The Magnificent Seven is a classic Western about seven gunfighters hired to protect a small village from marauding bandits. In 2 Peter 1:5-7, Peter mentions Scripture’s magnificent seven, they are character qualities of the Christian walk that are vital in protecting us from the marauding influences of sin in our lives.
2 Peter 1:5-7
(5) And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
(6) And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
(7) And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
Peter is careful to note that the character qualities he mentions must be centered on faith in the Savior Jesus Christ. It’s true that Scripture will benefit anyone who follows it, even people who do not know Christ as Savior because many of the blessings of Scripture are inherent in obedience to God’s Word. But to practice principles of Scripture without knowing the Savior will only give you temporal benefit. The Bible’s intent for all its readers is to provide eternal benefit by bringing the reader into a relationship with God. The eternal benefit of that relationship is the joy of becoming more like His Son. That doesn’t mean we lose ourselves. It means we grow ourselves because the more we are conformed to the image of God’s Son, the more our God-given gifts and abilities are able to shine.
“Virtue” means “excellence” and has the idea of being well suited to a task. It’s a little like the difference between using a knife to turn a screw or using a screwdriver. Yes, you can use a knife, but you’ll likely damage it and the screw you’re turning. If you’re turning a screw in an outlet, you can also risk electrocution. The right screwdriver will turn the screw and do it safely because a screwdriver is purpose-built for turning screws and therefore well-suited to the task. The task of the believer is to be like Christ, an instrument fully yielded to the Master’s hand. A believer who is practicing virtue is seeking to be more like Christ all the time.
Because of this desire to be more like Christ, a believer should have a hunger for more knowledge of Christ. How can we be like Him if we don’t know about Him? The word Peter uses for knowledge is ginosko, a word that refers to knowledge that is growing. It is different from the word used in Revelation where the Lord says to the churches “I know thy works.” That word translated “know” is oida. It refers to knowledge that is complete. Our knowledge of Christ is far from complete. It needs to be growing constantly. Scripture gives us the opportunity to know more about Jesus every day.
“Temperance” is not a word we use much anymore. It means “self-control.” Something that most addicts will admit is that they are slaves to their addiction. It seems to have a will and a mind of its own that makes constant demands of them. They’re really no different from anyone else who is a slave to their sin nature. It’s just that in addicts it’s more obvious. Scripture refers to our sin nature as “the flesh,” or “the self.” It is that broken, fallen part of our nature that lives in rebellion to God and is beyond our own ability to control. We can sometimes hold it back like a dog on a leash, but it’s a constant struggle. Obedience to God’s Word powered by God’s Spirit can give us victory over our flesh. It can give us true self-control.
“Patience” is better understood as “endurance.” It means to “bear up under pressure.” Think of a pillar in a building, or of an offensive football player bearing up under the pressure of a defensive player trying to get to the quarterback. Where self-control is doing right in the moment, endurance is doing right as a way of life. Most people struggling to live the Christian life come to the same conclusion Paul did: “I can’t do this!” (See Romans 7), and they’re right. We, in our own strength, cannot do the Christian walk, but the Christian walk was never designed to be done alone. It is meant to be done with the help of others (kind of like the Mag Seven) and with the constant companionship and help of the Savior. We can do all things through Christ Who strengthens us. Most of the time, however, we wait until we are at our weakest to cry to Him for help. We need to ask for God’s grace always. “Be careful for nothing; but in [everything] by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6. See also James 1:5-8). The time to ask for God’s grace to endure is at the beginning of the task and continuously throughout the task. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Turning to God is not just for those times you feel overwhelmed. God is with us through every part of our Christian walk. We need only to call on Him.
That covers three of our magnificent seven. We’ll pick up on the others tomorrow.
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