Some Thoughts On Growing In Grace And Knowledge

A few days ago, when I commented on the problem of itching ears being somewhat more complicated than is often seen to be the case [1], one of my longtime friends confessed to having itching ears to hear more of the story.  As I write under fairly notable time constraints, I am not always able to write at the length and depth as many people would enjoy, and when people wish for me to write more about a subject they are not always shy about letting me know.  In particular, my friend wanted to hear more about the solution of growing in grace and knowledge as being the cure for itching ears.  In order to gratify his curiosity, since it is likely that if one person is willing to express something than there are likely others who have the same thoughts or questions in mind but have not expressed them, I would like to comment at least briefly today on how growing in grace and knowledge serves as a cure for itching ears.

The passages I would like to focus on discussing our growth in grace and knowledge are familiar ones, and yet they are placed in a context that is often overlooked.  Some years ago, I wrote on more than one occasion [2] about the ironies present in Ephesians 4 and the way this chapter was used by some people who were acting contrary to its instruction.  Ephesians 4, when taken as a whole, provides a thoughtful examination of several interrelated elements when it comes to spiritual growth.  It begins with a discussion of unity, looking at the ways in which oneness and unity is a characteristic of genuine believers.  It is after this discussion of unity that Paul then moves to a discussion of the role of authority in helping to encourage spiritual growth and maturity so that believers are no longer tossed aside by every doctrinal wind, which tends to happen when one has itching ears and a poor grounding in obedience and biblical knowledge.  After this, Paul turns to the aim and ambition that Christians have in becoming like Christ and developing into new men and women, and some of the ethical demands this growth requires.

Although some parts of Ephesians 4 are focused on in isolation, it is rare for the whole chapter to be viewed as part of one coherent context.  Obviously, I lack the time to discuss this chapter at length, much less its relationship to Ephesians 5 with its discussion of unity in marriage as well as in other relationships, which springs from our development of love and godliness as a result of growing in grace and knowledge in a structure of unity and with godly authority that seeks to encourage the growth and maturity of individual believers in all spheres of life.  It is, however, worthwhile to point out at least a few verses that demonstrate this larger, overarching theme, such as Ephesians 4:11-16, which is one massive and complicated Pauline sentence:  “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”

Sometimes believers are not fully conscious of the level of ambition that is involved in what we take for granted.  It is easy for us to talk about the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit and to expect great things of other believers, spiritual authorities, and families and institutions like churches and religious charities.  Yet the basic task for a believer is to grow morally so that, in the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 5:49, we may be perfect (or mature) as the Father is.  This is a tall order.  It is, strictly speaking, impossible without God’s Spirit and very difficult even with it.  This task of growing into a fit body for which Christ is the head is such a demanding and difficult task that it makes both types of itching ears entirely inappropriate responses.  The search for novelty and distraction is at best useless and more often damaging to the goal of deep and fundamental personal change, which has as one of its notable qualities the fact that we do not know what it feels like to be where we want to be, but that the actions we must take to get there are easy to know and hard to do.  On the other hand, the desire to remain as we are, comfortable in what we know and in what we obey of God’s demanding laws and ways is similarly destructive to moral development because it views growth as a threat to the comfortable and to the familiar, and so makes it impossible to become what we were created to be.

What practical advice does Paul gives us in overcoming these negative tendencies that we are all so very familiar with?  We read this in the closing part of Ephesians 4, from verses 25 through 32:  “ Therefore, putting away lying, Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.  “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.  Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.  Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.  And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”  None of these instructions are all that complicated to understand.  They are, however, difficult to do.  The task of growing in grace and knowledge, as Paul (and others) define it is sufficiently difficult that it does not leave us a great deal of time or energy to waste seeking on novelty, or to spend in resisting the changes that we know deep down inside of us that God requires.  As is generally the case, though, it is easy to know in our head, and easy to deceive ourselves that we are further along in the process of becoming like our Father and elder Brother, and hard to do what is required of us even with the help of God’s Spirit inside of us.

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/09/25/a-cure-for-itching-ears/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2010/12/21/exploring-the-ironies-of-the-unity-of-faith-and-the-gifts-of-christ-ephesians-41-8/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2010/12/16/just-what-is-the-ephesians-4-model-for-a-healthy-congregation-anyway/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/08/28/to-a-perfect-man/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, Church of God, Musings. Bookmark the permalink.

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