Dr. Kenneth Turnbull, Vice Chancellor, ACU
“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.”
The ACU motto, “Growing in grace and knowledge,” is founded on the goal of maturing students through a biblical worldview discernment in knowledge across the breadth of academic disciplines, the breadth of history and the breadth of cultures. Such maturing in knowledge requires discerning truth from error, which appears inclusive in Peter’s purpose for writing his second epistle. ACU’s motto is found in his closing admonition. Discernment requires principles upon which truth can be defined and thereby error clarified. Peter emphasizes that only by God’s grace in granting a reconciled relationship with Him through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, nurtured in the Scriptures, are the principles of His truth comprehended. That faith enables the discerning to clearly separate the false, unprincipled teachings from truth. But knowledge without application in love only develops arrogance. ACU students apply their growing knowledge through works in serving and demonstrating consideration of others, furnishing a holistic, Biblical worldview. This whole-life nurturing in knowledge and works prepares graduates for continuous growth established on the only basis for truth, God’s grace and knowledge through His Son Jesus Christ.
As a precious gem deserves the artisans full talent to precisely cut and display its awe-inspiring brilliance, so a motto deserves sufficient effort to accurately display the depth of significance which it encapsulates. For the deeper truths which ACU’s motto, “Growing in grace and knowledge,” represents, it is necessary to display it within its perfect setting to fully appreciate what Peter was saying in closing this second epistle with – “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet 3:18a).”
First, who was he addressing? 2 Pet 1:1 makes it clear that he was speaking to “those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours.” “Ours” referring back to his introducing himself as an apostle and a slave of Christ. So those being addressed have obtained the same faith as the apostles and other slaves of Christ. A faith antithetical to their previous faith when they were slaves to sin as much as Jesus Christ is the antithesis of Satan, their previous master in sin.
Peter begins his address (1:3-11) by describing what this faith should look like in their lives, starting with its origins being from God’s divine power (v. 3) and closing in verse 10 with, “if you practice these qualities you will never fall.” Peter assures them that if the qualities growing from faith characterize them and they live them out daily (practice them), they cannot fall. Not because of their own power will they not fall, but because the origins of their faith are dependent on God’s divine power. This is foundational to ACU’s work programs, affording students a range of opportunities to practice the qualities of their growing faith for whole-life impact, so they will not fall.
He further describes that the moorings of their faith (1:12-21) are based on the testimony of the Scriptures, including the personal testimony of Christ’s disciples which were being recorded at the time (note how Peter sets Paul’s writing equivalent with the rest of Scripture in 2 Pet 3:15-16). The Bible we hold today is the Word that God inspired the writers to record. Peter said that, “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet 1:20-21).” We can grow in the faith that originated from God’s divine power as we learn and apply God’s inspired Word in our obedience. This, too, is fundamental to ACU’s purpose: that God’s Word as understood through diligent hermeneutics, not by relativistic interpretation, is the basis of faith and all learning.
So, Peter writes to the faithful, describing faith in action and affirming that the food for their faith is found in God’s Word. In chapter 2 he turns his attention in the opposite direction. He begins to describe the false teachers, the apostate, their impending judgement and their debauchery in their slavery to sin. In chapter 3 Peter looks into the future and assures them that blasphemers are still to come, but assures the faithful that the day of judgement will come, that is, “the coming of the day of God (3:12).” Peter describes that day when the “heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (3:12-13).” It is of no surprise that the moment Christ removes His power over the original creation, the incomprehensible energy holding all things together will be released with the immense heat Peter describes as, “in Him all things hold together (Col 1:17).” Peter contrasts complete annihilation of the old with the promise for the faithful of new heavens and a new earth. Most precious in this hope is that it is where righteousness dwells; where God, our Father, Himself, will be!
Peter closes with a final warning. Take care, beware, continually be on your guard, Peter exhorts them (2 Pet 3:17), so that you will not be carried away. Peter notes that their present status is one of security, stability, steadfastness, but they must be on guard that they are not swept away from that foundation. This carries the idea of standing firm on a solid rock in the midst of a rushing river. To step from that solid rock results in being swept away by the raging currents surrounding you. What are these surrounding, raging currents of which Peter is forewarning the faithful to beware? The error of the wicked, lawless or unprincipled. Those who do not live by principles or laws based on truth. Those who create their own erroneous laws and principles determining what is right and wrong for themselves. They have no fixed morals because there are no absolute truths upon which to base them. Everything is relative and subjective and everyone is free to live by his own rules. Is this not the postmodern age in which we find ourselves? One can live as a murderer with no protection for the unborn through legalized abortion. One can live as a homosexual with no restraints on sexual perversity. One can live as an adulterer treating the opposite sex as a toy for pleasure. One can abuse humanity or nature, God’s creation, for financial gain under the guise of economic benefit for the masses. This is the river of unprincipled error in which we live as well. The faithful must be cautious, or on-guard, that they remain steadfast on their moorings of faith founded in the solid truths of God’s Word which conform their morals to the Creator so that they are not swept away in this age of relativism and lack of moral absolutes.
Peter now reaches his crescendo for those who are of the same faith as he (2 Pet 3:18). Starting with the contrasting conjunction, “But,” Peter makes it clear that as opposed to being swept away in the error of the unprincipled, the faithful have a much better recourse. “Grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Not only will the faithful remain steadfast on the solid rock, but their roots will grow and secure them to that rock. The faithful will not remain static in their faith, but their faith will continually grow and strengthen them. They will grow in God’s never-ending grace, that unconditional love in which the faithful are continually bathed; the grace that draws them deeper-and-deeper into an intimate knowledge of their Creator and Father. Their faith grows in knowledge as they become more intimately acquainted with the author of their faith through the Scriptures which He inspired for their feasting. All knowledge in which the faithful grow, both in the Scriptures and as God is discovered through His creation, will lead them to a deeper understanding of Jesus Christ. As Savior of the faithful He opens the curtain to the Holy of Holies so that they might enter, forgiven of their sins through the washing in His blood by His death for their sins on the cross. As Lord, the Master of the faithful, Jesus Christ continually leads them, directing their growth as the faithful are conformed through the renewing of their minds in the Scriptures to the image of the Creator. What a glorious grace and knowledge the faithful have been partakers of in Jesus Christ! Peter can’t contain himself but to close his epistle with, “To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen!”
Stepping back to see the setting in which is found the motto for ACU, “Growing in grace and knowledge,” it is believed that this jewel adequately displays the purpose and vision of ACU for God’s glory. Overall, Peter is exhorting the faithful to be discerning. Based on their calling and faith rooted in Christ and living in the treasures of the Scriptures, they are surrounded by the error of unprincipled, false teachers. They need to be strengthened and grow in their faith and knowledge of Christ to discern what is truth and what is error; what is founded on God’s truth and what is founded on the unprincipled error of men. And this faith, assured in the knowledge of Christ by the grace of God, is the faith by which man’s true position relative to his Creator God becomes crystal clear. In this faith, the same faith as Peter, the apostles and all slaves of Christ, God is rightly seen resulting in overwhelming awe. This is the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7), the foundation of education for whole-life transformation for continual growth in grace and knowledge.