2 Peter 3:18
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.
At first sight it would appear as if Peter had inverted the natural order of things when he puts growth in the "knowledge" of Christ, after and not before, growth in the "grace "of Christ. How can we grow in the grace of Christ if we do not first possess a knowledge of Him? To know Christ, in the highest sense of that word, we must first seek to grow in the grace which distinguished Him so signally among the children of men. I stand with a great artist before a famous picture. I make bold in my ignorance of art to confess that I can see nothing extraordinary in it at all. "What," exclaims my companion, somewhat indignantly but with great enthusiasm, "don't you observe the splendid manipulation?" and forth he launches into a glowing analysis of the picture before us. While he is explaining I can discern more clearly than I did before what made the picture famous in the eyes of others, but yet at the close I had to exclaim, "Well, my friend, I have no doubt I would speak as you have done if I had your eyes, but I confess I don't see what makes you so enthusiastic. I should much like, however, to possess your knowledge and enthusiasm, and shall be glad if you will only show me love." "There is only one way of possessing the knowledge," replies my companion; "you must begin to learn the first elements of drawing and colouring, and as you .progress in the acquisition of the art of painting you will know." Without striving to grow in the graces of the painter's pencil, you will never understand the feelings of the painter himself. Turning now to moral qualities we are not infrequently surprised by the strength and the beauty of character which some of our fellow-creatures display. Here is one with a spirit which nothing can ruffle or disturb. To us, so easily provoked, so hasty to resent, so strong in speech "not seasoned with salt," that person is a mystery. "There is but one way to a knowledge or understanding of this man. We must begin where he began, by curbing the hasty passions of the heart, by continuous efforts to return good for evil, and then, by striving, to grow in his grace, we will be in a position to grow in knowledge of him. So it is with regard to the knowledge of Christ. If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine." Before we can be said to know the spirit, the life, of our Master, or enter upon the full possession of the truths He came to reveal, we must first strive to grow in the grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. By knowledge of Christ it will be seen that we mean such an entering into sympathy with the springs and motive forces of His life as shall, by its gradual increase, lead us into the perfection of spiritual life.
1. Those who have had much to do with newly-quickened souls, or those who can recall the first experiences of the Divine life within their own hearts, will bear me out in this, that love to Christ is, at such a time, the one absorbing passion of the soul. The mind seems able only to grasp one truth — and it is a grand one — "Jesus so loved me that He gladly endured the shame and agony of the Cross in order to save me." Love is the first beautiful impulse of the heart. It is the root of all the virtues. It may be blind in the first stages of its existence, but it soon attains, at least, to partial vision — vision which will grow from more to more if rightly used. We often love each other impulsively, but there is little harm done if the impulse will but lead up to reason. But the test of growth in the knowledge of Christ is when we love Him for what lie is in Himself, and not so much for what He has done. The latter is not free from a taint of selfishness. Applying this test to Christ, do I love Him most because He is the incarnation of virtue and goodness? Then is my love not altogether worthy of Him. It has, at any rate, lost the alloy of impulse and selfishness, so apt to spoil the most precious ore of the heart.
2. The soul does not long remain under the genuine influence of Christ when it learns that to live like Him is better than simply to love Him, however ardently. It is necessary that the Saviour should be first revealed to the sinner in the first act of salvation, but once this is accomplished the Teacher sent from God leads the soul up from himself, so to speak, to a knowledge of the Holy Ghost and God the Father. When adopted into the family of God, we have many graces lying dormant, and not a few faculties impaired or withered by courses of sin. We need the Holy Ghost to quicken those graces in life, and to put new life into those withered faculties. This fact we will come to recognise only when comparing our lives with that of Christ: we then see our barrenness and emptiness. Love for Him will lead us in that case to desire to be like Him. But to live the life of Christ we need a nature balanced and sustained like His. How shall we reach this most desirable state of life? By the influence of the Holy Spirit alone. "He will take the things of Christ and show them unto us." But to live this life, what is it? Simply this. I recognise that God has given me powers and virtues as well as the opportunity to exercise them, and that, therefore, He means me to use them for some purpose. Now, what is that purpose? The answer is found in Christ. Here is a Divinely inspired and quickened life; how is it spent? In making sorrow less, in making joy more to abound. That is the simple philosophy of the life of Christ. This then is to be my life — a continual expenditure of vital forces in order to complete the work which Christ began — the redemption of the whole world from the blight of sin. Can any grander conception of life enter your imagination? Did we but possess more of the spirit of our Master we would gladly suffer a daily crucifixion if thereby we could bless the race. Yes, a true-hearted heroic man will always consider that good service is infinitely better than joy which is selfish, and will therefore look upon life as the vantage ground of Divine service and not of selfish pleasure. This we learn; up to this state we may hope to climb by growing in the knowledge of Christ.
3. Life, then, to us should not, and in fact does not pass like a dream of bliss. No one who has eyes to see can ignore the cruel wrongs, the sickening spectacles of lust and crime with which the world is full. No one with ears to hear can deny that the air is full of discords, and the ear is often stretched and strained in vain to catch the under tone of harmony which some hope and some allege may be heard underneath. The penalty of growth in true life is growth in care, mental perplexity, and pain. The more we know, the more of mystery there is to us, the more Christ-like we are, the more sensitive we become to the desolation which sin has wrought in this beautiful world of ours. Hence we come to recognise the need of another truth which most likely has not hitherto come prominently in view — that for our life to be vigorous and well sustained under all circumstances we must have our faith firmly grounded in the Fatherhood of God. Resting by a firm faith on the omnipotence, the unerring wisdom, the infinite love of God, the heart will bravely face the blinding storm of life, heroically grapple with its mysteries, and hush its doubts and fears with the inspiring whisper, "The Father reigneth."
Parallel VersesKJV: But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.