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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A.W, Pink: Gleanings in the Godhead - Part 1: The Excellencies Which Pertain to the Godhead as God, 4. The Foreknowledge of God



Gleanings in the Godhead



Part 1: Excellencies Which Pertain to the Godhead as God



4. The Foreknowledge of God








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What Controversies have been engendered by this subject in the past! But what truth of Holy Scripture is there which has not been the occasion of theological and ecclesiastical battles? The deity of Christ, His virgin birth, His atoning death, His second advent; the believer’s justification, sanctification, security; the church, its organization, officers, discipline; baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and a score of other precious truths might be mentioned. Yet, the controversies which have been waged over them did not close the mouths of God’s faithful servants. Why, then, should we avoid the vexing question of God’s foreknowledge, because some will charge us with fomenting strife? Let others contend if they will, our duty is to bear witness according to the light given us. 

There are two things concerning the foreknowledge of God about which many are in ignorance: the meaning of the term, and its Scriptural scope. Because this ignorance is so widespread, it is easy for preachers and teachers to palm off perversions of this subject, even upon the people of God. There is only one safeguard against error, that is to be established in the faith. For that there has to be prayerful, diligent study, and a receiving with meekness the engrafted Word of God. Only then are we fortified against the attacks of those who assail us. There are those who misuse this very truth to discredit and deny the absolute sovereignty of God in the salvation of sinners. Just as higher critics repudiate the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, and evolutionists, the work of God in creation, so some pseudo Bible teachers pervert His foreknowledge to set aside His unconditional election unto eternal life. 

When the blessed subject of divine foreordination is expounded, when God’s eternal choice of certain ones to be conformed to the image of His Son is set forth, the enemy sends along someone to argue that election is based upon the foreknowledge of God. This foreknowledge is interpreted to mean that God foresaw certain ones who would be more pliable than others and they would respond more readily to the strivings of the Spirit. So, because God knew they would believe, He predestinated them unto salvation. But such logic is radically wrong. It repudiates the truth of total depravity, for it argues that there is something good in some men. It takes away the independency of God, for it makes His decrees rest upon what He discovers in the creature.

It completely turns things upside down, for in saying God foresaw certain sinners who would believe in Christ, and because of this He predestinated them unto salvation, is the very reverse of the truth. Scripture affirms that God, in His sovereignty, singled out certain ones to be recipients of His distinguishing favors (Acts 13:48); therefore He determined to bestow upon them the gift of faith. False theology makes God’s foreknowledge of our believing the cause of His election to salvation. However, God’s election is the cause, and our believing in Christ the effect.

Before we proceed further with this much misunderstood theme, let us define our terms. What is meant by "foreknowledge"? "To know beforehand" is the ready reply of many. But we must not jump to conclusions, nor must we turn to Webster’s dictionary as the final court of appeal, for it is not a matter of the etymology of the term employed. What we need is to find out how the word is used in Scripture. The Holy Spirit’s usage of an expression always defines its meaning and scope. Failure to apply this simple rule is responsible for so much confusion and error. So many people assume they already know the significance of a certain word used in Scripture, then they are too dilatory to test their assumptions with a concordance. Let us amplify.

Take the word "flesh." Its meaning appears so obvious that many would regard it as a waste of time to look up its various connections in Scripture. It is hastily assumed that the word is synonymous with the physical body, so no inquiry is made. But, in fact, flesh in Scripture frequently includes far more than what is corporeal; all that is embraced by the term can only be ascertained by a diligent comparison of every occurrence of it and by a study of each separate context.

Take the word "world." The average Bible reader imagines this word is the equivalent for the human race, and consequently, many passages where the term is found are wrongly interpreted. Take the word "immortality." Surely it requires no study! Obviously it has reference to the indestructibility of the soul. Ah, but it is wrong to assume anything where the Word of God is concerned. If the reader will take the trouble to carefully examine each passage where "mortal" and "immortal" are found, it will be seen these words are never applied to the soul, but always to the body.

Now what has just been said on "flesh," the "world," "immortality," applies with equal force to the terms "know" and "foreknow." Instead of imagining that these words signify no more than a simple cognition, carefully weigh the different passages in which they occur. The word "foreknowledge" is not found in the Old Testament. But "know" occurs there frequently. When that term is used in connection with God, it often signifies to regard with favor, denoting not mere cognition but an affection for the object in view. "I know thee by name" (Ex. 33:17). "Ye have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you" (Deut. 9:24). "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee" (Jer. 1:5). "They have made princes, and I knew not" (Hosea 8:4). "You only have I known of all the families of the earth" (Amos 3:2). In these passages "knew" signifies either "loved" or "appointed."

In like manner, the word "know" is frequently used in the New Testament, in the same sense as in the Old. "Then will I profess unto them, I never knew you" (Matthew 7:23). "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine" (John 10:14). "If any man love God, the same is known of him" (1 Cor. 8:3). "The Lord knoweth them that are his" (2 Tim. 2:19).

Now the word "foreknowledge" as it is used in the New Testament is less ambiguous than in its simple form "to know." If you carefully study every passage in which it occurs, you will discover that it is a moot point whether it ever has reference to the mere perception of events yet to take place. The fact is that foreknowledge is never used in Scripture in connection with events or actions; instead, it always refers to persons. It is persons God is said to "foreknow," not the actions of those persons. To prove this we will quote each passage where this expression is found.

The first occurs in Acts 2:23: "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." Careful attention to the wording of this verse shows that the apostle was not speaking of God’s foreknowledge of the act of the crucifixion, but of the Person crucified: "Him (Christ) being delivered by."

The second is Romans 8:29-30: "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called." Weigh well the pronoun used here. It is not what He did foreknow, but whom He did. It is not the surrendering of their wills nor the believing of their hearts, but the persons themselves, which is in view.

"God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew" (Rom. 11:2). Once more the plain reference is to persons, and to persons only.

The last mention is in 1 Peter 1:2: "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father." Who are "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father?" The previous verse tells us the reference is to the "strangers scattered," i.e., the diaspora, the dispersion, the believing Jews. Thus, the reference is to persons, and not to their foreseen acts.

Now in view of these passages (and there are no more) what scriptural ground is there for anyone to say God "foreknew" the acts of certain ones, i.e., their "repenting and believing," and that because of those acts He elected them unto salvation? The answer is, None whatever. Scripture never speaks of repentance and faith as being foreseen or foreknown by God. Truly, He did know from all eternity that certain ones would repent and believe, yet this is not what Scripture refers to as the object of God’s foreknowledge. The word uniformly refers to God’s foreknowing persons; then let us "hold fast the form of sound words" (2 Tim. 1:13).

Another thing we want to call particular attention to is that the first two passages quoted above show plainly and teach implicitly that God’s foreknowledge is not causative, that instead, something else lies behind, precedes it—something that is His own sovereign decree. Christ was "delivered by the (1) determinate counsel and (2) foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). His counsel or decree was the ground of His foreknowledge. So again in Romans 8:29. That verse opens with the word "for," which tells us to look back to what immediately precedes. What, then, does the previous verse say? This, "all things work together for good to them . . . who are the called according to His purpose." Thus God’s "foreknowledge" is based upon His "purpose" or decree (see Psalm 2:7).

God foreknows what will be because He has decreed it. It is therefore a reverse order of Scripture, putting the cart before the horse, to affirm that God elects because He foreknows people. The truth is, He foreknows because He has elected. This removes the cause of election from outside the creature, and places it in God’s own sovereign will. God purposed in Himself to elect a certain people, not because of anything good in them or from them, either actual or foreseen, but solely out of His own pleasure.

Why He chose the ones He did, we do not know. We can only say, "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight." The plain truth of Romans 8:29 is that God, before the foundation of the world, singled out certain sinners and appointed them unto salvation (2 Thess. 2:13). This is clear from the concluding words of the verse: "Predestinated to be conformed to the image of His son." God did not predestinate those whom He foreknew were conformed. On the contrary, those whom He foreknew (i.e., loved and elected) He predestinated "to be conformed." Their conformity to Christ is not the cause, but the effect of God’s foreknowledge and predestination.

God did not elect any sinner because He foresaw that he would believe, for the simple but sufficient reason that no sinner ever believes until God gives him faith; just as no man sees until God gives him sight. Sight is God’s gift, seeing is the consequence of my using His gift. So faith is God’s gift (Eph. 2:8-9), believing is the consequence of my using His gift. If it were true that God had elected certain ones to be saved because in due time they would believe, then that would make believing a meritorious act. In that event the saved sinner would have ground for "boasting," which Scripture emphatically denies (Eph. 2:9).

Surely God’s Word is plain enough in teaching that believing is not a meritorious act. It affirms that Christians are a people "which had believed through grace" (Acts 18:27). If, then, they have believed "through grace," there is absolutely nothing meritorious about believing; if nothing meritorious, it could not be the ground or cause which moved God to choose them. No! God’s choice proceeds not from anything in us, or anything from us, but solely from His own sovereign pleasure. Once more, we read of "a remnant according to the election of grace" (Rom. 11:5). There it is, plain enough; election itself is of grace, and grace is unmerited favor, something for which we had no claim upon God whatsoever.

It is highly important for us to have clear and scriptural views of the foreknowledge of God. Erroneous conceptions about it lead inevitably to thoughts most dishonoring to Him. The popular idea of divine foreknowledge is altogether inadequate. God not only knew the end from the beginning, but also He planned, fixed, predestinated everything from the beginning. And, as cause stands to effect, so God’s purpose is the ground of His prescience. If then the reader is a real Christian, he is so because God chose him in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4); and chose not because He foresaw you would believe, but simply because it pleased Him to choose; chose you notwithstanding your natural unbelief. This being so, all glory and praise belongs alone to Him. You have no ground for taking any credit to yourself. You have "believed through grace" (Acts 18:27), and that, because your very election was "of grace" (Rom. 11:5).

HT: PB Ministries

Bible Q&A WIth John MacArthur: Angelic Conflict (Jude 9)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Spurgeon Monday: The Faithfulness of Jesus (Sermons on the Gospel of John)



The Faithfulness of Jesus

A Sermon
(No. 810)
Delivered on Sunday Morning, May 10th, 1868, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.


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"Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end."—John 13:1.
WE SHALL CONSIDER these words first in their evident relation to the apostles, and those who were the companions of Jesus during his sojourn on earth, and afterwards we shall take them in their broader signification, as relating to all the Lord's own whom he loves and will love even to the end.
"Having loved his own." Those four words are a brief but complete summary of the Savior's conduct towards his disciples. He always loved them. There was never a single action or word which was contrary to the rule of love. He loved them with a love of pity when he saw them in their lost estate, and he called them out of it to be his disciples; touched with a feeling of their infirmities he loved them with a tender and prudent affection, and sought to train and educate them, that after his departure they might be good soldiers of his cross; he loved them with a love of complacency as he walked and talked with them and found solace in their company. Even when he rebuked them he loved them. He subjected them to many trials: for his sake they renounced all that they had; they shared his daily cross-bearing and hourly persecution, but love reigned supreme and undiminished and it all. On Tabor or in Gethsemane he loved his own; alone or in the crowd his heart was true to them; in life and in death his affection failed not. He "loved his own which were in the world." It is a multum in parvo, a condensed life of Christ, a miniature of Jesus the Lover of souls. As you read the wonderful story of the four evangelists, you see how true it is that Jesus loved his own: let me cast in by way of interjection, this sentence, that when you come to read your own life's story in the light of the New Jerusalem, you will find it to be true also concerning your Lord and yourself. If you are indeed the Lord's own, he at all times deals lovingly with you, and never acts in unkindness or wrath.

"He may chasten and correct,
But he never can neglect;
May in faithfulness reprove,
But he ne'er can cease to love."

Our Savior's faithfulness towards the chosen band whom he had elected into his fellowship was most remarkable. He had selected persons who must have been but poor companions for one of so gigantic a mind and so large a heart. He must have been greatly shocked at their worldliness. They groveled in the dust when he mounted to the stars. He was thinking of the baptism wherewith he was to he baptized, and he was straitened until it was accomplished, but they were disputing which among them should he the greatest. He was ready to deny himself that he might do his Father's will, and meanwhile they were asking to sit on his right hand and on his left hand in his kingdom. They often misunderstood him because of the carnality of their mind; and when he warned them of an evil leaven, they thought of the loaves, which they had forgotten. Earth-worms are miserable company for angels, moles but unhappy company for eagles, yet love made our great Master endure the society of his ignorant and carnal followers. They were but babes in Christ, and possessed but slight illumination, and yet for all that, he who knew all things and is the wisdom of God, condescended to call them his mother, and sister, and brother.
Worse than the fact of their natural worldliness perhaps, was the apparent impossibility of lifting them out of that low condition; for though never man spake as he spake, how little did they understand! and though he took them aside and said to them, "Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God," yet after many and plain teachings he was compelled to say to one of the best of them, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip?" They were dull scholars. There is no teacher here who could have had patience with such heavy intellects, but our Lord and Master's love remained evermore at flood-tide, notwithstanding their incorrigible stupidity. His love was stronger than their unbelief and ignorance. 
My brethren, when we love a person, we expect to have some little sympathy from him in the great design and aim of our life. I suppose it would he difficult to maintain any deep affection towards persons who had no sort of communion with us in our all-absorbing passion; and yet it was so, that our Lord loved disciples who could not be brought to enter at all into the spirit which ruled and governed him. They would have taken him and forced upon him a crown, while he sought only for a cross. They imagined and desired for him the worldly splendor of a terrestrial throne; but he foresaw the reality of glory in sweat of blood and cruel death. Our Lord was all for self-denial, employing himself and acting as the Servant of servants. They could not comprehend the rule of self-sacrifice which governed his actions, nor could they see what he aimed at. Had they dared, they would rather have thwarted than assisted him in his self-sacrificing mission. They were fools and slow of heart to understand, even though again he plainly told them of his decease. When he set his face steadfastly towards Jesusalem, humanly speaking he needed friends to have aided and abetted him in his high resolve, but he found no help in them. When, in that dark, that dreadful night, he bowed in prayer, and sweat the bloody sweat, he went backward and forward thrice, as if seeking a little sympathy from men so dearly loved; but he had to complain of them, "What, could ye not watch with me one hour?" Still, having loved them, neither their worldliness nor their stupidity, nor their want of sympathy with him could prevent him from loving them unto the end. Many waters could not quench his love, neither could the floods drown it.
The Redeemer's love was made to endure even sterner strains than these. On one or two occasions certain of them were even guilty of impertinence. It was no small trial to the Savior's affection when Peter took him and began to rebuke him. Peter rebuking his Master! Surely thy Lord will have done with thee, thou son of Jonas! The Lord turned him about and said, "Get thee behind me, Satan!" but after using that strong expression to rebuke a temptation which was evidently Satanic, his affection to Peter remained unabated. That was a stern trial, too, when at a later period than our text, "all the disciples forsook him and fled;" when not even the loving John remained constant to his Master in the hour of betrayal; when one, the boldest of them, with oaths and cursing said, "I know not the man." Carrying the text beyond its original position, we may say that over the head of all infirmities, ignorances, selfishnesses, desertions, and denials, Jesus Christ, who had loved his own that were in the world, loved them to the end. It was not possible for them, with all their follies, failings, and sins, to break through the magic circle of his affection; he had hedged them in once for all, bad bound them to himself with bonds firmer than brass, and stronger than triple steel, and neither could the temptations of hell, nor the suggestions of their own corruption's, tear them from his heart. The attachments of Jesus were abiding; fickleness and instability could never be charged on him. Others love for a little while and then grow cold; they profess eternal attachment and yet forsake; they admire and esteem us till a slight misunderstanding snaps every bond of friendship; but our Lord was the mirror of constancy, the pattern of fidelity, the paragon of unchanging love. As Jonathan clave to David, even so did Jesus cleave to his people.
The proofs which our Lord gave of his love to his people were very many, and for a little while we will ponder them: they will all go to prove that he loved his people, even to perfection, as the text may be read. Observe how our Master, having chosen to himself a people, proved his love by his continual companionship. He sought no other company than theirs among the sons of men. There were minds far deeper in philosophic lore, but he communed not with them; there were the great and mighty of this world, but our Savior did not court them; he was content to dwell among his own people; he had made his choice and to that choice he kept—fishermen and peasants were his bosom friends. You would not expect a master to find rest in the society of his scholars; you do not expect men of mind and mark affectionately to consort with those who are far beneath them in attainments; and yet herein was love, that Jesus, passing by angels, and kings, and sages, chose for his companions unlettered men and women. Those fishermen of Galilee were his companions at all times; and only when he withdrew himself into the silent Mount, and the shadows of midnight, did he remove the link of companionship from them, and then only that he might make intercession for them with the eternal God. Yes, it was a deep proof of the unlimited love of Jesus, a sure sign of its going to the end and verge of possibilities, that he abode so long in affectionate fellowship with so poor, so illiterate, so earthbound a company of men.  (Please click here to continue reading, “The Faithfulness of Jesus”)

YouTube: Ray Comfort witnesses to a Catholic, Muslim, and Hindu at the same time (Living Waters University)

Bible Q&A With John MacArthur: Paul's Doubts About the Galatians (Galatians 4)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A.W. Pink: Gleanings In The Godhead, Part 1. The Excellencies Which Pertain to the The Godhead of God - 3. The Knowlege of God



Gleanings in the Godhead


Part 1: Excellencies Which Pertain to the Godhead as God

3. The Knowledge of God



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God Is Omniscient. He knows everything; everything possible, everything actual; all events, all creatures, of the past, the present, and the future. He is perfectly acquainted with every detail in the life of every being in heaven, in earth, and in hell. "He knoweth what is in the darkness" (Dan. 2:22). Nothing escapes His notice, nothing can be hidden from Him, nothing is forgotten by Him. Well may we say with the psalmist, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it" (Ps. 139:6). His knowledge is perfect. He never errs, never changes, never overlooks anything. "Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do" (Heb. 4:13). Such is the God with whom we "have to do"! 

"Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether" (Ps. 139:2-4). What a wondrous Being is the God of Scripture! Each of His glorious attributes should render Him honorable in our esteem. In apprehension of His omniscience we ought to bow in adoration before Him. Yet how little do we meditate upon this divine perfection! Is it because the very thought of it fills us with uneasiness?

How solemn is this fact: nothing can be concealed from God! "For I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them" (Ezek. 11:5). Though He be invisible to us, we are not so to Him. Neither the darkness of night, the closest curtains, nor the deepest dungeon can hide the sinner from the eyes of Omniscience. The trees of the garden were not able to conceal our first parents. No human eye beheld Cain murder his brother, but his Maker witnessed his crime. Sarah might laugh derisively in the seclusion of her tent, yet Jehovah heard it. Achan stole a wedge of gold and carefully hid it in the earth, but God brought it to light. David took great pains to cover up his wickedness, but the all-seeing God sent one of His servants to say to him, "Thou art the man!" To writer and reader also is said, "Be sure your sin will find you out" (Num. 32:23).

Men would strip Deity of His omniscience it they could—what a proof that "the carnal mind is enmity against God" (Rom. 8:7). The wicked do as naturally hate this divine perfection as much as they are naturally compelled to acknowledge it. They wish there might be no Witness of their sins, no Searcher of their hearts, no Judge of their deeds. They seek to banish such a God from their thoughts: "They consider not in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness" (Hosea 7:2). How solemn is Psalm 90:8. Good reason has every Christ-rejecter for trembling before it. "Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance."

But to the believer, the fact of God’s omniscience is a truth fraught with much comfort. In times of perplexity he says with Job, "But he knoweth the way that I take" (Job 23:10). It may be profoundly mysterious to me, quite incomprehensible to my friends, but "he knoweth"! In times of weariness and weakness believers assure themselves "He knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust" (Ps. 103:14). In times of doubt and suspicion they appeal to this very attribute, saying "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there by any wicked way in m e, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Ps. 139:23-24). In times of sad failure, when our actions have belied our hearts, when our deeds have repudiated our devotion, and the searching question comes to us, "Lovest thou Me?"; we say, as Peter did, "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee" (John 21:17).

Here is encouragement to prayer. There is no cause to fear that the petitions of the righteous will not be heard, or that their tears will escape the notice of God, since He knows the thoughts and intents of the heart. There is no danger of the individual saint being overlooked amidst the multitude of supplicants who hourly present their petitions, for an infinite Mind is as capable of paying the same attention to millions as if only one were seeking its attention. So, too, the lack of appropriate language, the inability to give expression to the deepest longing of the soul, will not jeopardize our prayers, for "It shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear" (Isa. 65:24).

"Great is our Lord, and of great power: His understanding is infinite" (Ps. 147:5). God knows whatsoever has happened in the past in every part of His vast domains, and He is thoroughly acquainted with everything that now transpires throughout the entire universe. But He also is perfectly cognizant with every event, from the least to the greatest, that will happen in ages to come. God’s knowledge of the future is as complete as His knowledge of the past and the present, because the future depends entirely upon Himself. Were it in anywise possible for something to occur apart from either the direct agency or permission of God, then that something would be independent of Him, and He would at once cease to be supreme.

Now the divine knowledge of the future is not a mere abstraction, but something inseparably connected with and accompanied by His purpose. God designed whatsoever shall yet be, and what He has designed must be effected. As His most sure Word affirms, "He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand" (Dan. 4:35). Again, "There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand" (Prov. 19:21). The wisdom and power of God being alike infinite, the accomplishment of whatever He hath purposed is absolutely guaranteed. It is no more possible for the divine counsels to fail in their execution than it would be for the thrice-holy God to lie.

Nothing relating to the future is uncertain so far as the actualization of God’s counsels are concerned. None of His decrees are left contingent either upon creatures or secondary causes. There is no future event which is only a mere possibility, that is, something which may or may not come to pass, "Known unto God are all His works from the beginning" (Acts 15:18). Whatever God has decreed is inexorably certain, for He is without variableness, or shadow of turning (James 1:17). Therefore we are told at the very beginning of that book which unveils to us so much of the future, "things which must shortly come: to pass" (Rev. 1:1).

The perfect knowledge of God is exemplified and illustrated in every prophecy recorded in His Word. In the Old Testament, scores of predictions concerning the history of Israel were fulfilled to their minutest detail, centuries after they were made. Scores more foretold the earthly career of Christ, and they, too, were accomplished literally and perfectly. Such prophecies could only have been given by One who knew the end from the beginning, whose knowledge rested upon the unconditional certainty of the accomplishment of everything foretold. In like manner, both Old and New Testaments contain many other announcements yet future. They, too, "must be fulfilled" (Luke 24:44), because they were foretold by Him who decreed them.

It should, however, be pointed out that neither God’s knowledge nor His cognition of the future, considered simply in themselves, are causative. Nothing has ever come to pass, or ever will, merely because God knew it. The cause of all things is the will of God. The man who really believes the Scriptures knows beforehand that the seasons will continue to follow each other with unfailing regularity to the end of earth’s history (Gen. 8:22), yet his knowledge is not the cause of their succession. So God’s knowledge does not arise from things because they are or will be, but because He has ordained them to be. God knew and foretold the crucifixion of His Son many hundreds of years before He became incarnate, and this, because in the Divine purpose, He was a Lamb slain from the foundation of the world: hence we read of His being "delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23).

A word or two of application. The infinite knowledge of God should fill us with amazement. How far exalted above the wisest man is the Lord! None of us knows what a day may bring forth, but all futurity is open to His omniscient gaze. The infinite knowledge of God ought to fill us with holy awe. Nothing we do, say, or even think, escapes the knowledge of Him with whom we have to do: "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good" (Prov. 15:3). What a curb this would be to us, if we meditated upon it more frequently! Instead of acting recklessly, we should say with Hagar, "Thou God seest me" (Gen. 16:13). The apprehension of God’s infinite knowledge should fill the Christian with adoration. The whole of my life stood open to His view from the beginning. He foresaw my every fall, my every sin, my every backsliding; yet, He fixed His heart upon me. Oh, how the realization of this should bow me in wonder and worship before Him!

HT: PB Ministries

YouTube: The Cross - Art Azurdia

Monday, January 17, 2011

Spurgeon Monday: Israel and Britain. A Note of Warning (Sermons on the Gospel of John)


Israel and Britain. A Note of Warning

 
A Sermon

(No. 1844)

Delivered on Lord's Day Morning, June 7th, 1885, by

C. H. SPURGEON,

At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington




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"But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: that the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him."—John 12:37-41.

HE BLINDNESS of Israel concerning our Lord was sadly remarkable. It was a blindness of the eyes, for they saw his many miracles, and yet believed not: their ears also seemed to be stopped, for they heard his words and did not understand them; and their hearts also were heavy, for they did not relent under the plaintive admonitions of a Saviour's love. Their hearts were cruel towards the Messiah; they hated him without a cause. No door was open to the heart of Israel; they had hardened their heart, they had shut their eyes, they had stopped their ears, and even he that spake as never man spake gained no access to their souls. They went so far as to crucify him, and cried as they did so, "His blood be on us, and our children,"—words so sadly verified when Jerusalem was destroyed, and her children slaughtered, sold as slaves, or scattered to the four corners of the earth. It was indeed, a terrible blindness which happened unto Israel.

Her rejection of the Lord Jesus is the more amazing because Isaiah gave so clear an account of the Messiah, and so clearly pictured Jesus of Nazareth. Descriptions of him could not have been more explicit than were the prophecies of Isaiah. It would be very easy to construct an entire life of Christ out of the book of Isaiah, beginning with "a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel," and ending with "he made his grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death." Isaiah spake of John the Baptist as the "voice crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God," and he foretold our Lord's ministry by the way of the sea beyond Jordan in Galilee of the Gentiles, where the people who sat in darkness saw great light. The prophecy portrayed his Lord as "despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." Clearest of all is he upon his vicarious sufferings, concerning which he uses a variety of most definite expressions, such as,—"The chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." Isaiah saw so clearly the day of our Lord Jesus that he spake rather as an evangelist than as a prophet; as an eyewitness, rather than as one foretelling a far-off event. Yet all this clearness was lost upon the men of his generation, and upon those who followed after. The nation had so long been fickle towards God, and had trifled so long with God's truth, that it was at length given up to a judicial hardness of heart, so that it could not understand or perceive. They refused the plainest messages of grace, and were so confirmed in unbelief that all their prophets cried with one plaintive voice, "Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?"

Nor was it alone grievous that Israel sinned against the light which shone in Isaiah's testimony; but, alas, she closed her eyes against the meridian splendour of our Lord's own life. Jesus bore his own witness in his person, teachings, works, and gifts. A sad wonder lies in the fact, that they did not know the Lord of glory although they saw his miracles, which were sure witnesses to his claims. He wrought among them works which none other man did. There is about our Lord a likeness to God: in all that he does the Godhead shines forth. He is so pure that he can say, "Which of you convinceth me of sin?" How like to him who is saluted as "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts!" His teaching is so full of tenderness and gentleness that since God is love, we conclude that Christ is God. His many miracles touch upon every point in the great circle of omnipotence. What is there that God can do which the Christ did not do? Was he not multiform and multitudinous in his works of power and grace? Herein lay the wonder, that though he did so many miracles before them, not in secret but actually before their eyes; though he fed them with bread which they could see, and handle, and eat; though he healed the sick and raised the dead, they yet believed not on him. How sadly far can men go in unbelief, prejudice, and hardness of heart! How dim can human eyes become when men refuse to see! How darkened the understanding when men are unwilling to comprehend! Let us tremble at this, lest ourselves by imitating the chosen people in their unbelief should fall into like bondage to prejudice and ignorance, lest we by tampering with truth should come at last to be incapable of perceiving it, lest we also by rejecting the testimony of God should be given up to our own willfulness, to believe a lie and refuse the truth. Such, then, as Isaiah had foreseen, was the state of Israel in our Lord's day: never clearer evidence, and never more obstinate refusal to see it; never truth more plain, and never rejection so determined. Woe to those who close their ears; for the day cometh when they shall no longer hear! Woe to those who shut their eyes to the light, for they shall ere long be made blind! Isaiah was informed that such would be the outcome of his ministry: the Lord bade him say to the people, "Hear ye indeed, but underststand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not." This must have been a very sad business for so generous and tender-hearted a man of God. It was painful to him to be so clear and yet to be so little understood. He was the Paul of the Old Testament; to him belonged fulness of knowledge, clearness of vision, plainness of speech, and faithfulness of spirit, and yet none of these things could make the people understand his message and receive it into their hearts. He was sublime in thought, attractive in word, and affectionate in spirit, and yet they did not believe his testimony; so that he must often have been astonished and heart-broken as he spake in vain to a people who were determined that they would not hear.

This morning I shall draw certain lessons for ourselves from the great evangelical prophet, his ministry, and the people to whom he ministered so vainly. Our first meditation shall be concerning Isaiah and his ministry: and our second shall be concerning the people to whom he spake. Alas! I fear that we who speak in the name of the Lord in these last days have also to deal with hearts that are gross, ears that are heavy, and eyes that are dimmed. Upon this generation also there is falling a measure of judicial withdrawal of light and discernment; and we also have to cry, "Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?"

I. First, then, let me speak with you CONCERNING ISAIAH AND HIS MINISTRY. Oh, that the Spirit of God may speak with power through me. Our text says two things of Isaiah: first, that "he saw his glory," and secondly, that "he spake of him."

The first statement is that Isaiah saw. Isaiah was a great seer: his prophesy begins thus,—"The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem." All prophets were more or less seers, and saw what they foretold; but Isaiah above others was endowed with the seeing and foreseeing faculty. He had the clearest sight, and for that reason he had the clearest speech. When a man speaks so that you cannot understand him, the usual reason is that he does not understand himself; and when a man speaks so as to be readily comprehended, it is because the thought in his own mind is well defined. He that would speak well must see well. Mark the two things in the text—"When Isaiah saw his glory, and spake of him."

In what sense is Isaiah said to have seen that which he spake? Does it not mean that he realized his thoughts? that they stood out vividly, so as to make a deep impression upon his own mind? Things to come were already come in his apprehension: he beheld what he believed, he felt what he foretold. He was not a dreamy person, maundering about half-fashioned, undeveloped thoughts; but he was a person who knew, and perceived, and felt what he preached. He saw with his soul what he set forth with his lips.

But what did he see? It is a most important thing that in these days you and I should see the same, for the same work lies before us among a people who are a repetition of that disobedient and gainsaying nation. Read, then, with care the sixth chapter of Isaiah. Open your Bibles and refer to the passage verse by verse.

First, what Isaiah saw was the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up. When the prophet went abroad among the people he heard them speaking against the Lord God; some contending for our deity and some for another; some leaning upon an arm of flesh, and others despising the promise of Jehovah the God of Israel. All this, I say, he saw out of doors, and he was troubled. But when he went into the sanctuary of God he saw the Lord sitting upon a throne : still reigning, still glorious, undisturbed by opposition. He must then have felt like David when he said, "Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against his anointed. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion." As David saw Christ upon the throne amid the strivings of the people, so did Isaiah see the Lord Jesus, not only upon the lowly mercy-seat, but upon a throne high and lifted up. I pray you, brethren, settle this in your hearts: our Lord is highly exalted as Lord of all. When you see evil occurrent, do not imagine that it defeats the eternal purposes of Jehovah: when you hear blasphemy and your blood runs cold, do not think that Christ has lost his glory: when men riot in sin, do not dream that the reins of affairs are out of Jesus' hands; for still he is "God over all, blessed for ever." My heart exalts this day, as, by undoubting faith, I am assured that he who died on Calvary is now exalted on high, far above all principalities and powers. "Thou art the King of glory, O Christ!" To thee our spirits ascribe infinite honour, world without end. Though the earth be removed, and the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, yet the Lord reigneth. He that died upon the tree is crowned with majesty, and all the angels of God worship him. "He must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet." Let us have no question about this; for if we have, we shall not be prepared to speak in the Lord's name with this evil generation. Amid the anarchy of the ages we see the glorious high throne of our redeeming Lord unmoved, unmovable: this is the rock of our refuge when the unsettled times rage about us like the waters of the troubled sea. We cannot be afraid, for Christ is on the throne.

Observe that in Isaiah's vision he not only saw the Lord "upon a throne high and lifted up," but he saw that "his train filled the temple." so that in that temple there was room for no one else. The robes of this great King filled all the holy place; and neither priests nor offerers could there find standing room. It is a great thing to see how Jesus fills the heavenly places; in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead. Let it be acknowledged to be so in heaven, for the glory of our Redeemer fills every street of the upper city, every mansion of the Father's house. In the church below, which is also his temple, among his spiritual people, the glory of the Lord Jesus engages and occupies every heart. They feel that there is none other in whom they can trust, none other whose words they will receive, none other in whom they glory; the Lord Christ is all in all to us, and we know no other Master or Saviour. His train fills the temple. I trust it is so among us. From Sabbath to Sabbath the one glory of this Tabernacle is the person and work of Jesus. What a glory hath God put upon the Only Begotten Son, whom he hath raised from the dead that he should be head over all things to his church, which he fills with his life, light, and love. Nor may we forget that all the things that exist are in a sense his temple, and the whole universe is filled with his train; for "he hath ascended up far above all heavens that he might fill all things." Glory be unto our ascended and reigning Lord. (Please click here to continue reading, “Israel and Britain: A Note of Warning)

YouTube: Spiritual Warfare by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A.W. Pink: Gleanings In The Godhead, Part 1. The Excellencies Which Pertain to the The Godhead of God - 2. The Decress of God


Gleanings in the Godhead

Part 1: Excellencies Which Pertain to the Godhead as God

2. The Decrees of God



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The Decree Of God is His purpose or determination with respect to future things. We have used the singular number as Scripture does (Rom. 8:28; Ephesians 3:11), because there was only one act of His infinite mind about future things. But we speak as if there had been many, because our minds are only capable of thinking of successive revolutions, as thoughts and occasions arise, or in reference to the various objects of His decree, being many, they seem to us to require a distinct purpose for each. But an infinite understanding does not proceed by steps, from one stage to another: "Known unto God are all His works, from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:18).

The Scriptures mention the decrees of God in many passages, and in a variety of terms. The word "decree" is found in Psalm 2:7. In Ephesians 3:11 we see His "eternal purpose;" in Acts 2:23, His "determinate counsel and foreknowledge;" in Ephesians 1:9, the mystery of His "will;" in Romans 8:29 that He also did "predestinate;" in Ephesians 1:9, His "good pleasure." God’s decrees are called His "counsel" to signify they are consummately wise. They are called God’s "will" to show He was under no control, but acted according to His own pleasure. When a man’s will is the rule of his conduct, it is usually capricious and unreasonable; but wisdom is always associated with will in the divine proceedings, and accordingly, God’s decrees are said to be "the counsel of his own will" (Eph. 1:11).

The decrees of God relate to all future things without exception; whatever is done in time, was foreordained before time began. God’s purpose was concerned with everything, whether great or small, whether good or evil. But with reference to the latter we must be careful to state that while God is the Orderer and Controller of sin, He is not the Author of it in the same way that He is the Author of good. Sin could not proceed from a Holy God by positive and direct creation, but only by decretive permission and negative action. God’s decree, as comprehensive as His government, extends to all creatures and events. It was concerned about our life and death; about our state in time, and our state in eternity. As God works all things after the counsel of His own will, we learn from His works what His counsel is (was), as we judge an architect’s plan by inspecting the building erected under his direction.

God did not merely decree to make man, place him upon the earth, then leave him to his own uncontrolled guidance. Instead, He fixed all the circumstances in the lot of individuals, and all the particulars which comprise the history of the human race from commencement to close. He did not merely decree that general laws should be established for the government of the world, but He settled the application of those laws to all particular cases. Our days are numbered, and so are the hairs of our heads. We may learn what is the extent of the divine decrees from the dispensations of providence in which they are executed. The care of Providence reaches to the most insignificant creatures, and the most minute events—the death of a sparrow, the fall of a hair. 

Let us now consider some of the properties of the divine decrees. First, they are eternal. To suppose any of them to be made in time, is to suppose that some new occasion has occurred, some unforeseen event or combination of circumstances has arisen, which has induced the Most High to form a new resolution. This would argue that the knowledge of the Deity is limited, and that He grows wiser in the progress of time—which would be horrible blasphemy. No man who believes that the divine understanding is infinite, comprehending the past, the present, and the future, will ever assent to the erroneous doctrine of temporal decrees. God is not ignorant of future events which will be executed by human volitions; He has foretold them in innumerable instances, and prophecy is but the manifestation of His eternal prescience. Scripture affirms that believers were chosen in Christ before the world began (Eph. 1:4), yes, that grace was "given" to them then (2 Tim. 1:19). 

Second, the decrees of God are wise. Wisdom is shown in the selection of the best possible ends and the fittest means to accomplish them. That this character belongs to the decrees of God is evident from what we know of them. They are disclosed to us by their execution, and every proof of wisdom in the works of God is a proof of the wisdom of the plan, in conformity to which they are performed. As the psalmist declared, "O LORD how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all" (Ps. 104:24). It is indeed but a very small part of them which falls under our observation, yet, we ought to proceed here as we do in other cases, and judge of the whole by the specimen, of what is unknown by what is known. He who sees the workings of admirable skill in the parts of a machine which he has an opportunity to examine is naturally led to believe that the other parts are equally admirable. In like manner should we satisfy our minds as to God’s works when doubts obtrude themselves upon us, and repel the objections which may be suggested by something we cannot reconcile to our notions of what is good and wise. When we reach the bounds of the finite and gaze toward the mysterious realm of the infinite, let us exclaim, "O, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!" (Rom. 11:33).

Third, they are free. "Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understanding?" (Isa. 40:13-14). God was alone when He made His decrees, and His determinations were influenced by no external cause. He was free to decree or not to decree, and to decree one thing and not another. This liberty we must ascribe to Him who is supreme, independent, and sovereign in all His doings.

Fourth, they are absolute and unconditional. The execution of them is not suspended upon any condition which may, or may not be, performed. In every instance where God has decreed an end, He has also decreed every means to that end. The One who decreed the salvation of His elect also decreed to work faith in them (2 Thess. 2:13). "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure" (Isa. 46:10); but that could not be, if His counsel depended upon a condition which might not be performed. But God "worketh all things after the counsel of his own will" (Eph. 1:11).

Side by side with the immutability and invincibility of God’s decrees, Scripture plainly teaches that man is a responsible creature and answerable for his actions. If our thoughts are formed from God’s Word, the maintenance of the one will not lead to the denial of the other. That there is a real difficulty in defining where the one ends and the other begins is freely granted. This is always the case where there is a conjunction of the divine and the human. Real prayer is composed by the Spirit, yet it is also the cry of a human heart. The Scriptures are the inspired Word of God, yet they were written by men who were something more than machines in the hand of the Spirit. Christ is both God and man. He is omniscient, yet "increased in wisdom" (Luke 2:52). He is almighty, yet was "crucified through weakness" (2 Cor. 13:4). He is the Prince of life, yet He died. High mysteries all—yet faith receives them unquestioningly.

It has been pointed out often in the past that every objection against the eternal decrees of God applies with equal force against His eternal foreknowledge. Jonathan Edwards said:

Whether God has decreed all things that ever come to pass or not, all that own the being of a God, own that He knows all things beforehand. Now, it is self-evident that if He knows all things beforehand, He either doth approve of them or doth not approve of them; that is, He either is willing they should be, or He is not willing they should be. But to will that they should be is to decree them.

Finally, attempt to assume and then contemplate the opposite. To deny the divine decrees would be to predicate a world and all its concerns regulated by undesigned chance or blind fate. Then what peace, what assurance, what comfort would there be for our poor hearts and minds? What refuge would there be to fly to in the hour of trial? None at all. There would be nothing better than the black darkness and abject horror of atheism. How thankful we should be that everything is determined by infinite wisdom and goodness! What praise and gratitude are due unto God for His divine decrees. Because of them, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28). Well may we exclaim, "For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen" (Rom. 11:36).

HT:  PB Ministries

Bible Q&A With John MacArthur: Work Out Your Salvation (Philippians 2:12)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Spurgeon Monday: Christ Lifted Up (Sermons on the Gospel of John)



Christ Lifted Up


A Sermon

(No. 139)

Delivered on Sabbath Morning, July 5, 1857, by the

REV. C. H. Spurgeon

at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.





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"And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me."—John 12:32.


IT was an extraordinary occasion upon which the Saviour uttered these words. It was the crisis of the world. We very often speak of the "present crisis of affairs," and it is very common for persons of every period to believe their own age to be the crisis and turning point of the whole world's history. They rightly imagine that very much of the future depends upon their present exertions; but they wrongly stretch the thought, and imagine that the period of their existence is the very hinge of the history of the world: that it is the crisis. Now, however it may be correct, in a modified sense, that every period of time is in some sense a crisis, yet there never was a time which could be truly called a crisis, in comparison with the season when our Saviour spoke. In the 31st verse, immediately preceding my text, we find in the English translation, "Now is the judgment of this world;" but we find in the Greek, "Now is the crisis of this world." The world had come to a solemn crisis: now was the great turning point of all the world's history. Should Christ die, or should he not? If he would refuse the bitter cup of agony, the world is doomed, if he should pass onward, do battle with the powers of death and hell! and come off a victor, then the world is blessed, and her future shall be glorious. Shall he succumb? Then is the world crushed and ruined beneath the trail of the old serpent. Shall he conquer? Shall he lead captivity captive and receive gifts for men? Then this world shall yet see times when there shall be "a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." "Now is the crisis of this world!" "The crisis," he says, "is two-fold. Dealing with Satan and men. I will tell you the result of it. 'Now shall the prince of this world be cast out.' Fear not that hell shall conquer. I shall cast him out; and, on the other hand doubt not but that I shall be victorious over the hearts of men. 'I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.'" Remembering the occasion upon which these words were uttered, we shall now proceed to a discussion of them.


We have three things to notice. Christ crucified, Christ's glory. He calls it a lifting him up. Christ crucified, the minister's theme. It is the minister's business to lift Christ up in the gospel. Christ crucified, the heart's attraction. "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." His own glory—the minister's theme—the heart's attraction.


I. I begin then: CHRIST'S CRUCIFIXION IS CHRIST'S GLORY. He uses the word "lifted up" to express the manner of his death. "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die." But notice the choice of the word to express his death. He does not say, I, if I be crucified, I, if I be hanged on the tree; no, but "I if I be lifted up:" and in the Greek there is the meaning of exaltation. "I, if I be exalted—I if I be lifted on high." He took the outward and risible fashion of the cross, it being a lifting of him up, to be the type and symbol of the glory with which the cross should invest even him. "I, if I be lifted up."


Now, the cross of Christ is Christ's glory. We will show you how. Man seeks to win his glory by the slaughter of others—Christ by the slaughter of himself: men seek to get crowns of gold—he sought a crown of thorns: men think that glory lieth in being exalted over others—Christ thought that his glory did lie in becoming "a worm and no man," a scoff and reproach amongst all that beheld him. He stooped when he conquered; and he counted that the glory lay as much in the stooping as in the conquest.


Christ was glorified on the cross, we say, first, because love as always glorious. If I might prefer any glory, I should ask to be beloved by men. Surely, the greatest glory that a man can have among his fellows is not that of mere admiration, when they stare at him as he passes through the street, and throng the avenues to behold him as he rideth in his triumph; the greatest fame, the greatest glory of a patriot is the love of his country—to feel that young men and maidens, old men and sires, are prepared to fall at his feet in love, to give up all they have to serve him who has served them. Now, Christ won more love by the cross than he did ever win elsewhere. O Lord Jesus, thou wouldst never have been so much loved, if thou hadst sat in heaven for ever, as thou art now loved since thou hast stooped to death. Not cherubim and seraphim, and angels clad in light, ever could have loved with hearts so warm as thy redeemed above, or even thy redeemed below. Thou didst win love more abundantly by the nail than by thy scepter. Thine open side brought thee no emptiness of love, for thy people love thee with all their hearts. Christ won glory by his cross. He was never so lifted up as when he was cast down; and the Christian will bear witness, that though he loves his Master anywhere, yet nothing moves his heart to rapture and vehemence of love, like the story of the crucifixion and the agonies of Calvary.


Again: Christ at this time won much glory by fortitude. The cross was a trial of Christ's fortitude and strength, and therein it was a garden in which his glory might be planted. The laurels of his crown were sown in a soil that was saturated with his own blood. Sometimes the ambitious soldier pants for battle, because in days of peace he cannot distinguish himself. "Here I sit," saith he, "and rust my sword in my scabbard, and win no glory; let me rush to the cannon's mouth; though some call honor a Fainted bauble, it may be so, yet I am a soldier, and I want it "and he pants for the encounter that he may win glory. Now, in an infinitely higher sense than that poor glory which the soldier gets, Christ looked upon the cross as being his way to honor. "Oh!" said he, "now shall be the time of my endurance: I have suffered much, but I shall suffer more, and then shall the world see what a strong heart of love I have; how patient is the Lamb, how mighty to endure. Never would Christ have had such paeans of praise and such songs of honor as he now winneth, if he had avoided the conflict, and the battle, and the agony. We might have blessed him for what he is and for what he wished to do; we might have loved him for the very longings of his heart but we never could have praised him for his strong endurance, for his intrepid spirit, for his unconquerable love, if we had not seen him put to the severe test of crucifixion and the agonies of that awful day. Christ did win glory by his being crucified.


Again: Christ looked upon his crucifixion as the completion of all his work, and therefore he looked upon it as an exaltation. The completion of an enterprise is the harvest of its honor. Though thousands have perished in the arctic regions, and have obtained fame for their intrepid conduct, yet, my friends, the man who at last discovers the passage is the most of all honored; and though we shall for ever remember those bold men who pushed their way through winter in all its might, and dared the perils of the deep, yet the man who accomplishes the deed wins more than his share of the glory. Surely the accomplishment of an enterprise is just the point where the honor hangs. And, my hearers, Christ longed for the cross, because he looked for it as the goal of all his exertions. It was to be the place upon which he could say, "It is finished." He could never say "It is finished" on his throne: but on his cross he did cry it. He preferred the sufferings of Calvary to the honors of the multitude who crowded round about him; for, preach as he might, and bless them as he might, and heal them as he might, still was his work undone. He was straitened; he had a baptism to be baptized with, and how was he straitened till it was accomplished. "But," he said, "now I pant for my cross, for it is the topstone of my labor. I long for my sufferings, because they shall be the completion of my great work of grace." Brethren, it is the end that bringeth the honor; it is the victory that crowneth the warrior rather than the battle. And so Christ longed for this, his death, that he might see the completion of his labor. "Ay," said he, "when I am crucified, I am exalted, and lifted up."


And, once again, Christ looked upon his crucifixion with the eye of firm faith as the hour of triumph. His disciples thought that the cross would be a degradation; Christ looked through the outward and visible, and beheld the spiritual. "The cross," said he, "the gibbet of my doom may seem to be cursed with ignominy, and the world shall stand round and hiss at the crucified; my name be for ever dishonored as one who died upon the tree; and cavillers and scoffers may for ever throw this in the teeth of my friends that I died with the malefactor; but I look not at the cross as you do. I know its ignominy, but I despise the shame—I am prepared to endure it all. I look upon the cross as the gate of triumph, as the portal of victory. Oh, shall I tell you what I shall behold upon the cross?—just when mine eye is swimming with the last tear, and when my heart is palpitating with its last pang; just when my body is rent with its last thrill of anguish, then mine eye shall see the head of the dragon broken, it shall see hell's towers dismantled and its castle fallen. Mine eye shall see my seed eternally saved, I shall behold the ransomed coming from their prison-houses. In that last moment of my doom, when my mouth is just preparing for its last cry of 'It is finished;' I shall behold the year of my redeemed come, I shall shout my triumph in the delivery of all my beloved! Ay, and I shall see then, the world, mine own earth conquered, and usurpers all disthroned, and I shall behold in vision the glories of the latter days, when I shall sit upon the throne of my father David and judge the earth, attended with the pomp of angels and the shouts of my beloved!" Yes, Christ saw in his cross the victories of it, and therefore did he pant and long for it as being the place of victory and the means of conquest. "I," said Jesus, "if I be lifted up, if I be exalted," he puts his crucifixion as being his glory. This is the first point of our text. (Please click her to continue reading, “Christ Lifted Up”)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A.W. Pink: Gleanings In The Godhead, Part 1. The Excellencies Which Pertain to the The Godhead of God - 1. Solitariness of God



GLEANINGS IN THE GODHEAD


Part 1: Excellencies Which Pertain to the Godhead as God

 
1. The Solitariness of God






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Perhaps The Title of the chapter is not sufficiently explicit to indicate its theme. This is partly because so few are accustomed to meditate upon the personal perfections of God. Comparatively few who occasionally read the Bible are aware of the awe-inspiring and worship-provoking grandeur of the divine character. That God is great in wisdom, wondrous in power, yet full of mercy is assumed by many as common knowledge. But to entertain anything approaching an adequate conception of His being, nature, and attributes, as revealed in the Scripture, is something which very few people in these degenerate times have done. God is solitary in His excellency. "Who is like unto Thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like Thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?" (Ex. 15:11).

"In the beginning, God" (Gen. 1:1). There was a time, if "time" it could be called, when God, in the unity of His nature (though subsisting equally in three persons), dwelt all alone. "In the beginning, God." There was no heaven, where His glory is now particularly manifested. There was no earth to engage His attention. There were no angels to sing His praises. There was no universe to be upheld by the word of His power. There was nothing, no one, but God; and that not for a day, a year, or an age, but "from everlasting." During a past eternity God was alone—self-contained, self-sufficient, in need of nothing. Had a universe, or angels, or humans been necessary to Him in any way, they also would have been called into existence from all eternity. Creating them when He did added nothing to God essentially. He changes not (Mal. 3:6), therefore His essential glory can be neither augmented nor diminished. 

God was under no constraint, no obligation, no necessity to create. That He chose to do so was purely a sovereign act on His part, caused by nothing outside Himself, determined by nothing but His own good pleasure; for He "worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Eph. 1:11). That He did create was simply for His manifestative glory. Do some of our readers imagine that we have gone beyond what Scripture warrants? Then we appeal to the Law and the testimony: "Stand up and bless the LORD, your God, for ever and ever; and blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise" (Neh. 9:5). God is no gainer even from our worship. He was in no need of that external glory of His grace which arises from His redeemed, for He is glorious enough in Himself without that. What was it that moved Him to predestinate His elect to the praise of the glory of His grace? It was "according to the good pleasure of His will" (Eph. 1:5). 

We are well aware that the high ground we tread here is new and strange to almost all of our readers, so it is well to move slowly. Let us appeal again to the Scriptures. As the apostle brings to a close a long argument on salvation by sovereign grace, he asks, "For who hath known the mind of the LORD? Or who hath been His counselor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?" (Rom. 11:34-35). The force of this is that it is impossible to bring the Almighty under obligation to the creature. God gains nothing from us. "If thou be righteous, what givest thou him? Or what receiveth He of thine hand? Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art; and thy righteousness may profit the son of man" (Job 35:7-8). But it certainly cannot affect God, who is all-blessed in himself. "When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants" (Luke 17:10)—our obedience has profited nothing.

We go farther: our Lord Jesus Christ added nothing to God in His essential being and glory, either by what He did or suffered. True, gloriously true, He manifested that glory of God to us, but He added nothing to God. He Himself expressly declares so, and there is no appeal from His words, "My goodness extendeth not to thee" (Ps. 16:2). The whole of that psalm is a psalm of Christ. Christ’s goodness or righteousness reached unto His saints in the earth (Ps. 16:3), but God was high above and beyond it all. 

It is true that God is both honored and dishonored by men, not in His essential being, but in His official character. It is equally true that God has been glorified by creation, by providence, and by redemption. We do not dare dispute this for a moment. But all of this has to do with His manifestative glory and the recognition of it by us. Yet, had God so pleased, He might have continued alone for all eternity, without making known His glory unto creatures. Whether He should do so or not He determined solely by His own will. He was perfectly blessed in Himself before the first creature was called into being. And what are all the creatures of His hands unto Him even now? The Scripture again answers:

Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance; behold, He taketh up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering. All nations before Him are as nothing; and they are counted to Him less than nothing, and vanity. To whom, then, will ye liken God? Or what likeness will ye compare unto him? (Isa. 40:15-18).

That is the God of Scripture; but, He is still "the unknown God" (Acts 17:23) to heedless multitudes. "It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are like grasshoppers; that stretch out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in: Who bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity" (Isa. 40:22-23). How vastly different is the God of Scripture from the god of the average pulpit!

Nor is the testimony of the New Testament any different from that of the Old. How could it be since both have one and the same Author? There too we read, "Which in his times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see; to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen" (1 Tim. 6:15-16). Such a One is to be revered, worshipped, adored. He is solitary in His majesty, unique in His excellency, peerless in His perfections. He sustains all, but is Himself independent of all. He gives to all and is enriched by none.

Such a God cannot be found out by searching. He can be known only as He is revealed to the heart by the Holy Spirit through the Word. It is true that creation demonstrates a Creator, and so plainly that men are "without excuse." Yet we still have to say with Job, "Lo, these are parts of His ways; but how little a portion is heard of him? But the thunder of His power, who can understand?" (Job 26:14). The so-called argument from design by well-meaning apologists has, we believe, done much more harm than good. It has attempted to bring the great God down to the level of finite comprehension, and thereby has lost sight of His solitary excellence.

Analogy has been drawn between a savage who finds a watch upon the sands, and from a close examination of it infers a watchmaker. So far so good. But attempt to go farther. Suppose the savage sits on the sand and endeavors to form a conception of this watchmaker, his personal affections and manners, his disposition, acquirements, and moral character, all that goes to make up a personality. Could he ever think or reason out a real man, the man who made the watch, so he could say, "I am acquainted with him"? It seems trifling to ask, but is the eternal and infinite God so much more within the grasp of human reason? No, indeed. The God of Scripture can be known only by those to whom He makes Himself known.

Nor is God known by the intellect. "God is a Spirit" (John 4:24), and therefore can only be known spiritually. But fallen man is not spiritual, he is carnal. He is dead to all that is spiritual. Unless he is born again, supernaturally brought from death unto life, miraculously translated out of darkness into light, he cannot even see the things of God (John 3:3), still less apprehend them (1 Cor. 2:14). The Holy Spirit has to shine in our hearts (not intellects) to give us "the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6). But even that spiritual knowledge is fragmentary. The regenerated soul has to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus (2 Pet. 3:18).

The principal prayer and aim of Christians should be to "walk worthy of the LORD unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God" (Col. 1:10).


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