By Andrew E. Courtis
There are two extremes when it comes to spiritual growth. “Let go and let God!” or “God has done His bit, now do your bit”. There are those who say that that God does it all, and others say that we do it all. In his book The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges begins with this illustration,
A Farmer plows his field, sows the seed, and fertilizes and cultivates—all the while knowing that in the final analysis he is utterly dependent on forces outside of himself. He knows he cannot cause the seed to germinate, nor can he produce the rain and sunshine for growing and harvesting the crop. For a successful harvest, he is dependent on these things from God.
Yet the farmer knows that unless he diligently pursues his responsibilities to plow, plant, fertilize, and cultivate, he can- not expect a harvest at the end of the season. In a sense he is in a partnership with God, and he will reap its benefits only when he has fulfilled his own responsibilities. Farming is a joint venture between God and the farmer. The farmer cannot do what God must do, and God will not do what the farmer should do.
If the Christian is going to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ it is essential that we rightly understand the source, the supplements and the satisfaction of spiritual growth. God works but we have a responsibility (Phil. 2:13).
1. THE SOURCE FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH (1:3-4)
The source and foundation for the Christian’s growth begins with the work of God in salvation and is then imparted to the believer by knowing Christ and His Word. Apart from God’s saving work in the life of a sinner, no person can genuinely grow spiritually. This is why looking to things like human tradition, rules and regulations, or mystical experiencing can’t help us. All of these may make great promises but they are hollow.
As God’s people, we need to be aware of the great storehouse from which our abilities to grow in grace come from. Peter begins by reminding his readers, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3a). The “divine power” here is referring to the sovereign work of Jesus Christ in saving sinners. By means of this power, He “has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness”. This statement reveals that Jesus Christ has granted to His people everything they need for salvation and sanctification. The only way to receive salvation and receive the needed power to grow is found in Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 1:4-5, 30; 2 Cor. 9:8, 12:9; Eph. 1:3, 3:19; Col. 2:10; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
How do we take hold of the necessary resources need for spiritual growth that are found in Jesus Christ? Peter continues, “through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Pet. 1:3b). This means that it comes by the believer closely communing and relating to Christ. This is possible because He “called us to his own glory and excellence”. This means that when Christ calls people to come to Him to receive salvation, they come to Him who is morally virtuous, which is something they are called to live in harmony with. The practical way in which a believer enjoys this knowledge of Christ is through the precious promises of God. By means of His “own glory and excellence” Christ “has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Pet. 1:4). God has made promises to His people (which can be found in His Word) that they will be made like Christ and will enjoy eternal life. It is through these promises that the believer shares in God’s moral excellence by becoming like His Son.
The great truth of these opening verses is that God has granted to His people all that they need to grow spiritually. The source for spiritual growth is found in Christ, and we take hold of it by knowing His promises.
2. THE SUPPLEMENTS FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH (1:5-7)
Peter now provides a list of qualities (cf. 1:8) that flow out of the truths he had shared in the previous verses. The believer has the responsibility to pursue and practice these qualities. Why? Firstly because this is the outcome of knowing Christ (1:3-4) and secondly this leads to spiritual satisfaction (1:8-11).
It is interesting that the list starts with faith (1:5) and ends with love (1:7). This reveals the root and the fruit of the Christian life. Though there appears to be somewhat of a logical order with regards to the other six qualities, the idea here is not to try to pursue these systematically. You don’t say, “I can’t show brotherly affection to you because I am working on my self-control”. These overlap and are to be equally pursued and practiced. It is important to remember that this is not to be viewed as an easy add on to the Christian life. We are to “make every effort” meaning that hard work and discipline is needed. We battle every day against the world, the flesh and devil.
3. THE SATISFACTION OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH (1:8-11)
Perusing godliness is by no means an easy thing. In-fact, it is very easy for us to get discouraged. In these final verses of this passage Peter helps his readers set their sights on the blessings of spiritual growth. In other words, there is a satisfaction that spiritual growth brings. What is the satisfaction? It is fruitfulness (1:8-9), faithfulness (1:10), and future glory (1:11). In other words, as we draw form the source for spiritual growth found in Christ (1:3-4), and respond to it by pursuing godliness (1:5-7) then we experience a satisfaction now and then one day the fullness of this satisfaction in the eternal kingdom of Christ.
The Christian is called to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. If this is going to occur, we need to be aware of and apply the truths in his passage. We must rightly understand the source, the supplements and the satisfaction of spiritual growth. God works in us, but we have a responsibility.
- What are the two extremes often taught when it comes to spiritual growth? Why are they unhelpful?
- What is the source for the believer’s spiritual growth and how can they take hold of it? See 1:3-4
- Why should the believer pursue the qualities listed in 1:5-7?
- Knowing that pursuing godliness can be hard, how do verses 8-11 provide the believer with encouragement?