15 May 2019

Growing in Knowledge: Support Your Faith with … Knowledge (2 Peter 1.5)

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: 2 Peter, Alexander Campbell, Christian hope, Discipleship, Faith, Holding On, Salvation, Spiritual Disciplines

I playfully say I am a “Stoned-Campbellite.” Neither Barton Stone nor Alexander Campbell were inspired nor even perfect. Yet I grew up in a fellowship of believers profoundly shaped by these men. But my goal is simply to be a Christian as best as I can. One of the great values of these two men, and the rhetoric was passed on to us, was always to go the Scriptures and see what they actually teach.

Our Spiritual forefathers and mothers never smile more than when we decide to become a student of God’s word for all its worth – even when we may disagree with something they understood. We grant no past understanding infallibility and beyond question … nor our own. We question ourselves as much as others.

Being Born is not the Same as Living as a Disciple

The Bible is a big book. We do not have to know the names of the books of the Bible to become a Christian. In fact we may not even know which books are in the Bible to become a Christian. We do not have to know the names of the Twelve apostles to become a Christian. We do not even have to know there is an “Old Testament” and a “New Testament” in order to become a Christian. In fact not a single Christian in the first century knew there was such a thing people today term “the Old Testament.” We do not have to be able to give a dissertation on the doctrine of baptism in order to become a Christian. We do not have to know the marks of the “one true church” in order to become a Christian.

Becoming a Christian is as easy as being “born.” The baby does nothing to be born, it is the mom that does all the work. Babies are born. Christians are born. Peter once praised our Father because “by his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope …” (1 Peter 1.3).

Alexander Campbell thought long and hard on this matter. He noted, correctly I believe, that the NT makes only two conditions for the “birth” of a disciple of Christ. First, a person must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Jewish Messiah. Second, that person expresses their faith in Jesus the Christ by being baptized into his name. If you have faith in Jesus the Christ and you have been baptized in his name you have been “born of God.” As Campbell understood it, correctly I believe, these are the only requirements made in Matthew 28.18-20. The Ethiopian Eunuch was the test case, if the Ethiopian was genuinely a Christian than nothing beyond what he knew can be a condition for being born. In Campbell’s words,

“But the grandeur, sublimity, and beauty of the foundation of hope and of ecclesiastical union, established by the author and founder of christianity, consisted of this, that the BELIEF OF ONE FACT, and that upon the best evidence in the world, is all that is requisite, as far as faith goes, to salvation. The belief of this ONE FACT, and submission to ONE INSTITUTION expressive of it, is all that is required of Heaven to admission to the church. A christian … is one that believes this ONE FACT, and has submitted to ONE INSTITUTION, and whose deportment accords with the morality and virtue of the great Prophet. The one fact is expressed in a single proposition – that JESUS THE NAZARENE IS THE MESSIAH … the ONE INSTITUTION is baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Every such person is a disciple in the fullest sense of the word” (Alexander Campbell, Gospel Restored, pp. 118-119)

Being born, becoming a Messiah follower, is easy. A person does not have to be able to discuss Christology and the doctrine of baptism to have faith that Jesus is the Christ and be baptized in the name of the Father, Son and the Spirit as Matthew 28 indicates.

Mom’s do the work in having babies and it is God who does the work in making baby Christians.

Being Born is not the Goal of Being Born

But being born is not the goal of life. Likewise being born is not the goal of Christianity. Living is the goal of life and living is the goal of Christianity. Babies do nothing to get born. But babies must do something to live. They must eat and grow. If a baby does not eat then tragic consequences result.

Some Christians are content with nothing in their life but being “born.” But as with a baby, if they do not grow, if they do not develop, then tragic consequences typically result. Some vigorously protest growing, learning, anything. If it is not a requirement to “get saved” then don’t waste time on it is the attitude. Is it any wonder that these believers exist, like actual infants, in a perpetual state of immaturity with all that entails? The Hebrews Preacher put it this way. Prefacing his/her remarks with these honest words, so often denied by many, “About this we have much to say that is hard to explain,”

since you have become dull in understanding. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk not solid food; for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness” (Hebrews 5.11-13)

The Hebrews’ Preacher is accusing those believers of “failure to thrive.” But we are to grow. We are to eat. We are to live. While knowledge of the Bible is not a prerequisite to being born, for those who want to live it becomes as necessary as eating and breathing for a baby. The goal of growing is to become a living, contributing, part of the family. To become what we were born to be: a graced image bearer with unique gifts to be shared with the community of faith.

Growing. Living.

So to live – to grow – we dig in. I confessed Jesus as the Christ, what does that mean? This first question takes us into the story of Abraham, Ruth, David, Hezekiah, Huldah … it takes me into seeing a Story that I am now part of. The Gospel of Matthew, like the apostle Paul, denies that it is possible to embrace the Messiah without Israel, he is Israel’s Messiah. Messiah is King, to say Jesus is Messiah is to confess “Jesus is the King of the Jews!” He was born king of the Jews. He was lynched as king of the Jews. He was raised in the flesh as king of the Jews. He reigns on the throne of David as king of the Jews.

I was born, but for what? For what purpose? My previous question about the Christ leads me into the Mission of the Christ. To be baptized is to become part of the Christ’s mission in the world. I have a reason for being that is beyond being born. Our Lord wants me (and you) to be his partner in the mission. To do this I must grow and mature to become who I was born to be.

Growing is, however, a natural thing unless we ourselves get in the way. Children naturally explore. Teenagers naturally ask questions. Growing – living – disciples of Christ do the very same thing. A sixteen year old simply will not accept the same kind of challenges that are given to a 4 month old or 4 year old. Nor will they accept the same answers given to the challenges. They explore.

The sad thing is, is that many many disciples refuse to do in their Christian walk what they do as a preteen and teen: ask questions, explore, and grow. They want formula out of a bottle, even strained bananas are unwelcome.

But growing, becoming, is the point of being born. The growth of a sixteen year old does not invalidate the growth of the four year old. The four year old, if doing what four year old’s do, is exactly where she is supposed to be.

But a sixteen year old that acts like a four year old is an indication that something massively has gone wrong in her life. But four year old’s do not know what a sixteen year old is supposed to know and comprehend. And a sixteen year old does not know and comprehend what a forty five year old is supposed to know and comprehend. But for the forty five year to get there, she must live not just exist.

She must DO. She must GROW. She must LEARN. We are born into a journey.

Paul said of the so called Old Testament that reading it, devouring it, meditating on it, “makes us wise unto salvation.” Isn’t that an odd phrase? The readers of 2 Timothy 3.14-17 are already “saved.” They are already “born.” But Paul’s point is that we grow in understanding what salvation actually is and what it is all about.

Salvation is not just about being born. Salvation is not simply about going to heaven. Salvation is about exploring, comprehending, growing, learning, and living .. it is about becoming who we were created to be in the first place.

Being born is easy. Growing beyond formula and strained bananas is natural. Becoming who I was born to be requires that I let God teach me something new … to become “wise” in the ways of salvation.

For this very reason you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness and goodness with knowledge …” (2 Peter 1.5)

Just some thoughts.

Related Blogs:

Spiritual Growth Goals for 2017: Some Suggestions

Grow in Grace & Knowledge: Purposeful Discipleship

Alexander Campbell: Lessons in Fearless Bible Study

2 Responses to “Growing in Knowledge: Support Your Faith with … Knowledge (2 Peter 1.5)”

  1. Dwight Says:

    Bobby, I think one of the things that plagues us Christians is, as you note, that we think the journey ends at baptism, instead of starting at baptism. And we think growth is learning, but we fail at the application of our learning, because we are in the business of learning.
    It is strange that Jesus didn’t spend all of his time in the Temple or synagogues learning. Jesus knew what to do and went and did it. We can read all of the survival manuals we can get, but until we are in the situation of using it do we really learn how to survive.

  2. Dialectical Phil Says:

    Bobby you have blessed me once again.
    Thank you. I have had some growing pains myself lately. Remember having your bones and muscles hurting when you were a teen. Spiritual growth is like that to me. Sometimes I just hurt.
    Phil in Florence

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