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How to Develop Christian Virtues
Romans 5:3–5; James 2:3–5; 1 Peter 1:3–11
Romans Lesson #053
March 1, 2012
There is a virtue list in Romans 5, and it is a description, in some degree, of a process of Christian growth. When we come to a paragraph like this, it is important to not only study it in terms of what it is saying but then to recognize that this is only one part of the picture. There are other passages from Paul, Peter, and James that complement what is said here. This is just one look, one expression of the dynamics that occurs within the Christian life. It is incorporating all of the virtues that are manifest within the Christian life using the term virtue as a broad category.
In Romans 5:2 “Through whom [Christ] also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope [confidence] of the glory of God.” The phrase ‘the glory of God’ is often used as a representation of the entire character of God. How do we know that? In context, we know that from a passage like Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The phrase does not always refer just specifically or literally to the effusion of His essence, but it relates to His entire character. It stands as a figure of speech representing all the attributes of God.
Paul then continues in Romans 5:3 “And not only that, but we also glory [rejoice] in tribulations [adversities]…” It is important to think about that that when we hit times that are not going quite like we want them to, we need to develop a habit pattern of thinking and reacting in terms of rejoicing and not in terms of complaining, griping, and moving in the negative direction. That is easier for some people than for others just because of your personality, but ultimately, we can only truly rejoice in whatever we are facing, especially when it is adversities, because we know something. We have learned that this God as a sovereign God supervises the events in our life, and there is a plan and a purpose. We may not understand it until we are face-to-face with the Lord, but we will understand it, and when we do, we will know it is good.
Romans 5:3 “And not only that, but we also glory [rejoice] in tribulations [adversities], knowing [because we know] that tribulation [adversity] produces perseverance [endurance]; (verse 4) and perseverance, character; and character, hope [confidence].” We see a stair step here of these characteristics that the Apostle is talking about.
As I have continued my study of this, this is actually a literary device called a sorites, also known as a climax ladder or the Latin term gradatio. You take a set of statements that proceed step by step through the force of logic or relying upon a succession of indisputable facts that are related to each other that build upward to a climatic conclusion. Each statement usually picks up on a key word or phrase in the previous statement to build to the next statement. So it indicates a progression.
There are several of these within the New Testament. We looked at a parallel passage last time in James 1:2–5, and we’ll look at another in 2 Peter 1:5–11. You find examples of this literary device in all kinds of ancient literature, whether it is the Old or New Testament, classical literature, or rabbinic literature. In the Mishnah, there is an example of this type of thing in Pirkei Avot 1:1 “Moses received the Torah from Sinai and delivered it to Joshua, then Joshua to the elders, then the elders to the prophets, and prophets delivered it to the great men of the assembly [synagogue].” You see that stair step progression. You take a word, repeat it, and move it to the next level.
You have these virtue ladders, I am going to call them, which help us to understand a progression that occurs in spiritual growth. You should not get in your mind that this is a hard and fast progression, that Paul is writing a scientific treatise that you are going to do this and then this and then this. Each time you look at these different lists, while there are similarities, they are not identical. They are expressing the pattern by which Christians grow. Each time you have an expression of this, the writer is emphasizing different virtues and different qualities within the Christian life. So it is not a rigid sort of formula that if you do this, this will happen, and if you do this, that will happen—if you just get out your checklist, you can mark off exactly how you are growing. Life just does not work that way.
Life is dynamic, and we do not grow at the same rate. We do not all need the same information to grow—some need information and doctrine taught one way and some need it taught another way. Everybody is different, and God provides. That is why we have different men who have the gift of pastor-teacher, and through their personalities, they appeal to some people, while others appeal to other people. God uses all of them within the body of Christ.
In the New Testament, the classic passages are the ones we have looked at already: Romans 5:3–5, James 1:2–5, 2 Peter 1:5–7, and Galatians 5:22–26. In some of these lists, there is a contrast with a vice list. So you have a virtue and vice contrast. Essentially what the writer is doing is following a pattern of teaching ethics that was common, not only in the Old Testament period in Israel but was also common in Greece and in other cultures. They would teach by comparison and contrast. We do not learn by just looking at what is right. We learn often by looking at what is right and comparing and contrasting it to things that are almost right or things that are the opposite, so that we can understand the various shades and gradations of distortion that may occur so that that which is pure white is better understood when you compare it not just with black or gray but with eggshell white.
So by contrast, you wonder what makes the difference. Why do we have these kinds of distinctions and what causes that? This is what causes people to become curious and then to investigate, study and learn things. Ethical instruction was often taught within this kind of a contrast.
We got into this by looking at this emphasis on hope that we have in Romans 5:2–5. I compared that with other passages. We looked first of all at what Paul taught about hope within Romans. We saw that hope, though not mentioned in the list in Galatians 5:22–24 on the fruit of the Spirit, it is still part of the spiritual life and is a mental attitude that is developed in the believer through the application of Scripture, so that we can endure through trials. It should be understood primarily as confidence, and it is a confidence that grows. We have a certain confidence at the very beginning of our Christian life, but that confidence is a little bit wobbly. As we grow and mature, we face trials and testing and we apply the Word and claim promises, and that confidence becomes more stable and stronger.
Faith perceives a proposition or statement, and we believe it to be true. Hope is based on a past promise of a future reality. Hope provides the believer with confidence in this future reality so certain that it strengthens and toughens the believer’s mentality today to face, fight, and surmount unpleasant circumstances with a mentality of joy in the midst of difficulty.
We went beyond Romans to other statements that Paul makes about hope in other epistles, and then went outside of Pauline epistles to other statements related to hope. Many of these are part of this stair step or virtue ladder that is developed and articulated by different writers of Scripture.
When we talk about virtue, it is one of those ideas that is prevalent both among the non-Christian world and the Christian world. It is tempting to start to think about virtue, and then look at how virtue has been discussed and developed within classical philosophy, specifically within the ethics going back to Socrates, Plato, Aristotle (writing in the Nicomachean Ethics). There is the development of ethics in the Middle Ages. Classically, the way Western civilization taught or viewed ethics within an Aristotelian or classical Greek background was that there were four cardinal virtues.
(1) Temperance is from the Greek word SOPHROSYNE. We often associate temperance with not drinking. The temperance movement or the prohibition movement in the U.S. has colored our understanding of that word, but it has a rich heritage. It is a word that is very close in meaning to the second virtue which is (2) prudence from the Greek word PHRONESIS, which has to do with thinking. They both have to do with balanced thinking and not going to extremes. (3) Courage (4) Justice In the Middle Ages, Christians added to those four cardinal virtues the three Christian virtues: faith, hope and love.
The problem with that is if you read Aristotle, Plato, or other ethicists writing in the Middle Ages, they had a lot of different virtue lists; they did not just have four virtues. Among the Christians, they did not just have three. That is sort of a misrepresentation; they talked about many different ones.
Here is a quote from Aristotle’s book on rhetoric. He states that “the components of virtue are justice, courage [two of the four that I just mentioned], self-control, magnificence, magnanimity [being gracious], liberality, gentleness, practical and speculative wisdom.”
I do not want you to think that there is a hard and fast step-by-step type of procedure that one goes through. Each writer states things a little differently.
Even the unbeliever recognizes certain qualities of virtue. He just thinks that man on his own can produce them. The difference between the human viewpoint pattern and the divine viewpoint pattern is that in human viewpoint, there is a thought that man can generate this just from his own self-will. Volition is always at the core of the teaching in these areas. Whereas, in Christianity, we recognize man can do good and can do a qualitative good, but it does not have any value before God. God recognizes the root is corrupt; the fruit is always going to be tainted by the corrupt root of Adam’s original sin.
We see both outside the Bible and within the Bible that there are as many different virtue lists, one might say, as there are writers. In some places, writers have different lists depending on the Scripture. We look at the context, and we should ask the question why is Paul emphasizing these virtues in this list and other virtues in other lists? It has to do with the context of why he is writing and to whom he is writing and what he is addressing in terms of a problem. We need to be careful not to set up some sort of absolute list and then follow that.
adversity ----> endurance ----> tested, approved character ----> confidence (hope)
(THLIPSIS) (HUPOMONE) (DOKIME) (ELPIS)
trial ---------> testing ------> endurance ----> perfect work maturation
(PEIRASMOS) (DOKIMION) (HUPOMONE) (TELEIOS)
In Romans 5:3-4, you have adversity which is just negative. We all face adversity. Then we face it through handling it correctly, and it develops endurance. Then endurance has a result in tested or approved character, which is spiritual growth beginning to mature and develop. Ending up with confidence.
James 1:2-4 looks at it a little differently. James 1:2 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” The word for various in Greek is POIKILOS, which is where we get our word for polka dot. It has to do with that which is variegated or that which has different aspects to it. We may have similar tests in life, but they are always different. We never know when they are going to hit. That is why James uses the word “fall into.” You are just walking along and then boom, there is something that happens and you do not expect or anticipate it. It is all kinds of different trials. He emphasizes the trial or test aspect rather than the adversity aspect. A test can be an adversity type of test or a prosperity type of test. It can be expected or unexpected. The bottom line is that we are to count it or consider it joy.
I think that James follows a great pattern here of introducing his basic themes at the very beginning. This is typical in most literature. You learned how to write this way when you were in elementary or junior high to put into your topical or introductory paragraph a basic foreshadowing of what you were going to say, the main ideas that were going to characterize your paper.
The writers of the New Testament or the ancient world were not any different. Their opening introductions, whether writing or speaking, emphasized the basic themes and ideas that would be developed within the body of an epistle or within the body of the speech. After studying James, James writes to teach his readers how to count it all joy when they encounter various trials. He does not just start here and give this command to count it joy when you encounter trials. How do I do that? He gives an idea in the introduction and then he develops it throughout the body of the epistle.
The basis for being able to count it all joy is similar to the basis that Paul has over in Romans 5 where he says we are able to glory or rejoice in adversity because we know something. James uses a causal participle to express the reason or the basis for being able to count it joy. James 1:3 “because you know that the testing of your faith produces patience.” That is what a test is: It tests the doctrine in your soul, what you have learned in Bible class and internalized. The test is going to give you an opportunity to use it or abuse it. You are either going to forget it or are going to apply it. That is the test.
James 1:4 “But let patience [endurance] have its perfect work [maturing or completing, bringing you to the goal that God intends which is spiritual maturity], that you may be perfect [mature] and complete, lacking nothing.”
(See slide #13 comparing Romans and James) We see that both start with some kind of test or adversity. Then James brings in the idea of testing, and then they both go to endurance. Paul in Romans leaves out anything between adversity and endurance. As you learn to endure according to Paul, you get tested or approved character, which is similar to what James is talking about when he says you are reaching the end that God desires: You are maturing. Paul then goes on to another level expressing hope.
(See chart on slide #14 comparing Romans, James, and 2 Peter. Working up the ladder.)
Peter lists faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control and then endurance. Before he gets to endurance, he has four other virtues listed that are not in either Paul’s list or James’ list. But any of them would agree, you start with a trial or adversity, but that produces different qualities. As I have studied this 2 Peter passage, I have come up with some new information related to some of these words which helps explain it a little more.
You see an indication there after ‘endurance,’ you have ‘spiritual responsibility’ (EUSEBEIA). I have usually translated that in relation to the spiritual life, but there is a lot more to it than just the spiritual life. That word is related to the Latin word piety. In their culture, that word involved and included a sense of obligation to behave a certain way. It is more than just the spiritual life. There is a certain responsibility to grow and mature within that leading to loving one another. And then love. That is the list we have in 2 Peter.
Let’s begin by looking at 2 Peter 1. We need to understand the context. It is very important to always understand the context of passages. This part of Peter is really interesting. There is a lot of similarity between 2 Peter and Jude. As I pointed out in the Jude series, Jude is writing after Peter wrote 2 Peter. They are probably writing to the same group of churches somewhere in Asia Minor (what we call Turkey today). Peter was warning them that certain false teachers were going to come, and they were going to create a lot of trauma within the body of Christ. Jude is writing after they have shown up on the scene. There are a lot of interesting parallels between the two epistles, but Jude is not redundant to Peter, or the Holy Spirit would not have overseen the inspiration of Jude.
Peter begins with a standard introduction that we have in many different letters. He introduces himself in verse 1 as “Simon Peter, a bondservant [slave] and apostle of Jesus Christ.” Then he gives his recipients “to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Then he gives his blessing in verse 2 “grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge …”
Or by means of the knowledge which is EPIGNOSIS. This indicates a fuller knowledge, a more immediate applicable knowledge than just brute facts or information.
Since we have such a multiplication of information today, always remember that information is not knowledge, and knowledge is not wisdom. We are flooded with information; we cannot keep up with all the information. You have to have knowledge, and knowledge is not just information. Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. You do not have to know as much if you are wise because wisdom has to do with the proper use of knowledge. People think they know a lot just because they have a lot of information, but they do not have a lot of wisdom. They do not know how to utilize all of this data that is thrown at them constantly. They are just overwhelmed by it.
EPIGNOSIS goes beyond just the basic knowledge of information and facts, which is GNOSIS, to a fuller, more applicable use of knowledge. This is important because EPIGNOSIS is going to show up again in verse 3 and in a later development of this epistle.
2 Peter 1:3 “as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge [EPIGNOSIS] of Him who called us by glory and virtue, (verse 4) by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
It is important to take a look at this whole section going all the way down to verse 11. Having set things up in verses 3–4 as his introduction or prologue, Peter then develops this starting in verse 5. If you look at the way your English Bible and sometimes Greek text are punctuated, they end verse 4 with a period, but actually verse 5 should not be seen as being a separate thought. It moves right from verse 3 to verse 5. There should not be that kind of break there. What Peter says in verses 5–7 is the outgrowth and the expectation that it becomes incumbent upon his readers when they understand what God has given them in verses 3-4. They state what God has supplied them.
If you look at verse 3, you can see the connection “as His divine power has given to us …” Whenever you see anything related to giving, it is always a grace verb. The emphasis in the very beginning is on what God has given to us all, and then as you come down to verse 11, Peter ends up by saying “… will be supplied to you abundantly …” Will be supplied is the grace verb again. God gives in verse 3 and gives in verse 11 – that is the bracket.
In technical literature, this is called an inclusio, and in artillery, it is called bracketing. In artillery, when you are shooting at a target, your first shell probably goes over the target to get the range. The second shell will probably fall short of the target to again lay out the range. Ideally, the third shell hits the target. It is bracketed; it defines the parameters of your topic. You have grace in verse 3 and grace in verse 11 and that frames his discussion and explanation.
In light of this prologue in verses 3–4, Peter is using a literary device that is very similar to what we find in a lot of literature at this time in history. There is a lot of evidence of this similar vocabulary and wording from the time of about 200–300 BC all the way through the New Testament period. This is important to understand that Peter is writing like someone who is the product of a Greek culture, using that kind of language that gives us a little bit more of a perspective of what he is emphasizing. He is not writing like a Roman or like a Jew.
This kind of vocabulary and structure was used in statements that were made in relation to a benefactor, where a city or a region had received certain blessings, provisions, or gifts, like military protection, from a king or someone else, and they would respond with some sort of statement of how this benefactor had provided for them. That is exactly how Peter frames it using similar language. He talks about how God has provided for us; He is the great benefactor who has given us everything related to life and godliness.
In verses 5–8, he focuses on the fact that because God is this great benefactor and has provided us with His benevolent grace, those who have responded and been the beneficiaries of His grace are obligated and should be committed to a specific course of action, i.e., walking up this ladder of virtue.
I have often taught this in another type of illustration because you run into people in the Christian life who are licentious as opposed to understanding obligation. Obligation is not legalism. Legalism is when you say my obedience to God is the cause of His blessing to me. God blesses us because we possess the perfect righteousness of Christ. That is grace; it is freely given to us and not on the basis of who we are or what we have done but because of God’s grace. Because God has given us something and it is so magnificent and incredible, there is something implicit within it that is an obligation to be responsible.
If I were to give you a brand-new Lamborghini or Rolls Royce or BMW with the keys and the title, that car is now yours. That does not mean you should treat it any way you want to. You can drive it and never change the oil, but eventually you will just lock that engine up. You may never check the tires, and eventually the tire treads will wear down, and the tires will blow out. You may never tune the car up or check the fluids, and the next thing you know, you own this wonderful car, but it is sitting in your front yard up on blocks and doesn’t do you any good. You have been irresponsible in utilizing that which was given to you.
If someone gives us something or for any other possession we have, there is an inherent obligation to take care of it and responsibly manage and use it. That is the idea here that God has given us so much in terms of our spiritual life, that implies a reciprocal responsibility on our part to utilize that so that it has the benefit in our life that God intended it to have.
This is the pattern that Peter sets up here. In the beginning, it expresses what God has given, and then in verse 5 on, he talks about what that entails and what that should mean in our life. In verses 8-9, he contrasts it with the negatives of what he will say about the false teachers that are going to come in and cause problems for this congregation. In verses 10-11, he connects those who go up the virtue ladder to the future kingdom and their position to rule and reign with Christ. It has a tremendous logical flow to it, and we want to fit our understanding in the middle of this.
We have examples of these kinds of honorific statements. For example, there was one commending a physician named Philistos of the island of Kos. “Therefore, so that all may know that we express appropriate appreciation to those who practice the policy of making us the beneficiaries of their philanthropies, be it resolved to commend Philistos of Kos, son of Nikarchos, and crown him.” There were literally thousands of examples in archeology of these kinds of statements that were made at that period of time.
What Peter is doing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is just using this same literary style that we find in the ancient world at that time. But he is shifting the focus away from the benefactor in the first part to the obligation for every believer in the second part. He is answering a question, and that question is how do we get what is stated in 2 Peter 1:4 “by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature …” That is Peter’s claim that we as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ can participate or partake of the divine nature. What does that mean?
What it means is that there are certain attributes of God that we can imitate and that are shared. Theologians (I usually do not divide the attributes of God this way) have historically divided the attributes of God into two categories. Incommunicable attributes of God are those that God alone has. They are not reflected in His creatures to any degree. Then you have communicable attributes, and these are attributes that are shared and reflected to a limited or lesser degree in God’s creatures. The attributes of God that are shared with His creatures are part of what are known as the image of God.
In Genesis 1, we read that God created man—male and female. He created them in the image and likeness of God. What does that mean? It means that mankind (male and female) is a finite representation of God to represent God and rule over creation. This involved not a physical representation but a representation in terms of his soul—his thinking ability, ability to lead, ability to create, ability to make moral decisions imitating the righteousness and justice of God. All of this would be part of man’s makeup. We summarize this in terms of his self-consciousness, his God-consciousness, and his moral-consciousness.
But that image that man had as the image of God was perfect at the very beginning, a perfect reflection of God with perfect righteousness. It was untested righteousness, but it was still perfect righteousness. When Adam sinned, that image became marred and corrupted; it was not destroyed but was defaced. It was not removed but was just messed up and corrupted because of sin. There is a process whereby God is restoring that image in man, and that is part of the whole salvation process—the whole process of redemption and reconciliation.
Paul alludes to this in Romans 8:28–29 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be confirmed to the image of His Son …” The image starts off perfect. Man in Adam and Eve had that perfect reflection of God’s character, but when they sinned, that became corrupted. The only way that process begins to get reversed is in the process of sanctification in the spiritual life through God’s work in the believer. We are going to be conformed to the image of His Son.
When Peter says we can be partakers of the divine nature, what this means is that through applying God’s promises and principles that are in His Word, in the process of spiritual growth and advance, the character of God begins to be developed within us. We imitate that and participate in the divine nature. The question that we should ask when we read 2 Peter 1:4 is how do we become partakers or participators in the divine nature? How are God’s attributes going to be manifest in my life? How am I going to change?
The answer is to walk up the virtue ladder in verses 5–7. By walking up that virtue ladder, as we have seen in Romans, James, and 2 Peter, God’s character is manifest in us: the fruit of the Spirit. In this process, Peter is going to show how those who have received God’s grace in verses 3-4 can become participants in the divine nature and benefit fully in what God has given them, displaying God’s character and attributes in their own lives. He does this by going through these various virtues.
A number of Greek scholars have observed the similarity in Peter’s literary structure and his language here as an imitation or reflection of other comments or statements in Greek letters at that time. One decree that goes back to 280 or 290 BC is a decree that honored Antiochos III or Antiochos the Great, the father of Antiochos Ephiphanes. “Inasmuch as Great King Antiochos has continued his ancestors’ policy of special favor toward all the Greeks, and has brought peace to some and has given aid to many who were in trouble both privately and publicly, and has brought liberty to some who had been enslaved, and during his entire reign has legislated with a view to benefiting mankind, having first rescued our city from slavery he declared it free.” You see the similar kind of pattern reflecting upon the benefits that had been given someone from someone else.
As we look at the details and the structure of what Paul says in 2 Peter 1:3, it starts off in most English translations with the translation of the first Greek word as “as.” In Greek, it is HOS, and the knee-jerk basic translation for HOS is the word “as.” But it is often used in numerous places with the meaning of since or because. We lose the force of it when we translate it “as His divine power.” It should be translated “because His divine power has given to us all things …” Another thing that comes across here in the Greek is the phrase His divine power is stated in a genitive construction which is out of place here. That is why it is referred to in grammars as a genitive absolute. It is designed to focus our attention upon this phrase as a key phrase. It has taken a genitive and used it as a subject of a clause, so the focal point is on God’s divine power.
But it is not just talking about His omnipotence. We think through the 10 attributes in the essence box: God is sovereign, righteous, just, love, eternal life, omnipotent, omniscience, omnipresence, veracity and immutability. When we look at the phrase His divine power, it is looking through the lens of God’s omnipotence to His whole character. Grammarians call this a periphrasis, where one attribute is taken, but it is really standing for the whole. It is not just saying this only comes from God’s omnipotence, but it comes from His whole being, His whole person. You could substitute this because God has given to us all things. But the emphasis he wants us to understand is that what is behind this gift is God’s omnipotence. Nothing is more powerful than God.
So in the entirety of His character, but specifically the fact that He is an omnipotent God whose power cannot be thwarted or broken, God has given us these resources and has provided these things for us. He has given to us all things, Peter says. Not some things, not most things, not an abundance of things, but all things. It is an inclusive concept. This is a foundational doctrine in Scripture that God “has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness …” (2 Peter 1:3)
The Greek word that is translated life is ZOE. Life here does not reflect to just eternal life. That is our knee-jerk response: Yes, God gave us eternal life. That is not the focus here. It is juxtaposed in this combination with EUSEBEIA, which does focus on the spiritual side. ZOE in many passages also emphasizes physical life, the basic necessities of life. God recognizes this even in passages such as Matthew 4:4, which quotes from Deuteronomy 8:3, that man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Even in that statement from Deuteronomy, there is a recognition of physical life but also of spiritual life that comes from the nourishment of the Word of God.
Scripture also emphasizes that there are basic necessities of life that we have to have in order to get anywhere in life. This is what is subsumed here that God provides for us, emphasized by Jesus in passages such as Mathew 6:25ff in the Sermon on the Mount. When he talks about all the flowers in the field that God arrayed, you should take no thought for all the details of life because God supplied for the flowers in the field and can do even more for you. God is going to provide for the physical necessities that we need in order to keep body and soul together to accomplish His will and His plan for our life.
He has given us everything that relates to life and godliness, so no matter how bad things may appear where you are down to living in a one-room apartment and just having Ramen noodles three times a day, God still has a plan for your life. You are still alive, and you have the opportunity to minister to people. That may be exactly what God wants you to do - to be able to have a witness to others who are living in that same apartment complex eating all the various flavors of Ramen with you.
God provides all that pertains to life and godliness. EUSEBEIA is translated godliness and is one of those ambiguous, vague words that sounds so holy (even holy is an ambiguous word), but it has lost its emphasis for us. We do not understand what it means. In the Old English and the development of English, godliness means God likeness. At the core of that word godliness, there is an element of truth that it is focusing on that part of God’s character so that we can be like God in certain areas of our character. It is related to the spiritual life. But there is more to EUSEBEIA than simply the spiritual life. In fact, in the ancient world, many times in non-biblical literature, the word EUSEBEIA often has the idea of duty or responsibility, so in this case, it would be the duty of the believer in relation to God’s plan for his life.
The Greek word was EUSEBEIA , and the Latin word or the Roman concept was pietas. I have a quote here from Cicero in his book on rhetoric. “Pietas warns us to keep our obligations to our country or parents or other kin.” It is related to being responsible and mature in how you handle the resources that have been given you from country, from parents, or from others. It emphasizes elements of reverence and loyalty to those to whom it is properly due whether it has to do with God or parents or social institutions or fellow citizens. In fact, pietas for the Romans was a high virtue that also included the idea of dogged determination and an unflinching devotion to duty. Something similar to endurance, HUPOMONE. It was somebody who was determined and is not going to be taken off course, but he is going to fulfill his obligations and his duty to those who have provided for him.
This changes our understanding of EUSEBEIA. It has to do with the spiritual life, but it has to do with the responsibilities and the obligations we have toward God who has given us so very much. He has given us everything pertaining to life and godliness, and it comes “through the knowledge [EPIGNOSIS, more than just facts or just understanding the Gospel. It is moving beyond that basic knowledge of God] of Him, who called us by glory and virtue.” Glory stands for His character, and virtue emphasizes the moral excellence of God.
2 Peter 1:4 “by which [His glory and virtue which stand for His essence] have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature…” It is a stress on knowing the Word of God; our duty and responsibility is to know God through the Scriptures. It is not just something that is optional. It is something that is fundamental, and without which, there can be no spiritual life or spiritual growth.