What does virtue mean according to the way in which it is used in the Bible? What is the biblical definition of virtue?
The word virtue has a lot of meaning and means many different things but can be a trait or disposition of character that leads to good behavior. One example is that someone with virtue displays wisdom, courage, kindness, good manners, courtesy, modesty, generosity, and self-control in their life. They treat others fairly and esteem others highly and value the sanctity of life. They treat others better than they are treated. Someone who has virtue has good, moral ethics and makes biblical choices in life.
A List of Godly Virtues
Paul gives us a good list of what virtues are in Philippians 4:8 where he wrote “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” so apparently a biblical definition of virtue are things that are true (the truth), noble, just (fair), pure (holy living), lovely (as Christ is), and things of good report where there are reports of people doing good things for God. Virtues like these are sorely lacking in this world today where behaviors are anything but virtuous.
Called to a Virtuous Life
Christians are to be salt and light in an unsalted, sin-stained, darkened world. The Apostle Peter gives us a very good look at the source of all virtue as he writes that it is through “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2nd Pet 1:3-4). Only His divine power can enable us to escape “the corruption that is in the world through lust.” This type of living takes a lot more than human effort; it takes divine power but He has given all who have trusted in Him this power to enable them to live lives of holiness and godliness.
Fruits of Virtue
We have read some of the fruits of virtue like things that are true, noble, just, pure, and lovely and we have also read that the source of power to live a virtuous life is from God Himself but without faith, we cannot possibly produce any virtuous fruits. The Apostle Peter writes about a cause and effect of living a life of virtue where he wrote, “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” (1st Pet 1:5-7). Notice that we should add virtue to our faith and virtue to our knowledge for knowledge without virtue only makes someone a walking textbook. Virtue helps add to our faith, to our knowledge, to our self-control, to our perseverance, to our godliness, to our brotherly kindness and to our brotherly love. It all hinges on godly virtues being added to our faith.
If you look at the list of the fruits of the Spirit you can see that they are all virtuous attributes and these include “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control” (Gal 5:22-23a). There is zero virtue in the fruits of the flesh like “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like” (Gal 5:20-21a) and Paul warns us all that “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal 5:21b).
You are not your own source of virtue. You don’t have that kind of power within you. It is only the divine power of God that can produce virtue but we should have an occasional fruit inspection and see if we are living lives of virtue and producing the fruits that are associated with living a life of virtue. If you are, then you know that you must be a child of God for the fruits of the flesh are what the world bears but the godly, which have the Spirit of God within them, bear all sorts of fruit that are virtuous.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon.