It is not salvation merely that we have received, but we are set here as saved ones to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18), in mind and ways of Him by whom we live (Acts 17:28). Hence there are little children, young men and fathers (1 John 2), showing the grades, not of salvation, but of growth in the divine life (2 Pet. 1:4).
The New Testament makes it clear that the whole service of the Holy Spirit to saints now is to instruct them in the things of God, “that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God” (1 Cor. 2:12). And to this end are bestowed the ministerial gifts, “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12).
The Lord tells Peter to feed His lambs (John 21:15). Peter tells the elders to feed the flock of God (1 Pet. 5:1, 2). Pasture is knowledge of the Son of God by which we “grow up in Him in all things” (Eph. 4:14). The great delay to souls is the slowness of heart and dullness of faith to see ourselves on resurrection ground in the risen Lord Jesus, and then from this point growing in Him, “who is our life” (Col 3:4), and the source and spring of everything.
But now ministry in the Word, for the most part, is but urging on souls how they are accepted in Christ, and how happy they ought to be. Even this, indeed, is in advance of the general order and scope of evangelical teaching, which is simply presenting Christ on the Cross, suffering for sins.
Take up what “deeper life” book you may, even the best, and you will find that for the most part it treats of the way in which rest for the soul may be found, instead of starting the soul from peace, and leading it into those higher delights which a knowledge of the Lord Jesus imparts. No one can walk in the path of righteousness until he is in untroubled rest before the Father, and the uncertainty of the walk of many is in consequence of unsettled peace in the presence of the Father.
Does growth teaching today in general aim at leading souls on in Christ, or does it only aim at leading them up to Him for safety and rest from Him? Now it is as “complete in Him” (Col. 2:10) that I am to commence my growth and walk. If you do not start me from my new position, how can you advance me in my condition? I am not speaking of attainment here. I am merely insisting on the state of soul preparatory to growth.
If not settled on our position, we are like the Corinthians, but babes, carnal (1 Cor. 3); or like the Galatians, we need that “Christ be formed” in us - we are not prepared for growth (Gal. 4:19); or like the Hebrews, we “have need of milk and not strong meat”; we are “babes,” and “unskillful in the Word of righteousness” (Heb. 5: 12-14).
On the other hand, the little child of 1 John 2:13-20 is prepared for growth. He is in Christ, knows the Father, and has “an unction from the Holy One” (1 John 2:20). As Peter writes, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:2). Growth is the natural result of nourishment, where there is life and health; but if there be not life and health, there is no appropriation of the nourishment, the pasture.
If there be a healthy desire for growth, there will always be a seeking for truth to “grow thereby.” And the Lord never fails to provide pasture for His hungry sheep.
- J.B. Stoney