by A. W. Pink
“For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth
whom He will” (John 5:21). “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth
nothing” (John 6:63). All the Divine operations in the economy of salvation proceed from the Father, are through the Son, and are executed by the Spirit. Quickening is His initial work in the elect. It is that supernatural act by which He brings them out of the grave of
spiritual death on to resurrection ground. By it He imparts a principle of grace and habit
of holiness; it is the communication of the life of God to the soul. It is an act of creation
(2 Cor. 5:17). It is a Divine “workmanship” (Eph. 2:10). All of these terms denote an act
of Omnipotency. The origination of life is utterly impossible to the creature. He can receive
life; he can nourish life; he can use and exert it; but he cannot create life.
In this work the Spirit acts as sovereign. “The wind bloweth where it listeth (or “pleaseth”) . . . so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). This does not mean that He acts capriciously, or without reason and motive, but that He is above any obligation to the creature, and is quite uninfluenced by us in what He does. The Spirit might justly have left every one of us in the hardness of our hearts to perish forever. In quickening one and not another, in bringing a few from death unto life and leaving the mass still dead in trespasses and sins, the Spirit has mercy “on whom He will have mercy.” He is absolutely free to work in whom He pleases, for none of the fallen sons of Adam have the slightest claim upon Him.
The quickening of the spiritually dead into newness of life is therefore an act of amazing grace: it is an unsought and unmerited favour. The sinner, who is the chosen subject of this Divine operation and object of this inestimable blessing, is infinitely ill-deserving in himself, being thoroughly disposed to go on in wickedness till this change is wrought in him. He is rebellious, and will not hearken to the Divine command; he is obstinate and refuses to repent and embrace the Gospel. However terrified he may be with the fears of threatened doom, however earnest may be his desire to escape misery and be happy forever, no matter how many prayers he may make and things he may do, he has not the least inclination to repent and submit to God. His heart is defiant, full of enmity against God, and daily does he add iniquity unto iniquity. For the Spirit to give a new heart unto such as one is indeed an act of amazing and soveign grace.
This quickening by the Spirit is instantaneous: it is a Divine act, and not a process; it is wrought at once, and not gradually. In a moment of time the soul passes from death unto life. The soul which before was dead toward God, is now alive to Him. The soul which was completely under the domination of sin, is now set free; though the sinful nature itself is not removed nor rendered inoperative, yet the heart is no longer en rapport (in sympathy) with it. The Spirit of God finds the heart wholly corrupt and desperately wicked, but by a miracle of grace He changes its bent, and this by implanting within it the imperishable seed of holiness. There is no medium between a carnal and a spiritual state: the one is what we were by nature, the other is what we become by grace, by the instantaneous and invincible operation of the Almighty Spirit. This initial work of quickening is entirely unperceived by us, for it lies outside the realm and the range of human consciousness. Those who are dead possess no perception, and though the work of bringing them on to resurrection ground is indeed a great and powerful one, in the very nature of the case its subjects can know nothing whatever about it until after it has been accomplished. When Adam was created, he was conscious of nothing but that he now existed and was free to act: the Divine operation which was the cause of his existence was over and finished before he began to be conscious of anything. This initial operation of the Spirit by which the elect become new creatures can only be known by its effects and consequences. “The wind bloweth where it listeth,” that is first; then “thou hearest the sound thereof” (John 3:8): it is now made known, in a variety of ways, to the conscience and understanding.
Under this work of quickening we are entirely passive, by which is meant that there is no co-operation whatever between the will of the sinner and the act of the Holy Spirit. As we have said, this initial work of the Spirit is effected by free and sovereign grace, consisting of the infusion of a principle of spiritual life into the soul, by which all it faculties are supernaturally renovated. This being the case, the sinner must be entirely passive, like clay in the hands of a potter, for until Divine grace is exerted upon him he is utterly incapable of any spiritual acts, being dead in trespasses and sins. Lazarus cooperated not in his resurrection: he knew not that the Saviour had come to his sepulchre to deliver him from death. Such is the case with each of God’s elect when the Spirit commences to deal with them. They must first be quickened into newness of life before they can have the slightest desire or motion of the will toward spiritual things; hence, for them to contribute the smallest iota unto their quickening is utterly impossible. The life which the Spirit imparts when He quickens is uniform in all its favoured subjects.
“As seed virtually contains in it all that afterwards proceeds from it, the blade, stalk, ear, and full corn in the ear, so the first principle of grace implanted in the heart seminally contains all the grace which afterwards appears in all the fruits, effects, acts, and exercises of it” (John Gill). Each quickened person experiences the same radical change, by which the image of God is stamped upon the soul: “that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit” (John 3:6), never any thing less, and never any thing more. Each quickened person is made a new creature in Christ, and possesses all the constituent parts of “the new man.” Later, some may be more lively and vigorous at their birth, as God gives stronger faith unto one than to another; yet there is no difference in their original: all partake of the same life.
While there is great variety in our perception and understanding of the work of the Spirit within us, there is no difference in the initial work itself. While there is much difference in the carrying on of this work unto perfection in the growth of the “new creature”— some making speedy progress, others thriving slowly and bringing forth little fruit—yet the new creation itself is the same in all. Each alike enters the kingdom of God, becomes a vital member of Christ’s mystical body, is given a place in the living family of God. Later, one may appear more beautiful than another, by having the image of his heavenly Father more evidently imprinted upon him, yet not more truly so. There are degrees in sanctification, but none in vivification. There has never been but one kind of spiritual quickening in this world, being in its essential nature specifically the same in all.
Let it be pointed out in conclusion that the Spirit’s quickening is only the beginning of God’s work of grace in the soul. This does not wholly renew the heart at once: no indeed, the inner man needs to be “renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16). But from that small beginning, the work continues—God watering it “every moment” (Isa. 27:3)—and goes on to perfection; that is, till the heart is made perfectly clean and holy, which is not accomplished till death. God continues to work in His elect, “both to will and to do of His own good pleasure,” they being as completely dependent upon the Spirit’s influence for every right exercise of the will after, as for the first. “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).—A.W.P.
From Studies in the Scriptures by A. W. Pink,
Vol. XIII. June, 1934 No. 6