Death and Life―The Wage and the Gift―Spurgeon

By C. H. Spurgeon

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23

 …….. And now I am glad to pass into liberty and joy while I speak on the second subject: ETERNAL LIFE IS THE GIFT OF GOD.

7600226004_a3fee059ac_nNote well the change: death is a wage, but life is a gift. Sin brings its natural consequences with it; but eternal life is not the purchase of human merit, but the free gift of the love of God. The abounding goodness of the Most High alone grants life to those who are dead by sin. It is with clear intent to teach us the doctrine of the grace of God that the apostle altered the word here from wages to gift. Naturally he would have said, “The wages of sin is death, but the wages of righteousness is eternal life.” But he wished to show us that life comes upon quite a different principle from that upon which death comes. In salvation all is of free gift: in damnation everything is of justice and desert. When a man is lost, he has earned it; when a man is saved, it is given him.

Let us notice, first, that eternal life is imparted by grace through faith. When it first enters the soul it comes as God’s free gift. The dead cannot earn life; the very supposition is absurd. Eternal life enjoyed on earth comes to us as a gift. “What!” says one, “do you mean to say that eternal life comes into the soul here?” I say yes, here, or else never. Eternal life must be our possession now; for if we die without it; it will never be our possession in the world to come, which is not the state of probation, but of fixed and settled reward. When the flame of eternal life first drops into a man’s heart, it is not as the result of any good works of his which preceded it, for there were none; nor as the result of any feelings of his, for good feelings were not there until the life came. Both good works and good feelings are the fruit of the heavenly life which enters the heart, and makes us conscious of its entrance by working in us repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. “Eternal life is the gift of God in Jesus Christ.” By faith we come consciously into Christ. We trust him, we rest upon him, we become one with him, and thus eternal life manifests itself. Has he not said, “I give unto my sheep eternal life”; and again, “He that believes in him has everlasting life”?

O beloved, you that have been quickened by the Spirit of God, I am sure you trace that first quickening to the grace of God. Whatever your doctrinal views may be, you are all agreed in the experimental acknowledgment that by the grace of God you are what you are. How could you, being dead, give yourself life? How could you, being the slave of sin, set yourself free? But the Lord in mercy visited you as surely as the Lord Jesus Christ visited the tomb of Lazarus; and he spoke with his almighty voice, and bade you come to life, and you arose and came to life at his bidding. You remember well the change that came upon you. If any man here could have been literally dead, and then could have been made to live, what a wonderful experience his would have been! We should go a long way to hear the story of a man who had been dead, and then was made alive again.

But I tell you, his experience, if he could tell it, would not be any more wonderful than our experience as quickened from death in sin; for we have suffered the pains that come through the entrance of life into the soul, and we know the joys which afterwards come of it. We have seen the light that life brings to the spiritual eye; we have felt the emotions that life brings to the quickened heart; we have known the joys which life, and only life, can bring to the entire man. We can tell you something about these things; but if you want to know them to the full, you must feel them for yourselves. “You must be born again.” We bear our witness that eternal life within our spirit is not of our earning, but the gift of God.

Beloved, since we received eternal life, we have gone on to grow, and we have made great advances in the divine life; our little trembling faith has now grown to be full assurance; that zeal of ours which burned so low that we hardly dared to attempt anything for Jesus has now flamed up into full consecration, so that we live to his praise. From where has this growth come? Is it not still a free gift? Have you received an increase of life by the law, or has it come to you as the free gift of God? I know what you will say; and if any of you have so grown in grace that you have become ripe Christians; if any of you have been taught of God so that you can teach others; if any of you have been led by the Holy Spirit so that your sanctification is known unto all men, and you have become saintly men and women; I am sure that your holiness and maturity are still gifts received, and not wages earned. I will put the question to you again: Did this abundant life come to you by the works of the law, or by grace through faith which is in Christ Jesus? Your instantaneous answer is, “It is all of grace, in the latter as well as in the earlier stages.” Yes, in every degree the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.

Yes; and when we get to heaven, and the eternal life shall there be developed as a bud opens into a full-blown rose; when our life shall embrace God’s life, and God’s life shall encompass ours; when we shall be abundantly alive to everything that is holy, divine, heavenly, blessed, and eternally glorious; oh, then we shall confess that our life was all of the grace of God, the free gift of God in Jesus Christ our Lord! I am sure that our heavenly education will only make us know more and more fully that while death is the well-earned wages of sin, eternal life is from beginning to end the gift of infinite grace.

Beloved, observe gratefully what a wonderful gift this is, – “the gift of God,” – the gift which Jesus bestows upon every believer; for “to as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to as many as believed on his name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” How express is our Lord’s statement: “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides in him “! What a life this is! It must be of a wonderful sort, because it is called “life” par excellence, emphatically “life,” true life, real life, essential life. This does not mean mere existence, as some vainly talk. There never was a greater blunder than to confound life with existence, or death with non-existence; these are two totally different and distinct ideas. The life of man means the existence of man as he ought to exist – in union with God, and consequently in holiness, purity, health, and happiness. Man, as God intended him to be, is man enjoying life – man, as sin makes men, is man abiding in death. All that man can receive of joy and honor the Lord gives to man to constitute life eternal in the world to come. What a life is this! The life that is imparted to us in regeneration is God’s own life, brought into us by “the living and incorruptible seed which lives and abides for ever.” We are akin to God by the new birth, and by loving union with his Son Jesus Christ. What must life mean in God’s sense of it?

Moreover, we have life eternal, too, never ending. Whatever else may end, this never can. It can neither be killed by temptation, nor destroyed by trial, nor quenched by death, nor worn out by the ages. The gift of the eternal God is eternal life. Those who talk about a man having everlasting life, and losing it, do not know the force of language. If a man has eternal life, it is eternal, and cannot therefore end or be lost. If it be everlasting, it is “everlasting”; to lose it would prove that it was not everlasting. No, if you have eternal life, you can never perish; if God has bestowed it upon you, it will not be recalled, “for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” This eternal life is evidently a free gift; for how could any man obtain it in any other way? It is too precious to be bought, too divine to be made by man. If it had to be earned, how could you have earned it? You, I mean, who have already earned death. The wage due to you already was death, and by that wage you were effectually shut out from all possibility of ever earning life. Indeed, the earning of life seems to me to be from the beginning out of the question. It has come to us as a free gift; it could not come in any other way.

Furthermore, remember that it is life in Jesus; the “through” of our version is “in” in the original. We are in everlasting union with the blessed Person of the Son of God, and therefore we live. To be in Christ is a mystery of bliss. The apostle felt that this was an occasion for again rehearsing our blessed Master’s names and titles of honor – “in Jesus Christ our Lord.” I noted to you on a former occasion how, at certain seasons, the various honors and titles of great men are proclaimed by heralds with becoming state, and so here, to the praise of the Lord Jesus, Paul writes his full degree – “Eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

He writes at large the august name before which every knee shall bow, and he links our life therewith. Here we read the cheering and precious name of Jesus. By that name he is nearest to man; when he was born into our nature he was named Jesus, “for he shall save his people from their sins.” The life which comes in connection with him is salvation from sin. In this Savior is life. The next name is “Christ,” or anointed, by which name he is nearest to God being sent forth and anointed of God to treat with us on God’s behalf. He is the Lord’s Christ, and our Jesus. Next he is called “Our Lord.” Herein lies the glory of our anointed Savior: we through grace becoming servants participate in the life and glory of our Lord. He reigns as our Lord, and by his reigning power he shows himself to be the Lord and giver of life. “All live unto him.” Our Lord has life in himself, and breathes it into us. What a life this is, – a life saved from sin, a life anointed of the Holy Spirit, a life in union with him who is Lord of all. This is the life which is peculiarly the gift of God.

Thus I have set forth this doctrine, and I desire to apply it by adding a little more of practical importance. First, let us come at this time, one and all, and receive this divine life as a gift in Christ Jesus. If any of you have been working for it by going about to establish your own righteousness, I urge you to end the foolish labor by submitting yourselves to the righteousness of God. It you have been trying to feel so much, or to pray so much, or to mourn so much, stop from thus offering a price, and come and receive life as a free gift from your God. Pull down the idol of your pride, and humbly sue for pardoning grace on the plea of mercy. Believe and live. You are not called upon to earn life, but to receive it; receive it as freely as your lungs take in the air you breathe. If you are dead in sin at this moment, yet the gospel of life has come near unto you. With that gospel there comes the life-giving wind of the eternal Spirit.

He can call you out of your ruin, and wreckage, and death, and make you live. This is his word, “Awake, you that sleep, and rise from the dead, and Christ shall give you life.” Will you have it as a gift? If there be any true life in you, your answer will be quick and hearty. You will be lost if you do not receive this gift. Your earnings will be paid into your bosom, and dread will be the death which will settle down upon you. The acceptance of a free gift would not be difficult if we were not proud. Accept it – God help you to accept it at once! Even that acceptance will be God’s gift; for the will to live is life; and all true life, from beginning to end, is entirely of the Lord.

Beloved, have we accepted that free gift of eternal life? Let us abide in it. Let us never be tempted to try the law of merit; let us never attempt to live by our earnings. No doubt eternal life is a reward in one sense, but it is always a reward of grace, not a reward of debt. The Lord shall give us a crown of life at last as a reward; but even then we shall confess that he first gave us the work by which the crown was won. The Lord first gives us good works, and then rewards us for them. The labor of love is in itself a gift of love.

Grace reigns all along; not only in removing sin, but in working virtue. Finally, are we now abiding in eternal life, trusting in the Son of God, and clinging to his skirts? then let us live to his glory. Do we know that because he lives, we shall live also? If so, let us show by our gratitude how greatly we prize this gift. We dwell in a world where death is everywhere manifesting itself in various forms of corruption – therefore let us see from what the Lord has delivered us. Let no man boast in his heart that he is not subject to the vile influences which hold the world in its corruption. Let no pride because of our new life ever cross our spirit. Chase every such thought as that away with detestation. If our life be of grace, there is no room for boasting, but much space for soul-humbling. When you walk the streets, and hear the groans of the dead in the form of oaths and blasphemies, thank the Lord that you have been taught a more living language. Think of drunkenness and lust as the worms that are bred of the putridity of the death which comes of sin. You are disgusted and horrified, my brothers; but these things would have been in you also but for the grace of God. We are like living men shut up in a charnel-house; wherever we turn we see the dreary works of death; but all this should make us grateful to the sacred power which has brought us out of death into spiritual life.

As for others, let us anxiously ask the question – “Can these dry bones live? “Then let us be obedient to the heavenly vision when the divine word says to us, “Son of man, prophesy upon these bones.” We must cherish the faith which will enable us to do this. Moreover, a sight of the universal death of unrenewed nature should drive us to prayer, so that we cry, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” This prayer being offered, we should live in hopeful expectancy that the Lord will open the graves of his people, and cause them to come forth and live by his Spirit. Oh for grace to prophesy believingly upon these bones, and say, “O you dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.

Thus says the Lord God unto these bones, Behold I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live.” Beloved, we shall yet see them stand up an exceeding great army, quickened of the Lord our God. He delights to burst the bonds of death. Resurrection is one of his chief glories. He heralds resurrection, work with trumpets, and angels, and a glorious high throne, because he delights in it. The living Jehovah rejoices to give life, and especially to give it to the dead. Corruption flies before him, grave clothes are cut, and sepulchers are broken open. “I am the resurrection, and the life,” says Jesus; and so he is even at this hour. O God, save this congregation to the praise of the glory of your grace, wherein you have made us to live, and to be accepted in your well-beloved Son.

Amen and Amen.

 

FREE

DEEPEN YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF THE BIBLE.

DIG DEEPER INTO THE WORD OF GOD

FREE 39 Kindles of the Old Testament COMMENTARY by Matthew Henry, formatted by yours truly as a gift to you.

Download it instantly with no strings attached 


Advertisements

Real Conversion—by James Smith

 

James Smith, 1859

7600226004_a3fee059ac_nReal conversion supposes that it has a counterfeit — something like conversion which is not the thing itself. For instance, a man may change his sentiments, on many points his feelings may undergo a change, and he may reform his life — and yet not be really converted to God. Many have had convictions and impressions, and have changed their course and conduct, who have still been strangers to God, and the power of vital religion. Seeming conversion, sometimes comes so near to real conversion — that there only appears to be one deficiency — but that is a fatal one, it is the life of God in the soul. The outward conduct is correct, the head is illuminated — but the heart is not quickened. Religion without life, however orthodox the creed, or correct the conduct — is but a form without power, the representation of a Christian — but not a real Christian.

What is real conversion? It is a thorough turning to God. The turning of the whole person to God and his service. It includes a change of heart — which change is produced by the Holy Spirit. When the heart is thoroughly changed, there is a change in our thoughts of God, and in our feelings toward God. We then think of him as his Word represents him, and as Jesus reveals him in his holy and beautiful life. We think of him, as the child thinks of his affectionate father, as the wife thinks of her loving husband, or as the servant thinks of her kind and generous master. Our thoughts of God are pleasant and natural, and our souls go forth in desire to God.

Our feelings toward God, were formerly cold, indifferent, and carnal. There was enmity against God, and a wish to keep at a distance from God. But real conversion changes our feelings, and we love God, delight in God, and desire above all things to please God. The feelings of the enemy, give way to those of the friend; and the feelings of the slave, to those of the child.

And out of this change of heart, or change of our thoughts and feelings — grows a change of life. We no longer live unto ourselves, or for ourselves; but we live unto God, and for God. We no longer live in sin — but have our fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. Now, the precepts of the Bible are our rule, the life of Jesus is our model, and the glory of God our aim. Being created anew in Christ Jesus — we are new creatures. Being new creatures — we . . .
act from new principles,
are influenced by new motives,
are attracted by new objects;
and as the Apostle says, “old things are passed away, and behold, all things are become new.”

Real conversion therefore is the man turning . . .
from sin to holiness,
from self to Christ,
from the world to God.

This turning is the effect of a new principle imparted to the soul by the Holy Spirit in regeneration.

What are the effects of real conversion? Many — too many to enumerate here, as it affects the entire man in all his parts, in all his relations, and in all his prospects. The converted man turning from self to Jesus, obtains peace through the blood of his cross. Peace with God. Peace in his own conscience. Peaceful feelings toward all mankind. He is reconciled to God’s perfections, law, and government; and yielding himself to God through Jesus, he enjoys holy tranquility of soul. Turning from self to God — he is sanctified to God. Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, he is changed into the same image.

He is now a holy man. His heart loves holiness. He desires to be holy in body, soul, and spirit. Holiness is his element — and sin his grief and sorrow. Turning from the world to Jesus, he is filled with love — love to God, and love to man. He loves God supremely, and loves all the saints sincerely. Love is the ruling passion of his soul — and love is the great proof that his conversion is real.

Love leads to fellowship with God, as a father and a friend; and in that fellowship he finds the purest enjoyment, and the richest blessings. He lays himself out for others, employing all his spare time and talents, in efforts to do good to his fellow men. He seeks to save souls from death, to ameliorate human woe, and make all round him holy and happy.

Reader, are you really converted to God? Have you experienced a change of heart? Has that led to a change of life? Have you peace with God? Holiness of heart? Love to the Savior, your Heavenly Father, and your fellow men? Do you live in fellowship with God? Are you employing any portion of your time and talents for God? These are solemn and searching questions. They are worthy your closest attention. Take them, and with them, examine your heart and your life.

If you are not really converted to God, you are yet in your sins; and if you die in your sins, where Jesus is, you can never come. Life or death — eternal life or eternal death — depends on your being converted, or unconverted. The heart must be changed, and so must the current of the life; “for if we live after the flesh, we shall die; but if we, through the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body — we shall live.” Life or death therefore, eternal life or eternal death, depend upon our being converted — or unconverted. May the Holy Spirit of God, therefore, reveal to us our true state and condition, and if we are converted, devote us wholly to the Lord, and his work; but if we are unconverted, convince us of it, and by his invincible grace, make us thorough Christians! Amen.

FREE

DEEPEN YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF THE BIBLE.

DIG DEEPER INTO THE WORD OF GOD

FREE 39 Kindles of the Old Testament COMMENTARY by Matthew Henry, formatted by yours truly as a gift to you.

Download it instantly with no strings attached 

The Doctrine of Free Grace – The Puritans’s Views

 

Hi there, 

The Doctrine of Free Grace – The Puritans’s Views: What is Grace? & Why I’t’s Such an Abused Doctrine? [Kindle Edition]

Check out this ebook on Amazon. I used the words of the Puritans to describe what I know and have been taught by God in the wilderness, as to what Grace is about and why it is so misunderstood by most. Even though I found lots of information, but it is still partial to the magnitude of what God had in mind when He inspired the used of the word Grace. However, this book will give you a much better understanding about God’s grace and I pray you would open your heart to it.

It is listed only for $2.99 and if you want, you can also borrow from the Kindle library.

In His Agape Love and Service,

M. J. Andre

 

 

THE SPIRIT OF GRACE BY  James Smith, 1864

 

free graceThe Holy Spirit is, emphatically, the gracious Spirit. All that he does for us, and all that he works within us — is of grace. His grace is his glory, and he glories in his grace. We may obtain his presence, and receive his blessing in answer to prayer — but we can never deserve either, nor can we by any works we perform merit them. He graciously . . .
quickens the dead,
instructs the ignorant,
liberates the captives,
restores the wanderers,
comforts the dejected,
strengthens the weak,
and sanctifies the impure. 
His work is his delight, and to see us holy and happy his pleasure!
Nothing grieves him like neglect, indifference, and going back to the beggarly elements of this present world. Such conduct wounds his loving heart, grieves his kind and tender nature; hence it was said of Israel: “They vexed and grieved his Holy Spirit.” And the apostle exhorts us: “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.”
Brethren, we need the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of grace–to make us gracious and graceful Christians. Without the Spirit of grace . . .
  we cannot live up to our profession; 
  we cannot copy the example of our beloved Master; 
  we cannot keep His commandments;
  we cannot love one another as He has loved us; 
  we cannot sympathize with lost sinners as we should; 
  we cannot keep God’s glory in view in all that we do; 
  we cannot walk in high and holy fellowship with God;
  we cannot meet death with peace and joy!

Let us look up, therefore, to our heavenly Father, let us plead his precious promises, let us go in the name of the Lord Jesus, and let us entreat him to give us more of “the Spirit of grace.” He is not backward to bestow — if we are willing to receive. He will not refuse to listen to us — if we are earnest, hearty, and importunate. He will grant us the blessing — if we seek it as that which is essential to our holiness and happiness, and to his honor and praise. His word warrants us to expect that he will give his Holy Spirit to those who ask him. (Luke 11:13). His nature and his name, encourage us to persevere in our application to his throne, until we receive. Oh, For Jacob’s spirit — that we may wrestle until we prevail! Oh, for David’s power with God — that a messenger may be caused to fly very swiftly, to assure us that our prayer is heard! Oh, for the faith and fervor of the first Christians — that we may be all filled with the Holy Spirit and with power! Oh, for the fullness of “the Spirit of grace,” to be poured out upon every member of the one church of Jesus, that we may all love each other, and endeavor, by all possible means, to glorify his glorious name!

 

The Narrow Way

 

by Arthur Pink

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction—and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life—and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14

7600226004_a3fee059ac_nThe second half of Matthew 7 forms the applicatory part of that most important discourse of our Lord’s, known as “the Sermon on the Mount.” One leading design of the Sermon was to show the spiritual nature and wide extent of that obedience which characterizes the true subjects of Christ’s kingdom, and which obedience is absolutely necessary for the enjoyment of that ultimate state of blessedness which Divine grace has provided for them. As the Prophet of God, Christ made known that the righteousness which obtains in His kingdom greatly exceeds the “righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees.”

Now the Jews imagined that all of them were the subjects of the Messiah’s kingdom; that by virtue of their descent from Abraham, they were the rightful heirs of it; that the “righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees” (that system of religious and moral duty taught by them) met all the requirements of God’s law. But this was a delusion, and the Lord Jesus here exposed that fleshly descent from Abraham could not give title untospiritual kingdom. That which was merely natural—was no qualification for the supernatural realm. Only they were accounted the true children of Abraham—who had his faith (Romans 4:16), who did his works (John 8:39), and who were united to Christ (Galatians 3:29).

In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord delineated the inward state of those who belonged to His spiritual kingdom (Matthew 5:4-11); described the outward conduct by which they might be identified (Matthew 5:13-16); expounded the personal righteousness which God’s justice demanded (Matthew 5:17-28); and defined that utter repudiation of sin which he required from His people (Matthew 5:29-30). So high are the demands of the thrice holy One, so uncompromising are the requirements of His ineffable character, that none can dwell with Him eternally—who do not in this world—loathe, resist, and turn from all that is repulsive to His pure eye. Nothing short of the complete denying of self, the abandoning of the dearest idol, the forsaking of the most cherished sinful course— figuratively represented under the cutting off of a right hand and the plucking out of a right eye—is what He claims from every one who would have communion with Himself.

Such plain and pointed declarations of Christ must have seemed “hard sayings” to the multitudes who listened to Him; such piercing and flesh-withering demands would probably cause many of his Jewish hearers to think within themselves, “Who then can be saved? This is indeed a strait gate and a narrow way.”

Anticipating their secret objections, the Lord plainly declared that the GATE unto salvation is “strait” and the WAY which leads unto life is “narrow.” Yet, He went on to point out, that it is your wisdom, your interest, your duty to enter that “Gate” and walk that “Way.” He acknowledged and faithfully warned them that there was a “Wide gate” soliciting their entrance, and a “Broad road” inviting them to walk therein; but that gate leads to perdition, that road ends in Hell. The “Strait Gate” is the only gate to “life,” the “Narrow Way” is the only one which conducts to Heaven.

Few indeed find it, few have the least inclination for it; but that very fact ought only to provide an additional incentive to my giving all diligence to enter therein.

In the verses which are now to be before us, Christ defined and described the Way of salvation, though we sorrowfully admit that ‘modern evangelists’ rarely expound it. What we shall now endeavor to set forth is very different from what most have been taught—but you reject it at your eternal peril. We repeat, that in that passage we are about to consider, He who was Truth incarnatemade known the only way of escaping Perdition and securing Heaven, namely, by entering the “Strait Gate” and treading the “Narrow Way.”

The NARROW GATE

The Greek word for “strait” signifies restrained or “narrow” and is so rendered in the revised version. Now a “gate” serves two purposes: it lets in and it shuts out. All who enter this Narrow Gate gain admittance to that “Way” which “leads unto life;” but all who enter not by this Narrow Gate, are eternally barred from God’s presence. The second use of this Gate, is solemnly illustrated at the close of the parable of the ten virgins. There, our Lord pictures the foolish ones as being without the necessary “oil” (the work of the Spirit in the heart), and while they went to buy it, the Bridegroom came, and “the door was shut” (Matthew 25:10); and though they then besought Him to open it to them, He answered “I know you not.”

1. What is denoted by this figure of the “narrow gate?” We believe the reference is to the searching and solemn teaching of Him who is Truth incarnate. It is only as the heart bows to the righteousness of God’s claims and demands upon us, as set forth by His Son—that any soul can enter that path which alone leads to Him. While the heart is rebellious against Him—there can be no approach to Him, for, “Can two walk together except they be agreed?”

It is true, blessedly and gloriously true, that Christ Himself is “the Door” (John 10:9), and He is so in a threefold way, according to the three principal functions of His mediatorial office. He is “the Door” into God’s presence as the Prophet, the Priest, and the King. Now it is only as Christ is truly received as God’s authoritative Prophet, only as His holy teachings are really accepted by a contrite heart, that any one is prepared to savingly welcome Him as Priest. Christ is the “Way” and “the Truth” before he is the “Life” (John 14:6), as he is “first King of righteousness, and after that, also King of peace” (Hebrews 7:2). In other words, His cleansing blood is only available for those who are willing to throw down the weapons of their warfare against God, and surrender themselves to His holy rule. The wicked must forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, if he is to be pardoned by God (Isaiah 55:7); and this is only another way of saying that Christ must be received as Prophet, before he is embraced asPriest.

2. Why is this gate a “narrow” one? For at least three reasons:

First, because of sin. “The wicked shall be turned into Hell, all the nations that forget God” Psalm 9:17. The gate of heaven is far too narrow to admit such characters. The New Testament plainly affirms the same fact: “For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them!” (Ephesians 5:5-7).

Second, because of the Law. There are two principal errors about the Law, and I know not which is the more dangerous and disastrous: that one can earn heaven by obeying it; that one may enter heaven without that personal and practical godliness which the Law requires. “Follow peace with all, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). Where there is not this personal conformity to the will of God—the strong hand of the Law will close the door of heaven.

Third, because none can take the world along with him: this Gate is far too “narrow” to admit those who love the world.

3. What is meant by “entering” this narrow gate? 
FIRST, the acceptance of those teachings of truth, of duty, of happiness, which were unfolded by Christ—the honest and actual receiving into the heart of His holy, searching, flesh-withering instructions. This is like a person, with great difficulty, forcing his way through a very narrow entrance way. I say “with great difficulty,” for Christ’s precepts and commandments are, to the last degree, unpalatable to an unrenewed heart, and cannot be willingly and gladly received without a rigid denial of self and relinquishment of sinful pleasures, pursuits, and interests. Christ has plainly warned us that it is impossible for a man to serve two mastersSelf must be repudiated, and Christ must be received as “the Lord” (Colossians 2:6), or He will not save us.

SECOND, a deliberate abandoning of the Broad Road, or the flesh-pleasing mode of life. Until this has been done, there is no salvation possible for any sinner. Christ Himself taught this plainly in Luke 15—the “prodigal” must leave the “far country” before he could journey to the Father’s House! The same pointed truth is taught again in James 4:8-10, “Draw near to God—and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord—and He will lift you up.”

Ah, my friend, to really and actually enter this “Narrow Gate” is no easy matter! For that reason the Lord bade the people “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life!” (John 6:27).

Those words do not picture salvation as a thing of simple and easy attainment. Ponder also Christ’s emphatic exhortation in Luke 13:24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow gate, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” That He should utter such a statement, clearly implies that there are formidable difficulties and obstacles to be overcome, and that slothful nominal professors will surely not enter in. Let it be carefully noted that the Greek word for “strive” (namely, “agonizomai“) in Luke 13:24 is the same one that is used in 1 Corinthians 9:25, “And everyone that strives for the mastery is temperate in all things;” and is also rendered “laboring fervently” in Colossians 4:12, and “fight” in 1 Timothy 6:12!

And how are we to “strive” so as to “enter” the Narrow Gate? The general answer is, “lawfully” (2 Timothy 2:5). But to particularize: We are to strive by prayer and supplication, diligently seeking deliverance from those things which would bar our entrance. We are to earnestly cry to Christ for help from those foes which are seeking to overcome us. We are to come constantly to the Throne of Grace, that we may there find grace to help us to repudiate and turn away with loathing from everything which is abhorred by God, even though it involves our cutting off of a right hand and plucking out of a right eye; and grace to help us do those things which He has commanded. We must be “temperate in all things,” especially those things which the flesh craves and the world loves.

Why is such striving necessary to “enter” the narrow gate?

First, because SATAN is striving to destroy your soul. “Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour!” (1 Peter 5:8). Therefore must he be resisted “steadfast in the faith.”

Second, because natural appetites of the FLESH are striving to destroy you: “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).

Third, because the whole WORLD is arrayed against you, and if it cannot burn, it will seek to turn you by its alluring promises, Delilah-like deceits, and fatal enticements. Unless you overcome the world, the world will overcome you to the eternal destruction of your soul.

From what has been before us, we may plainly discover why it is that the vast majority of our fellow-men and women, yes, and of professing Christians also, will fail to reach Heaven: it is because they prefer sin to holiness, indulging the lusts of the flesh to walking according to the scriptures, self to Christ, the world to God. It is as the Lord Jesus declared, “Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). Men refuse to deny self, abandon their idols, and submit to Christ as Lord—and without this, none can take the first step toward Heaven and enter through the ‘narrow gate’!

THE NARROW WAY

Just as entering the “Narrow Gate” signifies the heart’s acceptance of Christ’s holy teaching, so to walk along the “Narrow Way” means for the heart and life to be constantly regulated thereby. Walking along the Narrow Way denotes a steady perseverance in faith and obedience to the Lord Jesus; overcoming all opposition, rejecting every temptation to forsake the path of fidelity to Him. It is called the “Narrow Way” because all self-pleasing and self-seeking is shut out!

In Genesis 18:19 it is called “the Way of the Lord;” in Exodus 13:21, 32:8 “the Way;” in 1 Samuel 12:23 “the good and right Way;” in Psalm 25:9 “His Way;” in Proverbs 4:11 “the Way of wisdom;” in Proverbs 8:20 “the Way of righteousness;” in Proverbs 10:17 “the Way of life;” in Isaiah 35:8 “the Way of holiness;” in Jeremiah 6:16 “the good Way;” in 2 Peter 2:2 “the Way of truth;” in 2 Peter 2:15 “the right Way.”

The Narrow Way must be followed—no matter how much it may militate against my worldly interests. It is right here that the testing point is reached. Unto the natural man, it is much easier and far more pleasant—to indulge the flesh and follow our worldly propensities. The Broad Road, where the flesh is allowed “liberty” —under the pretense of the Christian’s not “being under the law” —is easy, smooth, and attractive; but it ends in “destruction!” Though the “Narrow Way” leads to life, only FEW tread it.

Multitudes make a profession and claim to be saved—but their lives give no evidence that they are “strangers and pilgrims” here on earth, or that their “treasure” is in heaven. They are afraid of being thought narrow and peculiar, strict and puritanical. Satan has deceived them—they imagine that they can get to heaven by an easier route than by denying self, taking up their cross daily, and following Christ!

There are multitudes of religionists who are attempting to combine the two “ways,” making the best of both worlds and serving two masters. They wish to gratify self in time—and enjoy the happiness of Heaven in eternity. Crowds of nominal Christians are deluding themselves into believing that they can do so—but they are terribly deceived! A profession which is not verified by mortifying the deeds of the body in the power of the Spirit (Romans 8:13), is vain. A faith which is not evidenced by complete submission to Christ, is only the faith of demons. A love which does not keep Christ’s commandments, is an imposition (John 14:23). A claim to being a Christian, where there is no real yieldedness to the will of God, is daring presumption. The reason why so few will enter Eternal Life—is because the multitudes are not seeking it in the way of God’s appointing! None seek it aright—but those who pass through the Narrow Gate, and who, despite many discouragements and falls, continue to press forward along the Narrow Way.

Now notice, carefully, the very next thing which immediately followed our Lord’s reference to the two ways in Matthew 7: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing—but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15). Why does this come in next? Who are the “false prophets” against which a serious soul needs to be on his guard?

They are those who teach that Heaven may be reached without treading the Narrow Way! They are those who loudly insist that eternal life may be obtained on much easier terms. They come in “sheep’s clothing”—they appear (to undiscerning souls) to exalt Christ, to emphasize His precious blood, to magnify God’s grace. BUT they do not insist upon repentance; they fail to tell their hearers that nothing but a broken heart which hates sin, can truly believe in Christ. They do not teach that a saving faith is a living one which purifies the heart (Acts 15:9) and overcomes the world (1 John 5:4).

These “false prophets” are known by their “fruits,” the primary reference being to their “converts”—the fruits of their fleshly labors. Their “converts” are on the Broad Road, which is not the path of open wickedness and vice—but of a religion which pleases the flesh! It is that “way which seems right unto a man—but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12). Those who are on this Broad Road (this way which “seems right” to so many), have a head-knowledge of the Truth—but they walk not in it. The “Narrow Way” is bounded by the commandments and precepts of Scripture; the Broad Road is that path which has broken out beyond the bounds of Scripture. Titus 2:11-12 supplies the test as to which “way” we are in: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.”

Before closing, let us anticipate and seek to remove an objection. Probably many of you are saying, “I thought Christ was the Way to the Father” (John 14:6). So He is! But how?

First, in that He has removed every legal obstacle, and thereby opened a way to heaven for His people.

Second, in that He has “left us an example that we should follow HIS steps.” The mere opening of a door does not give me entrance into a house—I must tread the path leading to it, and mount the steps. Christ has, by His life of unreserved obedience to God, shown us the Way which leads to Heaven: “When He puts forth His own sheep, HE goes before them—and the sheep followHim( John 10:4).

Third, in that He is willing and ready to bestow grace and strength to walk therein. Christ did not come here and die—in order to make it unnecessary for me to please and obey God. No indeed! “He died for all, that those who live should not henceforth live unto themselves—but unto Him who died for them!” (2 Corinthians 5:15). “He gave Himself for our sins—that He might deliver us from this present evil world” (Galatians 1:4). “He gave Himself for us—that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). Christ came here to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21); and if you are not now delivered from the power of sin, from the deceptions of Satan, from the love of the world, and from the pleasing of self—then you are NOT saved. May it please the God of all grace to add His blessing.

FREE

DEEPEN YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF THE BIBLE.

DIG DEEPER INTO THE WORD OF GOD

FREE 39 Kindles of the Old Testament COMMENTARY by Matthew Henry, formatted by yours truly as a gift to you.

Download it instantly with no strings attached 


Appearance and Reality -The Reality of Eternal Life by James Smith

James Smith, 1859

 7600226004_a3fee059ac_nWe are all too much taken up with appearances. We do not look beneath the surface as we should. A title, a grand equipage, a good name, large property, a splendid house, fine dress, or popular applause—attract our attention, win our admiration, and even at times excite our envy! But it should not be so. Many are titled on earth—who are despised in heaven. Many ride to hell in fine carriages—while many of the poor trudge on foot to heaven. Many are commended by creatures—who are condemned by the Creator. Many have worldly wealth—who are strangers to the true riches. Many live in splendid houses on earth—for whom no mansion is prepared in heaven. Many who clothe their bodies in purple and fine linen—will find their souls naked when they come to appear before God. And many who are applauded now—will be accused and condemned for eternity. Let us not judge, then, according to appearance—but let us judge righteous judgment.

The only dignified being on earth is a Christian. All others are traitors against God’s crown, rebels against God’s government, and are under sentence of eternal damnation. They are spared for a time—but unless grace prevents, they will surely perish forever. They are opposed to God, at enmity with God, and constantly provoke God.

But a Christian is God’s child, the Savior’s brother, the Holy Spirit’s temple. He has a new nature, a new name, and a glorious inheritance. God walks with him, angels minister unto him, and a mansion in heaven is being prepared for him. He is clothed with God’s righteousness, influenced by God’s grace, and guided by God’s wisdom. All that God does—has reference to him; all that God has provided—is made over to him; and all that God is—is promised to him! So that he can sing in the darkest day, “The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore will I hope in him.”

For him God entered into covenant before time. For him God delivered up his only begotten Son. For him God has made so many, exceeding great, and precious promises. For him Providence works, and for him the world stands. He is taken into the closest union to God, he is constituted the child and friend of God, he is intended to be associated with God for ever. For him a crown is prepared, to him a throne is promised, and on him inconceivable glory will be conferred.

The Christian, therefore, is the dignified creature—and the Christian, alone! Let it therefore be my object and aim, to be not merely a professor of Christ’s religion—but a possessor of Christ—a Christian in deed and in truth.

The only grand pursuit is eternal life! Many are in pursuit of riches, fame, and pleasure. But if they become rich—they will not necessarily be happy. Indeed very few rich people know what true happiness is. If they become famous among men—they may be wretched in themselves. If they live in the midst of pleasure—they may know nothing of satisfaction. Yes, they may amass wealth, acquire fame, and enjoy carnal pleasure for a time—and then perish for ever.

Only one thing demands our attention, one thing deserves our regard, one thing should be the object of our pursuit, and that one thing is—Eternal Life. Life in God’s favor. Life in God’s presence. Life in the enjoyment of God’s love. Life like that which the angels live. Life like that which the Savior enjoys. Life in the highest and holiest sense of the term. The life which God promised before the world began. The life which Jesus came to confer on his sheep. The life after which our heart sighs and pines for. Life which consists in the knowledge of God, in the service of God, and in the enjoyment of God!

This life is set before us to attract our attention, to excite our desires, to draw forth our hopes, and to employ our efforts. The gospel, therefore, sets eternal life before us, calls us to possess it, and promises it to every overcomer. Oh, may it be the chief object of my life to secure a title to it, enjoy the foretastes of it—and look forward to death as my introduction to it! The only grand pursuit, or the only object worthy the pursuit of an immortal being, is—Eternal Life!

The only great attainment is conformity to Christ. The Lord Jesus is the great model of all excellency. All Divine and human beauty meet and shine forth in him. Of him it was testified while he dwelt below, that he was “holy, harmless, undefined, separated from sinners.” To his image, God predestined all his people to be conformed. To make us like him—is the great end of the Spirit’s work within us, and all the dispensations of Divine Providence towards us. And one grand evidence of the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts—is a habitual, hearty, growing desire to be conformed to the Lord Jesus Christ.

No one ever had a view of Christ by faith—who did not possess a burning desire to be like Christ; for the effect of seeing Jesus by faith, is an unquenchable desire to be conformed to Christ. The gospel reveals Christ—Christ reveals the Father—Faith, as the eye of the soul fixes upon Christ, and takes in correct views of the Father; then the working of grace is revealed by an imitation of Christ. Hence the Apostle says, “But we all with open face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord—are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Holy Spirit, through the gospel, conform me to Jesus! I ask not to be wealthy, famous among men, or to be indulged with the pleasures of time; but I do ask, and ask right earnestly to be conformed to the image of Christ; for I do confess, that the only great attainment is conformity to Christ.

The only substantial thing is real religion. Satan knows this, and therefore he has invented many false ones. The religion of human nature is a poor thing; it is light, evanescent, a mere form. But the religion of God is solid, substantial, and abiding. It has its seat in the heart, it rules the affections, and it controls the whole man. It brings us to God, makes us one with God, and stamps upon us the likeness of God. True religion is devout—but not gloomy; heavenly, and yet a blessing in the world. There is no rock on which the soul can rest, no pillow on which the soul can repose, no fountain at which the soul can drink and be satisfied—but real religion. Everything short of this is fleeting, fading, and unsatisfactory.

Oh, for the religion of the heart! That religion which brings peace to the conscience, rest to the troubled spirit, and joy to the sorrowful soul. That religion which informs the intellect, renews the heart, and transforms the life. Holy Spirit, it is yours to make man truly pious, you alone can take away the heart of stone, and give the heart of flesh; let it please you to renew me in the spirit of my mind, to adorn me with all your gifts and graces, and make me resemble my beloved Lord!

Reader, what about you?

Do you think that the only dignified being on earth is a Christian?

Do you think that the only grand pursuit is eternal life?

Do you think that the only great attainment is conformity to Christ?

Do you think that the only substantial thing is real religion?

If so—do you possess them? Are you a real Christian?

Is eternal life the grand object of your daily pursuit?

Have you attained in any measure to conformity to Christ?

Have you real religion?

 

FREE

DEEPEN YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF THE BIBLE.

DIG DEEPER INTO THE WORD OF GOD

FREE 39 Kindles of the Old Testament COMMENTARY by Matthew Henry, formatted by yours truly as a gift to you.

Download it instantly with no strings attached

REWARDS by Arthur Pink Part 2 – (Eternal Life & Grace)

7600226004_a3fee059ac_nBe not deceived, God is not mocked—for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap. For he who sows to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption—but he who sows to the spirit shall of the spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal 6:7,8). The sorrows and joys of the future life, bear a similar relation to what is wrought in this life—as the harvest does to the sowing, one being the consequence, the fruit, or reward of the other. There is a definite relation existing between sowing to the Spirit and reaping everlasting life, between what is done unto Christ in this life and the joys of the life to come. This relation is just as real as that between sowing to the flesh and reaping corruption, despising and defying Christ and the torments of Hell, though it is not in all respects the same.

The joys and sorrows of the future life, bear the same relation to what is wrought in this—as the harvest does to the sowing, one being the consequence, the fruit or reward of the other. There is a definite relation existing between sowing to the Spirit—and reaping life everlasting; between what is done unto Christ in this life—and the crowning in the life to come. This relation is just as real as that between sowing to the flesh—and reaping corruption; despising and defying Christ—and the torments of Hell; though it is not in all respects the same. The portion allotted the wicked is that of due and personal desert—but that bestowed on the righteous is not so, it being entirely of grace, a matter of magnanimity, for it is impossible to lay God under obligation to us or make Him our Debtor. Eternal life is bestowed upon the believer as the reward of Christ’s undertaking, because of what He wrought in his stead and on his behalf. Yet that is not the only angle from which the bestowal of eternal life is viewed in Scripture—it is also represented as the end or outcome of our bearing “fruit unto holiness” in the service of God (Romans 6:22).

Before amplifying the last sentence, let us point out the fundamental difference between the “sowing” of the wicked—and that of the righteous. All the works of the wicked are essentially their own, having no higher rise than their corrupt nature—issuing from their evil hearts produced of themselves; and as bitter waters can only proceed from a bitter fountain, so their own works are polluted and sinful. But it is quite otherwise with the good works of the righteous—they proceed not, from the depraved principle of the flesh—but from the “spirit” or new nature which was communicated to them at regeneration. They are the product of God’s working in them both to will and to do of His good pleasure, and therefore does He aver “from Me is your fruit” (Hosea 14:8). Even the water of the purest fountain is no longer pure when it flows through an impure channel, and because the flesh in the Christian defiles those good works he performs—but of which God is the Author and Spring—they could not be accepted and rewarded by Him were they not also cleansed by the blood of Christ and perfumed with His merits. Thus we have no ground for boasting, or self congratulation.

Whenever we think or speak of the grace of God, we must bear in mind that it reigns “through righteousness” (Romans 5:21). Grace does not override any of the other attributes of God—but is always exercised in perfect harmony therewith, and also in full accord with His governmental ways. Therein we behold the “manifold wisdom of God” by displaying in the same act both His mercy and justice, His bounty and His holiness. Therefore we find the Word expressly affirming “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love which you have showed toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints and do minister” (Heb. 6:10). It is indeed an act of infinite condescension upon His part—that He should even deign to take notice of our trifling performances. It is equally an act of pure grace that He should be pleased to reward the same, for no matter how self-sacrificing or arduous those performances, they were nothing but the bare discharge of our bounden duty. Nevertheless it is also an act of righteousness, when He approves of our services and richly recompenses the same—both in this life and the life to come.

It is no more erroneous or inconsistent to affirm that the future reward will be bestowed upon the Christian both for Christ’s sake (primarily and meritoriously) and because of his own obedience (according to the terms of the new covenant and the governmental principles of God), than it is to say that our present peace and joy flow directly from the mediation of Christ, and subordinately yet truly so from our own obedience and fidelity. “Great peace have they who love Your Law” (Psalm 119:165 and Isaiah 58:13,14). Those who deny themselves for Christ’s sake and the Gospel’s—are assured of a rich recompense, “a hundredfold now in this time” as well as “in the world to come eternal life” (Mark 10:30). “Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is—and of that which is to come” (1 Tim. 4:8). Though our obedience is not meritorious—yet God deems it (as the fruit of His Spirit) virtuous and amiable and fit for His approbation, and as a Being of perfect rectitude and benevolence—it befits Him to cordially own the same. If future rewards clashed either with Divine grace, or the merits of Christ—then present ones must do the same, for a difference in place or time can make no difference as to the nature of things themselves.

In a recent article on the Perseverance of the Saints we pointed out that the subject of rewards needs to be given its due place in connection with that doctrine. And this for a twofold reason.

First, to arouse the careless and expose the formalist. This is one of the many safeguards by which God has hedged about the precious truth of the everlasting bliss of His people. That bliss is not awaiting triflers and sluggards. If there be no sowing to the spirit in this life—there will be no reaping of the spirit in the life to come. This requires to be pressed upon all who claim to be Christians—never more so than in this day of vain pretensions, when hollow professors abound on every side. A faith which produces no good works—is a worthless faith. A branch in the Vine which bears no fruit—is doomed to be burned (John 15:6). The man who hides his talent, instead of improving the same, is cast into “outer darkness” (Matthew 25:24-30). If the cross be avoided—there will be no crown. “If we suffer [for Christ’s sake] we shall also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us” (2 Tim. 2:12).

Second, this subject of rewards should be set before God’s people as an incentive to perseverance, as an encouragement to fidelity. How often have we heard one and another say, The more I try to do that which is right—the worse things seem to become; the harder I endeavor to please God—the more circumstances appear to combine against me. Ah, that may be for thetesting of your faith. But whether it is for that end or not—seek grace to lay hold of that word “And let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9). Here is the very application which the apostle made of what he had said in the previous verses upon sowing and reaping, as the opening “And” shows. Here is part of that Bread which God has provided for His children when they are dejected and enervated by the difficulties and discouragements of the way. God has provided a bountiful recompense for our labors—and this should stimulate us in the performance of duty.

Not only is the promise of reward set before the saints as an incentive to activity—but also as consolation in sorrow—to enable them to endure the oppositions encountered. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake—for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:10-12). This is the manner in which Christ offers comfort to His sorely-pressed servants—by assuring them of the grand compensation awaiting them on High. Then let us not pretend to a wisdom superior to His, and withhold from His children this part of their Bread because, forsooth, we imagine that to act thus is to impugn the grace of God. As Matthew Henry rightly says upon Matthew 5:12 “Heaven, at last, will be an abundant recompense for all the difficulties we meet with in our way. This is that which has borne up the suffering saints in all ages.”

“You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions” (Heb. 10:34). Here is a pertinent example of the powerful and beneficial influence which a believing view of the promised recompense exerts upon sorely-pressed Christians. These Hebrews had been cruelly despoiled of their earthly possession, and most remarkable had been their deportment under such a trial. So far from giving way to bitter lamentations and revilings, which is the ordinary thing with worldlings on such occasions, or even enduring their loss fatalistically and stoically—they took it cheerfully and gladly. And why? how was such victory over the flesh made possible? Because their faith and hope were in lively exercise; they viewed the promised reward, their inheritance on High; with their bodily eyes they beheld their temporal affliction—but with the eyes of their souls the eternal glory prepared for them. That recompense is here called an “lasting possessions” as elsewhere “an eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17), in contrast from everything down here which is but a shadow, a mirage which vanishes away.

This was the motive which inspired Abraham, “By faith he sojourned in the land of promise as in a strange country, dwelling in tents [not erecting a castle or palace] with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked for a city which has foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God” (Heb. 11:9,10). That was the grand inducement which made him keep on conducting himself as a stranger and pilgrim in this transient scene. That was what braced him to endure all the hardships of the way—his heart was occupied not with Canaan—but with Heaven; he looked beyond the toilsome sowing to the blissful reaping.

In like manner this was the motive which actuated Moses; “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward” (Heb. 11:24-26). His great renunciation in the present—was prompted by faith’s laying hold of the grand remuneration in the future.

But a far greater than Abraham or Moses is presented as our Exemplar in this, as in all things else. Of none less than theRedeemer is it recorded “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). A variety of motives moved the Savior to endure the cross—love for His Father (John 14:31), the glory of His Father (John 12:27,28), love for His Church (Eph. 5:25), but among them was the prospect of future recompense. In the previous verse we are exhorted to lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us—and run with patience the race that is set before us, and the supreme inducement so to do is, “looking unto Jesuswho for the joy that was set before Him endured.” Whether that “joy” consisted in the answer to His prayer in (John 17:5), the exaltation of Him above all creatures (Eph. 1:20-22; Phil. 2:9), or His seeing of the travail of His soul and being satisfied (Isaiah 53:11) when He shall present the Church to Himself a glorious Church (Eph. 5:27), or all three—yet the fact remains, that this was an essential motive or reason which prompted the Lord Jesus to do and suffer—that future “joy” was ever before the eye of the Captain of our salvation as He ran His race and finished His course—the prize was kept steadily in view.

It should be pointed out, that promises of reward are not restricted to those engaged in the public service of God—but are also made to the rank and file of His people. We call attention to this, lest humble saints should allow Satan to deprive them of their legitimate portion on the ground—that they are “not worthy” to appropriate the same. Personal worthiness or unworthiness does not at all enter into the question, as the greatest of the apostles has made quite evident (1 Cor. 15:9,10). It is true there are distinctive promises made unto, and rewards reserved, for the ministers of the Gospel (1 Peter 5:1-4), nevertheless, there are many promises made unto the whole family of God—Ephesians 6:8 etc. Note how jealously Paul guarded this very point, for after declaring he had fought a good fight, finished his course and kept the faith, he said, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day,” he immediately added, “and not to me only—but unto all those who love His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8).

Said Paul, “Brethren I count not myself to have apprehended—but this one thing I do—forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13,14). Here we behold the saint running for the “prize”—that is what inspired his self-disciple and strenuous endeavors, that was the inducement or incentive. But the prize will not be accorded him for the merit of his running—but because of the worthiness of Christ—yet without such pressing onward, the prize would not be secured. It is sovereign grace which has appointed this prize for the runner—yet unless the “mark” or goal be actually reached—it is not obtained. The prize or “reward” or “glory” is set before us in the Word for faith—to lay hold of and for hope to enjoy in confident (not doubtful) expectation, as a motive to stir us unto the use of those means leading thereunto, and to make us more fervent in those duties without the performance of which it cannot be reached.

We will close by briefly considering two OBJECTIONS. There will probably be those ready to charge us with inculcating creature deserts, that what we have written is nothing else than an adoption of the Romish heresy of human merits. Our reply is that we have advanced nothing but what is clearly taught in Holy Writ itself. If due attention is paid to the connections in which the term “reward” is found this at once rules out of court the Papish conceit.

Take its first occurrence—God said to Abraham “I am your exceeding great Reward” (Gen. 15:1). What had the patriarch done to entitle him to such a Portion? Where the question of desert is raised, justice requires a due ratio between the performance and the remuneration—but there is no proportion between the works and sufferings of the Christian—and the “exceeding and eternal weight of glory” promised him. Mark the use of the term in Matthew 6:8 and then ask, On what ground does God recompense our prayers? Certainly it is not for any worth which is in them. There cannot possibly be any merit in begging at the Throne of Grace!

Again—it is objected that to present rewards as an inducement unto fidelity—is to foster a mercenary spirit, to reduce the Christian unto a mere hireling, performing his labors for the sake of gain. This is quite an unwarrantable conclusion. Sordidness lies not in aiming at a reward in general—but in subordinating piety to self-interests, as they who followed Christ for the loaves and fishes (John 6:26). A mercenary spirit actuates him who performs duty solely for the sake of remuneration, or at least, principally for it. We are to view the reward not as a debt due us—but as that which the grace of God has promised, and which Hisbounty deems suited unto our obedience. Rewards are presented to us as an incitement to gracious activity, to cheer us under self-denials, to strengthen our hearts when meeting opposition. It is the minister’s task not only to urge believers unto the performance of duty—but also to hold before them the promised recompenses. That eyeing of the reward in no way signifies a lack of love for God—is clear from the case of Christ Himself (Heb. 12:2).

 

FREE

Old TestamentDEEPEN YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF THE BIBLE. DIG DEEPER INTO THE WORD OF GOD

FREE 39 Kindles of the Old Testament Commentary by Matthew Henry, formatted by yours truly as a gift to you.
Download it instantly with no strings attached 

http://lcp.trwv.net/lcp/fearless/matthewhenry/41699

 


REWARDS by Arthur Pink

7600226004_a3fee059ac_n

To the infidel, much in the Scriptures seems so inconsistent and inharmonious, that he charges them with “abounding in contradictions.” That there should be no variableness or shadow of turning with God—yet that He is frequently said to “repent”; that He claims to be omnipotent and invincible—yet complains, “you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke” (Prov 1:25); that He is love—yet abhors the wicked (Psalm 5:6); that He is of tender mercy—yet has appointed an eternity of torment for all those whose names are not written in the book of life—to mention no others—all appear to the skeptic, as irreconcilable teachings. To the natural man, the Christian life appears to be a mass of bewildering paradoxes! That the poor in spirit and those who mourn should be pronounced happy; that we have to be made fools in order to become wise; that it is when we are weak we are strong; that we must lose our life in order to save it (Matt 16:25) and that we are bidden to “rejoice with trembling” (Psalm 2:11) transcend his comprehension. Yet none of these things present any insuperable difficulty unto those who are taught of God.

In like manner there is much in the teaching of Holy Writ which perplexes the theologian. As he studies and ponders its declarations, one doctrine—for a time, at least—seems to clash with another. If God has predestinated whatever comes to pass—then what room is left for the discharge of human responsibility and free agency? If the Fall has deprived man of all spiritual strength—then how can he be held blameworthy for failing to perform spiritual duties? If Christ died for the elect only, then how can He be offered freely to “every creature”? If the believer be Christ’s “freeman,” then why is he required to take upon him His “yoke”? If he has been set at “liberty” (Gal 5:1) then how can he be “under the Law” (1 Cor 9:21). If the believer is preserved by God—then how can his own perseverance be necessary in order to the attainment of everlasting bliss? if he is secure, how can he be in danger? If he has been delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, why does he so often have occasion to cry “O wretched man that I am”? If sin does not have dominion over him, why do “iniquities prevail against” him (Psalm 65:3)? These are real problems.

We have commenced this article thus because the subject which is here to engage our attention seems to many to clash with other articles of the Faith. In ordinary speech the word “reward” signifies the recognition and requital of a meritorious performance, the bestowment of something to which a person is justly entitled. But what can the creature merit at the hands of the Creator, to what—save condemnation and punishment—is a sinful creature entitled to from a holy God? If salvation be “by grace” and eternal life is a “free gift” then what place is left for the recompensing of human effort? Yet whatever difficulties may be involved, the fact remains that Scripture has much to say about God’s rewarding the obedient, and crowning the overcomer. The Dispensationalists (among them most of the so-called “Fundamentalists”) have realized there is a knot here—but instead of patiently seeking to untie they have foolishly cut it, by asserting that rewards have a place only under the Legal Dispensation and are entirely excluded from the Age of Grace; yet the very Epistles which, as they allow, belong to the present Era, contain many passages postulating “rewards.”

Our present subject is by no means a simple one, and certainly it is not suited for a novice to take up and descant upon. Not that the teaching of Scripture thereon is at all obscure or hard to be understood—but rather that much wisdom is needed in the handling of it, so as to avoid conveying false impressions, weakening the force of other articles of the Faith, and failing to preserve the balance of the Truth. Very little attention was given to the subject of Divine rewards either by the Reformers or the Puritans (less by the latter than the former), probably they felt that most of their energies needed to be devoted unto counteracting the evil leaven of Romanism, with its strong emphasis upon creature “merits” and salvation by works. Yet in avoiding one error—there is always the danger of going to the opposite, and even where that is avoided, it is usually at the price of depriving God’s children of some portion of their needed and Divinely-provided Bread. Whatever is the explanation, the fact remains that our present theme is a much-neglected one for comparatively little has been said or written upon it. We are therefore the more cast back upon God for help.

The servant of God must not allow the fear of man to muzzle him, as he will if he deems it wisest to remain silent on the subject lest he be charged with “leanings towards Romanism” —their very perversion of this truth renders it all the more necessary and urgent that he should give a plain and positive exposition of the same. On the other hand, the fact that Papists have so grievously wrested it, should warn him that great care needs to be exercised in the way he presents it. He needs to make it crystal clear, that it is utterly impossible to bring God under obligation to us or make Him in any way our Debtor. In like manner, it must be shown that the creature cannot acquire any merit by the most self-sacrificing or benevolent deeds he performs. By so doing, he will preclude the laying of any foundation for pharisaic pride. Nevertheless, he must see to it that he does not so whittle away the passages holding up “rewards” to believers, as to render them meaningless and valueless, for they are among the motives, encouragements, incentives, and consolations which God sets before His people.

In a brief and incidental statement upon this doctrine, Calvin beautifully preserved the balance when in his “Institutes” (bk. 3, chapter 15) he said, “The Scripture shows what all our works are capable of meriting, when it represents them as unable to bear the Divine scrutiny, because they are full of impurity; and in the next place, what would be merited by the perfect observance of the Law, if this could anywhere be found, when it directs us ‘when you have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants’ (Luke 17:10), because we shall not have conferred any favor on God—but only have performed the duties incumbent on us, for which no thanks are due. Nevertheless, the good works which the Lord has conferred on us, He denominates our own, and declares that He will not only accept—but also reward them. It is our duty to be animated by so great a promise, and to stir up our minds that we ‘be not weary in well doing’ (2 Thess 3:13) and to be truly grateful for so great an instance of Divine goodness.

“It is beyond a doubt, that whatever is laudable in our works, proceeds from the grace of God, and that we cannot properly ascribe the least portion of it to ourselves. If we truly and seriously acknowledge this truth, not only all confidence—but likewise all idea of merit, immediately vanishes. We, I say, do not, like the sophists, divide the praise of good works between God and man—but we reserve it to the Lord completely and entirely. All that we attribute to man is, that those works which were otherwise good—are tainted and polluted by impurity. For nothing proceeds from the most perfect man which is wholly impeccable. Therefore let the Lord sit in judgment on the best of human actions, and He will indeed recognize in them His own righteousness—but man’s disgrace and shame. Good works, therefore, are pleasing to God, and not unprofitable to the authors of them; and they will moreover receive the most ample blessings from God as their reward—not because they merit them—but because the Divine goodness has freely appointed them this reward.” Let us attempt to offer some amplification of these excellent remarks.

First, no creature is rewarded by God because he justly deserves what is bestowed upon him, as a hired laborer who has performed his duty is entitled to the wage he receives. For, in this sense, even the angels in heaven are incapable of a reward—according to strict justice, they merit no favor. They are no hirelings, for God has a natural, original, undisputed right in them, as much as He has in the sun, moon and stars; and these, therefore, deserve to be paid for their shining, as much as the angels do for their service. If the angels love God, it is no more than He infinitely deserves. Moreover, the angels do not profit God, and so lay Him under no obligation, any more than the birds profit the risen sun by their morning songs or render that luminary under obligation to shine all day upon them. “Can a man be of benefit to God? Can even a wise man benefit him? What pleasure would it give the Almighty if you were righteous? What would he gain if your ways were blameless?” (Job 22:2,3).

It is most essential that this should be insisted upon, more especially in these days, that the Most High God may be accorded His due place in our thoughts, His solemn majesty, exalted independency and self-sufficiency, preserved in their integrity. That the creature may be allotted his proper place—as being not only a creature—but as less than nothing in the sight of Him who gave him being and is pleased to maintain his existence—that the axe may be laid at the very root of self-righteousness. Papists are far from being alone in indulging the flesh-pleasing conceit that even a fallen and sinful creature is capable of performing meritorious deeds, which entitle him to favorable regard by the Lord God. Unless Divine grace has given our pride its death-wound, every one of us secretly cherishes the belief—though we may not be honest enough to openly avow it—that we deserve a reward for our good works; and hence we are apt to think that God would be very hard and severe, if not cruel and unjust—were He to take no notice of our best endeavors and damn us because of our sins. “Why have we fasted—and you have not seen it?” (Isa 58:3).

But, second, The fact remains, that Scripture abounds in declarations that God has promised to reward the fidelity of His people and compensate them for the sufferings they have endured in His service. “The recompense of a man’s hands shall be rendered unto him” (Prov 12:14). “Whoever despises the Word shall be destroyed—but he who fears the commandment shall be rewarded” (Prov 13:13). “Blessed are you when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven” (Matt 5:11,12). “His Lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many” (Matt 25:23). “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:13,14). “Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Cor 3:8). “Whatever good things any man does—the same shall he receive of the Lord” (Eph 6:8). Now these, and all similar passages, must be allowed their legitimate force and given a due place in our minds and hearts.

The principal difficulty which this subject presents to the thoughtful Christian is, What have I done which is fit for reward? and even though I had, how could reward consist with free grace? The solution to this problem is found in noting the grounds on which God bestows rewards.

First, in order to manifest His own excellencies. It is in His office as moral Governor that He exercises this function, in which office He evidences His holiness, goodness and benevolence, as well as His sovereignty and justice. As the Ruler of all, it befits Him to manifest His approbation of righteousness, to put honor upon virtue, and to display the bountifulness of His nature. Though according to strict justice, the angels in Heaven deserve nothing at His hands—yet God is pleased to reward their sinless obedience in testimony of His approbation of their persons and service. God rewards them not because they do Him any good, nor because they are entitled to anything from him—but because He delights in that which is amiable, and because He would demonstrate to the universe that He is a Friend of all who are morally excellent, He liberally recompenses them. Since they love Him with all their hearts and strength—He deems it fitting that they should be made eternally blessed in the enjoyment of Himself.

Second, in the case of His people who fell in Adam and who have also themselves sinned and come short of the glory of God, they neither merit anything good at His hands, nor is it fitting that their persons and conduct—considered merely as they are in themselves—should be approved; nay, so much corruption still indwells them and so much impurity is attached to all that proceeds from them, that the Divine Law condemns them. Thus it must be on quite a different ground that God considers them suited to reward. What that is, the Gospel of the grace of God makes known.

It is on account of the believer’s interest in the righteousness and worthiness of Christ that his person and performances are accepted and peculiar favors are shown unto and bestowed upon him. He is “accepted in the Beloved” (Eph 1:6), and his consecration (Rom 12:1), his gifts or benevolences (Phil 4:18) and his worship are “acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5); yes, his prayers ascend up before God only because the “much incense” of Christ’s merits is added to them (Rev 8:3,4).

Third, in showing His approval of the service of His saints God is, at the same time, owning the Spirit’s work in them—for it is by His gracious operations and power that they are enabled to perform such service.

Thus far all is plain and simple—it is when the good works which God rewards are viewed as the saints’ own—that many are likely to encounter difficulty. But that difficulty is greatly relieved if it is definitely understood that God’s rewarding of our efforts is solely a matter of bounty on His part, and not in any way because we have have merited or earned the recompense. The reward bestowed upon us is not an acknowledgment that the same was due us by way of debt—but rather is the reward itself given out of pure and free grace. If an earthly parent promises his child the gift of a new Bible when he has correctly memorized the Ten Commandments, that child did not bring his parent under obligation, nor did he merit the book—the book is freely given by way of bounty—yet by constituting it a “reward” or “prize” for an effort of memory—it became an incentive and inducement to the child to succeed in his task.

Scripture itself makes the distinction between rewards of justice and rewards of bountyyes it shows how a thing may be, at the same time, both a “free gift” and a “reward.” “Now to him who works [that is earns, so that he has ground to be self-complacent] is the reward not reckoned of grace—but of debt” (Rom 4:4), which certainly signifies there are two very different kinds of reward, or rather, that they are bestowed on radically different grounds. That a thing may be at the same time both a free gift and arewardappears by a comparison of Matthew 5:46 and Luke 6:32. In the former Christ asks, “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?” but in the latter “For if you love those who love you, what thanks have you?”—the Greek word (“charis“) here rendered “thank” signifies “favor,” being translated “grace” more than one hundred times. Clearer still is Colossians 3:22-24, “Servants, obey in all things your mastersfearing Godknowing that of the Lord you shall receive the reward of the inheritance”—what can be freer or more unearned than an “inheritance”? yet the eternal inheritance is here styled a “reward” as an incentive to obedience unto God.

The same inheritance which is called a reward in Colossians 3:24 is designated “the purchased possession” in Ephesians 1:14—purchased for the saints by Christ. In like manner, in Romans 6:22 we read “Being now made free from sin and become servants of God, you have your fruit unto holiness and the end [that at which you aim, that which will abundantly compensate your serving of God] everlasting life,” yet in the very next verse that everlasting life is said to be “the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Just as the Savior exhorted the Jews to “labor—not for the food that perishes, but—for that which endures unto everlasting life,” yet He at once added “which the Son of man shall give unto you” (John 6:27). The same apostle who taught that the saints are “accepted in the Beloved” (Eph 1:6), hesitated not to say “wherefore we labor [or “endeavor”], whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him” (2 Cor 5:9); and though he insisted that “By grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves—it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8,9), he also exhorted his hearers to “labor therefore to enter into” the rest God has promised His people (Heb 4:11).

John Owen said, “I grant that eternal life may be called the reward of perseverance, in the sense that Scripture uses that word.” After stating it is procured neither as the deserving cause, nor proportioned unto the obedience of them by whom it is attained—but withal the free gift of God and an inheritance purchased by Jesus Christ, Owen declared it is “a reward by being a gracious encouragement as the end of our obedience.” That the reward is not a proportioned remuneration or return for the duties performed and service rendered, is clear from the words of Christ, when He declared that “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple—I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42). So also when Abraham had made enemies of the kings of Canaan by rescuing Lot out of their hands, and then refused to be enriched by the king of Sodom, what proportion was there between his actions and Jehovah’s response, when He said to him “Fear not, Abraham, I am your shield and your exceeding great Reward” (Gen 15:1). There was a connection between the two things—but no proportion.

 

FREE

DEEPEN YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF THE BIBLE. DIG DEEPER INTO THE WORD OF GOD

 

FREE 39 Kindles of the Old Testament COMMENTARY by Matthew Henry, formatted by yours truly as a gift to you.
Download it instantly with no strings attached

http://lcp.trwv.net/lcp/fearless/matthewhenry/41699

http://mjandre.com/Free-Ebooks-Den/

Living Out A Never Ending Love Story With My Master & Redeemer!

%d bloggers like this: