Once more a remnant of the kingdom of Judah   will take root below and bear fruit above.

–Isaiah 37:31


In the world of plants, roots are the important foundation which both support a plant and feed it. They are the basis for growth. The roots provide a flow of water and nutrients to the plants. They also give the plant stability by anchoring it in the environment that allows it safety, continuity, growth and ultimately fruitfulness. The root structure of the plant is a point of connection for the plant and also an anchor in the environment in which the plant lives. A plant simply cannot exist or grow without roots.

What are the roots of Christian growth in Peter’s list of things we add to our faith? Nothing is more basic to this or anything we do in life than the motives that drive our core values and the knowledge and understanding that inform our thoughts, words and actions.

It is not surprising therefore that Peter stresses at the beginnning of his list the life of the mind and of the issues of heart of man. What is surprising is that he is not really leveraging Hebrew categories here, but ones that were prominent in Greek and Roman culture. It is as if he is saying to his listeners, “that which all men of every age have known to be intrinsically good about humanity is fullfilled in the Christian hope through Jesus Christ.”

One of the great mysteries and wonders of the Christian faith is how God is able to take this wonderful fullness of Christ, and work though human motives and what human being are capable of undestanding to accomplish his purposes. In Romans, Paul talks about this:

And concerning you, my brothers, I myself am also convinced that you yourself are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge….

This seems a very generous and generic claim that Paul makes. How can he say so broadly and without qualification that they are all filled with goodness and filled with knowledge? He can say it because this because Jesus came to offer the fullness of His life to His followers. This is the stupendous claim of Christianity—that the fullness of Jesus Christ is imparted in some way to believers.

The roots of Christian growth are the means God uses to impart the fullness of Christ to us through what soemone has called “transformed temperatments” and through the cascading knowledge of God Our Savior. This is what Peter is getting at later when he says:

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

How can we be already filled and yet commanded to grow in something? To see how grace and truth become appropriated into the life of the believer, we need to talk about the first two items in Peter’s list: virtue and knowledge. We need to dig in at the roots.

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