- Virtue (arete – the Greek word for virtue or excellence, considered the highest quality for the attainment of happiness). The English translation “virtue” isn't bad, but “moral excellence” captures the sense of applying what we know to be right in the moral realm so that we are not deficient; only then can we build to the next level:
- Knowledge (gnosis) this isn't the word for experiential knowledge enjoined above, but probably relates more to knowing or having insight into God's will, on the more subjective level. If we're not obeying the objective revealed will, we will not be able to discern the subjective aspects of God's will (John 7:17);
- Self-control (“power under control”) is used of controlling one's passions and desires so that we do what God wants rather than what we want. See the sermon on Self-control on Truthbase.net for how to develop the power to exhibit or inhibit an impulse.
- Patience (“remain under”) is better translated “endurance,” the strength to continue to carry a load or remain under a burden when everything temporal within you wants to quit;
- Godliness (knowing and doing what the gods require) was used of the pagan priests who learned what the gods wanted, and carried it out “religiously.” Paul was an apostle for the purpose of developing this trait in believers (see comments on Titus 1);
- Brotherly kindness (philadelphia) is the fond affection that believers share as brothers and sisters in the family of God. It's difficult to have such affection for “black sheep” or selfish and self-centered unsanctified believers, hence the need for having the previous traits;
- Love (agape) this is the crowning jewel of Christlike character, the loyal sacrifice of ourselves for the benefit of another. It is parallel to the OT hesed.
2:18-23 By appealing to the unsanctified desires of those who are just escaping the defilement of the flesh, the false teachers keep them ensnared. They promise the untaught liberty and freedom, but the teachers themselves don't live in victory nor freedom. A person is the slave of whatever masters him (the sanctification argument of Paul in Romans 6). This truism applies to both the false teachers and their pupils, but Peter probably has the untaught in view, since the section began with those “just escaping” in verse 18, and he spent the earlier part of the chapter on the false teachers. If, after they have escaped the defilement of the world through the experiential knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (that pretty much makes them as born-again as one gets), they are again entangled in it (since they were out of it) and overcome (literally two verbs: “become” and “inferior or conquered”) by sin, the last state of “defeated defilement” is worse than the first state of defilement. It would be better for them not to have known the way of the righteousness God requires for blessing, than to have known it and turned form the holy commandment (not gracious gift of salvation by faith) delivered to them to obey.
Those with a cranial capacity the size of a French pea (as in Veggie Tales), can't understand that this is not talking about sins being covered by the gracious provision of the blood of Christ's atoning sacrifice received by faith, but rather the diligent obedience God demands of His redeemed people for entrance into the promised blessings. Maybe they missed that righteousness for reward differs from the righteousness of redemption imputed on the basis of Christ's death and their faith. Or that faith and obedience are not the same word. Those who think so have to conclude that forgiveness from the penalty of sin is on the basis of obedient works rather than faith. Or maybe they missed the whole parallel between redeemed Israel failing to get the promised blessing and disobedient redeemed NT believers missing their reward which Paul talked about in 1Corinthians 10. In any event they are missing the truth (and the glory) like the false teachers and their pupils did. It could not be better to never have known the way escape from the lake of fire, than to have known it and turned from it (thus suffering eternal torment in the lake of fire). However, it would be better to have not known the commandment of God given them to obey (for then they would receive less discipline) than to have known it and ignored it (for those would receive greater discipline). For those who don't think bad things happen to bad believers, see comment on French peas above).
Luke 12:47 And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.