Spiritual growth is a command of God. Peter recorded, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 3:18). Earlier in this same epistle, Peter listed some seven attributes that one needed to add to his faith (II Pet. 1:5-7). He then said, “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins” (II Pet. 1:8-9). The writer of Hebrews rebuked some who were dull of hearing, saying, “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat” (Heb. 5:12). A valid question from these commands is, what is the means by which we must do this? The apostle Peter also provided us with the answer to this query. He wrote in his first epistle, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (I Pet. 2:2). Both Peter and the writer of the book of Hebrews referred to those who had been born again (I Pet. 1:23) and had not yet grown as babes. Peter said that the means of growth was, “the sincere milk of the word”.
The word of God is certainly powerful enough to bring about growth. The psalmist said, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth” (Psalm 33:6). The Hebrew writer stated, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). The word of God is the powerful tool used to make one a child of God in the first place. Paul said of the gospel, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). James wrote, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creation” (Jam. 1:18). And Peter said, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever” (I Pet. 1:23). The word of God is also powerful enough to uphold all things. The writer of Hebrews said, “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power…” (Heb. 1:3). This same word will build you up and give you an inheritance. Paul told the Ephesian elders, “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). In short, God’s word must be our instruction manual if we are to grow.
The word of God is true. In the King James version, the word “sincere” was used to describe the word that was to be used for growth. Other translations use “without guile” and “pure”. The idea is that God’s word is the truth and nothing but the truth. In His prayer for His apostles, Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17). When learned and followed, exactly as given by God, the word is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (II Tim. 3:16-17). Yet, it is all important that we accept only the pure and unadulterated word, just as given. Whether old testament or new, we are not to add to nor take away from what God said (Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:18-19). To change it in any way is to do the same as Paul spoke of some who were perverting the gospel of Christ (Gal.1:6-7). He went on to pronounce a curse upon any who taught anything other than the pure word of God (Gal. 1:8-9). It matters not whether it is from the mouth of a preacher or is printed in a book that has the word “Bible” printed on the front cover, if it is not true to the original word given by God, turn away from it, for it will not bring growth, but damnation.
The pure word of God will provide nutrition for growth. Often the word “sound” is used in reference to the word of God. Paul told Titus to “…speak thou the things which become sound doctrine” (Tit. 2:1). The word “sound” can also be translated, “healthy”. It will build you up and make you spiritually healthy (Acts 20:32; III John 2-3).
In closing, consider briefly one last point. Peter said that we are “to desire” the sincere milk of the word. We must develop an appetite for the word of God. One might be kept alive by being “force fed”, but to grow strong, one must have a love for the truth and a hunger for every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4; II Thess. 2:10). Jesus said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6).
Robert Oliver is pastor of The Church of Christ and a long-time columnist for The Sampson Independent. Send any questions or comments to: [email protected]