Arthur Pink, 1950
A giving God! What a concept. Alas, that our very familiarity therewith, should ever serve to dull our sense of wonderment at it. There is nothing in the least resembling such a thing, in the religions of heathendom. Very much to the contrary: their deities are thought of and portrayed as monsters of cruelty and greed, ever exacting painful sacrifices from their deluded devotees. But the God of Scripture is portrayed as the Father of mercies "who gives us richly all things to enjoy" (1 Timothy 6:17). It is true that He has His own rights the rights of His holiness and proprietorship. Nor does He rescind them, but enforces the same. It befits Him to do so, and right reason assents hereto. But what we would here contemplate is something which altogether transcends reason, and which had never entered our minds to conceive. The divine Claimer is at once the divine More fit. He required satisfaction unto 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, it was announced by the language of prophecy: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given" (Isa 9:6) given to be all that to us, which our fallen state called for. Accordingly, the angels announced to the shepherds at the time of His advent: "For unto you is born this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." That Gift was the supreme exemplification of the divine benignity. "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for 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?" (Rom 8:32). God did not withhold His choicest Treasure, the Darling of His bosom, but freely yielded Him up; and the love that spared not 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 Thomas Manton (1620-1677) 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 and chief of these is the Holy Spirit, who applies and communicates what the Lord Jesus obtained for His people. As God pardoned and justified His elect in Old Testament times on the ground of the atonement which His Son should make at the appointed time so on the same basis, He communicated to them the Spirit (see Numbers 11:25; Neh 9:20, etc.) otherwise none had 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". He then came as "the dew," rather than was "poured out" copiously. He then was restricted to Israel, rather than communicated to Gentiles also. The Spirit in His fullness, was God's ascension gift to Christ (Act 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 order that) in verse 14. Every blessing we receive, is through the merits and mediation of Christ.
3. The gift of LIFE. "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom 6:23). There is a double antithesis between those two things: first, the justice of God will render unto the wicked that which is due to them for their sins, but His mercy bestows upon His people that which they deserve not. Second, eternal death follows as a natural and inevitable consequence from what is in and done by its objects: not so eternal life, for that is bestowed without any consideration of something in or from its subjects, being communicated and sustained gratuitously. Eternal life is a free bounty, not only unmerited but unsolicited by us, for in every instance, God has reason to say, "I am found by those who sought me not" (Isa 65:1, and compare Rom 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 here and now, 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 their redemption. Yes, it is actually dispensed by Christ: "And I give unto them [not merely 'offer'] eternal life" (John 10:28, and see also 17:3).
4. The gift of SPIRITUAL UNDERSTANDING. "And we know that the Son of God is come, and has given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true" (1 John 5:20). That which is communicated to the saint when he is born again, is wholly spiritual and is exactly suited for the taking in of 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 shining in our hearts, enabling us to discern the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). Though we are not now admitted into a corporeal sight of Christ, yet He is made a living reality unto those who have been quickened into newness of life. By this divine renewing of the understanding, we are enabled to perceive the peerless excellency and perfect suitability of Christ unto our case. The knowledge we have of Him is seated in the understanding, and that fires the affections, sanctifies the will, and raises the mind into a fixation upon Him. Such a spiritual understanding is not obtained or attained by any efforts of ours, but a supernatural bestowment, a divine gift conferred upon the elect, which admits them into the access 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 savingly believe until life and faith are divinely communicated to us. Accordingly, we are informed, "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 quite superfluous to add that it is "not of yourselves." But because "faith" is our act, it was necessary in order that the excellency of it should not be arrogated by the creature, but ascribed unto God to point out that it 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" (Act 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 Peter 1:21).
6. The gift of REPENTANCE. While it be the bounden duty of every sinner to repent (Act 17:30) for ought he not to cease from and abhor his rebellion against God? yet so completely is he under the blinding power and dominion of sin, that a miracle of grace is necessary before he will do so. A broken and 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 evidences 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" (Jer 31:19). "All the pious workings of our hearts toward God, are the fruit and consequence of His grace in us" Matthew Henry (1662-1714). Compare "a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance to Israel" (Act 5:31); "then has God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life" (Act 11:18); "if God perhaps will give them repentance" (2 Timothy 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 Corinthians 1:4). Grace is used there in its widest sense, including all the benefits of Christ's merits and meditation, 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, etc. "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; and 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, devotion we render Him, or sacrifice we make is of His grace. Therefore must we confess: "For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you" (1 Chronicles 29:14).