From A.W. Pink’s “Saving Faith”
The terms of Christ’s salvation are erroneously stated by the present-day evangelist. With very rare exceptions he tells his hearers that salvation is by grace and is received as a free gift; that Christ has done everything for the sinner, and nothing remains but for him to “believe”—to trust in the infinite merits of His blood. And so widely does this conception now prevail in “orthodox” circles, so frequently has it been dinned in their ears, so deeply has it taken root in their minds, that for one to now challenge it and denounce it is being so inadequate and one-sided as to be deceptive and erroneous, is for him to instantly court the stigma of being a heretic, and to be charged with dishonoring the finished work of Christ by inculcating salvation by works. Yet notwithstanding, the writer is quite prepared to run that risk.
Salvation is by grace, by grace alone, for a fallen creature cannot possibly do anything to merit God’s approval or earn His favour. Nevertheless, Divine grace is not exercised at the expense of holiness, for it never compromises with sin. It is also true that salvation is a free gift, but an empty hand must receive it, and not a hand which still tightly grasps the world! But it is not true that “Christ has done every thing for the sinner.” He did not fill His belly with the husks which the swine eat and find them unable to satisfy. He has not turned his back on the far country, arisen, gone to the Father, and acknowledged his sins—those are acts which the sinner himself must perform. True, he will not be saved for the performance of them, yet it is equally true that he cannot be saved without the performing of them—any more than the prodigal could receive the Father’s kiss and ring while he still remained at a guilty distance from Him!
Something more than “believing” is necessary to salvation. A heart that is steeled in rebellion against God cannot savingly believe: it must first be broken. It is written “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Repentance is just as essential as faith, yea, the latter cannot be without the former: “Repented not afterward, that ye might believe” (Matt. 21:32). The order is clearly enough laid down by Christ: “Repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Repentance is sorrowing for sin. Repentance is a heart-repudiation of sin. Repentance is a heart determination to forsake sin. And where there is true repentance grace is free to act, for the requirements of holiness are conserved when sin is renounced. Thus, it is the duty of the evangelist to cry “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord (from whom he departed in Adam), and he will have mercy upon him” (Isa. 55:7). His task is to call on his hearers to lay down the weapons of their warfare against God, and then to sue for mercy through Christ.
The way of salvation is falsely defined. In most instances the modern “evangelist” assures his congregation that all any sinner has to do in order to escape Hell and make sure of Heaven is to “receive Christ as his personal Saviour.” But such teaching is utterly misleading. No one can receive Christ as his Saviour while he rejects Him as Lord. It is true the preacher adds that, the one who accepts Christ should also surrender to Him as Lord, but he at once spoils it by asserting that though the convert fails to do so nevertheless Heaven is sure to him. That is one of the Devil’s lies. Only those who are spiritually blind would declare that Christ will save any who despise His authority and refuse His yoke: why, my reader, that would not be grace but a disgrace—charging Christ with placing a premium on lawlessness.
It is in His office of Lord that Christ maintains God’s honour, subserves His government, enforces His Law; and if the reader will turn to those passages—Luke 1:46, 47; Acts 5:31 (prince and Saviour); 2 Peter 1:11; 2:20; 3:18—where the two titles occur, he will find that it is always “Lord and Saviour,” and not “Saviour and Lord.” Therefore, those who have not bowed to Christ’s sceptre and enthroned Him in their hearts and lives, and yet imagine that they are trusting in Him as their Saviour, are deceived, and unless God disillusions them they will go down to the everlasting burnings with a lie in their right hand (Isa. 44:20). Christ is “the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him” (Heb. 5:9), but the attitude of those who submit not to His Lordship is “we will not have this Man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14). Pause then, my reader, and honestly face the question: are you subject to His will, are you sincerely endeavoring to keep His commandments?
Alas, alas, God’s “way of salvation” is almost entirely unknown today, the nature of Christ’s salvation is almost universally misunderstood, and the terms of His salvation misrepresented on every hand. The “Gospel” which is now being proclaimed is, in nine cases out of every ten, but a perversion of the Truth, and tens of thousands, assured they are bound for Heaven, are now hastening to Hell, as fast as time can take them. Things are far, far worse in Christendom than even the “pessimist” and the “alarmist” suppose. We are not a prophet, nor shall we indulge in any speculation of what Biblical prophecy forecasts—wiser men than the writer have often made fools of themselves by so doing. We are frank to say that we know not what God is about to do. Religious conditions were much worse, even in England, one hundred and fifty years ago. But this we greatly fear: unless God is pleased to grant a real revival, it will not be long ere “the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people” (Isa. 60:2), for “Evangelism” constitutes, in our judgment, the most solemn of all the “signs of the times.”
What must the people of God do in view of the existing situation? Ephesians 5:11 supplies the Divine answer: “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them,” and everything opposed to the light of the Word is “darkness.” It is the bounded duty of every Christian to have no dealings with the “evangelistic” monstrosity of the day: to withhold all moral and financial support of the same, to attend none of their meetings, to circulate none of their tracts. Those preachers who tell sinners they may be saved without forsaking their idols, without repenting, without surrendering to the Lordship of Christ are as erroneous and dangerous as others who insist that salvation is by works and that Heaven must be earned by our own efforts.
Alexander Smellie, “The Hour of Silence” 1899
“Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise!”
“Twas a thief,” Robert Browning writes, “who said the last kind word to Christ.”
In the morning the thief was OUT of Christ:
far from God and far from righteousness,
the helpless captive of sin,
the child of despair and death.
At noon the thief was IN Christ:
remembered graciously by the Savior of the lost,
redeemed with an everlasting redemption,
endowed with the new heart,
and freely and perfectly justified.
In the evening the thief was WITH Christ:
gazing on the glories of paradise,
safe at home with his good Shepherd and adorable Redeemer.
What a crowded and memorable day this was in his history! So much was pressed into these few hours. Such a glorious and unprecedented transition they brought, from the cruel cross–to Heaven’s glory!
OUT of Christ,
then IN Christ,
then WITH Christ!
Hopelessly lost in the far country,
then safe under the Savior’s wings,
then beside the Lord on His glorious throne!
Are these the three stages in my spiritual biography?
I know the first only too well.
Am I growing more and more familiar with the second?
Is it my joy to look forward to the third?
“I ask not the favor given to Paul,” Copernicus said, “I seek not the grace bestowed upon Peter–but I beg the mercy granted to the thief on the cross!”
Below are the “Ten Commandments” of hearing the preaching of Gods word, originally outlined by Thomas Watson and here summarized by Joel Beeke and Ray Lanning in the book Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible.
1. When you come to God’s house to hear His Word, do not forget to prepare your soul with prayer.
2. Come with a holy appetite for the Word (1 Peter 2:2). A good appetite promotes good digestion.
3. Come with a tender, teachable heart (2 Chron. 13:7), asking, “Lord, what wilt thou have me do?” (Acts 9:6). It is foolish to expect a blessing if you come with a hardened, worldly-minded heart.
4. Be attentive to the Word preached. In Luke 19:48, we are told that the people “were very attentive” to Christ. Literally translated, the text says, “they hung upon him, hearing.” Lydia evidenced a heart opened by the Lord when she “attended” or “turned her mind” to the things spoken by Paul (Acts 16:14). Such attentiveness also involves banishing wandering thoughts, dullness of mind, and drowsiness (Matt. 13:25). Regard the sermon as it truly is – a matter of life and death (Deut. 32:47).
5. “Receive with meekness the engrafted word” (James 1:21). Meekness involves a submissive frame of heart – “a willingness to hear the counsels and reproofs of the word.” Through meekness, the Word is “engrafted” into the soul and produces “the sweet fruit of righteousness.”
6. Mingle the preached Word with faith: “The word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith” (Heb. 4:2). Roland H. Bainton, summing up Luther’s view, wrote: “Faith is not an achievement, it is a gift. Yet it comes only through the hearing and study of the Word.” If the chief ingredient of a medicine is missing, the medicine will not be effective; so be sure not to leave out the chief ingredient, faith, as you listen to a sermon. Believe and apply the Word. Put on Christ as He is preached (Rom. 13:14); apply the promises as they are spoken.
7. Strive to retain and pray over what you have heard. Don’t let the sermon run through your mind like water through a sieve (Heb. 2:1). “Our memories should be like the chest of the ark, where the law was put.” As Joseph Alleine advised, “Come from your knees to the sermon, and come from the sermon to your knees.”
8. Practice what you have heard. “Live out” the sermons you hear. Hearing that does not reform your life will never save your soul. Doers of the Word are the best hearers. Of what value is a mind filled with knowledge when not matched with a fruitful life?
9. Beg God to accompany His Word with the effectual blessing of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44). Without the Spirit, the medicine of the Word may be swallowed, but it will not result in healing.
10. Familiarize yourself with what you have heard. When you come home, speak to your loved ones about the sermon in an edifying manner: “My tongue shall speak of they word” (Ps. 119:172). Remember each sermon as if it will be the last you ever hear, for that may be the case.
From Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Tegel prison, to his fiance Maria von Wedemeyer.
12 August 1943
My Dearest Maria,
After sending off my last letter to you, I was suddenly afraid that my Tegel address on the envelope might make trouble for you in the village. Although I can almost hear you laugh out loud at the idea – and I look forward to hearing you laugh – I don’t think such matters should be treated lightly. It really isn’t necessary for you to be subjected to village gossip about your fiance. And so, to preclude any such possibility, I didn’t write to you again but asked my parents how you felt about it. Today, however, your dear letter arrived, and I simply can’t remain silent. But please, next time tell me how I’m to write to you in the future. I won’t write again until I hear.
So now to your letter. You can’t possibly imagine what it means to me, in my present predicament, to have you. I’m under God’s special guidance here, I feel sure. To me, the way in which we found each other such a short time before my arrest seems a definite indication of that. Once again, things went “hominum confusione et dei providentia (according to man’s confusion and God’s providence).” It amazes me anew every day how little I have deserved such happiness, just as it daily and deeply moves me that God should have put you through such an ordeal this past year, and that he so clearly meant me to bring you grief and sorrow, so soon after we got to know each other, to endow our love with the proper foundation and the proper strength. Moreover, when I consider the state of the world, the total obscurity enshrouding our personal destiny, and my present imprisonment, our union – if it wasn’t frivolity, which it certainly wasn’t – can only be a token of God’s grace and goodness, which summon us to believe in him. We would have to be blind not to see that. When Jeremiah said, in his people’s hour of direst need, that “houses and fields [and vineyards] shall again be bought in this land,” it was a token of confidence in the future. That requires faith, and may God grant it to us daily. I don’t mean the faith that flees the world, but the faith that endures in the world and loves and remains true to that world in spite of all the hardships it brings us. Our marriage must be a “yes” to God’s earth. It must strengthen our resolve to do and accomplish something on earth. I fear that Christians who venture to stand on earth on only one leg will stand in heaven on only one leg too.
I’m thoroughly in favor of your pastor marrying us, but the way. In these matters I think would should always to the most obvious thing. That’s more important than any personal preference.
So now you’ve got the house full of people. How much I would have liked to see you running the household at this time! Your mother wrote me such a nice letter again, telling me all kinds of things. Please thank her very much indeed; I know what a sacrifice if must be for her to find the time to write to me. But there’s no greater pleasure in this place than getting letters from people. One rereads them innumerable times so as to share in their lives.
It’s a cloudy, rainy day outside, a perfect accompaniment to my fruitless wait for the situation to resolve itself. But let us never forget how much we have to be thankful for, and how much good we experience even so; I have only to think of you, and all the little shadows on my soul disperse. So let us continue to be really patient for the rest of the time we’re compelled to wait, and not waste a single hour grousing and grumbling. From God’s standpoint, this time of waiting is immensely valuable; much depends on how we endure it and on whether we need not feel ashamed, later on, of having failed to recognize these months of testing as a gift from God. I’m convinced that our love and our marriage will derive eternal strength from this time of trial. So let us wait, with and for each other, until our wedding day dawns. It won’t be much longer, my dear, dear Maria!
Please give my love to your mother and your brothers and sisters. Is it Lutgert who was killed in action? You must all be very sad. Please remember me to his wife. Good-bye, dearest Maria, and may God preserve us and our families.
Your Dietrich, who looks forward from one letter to the next, embraces you!