“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence…” — 2 Peter 1:3
During the first week of Lent we examined the pursuit of excellence in living our lives in Christ by putting on godly virtue. What we are examining here is the virtue of excellence which is the “knowledge of Him”—His power at work in us through our intimate relationship with Him. This virtue is the exercise of “His divine power [by which He] has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to His own glory and excellence…” God has called us, and has granted us “all things that pertain to life and godliness.” Excellence, therefore, comes from Jesus. It is the gift of His glory.
It is interesting to note that this verse from St. Peter’s second letter is the only place in Holy Scripture where “glory” and “excellence” are used together. Peter is telling us something new and refreshing about living in the moment in Christ. We are called by Him to participate in His excellence for His glory. The virtue of excellence is not an achievement of our effort—it is a gift! To participate in the excellence of God’s glory, His splendor, His radiance, His love, is a gift of God’s life giving grace given to us in Jesus Christ.
St. Paul refers to the virtue of excellence in Philippians 1:9-11, where he says, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Paul exhorts us to “approve what is excellent”. The word excellent comes from the root meaning something strong or powerful. To approve of something excellent is to cherish the power and sovereignty of God at work in us in this present moment. The excellent things we are called to approve are the things that are essential to the Church. When Paul describes the gifts of the Spirit to the Church at Corinth, he says that he will show them “a still more excellent way” to use those gifts (1 Cor. 12:31). The excellent way is the more powerful way to employ the gifts. And that way is the way of love described in 1 Corinthians 13.
The virtue of excellence, then, is the virtue of God’s strength at work in us for His glory. And that virtue is manifested in His love working through us for the building up of the Body of Christ. As Paul says in that passage in 1 Corinthians, we exercise the virtue of excellence “for the common good” (12:7). Jesus not only revealed the glory of the Father in His ministry, He revealed His excellence in power over sickness, demons, and nature. By “His own glory and excellence” He performed signs and wonders; He spoke with authority; healed the sick; raised the dead; and forgave sin. And the power of the virtue of His excellence has been granted to us by the Holy Spirit. St. John declares in the opening chapter of his Gospel that “to all who received Him, who believed in His Name, He gave power to become children of God” (1:14). This is the virtue of the “knowledge of Him”. As a bride is “known” by her bridegroom so we are called to know and be known by Christ. That is the grace of living in the moment with Christ, touching and being touched by His glory and excellence.