Prayer To Grow In Grace And A Knowledge Of Jesus
Grow in Grace and in the Knowledge of Our Lord
The final section of 2 Peter to look at is 3:15–18. Let me sum up the main points that I see and then look at them one at a time. First, from verse 15, we should regard the time in which we live as a time of salvation.
Second, from verses 15 and 16, this is also what Paul taught, and his letters have the same authority as the inspired Old Testament Scriptures. Third, from verse 16, the inspiration of Paul's letters, nevertheless, does not mean they are all easy to understand.
Fourth, from verse 16, the misinterpretation of Scripture can lead to destruction. Fifth, from verses 17 and 18, therefore, guard yourself from error and destruction by growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.
Finally, from the last sentence of the book, remember that the great goal of God in your life is that Jesus Christ be glorified. Everything else is designed to that end.
The Age of Salvation
First, then, verse 15: “Count the forbearance of our Lord as salvation.
” This is a continuation of the thought of verse 9 where Peter said that the reason Christ has not yet returned is to give time for the full number of God's people to be saved.
Therefore, when Peter says, “Count the forbearance of our Lord as salvation,” he is telling us how to think about the time of delay in which we live before the second coming.
The human mind desires to see meaning and direction and coherence in history. And so we describe periods of history as Dark Ages, Renaissance, Enlightenment, the Industrial Age, etc. And in general, in trying to understand history, we key off of man—how man has progressed, what man has achieved determines the meaning of history.
But there is one group of people in the world, the Church of Jesus Christ, who should always key off of God, and as they look at the world, see things the way he does. Verse 15 is God's Word on how to interpret the time in which we live. The history of the world between the first and second coming of Christ is, above all, an age of salvation.One thing marks this time as utterly unique, and it is more important than the renaissance of classical learning, the emergence of science, the rise of industry: namely, it is the time of salvation. The Savior has come and opened the way to God. While he forbears, the way is still open.
When he comes, the way will be closed and the time of salvation will be past.
From the perspective of eternity we will look back on these brief 2,000 years or so, and the relative conditions of human life from the Dark Ages to the age of moon-landing and wrist-watch televisions will be utterly insignificant in comparison to the all-important distinguishing mark of this period between the first and second comings of Christ—this was the time when people could be saved by trusting Christ. The only history of eternal significance is the history of missions and its off-shoots in sound doctrine and holy living. The only biographies that will be cherished in the age to come are the lives of the saints—the people who knew that these were times for salvation. Let's be a people who key off of God and see the times in which we live from his perspective. “Count the forbearance of the Lord as salvation.”
Paul's Letters as Scripture
Second, notice that this is also what Paul taught and that Peter puts Paul's letters in the same category as inspired Old Testament Scripture. Verses 15 and 16: “So also our beloved brother, Paul, wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters.
There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.” Peter says: “Count the forbearance of the Lord as salvation.
” Paul says, in Romans 2:4: “Do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” Both teach that God's withholding judgment is an act of forbearance that should be regarded as giving added time for repentance and salvation. And in 2 Corinthians 6:2 Paul said, “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
So by calling in Paul's support, Peter shows that there is agreement among the apostles. The false teachers may reject the second coming of Christ. But the apostles of Jesus are united: Christ is coming, and the time while he delays is for our salvation.
When Peter lumps Paul's letters together with “the other scriptures” (in verse 16), we gain an insight which is of terrific importance.
Jesus himself viewed the Old Testament Scriptures as fully authoritative and binding when properly interpreted and applied (Matthew 5:17). They were the Word of God (cf. Mark 7:13).
Peter taught in 1:20, 21 that prophetic Scripture (and I think he would include all of the Old Testament) was inspired by God as men were moved by the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, when he puts Paul's letters in this same category, he is, I believe, claiming an equal inspiration and authority for Paul. He confirms what Paul claimed for himself. Paul said of his own teaching in 1 Corinthians 2:13, “We impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit.”This is why the Bible stands at the center of Christian life. It is why this pulpit is at the center of the front and is lifted up. For we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God—that it stands before us as our guide, and over us as our judge, and under us as the rock of our hope.
John Wesley wrote in the preface of his Standard Sermons: “I am a spirit come from God and returning to God; just hovering over a great gulf; 'til a few moments hence I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing—the way to heaven . . . He hath written it down in a book.
O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri (a man of one book).” O that we might be a people of the book.
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1). The apostles are united with each other and with the Old Testament in one great inspired book of God. The more you read it, the more you will see with the eyes of God.
Scripture Can Be Hard to Understand
Third, even though Scripture is inspired, it is not all easy to understand. Verse 16: “There are some things in them hard to understand.” I would love to preach an hour on the implications of that sentence; but since I don't have time, here is an outline of that sermon. Point 1: Being inspired, the Scriptures reveal the mind of God.
Point 2: The mind of God is vastly greater than our mind and will often be perceived by us as strange and complex, not familiar and simple. Point 3: Therefore, the Scriptures will sometimes be strange and complex and hard to understand.
Point 4: The continued selection only of what is simple in the Bible would be a sin in the regular preaching of the church, because Hebrews 5:13 says, “Everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness; for he is a child.
” Point 5: Therefore, preaching which aims to deliver the whole counsel of God in Scripture (and which does not presume to be wiser than the apostles) will sometimes be complex and will demand from God's people the utmost in humility and mental effort.
I know that in my preaching I am addressing a visually oriented and TV influenced people. I know that 98% of you have televisions, and in 1971 the average adult in America watched 23 hours a week.
I believe John Stott is right in his new book on preaching when he says that lengthy exposure to television tends to produce physical laziness, intellectual flabbiness, emotional exhaustion, psychological confusion, and moral disorientation.
What this means for us preachers (especially me) is that we must improve our ability to communicate effectively and hold attention with no antics, no stringed orchestras, no violence, and no sex. But it does not mean that we can abandon our calling to preach the whole counsel of God.
And therefore it should be expected that preaching will sometimes be the most demanding thing you hear all week. I can't see how it would be otherwise, unless I make easy what the apostles couldn't.
Misinterpretation Can Lead to Destruction
Fourth, the misinterpretation of Scripture can lead to destruction. Verse 16: “The ignorant and unstable twist them to their own destruction.
” Another way to put this is that the interpretation of Scripture is a matter of life and death. James said (in 3:1): “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness.
” Why? Because the eternal destiny of the people hangs on how they interpret the Scripture.
It is the “untaught” and the “unstable” who are prone to twist Scripture and be destroyed. These are the ones in 2:14 whom the false teachers were able to sweep off their feet. And 2 Peter is written to help us not be that.
Guard Yourself from Error
The fifth point tells us (in verses 17 and 18) how to avoid being swept away into error and destruction: “Therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand (that you can be destroyed by misusing Scripture), beware lest you be carried away with the error of lawless men and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” The antidote to deception and destruction is growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ. The contrast between verses 17 and 18 is between, on the one hand, a tree which does not grow and so loses its stability in the earth and is blown over by a wind of false teaching and dies, and, on the other hand (v. 18), a tree which keeps its roots planted in God's grace and so grows and stays healthy and stable and does not get blown over by false teaching.
If you can remember ten weeks ago when we began this series on 2 Peter, I pointed out that the letter begins and ends on the same note of grace and knowledge. I want you to see that again now and how it sums up the main point of the letter. Verse 18 says, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
” Verse 2 of Chapter 1 says, “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” Though the language is somewhat different, it seems to me the point is the same.
Peter's great desire for these people and for us is that we might experience lots and lots of God's grace; that we might suck it up through our roots and grow by it; that we might soak it in sunshine through our leaves and grow by it.After “Jesus” there is no sweeter word in all the Bible than “grace.” As Dr. Widen would say, “It's the greatest unused resource in all the world.
” It is the wealth of God's kindness; the riches of his mercy; the soothing ointment of his forgiveness; the free and undeserved, but lavishly offered hope of eternal life. Grace is what we crave when we are guilt-laden.
Grace is what we must have when we come to die. Grace is our only ray of hope when the future darkens over with storm clouds of fear.
And how shall we receive this grace? Where shall we send our roots down? To what sunshine shall we turn up our leaves? To the promises given to us when the Master bought us by his death (2:1). The best fertilizer for our hope and godliness is the knowledge of our future in God's grace.
So Peter says, “'May grace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God,” and closes with the command to grow “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord.
” If we but knew a fraction of the future God is making for us; if we could begin to feel that all our deepest longings will be satisfied, that every beauty of this world will be preserved and heightened, that every good affection will soar, that every proper relationship will be restored forever, that all pain and frustration and ugliness will vanish, that the fish will bite before the worm hits the water, and Jesus will fill the world with golden light—if we could believe what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9), our hearts would be freed from the greed and fears that cause us to sin. We would escape from the corruption that is in the world, and become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
2 Peter—For Christ's Glory
The message of 2 Peter is that the joy of hope is the power of godliness. The knowledge of God's promises is the pathway of his power (1:3, 4). And the promises, the power, the hope, and the godliness are all because of his grace. And so the book ends—and with these words we take our leave: “To him be glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
Growing in Grace
“But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”* (2 Peter 3:18) To grow in grace we must necessarily grow also in the knowledge of Jesus. We should get no stronger in the grace of God if we did not get to know Him better. This is a command, or an expression of God’s will to us.
Think of it! God wills you to grow in grace; and if you are not growing in grace, you are not accomplishing God’s will. This is a weighty matter. Growing in grace includes more than the pleasure and the benefit of your own improvement; God is grieved if you are not growing. A parent is grieved if his child does not grow.
On this subject there are a few points we wish to consider. They are:
- What is grace?
- What are not evidences of growing in grace?
- How to grow in grace.
- Some evidences of growth in grace.
1. What is grace?
The common brief definition of grace is favor, but this is too brief to be comprehensive. Grace is the favor of God to us. It is His good will. It is an impartation of strength from God. We are saved by grace.
This is the favor, or goodwill, of God and also the influence of the Spirit renewing the heart and imparting life to the soul. The apostle says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
”* (Philippians 4:13) By the strengthening grace of Christ he could do all things. His grace is sufficient to help bear trials and afflictions. God gives us grace to resist temptation, to endure afflictions, and to be conquerors over sin and Satan.
We are commanded to be strong in the grace which was in Christ Jesus. It is God’s grace that enables us to do, and it is His grace that makes us what we are.
2. What are not evidences of growth in grace
Growing in knowledge is not a sure proof that we are growing in grace. You cannot grow in grace without having a greater knowledge of God, but you can gain a knowledge of God and not grow in grace.
Some have concluded they were better Christians, were stronger in grace, and were more highly pleasing to God because they had learned more about the Bible and about what constitutes true Christian living.
I am acquainted with people that know much about God, the Bible, and the plan of salvation, and yet have no grace at all. Be not deceived. That you know better how Christians should live is no sure evidence that you are growing in grace.
That you can pray longer and testify or preach better, or be more eloquent and forward and active in these duties and have less embarrassment in their performance, is not sure evidence of your growing in grace. By mere practice and human effort one can make improvement in all these ways.
3. How to grow in grace
This is of greatest interest to the Christian. The farmer wants to know all he can about how to grow the largest crop of grain; and the more valuable the crop, the more studious he is to know how to grow it.
The stockman desires to know how to promote the growth of his animals. To that end he studies books and experiments. The more valuable an animal is, the more careful he is that it should make good growth. The Christian desires to know how to grow in grace.
Someone may say, “I do know how.” I have met farmers who knew much about farming, but I have never met one such farmer that was not eager to know more.A farmer that thinks he knows all about farming and needs not to know any more does not know anything as he ought to know it. All true, wide-awake Christians are eager to know how to grow in grace.
To grow in grace, the conditions for growth must be complied with. The sincere milk of the word must be desired. There can be no growth without this. The word of God produces growth in grace as naturally as food promotes physical development. You must eat God’s word.
This is the only food that contains all the elements necessary for symmetrical Christian growth. We read, “I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up.”* (Acts 20:32) It is the word of grace that will build you up into a strong pillar in the kingdom of God.
You must feed on the word of His grace, upon the sincere milk of His word.
The Christian can no more grow in grace; he can no more get to be Jesus or have a closer walk with Him, without feeding frequently and bountifully upon God’s word, than the child can grow as He should without eating the foods so necessary to growth.
But it seems I hear someone saying, “I have not time.” Then you cannot grow. Oh! why will people make such an excuse to themselves? Is growth in grace worth nothing to your soul? Do you not regard God’s will or pleasure? I pray God to awaken you your indifference and fire your heart with desire to be built up in the grace of God.
Read the Bible daily, thoughtfully, prayerfully, devouringly. Read it believingly. If you believe it fully, then it becomes a truth in your heart. Suppose we open the Bible to the forty-sixth Psalm and read, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”* (Psalm 46:1) Believing this fully, makes you strong; you can face any danger; you can conquer any foe.
When we implicitly believe the first verse, then the second one becomes our own experience—“Therefore will not we fear.”* (Psalm 46:2) Though all things around us are crumbling, we sweetly rest in God. Remember, you must daily feast upon the word of God if you would grow in grace. This will require time. You cannot get food for your soul from the word of God by hurriedly reading a chapter.
You must meditate upon it and get it down into your heart by believing it fully. It seems I am so unable to say what I feel is needful to be said that many of my dear readers might be made to understand the need of taking plenty of time to feast upon the Scriptures.In the early morning take time to be alone with God, and in the twilight hour, oh! do take time to commune with Him who loves you and is all to you.
Another condition of growth in grace is perfect obedience to all the word and will of God. Be careful not to grieve or quench the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is the medium through which life from God flows into and through the soul.
Close up those little channels in the young oak through which flows the life-giving sap, and what will be the result? You will meet with the same result in your spiritual being if you grieve the Spirit of God. If you refuse to do what the Holy Spirit is calling on you to do, you lose grace.
If the Spirit of God is speaking to your heart and mind to visit that poor sick man, to give of your means for the cause of Christ, or to fast for the needy and the work of God, you will degenerate if you do not obey.
If you have a desire to grow in grace, see to it that you are active in every Christian duty. But you are not to be active in Christian duty for the mere purpose of growth. The child is not active in its play for the mere purpose of growing, but is simply following out the law of life, and growth is the result.
In being active in Christian duties, you are merely obeying the law of spiritual life in your inner being, and the result is growth. We do not, as I have said in a previous chapter, gain heaven merely by good works, and yet we must work as if we did thereby gain heaven. Many today are deceived.
They think they are Christians and growing in grace because they are active in church work, etc. It is not our works that makes us Christians; we must have life in the soul—the life of God. As well take up the dead body of a child and walk it about to bring it into life as to think of becoming a Christian by good works.
All the performances of a jumping-jack will not bring it into life, for it is a dead body. All the activity in church-work of a dead sinner will never bring him into life. But when a child is born into life, then in obedience to a law of that life it exercises, and the result is growth.The dead professor or the sinner must be born of the Spirit into spiritual life; then in obedience to a law of that life he is active in every Christian duty, and growth is the result.
Let us open your Bible to Galatians and read, “And let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
As we have herefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
”* (Galatians 6:9-10) To refuse to do good to all men or to any man as we have opportunity is to grieve the Holy Spirit and to lose grace the soul.
Another requisite for growth is intense earnestness. The only effectual way to increase in the grace of God is to be deeply interested in the things of God. It is folly to expect to grow in grace if you are unconcerned about the cause of God.
If you are not intently interested in the salvation of souls and are not doing all you can to save them, you can make no progress in spiritual life. There is a great lack of interest in the salvation of souls. I have been in homes where were many ornamental and expensive things which told me of an awful blindness to God’s will.
Oh! how can men love souls and be interested in them as Jesus was and spend money for unnecessary things?
Of how to grow in grace this is the sum.
- Read the word of God daily, prayerfully, devouringly.
- Be deeply interested in the cause of God and the salvation of souls.
- Be prompt to obey the commandments of the Bible and the leading of the Holy Spirit.
- Be active in every possible Christian duty.
- “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”* (Ephesians 6:18)
4. Some evidences of growth in grace
Experiencing greater joy in acts of self-denial for the good and benefit of others is an evidence of growing in the grace of God. Look closely for a moment into your own heart. As sure as you are growing in grace, so sure do you find greater joy in denying self for the welfare and the happiness of others and for the cause of God.
You cannot have this fact too thoroughly impressed upon your mind and heart. Some are so full of grace that it is a joy to them to give to the poor or to the cause of God the last cent they have. They deprive themselves of luxuries and sometimes even of the necessities of life, that they may do something for Jesus and perishing souls.
Another evidence of growing in grace is getting farther from the world. To comprehend what is meant by being dead to the world is very difficult for many.It may sound hard and harsh to some, but nevertheless I am sure that many do not know what a complete death to the world implies.
They have too much mind and thought about the world and too much communing with it. Only God can help people to see.
Another evidence of growing in grace is having more implicit faith in God and a stepping out on His promises with a feeling of security. You have less fear of any earthly evil. You do not fear “for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.”* (Psalm 91:5-6)
Each person has an individual self-life though he be sanctified wholly. In this self-life lies a sensibility. By this sensibility I meant affections, desires, feelings, emotions, etc. These desires and feelings, it may be, overcome the will, and the purpose of God is not accomplished.
For instance, your good judgment may decide that you should give a certain sum of money to the poor, but your feelings rebel. Your feelings, or emotions, may cause you to do some things sometimes to attract attention or to appear a little better than you may really be, but you do not will it so.
Now, growing in grace is for the will to gain more power and these feelings to be lessened in power. Some persons, though sanctified, yet because of a peculiarity of their constitution easily give way to lightness, some to impatience. Some are much hurt when spoken ill of, and others have feelings of pleasure when they are well spoken of.
To grow in grace is to gain power in the soul and to overcome and still the voice of these feelings.
Still another evidence of growth in grace is becoming more consciously impressed with the mercies of God. You have a deeper sense of gratitude in your heart to God for His goodness. If you are growing in grace and are flourishing as the palm tree, you will become more deeply affected in your heart by the goodness and the mercy of God, and are gaining a closer walk with God.