THE PURPOSE OF GOD
IN THE HYMN “Not What These Hands Have Done,” by Horatius Bonar, are these lines:
“Not what these hands have done,
Can save this guilty soul;
Not what this toiling flesh has borne,
Can make my spirit whole.
“Not what I feel or do,
Can give me peace with God,
Not all my prayers or sighs, or tears,
Can ease my awful load.”
Then the chorus:
“Thy work alone, my Saviour,
Can ease the weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God,
Can give me peace within.”
Paul the apostle makes it so very clear that salvation is NOT by works on our part, but by grace on God’s part. By nature we cannot and will not perform righteous works. Fleshly, human nature only sins and every work falls short of the glory of God. Only the “new man,” the quickened spirit after the new birth, can perform good works, but that is by and with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, given by the grace of God. “The flesh profits nothing.” (John 6:63)
The old carnal, adamic fallen nature of man does not desire God. It will seek after a false god but not the holy, true and sovereign God of the Holy Scriptures. For that, one must be born again, which is the work of God on all His children, chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. “. . . He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” (Ephesians 1:4).
In chapter 2, verse 1, it says, writing to believers, “And you that He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.”
Paul further says, in 1 Corinthians 2:14,
“But the natural man receiveth NOT the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” It is said of God Himself, in Psalm 53:2-3, “God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”
That is the natural man. That is all men, unless they are given the new birth. Thus no natural act of sinful nature can move man toward God or be a righteous act pleasing to God. And we ALL have the same fallen nature by nature.
Yet some men do reach toward God; they obey God in and with faith; they love God, and in faith they walk in holiness with God. But it is because they are His children that He chose and later empowered them with life, love and righteous desires.
Note what happened to the man with the withered hand in Mark 3. The Lord commanded him to “Stretch forth thine hand.” Now a dead man cannot do that, cannot perform that work. A dead man will NOT obey. Same way with the impotent man in John 5 who had been unable to walk for 38 years. The Lord Jesus told him, “Rise up, take up thy bed and walk.” Any action that requires faith, be it natural or spiritual, is evidence that God has planted spiritual life in him, as He does in the new birth. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Hebrews 3:6. And “the just shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3:11.)
Those so gifted and chosen of God are loved by God like no others. Being empowered with LIFE, love and desire, they CAN act, perform deeds of obedience and works acceptable to God—not to get God to love them, or love them more, but because they have His life and love IN them. THEY are the very ones that God tells them to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12,13)
Now I want to give you some interesting points and more examples from Scripture. In Genesis 3, we see the first promise of God for the salvation of His people, for fallen man, due to the fall in Eden. The LORD God told the serpent (Satan), “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel.” This is God’s promise of the Messiah, Jesus, who later came to “save His people from their sins.”
But Jesus came to earth through a human chain that God had ordained and purposed. God was to send Him ONLY through the blood-line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which same blood-line also was David and Solomon. But before King David was Jesse his father. Before that was Obed, Jesse’s father, who came forth from Boaz and Ruth. God was controlling this all along. No wonder He can say that the WRATH of man will praise, Him and that part that would not redound ultimately to His glory “He will restrain.” (Psalm 76:10). Now here is something very interesting, David, coming from Boaz and Ruth, says, “Before I was afflicted I went astray.” (Psalm 119:67). We know from Scripture that AFFLICTION can be used of God both to prevent our straying, and as chastisement FOR our straying.
Now David’s “foremother” Ruth was the daughter-in-law of Naomi, who had moved with her husband Elimelech away from Israel into Moab, due to a famine. There he died, leaving his wife Naomi, a widow. One of her daughters-in-law was Ruth, a Moabite girl.
Naomi decided to return to her people in Israel, but she tried to persuade her two daughters-in-law to remain in Moab. They both loved her. But one, Ruth, loved her so much that she would not be convinced to stay but said to her mother-in-law: “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.” See the book of Ruth. This Moabitess was to become a “foremother” of the Lord Jesus, in the purpose of God.
But observe the sad attitude of Naomi when she returned to her people. “So they two [Naomi and Ruth] went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem [that is where Jesus was later to be born], that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?
“And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: Why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath AFFLICTED ME?”
We have no record of Naomi sinning against the Lord that she needed this chastisement, but she took her treatment as chastisement from the Lord. How could she know that the Lord was doing all this to get her back home, and that with her had come Ruth, who otherwise would have never come to Israel, met Boaz, and later married him, and from this very family the Lord Jesus would later be born in Bethlehem. How was Naomi to ever guess what the purpose of the Lord was in treating her “bitterly”? But God’s purpose was being worked out on earth just as He wanted. First Naomi had to go to Moab with her husband, have sons there who would marry Moabite girls, lose her husband and both sons in death, return back home, taking Ruth with her, due to Ruth’s insistence and deep love. Then Ruth worked in the fields of Boaz with other reapers. Boaz notices her and marries her. The Lord our controlling God was working ALL this out so that out of the linage of Boaz and Ruth, the God-Man Christ Jesus would be born, “God manifest in the flesh” on earth. Naomi never while on earth had any idea of the details of all this being the super-abundant purpose of God, even though she for such a time felt utterly forsaken.
I also want to point out: Where did this utterly deep love of Ruth come from for her mother-in law? Her sister Orpah loved her, too, but it was not near as deep. Would you not say that such FAITH, such LOVE must have been given to Ruth by our sovereign God, the kind of faith that wanted Naomi’s God to be HER God?! This, all along, was the WORK OF GOD.
I want to point out also, that that FAITH was an active, working faith. It caused Ruth to be loyal and committed. At every step she was obedient to her mother-in-law, and to God, even in going to the fields of Boaz to work. Thus Boaz, in the providence of God, became acquainted with her and another love story began.
Is it any wonder, then, that many, many years later the apostle James would say the following?
“Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. . . . Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye DOERS of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. . . .
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man SAY he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? . . . Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. . . . Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. . . . For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (See James 2.)
“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up. Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law; but if thou judge the law, thou are not a doer of the law, but a judge.” (See James 4.)
All this and so much more simply means the works and the bearing of the fruit of the Spirit does is not the cause of salvation or the new birth, but is the EVIDENCE and proof of it.
“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter unto the kingom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:20-21)
The bride of Christ is predestined to be conformed to His image. Evidences of this are normally seen along the way while on earth.
Of course, Jesus would want His own bride to reflect His love and holiness. Even while this bride is living on earth in a regenerated state, she does reflect the image of her heavenly husband, though imperfectly. Her holy heart’s desire is to be conformed to her Husband’s image and to ACT like Him. If such desires are lacking in the professing Christian, then the lack of fruit indicates lack of the new birth and salvation.
This is gospel truth.
“. . . For Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God
by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue
and people, and nation.” (Revelation. 5:9)
“The voice of my Beloved! Behold, He
cometh leaping upon the mountains,
skipping upon the hills.”
(song of Solomon 2:8)