Study 12 THE BIRTH AND GROWTH OF A CHILD OF GOD
THE SECOND LETTER OF PETER
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portions: 2 Peter 3:17-18 and Colossians 2:1-9
It is a very wonderful privilege to be a member of God’s family, a Christian, but it is very important that we should “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). We cannot stand still and we dare not go back; we must go on! This letter concludes with a word of exhortation about the need for spiritual growth. When Peter says, “Grow in grace” he means that we are to grow in the Christian life, to grow in our love for the Lord Jesus. He entered our hearts when we were born again (John 1:12-14), is to be formed in us (Galatians 4:19), and we are to be conformed to His image (Romans 8:29) day by day until, when we see Him, we shall be transformed into His likeness (1 John 3:2). Whilst the most urgent need in the life of every unconverted person is that of the new birth (John 3:3 and 5), the most urgent need in the life of a believer is that of growth in grace. Babies need to become healthy children and children need to become ‘sons’ and grow up (Ephesians 4:13 and following verses). How sad to be a spiritual dwarf, to be born again but to be a babe in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1)! The Apostle Paul knew this, and the burden in all his letters is that believers may grow, progress and become established in the faith (Romans 1:11; Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 3:1-2; Galatians 5:16, 19-21, 22-23; Ephesians 4:7-16; Philippians l:9-11; Colossians 1:28). Pray daily that you may progress in the Christian life and become healthy and vigorous in spiritual experience.
Now notice in 2 Peter 3:18 that we are to “grow in grace”, but also to grow “in knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”. Look up John 14:9 and Philippians 3:10, and compare 2 Timothy 1:12.
1. Notice some things that are not evidences of growth in grace though they are often supposed to be such.
It does not follow that because a Christian is active in the Lord’s work he is growing in grace; an increased knowledge of spiritual truths is no evidence. Speaking in the language of mature Christians is no indication of real growth; being able to pray publicly does not necessarily prove spiritual growth. Growth is primarily an inward change and progression, though where there is true growth it will be seen in the outward life.
2. Notice some of the clear evidences of growth in grace.
Self will decrease and Christ will increase (John 3:30). There will be a desire not to be seen by men (Matthew 6:1-8); to be out of sight, and certainly not to be like Diotrophes (3 John 9). See 1 John 2:15-17. We shall share our Saviour’s compassion for the lost (Matthew 9:36); we shall take note of Galatians 6:1-3; Ephesians 4:22-32; Philippians 2:3-8, and we shall not be moved by the trials and testings of life (James 1:2 and 12).
3. Now notice how we are to grow in grace.
- (1) We must be truly born again – we must have LIFE. There must be life before there can be growth – John 3:3-6; Ephesians 2:1; 1 John 5:11-13. We cannot grow into grace – we are born into it – then we are to grow. Growth is the evidence of life and the result of life.
- (2) We must have the care of others and the comfort of HOME. As a baby is entirely dependent upon its mother, so we need the care of spiritual foster-parents, and the comfort and help of a Christian church. Spiritual tramps do not grow. Link in with a live fellowship of God’s people – look up and compare Acts 2:42 and Hebrews 10:23-25.
- (3) We must have plenty of sleep or REST. Sleep is not a luxury but a necessity. Before we can become strong, mature, robust Christians we need to know how to rest upon the promises of God (2 Peter 1:4-12), and compare Isaiah 26:3; Matthew 11:28-29; Philippians 4:6; 1 Peter 5:7.
- (4) We must have plenty of fresh AIR – this is prayer! Look up Isaiah 40:31; Daniel 6:10; Matthew 6:6; Luke 18:1; James 5:16. A prayerless Christian will always be a stunted Christian – look up the Psalmist’s prescription for growth in Psalm 55:17!
- (5) We must have plenty of good FOOD. We grow by what we eat – look up Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4; John 6:51; 1 Corinthians 3:2; Hebrews 5:12-14; 1 Peter 2:2. If we are to grow we must not only have plenty of food, but plenty of the right food. Regular devotional Bible reading is the secret of growth in grace.
- (6) We must have plenty of EXERCISE. There must be the exercise of open confession of Christ (Matthew 5:16; Mark 5:19; Romans 10:9-10); soul-winning activity (John 1:41); and generous giving (Luke 6:38; 2 Corinthians 9:7). Spiritual exercise in these three ways will soon result in spiritual growth.
- (7) We must GO ON GROWING in grace until we see Him face to face. We should never stop growing in this life – look up Philippians 1:6, and compare Revelation 22:4.In concluding this study, and this series of twelve studies, please take careful note of the last nine words in this Letter.