« PreviousContinue »
In the next chapter, we have a very definite and emphatic statement:-“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. ii. 14). How evident that there must be a new, a divinely imparted capacity to receive the testimony of God.
In chap. iii. 5, it might seem, at the first glance, as though Paul attributed their believing to himself, and his fellow-labourers. " Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed ?” But he does not close the verse without disclaiming such a thought, and attributing all the efficacy of their ministry to the grace of God: “ even,” says he,
as the Lord gave to every man. I have planted, Apollos watered; but God
gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase.” What language could more plainly attribute the whole efficacy of the truth on the souls of any to the sovereign pleasure and free gift of God, than this!
If we turn to 2 Cor. iii. 3, we find the apostle speaking of the Corinthians as his epistle. But how his epistle? “ Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.” The Spirit of the living God, by means of the apostle, had written Christ on their hearts !
In chap. iv. 3—6, we have a statement, perhaps the most definite and solemn of any in Scripture, as to the cause of the rejection of the gospel by some, and the cause of its reception by others. It. doubtless, comes right across many of the most cherished thoughts and feelings of men;
but the believer will not on that account turn away from the voice of his God. “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” We did but affirm in other words what is here declared, when
we said that Satan has so poisoned all the springs of thought and feeling in our nature, that we do not believe a word God says. And what is it that rescues any from this fearful condition? Let the reader mark the answer, And the Lord grant him to know by experience what it means: “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Why are we referred here to the allcreating mandate and its effect, “ Let there be light, and there was light," if it be not to shew us, that it is in the exercise of no less a power that God shines into the heart of the poor
blinded sinner! Reader! has God who conmanded the light to shine out of darkness, thus shined into thy heart? The Lord grant thee to have no rest without a satisfactory answer to this all-important question.
In Gal. i. 15—16, the apostle avows, distinctly enough, what the source of his own conversion was: “ But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me,” etc. Equally explicit are his statements as to the conversion of those whom he wrote to: “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather, are known of God," etc. (chap. iv. 9). It is as though he was reminded, as he wrote, of the danger the Galatians were in of trusting themselves, and so, having mentioned their knowing God, he is in haste to add," or rather, were known of
, God." How entirely does this stand in contrast with the thought of the faith by which we come to know God being a mere exercise of our natural faculties. No, had we not been known of God, we had surely never known Him.
In the fifth chapter, ver. 22, faith is declared to be the fruit of the Spirit.
In Eph. i. 19-20, the apostle prays to God for the saints, that they may know "what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead." In chap. ii., we are taught that it is by this same power that we are quickened: “And you hath he quickened
who were dead in trespasses and sins” (ver. i.). Then again: “God who is rich in mercy, for his great love, wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ” (ver. 4 and 5). Again: "By grace are ye saved, through fàith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” I know it has been attempted to be said, that the " that not of yourselves ” refers not to faith, but either to grace or salvation. But what plain person without a system to defend would so understand the words? Besides, consider the next verse: “ For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” The combined testimony of all these passages can never be gainsaid.
In Philip. i. 6, God is owned as the one who had begun a good work in them. In ver. 29, the apostle says, " For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake." given to them on Christ's behalf to believe in him. In chap. iii. 12. he speaks of himself as having been “apprehended of Christ Jesus.” It was not that he, by any natural capacity he possessed, apprehended Christ; it was Christ who had apprehended him.
In Col. ii. 12--13, we have statements analogous to those already quoted from Eph. i.: “Buried with him
ii “ [Christ] in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. Ånd you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.'
To the Thessalonians, Paul says, “ Knowing, brethren beloved,
election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance
(1 Thess. i. 4,5). This is a very important passage. If the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, because of that power being inherent in it and inseparable from it, how could the apostle know the election of the Thessalonians by the fact of the gospel coming to them not in word only but in power? If it comes thus to all, how could its coming thus to the Thessalonians prove anything special
as to them? No, there is such a thing as the gospel coming to men in word only. And it is when it comes not thus, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance, that it saves the soul. Then, and then only, is it the power of God unto salvation.
We have a very full and blessed passage in the second epistle: “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God
, hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: whereunto he called you by our Gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. ii. 13, 14).
The faith that saves is here most evidently shewn to be a belief of the truth which is produced in us by the Spirit, and to which God calls us by the gospel.
Writing to Titus, the apostle says, “ For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that, being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus iii. 4—7.) This is not a contrast between works and faith as the means of justification, such as we have in Romans and Galatians. No, we have here the source of our salvation, the kindness and love of God toward man. We have our need of it, exhibited in the detail of what we were by nature. We have the divine principle according to which our salvation has been accomplished: according to his mercy,”—“ being justified by his grace.” We have the object of it unfolded, at
, least as far as we are concerned, “ that we should be made heirs “ according to the hope of eternal life.” We have the blessed person too through whom all this is effected, “ Jesus Christ our Saviour.” But we have,
“ besides all this, what bears immediately on our present subject, the process by which we are personally brought into the enjoyment of it all, as well as the agent in this process: "the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he [God] shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.” Surely the
washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost" is not the mere assent of the natural mind to propositions of truth placed before it!
The testimony of James is, “Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures" (James i. 17, 18). True, indeed,
” it is, that faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God; but hearing the Word of God only produces faith, where He, by the word of truth, begets us according to His own will.
Does Peter speak of the believers to whom he wrote, as having purified their souls in obeying the truth? It is through the Spirit this had been accomplished.
Seeing ye have purified your souls, in obeying the truth through the Spirit, unto unfeigned love of the brethren” (1 Pet. i. 22). This second epistle is addressed " to them that have obtained like precious faith with us, through the righteousness of God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (verse 1.) In verse 3 he speaks thus: " According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness.” faith must be included in the “all things that pertain unto life and godliness.”
Nor is the testimony of the beloved disciple wanting: “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John v.4). Again, “And we know that the Son of God come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true: and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ" (verse 20). Thus are we taught, that the faith which overcomes the world is something which is born of God; and, also, that if we have an understanding to know Him that is true, it is because He Himself has given it.