Growth in Grace 15 — Brotherly Kindness Must Be Supplied into Godliness 2

by | Oct 22, 2014 | Soteriology

2 Peter 1:7 commands, “and in your godliness, (supply) brotherly kindness.”  My outline is similar to that of previous posts on this passage.  We have considered: The Virtue Viewed

Now consider The Connection Clarified.

Again and again we have observed that there is a reason for the careful order that Peter observes in his list as he tells to supply one grace after another in the previously mentioned grace.  Why does brotherly kindness follow godliness?  And why is it precisely godliness into which brotherly kindness must be supplied?

John Brown proposes that the connection between godliness and brotherly kindness is that brotherly kindness grows out of godliness.  He says:

There can be no brotherly kindness where there is no godliness.  It is by God’s becoming our spiritual Father that we become spiritual brethren.   While I am ungodly, godly men are not my brethren; I am of my father the devil, and his children are my brethren.  It is by becoming godly that I am brought into God’s family…

Now all that Brown says is truth, but it is not in my opinion the truth taught in our text.  The text does not say brotherly kindness originates in godliness, but that godliness must be supplied with brotherly kindness.  It is the possible deficiency of godliness, not its positive fruitfulness that is under discussion.

Godliness must be supplied with brotherly kindness because too often the profession of religion, the form of godliness, has been associated with the most harsh and unfeeling attitudes towards other Christians.  May I put it this way?  Some people become so godly that they become inhuman.  Remember the synagogue official in Luke 13:14 who became indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath?  Here was a man who certainly had the form of godliness.  He did not become what the Greek calls the synagogue ruler by being irreligious, you can be sure.   He no doubt was very dedicated to the public worship of the synagogue. No doubt he attended worship carefully, gave His tithes religiously, and was meticulous in seeing that worship was carried according to the strict traditions of the Jews. Most manifestly, he observed God’s Sabbath.

Remember the Pharisees’ view of Sabbath-keeping.  Their religious Sabbath-keeping had become so strict, that Jesus had to remind them of several important qualifications to the complete rest required on the Sabbath.  He reminded them that the Sabbath was made for man—not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27).  He reminded them that God desired compassion and not sacrifice (Matt. 12:7) in the keeping of the Sabbath.  He told them that works of necessity and mercy do not violate God’s Sabbath (Matt. 12:3, 4, 11, 12).

Here, then, was a man—a Pharisee—who had failed to supply in his godliness brotherly kindness.  Such godliness, such religion, is the reason James said, “This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress…” (Jas. 1:27)

It is the characteristic of this series of blogs with each new grace I have to qualify what I have previously.  The reason is that Peter after naming each grace tells us that it must be supplemented or supplied with another.  Previously, I stressed to you the importance of godliness.  I told you how empty self-control and even perseverance were if they were not the kind of self-control and perseverance permeated with godliness.  Now I have to tell you that there is a false kind of godliness or religiosity that is just as empty if it is not supplemented and supplied with brotherly love. 

Here we are reminded of the importance of balance in the Christian life.  I will let Lloyd-Jones speak to this matter:

We see that each of these qualities adds and contributes to the others; every one has its own importance and yet each one influences the others.  We see the importance vigour, and yet we see the importance of controlling vigour by knowledge.  Every one has its own function, and yet each affects the others and therefore contributes to the whole.  In other words, what impresses me most of all about this list is its perfect balance.  There is no other life that has this balance.  There are people who are highly intellectual and very cultured, but perhaps not moral; there are others who are morally blameless, but not very intelligent; and there are those who have great will power, but somehow there is something lacking.  There is no life that shows this perfect balance but the Christian life that is depicted here.

All the graces that Peter refers to in this list are marks and signs of election.  Cf. the following passage, 2 Peter 1:8-11, especially v. 10.  I believe, however, that the New Testament lays special emphasis on brotherly love as an especially helpful mark of being born of God.  We have already looked at two passages that clearly suggest this.  1 Thessalonians 4:10 and 1 Peter 1:22 closely associate coming to love the brethren with the great change that takes place when a man is truly converted to Jesus Christ.  But the greatest and most concentrated emphasis is on love for the brethren as a mark of the new birth, and it comes in 1 John.

Consider 1 John 3:10-14:

10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.  11 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another;  12 not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.  13 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.  14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.

Love for the brethren is a two-edged sword.  Its presence shows that we are the children of God and have come into life.  Its absence shows that we have are the children of the devil and abide in death.  Do you see the implication?  It is not that love for the brethren is a good sign of conversion, but that if we lack it we may still be Christians.  No!  Love for the brethren is an essential necessary mark of being born again.  Its absence means that we are lost.

Faithfulness requires me here to speak to the subject of the marks of grace.  Whenever people hear about the marks of grace or the signs that someone is really a Christian, they have a tendency to focus on those signs and practically forget everything they ought to know about the gospel of Christ.  Before, therefore, I come to press this subject; I want to take the opportunity to remind you that salvation is by grace alone.  We do nothing to earn God’s favor.  We do nothing to make God be kindly disposed towards our salvation.  Our righteousness before God by which we are justified in His sight does not consist in anything we do, and it certainly does not consist in our righteously loving our brethren.  Our righteousness is the obedience of Christ imputed to us, put to our account.  It is an alien righteousness that we did not make or earn, but a righteousness that is simply given to us.

The question I am addressing is not how someone can be righteous in the sight of God.  The answer to that question is by faith in Christ alone. The question I am addressing is a different.  I am addressing the question: How can I be sure that I have genuine faith in Christ?  The problem is a real one, because the Bible teaches that there is a kind of faith that is not saving.  There is a false faith that is not supplied with moral excellence and that James says is dead being by itself.  This is a reality of which the Bible speaks.  It presents a real problem for the assurance of some Christians.  Chief among those who struggle with this problem are those raised in Christian homes and who have not had a dramatic conversion experience from a life in the world to a life in Christ.  I know because I myself struggled with just such a problem of assurance as one raised in a Christian home.  The question with which someone like that may struggle is: Do I have genuine faith?  Or do I have the false faith of the devils that believe and tremble? There is no avoiding such questions.  I think it is good to face them and answer them before God with judgment day honesty.

The New Testament teaches that one of the most helpful things for such a person to do is to look at themselves in light of this whole matter of brotherly love or love for the brethren.  It can be hard to see if you love a God who is an unseen, but it is not so hard to see if you love God’s people.  Your relationship to God and Christ will be outwardly and tangibly and clearly reflected in your relationships with people.  In the world there are two and only two kinds of people.  There are believers and there are unbelievers.  There are the righteous and the wicked.  There are the children of God, and there are the children of the devil.  The question is simply this.  Which group do you love?  Do you gravitate to people that you look at as Christians?  Do you seek friendship and relationships among those who in your opinion are believers?  Or do you find in the secret of your heart a desire to be with those whom you know are worldly?  This is not a difficult question to answer, and it becomes more and more clear the more you become an adult.  You can tell who someone is by looking at his friends.  If he loves the brethren, he has passed from death to life.  If he loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

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