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).
Very few moments are as special as the birth of a child. When a newborn enters the world, he or she comes with so much hope and promise. Yet, for any of that hope and promise to be achieved, the newborn must first grow. While newborns and infants are special, they too must grow up to become toddlers, children, teenagers, and finally adults.
The same is true in spiritual terms. It is special and wonderful when anyone obeys the Gospel and calls upon the name of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (Acts 22:16, Romans 6:1-11). At that point the believer is as a spiritual infant, and needs to grow in order to achieve their hope and promise in Jesus Christ, as it is written:
As newborn babes, long for the spiritual milk which is without guile, that ye may grow thereby unto salvation (1 Peter 2:2).
As with physical newborns, so with spiritual newborns: milk must be the first food. Spiritual milk represents the basic truths of God’s Word: understanding the plan of salvation, what Christians must do and must not do, more about who Jesus was and His Lordship, and regarding the church that is His body (Hebrews 6:1-4, Galatians 5:17-24, Romans 6:1-23, Ephesians 5:22-33). A Christian without a basic understanding of God’s message to mankind is like a baby without milk: failing to thrive and in danger of death!
While it is very important to learn about God and His will for mankind in the Bible, it is just as important to begin practicing what God teaches. The only way Christians can grow is through “constant practice” of distinguishing good and evil (Hebrews 5:14). We know that in physical matters, humans learn either in a school environment or in a “real life” environment: one either devotes himself to study, and then later uses that knowledge in his labor, or one learns by practicing the labor. While there are opportunities for Christians to learn through study and devotion to the Scriptures, Christians must also experience “on the job training”: learning by doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong (Galatians 5:17-24). One cannot truly learn of Jesus by just sitting and reading a book: one must also “walk as He walked” (1 John 2:6).
Another aspect of growth is learning to present the Gospel to others in both word and deed. It was not a long time between Paul was converted and when he began to teach of Jesus in the synagogues (Acts 9:20-22); it also did not take long for Apollos to preach Jesus as the Christ (Acts 18:26-28). As with all things in life, you are likely to make mistakes in the beginning. Yet by trying we can learn from our mistakes and be that much more effective the next time. If we are not ashamed of the Gospel, then we must not be ashamed to begin preaching it (Romans 1:16)!
Just as newborns are born into families, and normally have a support system of parents, grandparents, among others, so newborn Christians ought to have a spiritual family that will help them grow in their walk with God. That spiritual family is the church (1 Corinthians 12:12-28). Many times people have bad feelings toward churches because of unfortunate events or attitudes that might have existed. Yet the Bible makes it clear that the church is important to God: it is the Body of Christ, and represents all those who are being saved (Colossians 1:18, Ephesians 5:22-33). Those who are not in the church are not saved!
Part of God’s wisdom regarding the church involves the local congregation. God specified that His people should come together to encourage one another constantly (Hebrews 10:24-25). Such a group was to be shepherded by elders who meet certain qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-8, 1 Peter 5:1-4), and served by deacons (1 Timothy 3:9-12). By coming together and encouraging one another, Christians can rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:27-28).
Learning of God’s Word, putting it into practice, preaching the Gospel, and being part of Christ’s church help a newborn Christian grow to maturity in their faith. Can we encourage you toward spiritual growth?
Ethan R. Longhenry