The Meaning of 2 Peter 3:18: Grow in Grace and Knowledge

Peter concluded his last recorded epistle with a command to grow in grace and knowledge. How does this relate to the Christian life?

The threat of false Christian ministers leading people astray has faced the Church ever since it began. 

Its early days saw false teachings crop up in various congregations like scattered patches of fire, and when members played with it, they got burned. Sometimes their faith was even consumed.

Naturally, the apostles felt a grave responsibility to fight the flames whenever and wherever they emerged. 

Warning about the influence and danger of these false teachings, Peter wrote the following in his last recorded letter to the Church: 

“You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, 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” (2 Peter 3:17-18).

The protection, as Peter saw it, was in personally growing in grace and knowledge.

But what did he mean by that? How do we grow in grace and knowledge? What is the meaning of 2 Peter 3:18? 


Is growth random—something that rests in the hands of blind chance? If so, it would be a lot more common to see people throw seeds on the ground, then do nothing but walk away and hope that plants would sprout. Several examples in ordinary life make this intuitive point: growth is not accidental. 

Real growth takes work.

Growing in Christianity is no different. Without an effort—an intense striving—to change, develop and mature, we can fall prey to complacency. And once complacency takes hold, we become easy victims of “the error of the wicked.”

James urged Christians not to sit on their hands. He compared the person who neglects the need to grow to someone who observes “his natural face in a mirror . . . [but then] goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was” (James 1:23-24). There are a number of ways this can happen. 

For instance, think of someone who approaches Scripture with preconceived notions. The result is often that dozens of corrective scriptures get tossed aside or judged to be unnecessary. No growth takes place, and the net effect is practically the same as if no reading happened at all.

Growth requires the following:

  • A total surrender to the authority of the Bible.
  • Genuine concern about the scriptural validity of our beliefs.
  • Full rejection of the “come as you are” type of thinking.

Growth is activity accompanied by a willingness to understand who we are, what God expects and the truth in His Word. 

Jesus put it simply: “Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing” (Matthew 24:46, emphasis added throughout). We must be doing something.

Back to 2 Peter 3:18. Peter then went on to specify two areas in which we should grow. 

“In the grace”

One fictitious and dangerous belief about grace is that you grow in it by continuing to sin. Softer forms of this heresy are still taught today, but they stem from a first-century teaching sometimes called “lawless grace.”

Lying preachers who crept inside the Church 2,000 years ago convinced members that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ meant Christians now had carte blanche to break the commandments. The more sin there was in one’s life, the more room there was for God to show grace, so the reasoning went. 

Through repentance and baptism, we can come under grace—have our sins cleansed—and have a personal relationship with the Creator.(To learn whether this teaching is biblical, read “Once Saved, Are You Always Saved?”)

It prompted Paul to swiftly and decisively reject any such teaching: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!” (Romans 6:1-2). The other apostles would have echoed Paul as Jude did (Jude 1:4). Trivializing sin is no joke (Romans 6:23).

So, what is grace? How does one grow in grace?

In its simplest form, grace is favor. Grace is the characteristic that motivates God to give inexcusable but sorely repentant sinners access into His presence. Through repentance and baptism, we can come under grace—have our sins cleansed—and have a personal relationship with the Creator.

Grace is the quality of the merciful and loving Creator that extends the richness of His blessings to human beings. 

So, how do we grow in it?

One way to view this is that Peter wanted us to grow in our appreciation of God’s grace. 

To use an illustration of how this works, imagine a child reared in a decent home by two loving parents. Assume his parents were the type who valued and cherished their child. 

What do they do for him? They watch over and protect him. They ensure all his needs are taken care of. They teach him about the world and everything in it and give correction when necessary. They buy him gifts when it’s appropriate. They comfort him, encourage him, direct him—even sacrifice for him. 

At first, the child hardly grasps the full extent of what his parents do—he just thinks it’s the natural order of things.

But as the child matures, his understanding becomes more full. Over time, his awareness of his parents’ love and service deepens.

What happens then? 

The child appreciates his parents more. As a result, the relationship is strengthened and a tighter bond between them is forged.

A similar thing happens in our relationship with God.

Growing in grace includes developing a deeper understanding of the scope of what God personally does for us. This leads to an intense appreciation and closeness, which will then drive us to obey Him fully. 

Growing in grace also implies growing in favor with God because of our obedient behavior, as occurred in the life of the young Jesus (Luke 2:52).

Naturally, we also become more vigilant about any false doctrine that would sever our relationship with God.

To learn more about God’s grace, read “What Is the Grace of God?” 

“And in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”

Every Christian must aim to embody the mind and character of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:13). It’s not something we can accomplish overnight; we work at it our whole life. It comes from hours and hours of practice applying knowledge. 

But to apply knowledge, you must first have it. This is why learning is crucial. Every Christian should know about his or her Lord and Master—who He is, what He did, what His teachings are.

To apply knowledge, you must first have it. This is why learning is crucial. The apostles recognized the importance of the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself gave them their marching orders to teach every disciple what He had taught them (Matthew 28:20). So the apostles saw themselves as tools in God’s hands to spread the knowledge of “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). They taught publicly and privately (Acts 20:20). And those they taught “searched the Scriptures daily” (Acts 17:11). 

These facts make the point that education was and should be a major point of emphasis for every follower of Jesus Christ.

We should hunger for the knowledge of Jesus Christ, seek it and spend whatever effort is necessary to acquire it. The Gospel accounts, which describe His life and ministry, are critical, but they represent only one slice of the pie. The whole Bible is a textbook on Christianity.

It’s called “the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17), and it’s the inspired expression of the mind of God and Jesus Christ in print (2 Timothy 3:16).

The more familiar we are with His words, the easier it becomes to spot something that contradicts them. A diligent student of the Bible is far less likely to be deceived by false teachers peddling error.

Guarding our salvation

Peter was concerned that we would forfeit our own salvation by being careless. So he admonished us to stay on guard—and to stay busy in our development. We can fall from our “steadfastness” and get carried away by the influence of false teachers if we stagnate.

On the other hand, if we actively grow in appreciation for God’s grace and add to our knowledge of His Word, we can stay anchored in truth.

We can never know too much of the Bible or say we have reached the point in Christianity where it’s acceptable to just cruise along. 

That’s what it means to grow in grace and knowledge.

Topics Covered: Christian Living, Christian Growth

About the Author

Kendrick Diaz

Kendrick Diaz

Kendrick Diaz is a full-time writer at the Life, Hope & Truth offices in McKinney, Texas. He spends his workdays writing blog posts and articles for Discern magazine and

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