To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Romans 4:5
Charles Spurgeon — All of Grace
To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Romans 4:5
Charles Spurgeon — All of Grace
There are three things told us in Scripture concerning the nature of God. First, “God is spirit” (John 4:24). In the Greek there is no indefinite article, and to say “God is a spirit” is most objectionable, for it places Him in a class with others. God is “spirit” in the highest sense. Because He is “spirit” He is incorporeal, having no visible substance. Had God a tangible body, He would not be omnipresent, He would be limited to one place; because He is spirit He fills heaven and earth. Second, God is light (1 John 1:5), which is the opposite of “darkness.” In Scripture “darkness” stands for sin, evil, death; and “light” for holiness, goodness, life. God is light, means that He is the sum of all excellency. Third, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). It is not simply that God “loves,” but that He is Love itself. Love is not merely one of His attributes, but His very nature.
There are many today who talk about the love of God, who are total strangers to the God of love. The Divine love is commonly regarded as a species of amiable weakness, a sort of good-natured indulgence; it is reduced to a mere sickly sentiment, patterned after human emotion. Now the truth is that on this, as on everything else, our thoughts need to be formed and regulated by what is revealed thereon in Holy Scripture. That there is urgent need for this is apparent not only from the ignorance which so generally prevails, but also from the low state of spirituality which is now so sadly evident everywhere among professing Christians. How little real love there is for God. One chief reason for this is because our hearts are so little occupied with His wondrous love for His people. The better we are acquainted with His love—its character, fulness, blessedness—the more will our hearts be drawn out in love to Him.
1. The love of God is uninfluenced. By this we mean, there was nothing whatever in the objects of His love to call it into exercise, nothing in the creature to attract or prompt it. The love which one creature has for another is because of something in them; but the love of God is free, spontaneous, uncaused. The only reason why God loves any is found in His own sovereign will: “The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved thee” (Deut. 7:7,8). God has loved His people from everlasting, and therefore nothing of the creature can be the cause of what is found in God from eternity. He loves from Himself: “according to His own purpose” (2 Tim. 1:9).
“We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God did not love us because we loved Him, but He loved us before we had a particle of love for Him. Had God loved us in return for ours, then it would not be spontaneous on His part; but because He loved us when we were loveless, it is clear that His love was uninfluenced. It is highly important if God is to be honored and the heart of His child established, that we should be quite clear upon this precious truth. God’s love for me, and for each of “His own,” was entirely unmoved by anything in them. What was there in me to attract the heart of God? Absolutely nothing. But, to the contrary, everything to repel Him, everything calculated to make Him loathe me—sinful, depraved, a mass of corruption, with “no good thing” in me.
“What was there in me that could merit esteem, Or give the Creator delight? ‘Twas even so, Father, I ever must sing, Because it seemed good, in Thy sight.
2. It is eternal. This of necessity. God Himself is eternal, and God is love; therefore, as God Himself had no beginning, His love had none. Granted that such a concept far transcends the grasp of our feeble minds, nevertheless, where we cannot comprehend, we can bow in adoring worship. How clear is the testimony of Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.” How blessed to know that the great and holy God loved His people before heaven and earth were called into existence, that He had set His heart upon them from all eternity. Clear proof is this that His love is spontaneous, for He loved them endless ages before they had any being.
The same precious truth is set forth in Ephesians 1:4,5, “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him. In love having predestinated us.” What praise should this evoke from each of His children! How tranquilizing for the heart: since God’s love toward me had no beginning, it can have no ending! Since it be true that “from everlasting to everlasting” He is God, and since God is “love,” then it is equally true that “from everlasting to everlasting” He loves His people.
3. It is sovereign. This also is self-evident. God Himself is sovereign, under obligations to none, a law unto Himself, acting always according to His own imperial pleasure. Since God be sovereign, and since He be love, it necessarily follows that His love is sovereign. Because God is God, He does as He pleases; because God is love, He loves whom He pleases. Such is His own express affirmation: “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9:19). There was no more reason in Jacob why he should be the object of Divine love, than there was in Esau. They both had the same parents, and were born at the same time, being twins; yet God loved the one and hated the other! Why? Because it pleased Him to do so.
The sovereignty of God’s love necessarily follows from the fact that it is uninfluenced by anything in the creature. Thus, to affirm that the cause of His love lies in God Himself, is only another way of saying, He loves whom He pleases. For a moment, assume the opposite. Suppose God’s love were regulated by anything else than His will, in such a case He would love by rule, and loving by rule He would be under a law of love, and then so far from being free, God would Himself be ruled by law. “In love having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to”—what? Some excellency which He foresaw in them? No; what then? “According to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:4,5).
4. It is infinite. Everything about God is infinite. His essence fills heaven and earth. His wisdom is illimitable, for He knows everything of the past, present and future. His power is unbounded, for there is nothing too hard for Him. So His love is without limit. There is a depth to it which none can fathom; there is a height to it which none can scale; there is a length and breadth to it which defies measurement, by any creature-standard. Beautifully is this intimated in Ephesians 2:4: But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us: the word “great” there is parallel with the “God so loved” of John 3:16. It tells us that the love of God is so transcendent it cannot be estimated.
No tongue can fully express the infinitude of God’s love, or any mind comprehend it: it “passeth knowledge” Eph. 3:19). The most extensive ideas that a finite mind can frame about Divine love, are infinitely below its true nature. The heaven is not so far above the earth as the goodness of God is beyond the most raised conceptions which we are able to form of it. It is an ocean which swells higher than all the mountains of opposition in such as are the objects of it. It is a fountain from which flows all necessary good to all those who are interested in it (John Brine, 1743).
5. It is immutable. As with God Himself there is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17), so His love knows neither change or diminution. The worm Jacob supplies a forceful example of this: “Jacob have I loved,” declared Jehovah, and despite all his unbelief and waywardness, He never ceased to love him. John 13:1 furnishes another beautiful illustration. That very night one of the apostles would say, “Show us the Father”; another would deny Him with cursings; all of them would be scandalized by and forsake Him. Nevertheless “having loved His own which were in the world, He love them unto the end.” The Divine love is subject to no vicissitudes. Divine love is “strong as death … many waters cannot quench it” (Song of Sol. 8:6,7). Nothing can separate from it: Romans 8:35-39.
“His love no end nor measure knows, No change can turn its course, Eternally the same it flows From on eternal source.”
6. It is holy. God’s love is not regulated by caprice passion, or sentiment, but by principle. Just as His grace reigns not at the expense of it, but “through righteousness” (Rom. 5:21), so His love never conflicts with His holiness. “God is light” (1 John 1:5) is mentioned before “God is love” (1 John 4:8). God’s love is no mere amiable weakness, or effeminate softness. Scripture declares, “whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth” (Heb. 12:6). God will not wink at sin, even in His own people. His love is pure, unmixed with any maudlin sentimentality.
7. It is gracious. The love and favor of God are inseparable. This is clearly brought out in Romans 8:32-39. What that love is from which there can be no “separation,” is easily perceived from the design and scope of the immediate context: it is that goodwill and grace of God which determined Him to give His Son for sinners. That love was the impulsive power of Christ’s incarnation: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). Christ died not in order to make God love us, but because He did love His people, Calvary is the supreme demonstration of Divine love. Whenever you are tempted to doubt the love of God, Christian reader, go back to Calvary.
Here then is abundant cause for trust and patience under Divine affliction. Christ was beloved of the Father, yet He was not exempted from poverty, disgrace, and persecution. He hungered and thirsted. Thus, it was not incompatible with God’s love for Christ when He permitted men to spit upon and smite Him. Then let no Christian call into question God’s love when he is brought under painful afflictions and trials. God did not enrich Christ on earth with temporal prosperity, for “He had not where to lay His head.” But He did give Him the Spirit “without measure” (John 3:34). Learn then that spiritual blessings are the principal gifts of Divine love. How blessed to know that when the world hates us, God loves us!
From THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD
By A. W. Pink
(From C.H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography)
There was a day, as I took my walks abroad, when I came hard by a spot for ever engraven upon my memory, for there I saw this Friend, my best, my only Friend, murdered. I stooped down in sad affright, and looked at Him. I saw that His hands had been pierced with rough iron nails, and His feet had been rent in the same way. There was misery in His dead countenance so terrible that I scarcely dared to look upon it. His body was emaciated with hunger, His back was red with bloody scourges, and His brow had a circle of wounds about it: clearly could one see that these had been pierced by thorns. I shuddered, for I had known this Friend full well. He never had a fault; He was the purest of the pure, the holiest of the holy. Who could have injured Him? For He never injured any man: all His life long He “went about doing good;” He had healed the sick, He had fed the hungry, He had raised the dead: for which of these works did they kill Him? He had never breathed out anything else but love; and as I looked into the poor sorrowful face, so full of agony, and yet so full of love, I wondered who could have been a wretch so vile as to pierce hands like His. I said within myself, “Where can these traitors live? Who are these that could have smitten such an One as this?” Had they murdered an oppressor, we might have forgiven them; had they slain one who had indulged in vice or villainy, it might have been his desert; had it been a murderer and a rebel, or one who had committed sedition, we would have said, “Bury his corpse : justice has at last given him his due.” But when Thou wast slain, my best, my only-beloved, where lodged the traitors? Let me seize them, and they shall be put to death. If there be torments that I can devise, surely they shall endure them all. Oh! what jealousy; what revenge I felt! If I might but find these murderers, what would I not do with them! And as I looked upon that corpse, I heard a footstep, and wondered where it was. I listened, and I clearly perceived that the murderer was close at hand. It was dark, and I groped about to find him. I found that, somehow or other, wherever I put out my hand, I could not meet with him, for he was nearer to me than my hand would go. At last I put my hand upon my breast. “I have thee now,” said I ; for lo! he was in my own heart; the murderer was hiding within my own bosom, dwelling in the recesses of my inmost soul. Ah! then I wept indeed, that I, in the very presence of my murdered Master, should be harbouring the murderer; and I felt myself most guilty while I bowed over His corpse, and sang that plaintive hymn,—. “‘ Twas you, my sins, my cruel sins, His chief tormentors were; Each of my crimes became a nail, And unbelief the spear.” Amid the rabble rout which hounded the Redeemer to His doom, there were some gracious souls whose bitter anguish sought vent in wailing and lamentations,— fit music to accompany that march of woe. When my soul can, in imagination, see the Savior bearing His cross to Crucify she joins the godly women, and weeps with them; for, indeed, there is true cause for grief,—cause lying deeper than those mourning women thought. They bewailed innocence maltreated, goodness persecuted, love bleeding, meekness about to die; but my heart has a deeper and more bitter cause to mourn. My sins were the scourges which lacerated those blessed shoulders, and crowned with thorns those bleeding brows: my sins cried, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” and laid the cross upon His gracious shoulders. His being led forth to die is sorrow enough for one eternity; but my having been His murderer, is more, infinitely more grief than one poor fountain of tears can express.
THOU shalt call His Name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins .” Matt 1:21
He is not called Jesus because He is our Exemplar, though indeed He is perfection itself, and we long to tread in His footsteps; but He is called Jesus because He has come to seek and to save that which was lost.
He is Christ, too, or the Anointed, but then He is Christ Jesus; that is to say, it is as a Savior that He is anointed. He is nothing at all if He is not a Savior. He is anointed to this very end. His very Name is a sham if He does not save His people from their sins.
It is a gracious but very startling fact that our Lord’s connection with His people lies in the direction of their sins. This is amazing condescension. He is called Savior in connection with His people, but it is in reference to their sins, because it is from their sins that they need to be saved. If they had never sinned, they would never have required a Savior, and there would have been no Name of Jesus known upon earth.
That is a wonderful, text in Galatians 1:4, did you ever meditate upon it?. “Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.” It is true, as Martin Luther says, He never gave Himself for our righteousness, but He did give Himself for our sins. Sin is a horrible evil, a deadly poison, yet it is this which gives Jesus His title when He overcomes it. What a wonder this is! The first link between my soul and Christ is, not my goodness, but my badness; not my merit, but my misery; not my standing, but my falling; not my riches, but my need. He comes to visit His people, yet not to admire their beauties, but to remove their deformities; not to reward their virtues, but to forgive their sins.
O ye sinners, I mean you real sinners, not you who call yourselves by that name simply because you are told that is what you are, but you who really feel yourselves to be guilty before God, here is good news for you! O you self condemned sinners, who feel that, if you are ever to get salvation, Jesus must bring it to you, and be the beginning and the end of it, I pray you to rejoice in this dear, this precious, this blessed Name, for Jesus has come to save you, even you! Go to Him as sinners, call Him “Jesus,” and say to Him, “O Lord Jesus, be Jesus to me, save me, for I need Thy salvation!” Doubt not that He will fulfill His own Name, and exhibit His saving power in you. Only confess to Him your sin, and He will save you from it. Only believe in Him, and He will be your salvation.
What does Paul mean when he says “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”? He means, first, that Jesus carne to save them from the punishment of their sin . Their sin shall not be laid to their charge, so that they shall be condemned for it, if they do but trust in Him who was punished in the place of those who were really guilty. That is one thing that Christ Jesus came into the world to do for sinners.
He came, also, to save them from the pollution of: their sin , so that, though their mind has been debased, and their taste degraded, and their conscience deadened by sin, He came to take that evil away, and to give them a tender heart, and a hatred of sin, and a love for holiness, and a desire for purity. That is a great work for Him to accomplish, yet Jesus came to do even more than that.
He came, also, to take away our tendencies to sin , those tendencies which are born in us, and which grow up with us. He came by His Spirit to eradicate them, to pluck them up by the roots, and to put within us another principle, which shall fight with the old principle of sin, and overcome it, till Christ alone shall reign, and every thought shall be brought into captivity to Him.
Further, Jesus came to save His people from apostasy . He “came into the world to save sinners,” in the fullest possible sense, by keeping them faithful to the end, so that they shall not go back unto perdition. This is a very important part of the work of Divine grace. To start a man right, is but little; but to keep that man holding on even to the end, is a triumph of almighty grace, and this is what Christ has come to do.
Christ Jesus came into the world,” not to half save you, not to save you in this direction or that, and in this light or that, but to save you from your sin, to save you from an angry temper, to save you from pride, to save you from strong drink, to save you from covetousness, to save you from every evil thing, “and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.” This is a glorious truth, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” He came to Bethlehem’s manger, and afterwards to Calvary’s cross, with this as His one business, that He might save sinners.
Is He not able to save? Is He not just the Savior that we need? God and yet man in one adorable Person, He is able to sympathize because He is man, and He is able to save because He is God. Blessed God man, Jesus Christ, Thou art able and willing to save me, and Thou art able and willing to save all other sinners who will believe in Thee!
Excerpt from Christ’s Incarnation, the Foundation of Christianity by C. H. Spurgeon (.pdf)
Man naturally is a poor restless creature. Like a bird wandering from its nest he can find no repose. He tries a number of things, religious duties, and reformation, but he is still uneasy and dissatisfied. This is the state the gospel finds him, and presents Jesus to him. Jesus in the gospel speaks directly to his case, and says, ” Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
The Invitation. “Come unto me.” Who are invited? Those who labour. Who are toiling to satisfy God’s law, the claims of conscience, and the cravings of the mind. All who are working to obtain inward satisfaction, mental enjoyment, and rest for the soul. Those who are heavy laden. Burdened with a sense of guilt, with distressing ‘cares, with grievous disappointments, and a variety of troubles. All who feel unhappy, dissatisfied, and hardened. No matter what is the cause, if a Saviour is needed, here is a Saviour provided, and the Saviour himself invites the wretched and miserable to come. Nor are you to think that it is your labour, your burdens, or your weariness, that warrants you to come, for it is not, it is because Jesus invites you. It matters not how you feel, you may come,but the worse you feel, the more you have to urge you to come. If your heart is as hard as iron, if your heart is as cold as ice, if your heart is corrupt beyond description, you may come to Jesus, for all this. Yea, for this very reason you ought to come. The worse you are, or the worse you feel, the more readily you should come. The more unfit you feel to come to Jesus, so much the more reason you have to come. If you want a Saviour, come to Jesus. If you wish to be saved, come to Jesus. If you wish to be saved at once, come to Jesus at once, and he will save you immediately. The moment you cast yourself on his mercy, the moment you place your dependence on his blood, the moment you venture your soul on him, be you who you may be, that moment you are saved. Who is it that invites sinners to come unto him. It is Jesus, the tender-hearted Saviour. Jesus the sympathising friend of the poor and miserable. Jesus who came from heaven to earth on purpose to save sinners. Jesus who has a thorough knowledge of the sinners that he invites. Jesus who pities those who have no pity on themselves. Jesus who desires to make miserable sinners happy, poor sinners rich, polluted sinners holy, and enslaved sinners free. Jesus who has all things in his hands and at his disposal, and therefore said, “All things are delivered unto me of my Father.” As the apostle testified, ” The Father lovcth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.” Who would be afraid to come to such a Saviour. What greater encouragement can be given. Whosoever will, let him come, and he shall be saved, saved freely—fully—instantly. To what are sinners invited? To come to Jesus, to Jesus direct—not merely to hear the gospel, perform duties, or receive sacraments—but to come to Jesus. Sinner, come to Jesus, to a person, not a service. To a person who sees you, hears you, sympathises with you, and desires to do you good. Come to his cross, and there see him suffering, bleeding, and dying for sinners, and for just such sinners as you. He died that sinners might live, might live for ever, might live for ever in unspeakable happiness and glory. Como to his fullness, in which is stored up all blessings; every blessing you can need, desire, or enjoy, is in the fullness of Jesus, and there you may obtain it without money or without price. Come to his throne, his throne of grace, there he waits to receive you, to listen to your prayers, and to give you grace to help you in every time of need. Come, O come to Jesus, and come just as you are, weary and heavy laden, poor and wretched, lost and ruined, cold and unfeeling, polluted and unworthy! Come to Jesus, and come without delay, he will receive you, save you, and make you happy for ever.
Reader, Jesus has what you want, all you want, and he has it to part with, he is willing to give it to you. This is his object in giving this invitation. It will not enrich him, but it will enrich you. It will not be to his advantage, but it will be to yours. On his part it is pure love, tender sympathy, and infinite mercy. It would gladden his loving heart to make you, a poor miserable sinner happy. Jesus lovingly invites you once more. Often has he called and you have refused. Often has he sent his servants, and you would not listen to them. Once more, and it may be the last time, once more he says, “Come unto me, I will give you rest.” After all your ill treatment of him—after all the ingratitude you have shown to him—after all the evil things you have done against him, he once more calls after you as you are wandering in sin and misery, and says, “Come unto me, come now, come, notwithstanding all that is past, and I will give you rest.”
“I am with you always even to the end of the world.” Matthew 28:20
It is impossible to conceive words more comforting, strengthening, cheering, and sanctifying than these. Though left alone, like orphan children in a cold, unkind world, the disciples were not to think they were deserted. Their Master would be ever “with them.” Though commissioned to do a work as hard as that of Moses when sent to Pharaoh, they were not to be discouraged. Their Master would certainly be “with them.” No words could be more suited to the position of those to whom they were first spoken. No words could be imagined more consolatory to believers in every age of the world
Let all true Christians lay hold on these words and keep them in mind. Christ is “with as” always. Christ is “with us,” wherever we go. He came to be “Emmanuel, God with us,” when He first came into the world. He declares that He is ever Emmanuel, “with us,” when He comes to the end of His earthly ministry and is about to leave the world. He is with us daily to pardon and forgive,—with us daily to sanctify and strengthen,—with us daily to defend and keep,—with us daily to lead and to guide,—with us in sorrow, and with us in joy,—with us in sickness, and with us in health,—with us in life, and with us in death,—with us in time, and with us in eternity.
What stronger consolation could believers desire than this? Whatever happens, they at least are never completely friendless and alone. Christ is ever with them. They may look into the grave, and say with David, “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” They may look forward beyond the grave, and say with Paul, “we shall ever be with the Lord.”
He has said it, and He will stand to it, “I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” “I will never leave you and never forsake you.”—We could ask nothing more. Let us go on believing, and not be afraid. It is everything to be a real Christian. None have such a King, such a Priest, such a constant Companion, and such an unfailing Friend, as the true servants of Christ.
J.C. Ryle Expository Thoughts on the Gospels
The love of God which the gospel publishes, and the sufferings of Christ for sinners, ought to melt the hardest heart and cause every hearer fervently to cry, “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.” This message of glad tidings proclaims peace. It tells of deliverance from condemnation, and promises eternal life to all who receive it. Yet the fact remains that the great majority of those who hear it are scarcely affected and obtain no lasting advantage to their souls; and that perplexes many Christians. But the total depravity of man fully explains that lamentable state. In a heart that is desperately wicked there is nothing whatever on which the gospel can seize that will evoke any echo of it. Its message is directly opposed to the opinions and inclinations of the fallen creature….a holy gospel does not appeal to them, being foreign to their tastes….If God were to leave men entirely to themselves in their response to the gospel, it would be universally rejected. There is a deeply rooted contrariety to God in men’s very nature which makes them turn a deaf ear to His voice, though they are ready enough to listen to the least whisper of Satan. As there are plants which are attractive to the eye but poisonous to the stomach, so even though the gospel is a pleasant sound to the ear it is repulsive to a corrupt heart. The gospel requires men to renounce their own wisdom and become as little children, to repudiate their own righteousness, and accept that of Another, to turn from self-pleasing and submit to the will of God. The gospel is designed to transform the inner man and regulate the outer man, and this is quite unacceptable to the unregenerate. No exhortations will reconcile a wolf and a lamb. No logical arguments will tame a fierce lion. Though man is a rational creature, he follows the promptings of his lusts rather than the dictates of his judgment. One who is wholly in love with sin and Satan does not desire to enter the service of Christ. To turn to God in Christ is altogether contrary to the stream of corrupt nature, and therefore it needs to be overcome by a flood of almighty grace, as the stream of the river is overcome by the tide of the sea.
– A.W. Pink (Our Accountability to God pg 231, 232)