13 October 2007

Work . . . For It Is God Who Works in You

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from a sermon titled "The Lion and the Bear: Trophies Hung Up" (from 1 Samuel 12:36-37), preached at the Met Tab on Thursday evening, September 25th, 1884.

n God's word the car of truth runs on two rails of parallel statement. A great many people want to pull up one of the rails. They will not accept two sets of truth.

"Predestination and free agency do not agree," so the modern Solomons assert.

Who said? "They do not agree"? They do agree as fully as two rails on the tram line; but some narrow spirits must set aside either the one or the other, they cannot accept both.

This has long been a puzzle on paper, but in practice it is ease itself. So here the practical action of the believer, throwing his whole might into his Master's service, perfectly well agrees with his falling back upon the working of God, and knowing that it is God that worketh all things for him. David's slaying of the lion and the bear and the Philistine is clear; but God's delivering him out of the jaw of the lion, and the paw of the bear, and the hand of the Philistine, is equally clear.

Make it plain to your own self. I believe that, when I preach, I ought to prepare and study my sermon as if its success altogether depended upon me, but that, when I am thus thoroughly furnished, I am to trust in God as much as if I had done nothing at all. The same view should be taken of your life and of your service for God. Work as if you were to be saved by your works, and then trust Christ only, since it is only by faith in him that you are capable of a single good work. Work for God with all your might, as if you did it all, but then always remember that "it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."

How is that Philistine to be killed?

"By God," says one.

True; but not without David.

"By David," says another.

Yes, but not without God. Put the Lord on the march with David and you put the Philistines into untimely graves. When David moves to the fight, God being with him, off comes Goliath's head. Nor champions' heads, nor demons' helmets, can stand against the man of God. "The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge."
C. H. Spurgeon


dec said...

Work as if you were to be saved by your works, and then trust Christ only, since it is only by faith in him that you are capable of a single good work.

Amen! Spurgeon always clears things up.

David said...

Augustine said pretty much the same thing over 1300 years before Spurgeon. Lets give credit where credit is due :]

Keith B said...

Good post, the practicality of it pours out rich doctrine.

David: We can praise the Lord for such good truth! ;)

Keith B said...

*pours out of rich doctrine

Johnny Dialectic said...

Tozer and Spurgeon would have gotten along. Tozer said, "I'm an Arminian when I preach and a Calvinist when I pray."

Also that the two rails have "divided the Christian church neatly into two camps which have borne the names of two distinguished theologians, Jacobus Arminius and John Calvin. Most Christians are content to get into one camp or the other and deny either sovereignty to God or free will to man. It appears possible, however, to reconcile these two positions without doing violence to either, although the effort that follows may prove deficient to partisans of one camp or the other."

My Daily Bread said...

Though I do not believe that predestination and "free will" theology can be reconciled, I do not exclude the allowance, as others, a difference between "free agency" and "free will." I do not know how Spurgeon is using it. Besides, all that is connoted in the term "free will" and "free agency" vary from writer to writer.

But, this citation from Spurgeon is filled with lines worth memorizing. He speaks the truth.


God bless
Stephen M. Garrett

donsands said...

"Most Christians are content to get into one camp or the other"

All Christains are in either camp, I would say, and I'm sure you agree.

But their are sub-camps within the camps.

These words of Prince of preachers are superb.
Great on a Sunday morning.
Have a blessed Lord's Day!

Sewing said...

Uncanny. I was just reading 1 Samuel—including the lion-and-bear speech—last night.

Wow, there's such a tension throughout 1 Samuel between doing and contravening the will of God—both in Saul and in David—often in subtle ways. Both of Spurgeon's points are so clear all through that book: everything happens solely according to God's will; but we have a duty to obey God and do His will, and not act in ways contrary to it.

This Spurgeon feller knows a thing or two.... ;)

Praise God on this Lord's Day!

lordodamanor said...

The two rails analogy falls short of the reality. Since when is God's will on the same plane as man's? I think Spurgeon was not trying to be explicit, but rather to express the idea that the two run in concert with each other, and the explanation is a mystery which is revealed by Scripture.

I believe there is a better analogy. It is a monerail. God's will is that the entire mechanism, the cars, the rail, and the locomotion, have their source in the God who uphold's all things by the power of his might. This simple Scriptural idea contains the sense that God is intimately, conscientiously, creatively active in all things. The analogy then is that the cars run along a rail that is empowered either by the energy supply in the rail, or by a parallel power source above. The Lord's analogy should suffice and the idea of a channel or vessel through which man is traveling is still the best. Whether it is the children of Israel being lead by the desert road so that opportunity of autonomy is cut off, or Balaam being trapped between the hedges so that through the Lord is the only path available, God's analogies far surpass our own.

Several Scriptures can aid in this view. "The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever. And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!"

Enough? The reconciliation of the will of God and man created to be free in that will is found in Christ into whose image we are being conformed. It was he who said, "Follow me...Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise." And, "But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God."

No Christian would deny the humanity of Christ, nor would he deny that He kept the commands of His Father perfectly. His was a perfect free will, and still a human agency by which God carried out His own. By definition, sin is the opposition of the will of a son to the Father. In Christ we have the reconciliation of the will of God and the will of man. Like it or not, Christ-like freedom is not found in autonomy, but harmony, and that, not from below. Instead it is "Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven...Not my will, but yours be done."

Should we need further explanation of God's sovereignty in all of creation, good and bad, we need only turn again to the Scripture, "O Lord, why do you make us wander from your ways and harden our heart, so that we fear you not?" For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name. Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. Listen to me, you stubborn of heart, you who are far from righteousness: I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off, and my salvation will not delay; I will put salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory."

steve said...

Lordodamanor, you may be trying to read too much into Spurgeon's analogy.

The parallel truths of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility, in our finite minds, seem incompatible because we are unable to satisfactorily merge them together in a way that it all makes sense, in the same way that the two rails of a railroad track never meet. If they did, it'd derail the train.

And both two rails are necessary, or the train would go nowhere. It cannot move forward on just one rail.

Point being, both truths are necessary, and both are clearly present in Scripture. Try to bend one or the other or bring them together, and we end up with a mess (not to mention a train wreck).

And we simply have to accept the fact that our finite, fallen minds are not able to fully reconcile the tension between God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. They both "are," and they run side by side.

Spurgeon's analogy holds well.

Robert N. Landrum said...

Good quote. Plurality of truth and multiple perspectives do not necessarily make contradiction in the traditional Aristotilian way. God does not contradict himself but shows in the scripture how our freedom is of him.

777law said...


To me this subject is extraordinarily complex.

Your statement to wit: "And we simply have to accept the fact that our finite, fallen minds are not able to fully reconcile the tension between God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. They both 'are,' and they run side by side(,)" works very well for me.

This is a truth I cannot understand, so I console myself with the fact that there are some things I will never in this life know. Meanwhile, I probably vaccilate back and forth between the two rails - to the works side in my heart, and to the sovereignty side in my mind. Am I making sense?

At tne same time I really appreciate what lordodamanor had to say. In fact I am going to save it in order to have it handy when speaking to someone regarding God's sovereignty. He (she?) related a mouthful of great scripture - thanks lordodamanor.

Dave Crater said...

Lordodamanor: Good thoughts, though I doubt Spurgeon would quibble with them. A sanctified human will is God's will acting through human agency. So it is not really God's sovereignty and man's will that are the two rails on the same plane. It is God's sovereignty and God's will (working through a man's) that are the two parallel rails. No offense to God's sovereignty there.

BTW, what is the reference for this Scripture you quoted? "O Lord, why do you make us wander from your ways and harden our heart, so that we fear you not?"

Dave Crater said...

And Phil, when do we get some more Po-Motivators? I'm going into withdrawal!

dec said...

Dave Crater:
Isaiah 63:17.

Also John 12:40
"He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,..."

Mike Riccardi said...

O Lord, why do you make us wander from your ways and harden our heart, so that we fear you not? -- Isaiah 63:17

Isaiah understands that Israel's desperate situation results from the lack of beholding God's glory as He dwells with His people (2Cor 3:18). He also understands that God is sovereign to hide Himself and reveal Himself to whom and when He pleases.

Work as if you were to be saved by your works, and then trust Christ only, since it is only by faith in him that you are capable of a single good work.

This doesn't sit well with me. I've hesitated a couple of days before dissenting from Spurgeon... something I'd never thought I'd even have to question, but this has 'duty' written all over it when obedience and good works need to come from delight.

Christ saves us, we have the Holy Spirit enabling us to trust the promises of God and see Him as supreme and worthy of glory, and so we prove the goodness of God in our walks (Rom 12:2), and so see the delightfulness of following His commands (1Jn 5:2-3, Ps 119). Then, understanding that obedience brings God glory, and also brings us to see Him more clearly... because we want more of Him we obey, resting (not working) in the glory that is the finished work of Christ (Heb 4:8-10), confident that we are already saved by a righteousness outside of ourselves.

In fact, I think that the only strength we have to live by faith (i.e., perform good works as the obedience of faith) is the confidence that we are already justified. "Even so, consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus," and therefore "do not go on presenting your members as instruments of unrighteousness..." (Rom 6:11-14).

See what I'm saying?

Mike Riccardi said...


Sewing said...

I think Phil's waiting to hear back from Spurgeon before he replies on this one.

Gary Zimmerli said...

Phil, I appreciated this so much that I copied and posted it on my discussion board to share with our members. http://www.refugeesinjesus.org


Sacchiel said...

God does have works prepared in advance for us.