Edwards: “We ought not to limit God where He has not limited himself!”

Expanding our Expectations of what God might do through His Church

Jonathan Edwards
Jonathan Edwards

There’s a somewhat tired caricature of the Reformed believer as an overly religious and narrow-minded fundamentalist.

Such a person supposedly takes solace in the Sovereignty of God in light of the failure of the message he proclaims. After all, it is supposed, not many are being converted because it’s ‘not the will of God’…so goes the caricature.

But actually, as we have seen already from the writing of Jonathan Edwards, an affectionate love for the doctrines of grace not only expands our view of the majesty of God (in His transcendence), but also includes real, passionate, personal experiences of God (in His immanence, His closeness).

And a Biblical view of the nature of  God both as the One who graciously forgives us and as the mighty Head of the Church, will enable us to believe Him for new and perhaps even greater seasons of blessing in the world, through the Church.

We can get nervous when we hear preachers telling us we could limit God, somehow restricting what He could or couldn’t do. That kind of talk grates on our understanding of God’s ultimate freeness and our ultimate dependance. Jonathan Edwards was not merely a theologian, He was directly involved in an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Northampton, Mass in the early 1700s and was a witness to what appeared to be a rapid acceleration of normal evangelistic processes. Here’s his view on these things:

The Church’s Past Experience not the Ultimate Guide

‘What the church has been used to, is not a rule by which we are to judge; because there may be new and extraordinary works of God, and he has heretofore evidently wrought in an extraordinary manner.

He has brought to pass new things, strange works; and has wrought in such a manner as to surprise both men and angels. And as God has done thus in times past, so we have no reason to think but that he will do so still.’ (Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God, from Edwards on Revival, Banner of Truth, p.89)

‘The Holy Spirit is sovereign in his operation; and we know that he uses a great variety; and we cannot tell how great a variety he may use, within the compass of the rules he himself has fixed.’

Don’t Limit God!
‘We ought not to limit God where he has not limited himself.’ (ibid p.89)
This reminds me of Martin Luther’s famous phrase, ‘Let God be God!’

Edwards is exhorting us not to settle and bring our expectations down to our past experience. Rather, we are to trust God for new initiatives and breakthroughs, and even new outpourings of the Spirit, in the mission.

May God continue to help you as you receive His grace in your own life and seek to serve others with life changing message of His mercy in Christ.
You can read a review of Edwards on Revival here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

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One thought on “Edwards: “We ought not to limit God where He has not limited himself!”

  1. Chris Ebden May 22, 2009 / 12:03 pm

    Thanks for this. I found it really encouraging. Often we can limit God in terms of our present experience.

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