Thursday, March 15, 2007
"Thou art worthy, 0 Lord, to receive glory, and honor, and power: for Thou hast created all things and for Thy pleasure they are and were created."
Sovereignty characterizes the whole Being of God: let us observe how it marks all His ways and dealings.
In the great expanse of eternity, which stretches behind Genesis 1:1, the universe was unborn and creation existed only in the mind of the great Creator. In His sovereign majesty, God dwelt all alone. We refer to that far distant period before the heavens and the earth were created. There were then no angels to hymn God's praises, no creatures to occupy His notice, no rebels to be brought to subjection. The great God was all alone amid the awful silence of His own vast universe. But even at that time, if time it could be called, God was sovereign. He might create or not create according to His own good pleasure. He might create this way or that way; He might create one world or one million worlds,
and who was there to resist His will?
He might call into existence a million different creatures and place them on absolute equality, endowing them with the same faculties and placing them in the same environment; or, He might create a million creatures each differing from the others, and possessing nothing in common save their creaturehood,
and who was there to challenge His right?
If He so pleased, He might call into existence a world so immense that its dimensions were utterly beyond finite computation; and were He so disposed, He might create an organism so small that nothing but the most powerful microscope could reveal its existence to human eyes. It was His sovereign right to create, on the one hand, the exalted seraphim to burn around his throne, and on the other hand, the tiny insect which dies the same hour that it is born.
If the mighty God chose to have one vast gradation in His universe, from loftiest seraph to creeping reptile, from revolving worlds to floating atoms, from macrocosm to microcosm, instead of making everything uniform, who was there to question His sovereign pleasure?
BEHOLD THEN THE EXERCISE OF DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY LONG BEFORE MAN EVER SAW THE LIGHT.
With whom took God counsel in the creation and disposition of His creatures?
See the birds as they fly through the air, the beasts as they roam the earth, the fishes as they swim in the sea, and then ask,
Who was it that made them to differ?
Was it not their Creator who sovereignly assigned their various locations and adaptations to them?
TURN YOUR EYE TO THE HEAVENS and observe the mysteries of divine sovereignty which there confront the thoughtful beholder:
1 Corinthians 15:41
"There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory".
But why should they?
Why should the sun be more glorious than all the other planets?
Why should there be stars of the first magnitude and others of the tenth?
Why such amazing inequalities?
Why should some of the heavenly bodies be more favorably placed than others in their relation to the sun?
And why should there be "shooting stars", "falling stars", "wandering stars" (Jude 13), in a word, ruined stars?
And the only possible answer is,
"For Thy pleasure they are and were created"
COME NOW TO OUR OWN PLANET
Why should two thirds of its surface be covered with water, and why should so much of its remaining third be unfit for human cultivation or habitation?
Why should there be vast stretches of marshes, deserts and icefields?
Why should one country be so inferior, topographically, from another?
Why should one be fertile, and another almost barren?
Why should one be rich in minerals and another own none?
Why should the climate of one be congenial and healthy, and another uncongenial and unhealthy?
Why should one abound in rivers and lakes, and another be almost devoid of them?
Why should one be constantly troubled with earthquakes, and another be almost entirely free from them?
Because thus it pleased the Creator and Upholder of all things.
LOOK AT THE ANIMAL KINGDOM and note the wondrous variety.
What comparison is possible between the lion and the lamb, the bear and the kid, the elephant and the mouse?
Some, like the horse and the dog, are gifted with great intelligence; while others, like sheep and swine, are almost devoid of it.
Some are designed to be beasts of burden, while others enjoy a life of freedom.
But why should the mule and the donkey be shackled to a life of drudgery, while the lion and tiger are allowed to roam the jungle at their pleasure?
Some are fit for food, others unfit; some are beautiful, others ugly; some are endowed with great strength, others are quite helpless; some are fleet of foot, others can scarcely crawl-contrast the hare and the tortoise; some are of use to man, others appear to be quite valueless; some live for centuries, others a few months at most; some are tame, others fierce.
But why all these variations and differences?
What is true of the animals is equally true of the birds and fishes.
But CONSIDER NOW THE VEGETABLE KINGDOM.
Why should roses have thorns, and lilies grow without them?
Why should one flower emit a fragrant aroma and another have none?
Why should one tree bear fruit which is wholesome and another that which is poisonous?
Why should one vegetable be capable of enduring frost and another wither under it?
Why should one apple tree be loaded with fruit, and another tree of the same age and in the same orchard be almost barren?
Why should one plant flower a dozen times a year and another bear blossoms but once a century?
"whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did He in heaven, and in the earth, in the seas, and all deep places".
CONSIDER THE ANGELIC HOSTS.
Surely we shall find uniformity here. But no; there, as elsewhere, the same sovereign pleasure of the Creator is displayed. Some are higher in rank than others; some are more powerful than others; some are nearer to God than others. Scripture reveals a definite and well-defined gradation in the angelic orders. From the arch-angel, past seraphim and cherubim, we come to:
"principalities and powers",
and from principalities and powers to:
and then to the angels themselves, and even among them we read of:
1 Timothy 5:21
"the elect angels"
Again we ask, Why this inequality, this difference in rank and order?
And all we can say is,
"Our God is in the heavens, He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased".
If then we see the sovereignty of God displayed throughout all creation, why should it be thought a strange thing IF WE BEHOLD IT OPERATING IN THE MIDST OF THE HUMAN FAMILY?
Why should it be thought strange if to one God is pleased to give five talents and another only one?
Why should it be thought strange if one is born with a robust constitution and another of the same parents is frail and sickly?
Why should it be thought strange if Abel is cut off in his prime, while Cain is suffered to live on for many years?
Why should it be thought strange that some should be born black and others white; that some be born idiots and others with high intellectual endowments; some be born constitutionally lethargic and others full of energy; some be born with a temperament that is selfish, fiery, egotistical, and others who are naturally self-sacrificing, submissive and meek?
Why should it be thought strange if some are qualified by nature to lead and rule, while others are only fitted to follow and serve?
Heredity and environment cannot account for all these variations and inequalities. No; it is GOD who maketh one to differ from another.
Why should He?
"Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight" must be our reply.
Learn then this basic truth, that
THE CREATOR IS ABSOLUTELY SOVEREIGN, EXECUTING HIS OWN WILL, PERFORMING HIS OWN PLEASURES, AND CONSIDERING NOUGHT BUT HIS OWN GLORY
"The Lord hath made all things FOR HIMSELF".
And had He not a perfect right to?
Since God IS God, who dare challenge His prerogative?
To murmur against Him is rank rebellion. To question His ways is to impugn His wisdom. To criticise Him is sin of the deepest dye.
Have we forgotten WHO He is?
Isaiah 40; 17,18
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?
By A.W. Pink - edited by Chris - Jesus' Boy
Monday, March 12, 2007
THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD
The sovereignty of God is an expression that once was generally understood. It was a phrase commonly used in religious literature. It was a theme frequently expounded in the pulpit. It was a truth which brought comfort to many hearts and gave virility and stability to Christian character. But today, to make mention of God's sovereignty is, in many quarters, to speak in an unknown tongue. Were we to announce from the average pulpit that the subject of our discourse would be the sovereignty of God, it would sound very much as though we had borrowed a phrase from one of the dead languages. Alas! that it should be so. Alas! that the doctrine which is the key to history, the interpreter of providence, the warp and woof of scripture, and the foundation of Christian theology should be so sadly neglected and so little understood.
The "Sovereignty of God."
What do we mean by this expression?
We mean the SUPREMACY of God, the KINGSHIP of God, the GODHOOD of God. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that GOD IS GOD! To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the Most High "doing according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth, so that none can stay His hand or say unto Him what doest Thou?
Daniel 4:35 And all the inhabitants of the earth [are] reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and [among] the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?
To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the Almighty, the possessor of all power in heaven and earth so that none can defeat His counsels, thwart His purpose, nor resist His will.
Psalm 115:3 For our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.
To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is:
Psalm 22:28 "the governor among the nations"
setting, up kingdoms, overthrowing empires, and determining the course of dynasties as pleases Him best. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the:
1 Timothy 6:15 "only potentate, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords".
Such is the God of the Bible.
By A.W. Pink - edited By Chris - Jesus' Boy.
It has been well said that "true worship is based upon recognized greatness, and greatness is superlatively seen in Sovereignty, and at no other footstool will men really worship." In the presence of the Divine King upon His throne even the seraphim 'veil their faces.' Divine sovereignty is not the sovereignty of a tyrannical Despot, but the exercised pleasure of One who is infinitely wise and good! Because God is infinitely wise He cannot err, and because He is infinitely righteous He will not do wrong. Here then is the preciousness of this truth. The mere fact itself that God's will is irresistible and irreversible fills me with fear, but once I realize that God wills only that which is good. My heart is made to rejoice. Here then is the final answer to the question (concerning our attitude toward God's sovereignty)
What ought to be our attitude toward the sovereignty of God?
The becoming attitude for us to take is that of godly fear, implicit obedience, and unreserved resignation and submission. But not only so: the recognition of the sovereignty of God, and the realization that the Sovereign Himself is my Father, ought to overwhelm the heart and cause me to bow before Him in adoring worship. At all times I must say, "Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in Thy sight."
By A.W. Pink
Thursday, March 08, 2007
“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly”.
Eight times in the space of this verse is the pronoun used in the singular number and the second person—a thing unique in all Scripture—as though to emphasize the indispensability, importance and value of private prayer. We are to pray in the closet as well as in the church: in fact if the former be neglected, it is not at all likely that the latter will be of much avail. He that is an attendee at the prayer meetings in order to be seen of men, and is not seen alone in his closet by God, is an hypocrite. Private prayer is the test of our sincerity, the index to our spirituality, the principle means of growing in grace. Private prayer is the one thing, above all others, that Satan seeks to prevent, for he knows full well that if he can succeed at this point, the Christian will fail at every other.
Alas, how remiss we have been, how sadly we have failed to discharge this duty, and what irreparable losers are we by this sinful neglect. Is it not high time that some of us heeded that word, “Consider your ways” (Haggai 1:5, 7)?! Shall this year witness a repetition of the sad failures of the past? Can we go on robbing God of His due, and our souls of the blessedness of communion with Him? The secret place of the Most High is one of vision, peace, joy. The closet is where strength is renewed, faith is quickened, graces are revived. It is not always the cares or pleasures of this world which are the hindering cause—some allow the discharge of public duties to prevent the performance of private ones. Beware, my reader, of being so busy in running from one meeting to another that personal dealings with God in secret are crowded out. Some are so busily engaged in reading, and preparing sermons, that private communion with God is prevented.
Not a few are puzzling their brains over prophecy when they should be on their knees before God. “The Devil knows he is no loser, and the curious soul but a little gainer, if he can but persuade him to spend most of his precious time in pouring over the mysteries and hidden things of God. He that affects to read the Revelation of John more than his plain Epistles, or Daniel’s prophecies more than David’s Psalms, and is more busy about reconciling different Scriptures than he is about mortifying of unruly lusts, or is set more upon vain speculation than upon things that make for edification—he is not the man that is cut out for closet prayer. Such as affect sublime notions, obscure expressions, and are men of abstract conceits, are but a company of wise fools, that will never take any delight to be with God in a corner. O how holy, happy, heavenly, and humble might many men have been, had they but spent half the time in closet prayer that they have spent in searching after those things that are hard to be understood” (Thomas Brooks, Puritan).
The most eminent saints, in Old and New Testament times, applied themselves to private prayer. “And Abram planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God” (Gen. 21:33). Why did Abram plant that grove, but that he could have a secluded spot where he might pour out his soul before his Maker. “And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide” (Gen. 24:63): the Hebrew word for “meditate” also signifies to pray, and is elsewhere rendered “commune” and “pray.” So, too, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, David, Elijah, Hezekiah, etc., were men whose private devotions are recorded in Holy Writ. Concerning Daniel, we read, “he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God” (6:10)—busy as he must have been, he allowed not public duties to crowd out private devotions.
Christ Himself, when upon earth, did much exercise Himself in private prayer: ponder such passages as Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35, 6:46, Luke 5:16, where it will be found that He retired “into a mountain,” “into a solitary place,” “into the wilderness” that He might be alone with God, free from disturbance and distraction. But why was He so much in private prayer? Another has suggested the following reasons. First, to put a very high honour and value upon the same: to enhance and magnify this duty. Second, that He might avoid all shows and appearances of ostentation and popular applause: He was very shy of the mere shadow of pride and vainglory. Third, to set us such a blessed pattern and gracious example that we should not content ourselves with public prayers only, nor with family prayers only, but that we should also apply ourselves to secret prayer. Fourth, that He might approve Himself to our understandings and consciences to be a merciful and faithful High Priest “who ever liveth to make intercession for us.”
It is the exercising of ourselves in secret prayer which distinguishes us from hypocrites, who go through their religious exercises merely to be seen of men: Matthew 6:1, 2, 5, 16. The hypocrite places a far higher value upon the applause of his fellows than he does upon the approbation of his Maker. The praise of men is his meat and drink. The outstanding mark of a hypocrite is that he is one thing in public, but quite another in private. But the genuine Christian makes conscience of his prayer life, knows that God sees and hears him in secret, and cultivates communion with Him in the closet. The diligence with which we perform our private devotions is the criterion of our sincerity. We never read in Scripture that Pharaoh, King Saul, Judas, Demas, Simon Magus, and the scribes and Pharisees ever poured out their souls before the Lord in secret! The hypocrite is more concerned about a good name than a good life, of a reputation for piety than a clear conscience —not so God’s children. In secret we may more freely, fully, and safely, unbosom our souls to God than we can in the presence of our fellows. There is no danger in opening our heart and confessing in detail our vilest sins before God in a corner, but there might be a considerable hazard in doing so even before our fellow Christians. No one with wisdom and refinement would think of exposing his bodily ailments and diseases to any but his bosom friend or physician; neither should he make known his weaknesses and wickedness to any but to his best Friend, the Great Physician. There need be no restraint or reserve in confession when we are apart with God. It was when David was alone in the cave (see the Psalm heading) that he poured out his complaint and “showed Him his trouble” (Psa. 142:2). Observe carefully the repeated “every family apart” and “their wives apart” of Zechariah 12:12-14—to manifest not only the soundness of their sorrow, but to show their sincerity.
It is striking to note that God has often granted the freest communications of Himself to those who were before Him in secret. It was so with Moses on the mount, when Jehovah gave him the Law—and again when He gave him the pattern for the tabernacle. It was while Daniel was engaged in private prayer that God sent His angel to reveal to him the secrets of His counsel concerning the restoration of Jerusalem and the duration thereof even unto the Messiah (9:3, 21-27); as it was also during a season when he was alone before the Throne of Grace that God assured him he was “a man greatly beloved” (10:11, 19). It is in the closet that God usually bestows His sweetest and choicest blessings. Cornelius was highly commended and graciously rewarded upon the account of his private prayer (Acts 10:1-4). Peter was granted that wondrous vision concerning the Gentiles while praying alone (Acts 10:9-13).
Scripture records much to illustrate and demonstrate the great prevalence of private prayer. O the wonders that followed secret wrestling with God, the grand mercies that have been obtained, the judgments that have been diverted, the deliverances that have been secured! When Isaac was all alone entreating with God for a good wife, he met Rebekah (Gen. 24:63, 64). While Hezekiah was weeping and praying in private, God sent the prophet Isaiah to assure him that He would add unto his days fifteen years (Isa. 38:5). When Jonah was shut up in the whale’s belly, he was delivered in answer to his supplication (2:1-10). O the power of private prayer: it has issued in the dead being raised to life—1 Kings 17:18-22, 2 Kings 4:32-35. May the Holy Spirit graciously use these considerations to stir up writer and reader.
“My voice shalt Thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee, and will look up” (Psa. 5:3). Let this be our resolve, and, so long as we are spared, our practice, throughout the year we have just entered. It is both our wisdom and our duty to thus begin each day with God. “Should not a people seek unto the Lord their God?” Surely the light of nature dictates that we ought to do so, while the light of the Gospel affords us ample instruction and encouragement for the same. When He says to us “Seek ye My face,” should not our hearts answer as to One we love, “Thy face, LORD, will we seek” (Psa. 27:8)? But suppose our hearts have grown cold, and we have wickedly strayed from Him? Well, when He says “Return ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings,” should we not readily reply, “Behold, we come unto Thee, for Thou art the LORD our God” (Jer. 3:22)?
O my reader, is there not much that we need to say to the Lord our God, the One whom we serve? How many and important are the concerns which lie between us and Him. We are constantly dependent upon Him—all our expectation is from Him. Is not all our happiness for time and eternity bound up in His favour? Have we not need to seek His approbation—to seek Him with all our hearts; to beg as for our very lives that He will lift up the light of His countenance upon us, to plead Christ’s righteousness as that through which alone we can hope to obtain God’s lovingkindness (Psa. 71:16)?! Are we not conscious that we have deeply offended the Lord our God by our numerous and grievous sins, and have contracted defilement thereby? Should we not confess our folly and seek forgiveness and cleansing by the blood of Christ? Have we not received innumerable bounties and blessings from Him—must we not acknowledge the same, and return thanks and praise? Yes, prayer is the very least we can offer unto God.
Let us now make a few suggestions upon how this duty is to be performed. First, reverently. In all our approaches to God we should duly consider His exalted majesty and ineffable holiness, and humble ourselves before Him as Abraham did (Gen. 18:27). The word “direct my prayer unto Thee” (Psa. 5:3) signifies a fixedness of thought or close application of the mind. We need to set about the discharge of this duty solemnly, as those who have at heart something of great importance which we dare not trifle with. When we come before the Throne of Grace and address the Most High, we must not offer the sacrifice of fools: “be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God” (Eccl. 5:2). He that shoots an arrow at a mark directs it with a steady hand and fixed eye—so when engaging the heart to approach unto God, it must be disengaged from everything else. O to be able to say, “My heart is fixed, O God” (Psa. 57:7). See to it that the awe of God’s greatness be upon your soul together with a deep sense of your utter unworthiness.
Second, sincerely. We cannot be too strongly or too frequently warned against that mere external worship to which we are so constantly prone, and which is the bane of all spiritual good. Of old, Israel was charged with making mention of God’s name, “but not in truth” (Isa. 48:1). The desire of our heart must prompt and correspond to the petitions we present. How we need to beg God that this may be wrought into our spirits. How we need to search our hearts and see to it that we mean what we say, for “The LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain” (Exo. 20:7). Form the habit of challenging yourself by inquiring, Am I consistent with myself when I invoke God, or do I think I can impose upon Him with hypocrisy. “The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth” (Psa. 145:18). As an aid to this, ponder the high value of those spiritual things you ask for—your deep need of them—and inquire, Do I really desire the same?
Third, submissively—that is, subserviently to God’s glory and our own highest good. Our petitions should ever be presented with the provision, “If it be Thy will.” We are ever prone to act amiss and often know not “what manner of spirit we are of” (Luke 9:55). The prayer of faith includes submission as truly as it does confidence, for if the latter be without the former, it is presumption—and not faith. To pray in faith is not to ask in the certain belief that God will give us what we ask for, but rather that He will grant us what is wisest and best. If we knew assuredly beforehand that God would certainly give us the very things we ask for, we would have reason to be afraid to pray, for often we desire things which would prove a curse if we got them! Our wisdom as well as our duty is to pray, conditionally and submissively. We must bow before God’s sovereignty.
Fourth, confidently. There are some men, who because of their high station or known sternness towards all inferiors, we would be afraid to approach. And because we have none to introduce and speak a good word for us, we would therefore abandon the idea of speaking to them. But there is no reason why a believer should be discouraged from speaking to God—nay, He bids us “come boldly unto the Throne of Grace, that we may obtain mercy”: (Heb. 4:16). Let not, then, a sense of God’s greatness or holiness, nor a realization of your own entire unworthiness, deter you. Such are God’s compassions unto humble supplicants that even His terror should not make them afraid. It is directly against His revealed will that His people should frighten themselves thus. He would have them encourage themselves as children: “for ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15). By that very spirit of adoption we were brought into the nearness, freedom, and liberty of the children of God, and though we are still full of sin, yet, “we have an Advocate with the Father” (1 John 2:1).
Fifth, fervently. David said, “I entreated Thy favour with my whole heart” (Psa. 119:58). It is not sufficient that our tongues babble out a mere form—our hearts must be in this work—we are to be more concerned about the exercise of our affections than in the selection of our words. It is to be feared that we pray far more from our memories than our consciences. But let it be pointed out that fervency in prayer is not a working up of our animal spirits so that there is shouting and shaking of the body—actors work themselves up into a great heat to move their audience, and lawyers to impress a judge. Fervency is expressed in Scripture as a calling upon the name of the Lord (Rom. 10:13), a stretching out the hands toward Him (Job 11:13), a following hard after Him (Psa. 63:8), a laying hold of Him (Isa. 64:7), a pouring out the heart before Him (Psa. 62:8). It is a striving in prayer (Rom. 15:30). God hates lukewarmness. Note Daniel’s intensity: 9:19. David compared his prayers to “incense” (Psa. 141:2), and no incense was offered without fire!
Let us now anticipate an objection. I would be often in praying before God, but sin has so much power over me that it severs communion, and utterly quenches the spirit of prayer in my heart—I feel so polluted that it would be a mockery for me to appear before the thrice holy God. Ah, but God’s hearing of our prayers does not depend upon our sanctity—but upon Christ’s mediation: “I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for Mine holy name’s sake” (Ezek. 36:22). It is not because of what Christians are in themselves, but because of what they are in Christ, that God responds to their requests: “to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). When God answers our petitions it is not for our sakes, nor for our prayers’ sake, but for His Son’s sake: see Ephesians 4:32. Seek to remember, my distressed brethren, that you are a member of the mystical body of Christ, and as Luther said, “What man will cut off his nose because there is filth in it?”
The more desperate be our case, the greater is our need to pray: if grace in us be weak, the continued neglect of prayer will make it weaker. If our corruptions be strong, the omission of prayer will make them stronger. Sins which are bewailed never hinder the access and success of our petitions. Jonah was a man full of sinful passions, yet his prayers prevailed with God: (2:1, 2, 7, 10). David said, “iniquities prevail against me,” yet he at once added, “as for our transgressions, Thou shalt purge them away” (Psa. 65:3). On another occasion he said, “The LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping” (Psa. 6:8)— his very tears prayed! God hears the sighs and groanings of those who cannot put them into words. Then encourage yourself by the greatness of God’s mercy, His covenant promises, His Fatherhood, and by the answers you have received in the past.
by Arthur W. Pink
It is sad indeed to find so many professing Christians who appear to regard the wrath of God as something for which they need to make an apology, or who at least wish there were no such thing. While some who would not go so far as to openly admit that they consider it a blemish on the divine character, yet they are far from regarding it with delight; they like not to think about it, and they rarely hear it mentioned without a secret resentment rising up in their hearts against it. Even with those who are more sober in their judgment, not a few seem to imagine that there is a severity about the divine wrath that makes it too terrifying to form a theme for profitable contemplation. Others harbor the delusion that God's wrath is not consistent with His goodness, and so seek to banish it from their thoughts.
Yes, many there are who turn away from a vision of God's wrath as though they were called to look upon some blotch in the divine character or some blot upon the divine government.
But what saith the Scriptures?
As we turn to them we find that God has made no attempt to conceal the facts concerning His wrath. He is not ashamed to make it known that vengeance and fury belong unto Him. His own challenge is:
See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god with Me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of My hand. For I lift up My hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever. If I whet My glittering sword, and Mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to Mine enemies, and will reward them that hate Me.
A study of the concordance will show that there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God, than there are to His love and tenderness. Because God is holy, He hates all sin; and because He hates all sin, His anger burns against the sinner (Psalm 7:11).
Now the wrath of God is as much a divine perfection as is His faithfulness, power, or mercy. It must be so, for there is no blemish whatever, not the slightest defect in the character of God; yet there would be if "wrath" were absent from Him! Indifference to sin is a moral blemish, and he who hates it not is a moral leper.
How could He who is the Sum of all excellency look with equal satisfaction upon virtue and vice, wisdom and folly?
How could He who is infinitely holy disregard sin and refuse to manifest His "severity" (Romans 11:22) toward it?
How could He, who delights only in that which is pure and lovely, not loathe and hate that which is impure and vile?
The very nature of God makes Hell as real a necessity, as imperatively and eternally requisite, as Heaven is. Not only is there no imperfection in God, but there is no perfection in Him that is less perfect than another.
The wrath of God is His eternal detestation of all unrighteousness. It is the displeasure and indignation of divine equity against evil. It is the holiness of God stirred into activity against sin. It is the moving cause of that just sentence which He passes upon evildoers. God is angry against sin because it is a rebelling against His authority, a wrong done to His inviolable sovereignty. Insurrectionists against God's government shall be made to know that God is the Lord.
They shall be made to feel how great that Majesty is which they despise, and how dreadful is that threatened wrath which they so little regarded. Not that God's anger is a malignant and malicious retaliation, inflicting injury for the sake of it, or in return for injury received. No, though God will vindicate His dominion as the Governor of the universe, He will not be vindictive.
That divine wrath is one of the perfections of God is not only evident from the considerations presented above, but is also clearly established by the express declarations of His own Word.
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven".
One man comments on this verse as follows:
It was revealed when the sentence of death was first pronounced, the earth cursed, and man driven out of the earthly paradise, and afterwards by such examples of punishment as those of the Deluge, and the destruction of the Cities of the Plain by fire from heaven, but especially by the reign of death throughout the world. It was proclaimed in the curse of the law on every transgression, and was intimated in the institution of sacrifice, and in all the services of the Mosaic dispensation. In the eighth chapter of this epistle, the Apostle calls the attention of believers to the fact that the whole creation has become subject to vanity, and groaneth and travaileth together in pain. The same creation which declares that there is a God, and publishes His glory, also proves that He is the Enemy of sin and the Avenger of the crimes of men...But above all, the wrath of God was revealed from heaven when the Son of God came down to manifest the divine character, and when that wrath was displayed in His sufferings and death, in a manner more awful than by all the tokens God had before given of His displeasure against sin. Besides this, the future and eternal punishment of the wicked is now declared in terms more solemn and explicit than formerly. Under the new dispensation, there are two revelations given from heaven, one of wrath, the other of grace.
Again, that the wrath of God is a divine perfection is plainly demonstrated by what we read in:
"Unto whom I sware in My wrath."
There are two occasions of God's "swearing": in making promises (Genesis 22:16), and in pronouncing judgments (Deuteronomy 1:34ff). In the former, He swears in mercy to His children; in the latter, He swears to deprive a wicked generation of its inheritance because of murmuring and unbelief. An oath is for solemn confirmation (Hebrews 6:16).
In Genesis 22:16 God says:
"By Myself have I sworn."
In Psalm 89:35 He declares:
"Once have I sworn by My holiness."
While in Psalm 95:11 He affirms:
"I swear in My wrath."
Thus the great Jehovah Himself appeals to His "wrath" as a perfection equal to His "holiness": He swears by the one as much as by the other! Again, as in Christ:
"dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily"
and as all the divine perfections are illustriously displayed by Him (John 1:18), therefore do we read of:
"the wrath of the Lamb".
The wrath of God is a perfection of the divine character upon which we need to frequently meditate. First, that our hearts may be duly impressed by God's detestation of sin. We are ever prone to regard sin lightly, to gloss over its hideousness, to make excuses for it. But the more we study and ponder God's abhorrence of sin and His frightful vengeance upon it, the likely are we to realize its heinousness. Secondly, to beget a true fear in our souls for God:
"Let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire".
We cannot serve him "acceptably" unless there is due "reverence" for His awful Majesty and "godly fear" of His righteous anger; and these are best promoted by frequently calling to mind that "our God is a consuming fire." Thirdly, to draw out our souls in fervent praise for our having been delivered from "the wrath to come" (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
Our readiness or our reluctancy to meditate upon the wrath of God becomes a sure test of our hearts' true attitude toward Him.
If we do not truly rejoice in God, for what He is in Himself, and that because of all the perfections which are eternally resident in Him, then how dwelleth the love of God in us?
Each of us needs to be most prayerfully on his guard against devising an image of God in our thoughts which is patterned after our own evil inclinations. Of old the Lord complained,
"Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself".
If we rejoice not:
"at the remembrance of His holiness",
if we rejoice not to know that in a soon-coming Day, God will make a most glorious display of His wrath by taking vengeance upon all who now oppose Him, it is proof positive that our hearts are not in subjection to Him, that we are yet in our sins, and that we are on the way to the everlasting burnings.
Reioice, 0 ye nations [Gentiles] with His people, for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and will render vengeance to His adversaries.
And again we read:
I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: For true and righteous are His judgments. for He hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of His servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleluia.
Great will be the rejoicing of the saints in that day when the Lord shall vindicate His majesty, exercise His awful dominion, magnify His justice, and overthrow the proud rebels who have dared to defy Him.
If Thou, LORD, shouldest mark [impute] iniquities, 0 Lord, who shall stand?".
Well may each of us ask this question, for it is written:
"the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment".
How sorely was Christ's soul exercised with thoughts of God's marking the iniquities of His people when they were upon Him! He was amazed and very heavy (Mark 14:33). His awful agony, His bloody sweat, His strong cries and supplications (Hebrews 5:7), His reiterated prayers ("If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me"), His last dreadful cry ("My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?") all manifest what fearful apprehensions He had of what it was for God to "mark iniquities." Well may poor sinners cry out, "Lord, who shall stand," when the Son of God Himself so trembled beneath the weight of His wrath. If thou, my reader, hast not "fled for refuge" to Christ, the only Saviour, "how wilt thou do in the swelling of the Jordan? (Jeremiah 12:5).
One man once wrote: When I consider how the goodness of God is abused by the greatest part of mankind, I cannot but be of his mind that said, The greatest miracle in the world is God's patience and bounty to an ungrateful world. If a prince hath an enemy got into one of his towns, he doth not send them in provision, but lays close siege to the place, and doth what he can to starve them. But the great God, that could wink all His enemies into destruction, bears with them, and is at daily cost to maintain them. Well may He command us to bless them that curse us, who Himself does good to the evil and unthankful. But think not, sinners, that you shall escape thus; God's mill goes slow, but grinds small, the more admirable His patience and bounty now is, the more dreadful and unsupportable will that fury be which ariseth out of His abused goodness. Nothing smoother than the sea, yet when stirred into a tempest, nothing rageth more. Nothing so sweet as the patience and goodness of God, and nothing so terrible as His wrath when it takes fire (William Gurnall, 1660).
Then "flee," my reader, flee to Christ;
Matthew 3:7 "flee from the wrath to come"
before it be too late. Do not, we earnestly beseech you, suppose that this message is intended for somebody else. It is to you! Do not be contented by thinking you have already fled to Christ. Make certain! Beg the Lord to search your heart and show you yourself.
A Word to Preachers
Brethren, do we in our oral ministry, preach on this solemn subject as much as we ought?
The Old Testament prophets frequently told their hearers that their wicked lives provoked the Holy One of Israel, and that they were treasuring up to themselves wrath against the day of wrath. And conditions in the world are no better now than they were then! Nothing is so calculated to arouse the careless and cause carnal professors to search their hearts, as to enlarge upon the fact that:
Psalm 7:11 "God is angry with the wicked every day".
The forerunner of Christ warned his hearers to:
Matthew 3:7 "flee from the wrath to come".
The Saviour bade His auditors:
Luke 12:5 "Fear Him, which after He hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear Him".
The Apostle Paul said:
2 Corinthians 5:11 "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men".
Faithfulness demands that we speak as plainly about hell as about heaven.
by Arthur W. Pink
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
from Quæstionum Et Responsionum Christianarum Libellus (1570)
Q190. Can God be thought to will anything which he does not approve, and thus that which is evil?
BEZA: Truly, it must be confessed, that whatever God decreed, it is ordained altogether willingly, but here also shines forth His infinite wisdom, that with Him even the darkness has a bit of light, yet in such a way that it is and remains darkness, that is, it is good also that there should be evil; for God found the method whereby it might happen, that what is and remains evil by its own nature, might still have a bit of good before Him, and (as Augustine rightly and elegantly said) it may not happen except by His will, that is, apart from His decree, and yet be against his will, that is, what is by its own nature unrighteous, and therefore does not please God. For example, that God saved His own by the gracious redemption of His own Son Christ, is to His own exceedingly great glory, which otherwise [if men had not sinned] would not have shone forth. But man would not have required redemption from sin and death, unless sin and death existed. Therefore, in respect to the ordinance of God, it was good that sin and death enter into the world; and yet this sin is and remains sin so much by its own nature, that it could not be expiated for except by a very terrible penalty. Again, we receive far more in Christ than we lost in Adam. Therefore, it was best and most useful for us that Adam fell, in respect to God, who prepares a kingdom of eternal glory for us by this wonderful means. And nevertheless, this Fall is so evil by its own nature, that even those who are justified and believe, experience many miseries and calamities from it, even to death. Also, this is the great glory of God, that He shows Himself to be a most severe punisher of sin. But if sin had not existed, no opening would be made for this judgement. Therefore, it was good, in respect to the ordinance of God, that sin exist, and afterwards be spread abroad, which is damned in the demons and all those who are outside of Christ, with eternal punishment. Likewise, this also is the will of God (Peter said), that is, His decree, that all who do right, are affected by evils. But he who does well, is not able to be hurt apart from sin. It is good therefore, in respect to Godís will (that is, His ordinance) that there be persecutors of the church, whom, notwithstanding, He most severely punishes, justly, as sinners against His will, that is, against that which He approves of them doing. Therefore, by the express words of the apostles, that which is against Godís will or decree (that is, against that which He approves and commands), does not come to pass; on the other hand, it cannot be said that God is contrary to Himself, or that he wills iniquity, as Augustine rightly concluded from the Word of God against Julian.
Q191. Therefore, it seems right that permission be distinguished from will.
BEZA: What should be the thought concerning this distinction I addressed a little before. Certainly, if permission is set against will, that is decree, this opposition is not only false, but is also foolish and ridiculous. Even if in those actions which are not of free choice in and of themselves, as when merchants who are in danger throw their goods overboard, and generally as often as men choose the lesser evil to avoid the greater inconvenience, even profane men know that free-will has dominion. But if you set permission against will, that is, to that which God wants, as pleasing and acceptable to Him and of itself, and by its own nature; so that that which is good in and of itself is matched with that which is good by chance, and like as from the immense wisdom of God the darkness all serves the purpose of light, it has some measure of good (clearly, not by its own nature, but in respect to its end to which it is guided by God), then I would admit it; only this should be added, that this permission is not vain and idle, as some sleep, but very active and powerful, and yet most righteous permission, which can best be understood in a few words. I donít think that you would say that a judge is a certain idle spectator, when he hands criminals over to the executioner after hearing his case to receive this or that kind of punishment. For the executioner doesnít put him to death so much as he is the instrument of the judge who puts him to death. So if anything happens cruelly form the sentence of the judge, it is attributed, not so much to the executioner who executes, as to the judge who commands.
Q192. I concede all these things. But how many dissimilarities are there between these illustrations and the things which we are discussing?
BEZA: I confess. For otherwise there is no, or at least very little between a like thing and a same thing. Nevertheless, I wish that the chief points be brought up by you, so I can respond to them individually.
Q193. In the sentencing of judges, a trial goes before; but in these things concerning which you entreat, often nothing of this trial is observed.
BEZA: How many things are done rightly by the magistrates of this world, whose trial does not appear to the subjects? And do you attribute less to God, who searches thoroughly all things past and future lying hid in the depth of the hearts of men?
Q194. The executioner does nothing except from sentences received. But where have evil men received any such command as to kill one another, or to harm good men?
BEZA: In this you are deceived, that whatever God decreed, you think he gives knowledge of it with some loud voice, to those whose works He has decreed to use. However, experience has shown this is not always true in either case, that is, whether He has decided to use mercy, or to use justice, not even when He uses knowing instruments. For who would doubt that Pharaoh was ordained by God to receive Joseph and to prepare a hospitable place for the church? Yet he himself outwardly received no mandate concerning this, no, nor even thought of any such thing in himself. Yet this was decreed by God, and the quiet motion of Pharaohís heart tended to the executing of that which the Lord decreed. The prophets predicted a thousand times that the Chaldeans [Babylonians] were ordained to punish the evil Israelites, and to nurture the good; and in the same way, as if Nebuchadnezar had received an express mandate concerning this, so the Lord did not expressly command any such thing to the Chaldeans, but, as Ezekiel wrote, the heart of the king, partly given to Satan and his seers, and partly to his own desires, willingly inclined him to accomplish that which God had determined. How much more must the same be believed, as often as the Lord uses the things which lack reason [animals], or even that which is utterly without life, as His executioners. For in this way He called flies, frogs, locusts, grasshoppers, hail, and death to punish Pharaoh; so also the wisest of all men said, that even lots themselves do not fall by chance. For by a secret motion all things serve the executing of the decrees of God. But there is this difference, that good instruments do nothing except by faith, that is, upon assurance that they are called to do that which they do, and with a mind fixed to obey. But as for the evil instruments, sin they are led with a blind force by Satan and their own lusts, and have not the least consideration for obedience to God, with whose express word they know, or ought to know, that their counsels strive. Therefore, they do not serve the Lord, although God secretly uses the work of them, even the unwilling, so that they do nothing else, than that which He Himself, the wonderful worker, has decreed.