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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

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

I have showed you both what the will of God is, and what to suffer according to it

And thus, in a word or two, I have finished the first two parts of the text, and showed you what there is in Peter’s counsel and advice; and showed you also, to whom his advice is given: in which last, as you see, I have showed you both what the will of God is, and what to suffer according to it. And particularly, I have, in a few words, handled this last, to show you that our sufferings are ordered and disposed by him, that you might always, when you come into trouble for his name, not stagger nor be at a loss, but be stayed, composed, and settled in your minds, and say, “The will of the Lord be done” (Acts 21:14). I will also say unto you this by the way, that the will of God doth greatly work, even to order and dispose of the spirits of Christians, in order to willingness, disposedness, readiness, and resignation of ourselves to the mind of God. For with respect to this were those words last recited spoken. Paul saw that he had a call to go up to Jerusalem, there to bear his testimony for Christ and his gospel; but those unto whom he made know his purpose entreated him, with much earnestness, not to go up thither, for that, as they believed, it would endanger his life. But he answereth, What, mean ye to weep, and to break my heart? for I am ready, not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. And when he would not be persuaded, says Luke, we ceased, saying, “The will of the Lord be done.”

John Bunyan- Seasonable Counsel or Advise to Sufferers

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

It was far more than a bare command issuing from the divine authority: it was an effectual call

Arthur PinkGod said unto Abraham: “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I will show thee.” Those were the terms of the divine communication originally received by our patriarch. This command from the Most High came to Abraham in Mesopotamia, in the city of Ur of the Chaldeans, which was situated near the Persian Gulf. It was a call which demanded absolute confidence in and full obedience to the word of Jehovah. It was a call for definite separation from the world. But it was far more than a bare command issuing from the divine authority: it was an effectual call which demonstrated the efficacy of divine grace. In other words, it was a call accompanied by the divine power, which wrought mightily in the object of it. This is a distinction which is generally lost sight of today: there are two kinds of the divine call mentioned in Scripture, the one which falls only on the outward ear and produces no definite effect; the other which reaches the heart, and moves unto a real response.

The first of these calls is found in such passages as, “Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of men” (Prov. 8:4), and “For many be called” (Matthew 20:16). It reaches all who come under the sound of God’s Word. It is a call which presses upon the creature the claims of God, and the call of the gospel, which reveals the requirements of the Mediator. This call is universally unheeded: it is unpalatable to fallen human nature, and is rejected by the unregenerate: “I have called, and ye refused” (Prov. 1:24); “And they all with one consent began to make excuse” (Luke 14:18). The second of these calls is found in such passages as “Whom he called, them he also justified” (Rom. 8:30); “Called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).

The first call is general; the second, particular. The first is to all who come under the sound of the Word; the second is made only to the elect, bringing them from death unto life. The first makes manifest the enmity of the carnal mind against God; the second reveals the grace of God toward His own. It is by the effect produced that we are able to distinguish between them. “He calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice” (John 10:3, 4)—follow the example which He has left them (1 Pet. 2:21). They follow Him along the path of self-denial, of obedience, of living to the glory of God. Here, then, is the grand effect wrought upon the soul when it receives the effectual call of God: the under standing is illuminated, the conscience is convicted, the hard heart is melted, the stubborn will is conquered, the affections are drawn out unto Him who before was despised.

Such an effect as we have just described is supernatural: it is a miracle of divine grace. The proud Pharisee is humbled into the dust; the stout-hearted rebel is brought into subjection; the lover of pleasure is now made a lover of God. He who before kicked defiantly against the pricks, bows submissively and cries, “Lord, what wouldest Thou have me to do?” But let it be said emphatically, nothing but the immediate power of God working upon the heart can produce such a blessed transformation. Neither financial losses, family bereavements, nor a dangerous illness can effect it. Nothing external will suffice to change the depraved heart of fallen man. He may listen to the most faithful sermons, the most solemn warnings, the most win some invitations, and he will remain unmoved, untouched, unless the Spirit of God is pleased to first quicken him into newness of life. Those who are spiritually dead can neither hear, see, nor feel spiritually.

Now it is this effectual call that Abraham was the subject of when Jehovah suddenly appeared to him in Ur of Chaldea. This is evident from the effect produced in him. He was bidden to “get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I will show thee” (Acts 7:3). Think of what that involved: to forsake the land of his birth, to sever the nearest and dearest of all natural ties, to make a complete break with his old manner of life, and step out on what appeared to carnal reason to be an uncertain venture. What was his response? “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went” (Heb. 11:8). Ah, my reader, that can only be satisfactorily accounted for in one way: almighty power had wrought within him; invincible grace had conquered his heart.

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