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The Believer’s Growth & Service
By Arthur W. Pink
Note: The following article is available in booklet form free from: Agape Chapel Ministries ~ P.O. Box 59084 ~ Norwalk, CA 90652 USA, or contact Tony Montano. Other free booklets are also available. Contact them for a list of free materials available.
1. God’s Sovereignty and the believer’s growth in grace.
If God has fore-ordained everything that comes to pass, of what avail is it for us to "exercise" ourselves "unto godliness" (1Tim. 4:7)? If God has before ordained the good works in which we are to walk (Eph. 2:10), then why should we be "careful to maintain good works" (Titus 3:8)? This only raises once more the problem of human responsibility. Really, it should be enough for us to reply, God has bidden us do so. Nowhere does Scripture inculcate or encourage a spirit of fatalistic indifference. Contentment with our present attainments is expressly disallowed. The word to every believer is, "Press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:14). This was the apostle’s aim, and it should be ours.
Instead of hindering the development of Christian character, a proper apprehension and appreciation of God’s sovereignty will forward it. Just as the sinner’s despair of any help from himself is the first prerequisite of a sound conversion, so the loss of all confidence in himself is the first essential in the believer’s growth in grace; and just as the sinner despairing of help from himself will cast him into the arms of sovereign mercy, so the Christian, conscious of his own frailty, will turn unto the Lord for power. It is when we are weak, we are strong (2Cor. 12:10): that is to say, there must be consciousness of our weakness before we shall turn to the Lord for help.
While the Christian allows the thought that he is sufficient in himself, while he imagines that by mere force of will he shall resist temptation, while he has any confidence in the flesh then, like Peter who boasted that though all forsook the Lord yet should not he, so we shall certainly fail and fall. Apart from Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5). The promise of God is, "He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might (of their own) He increaseth strength" (Isa. 40:29).
The question now before us is of great practical importance, and we are deeply anxious to express ourselves clearly and simply. The secret of development of Christian character is the realization of our own powerlessness, acknowledged powerlessness, and the consequent turning unto the Lord for help. The plain fact is that of ourselves we are utterly unable to practice a single precept or obey a single command that is set before us in the Scriptures. For example: "Love your enemies"--but of ourselves we cannot do this, or make ourselves do it. "In nothing be anxious"--but who can avoid and prevent anxiety when things go wrong? "Awake to righteousness and sin not"--but who can help sinning?
These are merely examples selected at random from scores of others. Does then God mock us by bidding us do what He knows we are unable to do? The answer of Augustine to this question is the best we have met with--"God gives commands we cannot perform, that we may know what we ought to request from Him." A consciousness of our powerlessness should cast us upon Him who has all power. Here then is where a vision and view of God’s sovereignty helps, for it reveals His sufficiency and shows us our insufficiency.
2. God’s Sovereignty and Christian service.
If God has determined before the foundation of the world the precise number of those who shall be saved, then why should we concern ourselves about the eternal destiny of those with whom we come into contact? What place is left for zeal in Christian service? Will not the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, and its corollary of predestination, discourage the Lord’s servants from faithfulness in evangelism? No; instead of discouraging His servants, a recognition of God’s sovereignty is most encouraging to them.
Here is one, for example, who is called upon to do the work of an evangelist, and he goes forth believing in the freedom of the will and in the sinner’s own ability to come to Christ. He preaches the Gospel as faithfully and zealously as he knows how; but, he finds the vast majority of his hearers are utterly indifferent and have no heart at all for Christ. He discovers that men are, for the most part, thoroughly wrapped up in the things of the world, and that few have any concern about the world to come. He beseeches men to be reconciled to God, and pleads with them over their soul’s salvation. But it is of no avail. He becomes thoroughly disheartened, and asks himself, What is the use of it all? Shall he quit, or had he better change his mission and message? If men will not respond to the Gospel, had he not better engage in that which is more popular and acceptable to the world? Why not occupy himself with humanitarian efforts, with social uplift work, with the purity campaign? Alas! that so many men who once preached the Gospel are now engaged in these activities instead.
What then is God’s corrective for His discouraged servant? First, he needs to learn from Scripture that God is not now seeking to convert the world, but that in this Age He is "taking out of the Gentiles" a people for His name (Acts 15:14). What then is God’s corrective for His discouraged servant? This-a proper apprehension of God’s plan for this Dispensation. Again: what is God’s remedy for dejection at apparent failure in our labors? This-the assurance that God’s purpose cannot fail, that God’s plans cannot miscarry, that God’s will must be done. Our labors are not intended to bring about that which God has not decreed.
Once more: what is God’s word of cheer for the one who is thoroughly disheartened at the lack of response to his appeals and the absence of fruit for his labors? This--that we are not responsible for results: that is God’s side, and God’s business. Paul may "plant," and Apollos may "water," but it is God who "gave the increase" (1 Cor. 3:6). Our business is to obey Christ and preach the Gospel to every creature, to emphasize the "Whosoever believeth", and then to leave the sovereign operations of the Holy Spirit to apply the Word in quickening power to whom He wills, resting on the sure promise of Jehovah--"For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall My Word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please (it may not that which we please), and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it" (Isa. 55:10, 11).
Was it not this assurance that sustained the beloved apostle when he declared "Therefore (see context) I endure all things for the elect’s sake" (2 Tim.2:10)! Yea, is not this same lesson to be learned from the blessed example of the Lord Jesus! When we read that He said to the people, "Ye also have seen Me, and believe not", He fell back upon the sovereign pleasure of the One who sent Him, saying, "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me, and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:36, 37). He knew that His labor would not be in vain. He knew God’s Word would not return unto Him "void." He knew that "God’s elect" would come to Him and believe on Him. And this same assurance fills the soul of every servant who intelligently rests upon the blessed truth of God’s sovereignty.
Ah fellow-Christian-worker, God has not sent us forth to "draw a bow at a venture." The success of the ministry which He has committed into our hands is not left contingent on the fickleness of the wills in those to whom we preach. How gloriously encouraging, how soul-sustaining the assurance are those words of our Lord’s, if we rest on them in simple faith: "And other sheep I have ("have" mark you, not "will have"; "have," because given to Him by the Father before the foundation of the world), which are not of this fold (i.e. the Jewish fold then existing) : them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice" (John 10:16). Not simply, "they ought to hear My voice," not simply "they may hear My voice", not "they will do so if they are willing." There is no "if", no "perhaps", no uncertainty about it. "They shall hear My voice" is His own positive, unqualified, absolute promise.
Here then, is where faith is to rest! Continue your quest, dear friend, after the "other sheep" of Christ’s. Be not discouraged because the "goats" heed not His voice as you preach the Gospel. Be faithful, be scriptural, be persevering, and Christ may use even you to be His mouthpiece in calling some of His lost sheep unto Himself. "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (1Cor. 15:58). It now remains for us to offer a few closing reflections and our happy task is finished.
God’s sovereign election of certain ones to salvation is a MERCIFUL provision. The sufficient answer to all the wicked accusations that the doctrine of Predestination is cruel, horrible, and unjust, is that, unless God had chosen certain ones to salvation, none would have been saved, for "there is none that seeketh after God" (Rom. 3:11). This is no mere inference of ours but the definite teaching of Holy Scripture. Attend closely to the words of the apostle in Romans 9, where this theme is fully discussed--"Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved. . . . And as Isaiah said before, Except the Lord of hosts had left us a seed, we had been as Sodom, and been made like unto Gomorrah" (Rom. 9:27, 29).
The teaching of this passage is unmistakable: but for Divine interference, Israel would have become as Sodom and Gomorrah. Had God left Israel alone, human depravity would have run its course to its own tragic end. But God left Israel a "remnant" or "seed." Of old the cities of the plain had been obliterated for their sin, and none was left to survive them; and so it would have been in Israel’s case had not God "left" or spared a remnant. Thus it is with the human race: but for God’s sovereign grace in sparing a remnant, all of Adam’s descendants had perished in their sins. Therefore, we say that God’s sovereign election of certain ones to salvation is a merciful provision.
And, be it noted, in choosing the ones He did, God did no injustice to the others who were passed by, for none had any right to salvation. Salvation is by grace, and the exercise of grace is a matter of pure sovereignty--God might save all or none, many or few, one or ten thousand, just as He saw best. Should it be replied, But surely it were "best" to save all. The answer would be: We are not capable of judging. We might have thought it "best" never to have created Satan, never to have allowed sin to enter the world, or having entered, to have brought the conflict between good and evil to an end long before now. Ah! God’s ways are not ours, and His ways are "past finding out."
God fore-ordains everything which comes to pass. His sovereign rule extends throughout the entire Universe and is over every creature. "For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things" (Rom. 11:36). God initiates all things, regulates all things, and all things are working unto His eternal glory. "There is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him" (1 Cor. 8:6). And again, "According to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Eph. 1:11). Surely if anything could be ascribed to chance it is the drawing of lots, and yet the Word of God expressly declares, "The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord" (Prov. 16:33)!!
God’s wisdom in the government of our world shall yet be completely vindicated before all created intelligences. God is no idle Spectator, looking on from a distant world at the happenings on our earth, but is Himself shaping everything to the ultimate promotion of His own glory. Even now He is working out His eternal purpose, not only in spite of human and Satanic opposition, but by means of them. How wicked and futile have been all efforts to resist His will shall one day be as fully evident as when of old He overthrew the rebellious Pharaoh and his hosts at the Red Sea.
It has been well said:
The end and object of all is the glory of God. It is perfectly, divinely true, that "God hath ordained for His own glory whatsoever comes to pass." In order to guard this from all possibility of mistake, we have only to remember who is this God, and what the glory that He seeks. It is He who is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,--of Him in whom divine love came seeking not her own, among us as "One that serveth." It is He who, sufficient in Himself, can receive no real accession of glory from His creatures, but from whom--"Love," as He is "Light,"--cometh down every good and every perfect gift, in whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning. Of His own alone can His creatures give to Him.
The glory of such an one is found in the display of His own goodness, righteousness, holiness, truth; in manifesting Himself as in Christ He has manifested Himself and will forever. The glory of this God is what of necessity all things must serve-adversaries and evil as well as all else. He has ordained it; His power will insure it; and when all apparent clouds and obstructions are removed, then shall He rest--"rest in His love" forever, although eternity only will suffice for the apprehension of the revelation. "God shall be all in all" gives in six words the ineffable result (F. W. Grant on Atonement).
That what we have written gives but an incomplete and imperfect presentation of this most important subject we must sorrowfully confess. Nevertheless, if it results in a clearer apprehension of the majesty of God and His sovereign mercy we shall be amply repaid for our labors. If the reader has received blessing from the perusal of these pages, let him not fail to return thanks to the Giver of every good and every perfect gift, ascribing all praise to His inimitable and sovereign grace.
Lord, our God, is clothed with might,
The winds and waves obey His will;
He speaks, and in the shining height
The sun and rolling worlds stand still.
Rebel ye waves, and o’er the land
With threatening aspect foam and roar,
The Lord hath spoken His command
That breaks your rage upon the shore.
winds of night, your force combine-
Without His holy high behest
You shall not in a mountain pine
Disturb the little swallow’s nest.
voice sublime is heard afar;
In distant peals it fades and dies;
He binds the cyclone to His car
And sweeps the howling murky skies.
God! how infinite art Thou,
What weak and worthless worms are we,
Let all the race of creatures bow
And seek salvation now from Thee.
with all its years
Stands ever-present to Thy view,
To Thee there’s nothing old appears
Great God! There can be nothing new.
lives through varied scenes are drawn,
And vexed with mean and trifling cares;
While Thine eternal thought moves on
Thy fixed and undisturbed affairs.
"Halleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth" (Rev. 19:6).
Agape Chapel Ministries
P.O. Box 59084
Norwalk, CA 90652
Free List of Free Materials
For A.W Pink's full treatment of this subject, see his book The Sovereignty of God available from Books-A-Million . Books-A-Million also have many other books by Pink available. All of them are highly recommended. And the book Scripture Workbook by Gary F. Zeolla, the director of Darkness to Light, has three chapter's dealing with God's sovereignty and Calvinism vs. Arminianism.
The above article was posted on this Web site May 14, 2000.
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