Robert R. McLaughlin Bible Ministries
The Tree of Life is a weekly teaching summary.
The Tree of Life for week ending 05/30/04.
The Illustration of Virtue in Greek Drama.
2 Peter 1:5-7
In our ongoing study of the subject of Biblical virtue, we have now come to 2Pe 1:2, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” The Apostle Peter’s opening words in this verse mean literally “Grace to you.” This means that you are important to God, and God has a policy with regard to you, a policy to care for you, prosper you, and bless you.
Peter goes on to say, “Grace to you and peace.” The Greek word for “peace” is eirene, the origin of the English proper name “Irene.” Eirene means peace and blessing, but its basic meaning is prosperity, so Peter is really saying, “Grace to you and prosperity be multiplied (or increased)…” This is spiritual prosperity, social prosperity, mental prosperity, economic prosperity, etc.
Next we see the divine viewpoint on how grace and prosperity are multiplied, with a prepositional phrase—en plus the instrumental of epignosis, which means literally “through the instrument of metabolized doctrine.” Epignosis, translated “knowledge,” is metabolized doctrine. The entire verse should be translated, “Grace to you and peace be multiplied by means of epignosis knowledge (or metabolized doctrine) of God and of Jesus our Lord…” Multiplication of grace and prosperity comes from learning the knowledge of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Peter continues in 2Pe 1:3, “Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence…” The “divine power” is the ministry of God the Holy Spirit and Bible doctrine, Heb 4:12. Every believer has been given the power and ability to receive blessings from God. 2Pe 1:4 continues, “For by these [His doctrine, His glory, and His excellence] He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”
Verses 5-7 introduce a subject that takes us back to the 5th century B.C. in Athens, Greece, at the time of men of genius like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, when Greek culture was considered to be at its peak. The Greeks of that day and age excelled at the writing and performance of drama, and Peter is about to take us through a study of Greek drama in 2Pe 1:5-7 and show us how it applies to our lives in a fantastic way.
2Pe 1:5 begins, “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge…” The Greek verb translated “applying all diligence” is pareisphero, which means to make every effort, or to make a constant effort. The verb translated “supply” is epichoregeo, which was used for the man who provided the finances to train the Greek actors. The actors were called the choregeo (chorus). Peter is going to list a chorus, or a choregeo, of seven principles in 2Pe 1:5-7.
The training of the chorus was the most important job in the production. The actors would sing the lines of the play and set the mood as the narrators of the story. They were trained to perfection, and they needed someone to pay for the yearly expenses. Therefore, epichoregeo came to mean “supply and furnish.” Unfortunately, there are very few epichoregeo’s in the Christian life because there are very few believers willing to pay the price.
In 2Pe 1:5, the phrase “in your faith” is translated from pistis, which refers here to doctrine, or that which one believes—“Furnish (or supply) by means of your doctrine.” Doctrine belongs to all of us; whether we use it or not is another issue. Doctrine is the only possession we have that can please God and glorify Him, and at the same time provide the capacity we need in every facet of life. Metabolized doctrine is the supplier of your very own drama.
The Apostle Paul wrote in 1Co 4:9, “For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.” The word for “spectacle” is theatron, which means a theater, a place for public shows, a play, or a place for the performance of dramatic representations. We each have our very own drama. We have our very own epichoregeo, Bible doctrine, which will furnish and supply everything we need. Your life will either be a drama that glorifies God, 1Co 6:19-20, or a drama that lives for the god of this world, 2Co 4:4.
In 2Pe 1:5, “moral excellence” is the Greek word arête, which means manliness, excellence, and virtue. At the time the Bible was written the word “virtue” was very popular; in fact, the Romans defined virtue as follows:
· Devotion and loyalty to one’s family. Loyalty was the key to being virtuous—loyalties to the family, to friends, etc.
· Reverence and devotion to the authorities of the time, which was revealed by the exact performance of all that was required.
· Respect for the laws of establishment and the Roman government.
· Justice or faith. To the Romans, faith meant staying true to one’s word, paying one’s debts, keeping one’s oath, and performing all obligations. In the Roman business world, a man’s word was his bond, and signed contracts were not even used.
· Self-control, i.e., a well-organized life.
· Consistency and perseverance, even under the most trying circumstances.
This is the basis for understanding what Peter meant by “virtue.” To communicate a point of doctrine in the Roman Empire, Peter uses the Roman meaning of virtue.
In the Christian life, virtue is the top priority in God’s system, and virtue must come before production. Virtue is the lead actor in your drama, and only the invisible power of filling of the Spirit (Eph 5:18) and Bible doctrine can produce this virtue. Virtue is the visible manifestation of the invisible.
All virtue must have an object toward which it is directed. Virtue is manifested by enforced humility directed toward authority and genuine humility directed toward God and man. Virtue is manifested by worship toward God and morality toward man. It is confidence toward God and courage toward man and circumstances. For the believer, virtue and integrity come from epignosis doctrine in the soul, not abstaining from sin.
A principle that all Greek dramas followed was to produce unity— (1) unity of action, (2) unity of time, and (3) unity of place. These were the three important concepts of Greek drama. The action all took place at one time, just as your life takes place at the time ordained by God, and the action needed consistency and unity, just as your life must have consistency and unity to bring glory to God. As Phi 2:2 tells us, “Be thinking the same things, maintaining the same virtue-love, united in soul, concentrating on the same objective.”
Just as action, time, and place were very vital in Greek drama, they are vital for us as believers. Our lives must have virtue as our action, we must be in the right place (the predesigned plan of God), and we must be under the right timing (the timing of God). Virtue is the key to the Christian life—not morality, legalism, or social action. Virtue entails humility, while we live in a world of arrogance and subjectivity. Average Christians today do not want to be taught; they want to be in the drama, but they do not want to go through the training and practice.
The action of the drama must demonstrate unity and flow consistently. We can all have a life of freedom and stability, Gal 5:1, Mat 11:28-30. As Paul said in Phi 3:12-14, “Not that I have already obtained it [the resurrection life, or ultra-supergrace status], or have already reached the objective, but I continue pressing on that I may attain that [overtake, gain, or arrive at the objective] on account of which I was overtaken by Christ Jesus. Brethren [members of the Royal Family of God], I evaluate myself as not yet having attained the objective [ultra-supergrace, the ultimate objective in time, living in resurrection life]; but one thing I concentrate upon: constantly forgetting the things that lie behind and pursuing vigorously to what lies ahead, I keep on pressing on toward the objective for the purpose of the reward belonging to the upward call of God [the Father], by means of Christ Jesus.” Without an objective, or unity of action, the drama fails to hold attention, fails to stimulate emotion, and fails to establish the intended mood. The continuity of our action in the Christian way of life is derived from the implementation of our invisible assets and the problem-solving devices.
The Greek drama of the 5th century B.C. compressed all the action into one day; every scene had to be performed the same day. The drama also had to occur in one locale; every scene took place in one setting. By analogy, one day at a time is the order for the Christian way of life, Rom 14:5 6. We reveal all our priorities on a day-by-day basis. Every Church-age believer must live one day at a time; each day requires unity of action, time, and place. The effectiveness of the action in that one day is determined by whether the believer in fellowship, learning doctrine, and living in the predesigned plan of God, or out of fellowship in the cosmic system, and therefore whether he is functioning as a winner or a loser.
Important principles concerning the lead actor in the believer’s life (his own drama) include the following:
1. In God’s plan, Bible doctrine is first.
2. In God’s authority, divine commands are first.
3. In God’s policy, grace is first.
4. In God’s objective, spiritual momentum is first.
5. In God’s system, virtue is first.
6. In God’s purpose, occupation with Christ is first.
In this analogy, there is no drama without an actor, and there is no service without virtue, and this requires humility and teachability. It is teaching that builds virtue.
Virtue is far higher than morality; morality simply makes sense as far as having a good, stable life, but virtue goes beyond morals into self-sacrifice and the thinking of the Lord Jesus Christ, Phi 2:5. Virtue is the lead actor in your life, the key to the whole drama. The believer must choose virtue as his lead actor in his very own personal sense of destiny.
The first virtue that you reveal is to assemble in church, because you must first be teachable. However, this is just the beginning, because teachability is just the means; real virtue leads to personal love for God. A believer who is ignorant of Bible doctrine does not love God. Without a relationship with God, there is no virtue. Your epichoregeo (supplier of virtue) in the spiritual realm is metabolized doctrine.
1. The will of God for mankind is two fold; for the unbeliever it is salvation, and for the believer it is metabolized doctrine, 1Ti 2:3-4.
2. The pastor teacher’s communication is the source of metabolized doctrine, Tit 1:1, Eph 4:11-13.
3. Cosmic believers fail to metabolize doctrine, 2Ti 3:2 7. They are often learning academic subjects, but it is all mere gnosis.
4. Only metabolized doctrine can be useful for problem solving, Eph 1:17. The “spirit of wisdom” refers God the Holy Spirit using epignosis doctrine to enable you to handle your problems, whether in adversity or prosperity.
5. All genuine fellowship with believers is based on metabolized doctrine and virtue, Phm 1:6.
6. Only metabolized doctrine can fulfill the mandate of “virtue first” in the predesigned plan of God, Phi 1:9.
7. Only metabolized doctrine can fulfill the entire predesigned plan of God, Col 1:9 10.
8. Only metabolized doctrine can provide blessing under the predesigned plan of God, 2Pe 1:2.
9. A “zeal” to know God is useless without metabolized doctrine, Rom 10:2.
10. True wealth and prosperity come from metabolized doctrine, Col 2:2.
11. The new man can only be renewed and energized through metabolized doctrine, Col 3:10.
Christian activity has no meaning in without virtue. All action is useless without doctrine first. The Bible does say to do certain things, but these things by themselves are not the Christian way of life. They are the results of the virtue of the Christian way of life.
It is easy to do something wonderful for someone you love; in fact, you generally do not even consider it a sacrifice. Motivation by love eliminates the strain and sacrifice of life, 2Co 5:14, “For the love of Christ motivates us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died.” If you love God, you do not even consider your actions sacrificial. The first command of the Christian life is to develop virtue, and that virtue is exercised in two directions—motivational virtue (personal love toward God) and functional virtue (unconditional love toward mankind). You are commanded to have virtue first (not love). If you did all these “great things” without virtue, all you would have is wood, hay, and straw at the judgment seat of Christ, 1Co 3:12.
We must keep in mind that the background to our passage is Greek drama. Greek drama was composed of a chorus that would dance and sing and reveal the drama in a poetic way. In 2Pe 1:5-7, Peter is using the chorus of a Greek drama to illustrate the principles we need in our life to be pleasing to God.
Our chorus line is made up of virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. In Greek drama, the dancing and the singing of the chorus was the basis for describing the action of the drama. Therefore, we must ask ourselves, what is our chorus line? What does your chorus line sing—what does it reveal and about your life? Is your chorus line singing out the qualities given in this passage? Or is your chorus line singing out hypocrisy, ignorance, anxiety, deceitfulness, revenge, hatred, and loss of temper? As we can see, the analogies between Greek drama and the divine plan of God are fantastic. Virtue becomes the lead dancer and singer in the chorus line of the spiritual life. Everything else in our life hangs on the basis of virtue. This is why the phrase, “supply with your doctrine, virtue,” is in the imperative mood. It is a vital command for the spiritual life.
2Pe 1:5 continues, “…and in your virtue, knowledge…” We must make the decision to either believe or reject the knowledge we receive from Bible doctrine; it cannot be forced upon us. To supply your virtue, and then knowledge (gnosis) there are two important decisions you must make. You must subject yourself to academic teaching, which requires positive volition toward doctrine (staying up-to-date with the communication of every doctrine taught by your pastor). You must also combine faith with what you hear, Heb 4:1-2, “Therefore, let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.”
For a more detailed study, order tapes 0190-1162 to 0190-1165.