This site uses cookies to provide you with more responsive and personalized service and to collect certain information about your use of the site.  You can change your cookie settings through your browser.  If you continue without changing your settings, you agree to our use of cookies.  See our Privacy Policy for more information.

Practical Theology | Stages of Growth

  • February 2023 Issue
Practical Theology

“Growth is the normal experience in the Christian life, and Scripture is God’s primary tool for causing that growth.”

One of the joys of parenthood is watching your children grow up. We remember their first words and cheer for their first steps. In 1 John 2:12 14, the apostle celebrates the spiritual development of those he calls his children in the faith. John mentions three stages of growth in the Christian life: childhood, youth, and maturity.

Spiritual infancy begins with faith in Jesus Christ, as our sins are forgiven “on account of his name” (v. 12). Peter describes this spiritual childhood when he urges believers to “crave pure spiritual milk” so they may “grow up” in their salvation (1 Peter 2:2). Growth is the normal experience in the Christian life, and Scripture is God’s tool for causing that growth.

The second growth stage John describes is youth. Here we experience spiritual vitality as we discover the power of new life in Christ. We learn to be victorious over sin and “overcome the evil one” (v. 13). Our power comes through the Word of God (v. 14). The more familiar we become with Scripture the better we are able to claim its promises. Not only do we learn that we have been forgiven through Christ, but we discover the power of cross to defeat sin (see Rom. 6:1–14).

The third growth stage is spiritual maturity. Those in this stage of spiritual development “know him who is from the beginning” (v. 14). This is a reference to Christ, “the Word of Life” (1 John 1:1). The knowledge of Christ is always the basis of our relationship with God. In the earliest stages of our spiritual growth, we primarily know what Christ has done for us. But, as we mature, we come to know more about Christ Himself. John’s description of spiritual development emphasizes knowledge of the Father, the forgiveness and victory over sin that comes to us through Christ, and the experience of knowing Christ.

Spiritual growth is a natural outcome of our relationship with Christ. But this does not necessarily mean it’s automatic. Grace and know- ledge join with Spirit-empowered effort as we “make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (2 Peter 3:14).

For Further Study

To learn more, read True Discipleship: The Art of Following Jesus by John Koessler (Moody Publishers).

BY Dr. John Koessler

John Koessler is Professor Emeritus of Applied Theology and Church Ministries at Moody Bible Institute. John authors the “Practical Theology” column for Today in the Word of which he is also a contributing writer and theological editor. An award-winning author, John’s newest title is When God is Silent: Let the Bible Teach You to Pray (Kirkdale). Prior to joining the Moody faculty, he served as a pastor of Valley Chapel in Green Valley, Illinois, for nine years. He and his wife, Jane, now enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan.

Find Practical Theology by Month