Confusion worse confounded follows upon confusing grace and law. It is a covenant of pure promise unalloyed by terms and conditions. Oil and water will sooner mix than merit and grace.
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When you find the covenant of works anywhere, what are you to do with it? Out with them; you have nought to do with them. Let law and gospel keep their proper places. The law is master to bring us to Christ, but when we have come to Christ we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
Let the law principle go its way to work conviction in sinners, and destroy their ill-grounded hopes, but do you abide in Christ Jesus even as you have received him. If you are to be saved by works then it is not of grace, otherwise work is no more work; and if saved by grace then it is not of human merit, otherwise grace is no more grace. To keep clear here is of the first importance, for on the rocks of legality many a soul has been cast away.
We need also to keep up a clear distinction between the efforts of nature and the work of grace. It is commendable for men to do all they can to improve themselves, and everything by which people are made more sober, more honest, more frugal, better citizens, better husbands, better wives, is a good thing; but that is nature and not grace. Reformation is not regeneration.
I have always tried to keep up this distinction, and I trust none of you will ever mistake the efforts of nature for the works of divine grace. Do what you can for human reformation, for whatsoever things are honest and of good repute you are to foster; but, still, never put the most philanthrophic plan, or the most elevating system in the place of the work of sovereign grace, for, if you do, you will do ten times as much mischief as you can possibly do good.
We must rightly divide the word of truth. It is always well, too, for Christian men to be able to distinguish one truth from another. Let the knife penetrate between the joints of the work of Christ for us, and the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Justification, by which the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, is one blessing; sanctification, by which we ourselves are made personally righteous, is another blessing. I have known some describe sanctification as a sort of foundation, or at least a buttress for the work of justification.
Now, no man is justified because he is sanctified: he is justified because he believeth in him that justifieth the ungodly. Sanctification follows justification. It is the work of the Spirit of God in the soul of a believer, who first of all was justified by believing in Jesus while as yet he was unsanctified.
One other point of rightly dividing should never be forgotten, we must always distinguish between the root and the fruit. He is a very poor botanist who does not know a bulb from a bud, but I believe that there are some Londoners who do not know which are roots and which are fruits, so little have they seen of anything growing; and I am sure there are some theologians who hardly know which is the cause and which is the effect in spiritual things. Putting the cart before the horse is a very absurd thing, but many do it. When will you discriminate?
Thus I have given you three versions of my text — rightly handling, straightly furrowing, and wisely discriminating. This is the sense given by Chrysostom. I will show you what I mean here. Suppose I have a skin of leather before me, and I want to make a saddle. I take a knife, and begin cutting out the shape. I do not want those parts which are dropping oft on the right, and round this corner; they are very good leather, but I cannot just now make use of them. I have to cut out my saddle, and I make that my one concern. Or, suppose I have to make a pair of reins out of the leather.
I must take my knife round, and work away with one object, keeping clearly before me what I am aiming at. The preacher, to be successful, must also have his wits about him, and when he has the Bible before him he must use those portions which will have a bearing upon his grand aim. He must make use of the material laid ready to his hand in the Bible. He wants to have souls saved and Christians Quickened, and therefore he does not for ever pour out the vials, and blow the trumpets of prophecy.
Some hearers are crazy after the mysteries of the future. Well, there are two or three brethren in London who are always trumpeting and vialing. Go and hear them if you want it, I have something else to do. I confess I am not sent to decipher the Apocalyptic symbols, my errand is humbler but equally useful, I am sent to bring souls to Jesus Christ.
There are preachers who are always dealing with the deep things, the very deep things. For them the coral caves of mystery, and the far descending shafts of metaphysics have a mighty charm. I have no quarrel with their tastes, but I do not think the word of God was given us to be a riddle-book. To me the plain gospel is the part which I cut out, and rightly cut out of the word of God. There is a soul that wants to know how to find peace with God.
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth-2 Timothy
Some other brother can tell him where predestination falls in with free agency, I do not pretend to know, but I do know that faith in Jesus brings peace to the heart. My business is to bring forth that which will save souls, build up saints and set Christians to work for Christ. I leave the mysteries, not because I despise them; but because the times demand that we first, and above all other things, seek the souls of men.
Some truths press to be heard; they must be heard now, or men will be lost. The other truths they can hear to-morrow, or by-and-by, but now escape from hell and fitness for heaven are their immediate business. Fancy the angels sitting down with Lot and his daughters inside Sodom, and discussing predestination with them, or explaining the limits of free agency.
In the Bible there are some things that are essential, without which a man cannot be saved at all: there are other things which are important, but still men are saved, notwithstanding their ignorance of those things; is it not clear that the essentials must have prominence? Every truth ought to be preached in its turn and place, but we must never give the first place to a second truth, or push that to the front which was meant to be in the background of the picture. As for the difficult questions and nice points, leave them for awhile.
You shall discuss them by-and-by, so far as they are profitable to you, but just now believing in the Lord Jesus Christ is the main matter. According to Calvin, the intention of the Spirit here is to represent one who is the steward of the house, and has to apportion food to the different members of the family. Let me try and do it. Child of God, your portion is the whole word of God.
Every promise in it is yours. Take it: feed on it. Christ is yours; God is yours; the Holy Spirit is yours; this world is yours, and worlds to come. Time is yours; eternity is yours; life is yours; death is yours; everlasting glory is yours. There is your portion. It is very sweet to give you your royal meat.
The Lord give you a good appetite. Feed on it; feed on it. Sinner, you who believe not in Jesus, none of this is yours. While you remain as you are the threatenings are yours.
If you refuse to believe in Jesus, neither this life nor the next is yours, nor time, nor eternity. You have nothing good. Oh, how dreadful is your portion now, for the wrath of God abideth on you. Oh, that you were wise, that your character might be changed, for until it is, we dare not flatter you, there is not a promise for you, nor a single approving sentence. You get your food to eat and your raiment to put on; but even that is given to you by the abounding longsuffering of God, and it may become a curse to you unless you repent.
I am sorry to bring you such a portion but I must be honest with you. That is all that I can give you.
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We have also to divide a portion to the mourners , and oh, how sweet a task that is, to say to those that mourn in Zion that the Lord will give them beauty for ashes. Fear not, neither be dismayed, for the Lord will help you. For his mourners there is mercy, but for the deceiver and the hypocrite there is judgment without mercy. Yes, and sometimes God enables his servants to give the word very remarkably to some men. I believe that if I were to tell a few of the things which have happened to me during the last one-and-twenty years they would not be believed, or if I were to tell you of passages of history which are known to me that have occurred in this Tabernacle to people who have come here, and to whom I have spoken the exact word, not knowing them for a moment, the facts would sound like fictions.
I will give you one instance. I said to him, when he conversed with me, come down and hear Mr. Spurgeon this morning. God knows how to guide his servants to utter the word most fitted to bless men.
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Some time ago a town missionary had in his district a man who never would suffer any Christian person to come into his house. The missionary was warned by many that he would get a broken head if he ventured on a visit. He therefore kept from the house, though it troubled his conscience to pass it by. Now, you are going to talk to me about the Bible.
Perhaps you do not know much about it yourself. I am going to ask you a question, and if you can answer me you shall come again. If you do not answer it, I will bundle you downstairs. You may come again. What an extraordinary thing it seems; yet, I can assure you that such extraordinary things are as commonplaces in my experience.
God does help his servants rightly to divide the word, that is to say, to allot a special portion to each special case, so that it comes as pat upon the man as if everything about him was known. Before I came to London, a man met me one Sunday, in a dreadful state of rage. He vowed he would horsewhip me for bullying him from the pulpit. What had I said, I asked. Shall he give you a good wife? You have had one: you have killed her by bad treatment: you have just got another, and you are likely to do the sane by her. Just as when Canaan was conquered, it was divided by lot among the tribes, so the preacher has to tell of Canaan, that happy land, and he has to tell of the land of darkness and of death-shade, and to let each man know where his last abode will be.
You do know it; you who come here do know it. Need I repeat a story that we have gone over and over a thousand times? Believer, there is your portion — in the blessed land. Sinner, except you repent, there is your portion — in the land of darkness and of weeping, and of wailing, and of gnashing of teeth. If you wish to have it for the year , send your subscription now. If you have any complaint against it, send your complaint Now. If you have removed, send a notice of your change of residence Now.
As I read it I thought, well, that is right: that is common sense. Not only is it a privilege, it is an absolute necessity. II Timothy Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. We study to show ourselves approved unto God, not man. We study to show ourselves approved unto God, as workmen who need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth. The Word of Truth is not the doctrine of men based on tradition. It is not the study of history, language, or chronology although this information may help us in our understanding of the Word of God.
I Timothy and 4: For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. The Word of Truth is perfect and pure. Psalms The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. Psalms [The Amplified Bible]: The words and promises of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in an earthen furnace, purified seven times over. It is like silver refined, and purified seven times.
In its original form it is perfect, without error or contradiction, for God is perfect. By rightly dividing the Word of Truth, we have an accurate knowledge of what God makes available and what He truly desires for our lives.