3078. God-Guided Men

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No. 3078-54:61. A Sermon Delivered On Lord’s Day Evening, March 15, 1874, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

A Sermon Published On Thursday, February 6, 1908.

I did not confer with flesh and blood. {Ga 1:16}


For other sermons on this text:

   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 656, “Prevenient Grace” 647}

   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3078, “God-Guided Men” 3079}

   Exposition on Ga 1:11-2:21 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3202, “‘It Pleased God’” 3203 @@ "Exposition"}

   Exposition on Ga 1 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2594, “Offence of the Cross, The” 2595 @@ "Exposition"}


1. The conversion of Paul is one of the evidences of the truth of our holy religion. So far as this life was concerned, he had nothing to gain, but everything to lose by becoming a Christian. From being a great Rabbi he came to be the companion of poor fishermen who themselves were the followers of One who was poorer even than they. It is clear that he was no fanatic, and not at all likely to be carried away by any sudden impulse. He was clear-headed, thoughtful, logical, and his conversion must have been accomplished by some very extraordinary power; there must have been, for him at least, overwhelming evidence of the truth of what he believed, and of that form of faith to which he devoted his entire subsequent life.

2. In addition to supplying us with valuable evidence of the truth of Christianity, Paul has left to us a most remarkable example of its force in his own person. Never was there a man more fully possessed with the spirit of Christ than he was. He was no feeble saint with just enough grace to enable him to go limping into heaven, but he was a spiritual athlete, wrestling with the powers of darkness, running with endurance the race set before him, and “filled with all the fulness of God”; one who was indeed “strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” He threw himself, with all his natural zeal, into the cause of Christ, that natural zeal being so sanctified by the Spirit of God as to make him a mighty and valiant servant of the Lord. I pray that we also, beloved, may be what Paul was; I will not even accept his bonds. He did so when he said to King Agrippa, “I wish, that not only you, but also all who hear me today, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.” But we might be willing even to wear his bonds if we might only have such a character as his fully developed within us.

3. Paul — being converted through Christ appearing to him out of heaven, and speaking personally to him, being deeply repentant for the past, and believing fully in Jesus as his Lord and Saviour, — had no sooner been baptized than he struck out at once on an independent path for himself. He did not need to receive any commission from men, for he had received his commission directly from heaven, and, therefore, “immediately he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.”

4. In our text Paul says, “I did not confer with flesh and blood.” He did not even consult with good men concerning what he ought to do. Why should he? Why should he ask them to countersign his commission when he had Christ’s name at the bottom of it? He did not consult his relatives, for he knew very well what they would say. They would think him ten thousand fools in one to give up all his prospects of advancement to become the follower of what they thought to be the basest of all superstitions. He did not consult even with his own flesh and blood, with himself. As I have already reminded you, he had everything to lose and nothing to gain by becoming a Christian; but he willingly descended from being a student of Gamaliel, and a member of the Sanhedrin, to earn his living as a tent-maker, and to be a simple itinerant preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He descended from comparative ease and luxury to poverty and stern toil, — from safety and peace to bitter persecution, and at last to death by martyrdom; and while knowing that he could never be a gainer concerning temporal things, he nevertheless calmly and deliberately gave himself up to be the bondslave of that Christ who had spoken to him out of heaven, and called him into his service.

5. I want to show you, first, that faith needs no warrant for its action but the command of God; if it gets that, it need not consult with flesh and blood. I shall try to show you, in the second place, the range of application of this principle to ourselves practically; and then I shall show you, in the last place, that the principle is a grand one, and commends itself to our best judgment.

6. I. First, FAITH NEEDS NO WARRANT FOR ITS ACTION BUT THE COMMAND OF GOD.

7. Believers have no need to consult with flesh and blood. I may refer you, in illustration of this truth, to good men in all ages. There is Noah, for example. He is commanded by God to build an ark of gopher wood, — an ark large enough to hold himself and his family, and some of all beasts, and birds and creeping things that were on the face of the earth. Was it not an absurd idea to build so huge an ark on dry land? Yet Noah did not consult with any of the people who were then living; but we read, “So Noah did: according to all that God commanded him, so he did.”

8. Then, think of Abraham. He was commanded by God to leave his country, and his kindred, and his father’s house, and to go “to a land that God would show him”; and we read, “So Abraham departed as the Lord had spoken to him.” Further on in his life there was that very memorable occasion when God commanded him to offer up his son Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham did not consult with Sarah. He knew the mother’s feelings far too well to wish to lacerate them, and she might have said, “No, my husband, such a deed as that must not be done.” So he did not ask her, but he rose up early in the morning, saddled his donkey, prepared the wood, and set out on the three days’ journey to the place of which God had told him. He did not even consult Isaac, who was apparently to die; and when Isaac said to him, “Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” his father significantly replied, almost choking, I think, as he said it, — “My son, God will provide for himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” He did not consult with his own flesh and blood, otherwise the father in him would have been too strong for the believer; but since God had commanded him to offer his son as a sacrifice, he unsheathed the knife to slay his beloved Isaac, — a glorious example of what faith can dare to do without asking the advice or the approval of men.

9. Remember, too, how Moses obeyed the divine command to lead Israel out of the house of bondage. He certainly did not consult with his own flesh and blood, for the riches of Egypt were at his feet. Perhaps Pharaoh’s throne would have been occupied by him before long, had he not counted “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt,” and he gave up glittering prospects to go out into the wilderness with the despised people of God.

10. Remember David, too. He had those who wished to give him counsel, when he twice stood over his sleeping foe, the despot Saul. On the second occasion Abishai said to David, “Let me strike him, please, with the spear even to the earth at once, and I will not strike him the second time.” But David said to him, “Do not destroy him; for who can stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless?” He knew very well that it is not for good men to do bad actions, even though they think the best results might follow from them; so he did not consult with flesh and blood, and he would not let the son of Zeruiah, lead him into sin. Think, too, of Daniel. When the royal edict was signed that no one should ask a petition of anyone except King Darius for thirty days, did he confer with flesh and blood concerning what he should do under the circumstances? Did he consult with himself or with others concerning how he might satisfy his conscience, and yet at the same time save his life? Not he; he went into his house, where his windows were open towards Jerusalem, and there he prayed to God, three times a day, as he had done previously, although the lions’ den awaited him. And think, also, of those three brave young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. When Nebuchadnezzar told them that they must worship his golden image or be cast into the burning fiery furnace, they replied, “We are not careful to answer you in this matter.” Their only care was to do as God told them regardless of all consequences. They did not consult with flesh and blood, but obeyed the command of their God.

11. This has been faith’s rule all through the ages. It was the rule of the martyrs in the old days of the Roman persecution. They knew that they might be put to death in the Colosseum, — “butchered to make a Roman holiday,” — yet, knowing that, they dared to confess that they were Christians. This was the glory of our Protestant ancestors in the days of Queen Mary. They went joyfully to Smithfield {a} to be burned for the sake of Christ; and, as one of the pastors significantly said, “the young people went to see the others burn, and to learn the way when it should come to their turn.” They did learn the way, too, to stand there, not consulting with flesh and blood, but being ready to be burned to ashes rather than worship the beast, or receive his mark in their foreheads. This is still the spirit that animates true faith. God’s command is her sufficient warrant. She does not consult with flesh and blood.

12. I would have you also remember that, if we do ask for something over and above God’s plain command, we are virtually casting the command itself behind our backs. God tells you to do a certain thing, but you say that you must first consult your advisers and friends. Then has it come to this — that a mortal man is to tell you whether you are to obey God or not? That would be making man your god, and rejecting the living and true God. Suppose that, in such a consultation, you should be advised not to do the right thing, and that you should obey that advice, would you be relieved of your responsibility? Certainly not; it would still rest on you. To you comes the divine command, and it is for you to obey it, whether you are advised by others to do so or not. Even to ask for such advice is to trifle with the authority of God. To hesitate to do right because of self-interest is rebellion against God. Suppose you say, “That is plainly my duty, but it would involve me in loss,” — well, then, which shall it be, — will you suffer the loss or will you commit the sin? If you choose to commit the sin, you distinctly make your own gain to be your god, for whatever has the highest place in your soul is, after all, your god. What right have you to ask, “Will such a course pay me? Will it serve my purpose? What good will it do me?” Such questions contain the very essence of rebellion against the Most High. What if you are no gainer by obeying your God? He who tells you to do it is your Maker and Preserver; what if you should lose everything through obeying him? Would it not be better to lose the whole world than to lose your own soul, for what will you give in exchange for your soul? The very thought of weighing self-interest against the authority of God should be revolting to all right-minded men.

13. Further, to consult with flesh and blood is diametrically opposed to the character of Christ. Flesh and blood, in the person of Peter, rebuked him when he talked about suffering and being killed; but the Lord said to him, “Get behind me, Satan: you are an offence to me, for you do not savour the things that are of God, but those that are of men.” When Jesus said to his disciples, on one occasion, “Let us go into Judea again,” they said to him, “Master, the Jews recently sought to stone you; and do you go there again?” Yet bravely he did go where he felt that he had a commission to go. His life was one of self-denial and self-sacrifice; his rule was not, “Spare yourself,” but this was his rule, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” He knew that, without the sacrifice of himself, he could not glorify God; so, if you would be like him, you must not be making provision for the flesh, to gratify its ease and lusts; but you must be willing, like him, to suffer; like him, to be reproached; and even, like him, to die, if it must be so for the glory of God.

14. I have generally found that, when men do consult with flesh and blood, the consultation usually leads to the neglect of duty, and the forsaking of the Lord. Had Paul conferred with flesh and blood he would probably never have been an apostle. I pray that you, beloved, may have the grace to say, “My Master’s command is my only law. My Master tells me to do such and such; this is my excuse if men say that I play the fool by doing it, if they charge me with throwing prudence to the winds, and even if they thrust me into prison and lead me out to die. Sooner let the sun refuse to shine at the Almighty’s bidding, sooner let the earth refuse to revolve on her axis, or any longer to traverse her orbit, sooner let all nature revolt against the laws of its Maker, than a man of God, redeemed by the blood of Christ, should ever dare to refuse to obey him, let him command whatever he may.”

15. There I leave the grand and searching principle that faith needs no warrant for its action but the command of God.

16. II. Now, secondly I am going to show you THE RANGE OF ITS APPLICATION TO OURSELVES PRACTICALLY.

17. I judge that, first of all, it applies to all our known duties. I am not now speaking to unconverted people, I am speaking to you who profess to be converted. You say that you are saved, and that you do not trust in your own works. That is good. I have preached to you the scriptural doctrine of salvation by grace, but now I am going to give you a practical principle that is inseparably associated with that doctrine. It is this, — It is the duty of every Christian to forsake every known sin, whatever it may be; and, in doing so, he is not to consult with flesh and blood. Many professors say, “This course is wrong, judging by the scriptural standard; but then, society has long tolerated it; indeed, it has even decreed it to be right.” But will society judge you at the last great day? If you are cast into hell as a deceitful professor, will society fetch you out of the bottomless pit? If you are found at last outside the gates of heaven, will society repay you for your eternal loss? What do you have, oh man of God, to do with society? Christians are to come out from among the ungodly, to take up their cross daily, and follow Christ, to go outside the camp, bearing his reproach. The friend of the world is the enemy of Christ. What have you to do with doing as the world does?

18. The same principle applies to the duty of consecration to Christ. Every Christian should live for Christ alone. All that we are and have belongs to Christ. Even Paul wrote, “You are not your own, for you are bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” Well then, do not consult with flesh and blood to find out how far other Christians obey that command, for the pulse of the professing Christian is in a sickly state at this time, and Christianity is sadly adulterated. But what have I to do with what my fellow Christians do? If they are not what they should be, is that not rather a reason why I should be all the more consecrated to Christ? If I see others put into the scales of the sanctuary, and found wanting, is that a reason why I, too, should be found wanting? I charge you people of God who are present here, to try how near you can get to complete consecration to the Lord Jesus Christ. Never say, “I am as good as my minister.” You need to be much better than I am. Never say, “I am as good as such and such a Christian.” Oh sirs, if you compare yourselves among yourselves, you are not wise; the only model for Christians is Christ himself.

19. This principle of not consulting flesh and blood also applies to our service for Christ. We have known ministers whose “call” to a place always depended on the size of the salary. We have heard of others whose work for Christ depends on whether it is to be done in respectable society, and whether it is a tolerably light and easy task. If they find that it is Ragged School {b} work, or if they will have to labour among very poor people, and get no credit for it, they do not care for that kind of service; and if it involves a great deal of toil, they do not feel that they could manage it. The real difficulty is that it is not pleasing to flesh and blood. Oh soldiers of the cross, has it come to this, that you must have an easy place, or you will not fight for your King? Soldiers of the Queen do not wait to ask whether it will be hot or cold in the lands to which they are ordered to go; but away they go at the royal command. And so it must be with Christians; we must not be such feather-bed soldiers that we can only go where we shall be easy and comfortable. No, but in the name of him who bought us with his blood, let us ask, “Is this my proper sphere of service for Christ? Then I will occupy it, no matter what it may cost.”

20. Perhaps I am addressing some brother or sister here who says, “I feel that I am called to service for Christ, but I am going to consult my friends to see whether they are with me or not.” That will probably put an end to your service before it begins. Nothing good will be done by a man who will not attempt it until everyone thinks it is wise. If God has called you to any work for him, go at it at once with all your might; for if you stop to consult even good people, it is very likely that they do not have the faith that you have; or if they have, they will frankly tell you that they are not judges of your call. I cannot decide whether it is a call from God for you; you must yourself be the judge of that; and if you feel that God has called you to any work, go and do it.

21. “Oh, but Christian people throw cold water over my plans!” Yes, that is a common practice, but it ought not to stop you from doing the Lord’s work. Remember how David’s brother, Eliab, said to him, “I know your pride, and the naughtiness of your heart; for you are come down so that you might see the battle.” I have always admired the modesty of David’s reply, “What have I done now? Is there not a cause?” He had been sent down to the camp by his father, and he had a further justification, a little later, when he stood before Saul with the giant’s gory head in his hand. If God tells you to do any work for him, go and do it in his strength without consulting with flesh and blood. Many a noble purpose has been strangled by a committee, many a glorious project, that might have been the means of carrying the gospel to the utmost ends of the earth, has been crushed by timid counsellors, who said that it was not practical; whereas, had it been attempted, God would have partnered with the worker, and great would have been the result. So go, oh man of God, to the work he has called you to do, and do not consult with flesh and blood!

22. In the next place, this principle applies to all necessary sacrifices. There are sacrifices which we must make for Christ and his cause. For example, there are people, who, if they are converted to God, must make sacrifices in their business. There are here tonight one or two men who used to be tax collectors; but, when they became converted, they took the very first opportunity of getting out of that business, although it meant a considerable sacrifice. They have cheerfully borne the loss, and they are now sitting here with clear consciences as they could not have been if they had not done what they believed to be right. There are others here, who used to get a living by their Sunday trade, but they willingly gave it up for Christ’s sake when they became his. I do not think they have ever gotten back as much money as they gave up, but they have great peace of mind, and they feel perfect satisfaction at the loss, because they believe it to be right. Every Christian is bound to act like this, not considering for a moment the profit or loss of the matter. Since God is God, he is to be served at all costs.

23. Sometimes, however, the following of Christ involves the loss of more than money, — the loss of friendships. There are separations still made in the world because of devotion to Christ. Ungodly parents drive away from them their converted children. Close friendships have been snapped, and positions of influence and usefulness have had to be given up for Christ’s sake and the gospel’s. “What am I to do?” asks one who is threatened with grievous loss if he will not give up Christ. Be willing to let father, and mother, and husband or wife, and everything else go, rather than let him go on whom your eternal interest depends. Remember that he said, “If any man comes to me, and does not hate his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” Some people feel that, if they become followers of Christ, they will lose prestige and position; and that is more than they can endure. There have been some who, when they had joined this church, have henceforth had the cold shoulder in the aristocratic circles to which they belonged; and they have come to me, and said, “Our former friends no longer call on us, nor ask us to their houses.” And I have replied, “Thank God! Then you will be out of the way of the temptation to which you might be exposed from their idle chat.” They have said, eventually, that it was even so, and that it was good. But at first it was hard to bear. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, always do what is right; whatever may come of it, be out-and-out for Christ. Truly I say to you, there is no man who shall be a loser by Christ at the last. Great shall be his gain who, for Christ’s sake, can give up even all that he has.

24. I want you further to notice that this principle also applies to the confession of your faith, if you have been converted to Christ. Very often, some of those who really do believe in Jesus neglect to affirm their faith in the Lord’s appointed way. Nothing is more plainly taught in the New Testament than that it is the duty of every believer in Christ to be baptized. It is the duty of every Christian, having first given himself to Christ, afterwards to give himself to Christ’s Church, according to the will of God. Now, my dear friend, do your Master’s will, and do not consult with flesh and blood.

25. Do not consult with yourself about this matter, for if you do, self will say, “Why do you need to take that trouble? You will bring a great deal of unnecessary attention to yourself if you do. Perhaps you will not be able to hold out to the end; you may fall into sin, and bring disgrace on the name of Christ.” Self will reason in this way, but what have you to do with such reasoning? Is it not your bounden duty to do as your Master tells you? If soldiers, in the day of battle, are commanded to charge the enemy at the point of the bayonet, they must not stop to consider the danger of such a course, or to ask why their commander gave such an order; and so it must be with all the soldiers of King Jesus; and so surely it will be with every true Christian. Are you a Christian, and does your Lord tell you to confess your faith in him? Then come forward and say, “According to his will, I confess with my mouth, because I have believed in his name with my heart.” Possibly someone says, “If I were to do that, I should grieve my parents.” Do not needlessly grieve anyone; but if it is necessary for Christ’s sake, grieve everyone, and grieve yourself most that they should be grieved because you do what is right. Another says, “My position would become very uncomfortable if I were to be baptized.” Then find your comfort in the presence of Christ with you in uncomfortable circumstances. “But,” one says, “I do not see how I could be baptized at present.” Is it your duty? Then remember that the apostle says, “Immediately I did not confer with flesh and blood.” When I preached in the country, before I came to London, I used to have a hearer who professed to have been a Christian for many years. Whenever I spoke to him about joining the church, he always said, “He who believes shall not make haste,” to which I replied, “Well, if you come at once, you certainly will not have made haste.” Then I tried to explain to him that the haste referred to there was the haste of fear and cowardice, and I said that a much more appropriate text was this one, “I made haste, and did not delay to keep your commandments.”

26. “Well,” one says, “I do not wish to put off joining the church; at the same time, I cannot quite give up the world.” Then, do not join the church. We do not want in the church those whose hearts are still in the world, so injurious both to the world and to the church are those who try to join the two together. If you are Christ’s, you must give up the world; but why should you hesitate about doing that? What is there in the world but vanity and vexation of spirit! You will find Christ to be infinitely preferable to the world, for in him you will have — 


   “Solid joys and lasting treasure.”


27. III. I see that my time has gone, but I need not dwell on the last point, — that THIS PRINCIPLE COMMENDS ITSELF TO OUR BEST JUDGMENT.

28. It is the judgment we exercise on others. We do not like to see half-and-half people, do we? And if we see people who are willing to suffer for their principles, we respect and honour them. Well, then, let us so act that others may be able, in their innermost hearts, to respect and honour us.

29. This principle will commend itself to us when we come to die. I never heard of a Nonconformist father saying to his son, when he was dying, “My boy, you know that I was a Dissenter, and I lost my farm for that reason. I advise you to go to church, and get into the good books of the parson and the squire.” I never heard of a Christian man, when dying, saying to his wife, “My dear, the shutting up of our shop on the Sabbath has meant a great loss to us, and I have all the less to leave you; and I regret now that we were so unwise.” No, no; I never heard and never dreamed of hearing of anyone saying such a thing as that. I never heard a dying Christian saying, “I gave too much to the Lord’s cause; I worked too hard in Christ’s service; I really did not exercise sufficient prudence, and look out for myself as I ought to have done.” Oh, no! Their regrets always are all the other way; those who have denied themselves most always wish that they had done more, and given more, and been privileged even to suffer more for Christ’s sake.

30. And, finally, this will be our judgment at the last great day. We shall account that, to have followed Christ, and to have suffered loss for Christ, was the right thing; but for anyone to have gotten off cheaply through consulting with flesh and blood will then seem to us to have been the basest thing that was ever heard of, treason against the King of love, treachery against the Christ who died. Those who have been faithful to Christ on earth shall share his glory in heaven, and dwell with him there for ever and ever. So, if you do believe in him, come out boldly, and confess that you do.

31. If you do not love the Lord Jesus Christ, take heed lest he should come against you with his rod of iron, and utterly destroy you. May he, by his gracious Spirit, give to all of us faith in him, and loyalty to him, for his dear name’s sake! — Amen.


{a} Smithfield: The place where the fires that Queen Mary (1553-1558) ordered to be lit to put to death such Protestant leaders and men of influence as Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer and Hooper, but also hundreds of lesser men who refused to adopt the Catholic faith. See Explorer "http://www.britannia.com/history/narrefhist3.html"
{b} Ragged School: A free school for children of the poorest class. OED.

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