Friday, January 04, 2008

Practical Godliness Arthur W. Pink

“Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” -James 1:22

It is much, very much to be thankful for when the Holy Spirit has illumined a man’s understanding, dispersed the mists of error, and established him in the Truth. Yet that is only the beginning. The Holy Scriptures are “profitable” not only for “doctrine” but also for “reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). Observe well the order there: before we are ready to be instructed “in righteousness” (right doing), there is much in our lives that God “reproves” and which we must “correct.” Necessarily so, for before conversion everything in our lives was wrong! For all we did was for the gratifying of self, with no thought or concern for God’s honour and glory. Therefore, the first great need, and the primary duty of every young convert is not to study the Old Testament types, or puzzle his brains over prophecy, but to diligently search the Scriptures in order to find out what is pleasing and displeasing to God, what He forbids and what He commands.

The Fruit of Genuine Repentance
If you have been genuinely converted, then your first concern must be to form all the details of your life-in the home, in the church, in the world-so as to please God. And in the actual bringing of this to pass, the order will be “cease to do evil; learn to do well” (Isaiah 1:16-17); “Depart from evil, and do good” (Psalm 34:14 and cf. 37:27). There has to be a breaking down before there can be a building up (Eccl 3:3). There has to be an emptying of self before there is the filling of the Spirit. There has to be an unlearning before there is a true learning. And there has to be a hating of “evil” before there is a loving of the “good” (Amos 5:15 and cf. Rom. 12:9).

Now to the extent the young Christian does use the Holy Scriptures in a practical way, regulating his thoughts, desires and actions by their warnings and encouragements, their prohibitions and precepts, will very largely determine the measure in which he will enjoy God’s blessing on his life. As the moral Governor of the world God takes note of our conduct, and sooner or later manifests His displeasure against our sins, and His approval of a righteous walk, by granting that measure of prosperity which is most for our good and His glory. In the keeping of His commandments “there is great reward” (Psalm 19:11) in this life (1 Tim. 4:8). O how much temporal and spiritual blessing most Christians miss through careless and disobedient conduct: see Isaiah 48:18!

The Doctrine Which is According to Godliness
The tragic thing is that instead of the average young Christian studying diligently God’s Word so as to discover all the details of the divine will for him, he does almost anything and everything else. Many a one engages in “personal work” or some form of Christian “service” while his own life remains full of things displeasing to God! The presence of those displeasing things in his life hinders God’s blessings upon his soul, body, and temporal affairs; and to him it has to be said: “Your sins have withholden good things from you” (Jer 5:25). God’s Word to His people is: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). But O how little of this “fear and trembling” is to be found anywhere today! Instead, there is self-esteem, self-confidence, boasting and carnal security.

There are others who give themselves unto the diligent study of doctrine, but, generally, they fail to realize that the doctrine of Scripture is not a series of intellectual propositions, but is the “doctrine which is according to godliness” (1 Tim. 6:3). The “doctrine” or “teaching” of God’s Holy Word is given not for the instruction of our brains, but for the regulation of all the details of our daily lives; and this in order that we may “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things” (Titus 2:10). But that can only be realized by a constant reading of the Word with one dominant purpose-to discover what God forbids and what he commands; by our meditating frequently on what we have read, and by fervent prayer for supernatural grace to enable us to obey. If the young convert does not early form the habit of treading the path of practical obedience to God, then he will not have His ear when he prays! John states plainly one of the main conditions which we must constantly seek grace to heed, if our petitions are to meet with acceptance: “and whatsoever we ask we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22). But if instead of submitting unto God’s holy requirements, we follow our own inclinations, then it will be said, “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). This is unspeakably solemn. O what a difference it makes whether or not we have experimental access to God!

The Emptiness of Self-Pleasing
Not only does the young Christian, by following a course of self-pleasing, reduce his prayers to empty words, but he brings down upon himself the rod of God, and everything goes wrong in his life. That is one reason why many Christians are suffering just as sorely as the poor worldlings are: God is displeased with their ways, and does not show Himself strong on their behalf (2 Chron 16:9). In this connection we have sought to point out in the past the remedy, which calls for real heart-humbling before the Lord, godly sorrow, true repentance, unsparing confession, the firm determination to reform our ways; and then (and not before) faith’s counting on God’s mercy and a patient expectation that He will work wonders for us if we now tread the path of full submission to Him.


Terry Rayburn said...

The church owes much to Pink for his The Sovereignty of God, which has been used by God to instruct many in the Doctrines of Grace regarding initial salvation.

But like so many Covenant Theologians, after magnifying the pure grace of God for initial salvation, he falls back into the performance-based model of the Christian life after salvation.

Tainted by Old Covenant thinking, he saw the Christian life as one of "blessings and cursings" based on the keeping or non-keeping of commandments.

This legalism is illustrated in the above post by the following:

"the first great need, and the primary duty of every young convert...[is] to diligently search the Scriptures in order to find out what is pleasing and displeasing to God, what He forbids and what He commands."

This reduction of the Christian life to the rules and regulations of the Bible is one of the biggest pieces of wool ever pulled over the eyes of the church. Why? Because it sounds so good. And logical.

But the truth is that the "first great need, and the primary duty" of the new convert is to draw near to the Lord, to be filled with His Spirit, and to walk by the Spirit, thereby manifesting the very Life of Christ.

This new convert needs to be taught the basics of the New Covenant, in which he, too, was crucified with Christ, and now has Christ living through him.

He needs to understand walking by faith, not by sight.

He needs to understand that when Jesus said, "It is finished," that He meant it, and there is no longer any barrier between himself and God.

He needs to understand that God loves and accepts him in Christ, so that when he is deceived by the world, the flesh and the devil, and falls into sin, he doesn't have to hide himself from the Father, but can run to Him like the prodigal son. And the Father will run to him with a robe, and ring, and calf dinner.

He needs to first understand grace -- grace for initial salvation, and grace after salvation.

Only then can he consistently rejoice in the precepts of the Lord, joyfully walking in His ways, not grudgingly striving to avoid guilt or gain God's blessings.


donsands said...

There is such a fine line there isn't there. And an everlasting struggle.
Jesus said love me. Jesus said obey me. If we obey Him, then it shows we love Him, and if we love Him we will obey Him. When we're disobedient, our Father disciplines, and when we obey in faith it brings him glory and pleases Him.
Paul said, He is what he is by the grace of God, and that he worked harder than all the other Aposltes. "God is active, and we are active, God is passive and we are passive". Edwards quote.

We love Him for He first loved us.
Enjoyed reading your thoughts.

SJ Camp said...

Great thoughts here gentlemen--thank you!

The good news is we are saved by grace (Eph. 2:8-9); we are sanctified by grace (Rom. 5:2; Titus 2:11-12); we are to be strong in the grace that is found in Christ Jesus our Lord (2 Tim. 2:1); for apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5).

Grace elects our salvation; grace equips us in sanctification; grace engages us in our service for Him; and grace brings about glorification.

What a grace upon grace filled life we live... by grace!
2 Cor. 12:12

PS - I just added the 1644 London Baptist Confession of Faith and the Creeds of Christendom under Creeds, Confessions and Devotionals - check it out!

DOGpreacher said...

Thanks for the article Steve!

Pink's commentary on the "Gospel of John" is unparalleled, as well as his "Exposition of Hebrews", and his "Gleanings Series".

Having stated the obvious (at least to those of us who have ACTUALLY read extensive volumes by the man),....Your (Terry Rayburn) labeling Pink as a legalist is a display of ignorance.

Mr. Rayburn, is it not still true that "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." (Ecc.12:13)?

It would also appear that you would include the Apostle John in the same legalist category as Mr. Pink, for his writings in 1 John. The whole essence of 1 John is that our love for God is evidenced by our keeping His commandments.

What BOTH the Apostle John & Mr. Pink understood was...."But the one who keeps His word, in him truly is the love of God perfected; HEREBY (emphasis mine) know we that we are in Him"(1 John 2:5).

YOU said:"The legalism is illustrated in the above post by the following:"

THEN you showed the excerpt of Pink...which is actually wonderful...because it is biblical!

YOU then give your version of the new converts "first great need, and primary duty", which is also very good, but DOES NOT occur without (as Pink stated) FIRST "diligently searching the scriptures..."

Dear Mr. Rayburn, there is no "legalism" in this quote by Mr. Pink...just sound advice from the writers of the Bible as inspired by God.

You are not the first to misunderstand Mr. Pink. A renowned writer (Ian H. Murray) wrote a SECOND biography of the life of A.W. Pink, apologizing for the disservice he did to him in the first!!

grateful for grace,
The Dogpreacher

Christian buzz said...

A.W. Pink is such a blessing.

in Him,
Devin Murphy

for a new, relevant, uncheesy Christian community based around group forums for topics, or churches, and church small groups, check out

ScriptureZealot said...

John 14:21 NRSV "They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them."


gigantor1231 said...

Dogpreacher and all that Disagree with Terry

'Your (Terry Rayburn) labeling Pink as a legalist is a display of ignorance.'

Perhaps you should extend some grace to Terry, just like God has extended you grace in order that you might be able to obey his law! It is only by his grace that we are able to fulfill anything that He has told us that we need to fulfill, it is only by grace that we are saved. You still have nothing to boast of in yourself, even after you have been saved, it is all of Him, it is all of grace!!!
I agree with Terry in that Pink in his presentation is stiff and un-flexible. The following statement seems to set the direction for the rest of what Mr. Pink says;

'There has to be an emptying of self before there is the filling of the Spirit.'

We were dead in our trespasses and sins, completely dead, and then by His by his grace, faith came through that Gospel, Christ's atoning sacrifice, and we were made alive by His spirit, filled with His spirit. It was not of works or performance, lest any man should boast and you still have no boasting even after being saved for your entire Christian life! Your love for Him and your obedience to Him is not of yourself but it is all of His doing! We do not follow Him out of legal mandate, we do not obey him as though we are under the rod but we obey Him out of pure love, a love that springs from what a great thing He has done for us, He has done it ALL, it is truly amazing grace!
Does any of this discount what Mr. Pink says, no! Those things still need to be filled, the flesh needs to be killed on a daily basis, and He gives us the power to do it! It is all of grace and none of legal mandate, lest grace be nullified. If you do not rely on His grace entirely and totally as a Christian then you will inevitably develop a err of self righteousness, but are we not all a people of Grace, there is nothing in ourselves that can merit our salvation and there is nothing in our selves that can earn His pleasure in us, it is all of Him!

ct said...

What Pink is saying is a Christian, a born again (regenerated by the Word and Spirit) Christian gets his ability to act from God's will rather than from self-will from God Himself via God's free grace, but that that doesn't manifest at the practical level in a void of ignorance. God's revelation - His revealed Word - is always the wild card in these discussions regarding God's will in us vs. pre-regeneration and even post-regeneration will.

And methinks Pink has earned the right to not be mistaken as a synergistic type, right?, so what he is talking about is what occurs on the already eternally-set foundation of justification, which justification is all of God and Jesus Christ's passive and active obedience appropriated, by the will of God, by faith alone.

The ability of a man to 'do' changes once regenerated and justified. The apostle Paul himself speaks of levels of reward in the afterlife.

littlegal_66 said...

“Your sins have withholden good things from you” (Jer 5:25).

"If you have been genuinely converted, then your first concern must be to form all the details of your life-in the home, in the church, in the world-so as to please God."

Very good for me. Really. Thank you for posting Pink's timely scriptural reminder(s).

Terry Rayburn said...


If you join Pink in thinking that the FIRST great need of the new convert is to search the Scriptures to find out what God "forbids ad what He commands", then I can only say that you have fallen for Performance-based Christianity.

The FIRST great need of the new convert is to search the Scriptures for Christ Himself in order to develop a close fellowship with Him, be being filled with His Spirit, and walk in His Spirit. All this in the context of drinking in the understanding of the radical nature of Grace, and the meaning of Romans 6:14 which says that we are not under Law, but Grace.

A Performance-based Christian can't understand Romans 6:14.

This is the New Covenant, wherein God unilaterally gives us a new heart, places His laws in our hearts and mind, and "causes" us to walk in His ways.

With this new heart, the true convert WILL indeed desire to know the heart and will of the Lord, and the Lord will indeed work in him both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

But if the new convert is taught that Performance is #1, then the blind continue to lead the blind, and he will stay off of the ground of Grace, and on the ground of Law, and the Holy Spirit will be quenched.