But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and for ever. Amen (2 Peter 3:18).
One of God’s consistent expectations for His children is that they continue to grow throughout their lives. There is no idea of “graduation” or “retirement” in Christianity as we understand such in the world; no matter how old we are, there is always more for us to learn and do. Even the Apostle Paul had room to grow (Philippians 3:12-14)!
This is especially true in terms of knowledge of God and His will for mankind. There is always something we can understand better or another aspect of God that becomes clearer we grow and develop.
Nevertheless, spiritual growth is not an automatic process over time. We must apply ourselves to learning about God and His will, otherwise we will remain at the same spiritual age as before (Hebrews 5:12-6:4). How is it that we grow in the knowledge of God?
We must recognize that spiritual growth in knowledge develops in two main ways: study and experience.
Perhaps the most evident way in which we learn of God is through study, particularly in studying God’s Word, the Bible. Paul establishes that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Paul encouraged Timothy to “be diligent” in “rightly dividing the word of truth,” so that he could be “a workman who does not need to be ashamed” (2 Timothy 2:15). We can study God’s Word by reading the text of the Bible, participating in Bible studies, listening to lessons promoting His Word, and by in-depth studies of individual books or topics.
The other important means by which we grow in the knowledge of God is through experience: living the life that God expects us to live. Spiritual maturity is defined as follows in Hebrews 5:14:
But solid food is for fullgrown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:14).
We can see here that one becomes mature through constant practice, which helps us properly discern good and evil. As it is in life, so it is in spiritual things: we can learn many things in abstract ways in classroom settings, but we tend to learn a lot more when we start practicing those lessons in life. Christianity was never meant to be merely a mental exercise– God has always expected it to be put into practice (James 1:22-25). Many things can only be learned through experience, and that is why it is important for us to both apply ourselves to the study of God’s Word and also to practicing God’s Word in our lives.
Knowledge of God is essential for proper and righteous living. Hosea laments how his fellow Israelites were “destroyed for a lack of knowledge,” and the gross sinfulness of a land that did not know of God (Hosea 4:6, 1-3). There were some who professed Christ in Corinth yet did not really know God, and this was to their shame (1 Corinthians 15:34). Do we desire to be destroyed or to be found as shameful before God? May it never be! Let us strive to know God, both in study and in practice, and live eternally!