ould you like to experience the fullness and blessing of life in Christ? Would you like your life to fulfill God’s purposes for you in the world? If your answer is yes, keep reading.
Most believers are familiar with the great Bible truth that we are saved by grace through faith alone, not by our works (Eph. 2:8–9). Some are not so familiar with the Bible truth that God intends for us to grow in grace. We see this in many places, but it is especially clear when the apostle Peter urges his readers (and us) to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18).1 By this, Peter means that we are to grow and mature in our understanding and experience of the grace we have received and also in our knowledge about and experience of Christ. This is the way we enter more fully into the abundant life Jesus gives us (John 10:10).
Unfortunately, many in the church receive God’s grace but for various reasons do not grow much in grace. As a result, they needlessly miss out on great blessings God wants to bestow on them and run the risk of not fulfilling God’s purposes for their lives.
How do baptized believers grow in grace? It would be nice if we matured automatically, but God calls us to actively pursue growth in grace. Jesus, for example, tells His disciples to, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). Paul says to the Philippians, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12–13). Again, active engagement is required of us. This does not mean that through our own efforts we are the source of our own transformation, but it does mean that we have an important part to play in the process. Ultimately God is the source of our transformation, but He does it through a process that requires us to play a vital and indispensable role. In other words, God uses means—means of grace—to bring about our growth.
What are some of the means God uses to bring about our growth in grace? Although God can use various means at different times to help us grow, the primary and essential ones are listed in Acts 2:42. In this passage, we see how the Holy Spirit led the first church, composed of some three thousand newly converted baptized people, to grow in grace: “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” The context indicates that these activities were not a form of liturgy, but practices adopted so widely by individual believers that they characterized the entire three thousand. These four activities, taken together, formed the foundation of personal and corporate life in the early church. They weren’t the only ones God used, but they were the essential ones.
The believers devoted themselves to these spiritually edifying and transformative practices. In the Greek text, the strong word translated devoted (proskartereo) means “hold fast to something, continue or persevere in something.”2 In other words, they persevered in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers—not just one or two of these activities, as we might today, but all four of them. And they discovered that these were the primary means by which God caused them to grow in His grace. This pattern has recurred in church history in times of renewal and revival, when the Spirit of God seeks to bring the church back to authentic spiritual vitality and discipleship.
Let’s look at these practices one by one to see what they are, what they involve, and how they can help us and our churches grow in grace today.
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