The huge granite rocks that jut out of the mountains in the northwestern part of our state — Table Rock, Glassy Mountain, Bald Rock and others — are among the many impressive features of South Carolina. Those enormous rocks are a picture of stability. While centuries of rain, wind and ice wear away the surrounding dirt, the granite becomes even more obvious. In 2 Peter 1:5-7, the first virtue Peter mentions is faith. In the context of this list, faith is like those granite rocks. It’s the item on the list that provides stability for all the other virtues.
If we want to become the virtuous people God calls us to be, a few aspects of faith are helpful to keep in mind. First, unlike the virtues that follow, Peter doesn’t tell his readers to acquire faith. He simply says, “Add to your faith.” Faith is a prerequisite to the other virtues. Second, while ancient pagans often included the virtues Peter mentions in their own ethical writings, they didn’t mention faith. Christians have a different foundation for morality.
Third, since Peter rarely mentions faith in this book (2 Peter 1:1), he assumes that his readers already know what faith is. Do we know what faith is? In our culture, “faith” often simply means having an optimistic attitude toward some supernatural Other. One can be a “person of faith” while being a Muslim, Hindu or Unitarian. To know whether Peter would agree, we need to look at places in the Bible where Peter is explicit about faith. The book of Acts provides us with that background.
After explaining Jesus’ resurrection, Peter challenges the Jews to recognize that the crucified and risen Jesus is now Lord and Messiah (Acts 2:36). Later, Peter explains the miraculous healing of a handicapped man by pointing out how the same power raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 3:1-26). Peter then boldly tells the same people who crucified the Lord that Jesus’ name is the only name that brings salvation (Acts 4:12). A few chapters later, Peter’s message to Cornelius is essentially the story of Jesus. Forgiveness of sins, Peter says, is only available to the person who has faith in Jesus (Acts 10:34-43). In all these examples, we see Peter constantly talking about Jesus. For Peter, true faith is always faith in Jesus.
So true faith is always in Jesus, but what exactly is faith? In his book “The Cross and Salvation,” theologian Bruce Demarest notes how faith has three parts: knowledge, assent and trust. The gospel is an announcement, and faith requires that people know what that announcement is: Jesus died on the cross, was buried, rose from the dead, and will return as judge. Assent is agreeing with that announcement. A person must agree that, yes, Jesus of Nazareth indeed died on the cross and rose from the dead. Agreement, however, is still not enough. Even the demons agree about the facts (James 2:19). The third part is trust. What Demarest calls “trust,” we can also think of as “surrender.” “Yes, He is Lord of all,” the Christian says, “and He is my Lord.” That surrender is the granite foundation we need for the virtuous life to which Peter calls us — that is, the life to which Christ calls us.