Why Study Theology? Part 3
Why study theology? The previous two articles in this series have attempted to respond to this question with two answers: “to know God is to love God,” and “to know God is to worship God.”
The final answer to this question is, “to know God is to grow in grace.”
This article explores how growth in grace is connected to a knowledge of God.
“May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (2 Peter 1:2).
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).
These two verses are the bookends of 2 Peter and provide a framework for how we understand growth in grace. There are two aspects to this growth: God’s work in our hearts as we grow and our own active involvement in the growth process.
Growth in Grace: Passive and Active
All growth is a process. It takes time and tests our patience. Spiritual growth is perhaps the most challenging type of growth because you cannot visibly measure that growth.
Yet when you look back over your life as a believer, the hand of God in your spiritual growth is undeniable. Perhaps you now see Christ’s hand in past circumstances you once thought were impossible to overcome, or you see what he was sovereignly orchestrating in the lives of one of your children. All of this increases our growth in grace - in living our lives for the glory of Jesus.
God personally invests in your growth in grace. He died so that you might know him and grow in the grace he offers. He gives you grace and peace through the knowledge of Jesus. If you do not know Jesus, you cannot have grace and peace. Knowledge of Jesus is key for God’s work in your heart, which gives way to growth in grace. This includes knowledge of what Christ has done for you and an understanding of the character of God.
In 2 Peter 3:18, the Greek for Paul’s command to “grow in grace” is in the middle voice. This means that you, the subject of that sentence, cause the action of the verb, and you are affected by the verb. You should invest in your growth in grace - both inwardly and how it manifests itself outwardly. Do not be a passive spectator but be actively involved in the growth process. This has significant implications for how we invest in our spiritual growth. And this is why studying theology, a knowledge of God, is key for growth in the Christian life.
Growth in Grace is Practical
Theology comforts us in times of anxiety, fear, distress, and whatever situation we find ourselves in.
For example, “Where shall I go from your spirit? Where shall I flee from your presence? (Psalm 139:7). The theology we learn from this verse tells us that no matter how distant we feel from God, he is always with us. We are never alone. This simple application of theology to the heart when we feel anxious, fearful, and lonely can bring peace as we strive to process life biblically.
A second ingredient for growth in grace is suffering. A theology of suffering is all over the Bible and serves as a reminder that we cannot live life without experiencing some level of suffering.
Suffering is God’s refining tool to help you see your sinfulness and grow in grace toward others. Suffering should give you more compassion, mercy, and sensitivity to those who are suffering. Inner spiritual growth - a deeper knowledge of God combined with suffering - should yield change in our outward actions resulting in a transformed life.
“A true and faithful Christian does not make holy living an accidental thing. It is his great concern. As the business of the soldier is to fight, so the business of the Christian is to be like Christ” - Jonathan Edwards
Do your family and close friends see a steady growth in grace? Do they see you mourning over your sin, delighting in the saving work of Christ, and seeking to become more like him? Are there outward manifestations of your inward growth?
In conclusion, we are commanded to grow in the grace of God through the knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 1:2, 3:18). Your inward growth is both an act of God upon your soul and simultaneously something you are actively involved in. Keep pressing forward. Fight your inward battles with the grace of God.
Spiritual growth does not happen without a knowledge of God and trials. These two aspects yield inward growth which manifests itself through the outward evidence of a changed life. Seek to know your Savior well, and you will discover his vast “unknowableness.” The more you know your Savior, the more you will come face-to-face with his depth, beauty, and realize how little you know. There is an endless frontier of grace stretching before us to explore for eternity.
Brittany Proffitt lives in Dallas, TX, holds a BA in Religion, and is a student at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. She is passionate about Scripture and how God’s Word impacts individuals’ hearts and lives.