Growth and Development
Edward Robinson, Exmouth
It is recorded, "But Samuel ministered before the Lord, being a child, girded with a linen ephod. Moreover his mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year ... And the child Samuel grew before the Lord ... And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the Lord, and also with men", 1 Sam. 2. 18. 19, 21, 26. This last sentence brings to mind, of course, what is stated of the Lord Jesus when here in boyhood, "And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him", Luke 2. 40. Again, we read, "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man", v. 52. The garment in the Scriptures conveys the idea of what can be seen and known publicly. Note that this growing in favour was not only in the sight of God but also in the sight of men. Would that we might grow, needing yearly a new, larger coat!
Growth through the Word. In order to begin to grow, it is essential that we desire the sincere milk of the Word, 1 Pet. 2. 2. A love for the Word of God is to be fostered; it is an excellent beginning for the newly-born babe in Christ. To redeem the time for this, a resolve to eschew fiction, even with "a good moral" (with the possible exception of school education), would also greatly assist. Even as a boy, Samuel was girded with the priestly garment, a linen ephod, and ministered before the Lord. Our communion with the Lord Jesus is far too precious for anything to be allowed which might hinder. The daily reading of the Word, along with meditation, will afford pleasure and profit increasingly as we pursue such a course.
But Paul had to write to the Corinthians, "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: ... neither yet now are ye able", 1 Cor. 3. 1-2. In other words, they were unweanedl The importance of this feature cannot be over-emphasized; it was not lost upon Abraham. After Isaac had been circumcised, (itself a great spiritual lesson), it is said, "And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned", Gen. 21. 8. Paul unfolded its implications to the Corinthians. It is necessary that we appreciate that we are "natural" men no more, for "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God ... neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned", 1 Cor. 2. 14. By contrast, there must be a true desire for what is of God; a spiritual man is then on the positive line of increase. Alas that believers can be carnal, feeding the appetite of the flesh, implying that there can be no progress.
Increase in the Knowledge of God.
Perhaps the most important element in development is indicated by Paul, "That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness", Col. 1. 10-11. Increase in the knowledge of God is no mental exercise, but an inward understanding of His heart and mind, compared with which nothing is of greater importance. Stephen affords a great example of this feature; at the moment of the most intense pressure, he cried, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep", Acts 7. 60. He was in line with the Master whom he so closely followed, for His words at the extreme moment were, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do", Luke 23. 34. Luke alone has recorded both these utterances, and of the early church he wrote, "And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith", Acts 6. 7. Whilst we look for an increase in the numbers being saved and brought to God, let us remember that an increase in quality is what God requires of individual believers.
Peter exhorts us further along this line, writing, "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", 2 Pet. 3. 18. On a practical note, Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, "And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you", 1 Thess. 2. 12. This has in view "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints", v. 13.
Later, the apostle wrote to the Ephesians, "until we all arrive at the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, at the full-grown man, at the measure of the stature of the fulness of the Christ; in order that we may be no longer babes ... but, holding the truth in love, we may grow up to him in all things, who is the head, the Christ: from whom the whole body, fitted together, and connected by every joint of supply, according to the working in its measure of each one part, works for itself the increase of the body to its self-building up in love". Eph. 4. 13-16 j.n.d. We do well to read and to re-read these verses. They epitomise the idea of growth and increase, with the view to conformity to Christ. In the eternal day opened at the Lord's coming, all will be gathered up, and "then shall every man have praise of God", 1 Cor. 4. 5, that "every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad", 2 Cor. 5. 10.