5 Min Read


Spiritual growth begins at Christians’ conversion and continues until they die. It is an aspect of the application of redemption wherein spiritual maturity is developed in the lives of those who have been redeemed by Christ. Christians grow in grace by a diligent application of a variety of God-appointed means and spiritual disciplines such as corporate worship, private worship, prayer, Bible study, fellowship, and discipleship. Spiritual growth is associated with the Bible’s teaching about assurance of salvation and the preservation and perseverance of the saints.


The person and work of Christ form the basis of the spiritual growth of Christians. The Bible teaches that the Son of God united to Himself a human nature, and over the course of His life, Jesus “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). According to His human nature, Jesus grew in spiritual wisdom, and in that respect He serves as a model for growth. But Jesus is more than a model. His work on behalf of sinners is what makes spiritual growth possible. Jesus Christ died and rose again to set His people free from the guilt and the power of sin. By His death on the cross, Jesus secures the believer’s justification and sanctification. In justification, God imputes the sin of His people to Christ and the righteousness of Christ to believers (2 Cor. 5:21). The death of Jesus removes the guilt of the sin of His people. In sanctification, God progressively purifies His people. The Holy Spirit is the agent of spiritual growth. He indwells believers, convicts them of sin, and transforms them more and more into the image of Christ.

God intends His people to grow together in communion with Him and with one another. Biblical worship is essential for the spiritual growth of believers. In one sense, all of life is worship, for Christians are called to do everything to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). However, the Bible also distinguishes between express dedicated worship of God and what we do in the rest of life. Within the category of express dedicated worship, the Bible distinguishes between corporate, family, and private worship. All three spheres of worship are taught throughout Scripture and are most evident in the Psalms.

Corporate worship is essential to a Christian’s spiritual growth in grace. The Scriptures teach that believers are not to forsake the assembly of the saints. Weekly gathered Lord’s Day worship is crucial to the process of ongoing growth in grace. In the context of corporate worship, believers gather to listen to God speak as His Word is read and preached, to call on His name collectively in prayer, to sing praises to Him, to partake of the sacraments, to give back to Him, to confess sins to Him, and to receive the divine benediction. The Scriptures teach that God has promised to bless the ministry of the Word, prayer, and sacraments in the context of the gathered assembly (Eph. 3:10; Heb. 12:28–29). Scripture utters grave warnings against forsaking the weekly worship of the gathered saints.

The means of grace are instruments by which the Holy Spirit enables Christians to receive Christ and the benefits of redemption. The Reformed confessions and catechisms state that the three principal ordinary means of grace are the Word of God, the sacraments, and prayer. In the context of corporate worship, the reading and preaching of the Word of God, together with prayer, are the primary means by which spiritual growth results in the lives of Christians. They are also the means of revival in God’s church. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are also God-appointed means by which believers grow in the faith. Among the other elements of worship that God has instituted for the spiritual growth of His people are the singing of His praises, confession of sin, confessions of faith, giving, and receiving the divine benediction. Membership in a local church is essential to participating in these means of grace, and it is the vehicle through which believers encourage one another and through which duly appointed church officers regulate access to the sacraments for the spiritual good of believers.

Family worship and private worship are additional spiritual disciplines that aid spiritual growth in grace. The Scriptures instruct parents to diligently teach their children the whole counsel of God (Deut. 6:6–7; Eph. 6:4). The Bible is also full of examples of individuals meditating on God’s Word and spending time in communion with Him in prayer (e.g., Dan. 6:10; Ps. 63:6).

The fellowship of the saints is also a means of spiritual growth (Acts 2:42). Broadly conceived, biblical fellowship includes spending time together and seeking to meet the needs of the saints through service. Narrowly defined, fellowship involves believers’ encouraging one another with Scripture, praying with and for one another, and singing God’s praises together. In accord with the teaching of Jesus, it also involves seeking forgiveness and extending it to one another.

Discipline is another means by which believers experience spiritual growth. The word discipline is closely related to the word discipleship. In Scripture, a disciple is someone who is instructed in the teaching of Christ. Biblical discipleship occurs when believers are instructed in the Word of God. Believers are called by God to pursue self-discipline. Scripture also exhorts parents to discipline their children, bringing them up in the discipline and training of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). However, there is sometimes a corrective element to discipleship. This is evident from the biblical teaching on church discipline (Matt. 18:15–20; Heb. 12:3–11). Church discipline functions in such a way as to preserve the honor of Christ’s name, to restore offending brethren, and to restrain evil in the church. By this process, believers may be aided in the process of spiritual growth.


We’re saved by grace alone and justified by faith alone, but having been saved, we don’t just wait around to die. Christianity is about spiritual growth as well, and spiritual growth involves effort—the hard work of sanctification. We manifestly don’t work for our regeneration or our justification. Both acts are monergistic, accomplished by God alone. Only the Holy Spirit can change our hearts. Only the righteousness of Christ, the righteousness of the Son of God secured by His perfect obedience to the Father, can secure our right standing before God. Sanctification, however, includes our efforts. We say it is synergistic because both God and we are doing something. Yet, we aren’t equal partners. God wills and works in us according to His good pleasure so that we progress in holiness (Phil. 2:12–13). But as God works in us, we work as well, pursuing Him in prayer, relying on the means of grace—the preached Word and the sacraments—seeking to be reconciled to those we have offended. There’s no shortcut for sanctification. It’s a process, and one that all too often seems overly plodding, with progress taking years to discern.

R.C. Sproul

No Shortcuts to Growth

Tabletalk magazine

Churchless Christianity is wildly unbiblical. God’s people are called to live in loving and intentional community with one another, and never in isolation (Acts 2:42–47). This, of course, is by God’s design. He knows what His children need, and His Word is replete with passages underscoring the central role that the local church is meant to play in our lives. We need the means of grace of Word, sacraments, and prayer (Acts 2:42). We need spiritual oversight (Heb. 13:17). We need constant encouragement and accountability (Heb. 3:13). We need each other (Rom. 12:3–8Eph. 4:1–16).

Jon Payne

Stir One Another Up

Tabletalk magazine

Since Jesus Christ and His saving work form the foundation of our faith (1 Cor. 2:2; 3:11), we should be most concerned about knowing how to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Our growth in the grace of Christ will be commensurate with our use of the means God has appointed. Theologians refer to these as “means of grace” (media gratia). The means of grace are God’s appointed instruments by which the Holy Spirit enables believers to receive Christ and the benefits of redemption. Although He could have chosen to reveal Christ immediately to His people, He has determined instead to do so through certain means. God assigned the Word, sacraments, and prayer to be the foremost means by which He communicates Christ and His benefits to believers.

Nick Batzig

What Is a Means of Grace?

Tabletalk magazine