“Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
—2 Peter 3:18
When I speak of “growth in grace,” I do not for a moment mean that a believer’s interest in Christ can grow. I do not mean that he can grow in safety, acceptance with God, or security. I do not mean that he can ever be more justified, more pardoned, more forgiven, more at peace with God, than he is the first moment that he believes. I hold firmly that the justification of a believer is a finished, perfect, and complete work; and that the weakest saint, though he may not know and feel it, is as completely justified as the strongest. I hold firmly that our election, calling, and standing in Christ admit of no degrees, increase, or diminution. If any one dreams that by “growth in grace” I mean growth in justification he is utterly wide of the mark, and utterly mistaken about the whole point I am considering. I would go to the stake, God helping me, for the glorious truth, that in the matter of justification before God every believer is “complete in Christ” (Col. 2:10). Nothing can be added to his justification from the moment he believes, and nothing taken away.
When I speak of “growth in grace” I only mean increase in the degree, size, strength, vigour, and power of the graces which the Holy Spirit plants in a believer’s heart. I hold that every one of those graces admits of growth, progress, and increase. I hold that repentance, faith, hope, love, humility, zeal, courage, and the like, may be little or great, strong or weak, vigorous or feeble, and may vary greatly in the same man at different periods of his life. When I speak of a man “growing in grace,” I mean simply this—that his sense of sin is becoming deeper, his faith stronger, his hope brighter, his love more extensive, his spiritual-mindedness more marked. He feels more of the power of godliness in his own heart. He manifests more of it in his life. He is going on from strength to strength, from faith to faith, and from grace to grace. I leave it to others to describe such a man’s condition by any words they please. For myself I think the truest and best account of him is this—he is “growing in grace.” (Chapter VI: Growth from Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots, J.C. Ryle)
• John MacArthur: On The Key To Spiritual Growth In A Christian’s Life
• Spiritual Growth: Not to Be Judged By Feelings or Emotions — A. W. Pink
• How To Enjoy Bible Study by John MacArthur
• Christians: Let Us Meditate On, Talk About, And Live By The Bible — J.C. Ryle
• “Not What My Hands Have Done” — Horatius Bonar (1808-1889)
“For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” — 2 Cor. 2:17
I have often thought that one great secret of the marvelous honor which God has put on a man who is not in our denomination (I allude to Mr. Charles Spurgeon) is, the extraordinary boldness and confidence with which he stands up in the pulpit to speak to people about their sins and their souls. It cannot be said he does it from fear of any, or to please any. He seems to give every class of hearers its portion—to the rich and the poor, the high and the low, the king and the peasant, the learned and the illiterate. He gives to every one the plain message, according to God’s Word. I believe that very boldness has much to do with the success which God is pleased to give to his ministry. Let us not be ashamed to learn a lesson from him in this respect. Let us go and do likewise. (from: Not Corrupting the Word, A sermon preached by J.C. Ryle in England, August, 1858)
We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ [Acts 4:12]. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is “of him” [1 Cor 1:30]. If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects [Heb. 2:17] that he might learn to feel our pain [cf. Heb. 5:2]. If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross [Gal. 3:13]; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to him to judge. In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other. Some men, not content with him alone, are born hither and thither from one hope to another; even if they concern themselves chiefly with him, they nevertheless stray from the right way in turning some part of their thinking in another direction. Yet such distrust cannot creep in where men have once for all truly known the abundance of his blessings.¹
¹John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960) II.XVI.XIX. (1:529-530)
What marvel, if under some men’s shifty talk, people grow into love both truth and falsehood! People will say, “We like this form of doctrine, and we like the other also.” The fact is, they would like anything if only a clever deceiver would put it plausibly before them. They admire Moses and Aaron, but they would not say a word against Jannes and Jambres. We shall not join in the confederacy which seems to aim at such a comprehension. We must preach the gospel so distinctly that our people know what we are preaching. “If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for the battle?” Don’t puzzle your people with doubtful speeches. “Well”, said one, “I had a new idea the other day. I did not enlarge upon it; but I just threw it out.” That is a very good thing to do with most of your new ideas. Throw them out, by all means; but mind where you are when you do it; for if you throw them out from the pulpit they may strike somebody, and inflict a wound upon faith. Throw out your fancies, but first go alone in a boat a mile out to sea. (from: Our Armory in The Greatest Fight in the World: C.H. Spurgeon’s Final Manifesto)
“The first device that Satan has to keep souls in a sad, doubting, and questioning condition, and so making their life a hell, is, By causing them to be still poring and musing upon sin, to mind their sins more than their Savior; yes, so to mind their sins as to forget, yes, to neglect their Savior; that, as the Psalmist speaks, ‘The Lord is not in all their thoughts’ (Psalm 10:4). Their eyes are so fixed upon their disease, that they cannot see the remedy, though it be near; and they do so muse upon their debts, that they have neither mind nor heart to think of their Surety. A Christian should wear Christ in his bosom as a flower of delight, for he is a whole paradise of delight. He who minds not Christ more than his sin, can never be thankful and fruitful as he should.” (from: Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, Thomas Brooks)
♦ Thomas Brooks was an English Puritan Minister and author. Follow this link for more biographical information on Brooks.
♦ I also recommend buying a copy of Meet the Puritans: With a Guide to Modern Reprints by Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson. A tremendous resource, not only for the biographical information, but as a guide to the best in puritan literature.
“With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.” — Mark 10:27b
Arthur W. Pink,
Multitudes seem to think that it is about as easy for a sinner to purify his heart (James 4:8), as it is to wash his hands; to admit the searching and flesh-withering light of Divine truth into the soul, as the morning sun into his room by pulling up the blinds; to turn from idols to God, from the world to Christ, from sin to holiness, as it is to turn a ship right round by the help of her helm. O my reader, be not deceived on this vital matter: to mortify the lusts of the flesh, to be crucified unto the world, to overcome the Devil, to die daily unto sin, and live unto righteousness, to be meek and lowly in heart, trustful and obedient, pious and patient, faithful and uncompromising, loving and gentle; in a word, to be a Christian, to be Christlike, is a task far, far beyond the poor resources of fallen human nature……Of himself the fallen sinner can no more repent evangelically, than he can create a world. “With men it is impossible” rules out of court all special pleading for the power of man’s will. Nothing but a miracle of grace can lead to the saving of any sinner. (from Studies on Saving Faith, A.W. Pink)
“Who can recall the wasted moments and years? Gone they are, never to return; gone the little alloted span of life; gone the little day in which a man must work. Who can measure the irrevocable guilt of a wasted life? Yet even for such guilt God has provided a fountain of cleansing in the precious blood of Christ. God has clothed us with Christ’s righteousness as with a garment; in Christ we stand spotless before the judgment throne.” ¹
¹ J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, Eerdmans Edition (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2009) pp. 130,131 [First Published 1923]
Young converts are prone to depend too much on joyful frames, and love high excitement in their devotional exercises; but their heavenly Father cures them of this folly, by leaving them for a season to walk in darkness and struggle with their own corruptions. When most sorely pressed and discouraged, however, He strengthens them with might in the inner man. He enables them to stand firmly against temptation; or, if they slide, he quickly restores them, and by such exercises they become much more sensible of their entire dependence than they were at first. They learn to be in the fear of the Lord all the day long, and to distrust entirely their own wisdom and strength, and to rely for all needed aid on the grace of Jesus Christ. Such a soul will not readily believe that it is growing in grace. But to be emptied of self-dependence, and to know that we need aid for every duty, and even for every good thought, is an important step in our progress in piety. The flowers may have disappeared from the plant of grace, and even the leaves may have fallen off, and wintry blasts may have shaken it, but now it is striking its roots deeper, and becoming every day stronger to endure the rugged storm. (from: Practical Directions How to Grow in Grace and Make Progress in Piety, A. Alexander)
♦ Archibald Alexander (1772-1851) was an American Reformed Presbyterian theologian. He was the first professor and principal (1812-1840) at Princeton Theological Seminary at Princeton, New Jersey. He was staunchly orthodox and a true man of God.
Is the truth that which I imagine to be revealed to me by some private communication? Am I to fancy that I enjoy some special Revelation and am I to order my life by voices, dreams and impressions? Brothers and Sisters, fall not into this common delusion! God’s Word to us is in Holy Scripture. All the Truth that sanctifies men is in God’s Word! Do not listen to those who cry, “Lo here!” and, “Lo there!” I am plucked by the sleeve almost every day by crazy persons and pretenders who think that they have Revelations from God. One man tells me that God has sent a message to me by him—and I reply, “No, Sir, the Lord knows where I dwell and He is so near to me that He would not need to send to me by you.” Another man announces, in God’s name, a dogma which, on the face of it, is a lie against the Holy Spirit. He says the Spirit of God told him so-and-so, but we know that the Holy Spirit never contradicts Himself. If your imaginary Revelation is not according to this Word of God, it has no weight with us! And if it is according to this Word, it is no new thing!
Brothers and Sisters, this Bible is enough if the Lord does but use it and quicken it by His Spirit in our hearts. Truth is neither your opinion, nor mine—your message, nor mine! Jesus says, “Your Word is truth.” That which sanctifies men is not only truth, but it is the particular Truth of God which is revealed in God’s Word—“Your Word is truth.” What a blessing it is that all the Truth that is necessary to sanctify us is revealed in the Word of God, so that we have not to expend our energies upon discovering the Truth of God, but may, to our far greater profit, use Revealed Truth for its Divine ends and purposes! There will be no more Revelations—no more are needed! The Canon is fixed and complete—and he that adds to it shall have added to him the plagues that are written in this Book! What need of more when here is enough for every practical purpose? “Sanctify them through Your truth: Your Word is truth.”(from: Our Lord’s Prayer for His People’s Sanctification, Sermon #1890, delivered on Lord’s Day Morning, March 7, 1866, C.H. Spurgeon)
Let us resolve to meditate more on the Bible. It is good to take with us two or three texts when we go out into the world, and to turn them over and over in our minds whenever we have a little leisure. It keeps out many vain thoughts. It clenches the nail of daily reading. It preserves our souls from stagnating and breeding corrupt things. It sanctifies and quickens our memories, and prevents them becoming like those ponds where the frogs live but the fish die.
Let us resolve to talk more to believers about the Bible when we meet them. Alas, the conversation of Christians, when they do meet, is often sadly unprofitable! How many frivolous, and trifling, and uncharitable things are said! Let us bring out the Bible more, and it will help to drive the devil away, and keep our hearts in tune. Oh, that we may all strive so to walk together in this evil world; that Jesus may often draw near, and go with us, as He went with the two disciples journeying to Emmaus!
Last of all, let us resolve to live by the Bible more and more every year we live. Let us frequently take account of all our opinions and practices,—of our habits and tempers,—of our behaviour in public and in private,—in the world, and by our own firesides. Let us measure all by the Bible, and resolve, by God’s help, to conform to it. Oh that we may learn increasingly to “cleanse our ways” by the Word! (Ps. cxix. 9.) (from Chapter V: Bible Reading of Practical Religion, J.C. Ryle)
…We admire a man who was firm in the faith, say four hundred years ago. The past ages are a sort of bear-pit or iron cage for him. But such a man today is a nuisance and must be put down. Call him a narrow-minded bigot, or give him a worse name if you can think of one. Yet imagine that in those ages past, Luther, Zwingle, Calvin and their compeers had said, “The world is out of order. But if we try to set it right we shall only make a great row and get ourselves into disgrace. Let us go to our chambers, put on our night-caps and sleep over the bad times and perhaps when we wake up things will have grown better.
Such conduct on their part would have entailed upon us a heritage of error. Age after age would have gone down into the infernal deeps and the infectious bogs of error would have swallowed all. These men loved the faith and the name of Jesus too well to see them trampled on. Note what we owe them and let us pay to our sons the debt we owe our fathers. It is today as it
was in the Reformers’ days. Decision is needed. Here is the day for the man—where is the man for the day? We who have had the Gospel passed to us by martyr’s hands dare not trifle with it—nor sit by and hear it denied by traitors who pretend to love it but inwardly abhor every line of it…..Look you, Sirs, there are ages yet to come. If the Lord does not speedily appear, there will come another generation and another and all these generations will be tainted and injured if we are not faithful to God and to His Truth today. We have come to a turning point in the road. If we turn to the right, maybe our children and our children’s children will go that way. But if we turn to the left, generations yet unborn will curse our names for having been unfaithful to God and to His Word. I charge you, not only by your ancestry but by your posterity, that you seek to win the commendation of your Master—that though you dwell where Satan’s seat is—you hold fast His name and do not deny His faith.
J. Gresham Machen,
According to Paul [the Apostle] the beginning of the new life is followed by a battle—a battle against sin. In that battle, as is not the case with the beginning of it, the Christian does co-operate with God; he is helped by God’s Spirit, but he himself, and not only God’s Spirit in him, is active in the fight.
At the beginning of the Christian life there is an act of God and of God alone. It is called in the New Testament the new birth or (as Paul calls it) the new creation. In that act no part whatever is contributed by the man who is born again. And no wonder! A man who is dead—either dead in physical death or “dead in trespasses and sins” —can do nothing whatever, at least in the sphere in which he is dead. If he could do anything in that sphere, he would not be dead. Such a man who is dead in trespasses and sins is raised to new life in the new birth or the new creation. To that new birth he himself cannot contribute at all, any more than he contributed to his physical birth. But birth is followed by life; and though a man is not active in his birth he is active in the life that follows. So it is also in the spiritual realm. We did not contribute at all to our new birth; that was an act of God alone. But that new birth is followed by a new life, and in the new life there has been given us by Him who begat us anew the power of action; it is that power of action that is involved in birth. Thus the Christian life is begun by an act of God alone; but it is continued by co-operation between God and man. The possibility of such co-operation is due indeed only to God; it has not been achieved in slightest measure by us; it is the supreme wonder of God’s grace. But once given by God it is not withdrawn.
Thus the Christian life in this world is not passive but active; it consists in a mighty battle against sin. That battle is a winning battle, because the man that engages in it has been made alive in the first place by God, and because he has a great Companion to help him in every turn of the fight. But, though a winning battle, it is a battle all the same; and it is not only God’s battle but ours. The faith of which we have been speaking consists not in doing something but in receiving something; but it is followed every time by a life in which great things are done.¹
¹J. Gresham Machen, What is Faith, Banner of Truth Edition (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1991) pp. 207, 208, 209 [First Published 1925]
“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:44).
Plainly does this language give the lie to the popular theory of the day, that it lies within the power of man’s will to be saved any time he chooses to be. Flatly does this verse contradict the flesh-pleasing and creature-honoring idea that any one can receive Christ as his Savior the moment he decides to do so. The reason why the natural man cannot come to Christ till the Father “draw” him, is because he is the bondslave of sin (John 8:34), serving divers lusts (Titus 3:3), the captive of the Devil (2 Timothy 2:26); Almighty power must break his chains and open the prison-doors (Luke 4:18) ere he can come to Christ. Can one who loves darkness and hates the Light reverse the process? No, no more than a man who has a diseased foot or poisoned hand can heal it by an effort of will. Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? No more than they who are accustomed to do evil, do good (Jeremiah 13:23). (from Studies on Saving Faith, A.W. Pink)
What resources did John consult when he preached his series The Battle for the Beginning?
• A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, Part One, From Adam to Noah, by Umberto Cassuto (Magnes Press, Hebrew University: Jerusalem, 1978).
• Creation and Change, by Douglas F. Kelly (Christian Focus: Fearn, Ross-shire, U.K., 1997).
• Creation Evangelism for the New Millennium, by Ken Ham (Master Books: Green Forest, Ark., 1999).
• The Creation of Life, by A. E. Wilder-Smith (The World for Today: Costa Mesa, Cal., 1970).
• Darwin on Trial, by Philip Johnson (InterVarsity: Downers Grove, Ill., 1993).
• Genesis for Today, by Andy McIntosh (Day One: Epsom, England, 1997).
• The Genesis Record, by Henry M. Morris (Creation Life: San Diego, 1976).
• In the Beginning, by Walt Brown (Center for Scientific Creation: Phoenix) 1995.
• It’s A Young World After All, by Paul D. Ackerman (Baker: Grand Rapids, 1986).
• The Long War Against God, by Henry M. Morris (Baker, Grand Rapids, 1989).
• Reason in the Balance, by Philip Johnson (InterVarsity: Downers Grove, Ill., 1995).
• The Scientific Alternative to Neo-Darwinian Evolutionary Theory, by A. E. Wilder-Smith (The World for Today: Costa Mesa, Cal., 1987).
This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2011. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
“Opposition to divine sovereignty is essentially atheism. Men have no objection to a god who is really no God; I mean, by this, a god who shall be the subject of their caprice, who shall be a lackey to their will, who shall be under their control,—they have no objection to such a being as that; but a God who speaks, and it is done, who commands, and it stands fast, a God who has no respect for their persons, but doeth as he wills among the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of this lower world, such a God as this they cannot endure.” (from: It Pleased God, Sermon #3202, Delivered Lord’s Day Evening, October 19, 1862) (RT: Spurgeon.US)
We do not “make” Christ Lord; He is Lord! Those who will not receive Him as Lord are guilty of rejecting Him. “Faith” that rejects His sovereign authority is really unbelief. Conversely, acknowledging His lordship is no more a human work than repentance (cf. 2 Tim. 2:25) or faith itself (cf. Eph. 2:8-9). In fact, surrender to Christ is an important aspect of divinely produced saving faith, not something added to faith.
The two clearest examples on the way of salvation in all of Scripture both emphasize Jesus’ lordship: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:31); and “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved” (Rom. 10:9). Peter’s sermon at Pentecost concluded with this declaration: “Let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ — this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36, emphasis added). No promise of salvation is ever extended to those who refuse to accede to Christ’s lordship.
John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, Rev. and expanded anniversary ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), pp. 43,44
“You Cannot Receive Christ as Savior Only and Not as Lord” — D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
“What Is Repentance And How Does It Relate To Salvation?” — John MacArthur
Easy-Believism Versus True Saving Faith — A.W. Pink
“Getting the Gospel Right” by John MacArthur
“We glorify God, by standing up for his truths. Much of God’s glory lies in his truth. God has intrusted us with his truth, as a master intrusts his servant with his purse to keep. We have not a richer jewel to trust God with than our souls, nor has God a richer jewel to trust us with than his truth. Truth is a beam that shines from God. Much of his glory lies in his truth. When we are advocates for truth we glorify God. Jude 3. ‘That ye should contend earnestly for the truth.’ The Greek word to contend signifies great contending, as one would contend for his land, and not suffer his right to be taken from him; so we should contend for the truth. Were there more of this holy contention God would have more glory. Some contend earnestly for trifles and ceremonies, but not for the truth. We should count him indiscreet that would contend more for a picture than for his inheritance; for a box of counters than for his box of title deeds.” (from Introduction to A Body of Divinity, Thomas Watson)
♦ Thomas Watson was an English Puritan Minister and author. And one of the best. To learn more about him read Charles Spurgeon’s Brief Memoir Of Thomas Watson.
♦ I also recommend purchasing a copy of Meet the Puritans: With a Guide to Modern Reprints by Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson. A tremendous resource, not only for the biographical information, but also as a guide to choosing the best in puritan literature.