The Attributes of God

by Arthur W. Pink

The Gifts of God
 

A GIVING GOD! What a concept! To our regret, our familiarity with it often dulls our sense of wonderment at it. There is nothing that resembles such a concept in the religions of heathendom. Very much to the contrary; their deities are portrayed as monsters of cruelty and greed, always exacting painful sacrifices from deluded devotees. But the God of Scripture is portrayed as the Father of mercies, "who gives us richly all things to enjoy" (1 Tim. 6:17). It is true that: He has His own rights—the rights of His holiness and proprietorship. Nor does He rescind them, but rather enforces them. But what we would contemplate here is something which transcends reason and had never entered our minds to conceive. The Divine Claimer is at once the Divine Meeter. He required satisfaction of His broken Law, and Himself supplied it. His just claims are met by His own grace. He who asks for sacrifices from us—made the supreme sacrifice for us! God is both the Demander and the Donor, the Requirer and the Provider.

1. The gift of His Son. Of old the language of prophecy announced: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given" (Isaiah 9:6). Accordingly, the angels announced to the shepherds at the time of His advent: "Unto you is born this day . . . a Savior" (Luke 2:11). That gift was the supreme exemplification of the divine benignity. "God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins" (1 John 4:9-10). That was the guaranty of all other blessings. As the apostle argued from the greater to the less, assuring us that Christ is at once the pledge and channel of every other mercy: "He who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). God did not withhold His choicest treasure, the darling of His bosom, but freely yielded Him up; and the love which did not spare Him, will not begrudge anything that is for the good of His people.

2. The gift of His Spirit. The Son is God's all-inclusive gift. As Manton said, "Christ comes not to us empty handed: His person and His benefits are not divided. He came to purchase all manner of blessings for us." The greatest of these is the Holy Spirit, who applies and communicates what the Lord Jesus obtained for His people. God pardoned and justified His elect in Old Testament times on the ground of the atonement, which His Son would make at the appointed time. On the same basis He communicated to them the Spirit (Num. 9:25; Nehemiah 9:20), otherwise none would have been regenerated, fitted for communion with God, or enabled to bring forth spiritual fruit. But He then wrought more secretly, rather than "in demonstration and in power"; came as "the dew," rather than was "poured out" copiously; was restricted to Israel, rather than communicated to Gentiles also. The Spirit in His fullness was God's ascension gift to Christ (Acts 2:33) and Christ's coronation gift to His Church (John 16:7). The gift of the Spirit was purchased for His people by Christ (see Galatians 3:13-14 and note carefully the second "that" in verse 14). Every blessing we receive is through the merits and mediation of Christ.

3. The gift of eternal life. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23). There is a double antithesis between those two things. First, the justice of God will render unto the wicked what is due them for their sins; but His mercy bestows upon His people what they do not deserve. Second, eternal death follows as a natural and inevitable consequence from what is in and done by its objects. Not so eternal life, for it is bestowed without any consideration of something in or from its subjects. It is communicated and sustained gratuitously. Eternal life is a free bounty, not only unmerited but also unsolicited by us, for in every instance God has reason to say, "I am found by those who sought me not" (Isaiah 65:1; cf. Romans 3:11). The recipient is wholly passive. He does not act, but is acted upon when he is brought from death unto life. Eternal life—a spiritual life now, a life of glory hereafter—is sovereignly and freely bestowed by God. Yet it is also a blessing communicated by Him unto His elect because the Lord Jesus Christ paid the price of redemption. Yes, it is actually dispensed by Christ. "I give unto them [not merely "offer"] eternal life" (John 10:28; see also 17:3).

4. The gift of spiritual understanding. "And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true" (1 John 5:20). What is communicated to the saint when he is born again is wholly spiritual and exactly suited for taking in the Scriptural knowledge of Christ. It is not an entirely new faculty which is then imparted, but rather the renewing of the original one, fitting it for the apprehension of new objects. It consists of an internal illumination, a divine light that shines in our hearts, enabling us to discern the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). Though we are not now admitted into a corporeal sight of Christ, yet He is made a living reality to those who have been quickened into newness of life. By this divine renewing of the understanding we can now perceive the peerless excellency and perfect suitability of Christ. The knowledge we have of Him is seated in the understanding. That fires the affections, sanctifies the will, and raises the mind into being fixed upon Him. Such a spiritual understanding is not attained by any efforts of ours, but is a supernatural bestowment, a divine gift conferred upon the elect, which admits them into the secrets of the Most High.

5. The gift of faith. The salvation of God does not actually become ours until we believe in, rest upon, and receive Christ as a personal Savior. But as we cannot see without both sight and light, neither can we believe until life and faith are divinely communicated to us. Accordingly, "For by grace are you 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). Arminians would make the second clause of verse 8 a mere repetition of the first, and in less expressive and emphatic language. Since salvation is by grace, it is superfluous to add that it is "not of yourselves." But because "faith" is our act, it was necessary—so that the excellency of it should not be arrogated by the creature, but ascribed unto God—to point out that faith is not of ourselves. The very faith which receives a gratuitous salvation is not the unassisted act of man's own will. As God must give me breath before I can breathe, so faith before I believe. Compare also "faith which is by him" (Acts 3:16); "who believe, according to the working of his mighty power" (Eph. 1:19); "through the faith of the operation of God" (Col. 2:12); "who by him do believe in God" (1 Pet. 1:21).

6. The gift of repentance. While it is the bound duty of every sinner to repent (Acts 17:30)—for ought he not to cease from and abhor his rebellion against God?—yet he is so completely under the blinding power of sin that a miracle of grace is necessary before he will do so. A broken and a contrite spirit are of God's providing. It is the Holy Spirit who illuminates the understanding to perceive the heinousness of sin, the heart to loathe it, and the will to repudiate it. Faith and repentance are the first evidence of spiritual life. For when God quickens a sinner He convicts him of the evil of sin, causes him to hate it, moves him to sorrow over and turn from it. "After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand, I beat my breast. I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth." (Jer. 31:19). "A Prince and a Savior—to give repentance to Israel" (Acts 5:31); "Then has God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life" (Acts 11:18); "if God perhaps will give them repentance" (2 Tim. 2:25).

7. The gift of grace. "I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 1:4). Grace is used there in its widest sense, including all the benefits of Christ's merits and mediation, providential or spiritual, temporal or eternal. It includes regenerating, sanctifying, preserving grace, as well as every particular grace of the new nature—faith, hope, love. "But unto every one of us, is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ" (Eph. 4:7), that is, according as He is pleased to bestow, and not according to our ability or asking. Therefore we have no cause to be proud or boastful. Whatever grace we have to resist the devil, patiently bear affliction, or overcome the world—is from Him. Whatever obedience we perform, or devotion we render Him, or sacrifice we make—is of His grace. Therefore must we confess, "for all things come of you, and of your own have we given you" (1 Chron. 29:14).




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