Grow in Grace and in the Knowledge

“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”

II Peter 3:18

Peter has emphasized, in this his second epistle, the importance of correct knowledge for these new Christians. He has spoken repeatedly of the importance of rightly grasping the truth through a careful study of the Scriptures. Grace and peace is multiplied through knowledge (II Pet. 1:2). All things that pertain to life and godliness are given through the knowledge of God (II Pet. 1:3). Consider the place of the knowledge of God in II Pet. 1:8, 12, 19-21. The saints are guarded against error by knowledge of Old Testament history (chapter 2) and by remembering what they were taught by the apostles (II Pet. 3:2, 3).

This balanced grasp of the truth equips the Christian for any danger. Right knowledge of grace and of our Lord Jesus Christ and His promises protects us from being “led away with the error of the wicked” and provides strength lest you “fall from your own steadfastness” (II Pet. 3:17). And because there is nothing new under the sun (every false doctrine and errant practice has taken place before), knowledge of the truth as it developed in the history of the church shows us how errors are answered by the church in the past.

As we begin a new year we are reminded to do what we can in order to grow. We ought never rest on what we already know, but “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” The desire to grow is increased when there is a fervent love for Him. When we love Him, then we want to know Him more and more, better and better.

What does it mean to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus?

To “grow” is to increase, to augment, or to cause to grow. The ability to grow implies the presence of life. The lack of growth indicates either the lack of life or poor health. Even as the physically dead cannot grow, so it is true of the spiritually dead. They cannot grow spiritually. But the Christian has been given spiritual life. God first implanted life in seed form, and then He caused that seed to begin to grow. Within the seed there is the possibility of growth and development and maturation.

The young Christians to whom Peter is writing had been given the gift of spiritual life. The gift of this spiritual life came in regeneration. And this seed-life germinated and sprouted in their consciousness, for they had “obtained like precious faith” (II Pet. 1:1). They were “partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (II Pet. 1:4). They were able to “add to” their faith (II Pet. 1:5), and to “make [their] calling and election sure” (II Pet. 1:10).

Peter admonishes them to grow. “Grow in grace.” The concept grace usually refers to the favorable attitude of God for the undeserving. It can also refer to the virtues that God’s grace gives. This is the way it is used in the text. God’s powerful and undeserved attitude of favor for the elect always gives. Its chief and central gift is free salvation from the punishment of every sin and all sinfulness, and it gives the bestowal of righteousness by imputation and impartation. Under the umbrella of THE gift of salvation, grace gives many other gifts. It gives faith, justification, love, hope, humility, consecration, contentment, and such like. Every good virtue in one who is a recipient of grace is a gift of grace.

When Peter admonishes us to “grow in grace,” he means that we are to develop and strengthen these virtues. Grow in the awareness of them and strive constantly to develop them in our lives. Another way of saying this is that we are called to reflect Jesus more and more, better and better. More and more reveal Him and His love, His joy, His peace, His gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control. Grow in faith, namely, grow in our knowledge of the teaching of Scripture, that is, with more constancy and firmness hold them for truth, not staggering at God’s promises. To grow in the gift of justification is to rest more fully and completely in the finished work of Jesus. To grow in hope is to look increasingly for the glorious appearing of Jesus. To grow in the grace of love is to dwell more and more on His love for us, in order that our love may extend to more and more of our deeds and words and thoughts. Ultimately, to grow in grace is to increase our glorying in the Lord.

How do we grow in grace?

In general, He who gave us grace must give us more of it. The manner in which we receive grace is through prayer and the means of grace. Beautifully and powerfully our Heidelberg Catechism reminds us that God will give His grace and Spirit only to those who sincerely and continually ask for them of Him (Lord’s Day 45). Also, the Spirit uses chiefly the means of the preaching (with the sacraments) to give grace. That is why we must not forsake the preaching of the pure doctrines of the gospel. Attend the faithful preaching of God’s Word, and do so with a sincere heart. Grow in grace by searching the Scriptures more and more diligently.

Specifically, we grow in grace when we grow in “the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” This knowledge is first an intellectual understanding of God’s revelation concerning Jesus. We are to study and learn the topsoil of the truth (the history of His birth, life, and death, His parables and miracles, etc.), but also we must get below the surface and into the depths. We are to see more clearly the truths of Scripture in their organic whole, with the knowledge of God in Christ at the center. It is seeing more and more the truths of union with Christ, of God’s sovereign purposes and control of all, His absolutely perfect wisdom, immutable faithfulness, holy justice, and eternal love.

Knowledge is commendable, but we have to remember that knowledge of the truth all by itself “puffeth up.” Knowledge is beneficial only when it is accompanied with love of God and the neighbor (I Cor. 8:1-3). Another way of saying it is to say that this knowledge must be spiritual—more than just intellectual. Knowledge that is merely intellectual will always lead to pride. But a right grasp of the truth that God has revealed about Jesus and grace and salvation always leads to humility. Then knowledge is a matter of the heart as well as of the mind. Such knowledge comforts and edifies both oneself and others.

The object of this knowledge is to be like “our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Believers are to “grow up in him in all things” (Eph. 4:15). This is the only growth that is true growth. Know more of His person: God’s appointed Christ, the true and eternal Savior (Jesus). Know more of His work: His perfect life, His constant loving submission to the will of His Father, His atoning death, justifying resurrection, continual intercession, royal advocacy. Know His teachings, His works, His parables, and His miracles.

Right knowledge of the Savior and Lord makes one long to know Him even better. He who drinks after Jesus will thirst for more of Him, as the hart pants after water. Jesus satisfies as nothing else can. At the same time, to taste Him makes us want to taste Him more and more without ever being too full.

True knowledge of Jesus Christ leads to glorying in Him and in God. Forever! Hence our text ends: “To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”

“Glory” is objectively the manifestation of God’s goodness—of His virtues. This glory is revealed in all the works and ordinances of God, but most highly in Jesus Christ. The church as a whole, and each believer, sees by faith this glory in Jesus. It is by Him and for Him that all things were made. He is perfect surety of the covenant. He humbled Himself so deeply. He drank all the cup of God’s wrath. He burst the bonds of death, the grave, and hell. He ascended, leading captivity as a captive. To Him the angels sing a new song of glory (Rev. 5:9-14, 19:6). And every pious heart in the church responds by glorying in the Lord.

“Both now and for ever.” The right and wonderful knowledge of the Savior and Lord will not let us keep silent. We do not wait until we get to heaven to sing of His glory. Already now, in this present time, we desire to proclaim His glory, and to do so in every sphere of life. The activity of giving glory to God and to Christ is to characterize every believer on this earth. Realize that man is always glorying. If we are not glorying in the Lord Jesus, then we are either glorying in self or thinking incorrectly of Him. Right knowledge of Jesus not only leads to humility, but also leads to glorying in the Lord.

And we will glory in the Lord forever (literally, the eternal day). We are never to cease in giving Him praise. The glory of the cross and the great luster of God and His grace may never be dimmed nor eclipsed. He is to be praised for as long as His throne endures—forever!