The Scriptural passage in question is found in 2 Peter 3:17-18, which reads:
“… beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Grace has been commonly understood as unmerited pardon–especially in connection with the forgiveness of sin. God forgives us our sins, not because we deserve to be forgiven, but because of Christ’s sacrifice. However, the Greek word for “grace” conveys a much broader concept than just the “unmerited pardoning of sins.”
Notice, in this context, Paul’s warning in Romans 6:1-2, 15: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue to sin that grace may abound? Certainly not… What then? Shall we sin because we are… under grace? Certainly not!”
We are not to “grow” in grace, by sinning, so that we can receive more and more forgiveness or unmerited pardon. Just the opposite is true. 1 Peter 4:1 tells us: “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.”
What, then, is meant with the statement: “Grow in the grace… of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”?
The commentary of Jamieson, Fausset and Brown emphasizes that we are to “GROW” in His grace, stating, “Not only do not ‘fall from’ [verse 17], but grow onward: the true secret of not going backward. Eph. 4:15, ‘Grow up into Him, the Head, Christ.'”
The Greek word for “grace,” “charis,” is defined by Strong’s Concordance of the Bible (G 5485) as, “acceptable, benefit, favour, gift, grace (-ious), joy, liberality, pleasure, thank (-s, -worthy).”
According to Young’s Concordance to the Bible, the Greek word “charis” can also have the meaning of “graciousness,” and points out that the Authorized Version translates the Greek word “charis” also as “grace,” “benefit,” “favor,” liberality,” “pleasure,” and “thanks.” The Greek word “charisma” is derived from the word, “charis,” and means, “gift.”
As we have seen, one important definition of “charis,” or “grace,” then, is “favor.” We are to grow in the favor of God, by continually overcoming our own selves, the world and Satan. Even Jesus, when He was here on earth, increased or grew in favor — or grace — with God and men (compare Luke 2:52).
In addition, we read that Mary found “favor” or “grace” in the eyes of God (Luke 1:30; compare Luke 1:28); and so did David (Acts 7:45-46). We are told that the early apostles and disciples had “favor” or “grace” with all the people (Acts 2:47). Likewise, Joseph received “favor” or “grace” and “wisdom in the presence of Pharaoh” (Acts 7:10).
Barnes explains that “religion in general is often represented as ‘grace,’ since every part of it is the result of grace, or of unmerited favor; and to ‘grow in grace’ is to increase in that which constitutes true religion.”
Gill states that the meaning of growing in grace is growing in “the gifts of grace, which, under a divine blessing, may be increased by using them: gifts neglected decrease, but stirred up and used, are improved and increase.”
This explanation has merit, considering that it is through grace (“charis”), that gifts (“charisma”) are bestowed on us.
Clarke explains the passage, “to grow in the grace… of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” as follows:
“Increase in the image and favor of God; every grace and Divine influence which ye have received is a seed, a heavenly seed, which, if it be watered with the dew of heaven from above, will endlessly increase and multiply itself. He who continues to believe, love, and OBEY, will grow in grace, and continually increase in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, as his sacrifice, sanctifier, counsellor, preserver, and final Savior. The life of a Christian is a growth; he is at first [begotten] of God, and is a little child; becomes a young man, and a father in Christ. Every father was once an infant; and had he not grown, he would have never been a man. Those who content themselves with the grace they received when converted to God, are, at best, in a continual state of infancy: but we find, in the order of nature, that the infant that does not grow, and grow daily, too, is sickly and soon dies; so, in the order of grace, those who do not grow up into Jesus Christ are sickly, and will soon die, die to all sense and influence of heavenly things. There are many who boast of the grace of their conversion; persons who were never more than babes, and have long since lost even that grace, because they did not grow in it. Let him that readeth understand.”
Similar statements are made by William Barclay, in his commentary on 2 Peter. He writes:
“The Christian is a man with a developing life… The Christian must daily experience the wonder of grace, and daily grow in the gifts which grace can bring.”
A good explanation of the passage can also be found in the “Life Application Bible”:
“Peter concludes this brief letter as he began, by urging his readers to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ–to get to know him better and better. This is the most important step in refuting false teachers. No matter where we are in our spiritual journey, no matter how mature we are in our faith, the sinful world always will challenge our faith. We still have much room for growth. If every day we find some way to draw closer to Christ, we will be prepared to stand for truth in any and all circumstances.”
Only if we grow in the grace of Jesus, can we properly handle the knowledge that He imparts to us. That is why we must receive and grow in both His grace and His knowledge. We are to grow in graciousness and kindness, as well as in favor with God, and we must grow in the knowledge of Who He really is, what His character is like, and how He lives. Christ is described as the “only begotten of the Father, FULL of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
But we also read that we can share in His grace (John 1:16-17)–we can all become more gracious and loving persons, willing to sacrifice our time, effort or money for the benefit and well-being of others. As James explains: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27; compare 2 Peter 3:11, 14).
We ARE to grow in the GRACE of Jesus Christ–in His FAVOR toward us, due to an obedient lifestyle which is pleasing to Him–as well as in the acquisition of His GRACIOUSNESS; of His willingness to bestow GIFTS on others; and of Christ’s desire–which is to become our desire–to help others in need. But we also need to grow in His KNOWLEDGE so that we can know how to live a Christian life of giving and sharing, and how and when to bestow gracious favors and gifts on others.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link