Faith of
Our Fathers

G.H. Pember:
Privileges and
the Use Made
of Them

20 July 2023

Whether we are ready for
the Lord’s return or not will
depend not on grace alone,
but on how we make
use of that grace

Recently I have been reminded of a very good statement from G.H. Pember that I read a few years ago; it has always been very helpful to me, as an exhortation to become more serious in my following of the Lord. He states:

How fearful a mistake it is to confound privileges with the use made of them.
— Great Prophecies, Volume 1, page 381

His meaning is, we may feel we have been blessed by God because He has saved us by His grace, and that is surely true. Yet, we may never exercise ourselves to produce a profit for the Lord based upon the grace we have received, and for that, the Lord surely will hold us accountable (cf. Matt. 25:1-13, Luke 19:11-27).

When I looked up this statement in Mr. Pember’s writings, I saw that he makes it in relation to the Lord’s word to the church in Sardis (Rev. 3:1-6). This is one of the Lord’s seven epistles to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3, which of course is a remarkable, remarkable prophecy of the history of the church. (If you are not familiar with this I would encourage you to read Watchman Nee’s study of these seven epistles, entitled  The Orthodoxy of the Church.)

The church in Sardis prefigures the cold, dead, and almost lifeless church of the Reformation. The Lord had something positive to say to each of the previous four churches, even when they had become quite corrupt. To Sardis, however, He simply has nothing good to say, at least not about the church itself.

Pember states:

That she may realize her present lifeless condition, Sardis is exhorted to remember how she received the word which was sent to her; with what heartiness of joy, which is now gone; with what warmth of love, which has now grown cold; with what demonstration of the Spirit and power, which is no longer felt!…
She has received and heard, and, consequently, there is no excuse for her, as there was for the remnant in Thyatira.
— page 380; cf. Rev. 3:2-3

The Reformation, of course, stressed the side of God’s grace; that was a great recovery of the truth, especially as it regards justification by faith, and at that time it moved the world by the power of the Spirit. Ever since then, however, those who have followed in its way have neglected the other side of the truth, that of man’s responsibility. This includes our need to prepare ourselves for the Lord’s soon return, and thus the Lord warns this church, very specifically, regarding His return:

If you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.
— Revelation 3:3

So, Pember stresses how, unlike the overcoming saints, the unfaithful believers—who are not yet prepared to be with the Lord—will be left on earth at the Lord’s coming to pass through the Great Tribulation:

The faithless Church must share the fate of the world which she has loved, and That Day come upon her unawares. At an hour when she thinks not, unexpectedly, as a thief in the night, He will arrive in the air to beckon away all who are watching for Him; and as Enoch vanished from among his fellows, they will depart, or as Lot was hurried through the doomed streets of slumbering Sodom….[But the] foolish ones must be left for awhile among the wicked, to experience the full development and unrestrained nature of that lawlessness which they have not been sufficiently careful to avoid.
— Page 381

And soon after this he adds the comment quoted above,

How fearful a mistake it is to confound privileges with the use made of them.

Later he goes on:

It is possible for a Christian to suffer loss, and to be saved only as through fire (1 Cor. 3:15), instead of having an entrance richly supplied into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior (2 Pet. 1:11). And one way, at least, of suffering the loss and passing through the fire seems to be the being left upon the earth in the days when the Lawless One shall be unveiled [2 Thess. 2:8].
— Page 383

May we not be those believers who slumber, but rather, those who are watchful and preparing ourselves, and allowing the Lord’s grace to prepare us, for His return!

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— 20 July 2023 —