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Some experience difficulty in fitting together those Scriptures which present eternal life

Arthur PinkSome experience difficulty in fitting together those Scriptures which present eternal life as the present and inalienable possession of the believer with other passages that place it in the future and as only being attained unto by following a course of self-denial. Such verses as John 5:24 and Romans 6:23 are quite simple to them; but Romans 6:22; 8:13; Galatians 6:8; and Jude 21 they are at a loss to know what to do with. But there is nothing inconsistent between a believer acting from a principle of grace and life already communicated to him by the Holy Spirit, and his so acting that he may live. A man must be alive before he can eat; yet he must eat in order that he may live. Were he to cease entirely from the taking of food, would there be any life for him in a month’s time? Neither would the Christian enter heaven if he entirely neglected the means of grace appointed for his spiritual preservation.

Arthur W. Pink- The Divine Covenants-Part Four-The Abrahamic Covenant

We point out what the Lord declared in connection with the sign and seal of this covenant

Arthur PinkIn addition to what has just been said, we would point out what the Lord declared in connection with the sign and seal of this covenant: “the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people: he hath broken my covenant” (Gen. 17:14). Here, then, it is clear that a condition was stipulated, the failure to meet which broke the covenant. Again, in Genesis 18:19 we find God saying, “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that [in order that] the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.” Abraham had to “keep the way of the Lord,” which is defined as “to do justice and judgment”; that is, walk obediently, in subjection to God’s revealed will, if he was to receive the fulfillment of the divine promises. Once more, we read “Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws” (Gen. 26:5). Thus, while God dealt with Abraham in pure grace, it is plain that he was also placed under the law.

Some readers are likely to object, This is a wretched subversion of the glorious covenant of grace: by your “conditions,” “terms,” and “provisos” you reduce it to a contingency and uncertainty, instead of its being “ordered in all things and sure. “Our first rejoinder is that we have not introduced the conditions and provisos into the covenant; instead, they are so stated in Scripture. God did not make an absolute grant of Canaan unto Abraham when He first revealed Himself to him in Chaldea. Rather was he required to tread the path of obedience unto that land “which he should after receive for an inheritance.” Nor does God make an absolute (or unconditional) grant of heaven when the sinner first believes in Christ. Instead, He requires him to walk the narrow way which alone leadeth unto life, and faithfully warns him that it is to his imminent peril if he converges therefrom.

It may be replied, But this is to leave all at an uncertainty. It all depends upon the angle from which you view it. Considered as the object of God’s everlasting love, as chosen in Christ, as redeemed by Him, as indwelt and sealed by the Spirit, the believer’s safely reaching heaven is placed beyond all peradventure. But consider the believer as a responsible agent, as still having the “flesh” in him, living in a world where he is beset by temptation on every side, called upon to “fight the good fight of faith” and to “lay hold on eternal life,” and the matter appears in quite another light; and the one viewpoint is just as real and actual as is the other! The difficulty here as to whether or not the believer’s “keeping” or “breaking” the covenant renders all insecure, is precisely the same as showing the consistency between divine preservation and Christian perseverance. Though the “ifs” of John 8:31 and Colossians 1:23 do not annul the promise of Philippians 1:6, nevertheless, they are there, and must be taken into account by us.

From the divine side, the covenant of grace is “ordered in all things and sure.” There is not the slightest possibility of anything in it failing. Christ will “see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied,” and not one of those given to Him by the Father before the foundation of the world will be lost. But that does not alter the fact that while the elect are left here in this world they are bidden to “make their calling and election sure” (2 Pet. 1:10), “if they may apprehend [lay hold of] that for which also they were apprehended of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12). The covenant has provided for the communication of effectual grace to secure the saints’ obedience and perseverance; yet that does not alter the fact that God still enforces His righteous claims upon them and deals with them as moral agents who are required to heed His warnings, obey His precepts, and use the means He has appointed for their preservation.

Arthur W. Pink- The Divine Covenants-Part Four-The Abrahamic Covenant

The law of his obedience was attended with both promises and threatenings, rewards and punishments, suited unto the goodness and holiness of God

Arthur Pink

IV.

In the application unto Abraham of those divine principles considered in the preceding chapter, it should be quite obvious that the law of his obedience was attended with both promises and threatenings, rewards and punishments, suited unto the goodness and holiness of God, and fitted for the discharge of his moral responsibility. It may be asked, Where is there any hint in Scripture of any provisos and terms attached to the Abrahamic covenant, or any clear statement that God stipulated any terms to him? Such a question is capable of several answers.

1. In the first place, unless there were such provisos and terms, no covenant had been made at all.

2. Second, the extreme brevity of the Genesis account must be borne in mind; and instead of expecting a full categorical statement, its fragmentary details need to be carefully pieced together.

3. Third, Genesis 12:1 shows plainly that Canaan was first set before him provisionally.

Arthur W. Pink- The Divine Covenants-Part Four-The Abrahamic Covenant

It may be objected that this reduces the covenant of grace to one and the same level with the covenant of works

Arthur PinkOnce again we would point out that any covenant necessarily signifies a mutual agreement, with terms to be carried out by both parties. A vivid but most solemn example of this is found in the case of Judas and the chief priests of the Jews, concerning whom we read: “they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver” (Matthew 26:15). That is to say, in return for his fulfilling the contract to betray his Master into their hands, they would pay him this sum of money, which, in Acts 1:18, is denominated “the reward of iniquity.” It is only by paying close attention to all the expressions used in Scripture of God’s covenant and of our relation thereto, that we can obtain a right and full conception thereof. We read of those “that take hold of my covenant” (Isa. 56:4, 6); “that thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord thy God” (Deut. 23:12); “those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice” (Ps. 50:5); “mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies” (Ps. 25:10); “be ye mindful always of his covenant” (1 Chron. 16:15); “Ye break my covenant” (Lev. 26:15); “them that forsake the holy covenant” (Dan. 11:30).

Against what has been said above, it may be objected that this reduces the covenant of grace to one and the same level with the covenant of works. Not so, we reply; for though those covenants have something in common, yet there is a real and radical difference between them. Each of them maintains the claims of God’s righteousness by enforcing the requirements of the law, but the covenant of works had no mediator, nor was any provision made for those who failed under it; whereas the covenant of grace supplies both. Moreover, under the covenant of works obedience was rendered unto an absolute God, whereas under the covenant of grace it is given to God in Christ, and there is a world of difference between those two things. The application of these principles to the case of Abraham we must consider next.

Arthur W. Pink- The Divine Covenants-Part Four-The Abrahamic Covenant

We are now required to consider how that in them God maintained the claims of His righteousness by what He required from the responsible agents

Arthur PinkLet it now be pointed out that in this chapter we are turning to another side of the subject from what we have mainly dwelt upon in the previous ones. In those we amplified what we said in the fourth and fifth paragraphs of the second chapter. Having dwelt so largely upon the divine sovereignty and grace aspects, we need to weigh carefully the divine righteousness and human responsibility elements. Having shown how the various covenants which God made with men adumbrated the central features in the everlasting covenant which He made with Christ, we are now required to consider how that in them God maintained the claims of His righteousness by what He required from the responsible agents with whom He dealt. It was not until after Noah “did according to all that God commanded him” (Gen. 6:22) by preparing an ark “to the saving of his house” (Heb. 11:7), that God confirmed His “with thee will I establish my covenant” (Gen. 6:18) by “I establish my covenant” (9:9). Noah having fulfilled the divine stipulations, God was now prepared to fulfill His promises.

The same thing is clearly seen again in connection with Abraham. There is no hint in Scripture that the Lord entered into any covenant with him while he was in Ur of Chaldea. Instead, the land of Canaan was then set before him provisionally: “The Lord said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee” (Gen. 12:1). The order there is unmistakably plain.

First, God acted in grace, sovereign grace, by singling out Abraham from his idolatrous neighbors, and by calling him to something far better.

Second, God made known the requirements of His righteousness and enforced Abraham’s responsibility by the demand there made upon him.

Third, the promised reward was to follow Abraham’s response to God’s call.

These three things are conjoined in Heb. 11:8: “By faith Abraham, when he was called [by divine grace] to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance [the reward], obeyed [the discharge of his responsibility]; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.”

Nor does what has just been said in anywise conflict with what was pointed out in previous chapters. The above elements just as truly shadowed forth another fundamental aspect of the everlasting covenant as did the different features singled out from the Adamic and the Noahic. In the everlasting covenant, God promised a certain reward unto Christ upon His fulfilling certain conditions—executing the appointed work. The inseparable principles of law and gospel, grace and reward, faith and works, were most expressly conjoined in that compact which God entered into with the Mediator before the foundation of the world. Therein we may behold the “manifold wisdom of God” in combining such apparent opposites; and instead of carping at their seeming hostility, we should admire the omniscience which has made the one the handmaid of the other. Only then are we prepared to discern and recognize the exercise of this dual principle in each of the subordinate covenants.

Not a few writers supposed they magnified the grace of God and honored the Mediator when affirming that Christ Himself so fulfilled the conditions of the covenant and so met every requirement of God’s righteousness that His people have been entirely freed of all legal obligations, and that nothing whatever is left for them to do but express their gratitude in lives wellpleasing to Him. It is far easier to make this mistake than it is to expose it. It is true, blessedly true, gloriously true, that Christ did perfectly discharge His covenant engagements, magnified the law and made it honorable, that God received from Him a full satisfaction for all the sins of His people. Yet that does not mean that the law has been repealed, that God rescinds His righteous claims upon the creature, or that believers are placed in a position of privilege from which obligation is excluded; nor does it involve the idea that saints are freed from covenant duties. Grace reigns, but it reigns “through righteousness” (Rom. 5:21) and not at the expense of it.

Christ’s obedience has not rendered ours unnecessary: rather has it rendered ours acceptable. In that sentence lies the solution to the difficulty. The law of God will accept nothing short of perfect and perpetual obedience; and such obedience the Surety of God’s people rendered, so that He brought in an everlasting righteousness which is reckoned to their account. Yet that is only one half of the truth on this subject. The other half is not that Christ’s atonement has inaugurated a regime of lawlessness or license, but rather has it placed its beneficiaries under additional obligations. But more: it had procured the needed grace to enable those beneficiaries to discharge their obligations—not perfectly, but nevertheless, acceptably to God. And how? By securing that the Holy Spirit should bring them from death unto life, impart to them a nature which delights in the law, and work in them both to will and to do of God’s good pleasure. And what is God’s good pleasure for His people? The same as it was for His incarnate Son: to be perfectly conformed to the law in thought and word and deed.

God has one and the same standard for the head and the members of His church; and therefore we are told, “he that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6). In 1 Peter 2:21 we read, “Christ also suffered for us.” With what end in view? That we might be relieved from all obligation to God? That we might pursue a course of lawlessness under the pretense of magnifying “grace”? No, indeed; but rather “leaving us an example that ye should follow his steps.” And what is the nature of that example which Christ has left us? What, but “fulfilling the law” (Matthew 5:17), loving the Lord His God with all His heart and mind and strength, and His neighbor as Himself? But in order to do this there must be a nature in harmony with the law and not enmity against it. Could Christ declare, “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart” (Ps. 40:8), so can each of His redeemed and regenerated people say, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man,” (Rom. 7:22). And were there nothing else in them but the new man they would render perfect obedience to the law. Such is their honest desire, but the presence of the old man thwarts them.

The everlasting covenant was, in its nature and contents, a mixed one, for the principles of both law and grace were operative therein. It was grace pure and simple which ordained that any from Adam’s fallen race should be saved, as it was amazing and infinite grace that provided the Son of God should become incarnate and serve as their surety. But it was law pure and simple that the Surety should earn and purchase their salvation by His rendering unto God a perfect satisfaction on their behalf. Christ was “made under the law” (Gal. 4:4). His whole life was perfectly conformed to the precepts of the law, and His death was an enduring of the penalty of the law; and all of this was in fulfillment of His covenant engagements. In like manner, these two principles of grace and law are operative in connection with the administration of the everlasting covenant— that is, in the application of its benefits to those on whose behalf Christ transacted. “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Rom. 3:31).

The work of Christ has released the believer from the law as a procuring cause of his justification, but it has in nowise abolished it as his rule of life. Divine grace does not set aside its recipient’s responsibility, nor does the believer’s obedience render grace any the less necessary. God requires obedience (conformity to His law) from the Christian as truly as He does from the non-Christian. True, we are not saved for (because of) our obedience; yet it is equally true that we cannot be saved without it. Unless Noah had heeded God and built the ark, he had perished in the Flood; yet it was by the goodness and power of God that the ark was preserved. It is through Christ, and Christ alone, that the believer’s obedience is acceptable to God. But it may be asked, Will God accept an imperfect obedience from us? The answer is yes, if it be sincere; just as He is pleased to answer our poor prayers when presented in the all—meritorious name of His Son.

Arthur W. Pink- The Divine Covenants-Part Four-The Abrahamic Covenant

Let us point out the nature of a covenant

Arthur PinkWhat has been pointed out above supplies the keys to a right understanding of the Abrahamic covenant; and unless those dual principles be steadily kept before us in our contemplation of the same, we are certain to err. Some writers when referring to the Abrahamic covenant speak of it as “a covenant of pure grace,” and such it truly was; for what was there about Abraham to move the God of glory to so much as notice him? Nevertheless, it would be equally correct to designate the Abrahamic covenant “a covenant of righteousness,” for it exemplified the principles of the divine government as actually as it made manifest the benignity of the divine character. Other writers have referred to the Abrahamic covenant as an “unconditional one,” but in this they erred, for to talk of “an unconditional covenant” is a flat contradiction in terms. Suffer us to quote here from our first chapter:

“Let us point out the nature of a covenant; in what it consists. ‘An absolute complete covenant is a voluntary convention, pact, or agreement between distinct persons, about the ordering and dispensing of things in their power, unto their mutual concern and advantage’ (J. Owen). Blackstone, the great commentator upon English law, speaking of the parts of a deed, says, ‘After warrants, usually follow covenants, or conventions, which are clauses of agreement, contained in a deed, whereby either party may stipulate for the truth of certain facts, or may bind himself to perform, or give something to the other’ (Vol. 2, p. 20). So he includes three things: the parties, the terms, the binding agreement. Reducing it to still simpler language, we may say that a covenant is the entering into of a mutual agreement, a benefit being assured on the fulfillment of certain conditions.” We supplement by a quotation from H. Witsius: “The covenant does, on the part of God, comprise three things in general.

1st, A promise of consummate happiness in eternal life.

2nd, A designation or prescription of the condition, by the performance of which, man acquires a right to the promise.

3rd, A penal sanction against those who do not come up to the prescribed condition…….. Man becomes the other party when he consents thereto: embracing the good promised by God, engaging to an exact observance of the condition required; and upon the violation thereof, voluntarily owning himself obnoxious to the threatened curse.”

Arthur W. Pink- The Divine Covenants-Part Four-The Abrahamic Covenant

The first thing recorded of Abraham after he had entered the land of Canaan is the Lord’s appearing unto him and his building an altar

Arthur Pink

III.

The first thing recorded of Abraham after he had actually entered the land of Canaan is the Lord’s appearing unto him and his building an altar: “And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the Lord” (Gen. 12:6, 7). There are several details here which claim our attention.

1. Abraham did not settle down and enter into possession of the land, but “passed through it,” as Acts 7:5 tells us: “And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set foot on.”

2. The presence there of “the Canaanite”—to challenge and contest the possession of it. So it is with the believer: the flesh, the devil, and the world unite in opposing his present enjoyment of the inheritance unto which he has been begotten; while hosts of wicked spirits in the heavenlies wrestle with those who are partakers of the heavenly calling (Eph. 6:12).

3. “The Lord appeared unto Abram.” He had done so originally as the “God of glory,” when He revealed Himself to the patriarch in Chaldea. There is no intimation of Abraham receiving any further revelation from God during his delay at Haran; but now that God’s call had been fully obeyed, he was favored with a fresh manifestation of Him.

And now Abraham’s obedience is rewarded. At the beginning the Lord had said, “Get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee” (Gen. 12:1); now He declared, “Unto thy seed will I give this land” (v. 7). This brings before us a most important principle in the ways of God, which has often been lost sight of by men who only stress one side of the truth. That principle is that divine grace never sets aside the requirements of divine righteousness. God never shows mercy at the expense of His holiness.

God is “light” as well as “love,” and each of these divine perfections is exemplified in all His dealings with His people. Moreover, in the exercise of His sovereignty God never enforces the responsibility of the creature; and unless we keep both of these steadily in view, we not only become lopsided, but lapse into real error. The grace of God must not be magnified to the beclouding of His righteousness, nor His sovereignty pressed to the exclusion of human accountability. The balance can only be preserved by our faithfully adhering to Scripture. If we single out favorite verses and ignore those which are unpalatable to the flesh, we are guilty of handling the Word of God deceitfully, and fall under the condemnation of “according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law” (Mal. 2:9). The principles of law and gospel are not contradictory, but supplementary, and neither can be dispensed with except to our irreparable loss.

Arthur W. Pink- The Divine Covenants-Part Four-The Abrahamic Covenant

And why did the Lord suffer the “flesh” in Abraham to mar his obedience?

Arthur PinkAbraham’s obedience to the divine command was both partial and tardy. God had bidden him to leave his own country, separate from his kindred, and “come into the land” which He would show him (Acts 7:3). His failure is recorded in Genesis 11:31: “And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.” He left Chaldea; but instead of leaving behind his kindred, his father and nephew accompanied him. This was the more excuseless because Isaiah 51:2 expressly declares that God had called Abraham “alone.” It is significant to note that the word “Terah” means “delay,” and such his presence occasioned Abraham, for instead of entering the land of Canaan at once, he stopped short at Haran, and there he remained for five years until Terah died (Gen. 11:32; 12:4, 5).

And why did the Lord suffer the “flesh” in Abraham to mar his obedience? To indicate to his spiritual children that absolute perfection of character and conduct is not attainable in this life. We do not call attention to this fact so as to encourage loose living or to lower the exalted standard at which we must ever aim, but to cheer those who are discouraged because their honest and ardent efforts after godliness so often fall below that standard. Again; there is only One who has walked this earth in perfect obedience to God in thought and word and deed, and that not occasionally, but constantly and uninterruptedly; and He must “have the pre-eminence in all things.” Therefore God will not suffer Christ’s glory to be reduced by fashioning others to honor Him as He did. Finally, God’s permitting the flesh to exist and be active in Abraham further magnified the divine grace, by making it still further manifest that it was through no excellency in him that he had been called.

Then came he out of the land of the Chaldeans, and dwelt in Haran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land” (Acts 7:4). Though God had suffered the flesh in Abraham to mar his obedience, yet He would not allow it to completely triumph. Divine grace is not only magnified by the unworthiness of its object, but it is glorified in triumphing over the flesh and producing what is contrary thereto. The hindrance to Abraham’s obedience was removed, and now we see him actually entering the place to which God had called him.

Arthur W. Pink- The Divine Covenants-Part Four-The Abrahamic Covenant

Regeneration is only the beginning of God’s “good work”

Arthur PinkThough the response made by Abraham to the call which he had received from the Lord clearly demonstrated that a miracle of divine grace had been wrought within him, nevertheless, God suffered sufficient of the “flesh” to appear in him so as to evidence that he was still a sinful and failing creature.

While regeneration is indeed a wonderful and blessed experience, yet it is only the beginning of God’s “good work” in the soul (Phil. 1:6), and requires His further operations of sanctification to carry it forward to completion. Though a new nature is imparted when the soul is brought from death unto life, the old nature is not removed; though the principle of holiness is communicated, the principle of sin is neither annihilated nor exterminated. Consequently, there is not only a continual conflict produced by these contrary principles, but their presence and exercise prevent the soul from fully attaining its desires and doing as it would (Gal. 5:17).

Arthur W. Pink- The Divine Covenants-Part Four-The Abrahamic Covenant

Have we experienced anything which corresponds to this change in the life of Abraham?

Arthur PinkBefore proceeding further, let us pause and take stock of our own souls. Have we experienced anything which at all corresponds to this radical change in the life of Abraham? Have you, have I, been made the subjects of a divine call which has produced a right-about-face in our lives? Have we been the subjects of a divine miracle, so that grace has wrought effectually upon our hearts? Have we heard something more than the language of Scripture falling upon our outward ears? Have we heard God Himself speaking in the most secret recess of our souls, so that it may be said, “The gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance” (1 Thess. 1:5)? Can it be said of us, “The word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thess. 2:13)? Is the Word working effectually in us, so as to govern our inner and outer man, so as to produce an obedient walk, and issue in fruit to God’s glory?

Arthur W. Pink- The Divine Covenants-Part Four-The Abrahamic Covenant