A CHRISTIAN’S GROWTH IS A GROWTH DOWNWARD
Growth in grace is growth downward: it is the forming of a lower estimate of ourselves; it is a deepening realization of our nothingness; it is a heartfelt recognition that we are not worthy of the least of God’s mercies.
What is it to enter into a personal experience of saving grace? Is it not a feeling my deep need of Christ and the consequent perception of His perfect suitability to my desperate case?—to be acutely conscious that I am “sick” in soul and the betaking of myself to the great “Physician”? If so, then must not any advancement in grace consist of an intensification of the same experience, a clearer and fuller realization of my need of Christ? And such growth in grace results from a closer acquaintance and fellowship with Him: “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (2 Peter 1:2)—that is, a vital practical, effectual knowledge of Him.
In His light we see light: we become better acquainted with ourselves, more aware of our total depravity, more conscious of the workings of our corruptions. Grace is favor shown to the undeserving; and the more we grow in grace the more we perceive our undeservingness, the more we feel our need of grace, the more sensible we are of our indebtedness to the God of all grace. Thereby are we taught to walk with God and to make more and more use of Christ.
Every Christian reader will agree that if ever there was one child of God who more than others “grew in grace” it was the apostle Paul; and yet observe how he said “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to think anything as of ourselves” (2 Cor. 3:5); and again, “by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10). What breathings of humility were those! But we can appeal to an infinitely higher and more perfect example. Of the Lord Jesus it is said that he was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14), and yet He declared “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29).
Does the reader detect a slip of the pen in the last sentence? Since Christ was “full of grace and truth” we should have said “there fore [and not ‘yet’] he declared, ‘learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart’—the latter was the evidence of the former! Yes, so “meek and lowly in heart” was He that, though the Lord of glory, He declined not to perform the menial task of washing the feet of His disciples! And in proportion as we learn of Him shall we become meek and lowly in heart. Hence “and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” is explanatory of “grow in grace” in 2 Peter 3:18.
True humility dwells only in a heart which has been supernaturally enlightened of God and which has experimentally learned of Christ, and the more the soul learns of Christ the more lowly will it become. Even in natural things it is the novice and not the savant who is the most conceited. A smattering of the arts and sciences fills its youthful possessor with an exalted estimate of his wisdom, but the further he prosecutes his studies the more conscious will he become of his ignorance. Much more so is this the case with spiritual things.
An unregenerate person who becomes familiar with the letter of the Truth imagines he has made great progress in religion; but a regenerate person even after fifty years in the school of Christ deems himself a very babe in spirituality. The more a soul grows in grace, the more does he grow out of love with himself. In one of his early epistles Paul said, “I am the least of the apostles” (1 Cor. 15:9); in a later, “who am less than the least of all saints” (Eph. 3:8); in one of his last, “sinners, of whom I am chief!” (1 Tim. 1:15)