From A.W. Pink’s The Sovereignty of God, in the section on God’s sovereignty in salvation and the work of the Holy Spirit:
“The new birth is solely the work of God the Spirit and man has no part or lot in it. This from the very nature of the case. Birth altogether excludes the idea of any effort or work on the part of the one who is born. Personally we have no more to do with our spiritual birth than we had with our natural birth (something I’ve been saying for years). The new birth is a spiritual resurrection, a ‘passing from death unto life’ (John 5:24) and, clearly, resurrection is altogether outside of man’s province. No corpse can re-animate itself”
“Hence it is written, ‘It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing’ (John 6:63). But the Spirit does not ‘quicken’ everyone–why? The usual answer returned to this question is, Because everybody does not trust in Christ. It is supposed that the Holy Spirit quickens only those who believe. But this it to put the cart before the horse. Faith is not the cause of the new birth, but the consequence of it. This ought not to need arguing. Faith (in God) is an exotic, something that is not native to the human heart. If faith were a natural product of the human heart, the exercise of a principle common to human nature, it would never have been written, ‘all men have not faith’ (2 Thess. 3:2).”
“Faith is a spiritual grace, the fruit of the spiritual nature, and because the unregenerate are spiritually dead — ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ — then it follows that faith from them is impossible, for a dead man cannot believe anything. ‘So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God’ (Romans 8:8)– but they could if it were possible for the flesh to believe. Compare with the last-quoted scripture Hebrews 11:6 ‘But without faith it is impossible to please Him.’ Can God be ‘pleased’ or satisfied with any thing which does not have its origin in Himself?”
The answer to that last question is “no.” Those of us who believe in Christ, do so because the Holy Spirit has converted our hearts of stone and turned them to hearts of flesh, SO THAT we can and do believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. I know many will say, “yes, but I have faith and I’m not a Christian.” That is fine. You do have faith in a lot of things. When you drive over a bridge, you are exhibiting faith in the engineers and builders of that bridge as well as the inspection team that inspects it every year. You would be foolish not to drive over it if you didn’t have faith in their work.
But this is not “saving” faith. Saving faith is something all together different from normal, day to day faith. Saving faith is a work of God’s grace in us by the Holy Spirit. He works in us to help us see our sinfulness and need of a savior, then brings us to Christ alone for salvation, giving us the faith we need to believe and trust in the person and work of Jesus on our behalf. This is why men do not move mountains simply by telling the mountain to move. Remember what Jesus said, “for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”
The reason it is impossible for us, is because we don’t have the faith of a mustard seed. Allow me to say that again, we do not have the faith of a mustard seed. By nature, mankind is carnal. We operate on site, feelings, touch, smell, emotion… all the things of the flesh, but not by true and living faith. We need saving faith worked in us, and this is what the Holy Spirit does.
Some might ask: “Then why does Jesus tell us to believe if we do not have the capability to do so?” He tells us because this is what is required for salvation. Just because we have the responsibility to do something does not mean we have the capability to do it. Therefore, when faith if finally worked in us by the Holy Spirit, we respond in pure joy because we realize the depth of our own depravity on the one hand, and the richness of God’s amazing grace on the other. We see that God has redeemed us and that our salvation, every ounce of it, is a blessing from Him to us. In view of this, God gets all the glory alone for redeeming us.
Now, for some of you this may irritate the living day lights out of you. But it shouldn’t. In fact, if you are irritated by that, then you need to question your salvation. If the focus of your salvation is you and your glory, then I cannot give you any assurance of salvation whatsoever because your focus is you, and not God and His glory. The true believer doesn’t complain about the terms of salvation given to him by a loving God. We accept those terms and rejoice that Go, somehow, has been glorified through us.
This is a great point of humility, not pride. It is based in humility because the true believer understands without doubt his place in the grand scheme of things without God’s grace. Without God’s grace, we deserve hell. In fact, I contend that most people do not truly believe in hell and realize it’s reality until we have been saved. The natural man cannot accept this fact. It’s too horrendous to think about, especially in light of the fact that we all deserve the rewards of hell.
I remember when I was was rescued by God’s grace back in 1990, the reality of hell really hit home. I was overwhelmed with the reality of hell. Hell wasn’t just some mythical place that people talked about in order to encourage us to do good, but a true place created by God for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41). It was a real place and I deserved it completely and fully for my sin.
But what overwhelmed me even more than the reality of hell was the reality of Jesus. He was real. He truly lived. He really died on the cross on my behalf. He truly did love me and all those the Holy Spirit brings to Him by the Father’s decree of election. All those years of drifting between one useless philosophy of God and another, had come to an end. I was no longer asking the question: “Is there and God, and if so, which One?”
The Holy Spirit took care of that in one moment in November 1990. He confirmed to me the realities of God’s word, truth, love and His Son’s sacrifice and I believed and still believe every ounce of it. By His grace, the Spirit confirmed and applied the truth of the gospel to me and I was His. It wasn’t because I worked up faith in my own way, or that I was smarter, better looking, taller, had bigger feet than anyone in my family. It was by His eternal decree that He showed me grace and redeemed me.
If you have trusted in Him, the same is true for you. The only glory in our salvation goes to God and Him alone. This is why I believe in heaven, when we gather around His throne, we will cast our crowns at His feet. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit get all the glory. Those of us who are recipients of His grace, gladly let Him have it as well. Bless Him for sharing it with us, and giving us grace upon grace.