“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen” (2 Peter 3vs18)
There could hardly be a better metaphor to describe the Christian life than the metaphor of growth. In contrast to religion which is formal and sterile, authentic Christianity is alive and vibrant. And the reason for this difference is not hard to find. Religion, at its heart, is based upon nothing more than human ideas and traditions; authentic Christianity is based upon a living and growing relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is this living and growing relationship with the Lord Jesus that Peter has in mind when he exhorts us, in the passage quoted above, to grow both in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The appeal is an important one, one that is worth taking time to consider.
First, it is important to note that Peter not only expects believers to grow, he commands us to grow. At first glance this may seem rather odd, for, as we are told elsewhere in Scripture, it is God alone who gives growth (see 1 Corinthians 3vs6). On closer examination however, we see that Peter is not denying that God gives spiritual growth; he is simply reminding us that God’s grace and work in our lives requires a response on our part. Thus, at the very beginning of 2 Peter we are told that in Christ and through His Word, God has given every believer all that he or she needs for spiritual life and growth (2 Peter 1vs1-4). Growth comes about by “divine power”. But, immediately after this description of God’s power at work in them, he urges them to make every effort to grow, and indeed, to be eager to do so (2 Peter 1vs5-11) For Peter, God’s powerful work in us does not negate our work, it makes our work possible and fruitful.
Second, it is important to note that Peter urges us to grow both in grace and inknowledge. In this, Peter is reflecting a very important truth, one that was personified in the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. John tells us in his gospel, that Jesus, the Word made flesh, came from the Father, “full of grace and truth” (John 1vs14). His grace and kindness was seen in the way that He dealt with people and of course supremely in His death in place of sinners. But at no point in His dealings with others did Jesus ever compromise on truth or act in a way that undermined the righteousness of God. Indeed He went to the cross so that both the grace of God and the truth of God could be established. It is therefore hardly surprising that Peter should encourage believers to grow both in grace and knowledge (truth). This growth will involve knowing Christ better through the truth that is found in the Gospel, the very great and precious promises of 2 Peter 1vs4. And as we get to know Christ better through this Word of God in the gospel, growth will involve our being made more and more like the Lord Jesus Christ, experiencing His grace in our lives and extending His grace to a lost world.
Third, it is important to note that this growth is in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Outside of Christ there can be no spiritual life and thus no spiritual growth. And once again it is John’s gospel which helps us to appreciate this truth. John tells us that on the eve of His betrayal and death, Jesus spent time teaching His disciples. Among other important truths He reminded them (and us) that He is the vine and that His disciples are the branches and that no one can bear fruit unless they “remain in Him” (John 15vs1-2). Once again this is the image of a living, growing relationship – but it is also a declaration that all true spiritual life and growth can be found only in Christ. In Peter’s words, Jesus is Saviour to His people. This means that it is only as they come to Him and put their faith in Him that they receive the gift of true spiritual life. But Jesus is also the Lord of His people. Thus it is only as they continue to trust in Him day by day that they will continue to enjoy this life and grow in their relationship with Him.
Fourth, we note that all the glory and the praise for this growth goes to the Lord Jesus Christ and not to us. We are responsible to grow and to make every effort to grow. It is within our power and responsibility to study God’s word and to pray so that by God’s word and by the powerful working of God’s Spirit we may grow into the image of Christ. But in the end, it is absolutely true that God is the One who gives growth. And so as we grow in our relationship with the Lord we find ourselves humbled by His grace and full of praise for His work in our lives. To Him alone be the glory in Christ Jesus, now and for ever! Amen.
Written by Mervyn Eloff