My dearest brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ. This message today is in no way meant to condemn anyone for there is no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). It is not intended to make those who are steadily growing in their relationship with God, who are going through the usual struggles and trials, feel guilty or like they are not doing enough. I mean this very sincerely. Trees grow at different rates and none grow overnight, however, they must be nurtured and fed and they should reach full maturity and bear good fruit in due course.
This message is to encourage all of us to cling to the truth and grow in grace. It is to encourage each of us to work out (not at) our salvation with fear and trembling. It is to challenge each of us to know why we believe what we believe and be able to back our beliefs from scripture in the face of a world full of professing christians and philosophers who twist the scriptures to suit their own ideas. If we can show unequivocally from scripture why we believe what we believe then we will not be ashamed and we will be able to give the reason for the hope that is within us with full certainty.
Philippians 2 12-15 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.Do all things without murmurings and disputings:
That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;
Hebrews 3 12-13 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
1 Peter 2 2-3 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
Ephesians 4 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
Hebrews 5 12-14 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Hebrews 6 1-2 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
Baptisms vs one baptism: Example of where we must rightly divide the Word of truth, Hebrews was to Jewish Christians who had to put away many ceremonial washing rituals defined in the Jewish law. This word here does not refer to the believer's baptism. In Ephesians 4, only one baptism is mentioned. Why? Ephesians was written to the church and to the church, only one baptism (into the body of Christ) is relevant.
Doctrine of laying on of hands: Old testament identification with victim, Leviticus 3:2,8,13 etc, nothing to do with today's laying on of hands to impart the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only dispenser of the Holy Spirit, and those to whom He gave the privilege of confirming His Word, ie the apostles such as Paul.
Why are any of these questions important anyway?
They are important because many traditions of men have crept into our local churches and the truths once given unto the apostles by Christ through direct revelation have been lost or buried under fables and man's ideas.
Isn't a simple relationship with God all that is important and aren't all these issues just side issues?
Our basic relationship with God is of course important but just like any relationship, it does not stay stagnant but it must be nurtured and grow. How was David able to write a psalm as intimate as 139 except he know God deeply?
2 Timothy 4 1 -5 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
2 Timothy 2:15 -16 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.
1 Peter 3 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
We will not always have those around us whom we have relied on for sound doctrine. We must learn to desire the sincere milk of the Word and then progress to the meat, eventually being in a position to instruct others. If we do not know why we believe what we believe, we will be tossed about like ships on the ocean and left wide open for deception. Error is not always obvious, it is often subtle and eats slowly away at our minds like termites until we believe a lie and then preach it to others.
What does it mean to "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ"?
Grace = God's riches at Christ's expense. We are to grow up or mature in the riches of God's word and in the knowledge imparted to us by Christ through His apostles. Just as we grow in our relationships with people as we get to know them (through experencial relationship), so our relationship with God will mature as we learn through the study of His word (the "perfect law of liberty", Jas 1:25). We need to understand the true awfulness of our sin and the incredible miracle of the perfect God dying a sinners death in our very place.
We don't expect to know everything about our best friend or spouse in one day, neither do we learn and grow in our relationships if it is only one-sided. It is really up to us to learn to know God, He already knows us perfectly and is thus able to love us perfectly, unlike any human. It is our privilege to learn to love and understand Him from the resources He has made available to us.
2 Peter 3 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
Scriptural Principles of Gathering by Alfred P Gibbs