The grace of God and what it seeks to do in the believer’s life is truly amazing. Peter in 2nd Peter 3:16 concludes his epistle by teaching, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” This is his last exhortation, expressed positively and firmly. The believers are already maturing spiritually, but Peter encourages them to continue to do so because the process of growing is their work. This process is not a passive mode of existence, but one in which the individual believers has an active part.
Peter specifics how the believer must grow spiritually: “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In a sense, Peter reiterates part of the salutation at the beginning of his epistle. There he writes, “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (1:2). Peter urges the believers to appropriate the spiritual qualities of grace and knowledge that Jesus grants them. Knowledge of Christ and knowledge about Christ are, if they keep peace with one another, both the safeguard against heresy and apostasy and also the means of growth in grace. In short Peter exhorts the Christians to become more like the Master by displaying his characteristics in their lives.
Peter in 2nd Peter 3:18 with the phrase “grow in the grace and knowledge” is emphasizing how the Christian should grow. Pursuing Christian maturity and a deepening knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ will lead to doctrinal stability and prevent Christian’s from being led astray. It is popular today to talk about “how” a Christian should grow. Often such teaching emphasizes things the believer must “do” in order to grow in Christ. Such teaching often views the lists that Paul gives in his epistles as some sort of “to-do” list that somehow the believer can just “check-off” and then be assured that they are doing well spiritually. Such teaching is misleading, because as Peter points out in 2nd Peter 3:18, the believer doesn’t “check-off” a list to assure oneself of how they are doing spiritually, but rather through continuing to pursue Christian maturity and a deepening knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, the people of God will increasingly be doctrinal stable and not tossed to and fro by the latest fads.
Growing in the Gospel is the believer’s responsibility. The goal of growing into the depths of the Gospel is not to become a bible-thumper or even be able to answer every theological question that others may ask of you. No, the goal of growing into the depths of the Gospel is to continue to pursue Jesus and grow to become like Him. This is not to diminish knowing the right answers or to be able to give an answer for the reason for our faith, but the primary goal of spiritual growth isn’t to be able to answer people’s questions but to reflect the holiness of God in all of life.
The problem with the “check-list” mentality to spiritual growth is that that it focuses on “how I am doing in my growth in Christ” rather than on what Christ has done on our behalf. Growth in Christ is only possibly because of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. Christ causes the believer to grow in Him, which means the believer can never be the source of growth in Christ themselves. Secular spirituality focuses on what a person can “do” to improve their lives. Jesus however is the focal point for the believer’s growth and He alone provides the reason for why they are to grow to increasingly reflect His likeness in all of life.
The purpose of growing in the depths of the Gospel is doctrinal stability. By growing in knowledge of the Word of God one can grow in understanding how Jesus is the hero of the Bible. Jesus comes to redeem people from sin. Jesus comes to seek and save. Jesus saves sinners from sin and takes people who are dead spiritually and makes them alive unto Himself. Jesus is sanctifying His people. Jesus is molding and shaping a people through His Word and by His Spirit a people who gather together to worship Him in the context of local churches throughout the world. Jesus is doing this work of molding and shaping His people so that they may continue to grow in Him by His grace, and for His glory.
Growing in the depths of the Gospel ought to never be treated as a “catch-phrase” by evangelicals. Growing in the depths of the Gospel means to continue to pursue Christ and to be doctrinally stable. Out of the overflow of pursuing Christ the believer will be able to reflect the fruits of the Spirit. Believers must never forget the source of their salvation is Christ Himself. The believer has been saved from sin in order to reflect the holiness of God and to do good works. The believer has not been saved by themselves or by their own righteousness, but instead by the righteousness of God, so that that their lives may increasingly reflect the holiness of God in the world.
The purpose and the reason for growing in Christ are joined together. The reason believers can grow in Christ is because of all that He has done on their behalf. The purpose of spiritual growth is to continue to actively put sin to death and appropriate the truth about their identity in Him. The Gospel calls the believer to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ so that they may continually reflect who they are in Him to the world.
The Gospel calls believers to reflect Christ in the world so that their lives will point people to the source of their hope– Jesus. Such believers will live committed lives not for their own glory but for the advancement of the Gospel and the strengthening of Christ’s church. Growing in Christ is not just personal it is also corporate. The purpose of believers growing individually is so that corporately Christ’s Church may be strengthened in its effectiveness in its mission to seek the lost and make disciples.
Growing into the depths of the Gospel strengthens believer’s lives not only individually but corporately. Growing into the depths of the Gospel strengthens Christ’s church because it calls believers to live on mission for God so that His kingdom may advance. The believer’s greatest desire ought to be to strength Christ’s church and to serve Him in anyway, in any form and to do all things in their lives, so as to spread His fame, and His glory to the ends of the earth. Believers lives that do this reflect that they are indeed growing into the depths of the Gospel and bring great glory to God by pointing people to the source of their hope- Jesus Christ.