Church Growth through Spiritual Growth (2 Peter 1:3-11)
Two men worked evangelistically in the same congregation. One was known as a spiritual person and a winner of souls. The other could not be known as a spiritual person and did not win souls.
If we are to win souls, we must be a spiritual people. One requirement for elders (and really all church leaders) is that they be “well thought of by outsiders” (1 Tim 3:7). Paul and Silas helped bring about the conversion of the Philippian jailer by the lives they lived (Acts 16:25-30). The Jimmy Swaggers, Jim Bakers, and Jim Joneses destroy what the church can do.
Let’s examine 2 Peter to see what the apostle said about spiritual growth:
Inspiration of Spiritual Growth, vv 3-4
God has given us everything we need for spiritual growth.
He has given us all things “for life and godliness.” “Life” would refer to our spiritual life. “Godliness” would refer to right behavior. God has given us everything we need to live good, moral lives.
He did this through the knowledge of Christ. This is the knowledge about Christ. So in knowing about Christ, God has given us all things we need for life and godliness.
Christ called us by his glory and virtue. “Virtue” is probably best understood here as miraculous power. So, through the miraculous workings of Christ, we’ve been called.
God has given us great promises. These promises refer to the Second Coming. 2 Peter 3:9, 13. God has promised to provide us a home in heaven. We can take confidence in his promises.
We can escape the corruption in the world. There is much corruption in the world through lust. Through what God has given us, we can escape that corruption.
We can become partakers of the divine nature. The word for “partakers” means something like “sharers” or “partners.” We can share in the divine nature—immortality.
This here provides us with the reasons we should grow spiritually. God has given us what we need. God has given us great promises. God will allow us to escape the corruption int eh world. God will allow us to become partners in his nature.
Ingredients of Spiritual Growth, vv 5-7
One man said, “The soul of religion is the practical part.” In these verses, we’re given the practical side of spiritual growth.
We need to give diligence to these graces. “Diligence” refers to zeal, eagerness, really putting forth effort. We should be eager to add these graces—we should put forth some real effort.
Notice the graces themselves in verses 5-7:
- Faith. Faith is the foundation of spiritual growth. Hebrews 11;6. If we don’t have faith, there isn’t any reason to add these graces.
- Virtue. This is moral excellent. We should strive to be people of moral integrity—those around us should know we are people of virtue, integrity. Plato said, “Virtue is a more valuable treasure than all the riches above the earth or all the mines beneath it.”
- Knowledge. We need to know about Christ. In knowing what God expects, we are able to add these graces to our lives. We cannot get what we need for spiritual growth any other way: “It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jer 10:23).
- Self-control. The Greek term for self-control is derived from two terms and literally means “one who holds himself in.” The plea for self-control is the opposite of the false teachers against whom Peter contended (2 Pet 2:14). One man said, “He who conquers others is strong. He who conquers himself is mighty.”
- Perseverance. The idea here is that Christians keep going even in the face of adversity. Even when it seems that all else has failed, the Christian keeps going. “By perseverance, the snail reached the Ark.”
- Godliness. This refers to piety toward God, right behavior. We must be people who know how to behave.
- Brotherly affection. This is love toward our brethren in Christ. Through our love for our brethren, the world is to know God sent Jesus (Jn 13:34-35).
- Love. This is love toward all men. We are even to love our enemies.
Incentives of Spiritual Growth, vv 8-11
These attributes are to abound in us. We are to be filled with these spiritual graces. We are to be continually adding and improving these graces in our lives.
Spiritual growth will keep us from being barren or unfruitful. “Barren and unfruitful” is dead; dead trees don’t do anything. If we’re adding these graces, we won’t be dead. We will be growing and offering God the fruit of our lives.
Spiritual growth keeps us from being blind. Blindness involves forgetting we were cleansed from our past sins. Those who refuse to grow spiritually act as though they have never been forgiven—there is to be a change at conversion.
Spiritual growth will keep us from stumbling. By adding these graces, we are confirming our calling and election. Adding these graces will keep us from stumbling. If we are adding these attributes to our lives, we will not fall away. Yet, this is a conditional promise—“If you do these things. . . .”
Spiritual growth will give us an entrance into heaven. We will have an “abundant entrance” into heaven. We will have an entrance into the “everlasting kingdom.”
If you are to help the congregation where you work to grow, you must grow spiritually.
Tonight, we’ve outlined the purpose for growth, the ingredients of growth, and the blessings of growth.
Marcus Aurelius said, “Waste no time arguing what a good man should be; be one.” Are you a good man this very night?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Camargo Church of Christ near Mt. Sterling, Kentucky.