One of the Scripture references that my spiritual father Carl Vargo used to regularly sign off his letters to me with was the following.
“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.”
2 Peter 3:18
As my spiritual father he was always concerned about my continued spiritual growth and my spiritual well-being and health. He always demonstrated his love and care for me.
From these last words that Peter penned(2 Peter 1:13-15), we can learn five foundational truths about spiritual growth.
1. You cannot grow spiritually if you are led astray by false teachers.
This is seen from the very first word, the contrasting connective term”but”. Peter had just warned his readers that they should take caution and guard themselves from being “carried away with the error of lawless people.”(2 Peter 3:17) Peter echoes the same passionate plea of the apostle Paul.
“so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
Peter highlights 3 qualities of these false teachers(2 Peter 3:16). First of all, they are ignorant, ἀμαθεῖς, literally unlearned. They are not true disciples. Furthermore, they are unstable. And if that wasn’t enough, the greatest indictment that Peter lays against them is that they twist and pervert the Scriptures, the very Scriptures that Peter said are more sure than his mountaintop experience of seeing Christ transfigured(2 Peter 1:16-19) and which were never produced by the will of man(2 Peter 1:20-21) Their end is destruction, eternal torment and damnation in hell under the wrath of Almighty God. In His sovereign plan and eternal decree, God has foreordained their destruction.
“And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”
2 Peter 2:3(emphasis added)
“But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction,”
2 Peter 2:12(emphasis added)
“These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved.”
2 Peter 2:17(emphasis added)
2. Spiritual growth is the key to your protection against false teachers.
This is the flip side of the first truth.
“It is the unfailing panacea(solution, remedy) for all spiritual ills.”
3. Spiritual growth is proof of spiritual life!
This is seen from the very next term “grow”. It is an imperative in the present tense, meaning continuous and repeated action in the future. Thus, proper translation would be, “keep on growing”. There was growth already and now Peter is exhorting continued growth. All living things grow.
4. Spiritual growth is a life-long process!
Again, the present tense of the verb reminds us that we are a work in progress because we have not yet arrived. God is not finished with you yet. Now, be careful, that should not be an excuse for sinful behavior, as many use it, but an honest testimony of growth in Christlikeness!
5. You must grow both in the grace and knowledge of the Lord.
To grow in the grace does not mean that any effort on our part to grow is of the flesh. In the immediate context Peter Paul exhorts his readers to be diligent(2 Peter 3:14), literally to exert themselves and to strive. Even in the greater context of this epistle, Peter begins by telling them to “make every effort” no less than seven times(2 Peter 1:5-7)
So what does it mean to grow in grace then? It means first of all to grow in our understanding and appreciation of God’s grace in salvation. Furthermore, it means to rely on Him, and His grace in times of suffering.
“Personally I can be certain I am growing in grace if I have an increasing sense of my own sinfulness and my own unworthiness; if I see more and more the blackness of my own heart.”
To grow in the knowledge of the Lord is important as a protection against the error of false teachers.
Now why is it important to grow in both the grace and knowledge of the Lord? If you only grow in grace and not in knowledge, it is easy to be led astray by false teachers. On the other hand, if you grow in knowledge but not in grace, you can succumb to pride and become arrogant.
“When you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, you will be sure to grow in humility.”