(EXPERIENCE) A PRISONER OF HOPE COMMENTS ON PROGRESSIVE SANCTlFICATION AND CONDITIONALISM
Presently, I reside in Morrisville, Wake County, North Carolina, and have been given the sweet fellowship with the nearby Willow Spring Primitive Baptist Church, Willow Spring, North Carolina, who profess absolute predestination, unconditional election, particular redemption, total depravity, et al, of these blessed Biblical, soul-cheering and soul-comforting truths, I have had no doubt as to their correctness since a very young man, although at times I have doubted my personal interest in them.With the hope that it might possibly comfort some of the way-worn children of God, who might now be struggling with this misconception of truth, I would like to share some of my experience, as a young man when faced with sundry conditionalists’ teaching. In so doing,. I hope to set forth the divine Source of the wrought-in and wrought-out good works as performed by the quickened children of God who have been brought effectually to rest in the completed redemption in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.
While a young believer, my growth in grace, I trust, and knowledge of understanding was enriched, at I was given to walk among the Strict and Particular Baptist who clearly presented these glorious truths of absolute predestination, God’s sovereignty, the irresistible grace of His Spirit, and other blessed truths. Most of the ministers dearly exalted the finished work of Christ on behalf of His chosen people, yet there were those who frequently dealt with what is known and called “progressive sanctification” which often left me greatly troubled, confused and discouraged. I would afterward, in the solitude and darkness of my closet, wonder why I could not rise to the higher level of those brethren who, evidently, had reached the “higher ground.” Their message would disturb whatever small amount of comfort I was given, I trust, in Christ. At times I was made to question my hope in Christ! Could I be a child of God, when I was such a failure? However, I was forced to keep these feelings to myself for fear of ridicule.
I vividly recall a particular message presented on one occasion on “faithfulness”, and my certain knowledge that I was most unfaithful with no means to remedy the situation. According to the commentary, I was destined to miss out on innumerable blessings because of my unfaithfulness ac-cording to these proponents. 0, what troubling of soul I encountered! What fears I felt because I believed those preachers to be “men of God”, yet, they were at the time condemning me to in¬ward turmoil and despair, not intention-ally, perhaps, but certainly. When I would attempt to measure my faithfulness by their standards my heart would sink when none could be found. Like the apostle, I desired to be faithful, but knew not how to perform it, to-wit: faithfulness
The gracious God In His good time quieted my inner storms. Brethren, I cannot adequately explain the joy of heart I experienced when Christ, through the soothing balm of His word and grace, ministered comfort to my poor soul. He gave me great comfort in knowing that He was my “all in all,and that I had been (not might be) blessed with “all spiritual blessings in Christ bfore the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:3-4).
A few scriptures that brought sweet comfort to me were like cool water to my thirsty soul. The first, here, I take notice of is II Chronicles 30:12, “Also in Judah the hand of God was to give them ONE HEART to do the commandment of the king and of the princes, by the word of the Lord.” If God does not give His people that “one-heart” to do His will, they cannot of themselves drum it up on their own. Obedience is all of grace (and according to His will) that no man should glory in His presence.
These words of the prophet were especially sweet to me on many occasions. (Isa. 26:12) — “Lord, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also has wrought all our works in us.” It is not with man, quickened or not, to generate good works. God is THE SOURCE as He by His Spirit operates in (or within) the new creation. It is all in Christ Jesus who sweetly draws them to obedience. It is alone through His obedience that the flesh is crucified, that yields the members to righteousness and to reckon the old man dead. Beloved, even our failures are designed (and purposed) by our great, loving God to foster dependence upon Him, and Him alone. We all have felt this discomfort and cried with Job, “Oh that I might know where I might find Him, that I might come to His seat!” (Job 23:3).
The apostle is redundant in giving God all the glory for all that He had or would perform. His inspired words were like “Apples of God in pictures of silver” (Prov. 25:11). “Whereunto I also labour, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily” (Col. 1:29). “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace that was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (I Cor. 15:10). “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God” (II Cor. 3:5). It is GOD only who works mightly in the heart of the child of grace and makes him what he is and compels him to do what he does. God is our sufficiency! There is no room for personal glory here! If the child of God is blessed in any good work(s), it is because he has been made to look to THE SOURCE and gives God the sole credit.
The most clear scripture that establishes the source of obedience and good works in the “born again child of God” is found in Philippians 2:12-13: It reads, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” To read such clarity of statement and then ignore it is to disrupt, if not to destroy the com¬fort of the Lord’s elect. What is done in us after our quickening and conversion is GOD working in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. To HIM is the glory. As the great apostle wrote to the saints at Thessalonica, “Faithful is He that calleth you, who will also do it” (I Thess. 5:24).
Men often in the past, while in my presence, spoke of conditional rewards for obeying, and they framed it in such a way that it left little doubt that God’s elect had the power (of themselves) to obey or disobey, as they wished or chose. If they obeyed, they would receive rewards of blessing. If they disobeyed, they would receive punishment or chastisement. Brethren, I am fully persuaded that whatever rewards, if any, there may be, they are re¬wards of grace and not of debt. Paul so beautifully clarified and qualified this point here, “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that WORKETH NOT, but believed on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:4-5). Also, James confirmed it here, “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man SHALL BE BLESSED IN HIS DEED” (James 1:25). (Note: This means it was not ‘for his deed’.) (“Amen.”)
Christ said, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should goand bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, He may give it you” (John 15:16). Christ, the eternal God, declared that His disciples should bear fruit. Shall they or shall they not? He purposed that their fruit should remain. Where in this word of Christ is there any room for “Perhaps” or “Maybe”? Strictly speaking, there is none.
Christ said, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, He may give it you” (John 15:16). Christ, the eternal God, declared that His disciples should bear fruit. Shall they or shall they not? He purposed that their fruit should remain. Where in this word of Christ is there any room for “Perhaps” or “Maybe”? Strictly speaking, there is none.raise all of them up. He said so, and He answered the question here, “For I came down from Heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I SHOULD LOSE NOTHING, but should raise it up again at the last day” (John 6:38-39). And His disciples most assuredly will bear this fruit and it WILL remain.
Now, if Christ is waiting to bless His people based on their merit, waiting to see if they will respond, as the today’s Conditionalist believes and teaches, the work of the Almighty Spirit is flipped on its head. Listen, Christ said “He (the Comforter) shall glorify me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:14). If the Conditionalist view is correct, the Spirit would sanctify us, then wait to receive of ours, reciprocate, and show them unto Christ that we might receive proper, merited, recognized reward. How dishonoring — both to Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit!
The comfort I have received of Christ in knowing the difference regarding “Progressive Sanctification” and “Conditional Blessings” sustains my weary soul, as I have tried to set forth herein; it is brought on each day as I am clearly made to see my many failures and utter helplessness. While my inward life is so very far imperfect, yet I am made to know that my life in the Lord Jesus Christ (in Him only) is completely perfect. This is my hope. I have no desire to fall short of gospel obedience, but I rest in the glorious hope in my solicitude that “If Christ demands it, He will grant it, if He grants it, He will work it; and if He works it, He alone will receive all the glory”.
0, Great Lord, we are weak and depend entirely upon your grace and enabling power to accomplish any good or to perform any of your word! Now, 0 Lord, glorify Thyself by working in your people all your good pleasure!
[Courtesy Bill Bryant]