The Most Remarkable Event

Taken and adapted from, “THE MOST REMARKABLE EVENT”
Written by A.W. Pink

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 “Great is the mystery of godliness”
1 Timothy 3:16

Amazing beyond all finite conception is that transaction that was consummated at Golgotha!

There we behold the Prince of Life dying. There we gaze upon the Lord of Glory made a spectacle of unutterable shame. There we see the Holy One of God made sin for His people. There we witness the Author of all blessing made a curse for worms of the earth. It is the mystery of mysteries that He Who is none other than Immanuel, should stoop so low as to join the infinite majesty of Deity with the lowest degree of abasement that was possible to descend into. He could not have gone lower and be God. Well did the Puritan, Richard Sibbes say,

“God, to show His love to us, showed Himself God in this: that He could be God and go so low as to die.”

To what source then can we appeal for light, for understanding, for an explanation and interpretation of the Cross? Human reasoning is futile, speculation is profane, the opinions of men are worthless. Thus, we are absolutely shut up to what God has been pleased to make known to us in His Word…

The plan of redemption, the office of our Surety, and the satisfaction that He rendered to the claims of justice against us have no parallel in the relations of men to one another. We are carried above the sphere of the highest relations of created beings into the [majestic] counsels of the eternal and independent God.

Shall we bring our own line to measure them? We are in the presence of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—one in perfection, will, and purpose. If the righteousness of the Father demands a sacrifice, the love of the Father provides it. But the love of the Son runs parallel with that of the Father; and not only in the general undertaking, but also in every act of it we see the Son’s full and free consent. In the whole work, we see the love of the Father as clearly displayed as the love of the Son. And again, we see the Son’s love of righteousness and hatred of iniquity as clearly displayed as the Father’s, in that work of which it was impossible to tell whether the manifestation of love or righteousness is most amazing. In setting out upon the undertaking, we hear the Son say with loving delight, “Lo, I come to do Thy will.” –Hebrews 10:7, 9

As He contemplates its conclusion, we hear Him say, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.” –John 10:17 They are one in the glorious manifestation of common perfections and in the joy of all the blessed results. The Son is glorified by all that is for the glory of the Father.

And while, in the consummation of this plan, the wisdom of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—shall be displayed, as it could not otherwise have been, to the principalities and powers in heavenly places. Ruined man will be exalted in Christ to heights of glory and bliss otherwise unattainable.

The Sovereignty of God and the Spiritual Birthrights of Jacob and Esau

Taken and adapted from, “THE HEROES OF FAITH”
Written by, A.W. Pink

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By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning the future. 
–Hebrews 11:20

Though Isaac lived the longest of the four great patriarchs, yet less is recorded about him than any of the others…

…some twelve chapters are devoted to the biography of Abraham, and a similar number each to Jacob and Joseph, but excepting for one or two brief mentionings before and after, the history of Isaac is condensed into two chapters, Genesis 26 and 27. Contrasting his character with those of his father and of his son, we may assume that there is noted less of Abraham’s triumphs of faith, and less of Jacob’s failures. Taking it on the whole, the life of Isaac is a disappointing one: it begins brightly, but ends amid the shadows-like that of so many, it failed to fulfill its early promise.

The one act in Isaac’s life which the Holy Spirit selected for mention in the Scroll of Faith takes us back to Genesis 27, where, as the Puritan, John Owen well said, “There is none (other story) in the Scripture filled with more intricacies and difficulties as unto a right judgment of the things related, though the matter of fact be clearly and distinctly set down. The whole represents unto us Divine sovereignty, wisdom and faithfulness, working effectually through the frailties, infirmities and sins of all the persons concerned in the matter.”

Genesis 27 opens by presenting unto us Isaac in his old age, and declares that “his eyes were dim, so that he could not see” (v. 1). It ought not to need saying that we have there something more than a mere reference to the state of his physical eyes, yet in these days when so many glory in their understanding the Word “literally,” God’s servants need to dwell upon the most elementary spiritual truths. Everything in Holy Writ has a deeper significance than the “literal,” and we are greatly the losers when we limit ourselves to the “letter” of any verse. Let us contrast this statement concerning Isaac’s defective vision with what is recorded of another servant of God at the same advanced age: “And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim” (Deut. 34:7). 

Genesis 27 shows us the low state into which a child of God may get. Isaac presents unto us a solemn warning of the evil consequences which follow failure to judge and refuse our natural appetites. If we do not mortify our members which are upon the earth, if we do not abstain from fleshly lusts that war against the soul, then the fine edge of our spiritual life will be blunted, and the fine gold will become dim. If we live to eat, instead of eating to live, our spiritual vision is bound to be defective. Discernment is a by-product, the fruit and result of the denying of self, and following of Christ (John 8:12). It was this self-abnegation which was so conspicuous in Moses: he learned to refuse that which appealed to the flesh-a position of honor as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; that is why his “eye was not dim.” He saw that the brickmaking Hebrews were the people of God, the objects of His sovereign favor, and following his spiritual promptings, threw in his lot with them.

How different was the case with poor Isaac! Instead of keeping his body in subjection, he indulged it. More than a hint of this is given in Genesis 25:28, “And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison”: this brought him under the influence of one who could be of no help to him spiritually, and he loved him because he ministered unto his fleshly appetites. And now in Genesis 27, when he thought that the end of his days was near, and he desired to bestow the patriarchal blessing upon his son, instead of giving himself to fasting and prayer, and then acting in accord with the revealed will of God, we are told that he called for Esau, and said, “Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison; and make me savory meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die” (Gen. 27:3, 4). This is what furnishes the key to the immediate sequel.

“And the LORD said unto her (viz., Rebekah), Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger” (Gen. 25:23). This is the Scripture which supplies the second key to the whole incident recorded in Genesis 27 and opens for us Hebrews 11:20. Here we find God making known the destiny of Jacob and Esau: observe that this revelation was made unto the mother (who had “inquired of the Lord”: Gen. 25:22), and not to their father. That, later on, Isaac himself became acquainted with its terms, is clear, but as to how far he really apprehended their meaning, is not easy to say. 

The word that the Lord had spoken unto her, Rebekah believed; yet she failed to exercise full confidence in Him. When she saw Isaac’s marked partiality for Esau, and learned that her husband was about to perform the last religious act of a patriarchal priest and pronounce blessing on his sons, she became fearful. When she heard Isaac bid Esau make him some “savory meat”-evidently desiring to enkindle or intensify his affections for Esau, so that he might bless him with all his heart-she imagined that the purpose of God was about to be thwarted, and resorted unto measures which ill become a daughter of Jehovah, and which can by no means be justified. We will not dwell upon the deception which she prompted Jacob to adopt, but would point out that it supplies a solemn example of real faith being resolutely fixed on the Divine promises, but employing irregular ways and wrong means for the obtaining of them. 

In what follows we see how Isaac was deceived by Jacob posing as Esau. Though uneasy and suspicious at first, his fears were largely allayed by Jacob’s lies: though perceiving the voice was that of the younger son, yet his hands appeared to be those of the elder. Pathetic indeed is it to see the aged patriarch reduced unto the sense of touch in his efforts to identify the one who had now brought him the longed-for venison. It is this which should speak loudly to our hearts: he who yields to the lusts of the flesh injures his spiritual instincts, and opens wide the door for the Devil to impose upon him and deceive him with his lies! He who allows natural sentiments and affections to override the requirements of God’s revealed will is reduced to a humiliated state in the end. How often it proves that a man’s spiritual foes are they of his own household! Isaac loved Esau unwisely. 

But now we must face a difficult question: Did Isaac deliberately pit himself against the known counsel of God? Did he defiantly purpose to bestow upon Esau what he was assured the Lord had appointed for Jacob? “Whatever may be spoken in excuse of Isaac, it is certain he failed greatly in two things: First, in his inordinate love to Esau (whom he could not but know to be a profane person), and that on so slight an account as eating of his venison: Genesis 25:28. Second, in that he had not sufficiently enquired into the mind of God, in the oracle that his wife received concerning their sons. There is no question on the one hand, but that he knew of it; nor on the other, that he did not understand it. For if the holy man had known that it was the determinate will of God, he would not have contradicted it. But this arose from want of diligent enquiry by prayer into the mind of God” (John Owen).

We heartily agree with these remarks of the eminent Puritan. While the conduct of Isaac on this occasion was far from becoming a child of God who concluded his earthly pilgrimage was now nearly complete, yet charity forbids us to put the worst possible construction upon his action. While his affection for Esau was misplaced, yet, in the absence of any clear Scriptural proof, we are not warranted in thinking that he sinned presumptuously, by deliberately resisting the revealed will of God; rather must we conclude that he had no clear understanding of the Divine oracle given to Rebekah his spiritual discernment was dim, as well as his physical vision! As to the unworthy part played by Rebekah and Jacob, their efforts are to be regarded not so much as the feverish energies of the flesh, seeking to force the fulfillment of God’s promise, but as well-meant but misguided intentions to prevent the thwarting of God’s purpose. Their fears remind us of Uzzah’s in 2 Samuel 6:6. 

The one bright spot in the somber picture which the Holy Spirit has so faithfully painted for us in Genesis 27 is found in verse 33. Right after Isaac had pronounced the major blessing on Jacob, Esau entered the tent, bringing with him the savory meat which he had prepared for his father. Isaac now realized the deception which had been played upon him, and we are told that he “trembled very exceedingly.” Was he shaking with rage at Jacob’s treachery? No indeed. Was he, as one commentator has suggested, fearful that he might suffer injury at the hands of the hot-headed Esau? No, his next words explode such a theory. Rather, it was now that he realized he had been out of harmony with the Divine will, and that God had providentially intervened to effect His own counsels. He was awed to the very depths of his soul.

Blessed indeed is it to behold how the spirit triumphed over the flesh. Instead of bursting out with an angry curse upon the head of Jacob, Isaac said, “I have blessed him, yea, and he shall be blessed.” That was the language of faith overcoming his natural partiality for Esau. It was the recognizing and acknowledging of the immutability and invincibility of the Divine decrees. He realized that God is in one mind, and none can turn Him: that though there are many devices in a man’s heart, nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand (Prov. 19:21). Nor could the tears of Esau move the patriarch. Now that the entrance of God’s words had given him light, now that the overruling hand of God had secured His own appointment, Isaac was firm as a rock. The righteous may fall, but they cannot be utterly cast down. 

“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come” (Heb. 11:20). Jacob, the younger, had the precedence and principal blessing. Strikingly did this exemplify the high sovereignty of God. To take the younger, and leave the elder to perish in their ways, is a course the Lord has often followed, from the beginning of the world. Abel, the junior, was preferred before Cain. Shem was given the precedence over Japheth the elder (Gen. 10:21). Afterwards, Abraham, the younger, was taken to be God’s favourite. Of Abraham’s two sons, the older one, Ishmael, was passed by, and in Isaac was the Seed called. Later, David, who was the youngest of Jesse’s eight sons, was selected to be the man after God’s own heart. And God still writes, as with a sunbeam in the course of His providence, that He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy.

The “blessing” which Isaac pronounced upon Jacob was vastly superior to the portion allotted Esau, though if we look no deeper than the letter of the words which their father used, there appears to be very little difference between them. Unto Jacob Isaac said, “God give thee of the dew of Heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine” (Gen. 27:28); what follows in verse 29 chiefly concerned his posterity. Unto Esau Isaac said, “Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of Heaven from above; and by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother” (Gen. 27:39, 40). Apart from the younger son having the pre-eminence over the elder, wherein lay the peculiar excellence of his portion? If there had been nothing spiritual in the promise, it would have been no comfort to Jacob at all, for the temporal things mentioned were not his portion: as he acknowledged to Pharaoh, “few and evil have the days of the years of my life been” (Gen. 47:9).

What has just been before us supplies a notable example of how the Old Testament promises and prophecies are to be interpreted; not carnally, but mystically. That Jacob’s portion far excelled Esau’s, is clear from Hebrews 12:17, where it is denominated, “the blessing.” What that is was made clearer when Isaac repeated his benediction upon Jacob, saying, “And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed” (Gen. 28:4). Here is the key which we need to unlock its meaning; as Galatians 3:9, 14, 29 clearly enough show, the “blessing of Abraham” (into which elect Gentiles enter, through Christ) is purely a spiritual thing. Further proof that the same spiritual blessing which God promised to Abraham was also made over by Isaac to Jacob, is found in his words, “I have blessed him, yea, and he shall be blessed” (Gen. 27:33), for Jehovah had employed the same language when blessing the father of all believers: “in blessing I will bless thee” (Gen. 22:17). To this may be added Isaac’s “Cursed be everyone that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee” (Gen. 27:29), being part of the very words God used to Abraham, see Genesis 12:2, 3.

Now in seeking to rightly understand the language of Isaac’s prophecy, it must be recognized that (oftentimes) in the Old Testament heavenly things were referred to in earthly terms, that spiritual blessings were set forth under the figure of material things. Due attention to this fact will render luminous many a passage. Such is the case here: under the emblems of the “dew of Heaven and the fatness of the earth,” three great spiritual blessings were intended. First, that he was to have a real relation to Christ, that he should be one of the progenitors of the Messiah-this was the chief favor and dignity bestowed upon “Abraham.” It is in the light of this that we are to understand Genesis 27:29 as ultimately referring: “let the people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee,” that is, to the top branch which should proceed from him-unto Christ, unto whom all men are commanded to render allegiance (Psa. 2:10-12).

Second, the next great blessing of “Abraham” was that he should be the priest that should continue the worship of God and teach the laws of God (Gen. 26:5). The bowing down of his brethren to Jacob (Gen. 27:29), was the owning of his priestly dignity. Herein also lay Jacob’s blessing: to be in the church, and to have the church continued in his line. This was symbolically pointed to in “that thou mayest inherit the land” (Gen. 28:4). “The church is the ark of Noah, which is only preserved in the midst of floods and deep waters. The church is the land of Goshen, which only enjoys the benefits of light, when there is nothing but darkness round about elsewhere. It is the fleece of Gideon, being wet with the dews of Heaven, moistened with the influences of grace, when all the ground round about is dry” (Thomas Manton). As to how high is the honour of having the church continued in our line, the Spirit intimates in Genesis 10:21 -Eber being the father of the Hebrews, who worshipped God.

Third, another privilege of Jacob above Esau was this, that he was taken into covenant with God: “the blessing of Abraham shall come upon thee.” And what was that? This, “And I will be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee” (Gen. 17:7). This is the greatest happiness of any people, to have God for their God-to be in covenant with Him. Thus when Noah came to pronounce blessings and curses on his children, by the spirit of prophecy, he said, “Blessed be the LORD God of Shem” (Gen. 9:26). Afterward the same promise was made unto all Israel: “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Exo. 20:2). So under the new covenant (the present administration of the Everlasting Covenant), he says, “I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people” (Heb. 8:10). To be a “God” to any, is to supply them with all good things, necessary for temporal or spiritual life.

The fulfillment of Isaac’s prophetic blessing upon his sons was mainly in their descendants, rather than in their own persons: Jacob’s spiritual children, Esau’s natural. Concerning the latter, we would note two details. First, Isaac said to him, “thou shalt serve thy brother”; second, “and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck” (Gen. 27:40). For long centuries there seemed no likelihood of the first part of this prediction being fulfilled, but eight hundred years later, David said, “over Edom will I cast out my shoe” (Psa. 60:8), which meant he would bring the haughty descendants of Esau into a low and base state of subjection to him; which was duly accomplished -“all they of Edom became David’s servants” (2 Sam. 8:14)! Though their subjugation continued for a lengthy period of time, yet, in the days of Jehoshaphat, we read, “In his days Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah, and made a king over themselves” (2 Kings 8:20)! 

“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come” (Heb. 11:20). This “blessing” was more than a dying father expressing good-will unto his sons: it was extraordinary: Isaac spoke as a prophet of God, announcing the future of his posterity, and the varied portions each should receive. As the mouthpiece of Jehovah, he did, by the spirit of prophecy, announce beforehand what should be the particular estate of each of his two sons; and so his words have been fulfilled. Though parents today are not thus supernaturally endowed to foretell the future of their children, nevertheless, it is their duty and privilege to search the Scriptures and ascertain what promises God has left to the righteous and to their
seed, and plead them before Him. 

But seeing Isaac thus spake by the immediate impulse of the Spirit, how can it be said that “by faith” he blessed his sons? This brings in the human side, and shows how he discharged his responsibility. He gathered together and rested upon the promises which God had made to him, both directly, and through Abraham and Rebekah. The principle ones we have already considered. He had been present when the Lord said unto his father what is found in Genesis 22:16-18, and he had himself been made the recipient of the Divine promises recorded in Genesis 26:2-4. And now, many years later, we find his heart resting upon what he had heard from God, firmly embracing His promises, and with unshaken confidence announcing the future estates of his distant posterity. 

That Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau “concerning things to come,” gives us a striking example of what is said in the opening verse of Hebrews 11. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” “Abraham was now dead, and Isaac was expecting soon to be buried in the grave he had purchased in the Land given to him and his seed. There was nothing to be seen for faith to rest on; nothing that gave the smallest ground for hope; nothing to make it even probable (apart from what he had heard and believed) that his descendants, either Jacob or Esau, would ever possess the land which had been promised to them” (E.W.B.). There was no human probability at the time Isaac spake which could have been the basis of his calculations: all that he said issued from implicit faith in the bare Word of God.

This is the great practical lesson for us to learn here: the strength of Isaac’s faith should stir us up to cry unto God for an increased measure thereof. With most precious confidence Isaac disposed of Canaan as if he already had the peaceable possession of it. Yet, in fact, he owned not an acre of that Land, and had no human right to anything there save a burying place. Moreover, at the time he prophesied there was a famine in Canaan, and he was in exile in Gerah, “Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee” (Gen. 27:29), would, to one that viewed only the outward case of Isaac, seem like empty words. Ah, my brethren, we too ought to be as certain of the blessings to come, which God has promised, as if they were present, even though we see no apparent likelihood of them.

It may be objected against what has been said above, that, from the account which is supplied in Genesis 27, Isaac “blessed” Jacob in ignorance rather than “by faith.” To this it may be replied, first, the object of faith is always God Himself, and the ground on which it rests is His revealed will. So in Isaac’s case, his faith was fixed upon the covenant God and was exercised upon His sure Word, and this was by no means negated by his mistaking Jacob for Esau. Second, it illustrates the fact that the faith of God’s people is usually accompanied by some infirmity: in Isaac’s case, his partiality for Esau. Third, after he discovered the deception which had been played upon him, he made no effort to recall the blessing pronounced upon the disguised Jacob-sweetly acquiescing unto the Divine Sovereignty-but confirming it; and though with tears Esau sought to change his mind, he could not. 

Here too we behold the strength of Isaac’s faith: as soon as he perceived the providential hand of God crossing his natural affection, instead of murmuring and rebelling, he yielded and submitted to the Lord. This is ever the work of true faith: it makes the soul yield to God’s will against our fleshly inclinations, as also against the bent of our own reason. Faith knows that God is so great, so powerful, so glorious, that His commands must be obeyed. As it was with Abraham, so in the case of Isaac: faith viewed the precepts as well as the promise; it moves us to tread the path of obedience. May our faith be more and more evidenced by walking in those good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10).

Characteristics of the Virgins in Matthew 25, and how to tell if you have Divine Oil in your Vessel.

Thoughts were taken and adapted from, Terence Ellard, and A.W. Pink
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If I may call our attention to the comparisons and contrasts between the wise and foolish virgins of Matthew 25. They have seven things in common.

 
First, all the virgins were in “the kingdom of heaven”: by which we understand, the sphere of Christian profession.
Second, they were all of them “virgins”: not five virgins and five harlots: by which we understand, they all claimed to belong unto Christ.
Third, they all “went forth to meet the Bridegroom”: they were one in purpose, having a single end in view.
Fourth, they all had “lamps,” the same sort of lamps.
Fifth, they all “slumbered and slept.”
Sixth, they all heard the cry “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh.”
Seventh, they all “arose and trimmed their lamps.”
 

There are six points of difference between them.

 
First, five of them were “wise” and five of them were “foolish.”
Second, the wise “took oil in their vessels with their lamps” (v. 4), but the foolish ones did not do so.
Third, at the crucial moment the foolish virgins had to acknowledge “our lamps are (slowly but surely) gone out” (v. 8 margin).
Fourth, the foolish virgins “went to buy” oil (v. 10), the wise ones had no need to do so.
Fifth, the wise were shut in with the Bridegroom, but the foolish were shut out (v. 10.)
Sixth, the foolish virgins were disowned by the Lord (vv. 11, 12).
 
Let us think about this for a second. “There is a certain class today who differ not from the children of God as to their testimony: its purity, its orthodoxy, its sincerity. These are not Spiritists, Russellites, or the daughters of the Mother of Harlots, but ‘virgins’ doctrinally they are pure. They are pictured as going forth ‘to meet the Bridegroom,’ not one to the ‘desert’ and another to the ‘secret chambers’ (Matt. 24:26), seeking a false Christ. The Object of their service was the same Person which the wise virgins were occupied with.
The vital point in their ‘foolishness’ was not that they ‘slumbered and slept’ but that they had no oil in their VESSELS. Theirs was oil in their ‘lamps’ the testimony or doctrine but none in their vessels or souls.”
 
The above deeply impresses us with the great importance of making sure individually whether there be oil in my vessel: the “vessel” is the soul, the “oil” is Divine grace in it. Whatever may be the precise signification of “behold the Bridegroom cometh” whether it refer to the hour of death, the “premillennial return of Christ,” or the Day of Judgment, one thing is clear: it points to the crucial testing time.
 
As it has been pointed out: Balaam had oil in his “lamp,” as also had Judas when Christ sent him forth with the other Apostles to “preach” (Matt. 10:5-7), yet their hearts were destitute of the saving grace of God! What a terrible discovery for the foolish virgins to make: “our lamps are gone out” a discovery made too late to do them any good.
 
This parable of the “virgins” is indeed a searching and solemn one. It has deeply exercised many a sincere soul. It has caused not a few genuine saints to wonder if, after all, the “root of the matter” were in them. It has given real point to that exhortation “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves” (2 Cor. 13:5).
On the other hand, vast numbers of professing Christians are quite unmoved by its pointed message, complacently assuming that they are numbered among the “wise” virgins, and taking no trouble to seek proof that the oil is in their vessels. Strangest of all, perhaps, some of the Lord’s own people scarcely know how to set about the task of ascertaining their state, and are so suspicious of themselves they readily conclude that their vessels are devoid of the vital oil.
 
The key passage for the significance of this Scriptural figure is, “Thy God hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows” (Psalms 45:7), where the reference is to the Mediator, for God “giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him” (John 3:34); in consequence thereof, He is “fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into Thy lips” (Psalms 45:2). The holy “oil” was first poured upon the antitypical Aaron, and then it runs down to all the “skirts of His garments” (Psalms 133:2), that is, to the meanest and feeblest Christians. Just as the little finger or toe is animated by the same life and vitality as actuates the head and heart of a person, so every Christian is vitalized by the same Spirit as was given to Christ, the Head. As the Spirit sanctified the human nature of Christ by fitting and enriching it with all grace, so His grace is communicated to all His members.
 
The “oil,” then, in the vessels of the wise virgins refers to the life of the Spirit in the soul of a Christian. It is the presence of Divine grace in the heart in contrast from knowledge in the head or correctness of outward deportment which distinguishes the actual possessor from the empty professor. How important then is it that we spare no efforts to ascertain whether or not that Divine grace resides in us! Yet at this very point Christians encounter a real difficulty: as they honestly and diligently look within they perceive such a sea of corruption, ever casting up mire and dirt, they are greatly distressed, and ready to conclude that Divine grace surely cannot be present in such hearts as theirs.
 
But this is a serious mistake; as genuine oil is distinguishable from counterfeits by its properties, so grace in the soul may be known by its characteristics and effects. But the exercised soul should begin his search for indwelling grace with it definitely settled in his mind, that, in every heart where grace resides there is also an ocean of sin; and just as oil and water will not mix, but continue to preserve their distinct properties even when placed together in the same vessel, so the flesh and spirit will not combine in the Christian, but remain in opposition to each other unto the end.
 
Admitting, then, a sea of depravity within, my object is to find out if there be any “oil” at all which the surgings of sin are unable to destroy. When I see smoke, I must infer fire (however flickering), and if I can discern in my heart any spiritual grace (however feeble) I must infer the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
 
Be not unduly discouraged, then, dear Christian friend, because you discover so much filthy water in your “vessel” (the editor does the same), but rather confine your attention unto searching for the “oil” within you, and remember that the presence of the same is to be determined by its properties and effects. Let us name a few of these. First, oil illumines, therefore are the blinded Laodiceans bidden to go to Christ for eye salve (anointing oil) that they may see (Rev. 3:18). Now where Divine grace has been bestowed that soul is enlightened. True, says a serious reader, but the point which exercises me so much is, Is my enlightenment a spiritual and supernatural one, or merely a natural and intellectual one, acquired by the mind being instructed through sitting under sound teaching? Those mentioned in Hebrews 6:4 were “once enlightened,” yet no saving work of grace had been wrought in them!
 
Some readers may be total strangers to all such distressing experiences, and wonder why any real Christian should call into question the exact character of his or her illumination, troubling themselves not at all whether their enlightenment be natural or supernatural. Poor souls, it is greatly to be feared that a rude awakening is awaiting them from their Satan-induced sleep. But what shall we say to those who are awake and deeply concerned about their eternal interests? How are such to determine the matter?
 
We answer, test the point. Was there not a time when you “saw no beauty in Christ that you should desire Him?” Is it so with you now? Or has He become in your eyes the “altogether lovely” One? You may be afraid to call Him yours, yet if your heart truly yearns for Him, then you must have been spiritually enlightened the “oil” is in your vessel.
 
Second, oil softens. Oil was much used by the ancients for medicinal purposes, and we moderns might well take a leaf out of their books. It will melt caked wax in the ear; make tender a calloused bunion. It is very useful for boils: repeated applications softening, then causing to burst, and then healing.
 
Thus it is in the operation of the Holy Spirit. He finds the elect hard and obdurate by nature, and swollen with pride and self-conceit; but Divine grace softens them, melting their flinty hearts, bursting the boils of self-righteousness, and imparting a contrite spirit. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).
 
When Divine grace has been imparted the heart is supernaturally softened. But right here the sincere soul experiences still greater difficulty, and is ready to exclaim emphatically, Then I must still be in an unregenerate state, for my heart is “as hard as the nether millstone.” Wait a moment, dear friend, and test the matter. What are the marks of a “hard heart” as given in Scripture? Are they not a total absence of a feeling sense of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, an utter unconcern whether God be pleased or displeased with my conduct, no mourning in secret when Christ has been dishonored by me?
 
Is that true of you, who are so ready to conclude you are still in a state of nature? If it is not, if sin is your burden and your soul grieves over your lack of conformity to Christ, then your heart must have been spiritually softened the “oil” is in your vessel.
 
Third, oil heals. Hence we find the great Physician, under the figure of the good Samaritan, having compassion on the assaulted traveler, binding up his wounds and “pouring in oil and wine” (Luke 10:34); and He is still caring thus for His people through the gracious ministry of the Spirit. How often the blessed Comforter applies “the balm of Gilead” to the sin-afflicted people of God. What horrible bruises and putrefying sores do sin and Satan inflict upon the souls of the saints, yet how frequently and tenderly does the Spirit mollify and relieve them. First, He works repentance in the heart, which is a purging grace, carrying away the foul and poisonous love of sin; and then He strengthens hope, which is a comforting grace so that the joy of the Lord once more becomes his strength. Divine grace removes the load of guilt from the conscience, applies the cordial of the promises, and gives the weary pilgrim a lift by the way “set him on His own beast” (Luke 10:34).
 
Here, then, is another property and effect of Divine grace: it heals the soul. We can well imagine some fearful reader exclaiming, Alas, that cuts off my hope, for there is no soundness in me. Listen, dear friend, no Christian is completely and perfectly healed from the disease of sin in this life, but he is delivered from the most fearful and fatal effects of it; and it is at this point you are to examine yourself. What are the worst things which the Fall has produced in man? Enmity against God, the love of sin, the idolizing of self. Test yourself by these things. Do you still hate God? If so, would you repine because you love Him so feebly! Are you still in love with sin? If so, why do you grieve over its workings! Is self now your idol? If so, why do you, at times, loath yourself! Sin has not been eradicated, but its wounds are being healed the “oil” is in your vessel.
 
The limited space now at our disposal prevents us doing more than barely mentioning a number of other features. Oil makes the joints flexible and nimble, and therefore was much used by athletes; so grace enables the Christian to “serve in newness of spirit” (Rom. 7:6) and run the race set before him. It is an excellent thing for those who have stiff joints, for it penetrates to the bones (Psalms 109:18). It makes the countenance fresh and comely (Psalms 104:15): what is more attractive to the spiritual eye than a gracious character. It sweetens our persons, so that we are unto God a “sweet savor of Christ” (2 Cor. 2:15), whereas the wicked are a “smoke in His nostrils” (Isa. 65:5). It gladdens, and thus we read of “the oil of joy” (Isa. 61:3): the heart is exhilarated when grace is active. It is an aid to digestion; so, only as grace is active within us, can we assimilate our spiritual food.
 
Oil and water will not intermingle: the old man is not bettered by the new, nor is the new corrupted by the old. Oil cannot be made to sink beneath the water, but always floats on top; so grace in the believer is indestructible, and at the end it will be seen to have fully triumphed over sin. Oil is a super-eminent liquid, for it will not incorporate itself with anything lighter; it will have the highest place above all other liquids. So the graces of the Spirit are of a superior character as far above the gifts of nature as spiritual blessings excel earthly things. Oil quietens troubled waters, giving relief to a ship in a storm: so grace often subdues the turbulent workings of sin. What a blessed promise is that in Psalm 92:10, “But my horn shalt Thou exalt like the horn of a unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil”: new supplies of grace, blessed revivings are granted God’s tried people. Yes, there is “oil in the dwellings of the wise” virgins (Prov. 21:20.
 
This short article is not designed for the searching and exposing of empty Christian professors, but for the establishing and comforting of “the living in Jerusalem.” If the latter will prayerfully re-read its paragraphs and honestly measure themselves by their contents, they should be able to “prove” themselves (2 Cor. 13:5). It is not the absence of sin, nor the decreasing of its power within, which evidences regeneration, but the presence of a contrary and holy principle, which is known by its spiritual longings and efforts.
 

The Nature of the New Birth

Taken and adapted from, “The Doctrine of the New Birth”
Written by, A.W. Pink

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What is the new birth?

What is the fundamental difference between one who is dead in trespasses and sins, and one who has been quickened together with Christ? Various are the answers returned to these questions; confusing and contradictory are the thoughts often entertained upon this subject. The effects of the new birth are frequently confounded with the new birth itself. Ignorance concerning God’s answer to these questions has often caused regenerated persons to doubt whether or not they have actually passed from death unto life. In considering the nature or character of the new birth we shall deal first with the negative side.

1     The New Birth Is Not a Process of Reformation

Reformation is the work of man; regeneration is the work of God. Reformation is the attempt to eliminate evil from the old nature; regeneration is the impartation of a new nature. Reformation aims to earn salvation by our own efforts; regeneration is due to the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit. Reformation seeks to improve the old creation; regeneration is the bringing into existence of an entirely new creation. Reformation is external; regeneration is internal. Reformation is turning over a new leaf; regeneration is the beginning of a new life. Reformation is a tedious and protracted process; regeneration is instantaneous and complete. In short, reformation is human; regeneration is divine.

2     The New Birth Is Not the Purification of the Heart

Often have we heard preachers tell their congregation that regeneration is a “change of heart.” While their intention is good, their language is misleading. In this as in everything, we do well to “hold fast the form of sound words.” A “change of heart” is an expression nowhere to be found in the Holy Scriptures. It is true there are several passages which seem to convey this idea, but for lack of space we cannot discuss them now. Regeneration does not change the heart, though it results in a radical change of life.

In Jeremiah 17:9 we read, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” The word which is here rendered “desperately” is usually translated “incurably,” and ought to be so here. The heart is never changed for it is incurably wicked. John 3:6 sets forth the same truth: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” and it never becomes anything else. There is no process by which a horse can be developed from a tree. Neither does a son of Adam ever develop into a son of God. Regeneration is not a process of transformation. It is altogether a new creation. Even in a born-again person the old evil heart remains unchanged till the day of one’s death.

The New Birth Is Impartation of the Divine Nature

Regeneration is neither the changing of anything in man, nor the removal of anything from man; it is the implanting of an entirely new nature within man. Birth in the spiritual realm is precisely what it is in the physical—it is the gateway of life, the starting point of a new existence. Everything that is born partakes of the nature of its parents. That which is born of the vegetable is vegetable; that which is born of the animal is animal; that which is born of man is human; that which is born of God is divine. Like always begets like. This fundamental law is expressly stated and reiterated on the frontispiece of divine Revelation. In the first chapter of Genesis we read no less than nine times that each order of creation brought forth after its own kind. The herb of the field brought forth after its kind. The fowl of the air brought forth after its kind. The fish in the sea brought forth after its kind. Here is God’s refutation of the infidel theory of evolution. We repeat, like begets like. Those begotten of God are the children of God. When we are born again, born of God, we are made partakers of the divine nature just as really and actually as we were made partakers of the human nature at our first birth. Regeneration, then, is the reception of a new nature, a spiritual nature.

Regeneration is the very life of God Himself, communicated to the human spirit. Regeneration gives us a place in the family of God by means of a spiritual birth.

Reconciliation: How it was Effectuated in the Covenant Agreement

Taken and adapted from, “The Doctrine of Reconciliation”
Written by, A.W. Pink

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Reconciliation has been procured by the incarnate Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, for He is the grand and all-sufficient Provision of God for the accomplishing of His purpose.

But it was effected by the Lord Jesus in fulfillment of a Covenant agreement. Unless that be clearly perceived we are without the principal key to the understanding of this stupendous undertaking. There was a time when Christians generally were well instructed in Covenant truth, but alas, a generation has grown up the great majority of which have heard nothing or next to nothing on it. It will therefore be necessary for us to proceed slowly in connection with this fundamental aspect of our subject and enter into considerable detail, for we do not ask the reader to receive ought from our pen until clearly convinced it is in full accord with and has the definite backing of God’s Word. A few of our readers are more or less familiar with what we shall advance, yet it will do them no harm to have brought before them again the foundation on which faith should rest and to ponder the proofs which we now bring forward. The great majority of our readers know that “it is the blood (and that alone, plus nothing from us) that makes an atonement for the soul”(Lev. 17:11), but we wonder how many of them have pondered and grasped the purport of that blessed and remarkable statement “The God of peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of everlasting covenant” (Heb.13:20). That implies, first, that there was a covenant-agreement between God and our Lord Jesus; second, that it was a covenant made with Him as the Head of His people—”that great Shepherd of the sheep;” third, that Christ performed the condition of the covenant; fourth, that it was as the propitiated and reconciled One that God here acted; fifth, that it was in fulfillment of covenant purpose that He raised Christ; sixth, that Christ’s blood was the meritorious ground on which He (and all the saints in Him) was delivered from the prison of the grave; seventh, that hereby the Church has Divine assurance of its complete redemption and salvation. We cannot dwell upon these points but would request a careful weighing of them as introductory to what follows.

Three things are necessary in order to have a covenant, the parties, the terms, and the agreement.

A “covenant” is a solemn pact or contract in which there are certain “articles” or conditions to be performed, in return for which performance an agreed award is promised and assured. It is a mutual agreement in which one party guarantees a stipulated return for the other’s fulfillment of the work he had pledged himself to undertake. It is an agreement entered into voluntarily by both parties (see Matthew 26:15). The two parties in “the everlasting covenant” were the Father and the Son—the Holy Spirit concurring therein, being the Witness, and agreeing to co-operate in the same. In Scripture the Father is represented as taking the initiative in this matter, proposing to His Son the terms of the covenant. The Father proposed a federal transaction in which the Son should take upon Him the Mediatorial office and serve as the Head of His people, thereby assuming and discharging their liabilities and bringing in an everlasting righteousness for them. The Son is represented as freely and gladly consenting to it.

It needs to be pointed out and emphatically insisted upon that the Son was not so circumstanced antecedently to His susception of the Mediatorial office that He could not have avoided the humiliation and sufferings which He endured. We shall explain later the precise meaning of His words “My Father is greater than I”(John 14:28), “neither came I of Myself but He sent Me” (John 8:42), “this commandment (to lay down His life) have I received of My Father”(John 10:18); sufficient now to point out they have no reference whatever to His condition and position prior to the Covenant, for He then enjoyed absolute equality with the Father in every way. The Son might have resigned the whole human race to the dire consequences of their apostasy and have remained Himself everlastingly blessed and glorious. It was by His own voluntary consent that He entered into covenant engagement with the Father. In that free consent lay the excellency of it. It was His willing obedience and personal merits which gave infinite value to His oblation. Behind that willingness lay His love for the Father and His love for the Church.

On the other hand, it is equally true that though the Son had pitied, yea to so love the elect (fore-viewed as fallen) that He was willing to become their Surety and Substitute, yet He could not have redeemed them without the Father’s acceptance of His sacrifice. The Father too must consent to such an undertaking. Thus, there must be a mutual agreement between Them. The relation which Christ assumed to His people and the work He did for them presupposed the Father’s willingness to it. Before passing on it must also be pointed out that in consenting to become Mediator and Servant, and as such in subjection to the Father, the Son did not surrender any of His perfections not relinquish any of His Divine rights, but He agreed to assume an inferior office and for a season to be subordinate to the Father’s will. This was for the glory of the whole Godhead and the salvation of His people. After He became incarnate He was still in possession of His essential glory, though He was pleased to veil it in large measure from men and make Himself of “no reputation” in the world.

Before adducing proof-texts of the covenant made between the Father and the Son, let us call attention to a number of passages which clearly imply it and which otherwise are not fully intelligible. Take Christ’s very first recorded utterance after He became incarnate: “Do you not know that I must be about My Father’s business”(Luke 2:49). Did not that intimate He had entered this world with a clearly defined and Divinely designed task before Him? “I came clown from heaven not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me”(John 6:38) is even more explicit. Such subordination of one Divine person to another argues a mutual agreement between Them, and that, for some unique end. “Say you of Him whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the World; You blaspheme, because I said, I am the Son of God?” (John 10:36). Observe carefully the order of the two verbs: Christ was “sanctified” by the Father—that is, set apart and consecrated to His mediatorial office—before He was “sent” into the world! “Other sheep I have . . . them also I must bring” (John 10:16)—why “must” unless He was under definite engagement to do so?

That Christ went to the cross in fulfillment of a covenant-agreement may be gathered from His own words: “truly the Son of man goes as it was determined”(Luke 22:22), with which should be linked “Of a truth against Your holy child Jesus, whom You have anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever Your hand and Your counsel determined before to be done” (Acts 4:27, 28). When you stand before the cross and gaze by faith upon its august Sufferer recognize that He was there fulfilling the compact into which He entered with the Father before the world was. His blood shedding was necessary—”ought not Christ to have suffered these things!” (Luke 24:26). He asked—because of the relation He sustained to His people as their Surety. He was pledged to secure their salvation in such a way as glorified God and magnified His Law, for that had been Divinely “determined” and mutually agreed upon in the everlasting Covenant. Had not Christ died there would have been no atonement, no reconciliation to God; equally true is it that, had there been no covenant, Christ had never died!

Every passage where Christ owns the Father as His God (during the days of His flesh) witnesses to the same truth. When Jehovah established His covenant with Abraham He promised “I will. . .be a God unto You and to your seed” (Gen. 17:8), and therefore when He “remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob”(Ex. 2:25) and revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush preparatory to delivering His people from Egypt, He declared Himself to be “The Lord God of your fathers: the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob: this is My name forever and this is My memorial to all generations”(Ex. 3:15). This is My covenant title and the guarantee of My covenant faithfulness. So too the grand promise of the new covenant is “I . . .will be their God” (Jer. 31:33 and Heb. 8:10). If then the Father had entered into covenant with His Son we should expect to find Him owning Him as His God during the days of His flesh. And this is exactly what we do find. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me” was not only a cry of agony, but an acknowledgement of covenant relationship. “I ascend to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God”(John 20:17). So also after His ascension. He declared, “Him that overcomes will I make a pillar in the Temple of My God. . .and I will write upon Him the Name of My God, and the name of the city of My God” (Rev. 3:12).

Turning to the Epistles we find many passages which presuppose the Father’s covenant with Christ before creation on behalf of His people. “Who has saved us. . .according to His own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began”(2 Tim. 1:9). Even at that time, if time it may be called, there was a federal relationship subsisting between Christ and the Church, though it was not made fully manifest until He became incarnate. That subsisting relationship formed the basis of the whole economy of Divine grace toward them after the fall, as it was the ground on which God pardoned the O. T. saints and bestowed spiritual blessings upon them. “In hope of eternal life which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world was”(Titus 1:2). Does not that “promised” imply an agreement that God made promise to Christ as the Covenant Head and to His people in Him? Christ was faithful to Him that appointed Him (Heb. 3:2). As “obedience” implies a precept, so “faithfulness” connotes a trust, and a trust wherein one has engaged himself to perform that trust according to directions given him.

Passing now from indirect allusions to what is more specific, we begin with Psalm 89:3. “I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn unto David My Servant.” The immediate allusion is to the historical David, but the spiritual reference is to David’s Son and Lord. This is clear from many considerations. First, the striking and lofty manner in which this Psalm opens intimates that its leading theme must be one of great weight and value. “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever; with my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations. For I have said, Mercy shall be built up forever, your faithfulness shall You establish in the very heavens”(vv. 1, 2). Such language denotes that no ordinary or common “mercies” are in view, but those which when apprehended fill the hearts of the redeemed with holy songs and cause them to magnify the fidelity of Jehovah as nothing else does. Thus, such an introduction should prepare us to expect Divine revelation of extreme importance and blessedness.

Second, “I have made a covenant with My Chosen” (same word as My Elect in Isa. 42:1). I have sworn unto David (which means Beloved) My Servant. In the following passages it may be seen that Christ is expressly referred to as “David” by the prophets (Jer. 30:9; Ezek. 34:23; 37:24; Hosea 3:5) and let it be duly borne in mind that all those predictions were made long after the historical David had passed away from this scene. “You spoke in vision to Your Holy One and said: I have laid help upon One that is mighty, I have exalted One chosen out of the people (Deut. 18:15), 1 have found David My Servant, with My holy oil have I anointed Him” (vv. 19, 20). Who can doubt that a greater than the son of Jesse is here before us? But more: God goes on to say “I will make Him My Firstborn higher than the kings of the earth… My covenant shall stand fast with Him”(vv. 27, 28)—does not that establish beyond a doubt the identity of the One with whom Jehovah made the covenant! Such declarations pertain to no mere human being.

Third, the covenant promises here made establish the same fact. “His seed will I make to endure forever and His throne as the days of heaven”(v. 29)—the throne of the historical David perished over two thousand years ago! That this promise was to be fulfilled in Christ is clear from Luke 1:31-33, where it was said to Mary. You “shall call His name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David, and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever and of His kingdom there shall be no end.” Another proof that it is not the typical David who is viewed in this Psalm appears in “If His children forsake My Law . . . then will I visit their transgression with the rod”(vv. 30-32). Had it been the successor of Saul who was the subject of this Psalm it had said “If he shall break My Law. . .! will visit his transgression with the rod” —as he was sorely chastised for so grievously wronging Uriah. No, it is Christ and His spiritual children who are referred to, and it is because of God’s covenant with Him that He casts then not off. (See vv. 33-36).

Fourth, in Acts 13:34 Paul proved the resurrection of Christ thus: “As concerning that He raised Him from the dead to return no more to corruption, He said on this wise: I will give you the sure mercies of David.” But in what did that quotation from Isaiah 55:3 provide proof? By the resurrection of Christ the “sure mercies of David” are confirmed unto His children. If they are in possession of them, then Christ must have risen! That word of Paul’s looks back beyond Isaiah 55 to Psalm 89, which, as we have seen, begins thus: “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever.” The principal mercies are “I have made a covenant with My chosen . . . Your seed will I establish forever, and build up Your throne for all generations”(vv. 3, 4). Here then are “the sure mercies of David:” that God has covenanted to raise up Christ and set Him at His own right hand from where, on His mediatorial throne, He communicates those mercies to His seed. All doubt on this point is removed by Peter’s avowal that through David God had sworn that “Of the fruit of his loins . . . He would raise up Christ to sit on His throne”(Acts 2:30 and see v. 33).

On Psalm 89:3, 4 the immortal Toplady said, “Do you suppose that this was spoken to David in his own person only? No, indeed; but to David as the type, figure, and forerunner of Jesus Christ. ‘I have sworn unto David My Servant’ unto the Messiah, who was typified by David, unto My co-equal Son, who stipulated to take upon Himself ‘the form of a servant.’ ‘Your seed’ all those that I have given unto you in the decree of election; all those whom you shall live and die to redeem. Those ‘will I establish forever,’ so as to render their salvation irreversible and inadmissible. ‘And build up Your Throne:’ Your mediatorial throne, as King of saints and covenant Head of the elect. ‘To all generations:’ there shall always be a succession of favored sinners to be called and sanctified, in consequence of Your federal obedience unto death, and every period of time shall recompense Your covenant sufferings with an increasing revenue of converted souls, until as many as were ordained to eternal life shall be gathered in” (Author of that precious hymn “Rock of Ages”).

The Faith of Rahab

Taken and adapted from, “The Heroes of the Faith”
Written by, A.W. Pink

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“By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not,
when she had received the spies with peace.”

–Hebrews 11:31

The inestimable value of spiritual faith is strikingly demonstrated in the case we are about to consider…

The Apostle had cited the faith of such illustrious characters as Enoch and Noah, Abraham and Moses; he had mentioned that of a believing company as they had passed through the Red Sea and had marched around Jericho; now he gives an instance of one who had been a notorious sinner, as though to shame us if our faith falls short of hers who had formerly been a harlot. Having shown that the patriarchs, who were so highly venerated by the Jews, were honored by God solely on account of their faith and its fruits, we next behold how an alien woman, belonging to an accursed race, was, because of her faith, adopted into the Old Testament Church.

“It hence follows that those who are most exalted are of no account before God unless they have faith; and that, on the other hand, those who are hardly allowed a place among the profane and the reprobate, are by faith introduced into the company of angels” (John Calvin).

Divine Sovereignty

Rahab was a Canaanite, and therefore by nature “an alien from the commonwealth of Israel” and “a stranger from the covenants of promise.” In her conversion and admission into the Old Testament Church, she was, in a peculiar manner, both a type and a pledge of the calling of the Gentiles and their reception into the Church of Christ in New Testament times. Thus did coming events cast their shadows before them. In such cases as Rahab and Ruth, God gave early intimations that His redemptive purpose was not confined to a single people, but that it would reach out unto individuals among all nations. Their incorporation among the Hebrews was a plain foreshadowment of the “wild olive tree” being grafted in and being made a partaker of “the root and fatness of the [good] olive tree” (Rom 11:17).

The salvation of Rahab was a signal instance of the sovereignty of God.

“She was not only a Gentile, but an Amoritess, of that race and seed which in general was devoted unto utter destruction. She was therefore an instance of God’s sovereignty in dispensing with His positive laws as it seemed good unto Him; for of His own mere pleasure He exempted her from the doom announced against all those of her original [tribe]” (John Owen).

Being the supreme Potentate, God is not bound by any law or consideration other than His own imperial will; and therefore does He have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardens (Rom 9:18).

Divine Grace

Most blessedly do we also behold here the amazing grace of God. Not only did Rahab belong to a heathen race, but she was an abandoned profligate, a “harlot.” In singling her out to be the recipient of His saving favors, God indeed made it evident that He is no respecter of persons. By her own choice she was given up to the vilest of sins, but by the divine choice she was predestinated to be delivered from that lust which is the most effective in detaining persons under its power—washing her whiter than snow by the precious blood of Christ and giving her a place in His own family. It is in just such cases that the unmerited favor of God shines forth the more illustriously. There was nothing whatever in this poor fallen women to commend her unto the favor of God, but “where sin abounded grace did much more abound” (Rom 5:20).

Divine Power

Not only may we behold in Rahab’s case the exercise of divine sovereignty and the manifestation of divine grace, but we may also pause and admire the wondrous working of God’s power. This is best perceived as we take into careful consideration the almost unparalleled element that enters into her case. Here the Holy Spirit wrought entirely apart from the ordinary means of grace. There were no Sabbaths observed in Jericho; there were no Scriptures available for reading; there were no prophets sounding forth messages from heaven. Nevertheless, Rahab was quickened into newness of life and brought into a saving knowledge of the true God. Let it be duly noted that this woman, who had previously wallowed in open sin, was regenerated and converted before the spies came to her house. Their visit simply afforded an opportunity for the avowal and public manifestation of her faith.

Divine Providence

Let us also contemplate the marvelous workings of divine providence on this occasion. As the two spies, sent forth by Joshua to reconnoiter Jericho, drew near to that heathen stronghold, they had no idea that one of God’s elect sojourned there; and had they been aware of the fact, they had no means of knowing how to locate her in a city of such size. Admire and adore, then, the secret hand of God that directed them to the very house in which His child abode. “The Lord knows them that are his” (2 Timothy 2:19), and in the cloudy and dark day He searches them out. The same God who sent Ananias to the street called “Straight” to deliver Saul from blindness, guided the two spies unto the house of Rahab to deliver her from death. In like manner, wherever there is one or more of His elect amid the darkness of heathendom, He sends His Word or His servants to enlighten and edify the same.

Aspects of Faith

But it is with the faith of Rahab we must be chiefly engaged on this occasion. It will be observed that she is mentioned in Hebrews 11 after the destruction of Jericho, though “she received the spies in peace” before that city was destroyed. The reason for this is because her preservation—which was the fruit of her faith—was after the hosts of Israel had encompassed that city seven days. In seeking to ponder what is recorded in Scripture concerning the faith of Rahab, we propose to look separately at the ground, the effect, the nature, the confession, the breadth, the imperfection, and the reward of the same.

 1.  The Ground of her Faith

“Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom 10:17). This does not mean that faith is originated by hearing the Word of God, any more than the shining of the sun imparts light unto the eye; no, faith is imparted by a sovereign act of the Spirit, and then it is instructed and nourished by the Word. In the prophetic song of Moses at the Red Sea it was declared,

“The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestine. Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away. Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of thine arm they shall be as still as a stone; till thy people pass over, O LORD, till the people pass over, which thou hast purchased” (Exodus 15:14-16).

A striking fulfillment of the above prediction is found in the words of Rahab to the two spies:

“I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath” (Joshua 2:9-11).

This it is which explains the reference in Hebrews 11:31 unto the other inhabitants of Jericho, who perished because they “believed not.” The knowledge that they had of God and His wondrous works, through the reports that had reached their ears, rendered them without excuse.

What has just been before us affords an example of a most solemn fact that is oft-repeated: how souls are affected by the truth, and how quickly the impressions made wear off. The inhabitants of Jericho were deeply stirred by the reports of God’s judgments upon the wicked; they feared it was their turn next, and their hearts melted within them. How, then, are we to explain the fact that they did not all of them immediately and earnestly cry unto God for mercy? We believe the answer is found in Ecclesiastes 8:11, “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” As the hosts of Israel encompassed Jericho each day and then returned quietly to their camp, space for repentance was granted its inhabitants; but when six days had passed, and the walls of the city remained as strong as ever, they felt quite secure and hardened their hearts.

How, then, are we to account for the difference in Rahab? In this way: with them it was simply the stirrings of conscience and the workings of their natural fears, which soon subsided; but in her case the power of the Holy Spirit had wrought within her—God had “opened her heart,” and consequently she “attended unto the things which were spoken” (Act 16:14). In other words, Rahab had been sovereignly quickened into newness of life, by which she was capacitated unto a saving knowledge of God Himself and the receiving His Word with meekness. Thus it was with the Thessalonian saints, whom the Apostle reminded, “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost” (1 Thessalonians 1:5). It is only in such cases that a radical and lasting effect is produced.

We must learn, then, to distinguish between three things: the divine gift of faith, the foundation provided for its support, and the assurance that issues for its resting upon that foundation. The gift of faith is imparted at regeneration, being one of the attributes of the new nature: “all men have not faith” (2 Thessalonians 3:2) because all are not born again. The firm foundation that is provided for faith to rest upon is the sure Word of God: by it alone is faith supported—instructed and fed. The assurance that issues from faith’s resting upon this foundation is that confidence and certainty which fills the heart when God’s Word is received implicitly into it. Thus it was with Rahab. Quickened by the Spirit, faith was planted within her soul; hence, when the report reached her of God’s wondrous works, she received it “not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:13)—and therefore did she say, “I know that the LORD hath given you the land.”

2.  The Effect of her Faith

The faith of God’s elect is a living, energetic principle, which “works by love” (Gal 5:6) and produces fruit to the glory of God. Herein it differs radically from that notional and inoperative faith of frothy professors, which goes no deeper than an intellectual assenting to certain doctrinal propositions, and ends in fair but empty words. That faith which is unaccompanied by an obedient walk and abounds not in good works, is “dead, being alone” (James 2:17). Different far was the faith of Rahab. Of her we read, “Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?” (James 2:25). This does not mean that her good works were the meritorious ground of her acceptance with God, but that they were the evidence before men that a spiritual principle had been communicated to her, the fruits of which justified or vindicated her profession, demonstrating that she was a member of “the household of faith” (Gal 6:10).

In “receiving the spies with peace,” she made it manifest that she had a heart for the people of God, and was ready to do all in her power to help them. That clause of our text which we are now considering summarizes all that is recorded of her kindly conduct unto those two men in Joshua 2. She welcomed them into her home, engaged them in spiritual conversation, made provision for their safety, hid them from danger, and refused to betray them. We believe there is a latent reference to her kindness (as well as to Abraham’s) in Hebrews 13:1-3, for the word translated “messengers” in James 2:25 is the same as is rendered “angels” in Hebrews 13:2: “Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Alas, that so many professing Christians today, instead of heeding this exhortation, are almost ready to rend each other to pieces over every difference of opinion.

3.  The Nature of her Faith

      A.  A singular faith

“The city of Jericho was about to be attacked; within its walls there were hosts of people of all classes and characters, and they knew right well that if their city would be set upon and stormed they would all be put to death. But yet, strange to say, there was not one of them who repented of sin, or who even asked for mercy, except this woman who had been a harlot. She and she alone was delivered, a solitary one amongst a multitude. Now, have you ever felt that it is a very hard thing to have a singular faith? It is the easiest thing in the world to believe as everybody else believes, but the difficulty is to believe a thing alone, when no one else thinks as you think—to be the solitary champion of a righteous cause when the enemy musters his thousands to the battle. Now this was the faith of Rahab. She had not one who felt as she did, who could enter into her feelings and realize the value of her faith. She stood alone. O it is a noble thing to be the lonely follower of despised truth.

“Rahab’s faith was a sanctifying one. Did Rahab continue a harlot after she had faith? No, she did not. I do not believe she was a harlot at the time the men went to her house, though the name still stuck to her, as such ill names will; but I am sure she was not afterwards, for Salmon, the prince of Judah, married her…You cannot have faith and yet live in sin. To believe is to be holy. The two things go together. That faith is a dead faith, a corrupt faith, a rotten faith, which lives in sin [so] that grace may abound (Romans 6:1-2). Rahab was a sanctified woman. O that God might sanctify some that are here” (Charles H. Spurgeon).

    B.  A Self-Denying Faith

[Hers was] a self-denying faith. This is seen in her preferring the will of God before the safety of her country, and sheltering these men who were strangers before the pleasing of her fellow-citizens. But it appeared most conspicuously in the venturing of her own life rather than to betray the messengers of Joshua, who were worshipers of the true God. Her action was fraught with the most dangerous consequences to her; but her fidelity to God made her scorn the threats of her citizens, the promiscuous events of war, and the burning of her city. Thus, by faith she, in effect, renounced all for God. When He calls us to do so, we must part with all that we hold near and dear in this world. Spiritual faith is best evidenced by acts of self-denying obedience (condensed from Thomas Manton).

4.   The Confession of her Faith

This is recorded in Joshua 2:9-11, which shows it was made at the first opening she had. It was quite a comprehensive one: she owned the wondrous works of the Lord, was assured He had given Canaan unto His people, and acknowledged Him as the God of heaven and earth. Thereby she renounced all the idols of the heathen, glorified God with her lips, and illustrated the rule we have in Romans 10:10, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Moreover, by placing the scarlet cord in her window, she, as it were, publicly displayed her colors and made it known under whose banner she had enlisted. How her conduct puts to shame those who, after a long profession of the truth, are ready to tremble at the first approach of danger, and deem it prudence to keep at a safe distance from those who are exposed to persecution.

“It is the nature of true, real, saving faith, immediately or at its first opportunity, to declare and protest itself in confession before men, for confession is absolutely inseparable from faith.

Where men, on some light and convictions, do suppose themselves to have faith, yet through fear or shame do not come up to the ways of expressing it in confession [as] prescribed in the Scripture, their religion is in vain. And therefore our Lord Jesus Christ, in the gospel, doth constantly lay the same weight on confession as on believing itself (Mat 10:33; Luke 9:26). And the fearful, that is, those who fly from public confession in times of danger and persecution, shall be no less assuredly excluded from the heavenly Jerusalem, than unbelievers themselves (Rev 21:8)” (John Owen).

5.  The Breadth of her Faith

Very blessed is it to note her further word to the spies:  “Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the LORD, since I have showed you kindness, that ye will also show kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token: and that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death” (Jos 2:12-13).

Some contracted hearts, in which the very milk of human kindness seems to have congealed, would deem Rahab’s request highly presumptuous. Personally, we believe that her soul was so overflowing with gratitude unto the Lord for His saving such an abandoned wretch, that her faith now perceived something of the infinitude of the divine mercy, and believed that such a God would be willing to show grace unto the whole of her family. Nor was she disappointed.

O that the breadth of Rahab’s faith may speak unto our hearts! O that the blessed Holy Spirit may fill us with compassion for our unsaved relatives and friends, and stir us up to wrestle with God in prayer on their behalf. It is right that we should desire God to show mercy unto those who are near and dear to us; not to do so would show we were lacking in natural affection. It only becomes wrong when we ignore God’s sovereignty, and dictate instead of supplicate.[130] It is blessed to observe that He Who hath said, “according unto your faith be it unto you” and “all things are possible unto him that believeth” (Mat 9:29; Mar 9:23), responded to Rahab’s faith and saved her entire household; though they, of course, only found deliverance by sheltering in the same house with her in which hung the scarlet cord—only under the blood [of Christ] is there safety.

6.  The Imperfection of her Faith

This appears in the reply that she returned to the king of Jericho (recorded in Joshua 2:3-5), when he sent unto Rahab requesting her to deliver up the two spies. Fearful of their lives, she told lies, pretending she knew not whence the men had come, and affirming they were no longer in her house. Such a procedure on her part can by no means be justified, for her answer was contrary unto the known truth. The course she followed resembled the direction that Rebekah gave to her son Jacob: in the general her intent was the fruit of great faith, for it had respect unto the promise of God (Gen 25:33), but in various details (Gen 27:6-7, etc.) it can in no wise be approved. The Lord, in His tender mercy, is pleased to pass by many of the infirmities of His children, when He sees an upright heart and a desire to accomplish His promises. “If thou, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” (Psalm 130:3). God bears with much weakness, especially in the lambs of His flock.

“I observe there was a mixture of infirmity in this act, an officious lie, which cannot be excused, though God in mercy pardoned it. This is not for our imitation, yet it is for our instruction; and it shows us this: that faith in the beginning hath many weaknesses. Those that have faith do not altogether act out of faith, but there is somewhat of the flesh mingled with that of the spirit. But this is passed by out of God’s indulgence; He accepts us notwithstanding our sins before faith, and notwithstanding our weaknesses in believing. Before faith she was a harlot; in believing she makes a lie. God doth reward the good of our actions and pardons the evil of them, not to encourage us in the sinning, but to raise our love to Him Who forgives us so great a debt, receives us graciously, and pardons our manifold weaknesses” (Thomas Manton).

It is blessed to see that neither in our text nor in James 2:25 does the Holy Spirit make any reference unto Rahab’s failure; instead, in both places, He mentions that which was praiseworthy and to her credit. It is the very opposite with the malevolent world, which is ever ready to overlook the good and reflect only upon the evil of an action performed by a child of God. It is a gracious spirit that throws the mantle of charity over the deformities and defects in a brother or sister in Christ, as it is honoring to God to dwell upon that which His Holy Spirit has wrought in them. If we were quicker to judge ourselves for our own sad failures, we would not be so ready to blaze abroad the faults of our fellows. Let each of us seek grace to heed that exhortation,

“Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phi 4:8).

7.  The Reward of her Faith

“By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not.” The historical account of this is to be found in Joshua 6:22-23, “But Joshua had said unto the two men that had spied out the country, Go into the harlot’s house, and bring out thence the woman, and all that she hath, as you swore unto her. And the young men that were spies went in, and brought out Rahab, and her father, and her mother, and her brethren, and all that she had; and they brought out all her kindred, and left them without the camp of Israel.”

But not only was Rahab and the whole of her family preserved from the burning of Jericho, which immediately followed, but as Joshua 6:25 tells us, she “dwelt in Israel.” Thus, from being the slave of Satan she was adopted into the family of God; from being a citizen of heathen Jericho she was given a place in the congregation of the Lord. Nor was that all; later, she became the honored wife of a prince in Judah, the mother of Boaz, and one of the grandmothers of David! Her name is inscribed upon the imperishable scroll of sacred history; it is recorded in Matthew 1 among the ancestresses of the Savior—she was one of the mothers of Jesus! From what depths of sin and shame did sovereign grace deliver this poor woman; to what a height of honor and dignity did sovereign grace elevate her. Truly, the rewards of faith are most excellent and glorious.

The Bible, and the Fullness of it with the Doctrine of Election

Taken and adapted from, “The Doctrine of Election”
Written by, A.W. Pink

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There is not a single book in the Word of God where election is not either expressly stated…

…strikingly illustrated, or clearly implied. Genesis is full of it: the difference which the Lord made between Nahor and Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac, and His loving Jacob and hating Esau are cases to the point. In Exodus we behold the distinction made by God between the Egyptians and the Hebrews. In Leviticus the atonement and all the sacrifices were for the people of God, nor were they bidden to go and “offer” them to the surrounding heathen. In Numbers Jehovah used a Balaam to herald the fact that Israel were “the people” who “shall dwell alone, and shall not be numbered among the nations” (23:9); and therefore was he constrained to cry “How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, 0 Israel” (24:5). In Deuteronomy it is recorded “The Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance” (32:9).

In Joshua we behold the discriminating mercy of the Lord bestowed upon Rahab the harlot, while the whole of her city was doomed to destruction. In Judges the sovereignty of God appears in the unlikely instruments selected, by which He wrought victory for Israel: Deborah, Gideon, Samson. In Ruth we have Orpah kissing her mother-in-law and returning to her gods, whereas Ruth cleaves to her and obtained inheritance in Israel—who made them to differ? In 1 Samuel David is chosen for the throne, preferred to his older brethren. In 2 Samuel we learn of the everlasting covenant “ordered in all things, and sure” (23:5). In 1 Kings Elijah becomes a blessing to a single widow selected from many; while in 2 Kings Naaman alone, of all the lepers, was cleansed. In 1 Chronicles it is written “Ye children of Jacob, His chosen ones” (16:13); while in 2 Chronicles we are made to marvel at the grace of God bestowing repentance upon Manasseh. 

And so we might go on. The Psalms, Prophets, Gospels and Epistles are so full of this doctrine that he may run that readeth it. [Hab 2:2]”