By Jessica Udall, Crosswalk.com
Cruising at 35,000 feet, my plane seatmate, John, and I were deep in conversation. He was interested in talking about religion, and I was glad to oblige! We discussed our spiritual experiences but sensed we were using the same terms but defining them differently. “So, when you say the word ‘grace,’ what do you mean?” I asked him. He paused a moment, deep in thought, then said: “I guess ‘grace’ like a diploma that God gives me when I please him.”
That definition resonated with the earlier things he had been sharing as well, but this is not what the Bible says ‘grace’ is. Thankfully for John, and for all of us, grace is much more amazing! As we continued to talk over tiny snack packets and fizzy drinks, I shared with John that the Bible talks about grace as what is often summarized as “unmerited favor.” Instead of being based on our good behavior or lack of it, it is based on God’s incredible goodness and unconditional love for us.
Ephesians 2 says that “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:4-9, emphasis added).
Interestingly, Paul includes one more verse after this incredible description about our salvation by grace, lest anyone object to the idea of grace by cautioning that people receiving it will just take it for granted and live sinful, selfish lives. He reminds believers: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). God’s grace is not bestowed on us because of our good works, but it is bestowed on us to enable us to do the good works that God had in mind for us to do before the creation of the world!
What Does Peter Mean by 'But Grow in the Grace and Knowledge of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ'?
"But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." - 2 Peter 3:18
In his second letter, Peter shares with his readers that God’s grace makes possible a godly life. By the power of God’s grace being applied to the believer through the indwelling Holy Spirit, growth is possible even when faced with false teachings and other hardships. At the end of the letter, Peter states that “according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13), and then spends the last few verses instructing believers on what to do in the meantime. In conclusion he says: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). It’s a beautiful idea, but how does one do this practically?
4 Practical Ways You Can Grow in Grace
In the book of Acts, many people came to know the Lord through the Spirit-empowered preaching of the apostles. The things they did to grow are then described: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42-46). This short verse gives us several powerful ways that we can “grow in grace and knowledge.”
1. Devote yourself to teaching.
Though the truths of Scripture are simple enough for a child to understand, they are also deep enough that they can be studied for a lifetime without running out of new insights. God’s grace is fully available to us from the moment of salvation, but it takes time to examine our whole lives in light of His whole truth. Devoting ourselves to listening to Scriptural teaching allows us to apply our knowledge of God and our experience of his grace to each and every aspect of our lives.
2. Devote yourself to the life of your church.
Gathering together in a fellowship of believers is an important part of living as a Christian, giving us a foretaste of the day that we will all gather together around God’s throne, singing his praises (Revelation 7:9). Hebrews 10:24-25 says: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Being together with other believers gives us the chance to live out the many “one another” verses in the Bible that we simply can’t live out individually. We are meant to be in community as we “grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
3. Devote yourself to breaking bread with others.
Living in community with other believers extends beyond church gatherings. It also includes being involved in each other’s daily lives. Peter urges believers to “show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9). In true hospitality, the focus isn’t on the food but on the sharing of it, enjoying one another’s presence and mutually acknowledging our gratitude to God for his sustaining grace.
4. Devote yourself to prayer.
When we devote ourselves to prayer, we connect with God in a moment-by-moment way (not special occasions only). We become more cognizant of his presence and power in our lives. We notice his gifts and are moved to gratitude. We look to him instinctively for his help in our time of need. In short, prayer helps us grow in our awareness of God and so, in a sense, prayer activates his grace in our lives. While God is the ultimate source of our growth and the provider of all that we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), our participation is essential, and prayer is the way that we begin to use the vast and amazing grace which has been given to us. “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
At the moment of salvation, we are given unmerited favor and unconditional love that causes our souls to sing:
Grace, grace, God's grace
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within
Grace, grace, God's grace
Grace that is greater than all our sin.
-Grace Greater than Our Sin by Julia H. Johnston
But this grace continues to be present, available, and working by the power of the Holy Spirit in us every day of our lives on this earth, empowering us to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). We can “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). By growing in our knowledge of Christ and in his abundant grace, we are enabled to live the “abundant life” he came to give us (John 10:10). And his grace doesn’t even end at the end of life! Ephesians 2 says that “in the coming ages” he plans to “show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). This is truly amazing grace!
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.
-Amazing Grace by John Newton
Jessica Udall holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Bible and a Master of Arts degree in Intercultural Studies. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Intercultural Studies and writes on the Christian life and intercultural communication at lovingthestrangerblog.com.
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