Surrender and Consecration: Life and Ministry

Faith and Life Many of B. B. Warfield’s Princeton sermons are wonderful and edifying pieces to read.  One that I appreciate is from Acts 22:10 (What shall I do, Lord?) called “Surrender and Consecration.”  Here are two paragraphs from it – the second one applies to ministers of the gospel.  These words make me think of the hymn “Take My Life.”

In this latter question (“What shall I do, Lord?”) there unite the two essential elements of all [true] religion, surrender and consecration—the passive and active aspects of that faith which on the human side is the fundamental element of religion, as grace is on God’s side, when dealing with sinful men. “What shall I do, Lord?” In that simple question, as it trembled on the lips of Paul lying prostrate in the presence of the heavenly glory, there pulsated all that abnegation of self, that casting of oneself wholly on Christ, that firm entrusting of oneself in all the future to Him and His guidance,—in a word, the whole of the “assensus” and “fiducia,” which (the “notitia” being presupposed) constitute saving faith. And saving faith wherever found is sure to take this position, perhaps not purely—for what faith of man is absolutely pure?—but in direct proportion to its purity, its governing power over the life. Surrender and consecration, we may take it then, are the twin key-notes of the Christian life: “What shall I do, Lord?” the one question which echoes through all the corridors of the Christian heart.

And as our life as ministers of the Gospel is nothing else but one side of our Christian life— the flower and fruit of our Christian life—surrender and consecration must be made also its notes. It is in direct proportion as they are made its key-notes that we may hope for success in our ministry; for only in this proportion are we Christ’s ministers and not servitors of our own selves. Let us, then, approach this holy calling in this spirit, the spirit of Paul before us and of every child of Christ through all the ages. Let us now as we enter these halls to begin or to re-begin our preparation for the great work before us, have no reservations—that we will serve the Lord in this sphere, but not in that; that we will serve Him to this extent, but not to that; that we will serve Him in this mode, but not in that. Let surrender and consecration be our watch-words. “What shall I do, Lord?”—let that question be the spirit of all our lives.

B. B. Warfield, Faith and Life (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1974),155-6.

shane lems

2 Replies to “Surrender and Consecration: Life and Ministry”

  1. I’ve had a great love for Lloyd-Jones from the day I discovered him 25 years ago. But some whom I respect and appreciate, such as DG Hart, don’t like Lloyd-Jones. I also love Warfield whom Lloyd-Jones himself loved. I identify with what Warfield said here (I think of 2 Tim 2:20-22 in relation to the second paragraph), but my experience has been that if you express this in solid ref’d settings, you’re made to feel that you are corrupting faith alone (like N Shepherd) or are focused on yourself instead of Christ. I think that those who take such a view are the ones who are at odds with historic ref’d piety and do not understand the reality of the twofold grace of God.

    On the other hand, there are supposedly ref’d people who are actually just loose evangelicals and have no heart for a piety of self-denial (which Calvin identified as the essence of the Christian life) or a reverent view of God.


    1. Dante – you’re right I think. Probably what happened is that the phrase “surrender” has been used in a less than helpful way in evangelical circles (e.g. “I surrender all” perhaps), which leads Reformed people to criticize it, which leads other Reformed people to stop using the term. But it’s a term we can use properly, as Warfield did. (By the way, I’ve noticed the same thing with other terms and concepts, such as “duty” – for one example.)

      Thanks for the note!


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