1 – Select a word to be studied. For this word study I have selected the word “virtue.”
Step # 2 – Compare English versions to see how translators dealt with this word.
KJV – Used five (5) times, four (4) = virtue; once = praise
ESV - Translates the word as "virtue"
ESV - Translates the word as "virtue"
NKJV – Translates the word as “virtue”
NASB – Translate the word as “moral excellence”
NIV – Translates the word as “goodness”
RSV – Translates the word as “virtue”
NLT – translates the word as “moral excellence”
Comparing these translations and our paraphrase we initially conclude that virtue is to be thought of in relation to morality or to that which is good.
Step # 3 – Define the English word using an English dictionary
Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary (1969) defines virtue as: 1. “a conformity to a standard of right – morality” 2. “an angel of the fifth highest rank” 3. “a beneficial quality or power of a thing” 4: “manly strength or courage” 5. “a commendable quality or trait” 6. “a capacity to act” 7. “chastity esp. in a woman”
Step # 4 – Use an Exhaustive Concordance, locate other passages in which the English word (virtue) is used by the same bible writer.
Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (p.1099) shows that virtue appears again (in the KVJ text) in:
II Peter 1:3 – “as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,…”
II Peter 1:5 – “But also for this very reason giving all diligence , add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge.”
Step # 5 – Define the word in its original language
New Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament (p. 73) tells us that “virtue” in II Peter 1:5 translates the Greek word αρετη arete (ar-et’-ay). It is used widely in Greek writings meaning “any excellence of a person in body or mind or of a thing, an eminent endowment, property or quality. It was used of the human mind and in an ethical sense. It includes a course of thought, feeling, and action; moral goodness. It also is used of any particular moral excellence, as modesty or purity.
Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (p. 661) tells us that “virtue” properly denotes whatever procures preeminent estimation for a person or a thing; hence intrinsic eminence, moral goodness.
Henry Alford’s New Testament for English Readers (p. 1673) tells us that “virtue” means “strenuous tone and vigor of mind.”
Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament (p. 677) tells us that Peter used this word “virtue” in the original classical sense denoting excellence of any kind – bravery, rank, nobility. He adds in a note that “virtue” as used by Peter means energy with which Christians are to exhibit, as God exerts his energy upon them. Christians are to exhibit virtue or energy in the exercise of their faith, translating it into vigorous action.
A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament (p. 151) tells us that virtue means moral power, moral energy, and vigor of soul.
Step # 6 – Trace the Origin of the Word
The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 3 (pp. 925-932) tell us that αρετη (arête) is a noun derived from the root ari which means “to please, or pleasing.” Originally our word meant the specific quality appropriate to an object or a person.
In its earliest use it was used of things, animals, men and gods. It can connote the excellent quality or arms or horses. When used of men the reference is usually in fighting or of the mind. So αρετη arete is used of the whole man, of both physical and spiritual qualities.
In I Peter 2:9 and II Peter 1:3 it is God’s αρετη arete that is mentioned. It gives the idea of praiseworthy acts of God. Those praiseworthy acts of God are to be proclaimed by the people of God.
In II Peter 1:5 our word virtue is used in the sense of good and correct behavior.
Step # 7 – Consult Commentaries for any additional light that they might shed on the passage
Simon Kistemaker in his New Testament Commentary on II Peter, in regards to our word virtue, of the seven “virtues” they relate to God’s characteristics. Our daily conduct should be a demonstration of moral excellence. Faith and excellence support one another.
It seems that as believers we have been given everything that we need that pertains to living godly lives to the honor and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. God, through Christ has given us the qualities that we need to live a godly and holy life. To say we cannot see changes in our lives in regards to our behavior is to deny this truth and call God a liar.
God gives us the initial faith that leads to both redemption of our soul and the life changing process of sanctification. We are to supplement that God given faith by “adding” to or “supplementing” it with various attributes worked into us by God through His Son Jesus Christ. There is to be a moral excellence, a quality of “goodness” that characterizes our life as a child of God.
- Take inventory – if you are a believer, is there a moral goodness or excellence characterizing your overall life and behavior?
- Ask God to illuminate and reveal areas that this characteristic may be missing.
- Make the necessary changes to rid yourself of those things that may inhibit moral excellence from being promoted in your life.
- Trust God and depend upon the energy given to you by Him through His Holy Spirit to develop , maintain, and utilize this energy in your life.