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      Are You Now Born of the Promise or of Something Else?
      (C.H. Spurgeon)

      Friday, February 29, 2008



      "It is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise."—Galatians iv., 22, 23.

      ABRAHAM had two sons. Ishmael and Isaac were beyond all dispute veritable sons of Abraham. Yet one of them inherited the covenant blessing, and the other was simply a prosperous man of the world. See how close these two were together! They were born in the same society, called the same great patriarch " father," and sojourned in the same encampment with him. Yet Ishmael was a stranger to the covenant, while Isaac was the heir of the promise. How little is there in blood and birth! A more remarkable instance than this happened a little afterwards; for Esau and Jacob were born of the same mother, at the same birth, yet is it written, "Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated." One became gracious, and the other profane. So closely may two come together, and yet so widely may they be separated! Verily, it is not only that two shall be in one bed, and the one shall be taken, and the other left; but, two shall come into the world at the same moment, and yet one of them will take up his inheritance with God, and the other will for a morsel of meat sell his birthright. We may be in the same church, baptized in the same water, seated at the same communion table, singing the same psalm, and offering the same prayer; and yet we may be of two races as opposed as the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.

      Abraham's two sons are declared by Paul to be the types of two races of men, who are much alike, and yet widely differ. They are unlike in their origin. They were both sons of Abraham; but Ishmael, the child of Hagar, was the offspring of Abraham upon ordinary conditions: he was born after the flesh. Isaac, the son of Sarah, was not born by the strength of nature; for his father was more than a hundred years old, and his mother was long past age. He was given to his parents by the Lord, and was born according to the promise through faith. This is a grave distinction, and it marks off the true child of God from him who is only so by profession. The promise lies at the bottom of the distinction, and the power which goes to accomplish the promise creates and maintains the difference. Hence the promise, which is our inheritance, is also our test and touchstone. Let us use the test at once by seeing whether we have been wrought upon by the power which fulfils the promise. Let me ask a few questions,—How were you converted? Was it by yourself, by the persuasion of men, by carnal excitement; or was it by the operation of the Spirit of God ? You profess to have been born again. Whence came that new birth ? Did it come from God in consequence of his eternal purpose and promise, or did it come out of yourself ? Was it your old nature trying to do better, and working itself up to its best form ? If so, you are Ishmael. Or was it that you, being spiritually dead, and having no strength whatever to rise out of your lost estate, were visited by the Spirit of God, who put forth his divine energy, and caused life from heaven to enter into you ? Then you are Isaac. All will depend upon the commencement of your spiritual life, and the source from which that life first proceeded. If you began in the flesh, you have gone on in the flesh, and in the flesh you will die. ...

      Have you never read, " That which is born of the flesh is flesh " ? Before long the flesh will perish, and from it you will reap corruption. Only " that which is born of the Spirit is spirit"; the joy is that the spirit will live, and of it you will reap life everlasting. Whether you are a professor of religion or not, I beseech you, ask yourself—Have I felt the power of the Spirit of God ? Is the life that is within you the result of the fermentation of your own natural desires? Or is it a new element, infused, imparted, implanted from above? Is your spiritual life a heavenly creat* . ? Have you been created anew in Christ Jesus? Have you been born again by divine power? Ordinary religion is nature gilded over with a thin layer of what is thought to be grace. Sinners have polished themselves up, and brushed off the worst of the rust and the filth, and they think their old nature is as good as new. This touching- up and repairing of the old man is all very well; but it falls short of what is needed. You may wash the face and hands of Ishmael as much as you please, but you cannot make him into Isaac. You may improve nature, and the more you do the better for certain temporary purposes; but you cannot raise it into grace. There is a distinction at the very fountain-head between the stream which rises in the bog of fallen humanity, and the river which proceeds from the throne of God. Do not forget that our Lord himself said, " Ye must be born again." If you have not been born again from above, all your church-going, or your chapel-going, stands for nothing. Your prayers and your tears, your Bible-readings, and all that have come from yourself only, can only lead to yourself. Water will naturally rise as high as its source, but no higher: that which begins with human nature will rise to human nature; but to the divine nature it cannot reach. Was your new birth natural or supernatural ? Was it of the will of man or of God ? Much will depend upon your answer to that question.

      Between the child of God and the mere professor there is a distinction as to origin of the most serious sort. Isaac was born according to promise. Ishmael was not of promise, but of the course of nature. Where nature's strength suffices there is no promise ; but when human energy fails, the word of the Lord comes in. God had said that Abraham should have a son of Sarah ; Abraham believed it, and rejoiced therein, and Isaac was born as the result of the divine promise, by the power of God. There could have been no Isaac if there had been no promise, and there can be no true believer apart from the promise of grace, and the grace of the promise.

      Gentle reader, here let me inquire as to your salvation. Are you saved by what you have done ? Is your religion the product of your own natural strength ? Do you feel equal to all that salvation may require ? Do you conclude yourself to be in a safe and happy condition because of your natural excellence and moral ability ? Then you are after the manner of Ishmael, and to you the inheritance will not come; for it is not an inheritance according to the flesh, but according to promise. If, on the other hand, you say,—" My hope lies only in the promise of God. He has set forth that promise in the person of his Son Jesus to every sinner that believeth in him ; and I do believe in him ; therefore I trust and believe that the Lord will fulfil his promise and bless me. I look for heavenly blessedness, not as the result of my own efforts, but as the gift of Goas free favor. My hope is fixed alone upon the free and gratuitous love of God to guilty men, by the which he has given his Son Jesus Christ to put away sin, and to bring in everlasting righteousness for those who deserve it not"—then this is another sort of language from that of the Ishmaelites, who say " We have Abraham to our father." You have now learned to speak as Isaac speaks. The difference may seem small to the careless, but it is great indeed. Hagar, the slave-mother, is a very different person from Sarah, the princess. To the one there is no covenant promise, to the other the blessing belongs for evermore. Salvation by works is one thing; salvation by grace is another. Salvation by human strength is far removed from salvation by divine power: and salvation by our own resolve is the opposite of salvation by the promise of God.

      Put yourself under this inquiry, and see to which family you belong. Are you of Ishmael or of Isaac? If you find that you are like Isaac, born according to the promise, remember that your name is " Laughter"; for that is the interpretation of the Hebrew name Isaac. Take care that you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Your new birth is a wonderful thing. If both Abraham and Sarah laughed at the thought of Isaac, you may certainly do so concerning yourself. There are times when, if I sit alone and think of the grace of God to me, the most undeserving of all his creatures, I am ready to laugh and cry at the same time for joy that ever the Lord should have looked in love and favor upon me. Yes, and every child of God must have felt the working of that Isaac nature within his soul, filling his mouth with laughter, because the Lord hath done great things for him. Mark well the difference between the two seeds, from their very beginning.

      Ishmael comes of man, and by man. Isaac comes by God's promise. Ishmael is the child of Abraham's flesh. Isaac is Abraham's child, too; but then the power of God comes in, and from the weakness of his parents it is made clear that he is of the Lord,—a gift according to promise. True faith is assuredly the act of the man who believes; true repentance is the act of the man who repents; yet both faith and repentance may with unquestionable correctness be described as the work of God, even as Isaac is the son of Abraham and Sarah, and yet he is still more the gift of God. The Lord our God, who bids us believe, also enables us to believe. All that we do acceptably the Lord work- eth in us; yea, the very will to do it is of his working. No religion is worth a farthing which is not essentially the outflow of the man's own heart; and yet it must beyond question be the work of the Holy Ghost who dwells within him.

      O friend, if what you have within you is natural, and only natural, it will not save you ! The inward work must be supernatural; it must come of God or it will miss the covenant blessing. A gracious life will be your own, even as Isaac was truly the child of Abraham; but still more it will be of God; for " Salvation is of the Lord." We must be born from above. Concerning all our religious feelings and actions, we mnst be able to say, " Lord, thou hast wrought all our works in us."





      END OF POST.

      6 comments:

      Susan said...

      Wow, thanks for posting this- talk about truth that will set you free!

      Someone needs to send this to Tony Jones. After watching that interview he did with John Chisham (www.thedowngrade.blogspot.com), Tony has no idea what it means to be born again of the Spirit as a supernatural work of God. And Spurgeon does a great job of explaining it here in black and white by the Scriptures. It is not a gray subject area and it's scary that the emergents take something as IMPERATIVE as Biblical conversion and now are saying "well, that may be how you define it, but how do you really know its the right way?" Are you serious? It is plain as day, and Tony needs to preach salvation as a work of God through faith in Jesus Christ and being born again of the Spirit or else he needs to stop calling himself a Christian.

      "Was your new birth natural or supernatural? Was it of the will of man or of God?"

      Anonymous said...

      Even Spurgeon, in spite of his claim of being a staunch Calvinist, could not accept the teaching that regeneration came before faith in Christ through the gospel. Calvinists quote him when he supports them, but they ignore statements such as the following:

      If I am to preach faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnec­essary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate. Am I only to preach faith to those who have it? Absurd, indeed! Is not this waiting till the man is cured and then bringing him the medicine? This is preaching Christ to the righteous and not to sinners.

      Who can deny that Spurgeon’s argument is both biblical and rea­sonable? Nor can it be denied that he was at the same time, though unwittingly, denying the very heart of the Calvinism he at other times stoutly affirmed.

      Lane Chaplin said...

      I think I know how to reply to this already, but I would like to read this quote in context of the rest of what he was writing. Will you provide the source identification for the quote you used?

      Anonymous said...

      Charles Spurgeon Never Believed Regeneration Came Before Faith!
      January 31, 2008 by John

      From “What Love Is This”

      Even Spurgeon, in spite of his claim of being a staunch Calvinist, could not accept the teaching that regeneration came before faith in Christ through the gospel. Calvinists quote him when he supports them, but they ignore statements such as the following:

      If I am to preach faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnec­essary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate. Am I only to preach faith to those who have it? Absurd, indeed! Is not this waiting till the man is cured and then bringing him the medicine? This is preaching Christ to the righteous and not to sinners.

      Who can deny that Spurgeon’s argument is both biblical and rea­sonable? Nor can it be denied that he was at the same time, though unwittingly, denying the very heart of the Calvinism he at other times stoutly affirmed.

      Is There Biblical Support for Total Depravity?

      To show that the Bible does indeed teach total depravity as inability, the Calvinist cites such scriptures as ”And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5; 8:21). Other verses offered in alleged proof of this doctrine include Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked,” and Romans 3:10-18, “There is none righteous … none that seeketh after God … none that doeth good … no fear of God before their eyes,” and so forth.

      Obviously, however, the fact that man’s thoughts are only evil con­tinually, that his heart is desperately wicked and deceitful, and that he neither seeks nor fears God, does not say that he is therefore unable, unless first of all regenerated by God, to believe the gospel even if convicted and convinced thereof by the Holy Spirit. Paul teaches otherwise: “ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doc­trine which was delivered you” (Romans 6: 17). Clearly, servants of sin responded to the command to repent and believe in Christ, and as a result they were regenerated-born of the Spirit of God into the family of God, and thus saved.

      Nor does the statement that “none seeks after God” deny that any man, no matter how depraved, can respond by intelligent choice without first being regenerated if God seeks and draws him. Neither does the Bible teach that God only seeks and draws an “elect” but no others. Indeed, many passages affirm that under the drawing of the Holy Spirit sinful man can make a moral response: “Draw me, we will run after thee” (Song of Solomon 1:4); ”And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29: 13); “He [God] is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11 :6). Everyone that thirsteth, no matter how wicked, is commanded to turn unto the Lord, with never so much as a hint that this is impossible until God first regenerates them (Isaiah 55: 1-7).

      Furthermore, the offer of salvation is extended to “all the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 45:22). That this offer is not just for a select elect is clear. The “everyone that thirsteth” reminds one of Christ’s cry, “If any man thirst, let him corne unto me, and drink” (John 7:37). All those who thirst are offered the same “living water” that Christ offered to the woman at the well (John 4: 1 0). And it is with this same promise to whosoever will that the Bible ends: ”And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely” (Revelation 22: 17).

      The universality of God’s offer of salvation is presented repeatedly throughout the Bible; for example: “preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16: 15); and “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3: 16), etc. Surely, “every creature,” “the world,” and “whosoever” must include all, no matter how badly depraved.

      It would take considerable manipulation to maintain that the offer of salvation is extended only to the elect, or even that only the elect could respond, and even then, not until they had been sovereignly regenerated. Paul confirms this desire of God for all nations when he declares to the Greek philosophers on Mars’ Hill:

      God that made the world and all things therein … hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from everyone of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said …. (Acts 17:24-28)

      Is it really possible that Paul’s “all nations of men” and “everyone of us” and “we” referred to an elect of whom the Greeks had never heard? On the contrary, Paul is clearly including his listeners and antagonists on Mars’ Hill as among those who have their physical life and being from God and who may seek and find Him. This was what the Greek poets to whom he refers had said (surely these philosophers were not referring to the elect), and Paul is affirming that general understanding and declaring the person of the true God to them, a God who is “not far from everyone of us,” who commands all men to seek Him, and who may be found by all. There is no suggestion that anyone’s depravity and bondage to sin makes it impossible to believe in Christ without first being sovereignly regenerated.

      Lane Chaplin said...

      Ah, Dave Hunt. I thought you were using a credible source there for a minute. You can learn more about Dave and his "knowledge" of Calvinism here:

      #1)...

      #2)...

      Kirby said...

      Regeneration, faith and salvation are all three simultaneous, instantaneous, and coincident. I don't think you can separate them into "before" and "after". They come as a "package deal" and occur simultaneously.

      As an example, when the switch is flicked, the lights go on. When the lights go on, you see the room. When you see the room, can you really close your eyes and "forget" what it looked like? (Sorry,... threw a little Perseverance in there.. ;-)

      Here's how it works. Both parts come into play, or neither do.

      No man... absolutely none, not one... who truly sees himself as the sinner that he is, and sees HIS own sin for what it is, and sees the holiness of God and His glory, and sees the vast distance and DIFFERENCE between himself and God, no such man will fail to immediately call out, like Peter, "Lord, save me, I perish!"

      Failure to call out to God upon your true inner nature being revealed to you and God's glory being manifest (at least to some small degree) is not possible. It absolutely, positively, will NOT happen. You can bet the rent money.

      Any man, once shown HIS true nature, and GOD'S holiness, any such man will immediately fall on his face and cry out "Save me!" Every time.

      It all depends, of course, on God's revelation. You might suspect something of your nature, but you can never truly see yourself as He sees you. But let him open your eyes a bit wider, and terror will flood in. Revelation will come. And you will, invariably, fall on your face in repentance, and then rise up in worship. Every time.

      I don't think you can separate regeneration (lights go on), from faith (I see the truth).

      You can have false variants of this scenario, though. Happens all the time. How many of us don't know of some TV preacher or New Age guru who claims to have a really good grasp on a vision of God, yet they can scarcely admit such a thing as sin - let alone their OWN sin. "Great and Glorious God, and us, little gods waiting to grow up"... How many of us haven't heard some charlatan preaching the "wonder and mystery of God" mixed with the gospel of "human potential?" Vision of God's glory, without the attendant vision of your own evil? That's a false conversion.

      How about the other way? This happens too in religions like Catholicism and all those weird pseudo-catholic mysticism religions in Asia. People parade through the streets with nails pierced through their hands and their backs cut and bloody in a "show" of "piety". And yet they've never seen the true Christ or they would NEVER be so stupid as to believe that they could EVER suffer what he suffered.

      But put the two side together on one coin, and there is no power in the universe that can stop God from accomplishing what he set out to do.

      He's gonna line you up in his sights, and pull the trigger. BANG! And all at once, in that bang, the man looks inward and reels in horror. Looks upward and is staggered by glory. Terror envelopes, and faith immediately sustains. All in that instant. The work is done!

      Now a man may spend the rest of his life mining the depths of what happened in that flash. But that it happened, no true saint denies.

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