Alistair M Brown
1 Peter 2: 1-3
Colossians 1: 9-11
Ephesians 4: 13-16
The scriptures I have read all speak about Christians growing. In the first scripture the apostle Peter speaks about desiring “earnestly the pure mental milk of the word, that by it ye may grow up to salvation”. I would like to speak briefly about the importance of learning God's word in the Scriptures. In Colossians the apostle Paul speaks about “growing by the true knowledge of God”. In the third scripture we get the object of our growth - “the full-grown man”, in character the Lord Jesus Christ. The scripture speaks about growing up to Him in all things. The present time when we are here as believers on the earth is a growing time. A time is soon coming when we will not be on the earth anymore; we will be taken to be with the Lord Jesus in heaven, but the present time is a time of growing in God's things. God delights in growth because it is a sign of life, and God likes to see life that is according to Him.
In particular, He loves to see people growing up to the Lord Jesus Christ. God loves us to grow in the knowledge and understanding of His thoughts. He has come out towards us all in the Person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and every one of us who believes in Him is the object of His grace and goodness, and is brought into faith and repentance. That is a blessed matter because it means that we are saved; our eternal salvation is secure in Christ. If we have come to the Lord Jesus as Saviour, then we have the characteristic that is spoken of in this first scripture as “newborn babes”. There is life according to God, very attractive life, and God wants that life to grow and take form and substance, because He wants believers who have believed in Christ to become like that One. Peter brings before us that it is very important to desire earnestly “the pure mental milk of the word”, which is the communication of God's thoughts to us in His word. What we find about God's word, is that it appeals to His work in us. God's word does not appeal to the flesh in us, but it appeals to His work in us. God Himself wants us to read His word and understand it, to desire earnestly that pure mental milk of the word, because in the Scriptures, in God's word, we find what is needed to grow up to salvation. Of course our salvation is secure in believing in Jesus: we do not grow up to our eternal salvation, we have salvation in Christ; so the apostle must be speaking about something slightly different when he speaks in this scripture of growing up to salvation. I suggest that he is speaking about the growing up of the believer’s mind, so that we are able to understand the truth of God, to discern between what is right and what is not right, and to choose what is right according to God's mind as taught in the Scriptures. This is the kind of growing up that relates to teaching, to spiritual formation, and to understanding in the believer. The result would be that our pathways here are according to God’s way, the way in which God would direct us.
In reading the Scriptures, we should do so with the help of the Holy Spirit. It says that “Every scripture is divinely inspired, and profitable for teaching”, 2 Tim 3: 16. We would accept as believers in Christ that every scripture is divinely inspired - that the Scriptures were indited by the Holy Spirit; and we need the help of the Holy Spirit to understand what God is saying to us in the Scriptures. In Acts 8, a man on his way back to Ethiopia was reading the Scriptures; he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Philip said to him, 'Do you know what you are reading about?'. The man said, “How should I … unless someone guide me?”. We too need guidance to understand what is in the Scriptures. How do we get the Spirit’s help in this great matter? The first thing is the desire, as accepting the divine inspiration of the Scriptures and that they are God's word, to have the help of the Holy Spirit so that we will grow by the word and will understand more and more what God is saying. This has been said before, but if God takes the trouble to write down His thoughts in the Scriptures, we should take the trouble to read them. In every scripture we should look for how it speaks of the Lord Jesus. We will find the Holy Spirit helping us to find Christ in the Scriptures. Then we will taste that the Lord is good, and we will want to read more and understand more. So the Christian reads the Scriptures with understanding by the Spirit, with light and hope in his or her heart, looking for how the Scriptures speak of the Saviour, of Christ.
Further as to the help of the Holy Spirit, 1 Corinthians 2 would help, where it says, “not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, communicating spiritual things by spiritual means”, v 13. At the end of verse 16 we have, “For who has known the mind of the Lord, who shall instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ”. It is a wonderful thing to see that the Holy Spirit puts us in contact, in communication, with the mind of Christ. How different His mind is to what our minds are naturally. We get that lovely reference in Philippians 2: “For let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”, v 5. I would encourage myself and all of us to apply ourselves to reading and understanding the Scriptures with the help of the Holy Spirit, that we may grow up to salvation, absorbing an understanding of God's mind for us, and then being regulated by that mind and by these thoughts of God Himself.
In Colossians where we read, it speaks about “growing by the true knowledge of God”. Reading and understanding the Holy Scriptures by the Spirit helps us, but I think “the true knowledge of God” is a further thought. In verse 9 it speaks about the apostle's prayer that the brethren in Colosse would be filled with the full knowledge of God's will. The footnote there connects to Ephesians 1: 17. In that verse you get the apostle Paul praying that the believers in Ephesus would be given “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of him”, that is, the knowledge of “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ”, and this is taking us to a wonderful heritage, a wonderful place. Not only does the apostle desire that the Christians in Colosse might have an understanding of God's will, but that they might be “filled with the full knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding”. I do not think his prayer was restricted to the believers in Colosse; he had all in mind. I would therefore encourage myself and all of us here to put ourselves in this scripture. Do we have a desire to be filled with the full knowledge of God's will? Do we have that desire for ourselves? It is good to. It is also a blessed thing to have that desire for one another. In chapter 4 of Colossians, there is a reference to a brother who came from there, Epaphras, who was always praying that the brethren in Colosse “may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God”, v 12. Epaphras wanted the brethren where he came from to grow “by the true knowledge of God”. This matter of being filled with the full knowledge of God's will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding would lead to the formation of features of the Lord Jesus in us as believers in Him. God works inside first, and then what He has worked inside comes out into expression, and the result is “to walk worthily of the Lord unto all well-pleasing”. There is a testimony borne, and then we are to bear fruit in every good work, and we grow by the true knowledge of God, and we become strong in the faith, “strengthened with all power”. The believer of whom those things can be said is becoming more and more like Christ.
This is not for a few; it is for all believers. We must have faith, and we must have the Holy Spirit, and we must have the desire to read and understand God's word. These are fundamental. Then we also must have the desire for the blessed things spoken about in this scripture, and as we do there will be growth with us, growing by the true knowledge of God. What a blessed matter! It is also a fine basis for a link between believers. If you are growing by the true knowledge of God, and I am also, what a basis we have for a link together! We are speaking here about spiritual things, and as it says in Ephesians, “the spirit of wisdom and revelation” is needed, chap 1: 17. The things we can enjoy are far superior to and more real than the things of this world, because they are eternal. “The things that are seen are for a time, but those that are not seen eternal”, 2 Cor 4: 18.
I wish to speak briefly from the scripture in Ephesians 4. The apostle Paul wrote “to the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus who are at Ephesus”, Eph 1: 1. What dignity is found in believers in a place! Then he exhorts them: at the beginning of chapter 4 he is exhorting them; the passage is very much worth reading in full. The apostle speaks about the Lord having ascended up on high, and He cares for the saints from His position of glory, by placing certain gifts among the believers so that they might be built up and edified. He also refers to believers in verse 12 as “the body of Christ”. This is about believers together, not so much individual now, and one thing in view in all of this working together is that together we might develop in the knowledge of the Son of God. That is the same word that we read in Colossians, ‘full knowledge’, and it is with a view to the saints arriving at “the full-grown man”. The writer adds these fine, beautiful words, “at the measure of the stature of the fulness of the Christ”. That is what was in the apostle's mind, and because it is recorded in the Scriptures, it is in God's mind. In verse 15 it says, “but holding the truth in love, we may grow up to him in all things, who is the head, the Christ”. What is in God's mind is that we should all grow up to Jesus. He is the One from whom every direction and impulse comes, and this is something that we experience together. Every real believer, who has the Spirit, is part of Christ's body, and the truth of that needs to be worked out in the present time. The truth of Christ's body underlies the assembly, which the scripture speaks of as the counterpart of Christ. The assembly consists of every true believer that ever there was, every believer that has the Spirit. The Lord Jesus Christ is soon going to gather together all of His own, and then all this time of growing will be completed, and all the knowledge of the word of God, and all the true knowledge of God Himself, will be gathered together and will be seen substantially in one blessed vessel which will be the true and full counterpart to Christ. The light and the joy of that should affect us now. We have the privilege and opportunity to work out the truth of what we read about in Ephesians now. This is a blessed growing time and we should not waste it. We should be exercised to grow up to Him. We will grow by reading the word and understanding it by the Spirit; we will grow by the true knowledge of God; and as holding the truth in love with others, we will know what it is to and grow up to Him in all things.
May we be encouraged for His Name's sake.
30th December 2014