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.
The Apostle Paul is recorded to have enjoined his converts to "continue in the grace of God." And this is necessary to the Christian life, but it is not all that is necessary. To abide is not to be stationary. The Apostle Peter here instructs us that it is required of Christians that they not only continue in grace, but grow in grace.
I. THE DIVINE LAW OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH. It is well that the tree be planted in a rich and suitable soil; that there be room for its roots to strike forth as far as the most spreading of its goodly boughs; that it be by rivers of water, through whoso moisture it may be green; that the winds of heaven may freely rustle through its leafage, and may swing its lithe young branches to and fro. But to what end does the tree possess these advantages? Not that it may remain a tender sapling, not that having grown for a while it may be pollarded, or its growth so checked that it may remain a stunted deformity; but rather that, through all the rough yet kindly forces of nature, the tree may wax greater and stronger year by year; that its heart may be sound, its sap full flowing every spring; that it may "hang all its leafy banners out;" that its branches may give homes to the birds of the air, and shade to the beasts of the field; that its outline may be beautiful to the eye, and its fruit grateful to the taste. So is it the intention of God, and the duty of the Christian, that there should be spiritual growth. It is for those who dwell in the land of privilege, who enjoy the care of the heavenly Husbandman, upon whom are shed the soft influences of heaven, to profit by this fostering culture and these genial powers, to make constant and unmistakable progress in those graces which are the strength and beauty of the Christian life.
II. THE RESPECTS IN WHICH GROWTH IS TO TAKE PLACE. "The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree; he shall grow like the cedar in Lebanon." "Israel shall grow as the lilies." In such declarations the reference is evidently to spiritual progress.
1. In the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. By this expression we are to understand the grace of Christ as revealed, bestowed, and experienced. The grace in us is to be over against, in correspondence with, the grace which is in him. Christian character and excellences are the sign and the effect of spiritual participation in the favour of our Lord.
(1) In the number of Christian graces. These are enumerated in the first chapter of this Epistle. Let every reader ask himself - Am I possessed of the graces thus catalogued? or am I not painfully lacking in some one or more? Now, tile possession of one does not compensate the lack of another. There is room for supplying many deficiencies.
(2) In the strength of Christian graces. In degree every virtue is capable of development; and it is by exercise that the desired increase is to be attained. He who gives play and scope to his holy emotions shall find that they become purer and quicker. If righteous purposes and endeavours have room to act, they will gain in vigour and effectiveness.
(3) In the harmony of Christian graces. Symmetry of character is essential to moral perfection, as is physical symmetry to the perfection of bodily figure and features. Harmonious as well as vigorous development of the renewed nature should be the aim of all whose desire is to please God. Instances abound in which the possession of one excellence is presumed to compensate the absence of others. But to be bluntly honest and uncourteous, or to be discreet and untender; to be amiable but unable to resist evil influence, - is spiritual deformity. Whilst perfection is to be found in God alone, each follower of Christ aspires to grow up in all things unto him who is the Head. "Ye are complete in him." The tree which has been hindered from growing on one side fails in symmetry; it is the same with the disciple of Christ who has evidently failed in learning some of the Master's most essential lessons.
2. In the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul prayed, on behalf of the Colossians, that they might increase in the knowledge of God. And our Lord himself deemed this knowledge so important that he made it a petition of his great intercessory prayer that his disciples might "know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he had sent." Now, all human knowledge is susceptible of increase; and the Lord and Saviour in whom we trust is a theme, an object of knowledge, so vast as to be inexhaustible.
III. THE MEANS BY WHICH GROWTH IN GRACE IS ACHIEVED. As the plant needs soil, air, light, culture, in order that it may grow, as the body needs food and many and varied necessaries in order that the child may develop into the man, so are there conditions indispensable to spiritual progress. There it is for all who desire to advance in the Divine life, to discover and to use. The study of God's Word, the diligent attendance upon Church ordinances, constancy in prayer, faithfulness in work, - these are acknowledged "means of grace." The reading of biographies of great, good, and useful men may be mentioned as a subsidiary but valuable means to spiritual progress. And at the same time, it is important to observe and to avoid and strive against those hindrances to growth which in great variety beset us on every side, and by which very many have been injured, if not ruined.
IV. THE EXTENT AND LIMIT OF CHRISTIAN GROWTH. With regard to this world, such progress is intended to be lifelong. If growth be constant, it cannot matter to us at what precise stage of advance the earthly development comes to a close. Let death come when it may to the Christian who is making progress in Divine grace and knowledge, it cannot come inopportunely.
"It is not growing, like a tree,
In bulk, doth make man better be,
Or standing long an oak, three hundred year,
To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sere;
A lily of a day
Is fairer far in May,
Although it fall and die that night -
It was the plant and flower of light.
In small proportions we just beauties see,
And in short measures life may perfect be." Beyond this life, who can set a limit to such growth as is here inculcated? The scope is boundless and the opportunity is infinite. - J.R.T.
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.