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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « "I've Been Reading...": Quotable Quotes from Excellent Books, Issue 5- C. R. Biggs | Main | At the heart of Reformed Theology »

    "I've Been Reading...": Quotable Quotes from Excellent Books, Issue 6- C. R. Biggs

    Pastor (Bishop) J. C. Ryle on Realistic Expectations in the Ministry (from his commentary on Matthew, Banner of Truth Trust).

    During my studies this week, I ran across an excellent quotation from the great theologian and preacher J. C. Ryle (19th century). As one of my local DJs used to say: "This goes out to..." Well, this quotation particularly goes out to those who labor as ordained officers in Christ's Church.

    I send this particularly as a reminder and encouragement to you men who work hard shepherding and ruling in Christ's Church, those who serve Christ faithfully as elders, and still find yourself dealing with difficult people and their temperaments.

    This wisdom from Ryle is something I wished I had been taught very early in my ministry. I send it to you for encouragement.

    Hear Ryle (commenting on Matt 10:16-23):


    "Those who would do good to souls must be moderate in their expectations. They must not think that universal success will attend their labours; they must reckon on meeting with much opposition. . . .Let us bear this in mind continually. Whether we teach, preach, or visit from house to house - whether we write or give counsel, or whatever we do, let it be a settled principle with us not expect more than Scripture and experience warrant.

    Human nature is far more wicked and corrupt than we think: the power of evil is far greater than we suppose. It is vain to imagine that everybody will see what is good for them, and believe what we tell them; it is expecting what we shall not find, and will only end in disappointment. Happy is the labourer for Christ who knows these things at his first starting, and has not to learn them by bitter experience! [mia culpa] Here lies the secret cause why many have turned back, who once seemed full of zeal to do good. They began with extravagant expectations."

    No matter what trouble you are facing as elders, never forget the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:58:

    Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

    ESV 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13: We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.

    ESV 1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.


    ESV Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
    Do you believe it?!

    In Christ,

    Pastor Biggs

    Posted by Charles Biggs on June 22, 2007 06:24 PM

    Comments

    Ryle says that we should not endeavor things like church planting and ministry with expectations any “more than Scripture and experience warrant”. But what exactly does Scripture warrant? Does it not say that we serve a God that “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Eph. 3:20)? Has not God promised “immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (Eph. 1:19)?

    Granted, unwarranted idealism – such as “universal success” is precarious. But at the same time, in the Scripture, did not continually do things that were passed the bounds of human experience?

    Someone wrote me to ask if this quote from Ryle did not implicitly undermine the teaching that God can do above and beyond what we ask or imagine.

    My response: I think that the Apostle Paul meant what he said in Ephesians 3 about God doing above and beyond what we ask or imagine, and so we should have high expectations in God, his work in us, and the gospel- -but we should think realistically and with moderate expectations about the process by which God brings this about; it is my experience, that this process is very slow, and we can become discouraged and faint-hearted in the slow response to the Gospel of sinners saved by grace.

    For example, this same Apostle Paul who wrote that God will do above and beyond what we ask or imagine, is also he who wrote the second Epistle to the Corinthians where he described his ministry of faithfulness this way:

    Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? 30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness." 2 Corinthians 11:24-30.

    This was Paul's account of many people's response to the true Gospel!

    The same Apostle Paul who believed that God would do above and beyond what we could ask or imagine, still had to write to the Galatian Churches, calling them "foolish" because they were so quickly and easily turning from the truth of the gospel to a different, false gospel (Gal. 1:6-9; 3:1ff).

    So, in response to this excellent question, I DO believe God can do above and beyond what we ask or imaginge according to the power at work within us (Eph. 3:20-21), and I believe Bishop Ryle believed that as well, but we should heed Ryle's wisdom to have moderate expectations in the process of how God brings about these great things by His power.

    In Paul's experience, he was faithful, but people were not always quick to respond to his gospel message, nor were they quick to grow in Christ-likeness (Gal. 4:19)- -but they DID by God's grace (Phil. 1:6)-- and WILL by God's grace.

    As elders, we should still understand the wisdom Ryle is communicating to us so that we persevere (1 Cor. 15:58), and do not lose heart (2 Tim. 1:7; 4:6-8):

    Ryle says: Human nature is far more wicked and corrupt than we think: the power of evil is far greater than we suppose. It is vain to imagine that everybody will see what is good for them, and believe what we tell them; it is expecting what we shall not find, and will only end in disappointment.

    Happy is the labourer for Christ who knows these things at his first starting, and has not to learn them by bitter experience! Here lies the secret cause why many have turned back, who once seemed full of zeal to do good. They began with extravagant expectations."

    In Christ,

    Pastor Biggs

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