RESTING AND WRESTLING
By ROBERT GOVETT
[This writing is identified
as, TRACTS ON THE KINGDOM No. 14., and is found in "KINGDOM
STUDIES" - available through Schoettle
Publishing Co,. Inc.
In our days has arisen the important inquiry: How is a man to be sanctified? To this two answers have been given.
1. It is by faith. By the same principle whereby a man is justified. By faith the sinner is justified, by faith too he is sanctified. He is grafted into Christ. He is in Him as the branch is in the vine, and therefore partake of its fulness. And so it it written : To them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints: 1 Cor. 1: 2. Paul was sent to tell of the forgiveness of sins, and of inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith that is in me: Acts 26 18. Now this is true. But it has been held that there is to be no effort towards sanctification; so that a critic observed of this one-sided doctrine, that according to some, the way to holiness is - Relax your muscles!
2. The second
reply is: That sanctification is the result of effort directed
towards holiness, as an end in view. And
the advocates of this doctrine can appeal to Scriptures still more numerous. They can plead, that the Christians whole
life is a warfare, a fight for which God has provided
celestial armour: Eph. 6. That we have to wrestle against
invisible foes, as truly as
Now faith is not effort, but a sitting still, and receiving.
In short, we seem here to be led to the verge of a contradiction in so many words.
How is a man to be justified? (1) Not by works, but by faith, says Paul. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law: Rom. 3: 28. (2) Not by faith, but by works, says James. Ye see then, how that by works a man is justified and not by faith only: Jas. 2: 24.
Have we not then the same contradiction also in regard of sanctification?
How then are we to reconcile these things?
Both sentiments are Scriptural; both are true.
There is, however, no contradiction; because two objects are set before the Christian, and each of those rests on opposite grounds.
1. One of these is a GIFT to him that believes; a gift in opposition to his works and deservings. Not by works of righteousness which we did, but according to His mercy He saved us ... that being justified by His grace, we should be heirs (according to hope) of eternalΉ life: Tit. 3: 5, 7. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life, in Jesus Christ our Lord: Rom. 6: 2. Here then we have presented to us the first object - Eternal life. That, the Scriptures attest, is a free gift. It belongs to him who believes. To attempt to win that by effort, would be unbelief. To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is imputed unto righteousness: Rom. 4: 4, 5. What shall we do (said unbelievers to our Lord) that we might work the works of God? This is the work of God (said Jesus) that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent: John 6: 28, 29. By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast: Eph. 2: 8, 9. Hence already the believer possesses much: he has pardon, peace, eternal life, regeneration, the Spirits indwelling, sonship, and an inheritance in heaven.
2. But a second
object is set before him; a PRIZE, to be sought for by effort. Effort with an end in view is the very
difference between a gift and a prize. The
gift is ours at the moment we accept it.
The prize is not ours, but is to be sought for, as
obtainable in a future day. Towards this end effort is to be put forth. Care must be exercised, or we may lose the
object set before us. I press toward the mark (goal) for THE PRIZE of the high calling * of God in Christ Jesus : Phil. 3: 14. What is that? The attaining
of a place in the select resurrection of the just: verse
11. For this Paul sought, as the
racers in the games of
[* It should be - The prize of Gods calling above in Christ Jesus.]
This first resurrection is another name for the kingdom of the thousand years of bliss which is to be enjoyed by some, while others remain in their graves: Rev. 20: 4-6. The prize shall be awarded at last according to works. Behold I come quickly; and My reward is with Mw to give each according as his work shall be: Rev. 22: 12. For the Son of man shall come in His glory with His angels; and then He shall reward each according to his works: Matt. 16: 27.
Hence there is a perfect reconciliation between the two things. 1. The unbeliever, in order to be justified and sanctified, is called on to believe! He is fully justified at once, before he does a single good work. He is in Christ Jesus, and his sanctification by the Holy Spirit has begun in his regeneration, and his union with Christ. He is not to work, but to accept the work of another already accomplished, perfect, and accepted by God. He has eternal life: John 5: 24.
3. But the [regenerate] believer is then called, as a man alive in Christ, to put forth effort to attain a prize set before him. This may be won or lost. It depends on his conduct, and the award will be given by Christ to each individual at His appearing. Here then come in the calls to diligent service, zeal, carefulness. Occupy (trade) till I come. Cast ye the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. He that overcometh, and keepeth My works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations.
Now these two objects spring out of the natures of God and of man respectively.
1. God is love. To believers, His sons, He is full of grace, and His gift is worthy of Himself - eternal life! It is bestowed in its fulness at once on him who will accept it: John 3: 15, 16, 36. This perfection the Most High is manifesting now; for it is the throne of grace on which He sits. Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life: Rom. 5: 21.
The believer rests in safety and joy on the work of the Christ completely accepted by God. He has access with boldness to God. His are the unconditional promises attached to faith.
Now the characteristic of man which answers to the grace of God is his passiveness. He is dependent, weak, wicked; he cannot help himself in much that befalls him. He is capable, then, of receiving any amount of blessing out of the hand of God as the Benefactor. And the believer is one who rests upon the grace of God. He is at rest in the work of Christ. He is the possessor of eternal life, a member of Christ, chosen by God, assured of [eternal] salvation through the bounty of the Most High. Here is ample ground for our repose of soul.
2. But God is not mercy alone, He is JUST also. As in the present day He is manifesting His
grace; so in the day to come He is
determined to manifest His righteousness or justice. There is a second throne. The Lord hath
prepared His throne for judgment; and He shall judge the world in
9: 8; Acts 17: 3. This throne is shown in Rev. 4, and it is the moving force in that book.
At the word of that throne, thunders, lightenings,
and ministers of wrath go forth. Here
then come in these promises of the New Testament to believers, which are conditional,
and depend on their conduct. For the day that is coming is the day of
judgment or of justice. It
is a day in which God means to bring this attribute to bear upon every soul of man. It is the day
of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to
each according to his works:
Against this view, however, many rise up. (1) The judgment of God and Christ is for the ungodly and unregenerate only. For it is said of the believer : He shall not come into judgment: John 5: 24.
Nay! If God is to
manifest His righteous judgment, it must
take effect on all. Partial justice
is not manifestation of justice. The
text from John too is quoted amiss, for it is wrongly translated. The translators have put the future, where the
Holy Spirit has written the present. He that believeth
hath eternal life and doth not come into judgment. Christ will judge believers! He has said so again and again. All the churches shall know that I am He which searcheth the reins and the hearts: and I will
give unto each of you according to your works: Rev. 2: 22, 23. Henceforth there is
laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the Righteous
Judge shall give me in that day:
2 Tim. 4: 8;
Some take up a further position: If there be a judgment of saints, it is only for their good works. Their evil ones are atoned for by the blood of Christ.
The blood of Christ takes the sinner out of the place of enmity against God and consequent perdition. But the judgment of believers before Christ is a judgment not of enemies, but of servants, in order to assign them their place. And in order to this their conduct, whether good or evil, must come in: Matthew 24: 42; 25: 30. For we must all be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, that each may receive the things done by means of the body, according to the things that he hath done, whether good or bad: (Greek) 2 Cor. 5: 10. Of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done, and there is no respect of persons: Col. 3: 24, 25. Twice does the Holy Ghost set before us Israels history as the redeemed of the Lord: twice does He bring before us their provocations; and warn us, that as the Lord dealt with them so will He act towards like offenders of His new people : 1 Cor. 10.; Heb. 3., 4.; Rev. 2., 3., give us further proofs.
3. The characteristics of man which answer to justice in God are his activity and freedom. He is responsible to God, as one who is under commands, and as one who is able to do as he pleases. He is entrusted by God with powers, for which he is to give account. He is capable of seeing his own interests too, and of pursuing them. He is more or less fond of glory and advancement; and Christ calls on His servants to seek the true glory of the kingdom to come. He may be faithful or unfaithful to his master and his orders. He is set in a world where dangers many and sore menace him. He may in their presence be watchful or unwatchful. He may be diligent or he may be slothful. In the battle to which he is called he may refuse to appear, or he may be wounded, or come off victorious.
Here then are ample fields for effort. Here Gods exhortations come in to prudence, diligence, watchfulness, activity of all kinds.
Let us look then
at some of the passages which call for effort in order to attain the
But the passage to
which He appealed speaks of the day of justice. And in that the
righteousness of God must be manifested to all by His dealings with each,
whether believers or unbelievers. This is shown us in the parables of the
Talents and the Pounds: Luke 19.,
Matt. 25. The diligent servant is rewarded in proportion to his service, when the nobleman returns as the
king. Those who speak much of sanctification by faith speak also much of the
Christian consecration of himself, and
generally by a special act of it. Has
then Christ forgotten this matter, and left it to be supplied by His peoples
greater wisdom? By no means! Jesus calls
for an act of consecration and it is to come at once after faith. It is the immersion which He has
commanded: an entire surrender and burial of the old Adam, and a rising
up of the new man to walk with Christ in newness of life:
We are invited by
the Holy Spirit to contemplate Christ in two aspects: (1) as our LEADER
- in that resembling Moses. Moses was
sent of the Lord to lead Gods people to their rest and inheritance:
Deut. 12: 9, 10. Even so the Lord Jesus is Leader of the men of
the heavenly calling, summoning His [redeemed] people on to the
rest of God, in the land. In one sense
[*the hope of the Christians calling is that he/she might inherit the land in the age to come. That is, to attain an inheritance in the land with Christ during the millennium.]
(2) But Jesus is
to us HIGH PRIEST also: a greater than Aaron. By virtue of His perfection and His one
sacrifice we have rest in God. He has obtained eternal
redemption for us: Heb. 9: 12. Faith, looking at Christs past work,
is at rest. Faith, looking
at Christs future coming and work as the rewarder, is called to wrestle:
Heb. 4. Let us labour
therefore to enter into that rest lest any fall after the same
example of disobedience [as
The prize of our calling is a matter of hope, which is not to be devoid of all fear: 1 Pet. 1: 17; Heb. 4: 1; Luke 12: 5. The gift of our calling is ours already and none shall pluck us out of Gods hand. Hence the same epistle speaks of two full assurances. There is the full assurance of faith. That refers to our confidence and constant present welcome in drawing near to God in the Holiest through the perfect priesthood and past sacrifice of Christ: Heb. 10: 19-22. But the same apostle threatens with deep solemnity and awfulness those who were drawing back instead of advancing onward, even though he was assured of their being finally saved and of the present acceptance of their works before God: Heb. 6. Hence he urges them to diligence, in view of the reward. But we desire that each of you should show the same diligence [that some display] up to the close, with a view to the full assurance of hope:" Heb. 6: 11. Here he refers to the case of Abraham.
(1.) Abraham believed and was justified: Gen. 15: 6.
(2.) But after that God expected the obedience of faith, and Abraham showed it. The Most High demanded the sacrifice of his son, and Abraham obeyed. Then came Gods irrevocable oath to fulfil to him the promises He had made him. These were the two immutable transactions on which Abrahams future glory rests. First, the formal ratification of the covenant of justification upon faith (Gen. 15: 17, 18); and second, the oath over Isaac slain and risen, in a figure: Gen. 22.
The future prize is to be sought across many difficulties. Hence they to whom the kingdom is proclaimed are to be violent men, seeking to bear it away by force: Matt. 11: 12. Thus Paul sought it, refusing to be daunted by any perils in the course even though attaching to life itself: Phil. 3.
For our calling is to be soldiers of Christ, and our conflict is not against men as our enemies, but with mighty spirits of evil in heavenly places: Eph. 6. These never slumber, and hence we need ever the armour of Gods supply. The Christian has attained something, and about that he is at rest. The Christian is seeking something which he may win or lose, according to his conduct. Hence he is to wrestle. Looking unto Christ is good, and is taught us by the Holy Spirit: Heb. 12. But Look to yourselves, is also good, and is taught by the same [Holy] Spirit: 2 John 7. Look to yourselves that we lose not the things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Rest on the finished work of Christ is good. But let each prove his own work, is also commanded of the Holy Ghost: Gal. 6: 4.
For we must each give account of himself to Christ; and on Him depends, whether we be accounted worthy of the prize of our calling, or no: 2 Thess. 1: 5, 11; Luke 20: 35, 36. With the faithful and diligent ones Christ will be well pleased. To such there will be a great reward, as the result of effort.
But some will be disapproved, and cast out as unprofitable servants: Matt. 25. Some will be found unfaithful, as the steward, eating and drinking with the drunken, while he beats the man-servants and maidservants: Matt. 24.
Let us then accept both parts of Gods testimony. God is love towards His redeemed, and let us rest in Gods love. The Most High is also A consuming fire to those that fall [through wilful sin and disobedience] under His justice. Let us therefore hold fast grace both in order to present acceptable service, and also that we fail not of the eternal and unshaken kingdom: Heb. 12. Neither rest alone nor effort alone expresses the true position of the Christian. As it regards righteousness and eternal life he is at rest through the perfect work of Christ. As it regards the reward of the millennial glory he is to be working, for that depends upon his own works: Gals. 6: 4.
[1. The Greek word (aionios) in Titus 3:7, which is translated eternal, has a context which demands that it be understood as age-lasting ... That being justified by His grace, we should be heirs (according to the hope) of age-lasting life. We dont hope for what we already have received by grace; we hope for what we should have by being accounted worthy. The R.V. translates: That being justified by His grace, we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." That is. Life after resurrection or translation in the Age to come; and for all eternity in a new heaven and a new earth afterwards. It is the double inheritance of first-born sons of God.
As pointed out in previous writings, aionios can be used in the sense of age-lasting if the text so indicates. And here is a case in point.]