|Volume 21 Number 12 December 2019||
As we look back over this past year, and all the years of our Christian lives, how would we evaluate our spiritual growth in grace and knowledge? Has it occurred daily? Weekly? Monthly? Or any?
When we look at the life of the apostle Peter, we get a picture of his growth pattern. Peter’s growth is striking when we note a few of the events of his life. In the early period of Peter’s walk with our Lord, we read of him rebuking Jesus after He told them that the Romans, at the insistence of the Jewish leaders, would kill Him. Later, we read how impetuous Peter was when he cut off the ear of Malchus in defense of our Lord being arrested. When Peter cursed and swore, denying Jesus, we are appalled. Our hearts ache with Peter when our Lord turned and looked at him, after which he went out and wept bitterly. Yet, Peter stood boldly with the greatest clarity of conviction on the Day of Pentecost and delivered that first Gospel sermon, which culminated in three thousand souls being added to the Lord’s church that day! Sometime later, Peter preached to Cornelius and his household, and they became the first Gentile converts to the faith. Peter made one more recorded misstep when he played the hypocrite with the Galatian brethren, at which time Paul withstood him to his face. By the time Peter had written his two letters, he was an elder in the Lord’s church. Peter encouraged Christians with the utmost power and zeal to endure suffering as followers of Christ and warned them to beware of false teachers!
With his focus on false teachers, growth, grace and knowledge, Peter in his second letter spoke of their beloved brother Paul who wrote in all his epistles, some things hard to understand, which “untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16). Verses 17-18 read, “You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.”
In the Truth for Today Commentary: 1 & 2 Peter and Jude, Duane Warden wrote about verse 18:
Peter’s closing words are a model of Christian admonition. Grow, he said. It is not the first time he has demanded that the Christian journey ascend on an upward climb. When the apostle presented his list of Christian virtues in 1:5-8, he called for growth…Among the qualities that Peter urged his readers to adopt was “knowledge”…The admonition to grow covers the grace as well as the knowledge of our Lord, but there is a subtle difference between the two. The Lord extends Grace. It is something to be received with thankfulness. Christ supplies grace; the Christian pursues knowledge…Apparently Peter meant this: The favor of Jesus Christ will be extended to believers as they live faithfully in Him…The Christian life can never be static. Like a living organism, one either grows or declines…Those who want to equate Christianity with occasional emotional experiences are most in danger of falling from steadfastness…There is no shortcut to faithfulness.
It takes time, a lot of time to grow in the knowledge of Christ Jesus. The grace of God was demonstrated in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Heaven supplied the grace; the acquiring of knowledge is done on earth when we are hungering and thirsting for righteousness. Hunger and thirst are our most urgent physical needs. Spiritually, when we are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, it means we want to be right, accepted and approved by God. It means we are expressing our need and desire for a deeper, more meaningful and lasting relationship with God. It means there is complete peace of mind for us when we know all is right with God.
The Gospel Advocate, October 2019 issue, features the article, “The Church and the Hurting,” by Timothy Matheny. One of his subheadings is: “Everybody has an adequate tool for helping the hurting if they will use it.” He wrote:
We live in a world of specialists and certifications, for good reason; I have no business trying to be a heart surgeon because I have not engaged in the rigorous scientific study and proven my ability to do so. But to think we cannot be expert handlers of the Word of God is an admission that we have not engaged in rigorous study and proven our abilities to do so. The writer of Hebrews, guided by the Holy Spirit, condemned such a lack of expertise and action in his readers as a failure to follow the natural course of growth (Hebrews 5:11-14). There is no implication in that passage, or in the rest of Hebrews, that this growth is somehow only intended for an expert subset of Christians.
My attention was immediately drawn to his statements about following the “natural course of growth” and the implication that this growth was not “only intended for an expert subset of Christians.” That just brings it down to where the rubber meets the road! God’s expectation of His sons and daughters is continual growth and knowledge until they close their eyes in death.
So how are we doing? Are we growing? Is this growth evident as others observe our lives? Do we understand that God has supplied the grace, but there is no such thing as having arrived (Philippians 3:12) as a Christian in biblical knowledge? Is the Bible and good books about the Bible still our favorite reading? Only God and we as individuals know for sure. “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).