The Sovereignty of God in Salvation by Arthur W. Pink

The Sovereignty of God in Salvation

by Arthur W. Pink

„0 the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how
unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out” (Rom. 11:33).
„Salvation is of the LORD” (Jonah 2:9); but the Lord does not save all. Why not?
He does save some; then if He saves some, why not others? Is it because they are
too sinful and depraved? No; for the Apostle wrote, „This is a faithful saying,
and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save
sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Tim. 1:15). Therefore, if God saved the „chief”
of sinners, none are excluded because of their depravity. Why then does not God
save all? Is it because some are too stony-hearted to be won? No; because it is
written, that God will „take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give
them a heart of flesh” (Ezek. 11:19). Then is it because some are so stubborn,
so intractable, so defiant that God is unable to woo them to Himself? Before we
answer this question let us ask another; let us appeal to the experience of the
Christian reader.
Friend, was there not a time when you walked in the counsel of the ungodly,
stood in the way of sinners, sat in the seat of the scorners, and with them
said, „We will not have this Man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14)? Was there not a
time when you „would not come to Christ that you might have life” (John 5:40)?
Yea, was there not a time when you mingled your voice with those who said unto
God, „Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways. What is the
Almighty, that we should serve Him? and what profit should we have, if we pray
unto Him?” (Job 21:14, 15)? With shamed face you have to acknowledge there was.
But how is it that all is now changed? What was it that brought you from haughty
self-sufficiency to a humble suppliant; from one that was at enmity with God to
one that is at peace with Him; from lawlessness to subjection; from hate to
love? And as one ëborn of the Spirit’ you will readily reply, „By the grace of
God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10). Then do you not see that it is due to no
lack of power in God, nor to His refusal to coerce man, that other rebels are
not saved too? If God was able to subdue your will and win your heart, and that
without interfering with your moral responsibility, then is He not able to do
the same for others? Assuredly He is. Then how inconsistent, how illogical, how
foolish of you, in seeking to account for the present course of the wicked and
their ultimate fate, to argue that God is unable to save them, that they will
not let Him. Do you say, „But the time came when I was willing, willing to
receive Christ as my Saviour”? True, but it was the Lord who made you willing
(Psa. 110:3; Phil. 2:13); why then does He not make all sinners willing? Why,
but for the fact that He is Sovereign and does as He pleases! But to return to
our opening inquiry.
Why is it that all are not saved, particularly all who hear the Gospel? Do you
still answer, Because the majority refuse to believe? Well, that is true, but it
is only a part of the truth. It is the truth from the human side. But there is a
Divine side too, and this side of the truth needs to be stressed or God will be
robbed of His glory. The unsaved are lost because they refuse to believe; the
others are saved because they believe. But why do these others believe? What is
it that causes them to put their trust in Christ? Is it because they are more
intelligent than their fellows, and quicker to discern their need of salvation?
Perish the thought–„Who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou
that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory,
as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Cor. 4:7). It is God Himself who maketh
the difference between the elect and the non-elect, for of His own it is
written, „And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an
understanding, that we may know Him that is true” (1 John 5:20).
Faith is God’s gift, and „all men have not faith” (2 Thess. 3:2); therefore, we
see that God does not bestow this gift upon all. Upon whom then does He bestow
this saving favor? And we answer, upon His own elect–„As many as were ordained
to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). Hence it is that we read of „the faith
of God’s elect” (Titus 1:1). But is God partial in the distribution of His
favors? Has He not the right to be? Are there still some who murmur against the
Goodman of the house’? Then His own words are sufficient reply–„Is it not
lawful for Me to do what I will with Mine own?” (Matt. 20:15). God is Sovereign
in the bestowment of His gifts, both in the natural and in the spiritual realms.
So much then for a general statement, and now to particularize.


Perhaps the one Scripture which most emphatically of all asserts the absolute
Sovereignty of God in connection with His determining the destiny of His
creatures, is the Ninth of Romans. We shall not attempt to review here the
entire chapter, but will confine ourselves to verses 21-23– „Hath not the
potter power over the clay of the same lump, to make one vessel unto honor, and
another unto dishonor? What if God, willing to show His wrath, and to make His
power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to
destruction: And that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels
of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory?” These verses represent fallen
mankind as inert and as impotent as a lump of lifeless clay. This Scripture
evidences that there is „no difference,” in themselves, between the elect and
the non-elect; they are clay of „the same lump,” which agrees with Ephesians
2:3, where we are told that all are by nature „children of wrath.” It teaches us
that the ultimate destiny of every individual is decided by the will of God, and
blessed it is that such be the case; if it were left to our wills, the ultimate
destination of us all would be the Lake of Fire. It declares that God Himself
does make a difference in the respective destinations to which He assigns His
creatures, for one vessel is made „unto honor and another unto dishonor;” some
are „vessels of wrath fitted to destruction,” others are „vessels of mercy,
which He had afore prepared unto glory.”
We readily acknowledge that it is very humbling to the proud heart of the
creature to behold all mankind in the hand of God as the clay in the potter’s
hand, yet this is precisely how the Scriptures of Truth represent the case. In
this day of human boasting, intellectual pride, and deification of man, it needs
to be insisted upon that the potter forms his vessels for himself. Let man
strive with his Maker as he will, the fact remains that he is nothing more than
clay in the Heavenly Potter’s hands, and while we know that God will deal justly
with His creatures, that the Judge of all the earth will do right, nevertheless,
He shapes His vessels for His own purpose and according to His own pleasure. God
claims the indisputable right to do as He wills with His own.
Not only has God the right to do as He wills with the creatures of His own
hands, but He exercises this right, and nowhere is that seen more plainly than
in His predestinating grace. Before the foundation of the world God made a
choice, a selection, an election. Before His omniscient eye stood the whole of
Adam’s race, and from it He singled out a people and predestinated them „to be
conformed to the image of His Son,” „ordained” them unto eternal life. Many are
the Scriptures which set forth this blessed truth, seven of which will now
engage our attention.
„As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed” (Acts 13:48). Every
artifice of human ingenuity has been employed to blunt the sharp edge of this
Scripture and to explain away the obvious meaning of these words, but it has
been employed in vain, though nothing will ever be able to reconcile this and
similar passages to the mind of the natural man. „As many as were ordained to
eternal life, believed.” Here we learn four things: First, that believing is the
consequence and not the cause of God’s decree. Second, that a limited number
only are „ordained to eternal life,” for if all men without exception were thus
ordained by God, then the words „as many as” are a meaningless qualification.
Third, that this „ordination” of God is not to mere external privileges but to
„eternal life,” not to service but to salvation itself. Fourth, that all–„as
many as,” not one less–who are thus ordained by God to eternal life will most
certainly believe.
The comments of the beloved Spurgeon on the above passage are well worthy of our
notice. Said he, „Attempts have been made to prove that these words do not teach
predestination, but these attempts so clearly do violence to language that I
shall not waste time in answering them. I read: ëAs many as were ordained to
eternal life believed,’ and I shall not twist the text but shall glorify the
grace of God by ascribing to that grace the faith of every man. Is it not God
who gives the disposition to believe? If men are disposed to have eternal life,
does not He–in every case–dispose them? Is it wrong for God to give grace? If
it be right for Him to give it, is it wrong for Him to purpose to give it? Would
you have Him give it by accident? If it is right for Him to purpose to give
grace today, it was right for Him to purpose it before today–and, since He
changes not–from eternity.”
„Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the
election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace
is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise
work is no more work” (Rom. 11:5, 6). The words „Even so” at the beginning of
this quotation refer us to the previous verse where we are told, „I have
reserved to Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” Note
particularly the word „reserved.” In the days of Elijah there were seven
thousand–a small minority–who were Divinely preserved from idolatry and
brought to the knowledge of the true God. This preservation and illumination was
not from anything in themselves, but solely by God’s special influence and
agency. How highly favored such individuals were to be thus „reserved” by God!
Now says the Apostle, Just as there was a „remnant” in Elijah’s days „reserved
by God,” even so there is in this present dispensation.
„A remnant according to the election of grace.” Here the cause of election is
traced back to its source. The basis upon which God elected this „remnant” was
not faith foreseen in them, because a choice founded upon the foresight of good
works is just as truly made on the ground of works as any choice can be, and in
such a case it would not be „of grace” ; for, says the Apostle, „if by grace,
then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace” ; which means
that grace and works are opposites, they have nothing in common, and will no
more mingle than oil and water. Thus the idea of inherent good foreseen in those
chosen, or of anything meritorious performed by them, is rigidly excluded. „A
remnant according to the election of grace” signifies an unconditional choice
resulting from the Sovereign favor of God; in a word, it is absolutely a
gratuitous election.
„For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh,
not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish
things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of
the world to confound the things which are mighty: and base things of the world,
and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not,
to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in His presence”
(1 Cor. 1:26-29). Three times over in this passage reference is made to God’s
choice, and choice necessarily supposes a selection, the taking of some and the
leaving of others. The Chooser here is God Himself, as said the Lord Jesus to
the Apostles, „Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:16). The
number chosen is strictly defined–„not many wise men after the flesh, not many
noble,” etc., which agree with Matthew 20:16, „So the last shall be first, and
the first last; for many be called, but few chosen.” So much then for the fact
of God’s choice; now mark the objects of His choice.
The ones spoken of above as chosen of God are „the weak things of the world,
base things of the world, and things which are despised.” But why? To
demonstrate and magnify His grace. God’s ways as well as His thoughts are
utterly at variance with man’s. The carnal mind would have supposed that a
selection had been made from the ranks of the opulent and influential, the
amiable and cultured, so that Christianity might have won the approval and
applause of the world by its pageantry and fleshly glory. Ah, but „that which is
highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). God
chooses the „base things.” He did so in Old Testament times. The nation which He
singled out to be the depository of His holy oracles and the channel through
which the promised Seed should come was not the ancient Egyptians, the imposing
Babylonians, nor the highly civilized and cultured Greeks. No; that people upon
whom Jehovah set His love and regarded as ëthe apple of His eye’ were the
despised, nomadic Hebrews. So it was when our Lord tabernacled among men. The
ones whom He took into favored intimacy with Himself and commissioned to go
forth as His ambassadors were, for the most part, unlettered fishermen. And so
it has been ever since. So it is today: at the present rates of increase, it
will not be long before it is manifested that the Lord has more in despised
China who are really His, than He has in the highly favored U.S.A.; more among
the uncivilized blacks of Africa, than He has in cultured (?) Germany! And the
purpose of God’s choice, the raison d’ etre of the selection He has made is,
„that no flesh should glory in His presence”–there being nothing whatever in
the objects of His choice which should entitle them to His special favors, then,
all the praise will be freely ascribed to the exceeding riches of His manifold
„Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us
with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as He hath
chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and
without blame before Him; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children
by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will… In
whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the
purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” (Eph.
1:3-5, 11). Here again we are told at what point in time–if time it could be
called–when God made choice of those who were to be His children by Jesus
Christ. It was not after Adam had fallen and plunged his race into sin and
wretchedness, but long ere Adam saw the light, even before the world itself was
founded, that God chose us in Christ. Here also we learn the purpose which God
had before Him in connection with His own elect: it was that they „should be
holy and without blame before Him” ; it was „unto the adoption of children” ; it
was that they should „obtain an inheritance.” Here also we discover the motive
which prompted Him. It was „in love that He predestinated us unto the adoption
of children by Jesus Christ to Himself”–a statement which refutes the oft made
and wicked charge that, for God to decide the eternal destiny of His creatures
before they are born, is tyrannical and unjust. Finally, we are informed here,
that in this matter He took counsel with none, but that we are „predestinated
according to the good pleasure of His will.”
„But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the
Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through
sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13). There are
three things here which deserve special attention. First, the fact that we are
expressly told that God’s elect are „chosen to salvation.” Language could not be
more explicit. How summarily do these words dispose of the sophistries and
equivocations of all who would make election refer to nothing but external
privileges or rank in service! It is to „salvation” itself that God hath chosen
us. Second, we are warned here that election unto salvation does not disregard
the use of appropriate means: salvation is reached through „sanctification of
the Spirit and belief of the truth.” It is not true that because God has chosen
a certain one to salvation that he will be saved willy-nilly, whether he
believes or not: nowhere do the Scriptures so represent it. The same God who
predestined the end also appointed the means; the same God who „chose unto
salvation” decreed that His purpose should be realized through the work of the
Spirit and belief of the truth. Third, that God has chosen us unto salvation is
a profound cause for fervent praise. Note how strongly the Apostle expresses
this–„we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of
the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation,” etc.
Instead of shrinking hack in horror from the doctrine of predestination, the
believer, when he sees this blessed truth as it is unfolded in the Word,
discovers a ground for gratitude and thanksgiving such as nothing else affords,
save the unspeakable gift of the Redeemer Himself.
„Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our
works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ
Jesus before the world began” (2 Tim. 1:9). How plain and pointed is the
language of Holy Writ! It is man who, by his words, darkeneth counsel. It is
impossible to state the case more clearly, or strongly, than it is stated here.
Our salvation is not „according to our works” ; that is to say, it is not due to
anything in us, nor the rewarding of anything from us; instead, it is the result
of God’s own „purpose and grace”; and this grace was given us in Christ Jesus
before the world began. It is by grace we are saved, and in the purpose of God
this grace was bestowed upon us not only before we saw the light, not only
before Adam’s fall, but even before that far distant „beginning” of Genesis 1:1.
And herein lies the unassailable comfort of God’s people. If His choice has been
from eternity it will last to eternity! „Nothing can survive to eternity but
what came from eternity, and what has so come, will” (George S. Bishop).
„Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification
of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1
Peter 1:2). Here again election by the Father precedes the work of the Holy
Spirit in, and the obedience of faith by, those who are saved; thus taking it
entirely off creature ground, and resting it in the Sovereign pleasure of the
Almighty. The „foreknowledge of God the Father” does not here refer to His
prescience of all things, but signifies that the saints were all eternally
present in Christ before the mind of God. God did not „foreknow” that certain
ones who heard the Gospel would believe it apart from the fact that He had
„ordained” these certain ones to eternal life. What God’s prescience saw in all
men was, love of sin and hatred of Himself. The „foreknowledge” of God is based
upon His own decrees as is clear from Acts 2:23–„Him, being delivered by the
determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands
have crucified and slain”–note the order here: first God’s „determinate
counsel” (His decree), and second His „foreknowledge.” So it is again in Romans
8:28, 29, „For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to
the image of His Son,” but the first word here, „for,” looks back to the
preceding verse and the last clause of its reads, „to them who are the called
according to His purpose”–these are the ones whom He did „foreknow and
predestinate.” Finally, it needs to be pointed out that when we read in
Scripture of God „knowing” certain people the word is used in the sense of
knowing with approbation and love: „But if any man love God, the same is known
of Him” (1 Cor. 8:3). To the hypocrites Christ will yet say „I never knew
you”–He never loved them. „Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the
Father” signifies, then, chosen by Him as the special objects of His approbation
and love.
Summarizing the teaching of these seven passages we learn that, God has
„ordained to eternal life” certain ones, and that in consequence of His
ordination they, in due time, „believe”; that God’s ordination to salvation of
His own elect is not due to any good thing in them nor to anything meritorious
from them, but solely of „His grace”; that God has designedly selected the most
unlikely objects to be the recipients of His special favors in order that „no
flesh should glory in His presence”; that God chose His people in Christ before
the foundation of the world, not because they were so, but in order that they
„should be holy and without blame before Him”; that having selected certain ones
to salvation. He also decreed the means by which His eternal counsel should be
made good; that the very „grace” by which we are saved was, in God’s purpose,
„given us in Christ Jesus before the world began”; that long before they were
actually created God’s elect stood present before His mind, were „foreknown” by
Him, i.e., were the definite objects of His eternal love.
Before turning to the next division of this chapter, a further word concerning
the subjects of God’s predestinating grace. We go over this ground again because
it is at this point that the doctrine of God’s Sovereignty in predestining
certain ones to salvation is most frequently assaulted. Perverters of this truth
invariably seek to find some cause outside God’s own will which moves Him to
bestow salvation on sinners; something or other is attributed to the creature
which entitles him to receive mercy at the hands of the Creator. We return then
to the question, Why did God choose the ones He did?
What was there in the elect themselves which attracted God’s heart to them? Was
it because of certain virtues they possessed? because they were
generous-hearted, sweet-tempered, truth-speaking? in a word, because they were
„good,” that God chose them? No; for our Lord said, „There is none good but one,
that is God” (Matt. 19:17). Was it because of any good works they had performed?
No; for it is written, „There is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Rom. 3:12).
Was it because they evidenced an earnestness and zeal in inquiring after God?
No; for it is written again, „There is none that seeketh after God” (Rom. 3:11).
Was it because God foresaw they would believe? No; for how can those who are
„dead in trespasses and sins” believe in Christ? How could God foreknow some men
as believers when belief was impossible to them? Scripture declares that we
„believe through grace” (Acts 18:27). Faith is God’s gift, and apart from this
gift none would believe. The cause of His choice then lies within Himself and
not in the objects of His choice. He chose the ones He did simply because He
chose to choose them.
„Sons we are by God’s election
Who on Jesus Christ believe,
By eternal destination,
Sovereign grace we now receive,
Lord Thy mercy,
Doth both grace and glory give!”


For whom did Christ die? It surely does not need arguing that the Father had an
express purpose in giving Him to die, or that God the Son had a definite design
before Him in laying down His life–„Known unto God are all His works from the
beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18). What then was the purpose of the Father
and the design of the Son. We answer, Christ died for „God’s elect.”
We are not unmindful of the fact that the limited design in the death of Christ
has been the subject of much controversy–what great truth revealed in Scripture
has not? Nor do we forget that anything which has to do with the Person and work
of our blessed Lord requires to be handled with the utmost reverence, and that a
„Thus saith the Lord” must be given in support of every assertion we make. Our
appeal shall be to the Law and to the Testimony.
For whom did Christ die? Who were the ones He intended to redeem by His
blood-shedding? Surely the Lord Jesus had some absolute determination before Him
when He went to the Cross. If He had, then it necessarily follows that the
extent of that purpose was limited, because an absolute determination of purpose
must be effected. If the absolute determination of Christ included all mankind,
then all mankind would most certainly be saved. To escape this inevitable
conclusion many have affirmed that there was not such absolute determination
before Christ, that in His death a merely conditional provision of salvation has
been made for all mankind. The refutation of this assertion is found in the
promises made by the Father to His Son before He went to the Cross, yea, before
He became incarnate. The Old Testament Scriptures represent the Father as
promising the Son a certain reward for His sufferings on behalf of sinners. At
this stage we shall confine ourselves to one or two statements recorded in the
well known Fifty-third of Isaiah. There we find God saying, „When Thou shalt
make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed,” that „He shall see of
the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied,” and that God’s righteous
Servant „should justify many” (vv. 10 and 11). But here we would pause and ask,
How could it be certain that Christ should „see His seed,” and „see of the
travail of His soul and be satisfied,” unless the salvation of certain members
of the human race had been Divinely decreed, and therefore was sure? How could
it be certain that Christ should „justify many,” if no effectual provision was
made that any should receive Him as their Lord and Saviour? On the other hand,
to insist that the Lord Jesus did expressly purpose the salvation of all mankind
is to charge Him with that which no intelligent being should be guilty of,
namely, to design that which by virtue of His omniscience He knew would never
come to pass. Hence, the only alternative left us is that, so far as the
pre-determined purpose of His death is concerned Christ died for the elect only.
Summing up in a sentence, which we trust will be intelligible to every reader,
we would say, Christ died not merely to make possible the salvation of all
mankind, but to make certain the salvation of all that the Father had given to
Him. Christ died not simply to render sins pardonable, but „to put away sin by
the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26). As to whose „sin” (i.e., guilt, as in 1
John 1:7, etc.) has been „put away,” Scripture leaves us in no doubt–it was
that of the elect, the „world” (John 1:29) of God’s people!
(1) The limited design in the Atonement follows, necessarily, from the eternal
choice of the Father of certain ones unto salvation. The Scriptures inform us
that before the Lord became incarnate He said, „Lo, I come, to do Thy will O
God” (Heb. 10:7), and after He had become incarnate He declared, „For I came
down from Heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me”
(John 6:38). If then God had from the beginning chosen certain ones to
salvation, then, because the will of Christ was in perfect accord with the will
of the Father, He would not seek to enlarge upon His election. What we have just
said is not merely a plausible deduction of our own, but is in strict harmony
with the express teaching of the Word. Again and again our Lord referred to
those whom the Father had „given” Him, and concerning whom He was particularly
exercised. Said He, „All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him
that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out… And this is the Father’s will
which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing,
but should raise it up again at the last day” (John 6:37, 39). And again, „These
words spake Jesus, and lifted up His eyes to Heaven, and said, Father, the hour
is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee; As Thou hast given
Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou
hast given Him…I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou gavest Me
out of the world: Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me; and they have kept
Thy Word… I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou
hast given Me; for they are Thine… Father, I will that they also, whom Thou
hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou
hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world” (John
17:1, 2, 6, 9, 24). Before the foundation of the world the Father predestinated
a people to be conformed to the image of His Son, and the death and resurrection
of the Lord Jesus was in order to the carrying out of the Divine purpose.
(2) The very nature of the Atonement evidences that, in its application to
sinners, it was limited in the purpose of God. The Atonement of Christ may be
considered from two chief viewpoints–Godward and manward. Godward, the
Cross-work of Christ was a propitiation, an appeasing of Divine wrath, a
satisfaction rendered to Divine justice and holiness; manward, it was a
substitution, the Innocent taking the place of the guilty, the Just dying for
the unjust. But a strict substitution of a Person for persons, and the
infliction upon Him of voluntary sufferings, involve the definite recognition on
the part of the Substitute and of the One He is to propitiate of the persons for
whom He acts, whose sins He bears, whose legal obligations He discharges.
Furthermore, if the Lawgiver accepts the satisfaction which is made by the
Substitute, then those for whom the Substitute acts, whose place He takes, must
necessarily be acquitted. If I am in debt and unable to discharge it and another
comes forward and pays my creditor in full and receives a receipt in
acknowledgment, then, in the sight of the law, my creditor no longer has any
claim upon me. On the Cross the Lord Jesus gave Himself a ransom, and that it
was accepted by God was attested by the open grave three days later; the
question we would here raise is, For whom was this ransom offered? If it was
offered for all mankind then the debt incurred by every man has been cancelled.
If Christ bore in His own body on the tree the sins of all men without
exception, then none will perish. If Christ was „made a curse” for all of Adam’s
race then none are now „under condemnation.” „Payment God cannot twice demand,
first at my bleeding Surety’s hand and then again at mine.” But Christ did not
discharge the debts of all men without exception, for some there are who will be
„cast into prison” (cf. 1 Peter 3:19 where the same Greek word for „prison”
occurs), and they shall „by no means come out thence, till they have paid the
uttermost farthing” (Matt. 5:26), which, of course, will never be. Christ did
not bear the sins of all mankind, for some there are who „die in their sins”
(John 8:21), and whose „sin remaineth” (John 9:41). Christ was not „made a
curse” for all of Adam’s race, for some there are to whom He will yet say,
„Depart from Me ye cursed” (Matt. 25:41). To say that Christ died for all alike,
to say that He became the Substitute and Surety of the whole human race, to say
that He suffered on behalf of and in the stead of all mankind, is to say that He
„bore the curse for many who are now bearing the curse for themselves; that He
suffered punishment for many who are now lifting up their own eyes in Hell,
being in torments; that He paid the redemption price for many who shall yet pay
in their own eternal anguish the wages of sin, which is death” (George S.
Bishop). But, on the other hand, to say as Scripture says, that Christ was
stricken for the transgressions of God’s people, to say that He gave His life
„for the sheep,” to say He gave His life a ransom „for many,” is to say that He
made an atonement which fully atones; it is to say He paid a price which
actually ransoms; it is to say He was set forth a propitiation which really
propitiates; it is to say He is a Saviour who truly saves.
(3) Closely connected with, and confirmatory of what we have said above, is the
teaching of Scripture concerning our Lord’s priesthood. It is as the great High
Priest that Christ now makes intercession. But for whom does He intercede? for
the whole human race, or only for His own people? The answer furnished by the
New Testament to this question is clear as a sunbeam. Our Saviour has entered
into Heaven itself „now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Heb. 9:24),
that is, for those who are „partakers of the heavenly calling” (Heb. 3:1). And
again it is written, „Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost
that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them”
(Heb. 7:25). This is in strict accord with the Old Testament type. After slaying
the sacrificial animal, Aaron went into the holy of holies as the representative
and on behalf of the people of God: it was the names of Israel’s tribes which
were engraven on his breastplate, and it was in their interests he appeared
before God. Agreeable to this are our Lord’s words in John 17:9–„I pray for
them: I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they
are Thine.” Another Scripture which deserves careful attention in this
connection is found in Romans 8. In verse 33 the question is asked, „Who shall
lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” and then follows the inspired
answer–„It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that
died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who
also maketh intercession for us.” Note particularly that the death and
intercession of Christ have one and the same objects! As it was in the type so
it is with the antitype–expiation and supplication are co-extensive. If then
Christ intercedes for the elect only, and „not for the world,” then He died for
them only. And observe further, that the death, resurrection, exaltation and
intercession of the Lord Jesus are here assigned as the reason why none can lay
any „charge” against God’s elect. Let those who would still take issue with what
we are advancing weigh carefully the following question–If the death of Christ
extends equally to all, how does it become security against a „charge,” seeing
that all who believe not are „under condemnation”? (John 3:18).
(4) The number of those who share the benefits of Christ’s death is determined
not only by the nature of the Atonement and the priesthood of Christ but also by
His power. Grant that the One who died upon the Cross was God manifest in the
flesh and it follows inevitably that what Christ has purposed that will He
perform; that what He has purchased that will He possess; that what He has set
His heart upon that will He secure. If the Lord Jesus possesses all power in
Heaven and earth then none can successfully resist His will. But it may be said,
This is true in the abstract, nevertheless, Christ refuses to exercise this
power, inasmuch as He will never force anyone to receive Him as their Lord and
Saviour. In one sense that is true, but in another sense it is positively
untrue. The salvation of any sinner is a matter of Divine power. By nature the
sinner is at enmity with God, and naught but Divine power operating within him
can overcome this enmity; hence it is written, „No man can come unto Me, except
the Father which hath sent Me draw him” (John 6:44). It is the Divine power
overcoming the sinner’s innate enmity which makes him willing to come to Christ
that he might have life. But this „enmity” is not overcome in all–why? Is it
because the enmity is too strong to be overcome? Are there some hearts so
steeled against Him that Christ is unable to gain entrance? To answer in the
affirmative is to deny His omnipotence. In the final analysis it is not a
question of the sinner’s willingness or unwillingness, for by nature all are
unwilling. Willingness to come to Christ is the finished product of Divine power
operating in the human heart and will in overcoming man’s inherent and chronic
„enmity,” as it is written, „Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy
power” (Psa. 110:3). To say that Christ is unable to win to Himself those who
are unwilling is to deny that all power in Heaven and earth is His. To say that
Christ cannot put forth His power without destroying man’s responsibility is a
begging of the question here raised, for He has put forth His power and made
willing those who have come to Him, and if He did this without destroying their
responsibility, why „cannot” He do so with others? If He is able to win the
heart of one sinner to Himself why not that of another? To say, as is usually
said, the others will not let Him is to impeach His sufficiency. It is a
question of His will. If the Lord Jesus has decreed, desired, purposed the
salvation of all mankind, then the entire human race will be saved, or,
otherwise, He lacks the power to make good His intentions; and in such a case it
could never be said, „He shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied.”
The issue raised involves the deity of the Saviour, for a defeated Saviour
cannot be God.
Having reviewed some of the general principles which require us to believe that
the death of Christ was limited in its design, we turn now to consider some of
the explicit statements of Scripture which expressly affirm it. In that wondrous
and matchless Fifty-third of Isaiah God tells us concerning His Son, „He was
taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare His generation? for
He was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of My people
was He stricken” (v. 8). In perfect harmony with this was the word of the angel
to Joseph, „Thou shalt call His name JESUS, for He shall save His people from
their sins” (Matt. 1:21) i.e., not merely Israel, but all whom the Father had
„given” Him. Our Lord Himself declared, „The Son of Man came not to be
ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt.
20:28), but why have said „for many” if all without exception were included? It
was „His people” whom He „redeemed” (Luke 1:68). It was for „the sheep,” and not
the „goats,” that the Good Shepherd gave His life (John 10:11). It was the
„Church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).
If there is one Scripture more than any other upon which we should be willing to
rest our case it is John 11:49-52. Here we are told, „And one of them, named
Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing
at all, nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for
the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of
himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die
for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also He should gather
together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.” Here we are
told that Caiaphas „prophesied not of himself,” that is, like those employed by
God in Old Testament times (see 2 Peter 1:21), his prophecy originated not with
himself, but he spake as he was moved by the Holy Spirit; thus is the value of
his utterance carefully guarded, and the Divine source of this revelation
expressly vouched for. Here, too, we are definitely informed that Christ died
for „that nation,” i.e., Israel, and also for the One Body, His Church, for it
is into the Church that the children of God–„scattered” among the nations–are
now being „gathered together in one.” And is it not remarkable that the members
of the Church are here called „children of God” even before Christ died, and
therefore before He commenced to build His Church! The vast majority of them had
not then been born, yet they were regarded as „children of God”; children of God
because they had been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, and
therefore „predestinated unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to
Himself” (Eph. 1:4, 5). In like manner, Christ said, „Other sheep I have (not
„shall have”) which are not of this fold” (John 10:16).
If ever the real design of the Cross was uppermost in the heart and speech of
our blessed Saviour it was during the last week of His earthly ministry. What
then do the Scriptures which treat of this portion of His ministry record in
connection with our present inquiry? They say, „When Jesus knew that His hour
was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved
His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end” (John 13:1). They
tell us how He said, „Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down
His life for His friends” (John 15:13). They record His word, „For their sakes I
sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth” (John
17:19); which means, that for the sake of His own, those „given” to Him by the
Father, He separated Himself unto the death of the Cross. One may well ask, Why
such discrimination of terms if Christ died for all men indiscriminately?
Ere closing this section of the chapter we shall consider briefly a few of those
passages which seem to teach most strongly an unlimited design in the death of
Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5:14 we read, „One died for all.” But that is not all
this Scripture affirms. If the entire verse and passage from which these words
are quoted be carefully examined, it will be found that instead of teaching an
unlimited atonement, it emphatically argues a limited design in the death of
Christ. The whole verse reads, „For the love of Christ constraineth us; because
we thus judge, that if One died for all, then were all dead.” It should be
pointed out that in the Greek there is the definite article before the last
„all,” and that the verb here is in the aorist tense, and therefore should read,
„We thus judge: that if One died for all, then the all died.” The Apostle is
here drawing a conclusion as is clear from the words „we thus judge, that if…
then were.” His meaning is, that those for whom the One died are regarded,
judicially, as having died too. The next verse goes on to say, „And He died for
all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto
Him which died for them, and rose again.” The One not only died but „rose
again,” and so, too, did the „all” for whom He died, for it is here said they
„live.” Those for whom a substitute acts are legally regarded as having acted
themselves. In the sight of the law the substitute and those whom he represents
are one. So it is in the sight of God. Christ was identified with His people and
His people were identified with Him, hence when He died they died (judicially)
and when He rose they rose also. But further we are told in this passage (v.
17), that if any man be in Christ he is a new creation; he has received a new
life in fact as well as in the sight of the law, hence the „all” for whom Christ
died are here bidden to live henceforth no more unto themselves, „but unto Him
which died for them, and rose again.” In other words, those who belonged to this
„all” for whom Christ died, are here exhorted to manifest practically in their
daily lives what is true of them judicially: they are to „live unto Christ who
died for them.” Thus the „One died for all” is defined for us. The „all” for
which Christ died are they which „live,” and which are here bidden to live „unto
Him.” This passage then teaches three important truths, and the better to show
its scope we mention them in their inverse order: certain ones are here bidden
to live no more unto themselves but unto Christ; the ones thus admonished are
„they which live,” that is live spiritually, hence, the children of God, for
they alone of mankind possess spiritual life, all others being dead in
trespasses and sins; those who do thus live are the ones, the „all,” the „them,”
for whom Christ died and rose again. This passage therefore teaches that Christ
died for all His people, the elect, those given to Him by the Father; that as
the result of His death (and rising again „for them”) they „live”–and the elect
are the only ones who do thus „live”; and this life which is theirs through
Christ must be lived „unto Him,” Christ’s love must now „constrain” them.
„For there is one God, and one Mediator, between God and men (not „man,” for
this would have been a generic term and signified mankind. O the accuracy of
Holy Writ!), the Man Christ Jesus; who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be
testified in due time” (1 Tim. 2:5, 6). It is upon the words „who gave Himself a
ransom for all” we would now comment. In Scripture the word „all” (as applied to
humankind) is used in two senses–absolutely and relatively. In some passages it
means all without exception; in others it signifies all without distinction. As
to which of these meanings it bears in any particular passage, must be
determined by the context and decided by a comparison of parallel Scriptures.
That the word „all” is used in a relative and restricted sense, and in such case
means all without distinction and not all without exception, is clear from a
number of Scriptures, from which we select two or three as samples. „And there
went out unto him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all
baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins” (Mark 1:5). Does
this mean that every man, woman and child from „all the land of Judea and they
of Jerusalem” were baptized of John in Jordan? Surely not. Luke 7:30 distinctly
says, „But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against
themselves, being not baptized of him.” Then what does „all baptized of him”
mean? We answer it does not mean all without exception, but all without
distinction, that is, all classes and conditions of men. The same explanation
applies to Luke 3:21. Again we read, „And early in the morning He came again
into the Temple, and all the people came unto Him; and He sat down, and taught
them” (John 8:2); are we to understand this expression absolutely or relatively?
Does „all the people” mean all without exception or all without distinction,
that is, all classes and conditions of people? Manifestly the latter; for the
Temple was not able to accommodate everybody that was in Jerusalem at this time,
namely, the Feast of Tabernacles. Again, we read in Acts 22:15, „For thou (Paul)
shalt be His witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.” Surely „all
men” here does not mean every member of the human race. Now we submit that the
words „who gave Himself a ransom for all” in 1 Timothy 2:6 mean all without
distinction, and not all without exception. He gave Himself a ransom for men of
all nationalities, of all generations, of all classes; in a word, for all the
elect, as we read in Revelation 5:9, „For Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us
to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.”
That this is not an arbitrary definition of the „all” in our passage is clear
from Matthew 20:28 where we read, „The Son of Man came not to be ministered
unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many,” which limitation
would be quite meaningless if He gave Himself a ransom for all without
exception. Furthermore, the qualifying words here, „to be testified in due time”
must be taken into consideration. If Christ gave Himself a ransom for the whole
human race, in what sense will this be „testified in due time”? seeing that
multitudes of men will certainly be eternally lost. But if our text means that
Christ gave Himself a ransom for God’s elect, for all without distinction,
without distinction of nationality, social prestige, moral character, age or
sex, then the meaning of these qualifying words is quite intelligible, for in
„due time” this will be „testified” in the actual and accomplished salvation of
every one of them.
„But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering
of death, crowned with glory and honor; that He by the grace of God should taste
death for every man” (Heb. 2:9). This passage need not detain us long. A false
doctrine has been erected here on a false translation. There is no word whatever
in the Greek corresponding to „man” in our English version. In the Greek it is
left in the abstract–„He tasted death for every.” The Revised Version has
correctly omitted „man” from the text, but has wrongly inserted it in italics.
Others suppose the word „thing” should be supplied–„He tasted death for every
thing”–but this, too, we deem a mistake. It seems to us that the words which
immediately follow explain our text: „For it became Him, for whom are all
things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make
the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” It is of „sons” the
Apostle is here writing, and we suggest an ellipsis of „son”–thus: „He tasted
death for every”–and supply son in italics. Thus instead of teaching the
unlimited design of Christ’s death, Hebrews 2:9, 10 is in perfect accord with
the other Scriptures we have quoted which set for the restricted purpose in the
Atonement: it was for the „sons” and not the human race our Lord „tasted death.”
In closing this section of the chapter let us say that the only limitation in
the Atonement we have contended for arises from pure Sovereignty; it is a
limitation not of value and virtue, but of design and application. We turn now
to consider—


Since the Holy Spirit is one of the three Persons in the blessed Trinity, it
necessarily follows that He is in full sympathy with the will and design of the
other Persons of the Godhead. The eternal purpose of the Father in election, the
limited design in the death of the Son, and the restricted scope of the Holy
Spirit’s operations are in perfect accord. If the Father chose certain ones
before the foundation of the world and gave them to His Son, and if it was for
them that Christ gave Himself a ransom, then the Holy Spirit is not now working
to „bring the world to Christ.” The mission of the Holy Spirit in the world
today is to apply the benefits of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice. The question
which is now to engage us is not the extent of the Holy Spirit’s power–on that
point there can he no doubt, it is infinite–but what we shall seek to show is
that His power and operations are directed by Divine wisdom and Sovereignty.
We have just said that the power and operations of the Holy Spirit are directed
by Divine wisdom and indisputable Sovereignty. In proof of this assertion we
appeal first to our Lord’s words to Nicodemus in John 3: 8– „The wind bloweth
where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence
it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” A
comparison is here drawn between the wind and the Spirit. The comparison is a
double one: first, both are Sovereign in their actions, and second, both are
mysterious in their operations. The comparison is pointed out in the word „so.”
The first point of analogy is seen in the words, „where it listeth” or
„pleaseth”; the second is found in the words „canst not tell.” With the second
point of analogy we are not now concerned, but upon the first we would comment
„The wind bloweth where it pleaseth… so is every one that is born of the
Spirit.” The wind is an element which man can neither harness nor hinder. The
wind neither consults man’s pleasure nor can it be regulated by his devices. So
it is with the Spirit. The wind blows when it pleases, where it pleases, as it
pleases. So it is with the Spirit. The wind is regulated by Divine wisdom, yet,
so far as man is concerned, it is absolutely Sovereign in its operations. So it
is with the Spirit. Sometimes the wind blows so softly it scarcely rustles a
leaf; at other times it blows so loudly that its roar can be heard for miles. So
it is in the matter of the new birth; with some the Holy Spirit deals so gently
that His work is imperceptible to human onlookers; with others His action is so
powerful, radical, revolutionary, that His operations are patent to many.
Sometimes the wind is purely local in its reach, at other times widespread in
its scope. So it is with the Spirit: today He acts on one or two souls, tomorrow
He may, as at Pentecost, „prick in the heart” a whole multitude. But whether He
works on few or many He consults not man. He acts as He pleases. The new birth
is due to the Sovereign will of the Spirit.
Each of the three Persons in the blessed Trinity is concerned with our
salvation: with the Father it is predestination; with the Son propitiation; with
the Spirit regeneration. The Father chose us; the Son died for us; the Spirit
quickens us. The Father was concerned about us; the Son shed His blood for us,
the Spirit performs His work within us. What the One did was eternal, what the
Other did was external, what the Spirit does is internal. It is with the work of
the Spirit we are now concerned, with His work in the new birth, and
particularly His Sovereign operations in the new birth. The Father purposed our
new birth; the Son has made possible (by His „travail”) the new birth; but it is
the Spirit who effects the new birth–„Born of the Spirit” (John 3:6).
The new birth is solely the work of God the Spirit and man has no part or lot in
it. This from the very nature of the case. Birth altogether excludes the idea of
any effort or work on the part of the one who is born. Personally we have no
more to do with our spiritual birth than we had with our natural birth. The new
birth is a spiritual resurrection, a „passing from death unto life” (John 5:24)
and, clearly, resurrection is altogether outside of man’s province. No corpse
can re-animate itself. Hence it is written, „It is the Spirit that quickeneth;
the flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63). But the Spirit does not „quicken”
everybody–why? The usual answer returned to this question is, Because everybody
does not trust in Christ. It is supposed that the Holy Spirit quickens only
those who believe. But this is to put the cart before the horse. Faith is not
the cause of the new birth, but the consequence of it. This ought not to need
arguing. Faith (in God) is an exotic, something that is not native to the human
heart. If faith were a natural product of the human heart, the exercise of a
principle common to human nature, it would never have been written, „All men
have not faith” (2 Thess. 3:2). Faith is a spiritual grace, the fruit of the
spiritual nature, and because the unregenerate are spiritually dead–„dead in
trespasses and sins”–then it follows that faith from them is impossible, for a
dead man cannot believe anything. „So then they that are in the flesh cannot
please God” (Rom. 8:8)–but they could if it were possible for the flesh to
believe. Compare with this last–quoted Scripture Hebrews 11:6–„But without
faith it is impossible to please Him.” Can God be „pleased” or satisfied with
any thing which does not have its origin in Himself?
That the work of the Holy Spirit precedes our believing is unequivocally
established by 2 Thessalonians 2:13–„God hath from the beginning chosen you to
salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” Note
that „sanctification of the Spirit” comes before and makes possible „belief of
the truth.” What then is the „sanctification of the Spirit?” We answer, the new
birth. In Scripture „sanctification” always means „separation,” separation for
something and unto something or someone. Let us now amplify our assertion that
the „sanctification of the Spirit” corresponds to the new birth and points to
the positional effect of it.
Here is a servant of God who preaches the Gospel to a congregation in which are
an hundred unsaved people. He brings before them the teaching of Scripture
concerning their ruined and lost condition: he speaks of God, His character and
righteous demands; he tells of Christ meeting God’s demands, and dying the Just
for the unjust, and declares that through „this Man” is now preached the
forgiveness of sins; he closes by urging the lost to believe what God has said
in His Word and receive His Son as their Lord and Saviour. The meeting is over;
the congregation disperses; ninety-nine of the unsaved have refused to come to
Christ that they might have life, and go out into the night having no hope, and
without God in the world. But the hundredth heard the Word of life; the Seed
sown fell into ground which had been prepared by God; he believed the Good News,
and goes home rejoicing that his name is written in Heaven. He has been „born
again,” and just as a newly-born babe in the natural world begins life by
clinging instinctively, in its helplessness, to its mother, so this new-born
soul has clung to Christ. Just as we read, „The Lord opened” the heart of Lydia
„that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul” (Acts 16:14), so
in the case supposed above, the Holy Spirit quickened that one before he
believed the Gospel message. Here then is the „sanctification of the Spirit”:
this one soul who has been born again has, by virtue of his new birth, been
separated from the other ninety-nine. Those born again are, by the Spirit, set
apart from those who are dead in trespasses and sins.
A beautiful type of the operations of the Holy Spirit antecedent to the sinner’s
„belief of the truth,” is found in the first chapter of Genesis. We read in
verse 2, „And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the
face of the deep.” The original Hebrew here might be literally rendered thus:
„And the earth had become a desolate ruin, and darkness was upon the face of the
deep.” In „the beginning” the earth was not created in the condition described
in verse 2. Between the first two verses of Genesis 1 some awful catastrophe had
occurred–possibly the fall of Satan–and, as the consequence, the earth had
been blasted and blighted, and had become a „desolate ruin,” lying beneath a
pall of „darkness.” Such also is the history of man. Today, man is not in the
condition in which he left the hands of his Creator: an awful catastrophe has
happened, and now man is a „desolate ruin” and in total „darkness” concerning
spiritual things. Next we read in Genesis 1 how God refashioned the ruined earth
and created new beings to inhabit it. First we read, „And the Spirit of God
moved upon the face of the water.” Next we are told, „And God said, Let there be
light; and there was light.” The order is the same in the new creation: there is
the first the action of the Spirit, and then the Word of God giving light.
Before the Word found entrance into the scene of desolation and darkness,
bringing with it the light, the Spirit of God „moved.” So it is in the new
creation. „The entrance of Thy word giveth light” (Psa. 119:130), but before it
can enter the darkened human heart the Spirit of God must operate upon it.
[[ The priority contended for above is rather in order of nature than of time,
just as the effect must ever be preceded by the cause. A blind man must have his
eyes opened before he can see, and yet there is no interval of time between the
one and the other. As soon as his eyes are opened, he sees. So a man must be
born again before he can „see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Seeing the Son is
necessary to believing in Him. Unbelief is attributed to spiritual
blindness–those who believed not the „report” of the Gospel „saw no beauty” in
Christ that they should desire Him. The work of the Spirit in „quickening” the
one dead in sins, precedes faith in Christ, just as cause ever precedes effect.
But no sooner is the heart turned toward Christ by the Spirit, than the Saviour
is embraced by the sinner.]]
To return to 2 Thessalonians 2:13: „But we are bound to give thanks always to
God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning
chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the
truth.” The order of thought here is most important and instructive. First,
God’s eternal choice; second, the sanctification of the Spirit; third, belief of
the truth. Precisely the same order is found in 1 Peter 1:2–„Elect according to
the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto
obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” We take it that the
„obedience” here is the „obedience to the faith” (Rom. 1:5), which appropriates
the virtues of the sprinkled blood of the Lord Jesus. So then before the
„obedience” (of faith, cf. Heb. 5:9), there is the work of the Spirit setting us
apart, and behind that is the election of God the Father. The ones „sanctified
of the Spirit” then, are they whom „God hath from the beginning chosen to
salvation” (2 Thess. 2:13), those who are „elect according to the foreknowledge
of God the Father” (1 Peter 1:2).
But, it may be said, is not the present mission of the Holy Spirit to „convict
the world of sin”? And we answer, it is not. The mission of the Spirit is
threefold; to glorify Christ, to vivify the elect, to edify the saints. John
16:8-11 does not describe the „mission” of the Spirit, but sets forth the
significance of His presence here in the world. It treats not of His subjective
work in sinners, showing them their need of Christ, by searching their
consciences and striking terror to their hearts; what we have there is entirely
objective. To illustrate. Suppose I saw a man hanging on the gallows, of what
would that „convince” me? Why, that he was a murderer. How would I thus be
convinced? By reading the record of his trial? by hearing a confession from his
own lips? No; but by the fact that he was hanging there. So the fact that the
Holy Spirit is here furnishes proof of the world’s guilt, of God’s
righteousness, and of the Devil’s judgment.
The Holy Spirit ought not to be here at all. That is a startling statement, but
we make it deliberately. Christ is the One who ought to be here. He was sent
here by the Father, but the world did not want Him, would not have Him, hated
Him, and cast Him out. And the presence of the Spirit here instead evidences its
guilt. The coming of the Spirit was a proof to demonstration of the
resurrection, ascension, and glory of the Lord Jesus. His presence on earth
reverses the world’s verdict, showing that God has set aside the blasphemous
judgment in the palace of Israel’s high priest and in the hall of the Roman
governor. The „reproof” of the Spirit abides, and abides altogether irrespective
of the world’s reception or rejection of His testimony.
Had our Lord been referring here to the gracious work which the Spirit would
perform in those who should be brought to feel their need of Him, He had said
that the Spirit would convict men of their un-righteousness, their lack of
righteousness. But this is not the thought here at all. The descent of the
Spirit from Heaven establishes God’s righteousness, Christ’s righteousness. The
proof of that is, Christ has gone to the Father. Had Christ been an Impostor, as
the religious world insisted when they cast Him out, the Father had not received
Him. The fact that the Father did exalt Him to His own right hand, demonstrates
that He was innocent of the charges laid against Him; and the proof that the
Father has received Him, is the presence now of the Holy Spirit on earth, for
Christ has sent Him from the Father (John 16:7)! The world was unrighteous in
casting Him out, the Father righteous in glorifying Him; and this is what the
Spirit’s presence here establishes.
„Of judgment, because the Prince of this world is judged” (v. 11). This is the
logical and inevitable climax. The world is brought in guilty for their
rejection of, for their refusal to receive, Christ. Its condemnation is
exhibited by the Father’s exaltation of the spurned One. Therefore nothing
awaits the world, and its Prince, but judgment. The „judgment” of Satan is
already established by the Spirit’s presence here, for Christ, through death,
set at nought him who had the power of death, that is, the Devil (Heb. 2:14).
When God’s time comes for the Spirit to depart from the earth then His sentence
will be executed, both on the world and its Prince. In the light of this
unspeakably solemn passage we need not be surprised to find Christ saying, „The
Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not,
neither knoweth Him.” No, the world wants Him not; He condemns the world.
„And when He is come, He will reprove (or, better, „convict”–bring in guilty)
the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they
believe not on Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no
more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:8-11).
Three things, then, the presence of the Holy Spirit on earth demonstrates to the
world: first, its sin, because the world refused to believe on Christ; second,
God’s righteousness in exalting to His own right hand the One cast out, and now
no more seen by the world; third, judgment, because Satan the world’s prince is
already judged, though execution of his judgment is yet future. Thus the Holy
Spirit’s presence here displays things as they really are. We repeat, John
16:8-11 makes no reference to the mission of the Spirit of God in the world, for
during this dispensation, the Spirit has no mission and ministry worldward.
The Holy Spirit is Sovereign in His operations and His mission is confined to
God’s elect: they are the ones He „comforts,” „seals,” guides into all truth,
shows things to come, etc. The work of the Spirit is necessary in order to the
complete accomplishment of the Father’s eternal purpose. Speaking
hypothetically, but reverently, be it said, that if God had done nothing more
than given Christ to die for sinners, not a single sinner would ever have been
saved. In order for any sinner to see his need of a Saviour and be willing to
receive the Saviour he needs the work of the Holy Spirit upon and within him as
imperatively required. Had God done nothing more than given Christ to die for
sinners and then sent forth His servants to proclaim salvation through Jesus
Christ, thus leaving sinners entirely to themselves to accept or reject as they
pleased, then every sinner would have rejected, because at heart every man hates
God and is at enmity with Him. Therefore the work of the Holy Spirit was needed
to bring the sinner to Christ, to overcome his innate opposition, and compel him
to accept the provision God has made. We say „compel” the sinner, for this is
precisely what the Holy Spirit does, has to do, and this leads us to consider at
some length, though as briefly as possible, the parable of the „Marriage
In Luke 14:16 we read, „A certain man made a great supper, and bade many.” By
comparing carefully what follows here with Matthew 22:2-10 several important
distinctions will be observed. We take it that these passages are two
independent accounts of the same parable, differing in detail according to the
distinctive purpose and design of the Holy Spirit in each Gospel. Matthew’s
account–in harmony with the Spirit’s presentation there of Christ as the King
says, „A certain king made a marriage for his son.” Luke’s account–where the
Spirit presents Christ as the Son of Man–says „A certain man made a great
supper and bade many.” Matthew 22:3 says, „And sent forth His servants”; Luke
14:17 says, „And sent His servant.” Now what we wish particularly to call
attention to is, that all through Matthew’s account it is „servants,” whereas in
Luke it is always „servant.” The class of readers for whom we are writing are
those that believe, unreservedly, in the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures,
and such will readily acknowledge there must be some reason for this change from
the plural number in Matthew to the singular number in Luke. We believe the
reason is a weighty one and that attention to this variation reveals an
important truth. We believe that the „servants” in Matthew, speaking generally,
are all who go forth preaching the Gospel, but that the „Servant” in Luke 14 is
the Holy Spirit, for God the Son, in the days of His earthly ministry, was the
Servant of Jehovah (Isa. 42:1). It will be observed that in Matthew 22 the
„servants” are sent forth to do three things: first, to „call” to the wedding
(v. 3); second, to „tell those which are bidden.. all things are ready: come
unto the marriage” (v. 4); third, to „bid to the marriage” (v. 9); and these
three are the things which those who minister the Gospel today are now doing. In
Luke 14 the Servant is also sent forth to do three things: first, He is to say
to them that were bidden, Come: for all things are now ready” (v. 17); second,
He is to „bring in the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind” (v.
21); third, He is to „compel them to come in” (v. 23), and the last two of these
the Holy Spirit alone can do!
In the above Scripture we see that „the Servant,” the Holy Spirit, compels
certain ones to come in to the „supper” and herein is seen His Sovereignty, His
omnipotency, His Divine sufficiency. The clear implication from this word
„compel” is, that those whom the Holy Spirit does „bring in” are not willing of
themselves to come. This is exactly what we have sought to show in previous
paragraphs. By nature, God’s elect are children of wrath even as others (Eph.
2:3), and as such their hearts are at enmity with God. But this „enmity” of
theirs is overcome by the Spirit and He „compels” them to come in. Is it not
clear then that the reason why others are left outside, is not only because they
are unwilling to go in, but also because the Holy Spirit does not „compel” them
to come in? Is it not manifest that the Holy Spirit is Sovereign in the exercise
of His power, that as the wind „bloweth where it pleaseth” so the Holy Spirit
operates where He pleases?
And now to sum up. We have sought to show the perfect consistency of God’s ways:
that each Person in the Godhead acts in sympathy and harmony with the Others.
God the Father elected certain ones to salvation, God the Son died for the
elect, and God the Spirit quickens the elect. Well may we sing,
Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.


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