Iglesia Bautista Reformada del Pacto de Gracia

Bulletin 11/30/2017

Faith is not a work: ​Believing is not a work, but a ceasing from work; and this struggle to believe, is just the sinner's attempt to make a work out of that which is no work at all, to make a labor out of that which is a resting from labor.

​You are in earnest now; but I fear you are making your earnestness your Christ, and actually using it as a reason for not trusting Christ immediately. You think your earnestness will lead on to faith, if it be but intense enough, and long enough persisted in.

But there is such a thing as earnestness in the wrong direction; earnestness in unbelief, and a substitution of earnestness for simple faith in Jesus. You must not soothe the alarms of conscience by this earnestness of yours. It is unbelieving earnestness; and that will not do. What God demands is simple faith in the record which he has given you of his Son. You say, "I can't give him faith, but I can give him earnestness; and by giving him earnestness, I hope to persuade him to give me faith." This is self-righteousness. It shows that you regard both faith and earnestness as something to be done in order to please God, and secure his good will. You say, faith is the gift of God, but earnestness is not; it is in my own power; therefore I will earnestly labor, and struggle, and pray, hoping that ere long God will take pity on my earnest struggles, nay, feeling secretly that it would be hardly fair to him to disregard such earnestness. Now, if God has anywhere said that unbelieving earnestness and the unbelieving use of means is the way of procuring faith, I cannot object to such proceeding on your part. But I do not find that he has said so, or that the apostle in dealing with inquirers set them upon this preliminary process for acquiring faith. I find that the apostles shut up their hearers to immediate faith and repentance, bringing them face to face with the great object of faith, and commanding them in the name of the living God to believe, just as Jesus commanded the man with the withered arm to stretch out his hand. The man was thoroughly helpless, yet he is, on the spot, commanded to do the very thing which he could least of all do, the thing which Jesus only could enable him to do. The Lord did not give him any directions as to a preliminary work, or preparatory efforts, and struggles, and using of means. These are man's attempts to bridge over the great gulf by human appliances; man's ways of evading the awful question of his own utter impotence; man's unscriptural devices for sliding out of inability into ability, out of unbelief into faith; man's plan for helping God to save him; man's self-made ladder for climbing up a little way out of the horrible pit, in the hope that God will so commiserate his earnest struggles as to do all the rest that is needed.

Now God has commanded all men everywhere to repent; but he has nowhere given us any directions for obtaining repentance. God has commanded sinners to believe, but has not prescribed for them any preparatory steps or process by means of which he may be induced to give them something which he is not from the first most willing to do. It is thus that he shuts them up to faith, by concluding them in unbelief. It is thus that he brings them to feel both the greatness and the guilt of their inability; and so constrains them to give up every hope of doing anything to save themselves; - driving them out of every refuge of lies, and showing them that these prolonged efforts of theirs are hindrances, not helps, and are just so many rejections of his own immediate help, - so many distrustful attempts to persuade him to do what he is already most willing to do in their behalf.

The great manifestation of self-righteousness, is this struggle to believe. Believing is not a work, but a ceasing from work; and this struggle to believe, is just the sinner's attempt to make a work out of that which is no work at all, to make a labor out of that which is a resting from labor. Sinners will not let go their hold of their former confidence, and drop into Christ's arms. Why? Because they still trust these confidences, and do not trust him who speaks to them in the gospel. Instead, therefore, of encouraging you to embrace more and more earnestly these preliminary efforts, I tell you they are all the sad indications of self-righteousness. They take for granted that Christ has not done his work sufficiently, and that God is not willing to give you faith till you have plied him with the arguments and importunities of months or years. God is at this moment willing to bless you; and these struggles of yours are not, as you fancy, humble attempts on your part to take the blessing, but proud attempts either to put it from you or to get hold of it in some way of your own. You cannot, with all your struggles, make the Holy Spirit more willing to give you faith than he is at this moment. But our self-righteousness rejects this blessed truth; and if I were to encourage you in these efforts, I should be fostering your self-righteousness and your rejection of this grace of the Spirit.

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From the book God's Way of Peace, written by Horatius Bonar.