Musings on Sovereignty 11

It would be foolish for us to expect that this work will meet with general approval. The trend of modern theology—if theology it can be called—is ever toward the deification of the creature rather than the glorification of the Creator, and the leaven of present-day Rationalism is rapidly permeating the whole of Christendom. The malevolent effects of Darwinianism are more far reaching than most are aware. Many of those among our religious leaders who are still regarded as orthodox would, we fear, be found to be very heterodox if they were weighed in the balances of the Sanctuary. Even those who are clear, intellectually, upon other truth, are rarely sound in doctrine. Few, very few, today, really believe in the complete ruin and total depravity of man. Those who speak of man’s “free will,” and insist upon his inherent power to either accept or reject the Savior, do but voice their ignorance of the real condition of Adam’s fallen children. And if there are few who believe that, so far as he is concerned, the condition of the sinner is entirely hopeless, there are fewer still who really believe in the absolute Sovereignty of God. (A.W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God)

Pink thought it was foolish for him to expect that his work would meet with general approval. While there were a few who thought his book was a great statement of an essential truth, it was not met with widespread approval. In his own day people told him that it was not balanced and that it was overly harsh, and in our day the same things are being said but even worse. When Banner of Truth published Pink’s work on sovereignty they cut out his chapter on reprobation and sections of other chapters as well. In other words, the harder teachings of sovereignty are not acceptable and do not meet with the approval of those who think of themselves as being Reformed.

Indeed the trend of modern “theology” is the exaltation of man at the expense of exalting the living God, which means that the heart of all theology is lost. Pink asserts that “few, very few, today, really believe in the complete and total depravity of man.” If that was indeed true in his time, then it is worse (perhaps far worse) in our own day. It is true that people give lip-service to the doctrine of depravity, but in a very practical and real way they deny it. They treat men, even unregenerate men, as if they had the power to do what they were supposed to and the power in themselves to come to Christ. This is simply false theology and is part of the exaltation of man at the expense of the sovereignty of God.

The total depravity of man teaches us that man cannot keep the commands of God in his own strength and that man is dead and cannot make himself alive. If man truly had the power in himself to keep the commands of God and to make himself alive in the spiritual realm, then indeed man would be sovereign and God would be relegated to efforts regarding moral persuasion. It is impossible to hold to God as really and truly sovereign and yet hold that men have power in themselves in the spiritual realm. All good gifts come from God and nothing good can come from the flesh and self of man. Jesus said that apart from Him we can do nothing, and whatever else nothing may or may not mean it should teach us that there is not one thing spiritual or good that a human being can do unless s/he receives it from Christ first.

The total depravity of man teaches us that all the religion in the world cannot give a person a better standing before God as all that the unregenerate man does is outside of Christ and as such is not acceptable to God. Not only is it the case that all the so-called good works of men are nothing but filthy and damnable in the sight of God, but all the good that a person does comes from Christ. Really and truly human beings have nothing to be proud of in themselves and nothing to be proud of for what they have done. Human beings are born dead in sin and are by nature children of wrath (Eph 2:1-3). As dead in sin they can do nothing but act in accordance with that deadness. Since they are by nature children of wrath they cannot change their nature and will always have that nature unless God by His grace changes that nature.

All of the religion of men, and that includes all that “Christianity” has to offer apart from the sovereign God, cannot change men’s nature and cannot produce any good in them. The unregenerate man cannot please God with his orthodox preaching because he is not doing it out of love for God and is not doing it with spiritual insight. The most religious people cannot please God by all of their devotion because their devotion is really to self and all of their acts are from their sinful flesh. Despite all the outward good and despite all of their external religion, they are worthy of nothing but the eternal wrath of God. The externals of Christianity are utterly worthless apart from teaching the sovereignty of God and the depravity of man. These are two truths that are something like the one coin with two sides.

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