Jesus Christ Fount of Every Blessing
"Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights" (Jas. 1:17). And again, "No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven" (John 3:27). "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things in Christ." (Eph 1:3)
Since every good endowment and perfect gift is from above, Jesus leaves no room for nature to boast. This is no hyperbole but a plain expression of the Holy Spirit affirming that all our our abilities; moral, natural and otherwise are the merciful unconditional gift of our Lord Jesus Christ. These and many other passages use universal positives (All, Every) to describe the all-encompassing nature of Christ as the source of every excellence and spiritual blessing. The word "endowment" used in Jas 1:17 means talent, ability or quality which points to the fact that the grace and illumination we are given in Christ to apprehend His word are a necessary precursor to have the internal moral/spiritual quality that enable us to generate right thoughts about Christ. An unspiritual man cannot naturally generate the affections or faith necessary to appropriate salvation. No stream can rise above its source, so likewise, no good thought can rise to heaven unless its fountain source is in heaven. Redemptive thoughts are not derived from resources found below but must issue forth from the river of life whose fountainhead springs forth from the throne of God and of the Lamb. And it is from this same fountain that we must continually drink lest we dry up in the use our own natural resources.
We are strong because of His strength; We have good intentions only because He blesses us with a renewed heart that has His good intentions; We are wise only because of His wisdom; and we have faith because He is the author of faith (Heb 2:10, 12:2). It is when a person recognizes this Christ-centeredness, that is, when the Spirit illumines a man's mind to see this truth, it is then that we admire the Giver arightly. When we ascribe all excellencies and blessings to Him, even the very humility to believe, only then do we give all glory to Him. Consider that when the seed of the gospel is cast about by the preacher on every type of soil, we give glory to God arightly only when we acknowledge that even our good soil is only good because God first plowed up the fallow ground of our hardened heart. The soil is not good by nature (but unproductive) and it is because the farmer first plowed it up that the seed takes. Likewise, no fallen heart thinks good thoughts, or generates affection for God by nature but does so only because God has blessed Him in Christ by breaking up the natural hardness of the ground of our hearts.
If we are under the impression that the saving grace of God is conferred to us as the result of a prayer, remember that it is the grace given to us in Christ (to begin with) which stirs our souls to pray to God. Would you deny God the glory due to Him by thanking Him for all else, except your faith and thus keep this one glory for yourself? Isaiah 65:1 says, "I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, 'Here am I, here am I.' To the unspiritual man, the Scripture affirms that "THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS..." This is no hyperbole but the natural state of men without the grace of Christ.
Remember also that while God commands all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel, that a command does not imply natural ability apart from the Holy Spirit. The commands of God are given, not to show ability but to reveal inability and sin (Rom 3:19, 20). In other words, even the very command to believe the gospel brings us to despair of all hope from ourselves, and it is there when we come to recognize our spiritual impotence, we know the Spirit is finally doing a work of grace in our lives. The very beginning and desire for faith and affection for Christ, cannot be ascribed to the unspiritual nature, but rather, comes through regeneration (1 John 5:1; John 1:13; 3:3; 6:37, 39, 63-65) but those who say that this ability belongs to us by nature and not by the effectual grace conferred by Christ, that is, by the communication of Christ by the Holy Spirit who Himself amends our affections, disarms our hostility and turns our will from unbelief to faith and turns our love for darkness to a love for light...that person is resisting the doctrine of salvation by grace alone. We secretly wish to keep part of the glory for ourself. But faith is not produced by our unregenerated human nature (1 Cor 2:12, 14; Rom 9:16).
The grace of Christ, in other words, does not depend on the humility or obedience of man for it is because of the mercy of Christ that we are obedient and humble (1 Cor. 15:10). The natural man does not form right opinions or produce any right choices with regard to redemption nor can he positively respond to the preaching of the gospel simply through his natural powers without the Holy Spirit opening his blind eyes, unplugging his deaf ears and turning his natural heart of stone to a heart of flesh. For, as the Scripture itself affirms, we are not "competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God" (2 Cor. 3:5). Apart from Jesus Christ we can do nothing. The outward revelation of God to our nature is not apprehended spiritually by the natural mind, nor received by the fallen heart, for the revelation of God must be illumined by the Holy Spirit (Matt. 16:17; 1 Cor. 12:3; 1 Thess 4:5) who transforms our love of sin to a love of Christ. The natural mind may intellectually understand the words being said, but they do not enter his hostile and unfriendly heart. Only the love of Christ apprehended with a new heart and new eyes will, in fact receive Him. This means Christianity is not in the least about moral improvement but rather about a completely new life in Christ. The desire to improve on the old is part of the problem.
Only God can change us to believe and obey. Until we reach this kind of despair in ourselves, one has not yet fully understood the implications of the gospel. It is not about our willing, but of God's mercy that makes us willing (Rom 9:16). All redemptive blessings find their source in Christ (Eph 1:3). But Not recognizing Christ as the source of every blessing is the cause for many errors and inconsistencies among sincere Christians. For example, many dispensationalists deny that Christ died only for the elect (particular redemption) yet will acknowledge the truth of the doctrine of irresistible grace. They will reason that Christ's death does NOT in and of itself save without the instrument of faith and, furthermore, there is nothing in scripture that forces us to think that the expiation necessarily secures faith for all for whom it is intended.
In answer to this we must consider that the work of redemption is not limited to the one spiritual blessing of "reconciliation". It has manifold aspects. "Regeneration" is also a part of the saving work of Christ and to separate regeneration and effectual grace from Christ and His work is erroneous to say the least. In other words, these "four-pointers"appear to be promoting a Christ-less regeneration. All persons associated with this blog, including the author of this article, would agree that faith is necessary for justification. But considering the fact that the redemptive blessing of regeneration (not only justification) also finds its origin in Jesus Christ should prove once for all that faith is secured for all to whom it is intended (John 6:37, 39). For this would show that Christ died in a way for the elect that He did not for the non-elect, that is, to secure the spiritual blessings of irresistible grace and regeneration which all (including four-pointers) acknowledge are blessings not granted to the non-elect. Are not these redemptive blessings also from Christ?
Christ calls all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel but the elect alone are they whose eyes God opens. To deny this is to deny that salvation is by Christ alone. Either Christ secures all blessings for His people that they might believe, or we erroneously introduce something of nature into the work of redemption. Can we thank God even for our faith or is the one thing reserved for ourselves? Let us thank Christ for all things, even the new birth that gives rise to our hope in Christ:
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Pet 1:3)
-John W. Hendryx