Christian Growth in Grace and Holiness

In the sacred Scriptures, the word ‘grace’ appears frequently, carrying profound and varied meanings. It is a term of high import, particularly in the context of man’s salvation. This journey of spiritual progress is intricately tied to the concept of grace.

As we delve into the nature of Christian growth in grace and holiness, we explore the various facets of this transformative process, including its challenges and rewards.

Understanding Grace: The Fountain of Life

Grace in its primary sense is the favor of God bestowed upon sinners, an expression of His boundless love and mercy. It stands as the wellspring of life, the ultimate source of salvation from which all blessings flow. The Apostle Paul, prolific in his use of this term, exemplifies its significance.

In Ephesians, He extols, “Having predestinated us to the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:5-6)

Grace, in this context, is God’s unmerited favor through which we find acceptance in Christ. Moreover, Paul emphatically declares, “By grace are ye saved (Ephesians 2:8),” highlighting the incomparable richness of God’s grace revealed through Christ Jesus.

As the Gospel serves as the conduit through which this grace flows abundantly, it is aptly termed not only ‘the gospel of the grace of God‘ but ‘grace’ itself. Thus, when we read passages like, “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you, that ye receive not the grace of God in vain,” or “For the grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared unto all men,” we recognize that, within the context, ‘grace of God’ signifies the Gospel.

A Deeper Meaning of Grace

However, in our text, ‘grace’ takes on a somewhat distinct meaning. Here, Christians are urged to ‘grow in grace,’ a concept not entirely congruent with the previously discussed significations. In this instance, ‘grace’ signifies the principle of new life, a spiritual awakening initiated by regeneration. It’s a meaning somewhat less common in Scripture but frequently used in Christian discussions.

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When the Apostle exhorts Christians to ‘grow in grace,’ he essentially calls them to increase in holiness and advance in piety. This call is of paramount importance to all professing Christians, as it directly impacts their comfort, usefulness, and their eternal felicity and glory in heaven.

The Nature of Growth in Grace

To understand Christian growth in grace and holiness, one must acknowledge that grace is not an innate quality of human nature. Instead, it’s a divine endowment, a heavenly gift bestowed upon the truly regenerated soul. Grace does not exist naturally in mankind; rather, by nature, all are “children of wrath,” born in sin and devoid of holiness. True growth in grace is thus limited to those who have been transformed by divine grace.

In its early stages, grace is often feeble. New converts may display lively enthusiasm, but their understanding of spiritual matters is limited, and their faith can waver. While they may rejoice in good times, a dark cloud can quickly cast them into doubt and despair. Their spiritual affections, though seemingly strong, are tainted with worldly desires and selfishness. In essence, their grace is in its infancy.

However, this initial weakness is not a cause for despair. Growth in grace is, by nature, gradual and continuous. It’s a process characterized by increasing vigor and purity in all aspects of holiness. True growth is evidenced by decreasing sinfulness and the deepening of faith, love, humility, and other Christlike attributes.

Overcoming Spiritual Decline

Yet, even as growth in grace progresses, it can encounter obstacles and periods of decline. These setbacks are common and can impede one’s spiritual progress. A Christian may experience seasons of backsliding, where they temporarily lose ground. It’s essential to recognize that such declines, while disheartening, do not necessarily imply a loss of salvation. Instead, they serve as reminders of the ongoing battle with indwelling sin.

Spiritual decay, if left unaddressed, can lead to further decline. A significant danger in this state is the influence of antinomianism, which can deceive believers into complacency, excusing sin by comparing themselves to others or relying on past experiences.

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The Imperative to “Grow in Grace”

In light of the challenges and complexities surrounding growth in grace, the call to “grow in grace” remains pivotal for every believer. The natural inclination of the heart, even for the most devout, is to drift away from God. Standing still in one’s faith often results in spiritual regression. Therefore, the only path to safety and comfort is to actively pursue growth in grace.

This imperative leads us to two crucial aspects:

I. How Can Growth in Grace Be Promoted?

1. Self-Examination and Humility

Growth in grace requires continuous self-examination. Recognizing the depth of one’s sinfulness and helplessness is essential for spiritual progress. A humble and contrite spirit, aware of its own unworthiness, lays the foundation for growth.

2. Seeking God’s Guidance

Transformation is impossible without divine guidance. Christians must earnestly seek God’s help in their journey of sanctification. It’s through the indwelling Holy Spirit that believers receive the grace necessary for growth.

3. Resisting Temptations and Sin

Every Christian faces temptations and trials. Overcoming them is integral to growth in grace. By guarding against the occasions of sin and relying on God’s strength, believers can progress in holiness.

4. Pursuing Holiness with Diligence

Growth in grace entails an active pursuit of holiness. Believers must engage in acts of devotion, such as prayer, meditation, and the study of God’s Word, to deepen their relationship with Christ.

5. Perseverance and Consistency

Consistency in spiritual disciplines and unwavering perseverance are vital for sustained growth in grace. While setbacks may occur, a determined commitment to advance in holiness is essential.

II. Reflecting on Stages of Christian Growth

Understanding the stages of Christian growth helps believers navigate their spiritual journey more effectively. Each stage presents its unique challenges and opportunities for growth:

1. Initial Zeal and Fervor

The early stage of a Christian’s journey is marked by enthusiasm and joy in newfound faith. However, it may also involve emotional fluctuations and a reliance on feelings.

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2. Temptation and Severe Conflict

As spiritual growth continues, believers often face intense trials and temptations. The battle against sin becomes more apparent, and doubts may arise. This stage tests one’s faith and resolve.

3. Settled Peace and Maturation

In the final stage, spiritual maturity is achieved. There is a deep, abiding peace and assurance of God’s favor. The focus shifts from personal struggles to a desire for the prosperity of God’s kingdom.

Conclusion

Christian growth in grace and holiness is a lifelong journey that demands self-examination, humility, and a steadfast commitment to seeking God’s guidance. While setbacks and challenges may occur, the call to “grow in grace” remains a resounding imperative for every believer.

The stages of growth, from initial zeal to settled peace, provide insight into the various facets of this transformative process. By persistently pursuing holiness and relying on divine grace, Christians can experience a deeper, more profound relationship with God.

FAQs

1. What is the role of divine grace in Christian growth? Divine grace is the foundation of Christian growth. It is God’s unmerited favor and the source of salvation. As Christians grow in grace, they deepen their understanding of God’s love and become increasingly conformed to the image of Christ.

2. How can I overcome spiritual decline and backsliding in my Christian journey? Overcoming spiritual decline requires self-examination, humility, and a reliance on God’s grace. It’s essential to recognize one’s weaknesses and actively seek God’s guidance through prayer, meditation, and consistent devotion to His Word.

3. Are setbacks and challenges in the journey of Christian growth normal? Yes, setbacks and challenges are a natural part of the Christian growth process. Believers should not be discouraged by temporary declines in their faith but should instead focus on persevering, seeking God’s help, and pursuing holiness with diligence.

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