We must add certain spiritual qualities to our faith in God if we are to grow up into the manifested sons and daughters of God. We found that out in II Peter 1. Our faith in God needs to be shored up; it needs to become stronger in order to conquer and “quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” We will only “partake of the divine nature” if we add these things. And the first to be added to our faith is virtue.
But what exactly does this word “virtue” really mean? It is an English word, after all. We could look it up in Webster’s Dictionary, but we would only find what it means to the English speaking mind, distilled down through the centuries. We would see that it is from the Old French virtu, which came from the Latin virtus, meaning “strength, courage, virtue.” It has come down to us meaning “moral excellence…active quality or power…manly strength or courage; valor.”
And so we dig still deeper, believing that this study is important and expedient, for we simply must know what “virtue” means. We are trying to “study to show ourselves approved unto God,” as we are admonished to do. Without study, we will not be approved.
The English word “virtue” was translated, of course, not from Latin, but from the Greek. So what was that Greek word that the King James scholars translated “virtue”? The Strong’s Concordance shows us that it was arete, #703 [http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G703&t=KJV]. Consulting Thayer’s Lexicon on that page, we see that arete denotes power stemming from moral excellence and goodness. It relates to God’s power, perfection, and excellence.
We get a further picture of “virtue” by looking up “virtuous” and “valor” in the Hebrew [http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H2428&t=KJV]. We see “strength, power, might.” The Hebrew word #2428 is used many times in the phrase “mighty man of valour.” Also, it is translated as “host” as in a large army of mighty warriors. It is rendered “strength” in David’s prayer to God, “For Thou hast girded me with strength to battle” (II Samuel 22: 40).
We need to stop and reflect here and not pass over this lightly. These words in II Samuel are inspired. They are the Scriptures of truth that Paul studied, and he said by the Spirit: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…” Why? To what purpose do we need those old books back there in the “Old Testament”? “That the man of God may be perfect…”
Perfect. Complete spiritual maturity. These passages, like this one in Samuel, teach us lessons that will help us add the “divine nature” to our faith in God. It is for the same purpose of perfection and glorification, which is the fulfillment of His promise to us of immortality.
Looking at the Picture that “Virtue” is Painting for Us
We see “virtue” as not just power. No. It is the strength and power of God, emanating right out of His very heart through His Spirit into ours. It is He; it is a part of His divine nature; it is all about His strength and power stemming from His excellent goodness. This then is His power, which gives us now the strength and ability to go on the offensive against the devil and his tricks that block our road to immortality.
Let’s go back to David speaking to Yahweh. In this song of praise, David thanks God for His strength and power in overcoming mightily all of his enemies. He thanks God for His goodness, and then details in much “war” imagery his exploits over the enemy. This picture of a warlike attitude is a real key for us in understanding just what virtue is. David’s inspired prayer shows us the spiritual application through his physical earthly accomplishments.
The First Step
First, David declares his complete trust in Yahweh, recalling how he called on Him in his despair and how God answered (verses 1-17). David says that God did deliver him, but it was “according to my righteousness…and cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me” (v. 21). David first had to be right with God, on the same spiritual page, “a man after God’s own heart.” “I kept the ways of Yahweh, and have not wickedly departed from my God” (v. 22). That is the first step that we need. Walk on in His faith. Trust in Him. And then get ready to go on the offense like King David does in the following verses.
And now the war imagery looms as David spiritually attacks his enemies. “God is my strength and power…I have run through a troop…He teaches my hands to war; so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms. Thou hast given me a shield of thy salvation…I have pursued mine enemies [read: doubt, fear, unbelief, impatience, et al], and destroyed them (v. 31-38).
Wait. Let’s savor this. “Pursued mine enemies.” He went on the offensive! He did not just sit on the couch waiting for fear and doubt and unbelief to maybe take a holiday. Would you please leave me alone, guys? I don’t appreciate these ugly thoughts I have been having lately.” No!
David “pursued” those negative thoughts and “destroyed them”! Furthermore, David “consumed them, and wounded them, that they could not arise…” Wouldn’t that be wonderful–to have all negativity consumed and wounded so that it just was not able to rear its ugly head up in our minds ever again?
That’s adding virtue to your faith.
But David’s not through. He knows where the strength and power is coming from. “They are fallen under my feet. For thou hast girded me with strength to battle.” It was Yahweh that subdued his enemies under him (v. 39-40).
And finally, David says, “Therefore I will give thanks unto thee, O Yahweh…and I will sing praises to thy name” (v. 50).
Our Spiritual Application
This song of David is so rich, reaching even unto prophetic strains that depict a vision of the Kingdom Age in all its glory. And yes, we are in that vision. But we see here now for our present edification a picture of just what virtue does when added to our faith. “Faith without works is dead.” Without virtue added, faith/belief/assurance just sits passively on the couch “waiting for the world to change.” To the contrary, we His sons and daughters must “put on the whole armor of God” (Eph. 6: 11-18). This same war imagery is used by Paul in Ephesians, that we “may be able to withstand all the wiles of the devil.” We must put the armor of the Spirit of God on and take the fight to our adversary.
“Add to your faith virtue…” This first addition to the faith, then, is an offensive weapon given to us by God to go with our trust-faith-assurance in Him. “Virtue” then is that quality of valor, that makes us like the mighty men of war as David was. They were men of strength. Mighty men. Strong men and women in the Spirit, pro-active in their attacks on the enemy. This all comes in realizing that it is God Almighty who does all this conquering–not only for us, but also in and through us.
Yet, the question will arise in hearts: But how do you add it to your faith? Answer: You add virtue to your faith–by faith. The Master said it simply. “Ask and it shall be given…When you pray, believe that you receive, and you shall have whatsoever you ask.” Now that we know what “virtue” is, we “reckon it done,” for in God’s mind, He already sees us having it.
Kenneth Wayne Hancock