“Then He said unto them: 'O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.' " Luke 24:25
Preached by Arthur W. Pink in Sydney, Australia—1927
Those words were spoken by Christ on the day of His resurrection: spoken not to worldlings but to Christians. That which occasioned them was this. The disciples to whom He was speaking were lopsided in their theology: they believed a certain part of God’s truth and they refused to believe another part of the truth that did not suit them; they believed some Scriptures but they did not believe all that the prophets had spoken, and the reason they did not was because they were unable to harmonize the two different parts of God’s truth. They were like some people today: when it comes to their theology; they walk by reason and by logic rather than by faith.
I suppose some of us have wondered how it was possible for these disciples, these followers of Christ, who had been privileged to be with Him during His public ministry and those who had been so intimate with Him, had been instructed by Him, had witnessed His wonderful miracles; how it was possible for such men to err so grievously and to act so foolishly. And yet we need not be surprised; the same thing is happening all around us today. Christendom tonight is full of men and women who believe portions of God’s truth, but who do not believe all that the prophets have spoken. In other words, my friends, Christendom tonight is full of men and women that the Son of God says are “fools” because of their slowness of heart to believe.
Now very likely, the sermon tonight will make some of my hearers angry: probably they are the ones who most need the rebuke of the text. When a servant of God wields the sword of the Spirit, if he does his work faithfully and effectively, then some of his hearers are bound to get cut and wounded: and, my friends, that is always God’s way. God always wounds before He heals. And I want to remind you at the outset that this text is no invention of mine. These are the words of One who never wounded unnecessarily, but they are also the words of the True and Faithful Witness who never hesitated to preach the whole truth of God, whether men would receive it or whether they would reject it. I know it is not a pleasant thing to be called a fool, especially if we have a high regard for ourselves and rate our own wisdom and orthodoxy very highly—it wounds our pride. But we need to be wounded, all of us. We need to be humbled; we need to be rebuked; we need to have that word from the lips of Christ which is as a two-edged sword.
Now notice, dear friends, that Christ did not upbraid these disciples because they did not understand, but because of their lack of faith. The trouble with them was they reasoned too much. Very likely they prided themselves on their logical minds and said, Well, surely we are not asked to believe impossibilities and absurdities: both of these cannot be true; one is true and the other cannot be. Either the Messiah of Israel is going to be a glorious and a triumphant Messiah, or else He is going to be a rejected and a humiliated one: they cannot both be true. That is why Christ said to them—not because of their failure to understand, but because of their lack of faith—“O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.”
I am afraid that today there are many who only believe what they can understand, and if there is something else that they cannot understand, they do not believe it. If they have devised to themselves a systematized theology (or more probably they have adopted someone else’s system of theology), and they hear a sermon (no matter how much Scripture there may be in it) which they cannot fit into their little system of theology, they won’t have it. They place a higher value on consistency than they do on fidelity. That is just what was the matter with these disciples: they could not see the consistency of the two things and therefore they were only prepared to believe the one.
The same thing, my friends, is true today with many preachers. There are multitudes of preachers in Australia tonight whose theology is narrower than the teaching of this Book. Then away to the winds with theology! —I mean human systems of theology which are narrower than Scripture. For example, there are men today who read God’s Word, and they see that the gospel is to be preached to every creature, and that God commands all who hear that gospel to believe in Christ; then they come across some texts on election, predestination:—“Many are called but few are chosen,” and they say, Well, I cannot harmonize this, I cannot see how it is possible to preach, unhampered, a gospel to every creature, and yet for election to be true. And because they cannot harmonize the two things, they neither believe the two nor will they preach both. They cannot harmonize election with a gospel that is to be preached to every creature, and so the Arminians preach the gospel but they leave out election.
Now there are some who have devised a very simple but a most unsatisfactory method of getting rid of the difficulty, and that is to deny its existence. There are Arminians who have presented the “free-will” of man in such a way as to virtually dethrone God, and I have no sympathy whatever with their system. On the other hand, there have been some Calvinists who have presented a kind of fatalism (I know not what else to term it) reducing man to nothing more than a block of wood, exonerating him of all blame and excusing him for his unbelief. But they are both equally wrong, and I scarcely know which is the more mischievous of the two. When the Calvinist says, All things happen according to the predestination of God. I heartily say Amen, and I am willing to be called a Calvinist; but if the Arminian says that when a man sins the sin is his own, and that if he continues sinning he will surely perish, and that if he perishes his blood is on his own head, then I believe the Arminian speaks according to God’s truth; though I am not willing to be called an Arminian. The trouble is when we tie ourselves down to a theological system.
Now listen a little more closely still. When the Calvinist says that faith is the gift of God and that no sinner ever does or can believe until God gives him that faith, I heartily say Amen; but when the Arminian says that the gospel commands all who hear it to believe, and that it is the duty of every sinner to believe, I also say Amen.
What? you say, You are going to stand up and preach faith-duty-duty-faith? I know that is jolting to some of you. Now bear with me patiently for a moment and I will try and not shock you too badly.
Whose is the gospel? It is God’s. Whose voice is it that is heard speaking in the gospel? It is God’s. To whom has God commanded the gospel to be preached? To every creature. What does the gospel say to every creature? It says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” It says, “Whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” It says, “The gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.”
God commands, not invites. God commands every man, woman and child that hears that gospel to believe it, for the gospel is true; therefore it is the duty of every man to believe what God has said. Let me give you the alternative. If it is not the duty of every sinner to believe the gospel, then it is his duty not to believe it—one or the other. Do you mean to tell me it is the duty of an unconverted sinner to reject the gospel? I am not talking now about his ability to believe it.
Now then there are many Arminian preachers who are afraid to preach sermons on certain texts of the Bible. They would be afraid to stand up and preach from John 6:44—“No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him.” They would be afraid to stand up and preach from Romans 9:18—“Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth.”
Yes, and it is also true that there are many Calvinist preachers who are equally afraid to preach from certain texts of the Scriptures lest their orthodoxy be challenged and lest they be called Freewillers. They are afraid to stand up and preach, for example, on the words of the Lord Jesus: —“How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” Or on such a verse as this: —“The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force;” or “Strive (agonize) to enter in at the Strait Gate.”
O may God remove from all of us the fear of man.
Some of you perhaps are thinking right now in your own minds, Well, Brother Pink, I do not see how you are consistent with yourself. My friends, that does not trouble me one iota, and it won’t cause one hair in my head to go gray if I am inconsistent with any Calvinistic creed: the only thing that concerns me is to be consistent with the Holy Spirit, and to teach as the Holy Spirit shall enable, the whole counsel of God; to leave out nothing, to withhold nothing, and to give a proportionate presentation of God’s truth. Do you know, I believe that most of the theological errors of the past have grown out of, not so much a denial of God’s truth, as a disproportionate emphasis of it.
Each truth needs to be presented separately that it may have its clear outline presented to the heart and to the mind. And after all, my friends, we are not saved by believing in the Spirit, we are saved by believing in Christ. We are not saved by believing in the work of the Spirit within us (no man was ever saved by believing that); we are saved by trusting in the work of Christ outside of us. O may God help us to maintain the balance of truth. There is something more in this Book, brethren and sisters, beside election, particular redemption and the new birth. They are there, and I would not say one word to weaken or to repudiate them, but that is not all that is in this Book. There is a human side. There is man’s responsibility. There is the sinner’s repentance. There is the sinner’s believing in Christ.
Now I meant, if time had allowed me, to come back again to the text and give you a few striking examples of where many have failed in holding the balance of God’s truth. Take for example the Unitarians. I have met numbers of Unitarians who believe this Book is God’s word, and believe that they can prove their creed from this Book. They appeal to such Scriptures as Deuteronomy 6:4—“The Lord our God is one Lord.” Their creed is the unity of God and they argue that if there be three divine persons there must be three Gods; they cannot harmonize them, they cannot reconcile three persons with one God; so what do they do? Well, they hold fast to the one and they let go the other. They say the two won’t mix—either God is one or else He is three; He cannot be both. When they come to the Person of Christ they emphasize such passages as—“He grew in wisdom.” Well, they say, if He was a divine person, how could He grow in wisdom? They emphasize such passages as “He prayed,” and they say it is an absurdity to think of God praying to God. They say, He died—how could God die? No, He cannot be divine: He is a good man; He is a holy man; He is a perfect man; and because they cannot reconcile the two classes of Scriptures they believe the one and reject the other. And Christ says to them, Ye are fools because ye are slow of heart to believe all.
Take the Universalists. I have met numbers of Universalists—several here in Sydney. I was going to say that I have less suspicion of the reality of their own salvation than I have of some of yours. At any rate they seem to give such evidence in their daily walk that they commune with Christ that it really makes one wonder where they are. Well now, the Universalists are staggered by the doctrine of eternal punishment. They say “God is love.” “The mercy of God endureth forever.” God is good: how can a merciful, loving God send any to eternal suffering? The Universalist say they cannot both be true: if there is such a thing as eternal punishment, then God can’t be love: if God is love, there cannot be such a thing as eternal punishment. You see what they are doing? They are reasoning: they are walking by logic: they have drawn up their own scheme and system of theology and that which they cannot fit exactly into that scheme, somewhere, well, away with it!
But the Unitarians and the Universalists and the Arminians are not the only ones who are guilty of that. I am sorry to say that it is equally true, in some respects, of many Calvinists. They are unsound when it comes to the gospel. They are all at sea when it comes to the matter of believing. I am not going to keep you very much longer, but listen closely now. There are many Calvinists who say, Believing is an evidence of our salvation, but it is not a condition or the cause of salvation. But, my friends, I make so bold as to say that those who so teach take issue with this Book. Now I want you to turn with me to four passages in the New Testament. I am not asking you to take my word for anything. You turn with me now to four passages in God’s own word. First of all Romans l:16-17—“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation.” The power of God unto salvation to whom? —“the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.” Now I have no hesitation whatever in saying to every grown-up person in this room tonight, if you had read that verse just now for the first time in your life, and had never read a page of either Calvinistic or Arminian literature; if you read that verse without any bias one way or the other, it would only mean one thing to you.
Now turn to Romans 13:11—“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep, for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” The salvation that is spoken of there is the salvation of the body, the glorification of the believer, the final consummation of our redemption: but what I want you to notice is where the Holy Spirit Himself puts the starting point. “Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” THAT is when it begins, so far as our actual experience is concerned.
Now turn to Hebrews 10:39, and you have one there that is plainer still—that is outside the realm of debate—that has no ambiguity about it: “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” You cannot get around that if you live to be a thousand years old. “Them that believe to the saving of the soul.” The sinner’s believing does have something to do with his salvation: God says so! If you deny it you are taking issue with God. “Believe to the saving of the soul.”
Now turn to Luke 7:50—“And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee.” He did not say thy faith is an evidence that you have been saved. “Thy faith hath saved thee.” Now in the light of those last two verses I make this assertion, that believing in Christ is the cause of the sinner’s salvation. But listen closely to this qualification. It is neither the meritorious cause nor is it the effectual cause!
You must put these three things together to get the complete thing.
The blood of Christ is the meritorious cause of salvation; the regenerating work of the Spirit is the effective cause of salvation; but the sinner’s own believing is the instrumental cause of his salvation.
The blood of Christ is the meritorious cause: without that all the believing in the world could not save a soul. The regenerating work of the Spirit is the effectual cause: without this, no sinner would come or will believe with the heart.
But the believing of the sinner in Christ is the instrumental cause—that which extends the empty hand to receive the gift that the gospel presents to him—and where there is no personal trust in Christ there is no salvation—
Now I want to make this very plain and I am going to weigh my words. If instead of you trusting in the sacrificial blood of Christ, you are trusting in something that you believe the Spirit has done in you, you are building your house upon the sand, which in time of testing will fall to the ground.
If you are building your hope for eternity on what you think or feel that the Spirit of God has done in you, instead of putting your trust in what Christ did for sinners, you are building your house on the sand. And that may apply to some church-members here tonight. O my friends, the gospel of God does not invite you to look inside and pin your faith to what you think the Holy Spirit has done in you; the gospel of God commands you to look outside of yourself, away from all your feelings and frames, to what the Lord Jesus Christ did on the cross for sinners as sinners.
I am very much afraid that there are some here tonight who entertain the notion that all they have to do is just to sit still and wait until God comes and saves you. My friends, I do not know of a single promise of God that He will do so. I do not know of a single line in this Book that encourages you to continue in your sinful inactivity. I am going to speak very plainly now. The devil will tell you there is no cause for you to be concerned: there is not a bit of need for you to worry: if your name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life you will be saved, whether you believe or no. That is the devil’s lie! It is not God’s truth. The devil will tell you that if you have been elected to salvation there is not a bit of need for you to be alarmed, disturbed or exercised; no need at all for you to seek and search after the Lord; that when God’s good time comes He is going to do it all for you: not a bit of good for you to read the Bible and cry out to Him: and if He has not elected you, well, there is no need for sure, for it’s useless.
I close with this quotation—2 Thessalonians 2:13
“God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through— Through what?“Sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.”
That is how God saves. That is how God carries out His purpose—
by the sanctification of the Spirit and by your belief of the truth.