Precious Jesus

"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan

Monday, June 30, 2014

Christian fools

“Then he said unto them, O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.”   —Luke 24:25 

Those of you who read the religious announcements in the newspapers of yesterday would see the subject for my sermon this evening is “Christian Fools.” Possibly some of you thought there was a printer’s error and that what I really meant to announce was “Professing Christian fools.” The paper gave it quite correctly. My subject tonight is “Christian Fools.” Probably some of you think that this is a most unsuitable title for a servant of God to give to his sermon, and yet I make no apology whatever for it. It fits exactly my subject for tonight: it expresses accurately what I am going to speak about: and— what is far more to the point—it epitomizes our text: “Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.”

1. Walking by Reason rather than by Faith

Those words were spoken by Christ on the day of His resurrection: spoken not to worldlings but to Christians. That which occasioned them was this. The disciples to whom He was speaking were lopsided in their theology: they believed a certain part of God’s truth and they refused to believe another part of the truth that did not suit them; they believed some Scriptures but they did not believe all that the prophets had spoken, and the reason they did not was because they were unable to harmonize the two different parts of God’s truth. They were like some people today: when it comes to their theology; they walk by reason and by logic rather than by faith.


In the Old Testament there were many prophecies concerning the coming Messiah that spoke of His glory. If there was one thing the Old Testament prediction made plain, it was that the Messiah of Israel should be GLORIOUS. It spoke of His power, His honor, His majesty, His dominion, His triumphs. But on the other hand, there were many prophecies in the Old Testament that spoke of a suffering Messiah, that portrayed His humiliation, His degradation, His rejection, His death at the hands of wicked men. And these disciples of Christ believed the former set of prophecies, but they would not believe in the second: they could not see how it was possible to harmonize the two. If the coming Messiah was to be a glorious Messiah, possessing power and majesty and dominion: if He would be triumphant, then how could He, at the same time, be a suffering Messiah, despised, humiliated, rejected of men? And because the disciples could not fit the two together, because they were unable to harmonize them, they refused to believe both, and Christ told them to their faces that they were fools. He says, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe ALL that the prophets have spoken.”
I suppose some of us have wondered how it was possible for these disciples, these followers of Christ, who had been privileged to be with Him during His public ministry and those who had been so intimate with Him, had been instructed by Him, had witnessed His wonderful miracles; how it was possible for such men to err so grievously and to act so foolishly. And yet we need not be surprised; the same thing is happening all around us today. Christendom tonight is full of men and women who believe portions of God’s truth, but who do not believe all that the prophets have spoken. In other words, my friends, Christendom tonight is full of men and women that the Son of God says are “fools” because of their slowness of heart to believe.

continue reading here...



Saturday, June 28, 2014

Everlasting love


"How precious are Your thoughts unto me, O God!"
"I have loved you with an everlasting love! Therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you!" — Jeremiah 31:3


Here we have an everlasting thought of God, "in the beginning, before ever the earth was." Believer, travel back in imagination to the ages of the past. Before the trance of eternity was broken by any visible manifestation of power — before one temple was erected in space, before one angel waved his wing, or one note was heard of seraph's song — when God inhabited alone, these sublime solitudes — then there was a thought of you — and that thought was — Love!
Think of the sovereignty of that love. He says not, 'You have loved Me with your poor earthly love — therefore have I drawn you.' No, no! It is from nothing in you — no foreseen goodness on your part. Grace is the reason for all He has done, "God who is rich in mercy for His great love with which He loved us." "I will have mercy," is His own declaration — on whom I will have mercy!" "Jacob," (that cunning, scheming, crafty youth) "Jacob I loved — but Esau I hated!"
Manasseh, (that miserable man who has defiled his crown, dishonored his throne, and deluged Jerusalem with blood) "I have loved." That dying thief — fresh from a life of infamy, breathing out his blasphemies on a felon's cross, "I have loved." And why, let each of us ask, am I not a Cain or a Judas? Why am I not a wrecked and stranded vessel, like thousands before me? Here is the reason; "Yes, I have loved you." Before you had one thought of Me, yes, when your thoughts were those of hatred, rebellion, and enmity — My thoughts towards you were thoughts of love!
And that Sovereign love, as it is from everlasting, so is it to everlasting — endless in duration — enduring as eternity. The love of the creature is but of yesterday — it may be gone tomorrow — dried like a summer-brook when most needed. But the love of God is fed from the glacier summits — the everlasting hills. We may estimate its intensity, when the Savior could utter regarding it such a prayer as this, "That the love with which You have loved Me — may be in them."
Oh, amid the often misgivings of my own doubting heart, with its frames and feelings as vacillating as the shifting sand, let me delight to ponder this precious thought — the long line of unbroken love — every link love — connecting the eternity that is past with the eternity to come — God thinking of me before the birth of time — even then mapping out all my future happiness and heavenly bliss — and standing now, with the hoarded love of that eternity in His heart, seeking therewith to "draw" me!

It is "the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us through Christ Jesus" — which is the moral gravitation-power of the cross, by which His true people have ever been drawn. "I, if I be lifted up from the earth — will draw all men unto Myself!" Draw me, Lord — and I will run after You. Show me Your loving-kindness thus enshrined and manifested in Your dear Son. Constrain me to love You in Him, because You have first loved, and so loved, me! "How priceless is Your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of Your wings."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Repentance - what it truly is

“Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). In view of these solemn words it is tremendously important that each of us should seek and obtain from God the repentance which He requires, not resting content with anything short of this. Hence, there needs to be the most diligent and prayerful examination as to the character of our repentance. Multitudes are deceived thereon. Many are perplexed by the conflicting teaching of men on the subject; but instead of that discouraging, it should stir up to a more earnest searching of the Scriptures. Before turning to the positive side of this branch of our theme, let us first point out some of the features of a non-saving repentance.

 1. Trembling beneath the preaching of God’s Word is not repentance. True there are thousands of people who have listened unmoved to the most awe-inspiring sermons, and even descriptions of the torments of the damned which have struck no terror to their hearts. Yet on the other hand, many who were deeply stirred, filled with alarm, and moved to tears, are now in Hell. I have seen the faces of strong men pale under a searching message, yet next day all its effects had left them. Felix “trembled” (Acts 24:25) under the preaching of Paul!
 2. Being “almost persuaded” is not repentance. Agrippa (Acts 26:28) is a case in point. A person may give full assent to the messages of God’s servants, admire the Gospel, yea, “receive the Word with joy,” and after all be only a stony-ground hearer (Matt. 13:20, 21). Not only so, he may be conscious of his evil-doing and acknowledge the same. Pharaoah owned “I have sinned against the Lord your God” (Ex. 10:16). A man may realize that he ought to yield himself to the claims of God and become a Christian, yet never be more than “almost persuaded.”
 3. Humbling ourselves beneath the mighty hand of God is not repentance. People may be deeply moved, weep, go home and determine to reform their lives, and yet return to their sins. A solemn example of this is found in Ahab. That wicked king of Israel coveted Naboth’s vineyard, plotted to secure it, and gained his end by causing him to be murdered. Then the servant of God met him and said, “Hast thou killed and also taken possession?” And we are told that he “rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted...and went softly” (I Kings 21:27-29). Yet in the very nest chapter we find him again rebelling against God, and that he was cut off by Divine judgment. Ah, my reader, you may have humbled yourself before God for a time, and yet remain the slave of your lusts. You may be afraid of hell, and yet not of sinning. If hell were extinguished, so would be the repentance of many church members. O mistake not fear of the wrath to come for a holy hatred and horror of sin.
 4. Confessing sins is not repentance. Thousands have gone forward to the “altar” or “mourners’ bench” and have told God what vile creatures they were, enumerating a long list of transgressions, but without any deep realization of the unspeakable awfulness of their sins, or a spark of holy hatred of them. The sequel has shown this, for they now ignore God’s commandments as much as they did before. O my reader, if you do not, in the strength of God, resist sin, if you do not turn from it, then your fancied repentance is only whitewash — paint which decorates, but not the grace which transforms into gold.
 5. You may even do works meet for repentance, and yet remain impenitent. A sinner may be convinced of the evil of his ways, turn from them, and go so far as to make restitution for the harm which he has wrought, and yet perish notwithstanding. A clear proof of this is furnished in the New Testament. Judas confessed his sins to the priests, and returned their money (Matt. 27:3-5), and then he went out from the presence of these evil men. Was he saved? No, he went and hanged himself! O how this ought to make each of us tremble and search our hearts.
 The Greek word “metanoeo,” which occurs most frequently as the word rendered “repent,” signifies a change of mind: Matt. 21:29 both illustrates and confirms that definition. Yet let it be said very emphatically that saving repentance means far more than a mere change of opinions: it is a changed mind which leads to action. Now this changed mind is not brought about by any intellectual process, but is the result of the understanding being wrought upon by the conscience, and that, as the conscience has been supernaturally ploughed up by the Holy Spirit. In consequence of this there is a judging or condemning of self, a taking sides with God against myself.
 Fallen man is not on trial, but is a criminal already under sentence (John 3:18). “There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10-12). That is God’s indictment against each of us. No pleading will avail, no excuses will be accepted. The present issue between God and the sinner is, Will man bow to, or endorse with his heart, God’s righteous verdict? 

It is just here that the Gospel meets us. It comes to us as those who are already lost, as those who are “ungodly” “without strength,” at “enmity against God.” When the Gospel first comes to the sinner it finds him in a state of apostasy from God, both as sovereign Ruler and our supreme Good, neither obeying and glorifying Him, nor enjoying and finding satisfaction in Him. Hence the demand for “repentance toward God” before “faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). True repentance towards God removes this disaffection of our minds and hearts toward Him, under both these characters. In saving repentance the whole soul turns to Him and says: I have been a disloyal and rebellious creature: I have scorned Thy high authority and most rightful law. I will live no longer thus. I now desire and determine with all my might to serve and obey Thee as my only Lord. I subject myself unto Thee, to submit to Thy will.

 Nor is the above all that a truly penitent soul says unto God. He goes on: Hitherto I have been a miserable and forlorn creature, destitute of anything which could satisfy or make me truly happy. My heart has been set upon a vain world which could not meet my real needs; it has flattered and mocked me often, but never contented me; it has “pierced me through with many sorrows.” I forsook the Fountain of living waters and turned to broken cisterns which held none. I own and bewail my folly: I unsparingly condemn myself for my madness. I now betake myself to Thee as my present and everlasting Portion. 

The Gospel proclaims the amazing grace of God, which is the guilty and condemned sinner’s only hope. Yet that grace will never be really welcomed until the sinner truly bows beneath God’s sentence against him. This is why both repentance and faith are demanded of us. The two must never be separated. When our Lord was speaking to the chief priests and elders about their rejection of John’s message, the charge preferred against them was: “ye repented not afterward, that ye might believe in him” (Matt. 21:32).

 Repentance is the heart’s acknowledgment of the justice of God’s sentence of condemnation; faith is the heart’s glad acceptance of the grace and mercy which are extended to us through Christ. Repentance is not simply the turning over of a new leaf and vowing that I will mend my ways: rather is it a setting to my seal that God is true when He declares I am “without strength”; that in myself my case is hopeless; that I am no more capable of “doing better” than I am of creating a world. Not until this is believed on the authority of God’s Word shall I really turn to Christ and welcome Him — not as Helper, but as a Saviour! 

Repentance is more than conviction of sin or terror of the wrath to come. This is clear from Acts 2:37, 38. Under Peter’s searching message the Jews were made to realize their awful guilt before God: they were made conscious of the awful fact that they had murdered the Prince of life, and so were in terrible fear of being cast into Hell. Nevertheless, though already “pricked in their hearts,” when they cried out “What shall we do?” Peter said, “Repent.” To a superficial mind, such a demand might appear needless yet was it seasonable counsel. Their being “pricked in their heart”was legal terror, whereas saving “repentance” is an evangelical judging of self, mourning over sin out of a sense of God’s grace and goodness.

 A careful and prayerful pondering of Acts 2:37, 38 should correct more than one error which is now current in various circles. When the hearers of Peter were affrighted by their awful crime and fearful of the wrath to come, pricked in their heart — as though a sword had been run through their vitals — they cried out in anguish “What shall we do?” The apostle did not say, “Be passive, there is nothing you can do,” thus encouraging the fatal inertia of hyper-Calvinists. Nor did he say “Believe your sins are blotted out,” which is the counsel of many “physicians of no value”in our day. No, his reply was far otherwise, in substance amounting to this: Take all the blame which belongs to you. Own the whole truth unto God. Do not gloss over, but confess your awful wickedness; let your uncircumcised hearts be truly humbled before Him. And then look by faith to the free grace of God through the blood of Christ for pardon, and in token that all your dependence is on His meditation and merits, be baptized in His name, and that shall be to you an eternal sign of the remission of your sins.

 “It is manifest from the nature of the case, that he who hath his eyes opened to see the glory of the Divine nature, the beauty of the Divine law, the infinite evil of sin, the need of an infinite atonement, and so to see his need of Christ: and at the same time, views God as the supreme, all-sufficient Good, ready to receive every sinner that returns Him through Christ: it is manifest, I say, that every one who is thus taught of God, will repent and turn to God as his sovereign Lord and supreme Good, and return through Jesus Christ, who is the way to the Father, and the only way, in the view of one thus Divinely enlightened. For in the clearer light the glory of the Divine nature and law is seen, in exact proportion will be the sense of the infinite evil of sin, and the need of Christ’s infinite atonement and perfect righteousness. And so ‘repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ’ will be naturally implied in each other.

 “He who repents in view of the glory of God, the glory of the law, and of the atonement, will in his repentance look only to free grace through Jesus Christ for mercy, in a view of the glory of God, law, atonement, and will in doing so, take the whole blame of his disaffection to the Divine character, as exhibited in the law, and on the cross of Christ, to himself, judging and condemning himself, and in the very act of faith, repent and be converted. When therefore it is said ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved’ (Acts 16:31), the same (inclusive) thing is meant as when it is said, ‘Repent ye therefore and be converted that your sins may be blotted out’ (Acts 3:19). For the apostolic faith implies repentance, and sometimes both together; but the same thing is always intended. For in the view of the apostles, repentance and faith were mutually implied in each other” (Jos. Bellamy, 1750).


From A.W. Pink's 'Repentance, what saith the scriptures?'

The Christian church- distorted and deformed

It is very popular to hear Christians boast of their denominational loyalty, for example, to hear someone say "I'm a Southern Baptist" or "I'm a Presbyterian" is quite common. It's also quite common to hear of one's loyalty to John Calvin, or to the Reformed theology. Is this what Christ has called us to?  Did Jesus die so I could claim to be a Calvinist?Doesn't He call us to follow Him and Him alone? I've come to the conclusion that I will NOT put myself in any of these 'camps', for it is not biblical to do so. I came across this article and thought it needed to be shared...


INTRODUCTION   

THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH: DISTORTED AND DEFORMED

"But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God; that we might know the things that were freely given to us of God; which things also we speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Spirit teaches; combining spiritual things with spiritual words." 1 Corinthians 2:12-13

What would you say is the number one responsibility of Bible translators, or any translator for that matter?   Would you agree in saying that the main function of translators is to convert written material from one language into another language, making certain that the translated version projects the meaning of the original text as precisely as possible?

When God told Adam and Eve, "Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it..." (Gen. 1:28), you can be certain that He chose His words carefully to keep from being misunderstood.  When He commanded them not to eat of"the tree of knowledge of good and evil," the record indicates that they fully understood the order and its dire consequences (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:1-3).

All throughout time, God spoke His will to the people, sometimes directly and sometimes in a dream or vision.   In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2).

As our opening verse demonstrates, the Apostle Paul would say that it is impossible to know the mind of God without the help and aid of the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit has always been present to help the inspired man of God select the right words that are relative to revealing the word of God.   God did not leave anything to chance.  We must stay with words "which the Spirit teaches" (1 Cor. 2:13) and be careful, when we attempt to explain an idea expressed by these Spirit-given words, not to stray from their original meaning.  

That is why translators are given a great responsibility in making sure they get it right, especially key words.  The changing of one word can literally change the world.  Do they get it right, or do they have something to protect?

The word “c-h-u-r-c-h” is one of those words that has impacted the world and has subverted the purpose for which it was intended.  Because the translators substituted the word “church,” meaning a building, instead of the Holy Spirits word,ecclesia, a word reflecting a functioning body or a community, it has affected our whole approach to the meaning of the body of Christ.  We have been given a word from the translators that has nothing to do with the original Greek wordecclesia. 

This may come as a surprise to some people but there is no such thing as a CHURCH (institution) in all of Scripture!  Oh yes indeed, the word CHURCH is found therein about 100 times; but the English word CHURCH should NOT be there at all.  That word is not a TRANSLATION of the Greek word ecclesia; but it is substituted for a translation of the Greek word ecclesia in every place it appears in the NT Scriptures with the exception of three instances; all three found in Acts 19:32, 39, and 41 (more about this later).  

When Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my ecclesia,” (Mat 16:18) the translators purposely used a word identifying a building rather than the people.  What He said was that upon the great truth confessed by Peter, that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Jesus would build His assembly, His gathering, or His community of redeemed people.  Jesus did NOT say that He would build a church and He did not do such a thing! The ecclesia of Christ is NOT a church!  All churches are the works and creations of men.  Jesus did not set up a religious institution of any kind.  The ecclesia (ek,"out of or from," and kaleo, "a calling or to call") is His called out, obedient people, wherever they are!  The ecclesia (or  e-k-k-l-e-s-i-a) is NOT an organization or institution.

Now dear reader, at this point, you have a choice: either believe what the translators had to say or go to the original language and read what Jesus and the apostles had to say.  You will surely find no word coming from Jesus that He called the translators to represent His authority.   

Doesn't it stir your mind and heart enough to move you to really examine why this is true and consider all the error it has brought upon the world?   Most people in the church are not aware that some Scriptures have been mistranslated, and then misapplied by human leaders.  Everybody can check these things out for themselves.  Today, we have bible programs that show every Greek word, its meaning, and what part of speech it is.  We have bible dictionaries, lexicons, the internet and resources without end.  And of course, we have the ever-present help and aid of the Spirit Himself who will"guide us into all Truth."   We are indeed, "without excuse!"

Religious Sociopaths/ wolves in sheep's clothing

A Religious Sociopath


The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles that go deep into the body; they go deep into the subconscious mind.  Fervent lips with a wicked heart are like clay pots covered with a cheap silver coating, he deceives himself by disguising with his lips who he hates.   When he says kind things, do not believe him, because there are seven abominations in his heart; Though his hatred is concealed by deceit, his wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.  Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and he who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him.  A lying tongue hates those who are crushed by it, and a flattering mouth works ruin.  

Proverbs 26


It is hard for a Jesus loving Christian to honestly believe that a kindly speaking leader with a great knowledge and understanding of the Bible, who talks fervently about the Lord, can be motivated by a sinister and wicked heart and whose seared conscience is carefully concealed from almost all of them.  A sincere Christian naturally won’t suspect the minister, preacher, teacher, pastor, or reverend is unscrupulously lying and flattering in utter hypocrisy to harm innocent people, and secretly hates those who are crushed by the lies and flattery.  Some leaders really do prefer others to fear them, rather than love them.

Just like any other institution or organization, Christian church institutions have always drawn leaders who want to selfishly control.  Christians, especially those with struggles, make a good target.  They are more cooperative.  They want to please leaders who they think are godly.  Many of these Christians have tender consciences.  

‘‘Right” becomes obeying the leader, regardless if they deserve it or not.  Leaders couldn’t get away with this type of abuse in a large corporation or government without some repercussions or accountability. But in a Church they DOget away with it for a long, long time, if they surround themselves with a strong support group who protects their control over the pulpit.

What better group to control than the proverbial group of dumb sheep!  

The person who lusts for control over others has to learn how to act, learn the lingo and scripture, and be a good talker.  He doesn’t even have to actually be a Christian himself.  This man will strut himself towards the pulpit, the perceived place of authority and control over others, and by trickery and false doctrine deceives the hearts of the simple; “the unsuspecting”; those who, as the Religious Sociopath sees them, are disabled with tender consciences. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Infinite condescension

"How precious are Your thoughts unto me, O God!"
"For this is what the high and lofty One says — He who lives forever, whose name is holy: I live in a high and holy place — but also with him who is contrite and humble in spirit; to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite." — Isaiah 57:15

This verse may with reverence be termed, God's own description of His two dwelling-places. How amazing the contrast and disparity; inhabiting eternity, AND — the human bosom! The great of the earth associate with the great — kings have their abodes in palaces. One of God's palaces — is the lowly heart. Inconceivable is the distance of those stars whose light takes millions of years in traveling to our earth; and yet what is this? A mere span, compared to the distance which separates the creature from theCreator. We are "but of yesterday." Our days are as an handbreadth, "as a dream when one awakens!"
Eternity is the lifetime — the biography of the Almighty — ages and eras are the pages of the vast volume! If our distance from Him be great as creatures — it is greater still as sinners! Yet this high and lofty One, dwelling in the high and holy place, and whose name is Holy, condescends to be the inmate of the humble, contrite spirit, and to listen to its penitent sighs. Oh, unutterable, unimaginable stoop! The sovereign earthly king visiting the abode of poverty — is earth's illustrative picture and symbol of condescension. Yet what, after all, is this — but one perishable mortal, visiting another perishable mortal.

But here is Omnipotence — dwelling with weakness;
Majesty — dwelling with nothingness;
the Infinite — dwelling with the finite;
Deity — dwelling with dust!

How this "precious thought" ennobles, elevates, consecrates the human soul. That home of earth is ever afterwards rendered illustrious, where royalty has sojourned. "If any man loves Me," says Jesus, "he will keep My words, and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him and make Our abode with him."
What, O Lord, is man, that You are thus mindful of him — that You visit him? Prepare my heart for Your reception. Rend Your heavens and come down — fill its temple-courts with Your glory. May all its powers — sprinkled, like the sacred vessels of old, with the consecrating blood — be dedicated to Your service. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit — a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise." Destroy every pedestal of pride. Make me humble — keep me humble. What have I to be proud of? Nothing. I am dependent continually on Your bounty. My existence — my health — my strength — my reason — are a loan from You the Great Proprietor, who can, in the twinkling of an eye, paralyze strength, dethrone reason, arrest the pulses of joyous life, and write upon all I have, "Ichabod, the glory has departed!"

Much more is this the case in spiritual things — I am a pensioner from hour to hour on redeeming grace and love! But for Jesus — I would be lost forever! It is lying low at the foot of His cross that I can learn how the Greatest of all Beings can be the most condescending of all. "I cease to wonder at anything," said a believer, "after the discovery of God's love to me in Christ!" "Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?"

Monday, June 23, 2014

A cake not turned

“Ephraim is a cake not turned.”
- Hosea 7:8


A cake not turned is uncooked on one side; and so Ephraim was, in many respects, untouched by divine grace: though there was some partial obedience, there was very much rebellion left. My soul, I charge thee, see whether this be thy case. Art thou thorough in the things of God? Has grace gone through the very centre of thy being so as to be felt in its divine operations in all thy powers, thy actions, thy words, and thy thoughts? To be sanctified, spirit, soul, and body, should be thine aim and prayer; and although sanctification may not be perfect in thee anywhere in degree, yet it must be universal in its action; there must not be the appearance of holiness in one place and reigning sin in another, else thou, too, wilt be a cake not turned.
A cake not turned is soon burnt on the side nearest the fire, and although no man can have too much religion, there are some who seem burnt black with bigoted zeal for that part of truth which they have received, or are charred to a cinder with a vainglorious Pharisaic ostentation of those religious performances which suit their humour. The assumed appearance of superior sanctity frequently accompanies a total absence of all vital godliness. The saint in public is a devil in private. He deals in flour by day and in soot by night. The cake which is burned on one side, is dough on the other.
If it be so with me, O Lord, turn me! Turn my unsanctified nature to the fire of thy love and let it feel the sacred glow, and let my burnt side cool a little while I learn my own weakness and want of heat when I am removed from thy heavenly flame. Let me not be found a double-minded man, but one entirely under the powerful influence of reigning grace; for well I know if I am left like a cake unturned, and am not on both sides the subject of thy grace, I must be consumed for ever amid everlasting burnings.

C. H. Spurgeon

Access to God

The matter of our approach into the presence of God is one of vital importance, yet it is one (like so many others these days) upon which much confusion and misconception exists. We will not now attempt to canvass the principal errors pertaining thereto, for there would be little profit for either writer or reader in prosecuting such a task. Rather do we wish to call attention unto the various aspects of the subject, for it is failure to perceive these and hold their due balance which has resulted in the fostering of false impressions in quarters which some regard as being the most orthodox sections of Christendom. If one essential aspect of this subject be ignored, or if another one be emphasized to the virtual exclusion of everything else, then the most misleading and dangerous ideas must result therefrom. 
Let us begin by asking the question, Is it possible for a depraved and defiled creature to obtain access unto the thrice Holy One? If there is one thing taught more plainly in the Scriptures than another it is that sin separates the sinner and God. This fearful fact is impressively set forth in Genesis 3:24: that flaming sword was the symbol of a sin-hating God, barring approach unto the emblem of His presence. When Jehovah appeared on Sinai, amid the most solemn manifestations of His awful presence, even the favoured Hebrews were commanded under pain of death to keep their distance from Him. An Israelite who became ceremonially unclean was rigidly excluded from the Camp. Even when the tabernacle and the temple were erected, the common people were not allowed to enter the holy places. In how many different ways did God make it evident that sin obstructed any access to Himself! 

But not only does God debar the sinner from access, the sinner himself has no desire to approach unto Him—rather does he wish to flee as far as possible from His presence. A sense of sin and the guilt of it upon the conscience drives the sinner from the Lord. This fact was also solemnly exemplified at the dawn of human history—just as long as our first parents remained in dutiful subjection to their Maker, walking in obedience to His commandments, they enjoyed blissful communion with Him; but as soon as they became self-willed and rebellious, all was radically altered. After they had eaten of the forbidden fruit and they heard the voice of the Lord God in the Garden, they fled in terror, seeking to hide from Him. And thus it has been ever since. 

Is there, then, no access to God for the fallen creature? If there were not we should not be engaged in writing this article. Access to God is possible—possible for the chief of sinners—but only via the appointed Mediator. As the Lord Jesus so emphatically declared, “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). It is through the Lord Jesus Christ, and by Him alone—not through priest or pope, Mary or the angels, good works or tears—that we may obtain access to God. “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access” (Rom. 5:1, 2). In pointing this out we are covering ground which is thoroughly familiar to all our readers, truth which is still proclaimed in many places. Yet it is by no means the whole of the truth on this subject, though it is all that is presented thereon in certain quarters. It is those neglected aspects which we now desire to particularly stress. 

Once again we would point out that unless we differentiate between things that differ there is bound to be confusion and error. So here. We must distinguish between the way of access which Christ has opened for sinners into the presence of God, the qualifications which are required from those entering that way, and the exercise of those qualifications so that the way is actually used. But the moment we mention “qualification” and the necessity for “exercising” the same, some will demur, insisting that we are thereby sounding a legalistic note and destroying the simplicity of the Gospel. Then let us ask- such objectors, Are hypocrites entitled to use that way of access which Christ has opened? Do “Christians” who exercise no faith, but simply offer cold and mechanical prayers, enter into God’s presence? If the objector answers No—as honesty compels him to do—then he has granted our contention, whether or not he agrees with us in detail. 

How many professing Christians do really obtain personal access to and enjoy conscious communion with the Holy One? What percentage of real Christians are actually accustomed to do so? Alas, what multitudes have been deceived by Satan into supposing that all they have to do is get down on their knees, plead the name of Christ, and automatically they obtain audience with the Most High. Not so. It still holds good that, “Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened that it cannot save, neither His ear heavy that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear” (Isa. 59:1, 2). The principles of the Divine government know no alteration, and allowed and unconfessed sins act as an impassable barrier between the soul and God as truly today as they did under the Old Testament economy. No change of dispensation modifies the requirements of God’s holiness or reduces the enormity of sin. 

Three things are absolutely necessary if any is to have access to God. First, he must have the legal right or title to do so. Second, he must possess the necessary moral fitness. Third, he must be spiritually and experimentally empowered. Our legal right to approach unto God is found alone in the merits of Christ: His sacrificial work and the present exercise of His Priesthood give me title to draw near unto the Throne of Grace. But does that cover the whole matter? Is nothing more than a legal title required? Ah, the real saint knows otherwise from painful experience. How often has he entered his closet, sought audience with the Divine Majesty, pleaded the blood of Christ, yet without any conscious access. So far from any conscious approach to Him, God seems far off, and all is darkness and deadness in the soul. Like the Spouse in the Canticles, he seeks his Beloved, but finds Him not. 

“Behold I go forward, but He is not there: and backward, but I cannot perceive Him. On the left hand, where He doth work, but I cannot behold Him: He hideth Himself on the right hand, that I cannot see Him” (Job 23:8, 9). Has that painful experience of Job’s never been duplicated in your own? Was his case altogether exceptional? Far from it, as the recorded lamentations of others of God’s children clearly show. “Why standest Thou afar off, O LORD? why hidest Thou Thyself in times of trouble?” (Psa. 10:1). Yes, even the sweet Psalmist of Israel knew what it was to feel God’s distance from him and to be denied conscious access to Him. “How long wilt Thou forget me, O LORD, forever? how long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me?” (Psa. 13:1). Again and again this was his agonizing experience. And there are seasons in the history of all believers when such language is just as suitable to express their experience as Psalm 46 or Psalm 150 is suited to their cases on other occasions. 

“For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Eph. 2:18). The words we have placed in italics present another vital aspect of our subject, showing as they do the Christian’s dependence upon the agency of the Holy Spirit. Herein each person of the blessed Trinity is accorded His own distinctive place in the economy of re- demption: access is unto the Father, it is through Christ, but it is by the Spirit. The sinful believer can no more approach unto the Father without the gracious operations of the Spirit than he could without the mediation of the Lord Jesus. One has procured for us the legal right; the Other supplies the experimental enablement. The exercise of faith, as we shall yet see, is another essential prerequisite for drawing near to God, but the actings of faith lie not within our own unaided power—He who first imparted this heavenly gift must quicken and energize it if it is to function properly. 

“For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” What place is given to this part of the Truth in most sections of Christendom today? None at all. And even where the third Person of the Godhead is duly owned and honoured, how feebly do the saints apprehend their imperative need of the Spirit’s daily working within them. His operations are essential if our leaden hearts are to be raised above the things of time and sense, if our affections are to flow forth unto their rightful Object, if faith is to be duly acted upon Him, if a sense of His presence is to be communicated unto the soul. But will the Spirit perform these gracious operations if we are indifferent as to whether or not our conduct grieves Him? If a Christian has spent his evening at the card-table or the theatre, and before retiring to rest bows his knees, will the Holy Spirit, at that time, draw out the heart of such an one and grant him conscious access to the Father? 

What has just been raised brings us to still another aspect of our subject—there must be a moral fitness if the suppliant is to obtain access to God. Alas, that so little is heard about this in the ministry of the day. Yet the reason for this omission is not far to seek: where the dominant object is the pleasing of the hearer, little will be said in condemnation of a carnal walk, and still less of the serious consequences thereof. But though the pulpit has become so unfaithful, God abides faithful, and He will not wink at evil doing. No, not in His own children, nor will He allow the sacred name of Christ to be used as a passport into His presence by the workers of iniquity. Is it not written, “With the pure Thou wilt show Thyself pure; and with the obstinate Thou wilt show Thyself obstinate” (Psa. 18:26); that means what it says, and says what it means. 

Loose walking severs communion with God, and then will He act distantly toward us. An earthly parent (who is prudent) will not conduct himself with the same familiarity and cordiality toward a disobedient child as he will unto a dutiful one. Our folly must be repented of and humbly acknowledged before fellowship can be restored with God. Yea, even if our fault be only against a fellow-creature it must be righted before God will accept our worship: “If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matt. 5:23, 24)—how many are unable to obtain conscious access to God through failure at this very point! “Turn ye unto Me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you” (Zech. 1:3): if we would have God turn unto us in mercy we must turn unto Him in obedience. 

“Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace” (Rom. 5:1, 2). This brings before us still another aspect of our subject: the necessity for the exercise of faith in order to approach God. The same truth is presented again in, “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him” (Eph. 3:12). Faith is the appointed means of access, for it is the hand which receives every blessing from God. Faith in God’s willingness to grant us an audience, faith in the sufficiency of Christ’s atoning sacrifice to provide us with the title of approach: faith in the Divine promises that if we contritely confess our sins He will cleanse us therefrom. At first a small degree of faith enables the Christian to approach unto God, but as he advances in the knowledge of his own heart and of God’s hatred of sin, stronger faith needs to be exercised if we are to draw near the heavenly Throne with confidence. Yet we must be very careful not to mistake blatant presumption for holy assurance. 

“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us through the veil (that is to say, His flesh); and having a High Priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:19-22). This is what may be termed the classic passage on our present theme, gathering up as it does into one comprehensive statement the essential features thereof. But what a solemn example it affords of the lack of proportion which now so generally prevails: we are probably safe in saying that for every once verse 22 is quoted, verse 19 is cited 20 times. It is this disproportion which has distorted the Truth and led to the error mentioned by us in the earlier paragraphs. Let us now carefully examine these verses. 

The passage opens by announcing that Christians have “liberty” (margin) or a “freedom with confidence” to approach unto God, this language presenting a designed contrast from the case of national Israel under the old economy. This liberty to draw near unto the heavenly Mercy-seat is “by the blood of Jesus.” The foundation of all confidence in our access to God and the title to approach unto Him lies in the infinitely meritorious sacrifice which Christ offered unto God on our behalf, and this we must ever plead before Him. Our encouragement so to do lies in the office which our Saviour now exercises on behalf of His people, namely, “High Priest over the house of God.” This is most blessedly brought before us in, “for we have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin: let us therefore come boldly (freely) unto the Throne of Grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15, 16). 

In what next follows in our passage we are shown the way or manner in which we are to make use of the unspeakable privilege described in verses 19-21. In other words, we are required to meet the terms of verse 22 if we are to enjoy conscious access unto the thrice holy God. First, let us draw near with “a true heart.” This is the principal qualification. A “true heart” is one that beats true unto God. It denotes sincerity in contrast from hypocrisy. It is not the reverent posture of the body or the language of the lips with which God is chiefly concerned, but rather with the heart—the seat of our affections. They who worship Him, “must worship Him in spirit and in truth,” or their performance is utterly futile. The mere outward performance of religious duties, no matter how scrupulously undertaken, is not sufficient—it is with the sincerity of our hearts God has chief regard to in all our approaches unto Him. God will bear with infirmities, but not with hypocrisy. 

“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” This makes known the principle which is to be exercised in our approaches unto God, for, “without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). None but a genuine believer can obtain access unto God: all others are rigidly excluded. There must be the actual ex- ercise of faith in every spiritual work: “by faith Abel offered unto God” etc. (Heb. 11:4). The “full assurance of faith” does not here signify a firm knowledge of our sonship, but an implicit confidence in the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice and priesthood. Many Hebrews who had received in general the faith of the Gospel were wavering in their minds about the Person and office of Christ and the glorious things predicated of Him by the Apostle, and therefore he stresses the fact there must be a firm conviction of the reality and efficacy of the Atonement if we are to draw near unto God. 

“Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” Here is the twofold preparation prescribed unto us for the right performance of this duty. In these expressions there is an obvious allusion unto the necessary preparations for Divine worship made by Israel under Judaism. As there were various ways in which the Jews became ceremonially and legally defiled, so there were various means appointed for their purification (Heb. 9:13). Those institutions the Apostle now applies spiritually: “our hearts” and “our bodies” signify the inward and the outward man. “Bodies washed with pure water” has no reference to baptism, but is to be understood of our members being preserved from evil and used for God. Rightly did John Owen say at the close of his exposition of these verses, “Universal sanctification upon our whole persons and the mortification in an especial manner of outward sins are required of us in our drawing nigh unto God.” 

“Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience” has reference to an efficacious application of the blood of Christ unto sanctification or internal purification, so that the burden of guilt is removed. This is accomplished originally in the communication of regenerating grace at the new birth, and is repeated whenever the Spirit grants a fresh renewal and experience of the virtues of the Atonement. That a good conscience is an indispensable qualification for access to God is seen from, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:14), where “serve” signifies communion and worship. When the conscience is unpurged, the weight of condemnation lies so heavily upon it that we are then at a loss in approaching the Holy One. 

Now to sum up. It is one thing to know theoretically the legal way and right of approach unto God, but it is quite another to enjoy conscious access to Him. For that, the aid of the Spirit is imperative, but He will not perform His gracious operations within us if He be grieved. If we have spent the night in ransacking the newspapers, in worldly conversation, or in backbiting the servants and saints of God, think you that the Holy Spirit will draw out your heart unto the Father when you perform your evening devotions? Not so, unless you penitently confess those sins, and sincerely determine there shall be no repetition of them. “Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8). What has been before us was strikingly foreshadowed of old in connection with the approach of Israel’s priests unto God: first the blood was applied to their persons, then the oil (emblem of the Spirit), and then they washed at the laver.


A.W. Pink

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"

Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" - Luke 18:8


Now, when he comes, will he find faith on the earth? The question implies a strong negation: No, he will not; he himself foresees it.
(1.) This supposes that it is on earth only that there is occasion for faith; for sinners in hell are feeling that which they would not believe, and saints in heaven are enjoying that which they did believe.
(2.) It supposes that faith is the great thing that Jesus Christ looks for. He looks down upon the children of men, and does not ask, Is there innocency? but, Is there faith? He enquired concerning the faith of those who applied themselves to him for cures.
(3.) It supposes that if there were faith, though ever so little, he would discover it, and find it out. His eye is upon the weakest and most obscure believer.
(4.) It is foretold that, when Christ comes to plead his people's cause, he will find but little faith in comparison with what one might expect. That is, [1.] In general, he will find but few good people, few that are really and truly good. Many that have the form and fashion of godliness, but few that have faith, that are sincere and honest: nay, he will find little fidelity among men; the faithful fail, Psa_12:1, Psa_12:2. Even to the end of time there will still be occasion for the same complaint. The world will grow no better, no, not when it is drawing towards its period. Bad it is, and bad it will be, and worst of all just before Christ's coming; the last times will be the most perilous. [2.] In particular, he will find few that have faith concerning his coming. When he comes to avenge his own elect he looks if there be any faith to help and to uphold, and wonders that there is none, Isa_59:16; Isa_63:5. It intimates that Christ, both in his particular comings for the relief of his people, and in his general coming at the end of time, may, and will, delay his coming so long as that, First, Wicked people will begin to defy it, and to say, Where is the promise of his coming? 2Pe_3:4. They will challenge him to come (Isa_5:10; Amo_5:19); and his delay will harden them in their wickedness, Mat_24:48. Secondly, Even his own people will begin to despair of it, and to conclude he will never come, because he has passed their reckoning. God's time to appear for his people is when things are brought to the last extremity, and when Zion begins to say, The Lord has forsaken me. See Isa_49:14; Isa_40:27. But this is our comfort, that, when the time appointed comes, it will appear that the unbelief of man has not made the promise of God of no effect.  - Matthew Henry

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A.W. Pink - Repent or Perish!

Swallowed up by darkness

As the President of the United States continues his push for acceptance of a sin the bible calls an abomination, it led me to recall a sermon by Dr. L. White from a few years back....


"This nation is heedlessly stumbling toward third millennium darkness. Look around you and read the signs of the times. Look beyond the walls of our beautiful sanctuaries, and the comfort of our padded pews to see the chaos, the corruption, and the confusion that reigns throughout our culture. We live in a society where passions are riderless horses, uncontrolled and uncontrollable in which there is a desolation of decency; in which love has become a jungle emotion, lust exalted to lordship, sin elevated to sovereignty, Satan adored as a saint, and man magnified above his Maker. Americans have come to dwell in an Alice in Wonderland world of fantasy and self-delusion. Everything has been turned upside down and inside out in our America. Right is wrong, wrong is right; good is bad, bad is good; normal is abnormal, abnormal is normal; true is false, false is true. We are fast degenerating into a decadent culture obsessed with selfishness and sin, death and destruction.

In the face of this relentless onslaught of evil, the church of Jesus Christ has grown timid and afraid. We have abandoned the truth of God's word, compromised the stern demands of His law, tailored our message to meet the felt needs of sinful men, and prostituted ourselves and the Gospel that we profess to proclaim for worldly popularity and success. We, as Christian pastors, seem to have forgotten that God did not call us to be popular or successful...God called us to be faithful. Faithful preaching never comes in the form of safely vague, pious platitudes. Faithful preaching must identify and denounce the false gods of this world that call upon our people to bow down before them every day. God did not call us to be successful CEO's, protecting institutional peace and tranquility, bringing in the bodies and the bucks by avoiding controversy, and telling everybody what they want to hear. God called us to proclaim His word, to be vigilant watchmen standing high upon the walls of Zion, sounding forth the clear clarion call of the trumpet; calling out God's people to war against the host of evil advancing all around us. We as the Christians of America, we as the Pastors of America, have failed in this responsibility before God. Our country is paying a dire price for that failure; make no mistake about it brothers and sisters, we are responsible.


When Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, he scornfully dismissed the church, and her pastors as an irrelevant force which posed no threat to the Nazi agenda for that great nation."I promise you", he boasted in his inner circle, "that if I wish to I could destroy the church in just a few years. It is hollow, it is rotten, and false through and through. One push and the whole structure would collapse. We should trap the preachers by their notorious greed and self-indulgence. We shall thus be able to settle everything with them in perfect peace and harmony. I shall give them a few years reprieve, why should we quarrel? They will swallow anything in order to keep their material advantage. The parsons will be made to dig their own graves, they will betray their God for us. They will betray anything for the sake of their miserable jobs and incomes." - Adolf Hitler


Dr. Laurence White

The Holy Ghost

“And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.”
- Acts  2:4


Rich were the blessings of this day if all of us were filled with the Holy Ghost. The consequences of this sacred filling of the soul it would be impossible to overestimate. Life, comfort, light, purity, power, peace; and many other precious blessings are inseparable from the Spirit’s benign presence. As sacred oil, he anoints the head of the believer, sets him apart to the priesthood of saints, and gives him grace to execute his office aright. As the only truly purifying water he cleanses us from the power of sin and sanctifies us unto holiness, working in us to will and to do of the Lord’s good pleasure. As the light, he manifested to us at first our lost estate, and now he reveals the Lord Jesus to us and in us, and guides us in the way of righteousness. Enlightened by his pure celestial ray, we are no more darkness but light in the Lord. As fire, he both purges us from dross, and sets our consecrated nature on a blaze. He is the sacrificial flame by which we are enabled to offer our whole souls as a living sacrifice unto God. As heavenly dew, he removes our barrenness and fertilizes our lives. O that he would drop from above upon us at this early hour! Such morning dew would be a sweet commencement for the day. As the dove, with wings of peaceful love he broods over his Church and over the souls of believers, and as a Comforter he dispels the cares and doubts which mar the peace of his beloved. He descends upon the chosen as upon the Lord in Jordan, and bears witness to their sonship by working in them a filial spirit by which they cry Abba, Father. As the wind, he brings the breath of life to men; blowing where he listeth he performs the quickening operations by which the spiritual creation is animated and sustained. Would to God, that we might feel his presence this day and every day.

Spurgeon

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Difficulties and objections

"Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not My way equal? are not your ways unequal?"
Ezekiel 18:25

A convenient point has been reached when we may now examine, more definitely, some of the difficulties encountered and the objections which might be advanced against what we have written in previous pages. The author deemed it better to reserve these for a separate consideration, rather than deal with them as he went along, requiring as that would have done the breaking of the course of thought and destroying the strict unity of each chapter, or else cumbering our pages with numerous and lengthy footnotes.
That there are difficulties involved in an attempt to set forth the truth of God’s sovereignty is readily acknowledged. The hardest thing of all, perhaps, is to maintain the balance of truth. It is largely a matter ofperspective. That God is sovereign is explicitly declared in Scripture: that man is a responsible creature is also expressly affirmed in Holy Writ. To define the relationship of these two truths, to fix the dividing line betwixt them, to show exactly where they meet, to exhibit the perfect consistency of the one with the other, is the weightiest task of all. Many have openly declared that it is impossible for the finite mind to harmonize them. Others tell us it is not necessary or even wise to attempt it. But, as we have remarked in an earlier chapter, it seems to us more honoring to God to seek in His Word the solution to every problem. What is impossible to man is possible with God, and while we grant that the finite mind is limited in its reach, yet, we remember that the Scriptures are given to us that the man of God may be "thoroughly furnished," and if we approach their study in the spirit of humility and of expectancy, then, according unto our faith will it be unto us.
As remarked above, the hardest task in this connection is to preserve the balance of truth while insisting on both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of the creature. To some of our readers it may appear that in pressing the sovereignty of God to the lengths we have, man is reduced to a mere puppet. Hence, to guard against this, they would modify their definitions and statements relating to God’s sovereignty, and thus seek to blunt the keen edge of what is so offensive to the carnal mind. Others, while refusing to weigh the evidence that we have adduced in support of our assertions, may raise objections which to their minds are sufficient to dispose of the whole subject. We would not waste time in the effort to refute objections made in a carping and contentious spirit, but we are desirous of meeting fairly the difficulties experienced by those who are anxious to obtain a fuller knowledge of the truth. Not that we deem ourselves able to give a satisfactory and final answer to every question that might be asked. Like the reader, the writer knows but "in part" and sees through a glass "darkly." All that we can do is to examine these difficulties in the light we now have, in dependence upon the Spirit of God that we may follow on to know the Lord better.
We propose now to retrace our steps and pursue the same order of thought as that followed up to this point. As a part of our "definition" of God’s sovereignty we affirmed: "To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the Almighty, the Possessor of all power in heaven and earth, so that none can defeat His counsels, thwart His purpose, or resist His will. . . The sovereignty of the God of Scripture is absolute, irresistible, infinite." To put it now in its strongest form, we insist that God does as He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases: that whatever takes place in time is but the outworking of that which He decreed in eternity. In proof of this assertion we appeal to the following scriptures—"But our God is in the heavens:
He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased" (Ps. 115:3). "For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and His hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?" (Isa. 14:27). "And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand or say unto Him, What doest thou?" (Dan. 4:35). "For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen" (Rom. 11:36).
The above declarations are so plain and positive that any comments of ours upon them would simply be darkening counsel by words without knowledge. Such express statements as those just quoted, are so sweeping and so dogmatic that all controversy concerning the subject of which they treat ought for ever to be at an end. Yet, rather than receive them at their face value, every device of carnal ingenuity is resorted to so as to neutralize their force. For example, it has been asked, If what we see in the world today is but the outworking of God’s eternal purpose, if God’s counsel is NOW being accomplished, then why did our Lord teach His disciples to pray, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven"? Is it not a clear implication from these words that God’s will is not now being done on earth? The answer is very simple. The emphatic word in the above clause is "as." God’s will is being done on earth today, if it is not, then our earth is not subject to God’s rule, and if it is not subject to His rule then He is not, as Scripture proclaims Him to be, "The Lord of all the earth" (Josh. 3:13). But God’s will is not being done on earth as it is in heaven. How is God’s will "done in heaven"?—consciously and joyfully. How is it "done on earth"?—for the most part, unconsciously and sullenly. In heaven the angels perform the bidding of their Creator intelligently and gladly, but on earth the unsaved among men accomplish His will blindly and in ignorance. As we have said in earlier pages, when Judas betrayed the Lord Jesus and when Pilate sentenced Him to be crucified, they had no conscious intention of fulfilling God’s decrees yet, nevertheless, unknown to themselves they did do so!
But again. It has been objected: If everything that happens on earth is the fulfilling of the Almighty’s pleasure, if God has fore-ordained—before the foundation of the world—everything which comes to pass in human history, then why do we read in Genesis 6:6, "It repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart"? Does not this language intimate that the antediluvians had followed a course which their Maker had not marked out for them, and that in view of the fact they had "corrupted" their way upon the earth, the Lord regretted that He had ever brought such a creature into existence? Ere drawing such a conclusion let us note what is involvedin such an inference. If the words "It repented the Lord that He had made man" are regarded in an absolute sense, then God’s omnisciencewould be denied, for in such a case the course followed by man must have been unforeseen by God in the day that He created him. Therefore it must be evident to every reverent soul that this language bears some other meaning. We submit that the words, "It repented the Lord" is an accommodation to our finite intelligence, and in saying this we are not seeking to escape a difficulty or cut a knot, but are advancing an interpretation which we shall seek to show is in perfect accord with the general trend of Scripture.
The Word of God is addressed to men, and therefore it speaks the language of men. Because we cannot rise to God’s level He, in grace, comes down to ours and converses with us in our own speech. The apostle Paul tells us of how he was "caught up into Paradise and heard unspeakable words which it is not possible (margin) to utter" (2 Cor. 12:4) Those on earth could not understand the vernacular of heaven. The finite cannot comprehend the Infinite, hence the Almighty deigns to couch His revelation in terms we may understand. It is for this reason the Bible contains many anthropomorphisms—i.e., representations of God in the form of man. God is Spirit, yet the Scriptures speak of Him as having eyes, ears, nostrils, breath, hands etc., which is surely an accommodation of terms brought down to the level of human comprehension.
Again; we read in Genesis 18:20, 21, "And the Lord said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous, I will go down now, and see whether they have donealtogether according to the cry of it, which is come up unto Me; and if not, I will know." Now, manifestly, this is an anthropologism—God, speaking in human language. God knew the conditions which prevailed in Sodom, and His eyes had witnessed its fearful sins, yet He is pleased to use terms here that are taken from our own vocabulary.
Again; in Genesis 22:12 we read, "And He (God) said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from Me." Here again, God is speaking in the language of men, for He "knew" before He tested Abram exactly how the patriarch would act. So too the expression used of God so often in Jeremiah (7:13 etc.), of Him "rising up early", is manifestly an accommodation of terms.
Once more: in the parable of the vineyard Christ Himself represents its Owner as saying, "Then said the Lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send My beloved Son: it may be they will reverence Him when they see Him" (Luke 20:13), and yet, it is certain that God knew perfectly well that the "husbandmen" of the vineyard—the Jews—would not "reverence His Son" but, instead, would "despise and reject" Him, as His own Word had declared!
In the same way we understand the words in Genesis 6:6— "Itrepented the Lord that He had made man on the earth"—as an accommodation of terms to human comprehension. This verse does not teach that God was confronted with an unforeseen contingency, and therefore regretted that He had made man, but it expresses theabhorrence of a holy God at the awful wickedness and corruption into which man had fallen. Should there be any doubt remaining in the minds of our readers as to the legitimacy and soundness of our interpretation, a direct appeal to Scripture should instantly and entirely remove it—"The Strength of Israel (a Divine title) will not lie nor repent: for He is not a man, that He should repent" (1 Sam. 15:29)! "Every good and perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1 :17)!
Careful attention to what we have said above will throw light on numerous other passages which, if we ignore their figurative character and fail to note that God applies to Himself human modes of expression, will be obscure and perplexing. Having commented at such length upon Genesis 6:6 there will be no need to give such a detailed exposition of other passages which belong to the same class, yet, for the benefit of those of our readers who may be anxious for us to examine several other scriptures, we turn to one or two more.
One scripture which we often find cited in order to overthrow the teaching advanced in this book is our Lord’s lament over Jerusalem: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" (Matt. 23:37). The question is asked, Do not these words show that the Saviour acknowledged the defeat of His mission, that as a people the Jews resisted all His gracious overtures toward them? In replying to this question, it should first be pointed out that our Lord is here referring not so much to His own mission, as He is upbraiding the Jews for having in all ages rejected His grace—this is clear from His reference to the "prophets." The Old Testament bears full witness of how graciously and patiently Jehovah dealt with His people, and with what extreme obstinacy, from first to last, they refused to be "gathered" unto Him, and how in the end He (temporarily) abandoned them to follow their own devices, yet, as the same Scriptures declare, the counsel of God was not frustrated by their wickedness, for it had been foretold (and therefore, decreed) by Him—see, for example, 1 Kings 8:33.
Matthew 23:37 may well be compared with Isaiah 65:2 where the Lord says, "I have spread out My hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts." But, it may be asked, Did God seek to do that which was in opposition to His own eternal purpose? In words borrowed from Calvin we reply, "Though to our apprehension the will of God is manifold and various, yet He does not in Himself will things at variance with each other, but astonishes our faculties with His various and ‘manifold wisdom, according to the expression of Paul, till we shall be enabled to understand that He mysteriously wills what now seems contrary to His will." As a further illustration of the same principle we would refer the reader to Isaiah 5:1-4: "Now will I sing to my well Beloved a song of my Beloved touching His vineyard. My well Beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And He fenced it, and gethered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and He looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, ) inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt Me and My vineyard. What could have been done more to My vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?" Is it not plain from this language that God reckoned Himself to have done enough for Israel to warrant an expectation—speaking after the manner of men—of better returns? Yet, is it not equally evident when Jehovah says here "He looked that it should bring forth grapes" that He is accommodating Himself to a form of finite expression? And, so also when He says "What could have been done more to My vineyard, that I have not done in it ?" we need to take note that in the previous enumeration of what He had done—the "fencing" etc.—He refers onlyto external privileges, means, and opportunities, which had been bestowed upon Israel, for, of course, He could even then have taken away from them their stony heart and given them a new heart, even a heart of flesh, as He will yet do, had He so pleased.
Perhaps we should link up with Christ’s lament over Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37, His tears over the City, recorded in Luke 19:41: "He beheld the city, and wept over it." In the verses which immediately follow, we learn what it was that occasioned His tears: "Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side." It was the prospect of the fearful judgment which Christ knew was impending. But did those tears make manifest a disappointed God? Nay, verily. Instead, they displayed a perfect Man. The Man Christ Jesus was no emotionless stoic, but One "filled with compassion." Those tears expressed the sinless sympathies of His real and pure humanity. Had He not "wept", He had been less than human. Those "tears" were one of many proofs that "in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren" (Heb. 2:17).
In chapter one we have affirmed that God is sovereign in the exercise of His love, and in saying this we are fully aware that many will strongly resent the statement and that, furthermore, what we have now to say will probably meet with more criticism than anything else advanced in this book. Nevertheless, we must be true to our convictions of what we believe to be the teaching of Holy Scripture, and we can only ask our readers to examine diligently in the light of God’s Word what we here submit to their attention.
One of the most popular beliefs of the day is that God loves everybody, and the very fact that it is so popular with all classes ought to be enough to arouse the suspicions of those who are subject to the Word of Truth. God’s Love toward all His creatures is the fundamental and favorite tenet of Universalists, Unitarians, Theosophists, Christian Scientists, Spiritualists, Russellites, etc. No matter how a man may live—in open defiance of Heaven, with no concern whatever for his soul’s eternal interests, still less for God’s glory, dying, perhaps with an oath on his lips,—notwithstanding, God loves him, we are told. So widely has this dogma been proclaimed, and so comforting is it to the heart which is at enmity with God, we have little hope of convincing many of their error. That God loves everybody, is, we may say, quite a modernbelief. The writings of the church-fathers, the Reformers or the Puritans will (we believe) be searched in vain for any such concept. Perhaps the late D. L. Moody—captivated by Drummond’s "The Greatest Thing in the World"—did more than anyone else last century to popularize this concept.
It has been customary to say God loves the sinner, though He hates his sin. [1] But that is a meaningless distinction. What is there in a sinner but sin? Is it not true that his "whole head is sick", and his "whole heart faint", and that "from the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness" in him? (Isa. 1:5,6). Is it true that Godloves the one who is despising and rejecting His blessed Son? God is Light as well as Love, and therefore His love must be a holy love. To tell the Christ-rejector that God loves him is to cauterize his conscience, as well as to afford him a sense of security in his sins. The fact is, that the love of God, is a truth for the saints only, and to present it to the enemies of God is to take the children’s bread and cast it to the dogs. With the exception of John 3:16, not once in the four Gospels do we read of the Lord Jesus—the perfect Teacher— telling sinners that God loved them! In the book of Acts, which records the evangelistic labors and messages of the apostles, God’s love is never referred to at all! But, when we come to the Epistles, which are addressed to the saints, we have a full presentation of this precious truth—God’s love for His own. Let us seek to rightly divide the Word of God and then we shall not be found taking truths which are addressed to believers and misapplying them to unbelievers. That which sinners need to have brought before them is, the ineffable holiness, the exacting righteousness, the inflexible justice and the terrible wrath of God. Risking the danger of being mis-understood, let us say—and we wish we could say it to every evangelist and preacher in the country—there is far too much presenting of Christ to sinners today (by those sound in the faith), and far too little showing sinners their need of Christ, i.e., their absolutely ruined and lost condition, their imminent and awful danger of suffering the wrath to come, the fearful guilt resting upon them in the sight of God—to present Christ to those who have never been shown their need of Him, seems to us to be guilty of casting pearls before swine. [2]
If it be true that God loves every member of the human family then why did our Lord tell His disciples, "He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father. . . . . If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him" (John 14:21,23)? Why say "he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father" if the Father loves everybody?The same limitation is found in Proverbs 8:17: "I love them that love Me." Again; we read, "Thou hatest all workers of iniquity"—not merely the works of iniquity. Here, then, is a flat repudiation of present teaching that, God hates sin but loves the sinner; Scripture says, "Thou hatest all workers of iniquity" (Ps. 5:5)! "God is angry with the wicked every day." "He that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God"—not "shall abide," but even now—"abideth on him" (Ps. 5:5; 7:11 John 3:36). Can God "love" the one on whom His "wrath" abides? Again; is it not evident that the words "The love of God which is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:39) mark a limitation, both in the sphere and objects of His love? Again; is it not plain from the words "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Rom. 9:13) that God does not love everybody? Again; it is written, "For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth" (Heb. 12:6). Does not this verse teach that God’s love is restricted to the members of His own family? If He loves all men without exception, then the distinction and limitation here mentioned is quite meaningless. Finally, we would ask, Is it conceivable that God will love the damned in the Lake of Fire? Yet, if He loves them now He will do so then, seeing that His love knows no change—He is "without variableness or shadow of turning"!
Turning now to John 3:16, it should be evident from the passages just quoted, that this verse will not bear the construction usually put upon it. "God so loved the world"Many suppose that this means, The entire human race. But "the entire human race," includes all mankind from Adam till the close of the earth’s history: it reaches backward as well as forward! Consider, then, the history of mankind before Christ was born. Unnumbered millions lived and died before the Saviour came to the earth, lived here "having no hope and without God in the world", and therefore passed out into an eternity of woe. If God "loved" them,where is the slightest proof thereof? Scripture declares, "Who (God) in times past (from the tower of Babel till after Pentecost) suffered allnations to walk in their own ways" (Acts 14:16). Scripture declares that, "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge,God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient" (Rom. 1:28). To Israel God said, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth" (Amos 3:2). In view of these plain passages, who will be so foolish as to insist that God in the past loved all mankind! The same applies with equal force to the future. Read through the book of Revelation, noting especially chapters 8 to 19, where we have described the judgments which will yet be poured out from heaven on this earth. Read of the fearful woes, the frightful plagues, the vials of God’s wrath, which shall be emptied on the wicked. Finally, read the 20th chapter of the Revelation, the great white throne judgment, and see if you can discover there the slightest trace of love.
But the objector comes back to John 3:16 and says, "World means world"True, but we have shown that "the world" does not mean the whole human family. The fact is that "the world" is used in a generalway. When the brethren of Christ said, "Shew Thyself to the world"(John 7:4), did they mean "shew Thyself to all mankind"? When the Pharisees said, "Behold, the world is gone after Him" (John 12:19), did they mean that "all the human family" were flocking after Him? When the apostle wrote, "Your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world"(Rom. 1:8), did he mean that the faith of the saints at Rome was the subject of conversation by every man, woman, and child on the earth? When Revelation 13:3 informs us that "all the world wondered after the beast", are we to understand that there will be no exceptions? What of the godly Jewish Remnant, who will be slain (Rev. 20:4) rather than submit? These, and other passages which might be quoted, show that the term "the world" often has a relative rather than anabsolute force.
Now the first thing to note in connection with John 3:16 is that our Lord was there speaking to Nicodemus—a man who believed that God’s mercies were confined to his own nation. Christ there announced that God’s love in giving His Son had a larger object in view, that it flowed beyond the boundary of Palestine, reaching out to "regions beyond". In other words, this was Christ’s announcement that God had a purpose of grace toward Gentiles as well as Jews. "God so loved the world", then, signifies, God’s love is international in its scope. But does this mean that God loves every individual among the Gentiles? Not necessarily, for as we have seen, the term "world" is general rather than specific, relative rather than absolute. The term "world" in itself is not conclusive. To ascertain who are the objects of God’s love other passages where His love is mentioned must be consulted.
In 2 Peter 2:5 we read of "the world of the ungodly"If then, there is a world of the ungodly there must also be a world of the godly. It is the latter who are in view in the passages we shall now briefly consider. "For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world" (John 6:33). Now mark it well, Christ did not say, "offereth life unto the world", but "giveth". What is the difference between the two terms? This: a thing which is "offered" may be refused, but a thing "given", necessarily implies its acceptance. If it is not accepted, it is not "given", it is simply proffered. Here, then, is a scripture that positively states Christ giveth life (spiritual, eternal life) "unto the world." Now He does not give eternal life to the "world of the ungodly" for they will not have it, they do not want it. Hence, we areobliged to understand the reference in John 6:33 as being to "the world of the godly", i.e., God’s own people.
One more: in 2 Corinthians 5:19 we read, "To wit that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself". What is meant by this is clearly defined in the words immediately following, "not imputing theirtrespasses unto them". Here again, "the world" cannot mean "the world of the ungodly", for their "trespasses" are "imputed" to them, as the judgment of the Great White Throne will yet show. But 2Corinthians 5:19 plainly teaches there is a "world" which are"reconciled", reconciled unto God, because their trespasses are notreckoned to their account, having been borne by their Substitute. Who then are they? Only one answer is fairly possible—the world of God’s people!
In like manner, the "world" in John 3:16 must, in the final analysis, refer to the world of God’s people. Must we say, for there is no other alternative solution. It cannot mean the whole human race, for one half of the race was already in hell when Christ came to earth. It is unfair to insist that it means every human being now living, for every other passage in the New Testament where God’s love is mentionedlimits it to His own people—search and see! The objects of God’s love in John 3:16 are precisely the same as the objects of Christ’s love in John 13:1: "Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His time was come, that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world, He loved themunto the end". We may admit that our interpretation of John 3:16 is no novel one invented by us, but one almost uniformly given by the Reformers and Puritans, and many others since them. [3]
Coming now to chapter three—The Sovereignty of God in Salvation—innumerable are the questions which might be raised here. It is strange, yet it is true, that many who acknowledge the sovereign rule of God over material things, will cavil and quibble when we insist that God is also sovereign in the spiritual realm. But their quarrel is with God and not with us. We have given scripture in support of everything advanced in these pages, and if that will not satisfy our readers it is idle for us to seek to convince them. What we write now is designed for those who do bow to the authority of Holy Writ, and for their benefit we propose to examine several other scriptures which have purposely been held over for this chapter.
Perhaps the one passage which has presented the greatest difficulty to those who have seen that passage after passage in Holy Writ plainly teaches the election of a limited number unto salvation is 2 Peter 3:9: "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance".
The first thing to be said upon the above passage is that, like all other scripture, it must be understood and interpreted in the light of its context. What we have quoted in the preceding paragraph is only part of the verse, and the last part of it at that! Surely it must be allowed by all that the first half of the verse needs to be taken into consideration. In order to establish what these words are supposed by many to mean, viz., that the words "any" and "all" are to be received without any qualification, it must be shown that the context is referring to the whole human race! If this cannot be shown, if there is no premise to justify this, then the conclusion also must be unwarranted. Let us then ponder the first part of the verse.
"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise". Note "promise" in the singular number, not "promises." What promise is in view? The promise of salvation? Where, in all Scripture, has God ever promised to save the whole human race!! Where indeed? No, the "promise" here referred to is not about salvation. What then is it? The context tells us.
"Knowing this, first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming?" (vv. 3,4). The context then refers to God’s promise to send back His beloved Son. But many long centuries have passed, and this promise has not yet been fulfilled. True, but long as the delay may seem to us, the interval is short in the reckoning of God. As the proof of this we are reminded, "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (v. 8). In God’s reckoning of time, less than two days have yet passed since He promised to send back Christ.
But more, the delay in the Father sending back His beloved Son is not only due to no "slackness" on His part, but it is also occasioned by His "longsuffering". His long-suffering to whom? The verse we are now considering tells us: "but is longsuffering to usward"And whom are the "usward"?—the human race, or God’s own people? In the light of the context this is not an open question upon which each of us is free to form an opinion. The Holy Spirit has defined it. The opening verse of the chapter says, "This second Epistle, beloved, I now write unto you". And, again, the verse immediately preceding declares, "But, beloved,be not ignorant of this one thing etc.," (v. 8). The "usward" then are the "beloved" of God. They to whom this Epistle is addressed are "them that have obtained (not "exercised", but "obtained" as God’s sovereigngift) like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 1:11). Therefore we say there is no room for a doubt, a quibble or an argument—the "usward" are the elect of God.
Let us now quote the verse as a whole: "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." Could anything be clearer? The "any" that God is not willing should perish, are the "usward" to whom God is "longsuffering", the "beloved" of the previous verses. 2 Peter 3:9 means, then, that God will not send back His Son until "the fulness of the Gentiles be come in" (Rom. 11:25). God will not send back Christ till that "people" whom He is now "taking out of the Gentiles" (Acts 15:14) are gathered in. God will not send back His Son till the Body of Christ is complete, and that will not be till the ones whom He has elected to be saved in this dispensation shall have been brought to Him. Thank God for His "longsuffering to us-ward". Had Christ come back twenty years ago the writer had been left behind to perish in His sins. But that could not be, so God graciously delayed the Second Coming. For the same reason He is still delaying His Advent. His decreed purpose is that all His elect will come to repentance, and repent they shall. The present interval of grace will not end until the last of the "other sheep" of John 10:16 are safely folded,—then will Christ return,
In expounding the sovereignty of God the Spirit in Salvation we have shown that His power is irresistible, that, by His gracious operations upon and within them, He "compels" God’s elect to come to Christ. The sovereignty of the Holy Spirit is set forth not only in John 3:8 where we are told "The wind bloweth where it pleaseth. . . . . .so is every one that is born of the Spirit," but is affirmed in other passages as well. In 1 Corinthians 12:11 we read, "But all these worketh that one and the self same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will." And again; we read in Acts 16:6, 7— "Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Spirit to preach the Word in Asia. After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go in to Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not." Thus we see how the Holy Spirit interposed His imperial will in opposition to the determination of the apostles.
But, it is objected against the assertion that the will and power of the Holy Spirit are irresistible that there are two passages, one in the Old Testament and the other in the New, which appear to militate against such a conclusion. God said of old, "My Spirit shall not always strivewith man" (Gen. 6:3), and to the Jews Stephen declared, "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?" (Acts 7:51, 52). If then the Jews "resisted" the Holy Spirit, how can we say His power is irresistible? The answer is found in Nehemiah 9:30—"Many years didst Thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by Thy Spirit in Thy Prophets: yet would they not give ear." It was the external operations of the Spirit which Israel "resisted." It was the Spirit speaking by and through the prophets to which they "would not give ear." It was not anything which the Holy Spirit wrought in them that they "resisted," but the motivespresented to them by the inspired messages of the prophets. Perhaps it will help the reader to catch our thought better if we compare Matthew 11:20-24"Then began He to upbraid the cities wherein most of His mighty works were done, because they repented not. Woe unto thee Chorazin!" etc. Our Lord here pronounces woe upon these cities for their failure to repent because of the "mighty works" (miracles) which He had done in their sight, and not because of any internaloperations of His grace! The same is true of Genesis 6:3. By comparing 1 Peter 3:18-20 it will be seen that it was by and through Noah that God’s Spirit "strove" with the antediluvians. The distinction noted above was ably summarized by Andrew Fuller (another writer long deceased from whom our moderns might learn much) thus: "There aretwo kinds of influences by which God works on the minds of men. First, That which is common, and which is effected by the ordinary use of motives presented to the mind for consideration; Secondly, That which is special and supernatural. The one contains nothing mysterious, anymore than the influence of our words and actions on each other; the other is such a mystery that we know nothing of it but by its effects—The former ought to be effectual; the latter is so." The work of the Holy Spirit upon or towards men is always "resisted," by them; His work within is always successful. What saith the scriptures? This: "He which hath begun a good work IN you, will finish it" (Phil. 1:6)
The next question to be considered is: Why preach the Gospel to every creature? If God the Father has predestined only a limited number to be saved, if God the Son died to effect the salvation of only those given to Him by the Father, and if God the Spirit is seeking to quicken none save God’s elect, then what is the use of giving the Gospel to the world at large, and where is the propriety of telling sinners that "Whosoever believeth in Christ shall not perish but have everlasting life"?
First; it is of great importance that we should be clear upon the natureof the Gospel itself. The Gospel is God’s good news concerning Christ and not concerning sinners,— "Paul a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the Gospel of God . . . . concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 1:1-3). God would have proclaimed far and wide the amazing fact that His own blessed Son "became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." A universal testimony must be borne to the matchless worth of the person and work of Christ. Note the word "witness" in Matthew 22:14. The Gospel is God’s "witness" unto the perfections of His Son. Mark the words of the apostle: "For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish" (2 Cor. 2:15)!
Concerning the character and contents of the Gospel the utmost confusion prevails today. The Gospel is not an "offer" to be bandied around by evangelistic peddlers. The Gospel is no mere invitation, but a proclamation, a proclamation concerning Christ; true, whether men believe it or no. No man is asked to believe that Christ died for him in particular. The Gospel, in brief, is this: Christ died for sinners, you are a sinner, believe in Christ, and you shall be saved. In the Gospel, God simply announces the terms upon which men may be saved (namely, repentance and faith) and, indiscriminately, all are commanded to fulfill them.
Second; repentance and remission of sins are to be preached in the name of the Lord Jesus "unto all the nations" (Luke 24:47), because God’s elect are "scattered abroad" (John 11:52) among all nations, and it is by the preaching and hearing of the Gospel that they are called out of the world. The Gospel is the means which God uses in the saving of His own chosen ones. By nature God’s elect are children of wrath "even as others"; they are lost sinners needing a Saviour, and apart from Christ there is no salvation for them. Hence, the Gospel must be believed by them before they can rejoice in the knowledge of sins forgiven. The Gospel is God’s winnowing fan: it separates the chaff from the wheat, and gathers the latter into His garner.
Third; it is to be noted that God has other purposes in the preaching of the Gospel than the salvation of His own elect. The world exists for the elect’s sake, yet others have the benefit of it. So the Word is preached for the elect’s sake, yet others have the benefit of an external call. The sun shines, though blind men see it not. The rain falls upon rocky mountains and waste deserts, as well as on the fruitful valleys; so also, God suffers the Gospel to fall on the ears of the non-elect. The power of the Gospel is one of God’s agencies for holding in check the wickedness of the world. Many who are never saved by it arereformed, their lusts are bridled, and they are restrained from becoming worse. Moreover, the preaching of the Gospel to the non-elect is made an admirable test of their characters. It exhibits the inveteracy of their sin: it demonstrates that their hearts are at enmity against God: it justifies the declaration of Christ that "men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19).
Finally; it is sufficient for us to know that we are bidden to preach the Gospel to every creature. It is not for us to reason about theconsistency between this and the fact that "few are chosen." It is for us to obey. It is a simple matter to ask questions relating to the ways of God which no finite mind can fully fathom. We, too, might turn and remind the objector that our Lord declared, "Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme. But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit hath never forgiveness" (Mark 3:28, 29), and there can be no doubt whatever but that certain of the Jews wereguilty of this very sin (see Matt. 12:24 etc.), and hence their destruction was inevitable. Yet, notwithstanding, scarcely two months later, He commanded His disciples to preach the Gospel to everycreature. When the objector can show us the consistency of these two things—the fact that certain of the Jews had committed the sin for which there is never forgiveness, and the fact that to them the Gospel was to be preached—we will undertake to furnish a more satisfactory solution than the one given above to the harmony between a universalproclamation of the Gospel and a limitation of its saving power to those only that God has predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.
Once more, we say, it is not for us to reason about the Gospel; it is our business to preach it. When God ordered Abraham to offer up his son as a burnt-offering, he might have objected that this command was inconsistent with His promise "In Isaac shall thy seed be called." But instead of arguing he obeyed, and left God to harmonize His promise and His precept. Jeremiah might have argued that God had bade him do that which was altogether unreasonable when He said, "Therefore thou shalt speak all these words unto them; but they will not hearken to thee; thou shalt also call unto them; but they will not answer thee" (Jer. 7:27), but instead, the prophet obeyed. Ezekiel, too, might have complained that the Lord was asking of him a hard thing when He said, "Son of man, go, get thee unto the House of Israel, and speak with My words unto them. For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the House of Israel; Not to many people of a strange speech and of a hard language, whose words thou cans’t not understand. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee. But the House of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto Me; for all the House of Israel are impudent and hard hearted" (Ezek. 3:4-7).
"But, O my soul, if truth so bright
Should dazzle and confound thy sight,
Yet still His written Word obey,
And wait the great decisive day."—Watts.
It has been well said, "The Gospel has lost none of its ancient power. It is, as much today as when it was first preached, ‘the power of God unto salvation’. It needs no pity, no help, and no handmaid. It can overcome all obstacles, and break down all barriers. No human device need be tried to prepare the sinner to receive it, for if God has sent it no power can hinder it; and if He has not sent it, no power can make it effectual." (Dr. Bullinger).
This chapter might be extended indefinitely, but it is already too long, so a word or two more must suffice. A number of other questions will be dealt with in the pages yet to follow, and those that we fail to touch upon the reader must take to the Lord Himself who has said, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not" (James 1:5).

ENDNOTES:
[1] Romans 5 :8 is addressed to saints, and the “we” are the same ones as those spoken of in 8:29, 30. [2] Concerning the rich young ruler of whom it is said Christ “loved him” (Mark 10:21), we fully believe that he was one of God’s elect, and was “saved” sometime after his interview with our Lord. Should it be said this is an arbitrary assumption and assertion which lacks anything in the Gospel record to substantiate it, we reply, It is writ­ten, “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out,” and this man certainly did “come” to Him. Compare the case of Nicodemus. He, too, came to Christ, yet there is nothing in John 3 which intimates he was a saved man when the interview closed; nevertheless, we know from his later life that he was not “cast out.” [3] For a further discussion of John 3:16 see Appendix 3.

A.W. Pink - 'The Sovereignty of God' chapter 11