“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation,” wrote the Greek philosopher Aristotle. ” We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
Whether you agree with Aristotle or not, this quote reminds us that the ancient Greeks used the word virtue differently than we do today in the English language.
Our word of the week is found in 2 Peter 1:5-8 in a list commonly identified as the Christian graces.
“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.”
Virtue is the Greek word arte, rarely used in the Bible, only five times. It has a deep and rich meaning. Thayer defines virtue as “any excellence of a person (in body or mind) or of a thing, an eminent endowment, property or quality (1) a virtuous course of thought, feeling and action; virtue, moral goodness (2) any particular moral excellence, as modesty, purity”
A. T. Robertson says arte is “moral power, moral energy, vigor of soul. The UBS New Testament comments that ” Virtue can be understood in a general sense, referring to moral excellence, or in a more restricted sense, referring to moral courage or strength.”
Various English versions of the Bible render arte as “goodness,” “moral excellence,” “integrity,” or “moral character.”
Warren Weirsbe writes, “To the Greek philosophers it mean “the fulfillment of a thing.” When anything in nature fulfills its purpose, that is virtue–moral excellence. The word was used to describe the power of the gods to do heroic deeds. The land that produces crops is excellent because it is fulfilling its purpose. The tool that work correctly is excellent because it is doing what a tool is supposed to do.
“A Christian is supposed to glorify God because he has God’s nature within; so when he does this, he shows excellence because he is fulfilling his purpose in life. True virtue in the Christian life is not polishing human qualities, no matter how fine they may be, but producing divine qualities that make the person more like Jesus.”
The passage in 1 Peter 2:9 speaks to Wiersbe’s point where arte is translated “excellencies” in some versions.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
Virtue is a man daring to be a man. A leader of his home. A faithful husband to his wife. A loving father to his children.
Virtue is a wife embracing her feminine role. Loving and honoring her husband. Teaching and nurturing her children.
Virtue is the son or daughter that honors their parents, seeks God in their youth, and flees from youthful lusts.
Virtue is the pastor who Shepherds with care, compassion and consecration.
Virtues is the preacher who teaches, instructs and shares the Word with humility, sincerity and kindness.
Virtue resists profanity, promiscuity, and pugnaciousness.
Virtue embraces purity, sobriety and honesty.
Virtue shuns coarse humor, foolish talk, and filthy entertainment.
Virtue quietly ministers to the weak, encourages the timid, comforts the broken-hearted, and warns the unruly.
Virtues reflects upon truth, honor, justice, holiness, loveliness and goodness.
Virtue protects the mind, guards the heart, and nourishes the soul.
Virtue is a greater than just a word of the week to contemplate. It is a Christian quality that requires a lifetime of devotion, focus and development.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman