Archive for April 2014

God Does Not Want to Save All the Sinners God Commands To Believe the Gospel

April 26, 2014

What follows below is analysis and critique of the “free offer” theology by William Young according to the OPC Minority Report

In some Calvinistic circles there is an identification of the free offer of the gospel with an alleged desire that all who are called externally should be saved. Those who fail to find Scripture warrant for such a claim are sometimes regarded as denying the gospel offer and even the gospel itself. It should be pointed out that there are ambiguities in the claim itself. Some who are well-instructed Calvinists may use the word “desire” to mean nothing other than the revealed will of God in the commands, promises and invitations of the gospel. Others appear literally to suppose a frustrated desire as an emotion in God in tension with the decree to save the elect. This article seeks to show that the second of these understandings is unwarranted in the teaching of Scripture and contrary to the understanding of the revealed Word in the Westminster Confession.

The word “offer” is not used in Scripture in connection with the gospel call, while it does so appear in the Westminster Standards (Westminster Confession of Faith 7:3; Larger Catechism 32, 67f.; Shorter Catechism 31, 86). The term, when used by those who subscribe to these standards, must be used in the Scriptural sense intended by the Westminster divines and not as implying ability in unrenewed free-will to comply with the offer. In view of the widespread prevalence of Arminian and Amyraldian views of universal grace and redemption, some Calvinists may prefer not to use the term, while heartily holding to its sense as it has been used by sound Presbyterian and Puritan divines. Such ought not to be scornfully called Hyper-Calvinists.

What then may be said to be the Biblical teaching that the subordinate standards designate as the free offer? Passages setting forth the gracious invitations of the gospel as Isaiah 55:1ff. and Matthew 11:28 at once come to mind. Reflection on these texts gives rise to the questions: Is it meant that those that thirst, that are weary and heavy laden, represent all sinners, indiscriminately, or are they such as have been brought to some awareness of their need? The Westminster Standards do not pronounce on this matter of exegesis, and admit of a difference of judgment on it.

The commandment to repent and believe is issued (Acts 17:30; 1 John 3:23) and the promise of eternal salvation is made to those who obey the commandment (John 3:16; 6:37b; Acts 16:31). The command to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ is followed by the promise of salvation. This sufficiently explains the sincerity of the gospel command without adding the supposition of a divine desire in back of the command and promise. Indeed, even on the level of human procedures, there may be offers made with good reason without the desire of their reception being the ground of the offer. Much more are the procedures of infinite wisdom to be accepted without prying into reasons that have not been revealed, and least of all, inventing such as are contrary to revelation.

God “freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ” (WCF 7:3). The following words “requiring of them faith in him that they may be saved” are naturally read as in apposition, explaining the nature of the offer. The promise to give the Holy Spirit to the elect is a promise to the Redeemer – not an element of the offer, but what provides the faith required in it. Larger Catechism (L.C.) 32 makes the same points. L.C.67 speaks of those effectually called as invited and drawn, and concludes with the words “to accept and embrace the grace offered and conveyed” in the call. L.C.68 definitely speaks of grace offered to non-elect persons. The offer rejected by some to their final ruin can hardly be said to be made in “God’s accepted time” in the Catechism’s evident sense of the time of love in effectual calling. It may be argued that L.C.67 is simply not dealing with the non-elect, the case of whom is the subject of L.C.68.

The very brief expressions in Shorter Catechism 31 and 86 add nothing to the above. What does add to the authentic Confessional doctrine is the 1903 addition of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in its Chapter 35, Of the Love of God and Missions: “In the Gospel God declares His love for the world and His desire that all men should be saved…” The purpose of the 1903 additions to the Confession of the P.C.U.S.A., as was the case with the similar Declaratory Act of the Free Church of Scotland in 1892, was to facilitate union with an Arminianising denomination, which had abandoned explicitly in the former instance and implicitly in the latter, the Calvinistic doctrines of the eternal decree and of particular redemption.

1. The above remark suggests that the ascription of such a desire to God is often not simply a way of expressing the will of command, but is supposed to be something behind the command, a will in-between the command and the decree, a weak though ardent wish that can be frustrated and is frustrated in the case of many. Surely, no Calvinist can desire to ascribe such a desire to the Most High, although the devotees of free will have invented an antecedent will in God distinct from the consequent will of the final decree. If one cares, like John Howe, to speak of a complacential will, and means only that God is pleased whenever His precepts are obeyed, no objection need be raised as long as there is not confusion with the supposed antecedent will under the cover of the word “desire”.

2. No Christian holding the Bible to be free of contradiction can suppose that the Lord literally repents or regrets his own work of creation (Genesis 6:6,7). The same way of speaking after the manner of men applies to God’s desire as expressed in Psalm 81:14. It is a gross abuse of language when, not as homiletical hyperbole, but as a dogmatic formulation, human passions, often called emotions, are ascribed to God. Such a view is in conflict with the Confession of Faith, which declares God to be “a most pure Spirit, … without body, parts, or passions,” based on Acts 14:11,15. The error is intensified when a questionable threefold faculty psychology is misapplied further, by representing God in the image of man, with emotions as well as intellect and will, and then arguing as if an emotional desire caused the will which is revealed in the free offer. Such prying into the secret things along with the obscuring of what has been revealed ought to be eschewed by all who reverently tremble at the Word of God.

3. That the desire is not simply meant as an anthropomorphic mode of emphasizing the revealed will becomes evident when the assertion is made that it is an instance of a deep paradox or antinomy not resolvable by logic. In the fact that God has decreed to save only some, but has commanded the gospel to be proclaimed indiscriminately to all, there is no contradiction, but SIMPLY THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOD’S DECREE AND GOD’S PRECEPTIVE WILL. to search behind the revealed will in the gospel offer for a divine inclination to save those who have been foreordained to everlasting wrath, can only appear to be ascribing a real contradiction in the will of God.

It has been claimed that the alleged desire is actually revealed in Scripture. Those who fail to find it there have been accused of having their minds made up and ignoring the analogy of Scripture. May it not be retorted that a person with universalistic prejudices comes to the Bible determined to prove that God wants all to be saved and either ignores the passages that teach divine sovereignty in salvation, or explains them away or seeks refuge in Irrationalism? Certainly the whole teaching of the Word is to be listened to, and listening means first the use of reason in understanding what God has said, while the limits of that understanding are recognized. The real question here is whether Scripture actually teaches the universalistic view in texts such as 2 Peter 3:9, Ezekiel 33:11 and Matthew 23:37.

That the Lord is not willing that any should perish, if understood of all men can only be taken of the will of command, and teaches nothing as to a desire or wish. The verb often, as the related noun, signifies, however, the determinate counsel of God. The context also, strongly supports a restriction of “any” and “all” to the elect. The long-suffering of God is to us-ward or to you-ward, i.e., those addressed as beloved in a judgment of charity. Longsuffering is not only toward the reprobate in Romans 9:22 (cf. 2:4), curiously cited to support a love toward salvation directed to such as have been indicated to have been hated (verse 15). That these verses may not legitimately be cited as providing a parallel to 2 Peter 3:9, is clear from the explicit reference to the elect as objects of the divine longsuffering in Luke 18:7. The broader context of 2 Peter 3 confirms the particularist view of the passage. Why does the second coming of Christ seem to be delayed? Because in the longsuffering of God the elect, who sometimes long resist the gospel, must all be made willing in the day of God’s power before they stand before the throne on the great day.

In Ezekiel 33:11 as in 18:23,32, the rendering “have no pleasure” gives the proper sense, i.e. the Lord is pleased when the wicked repents, and is not pleased when he does not. The text does not assert that the Lord is pleased that the wicked should repent even when he does not. If the latter is given the sense that repentance as such is always approved by God, this truth could imply that God is pleased that the devil should repent. But surely no sober Christian would want to say that God desires the salvation of Satan. The general remark that the non-literal anthropomorphic ascription of desire is unobjectionable in itself applies also to these passages. But the widespread representation of this desire as an intention aiming at the salvation of all renders the expression undesirable, especially when the desire is viewed as an irrational urge. These passages powerfully present the sinner’s DUTY, while they do not treat of his ABILITY to obey or of the Lord’s secret counsels. Nor is there a valid reason for supposing a contradiction implied between the will of decree and what is pleasing to God.

Matthew 23:37 is commonly misquoted as if it read, “how often would I have gathered you … and ye would not.” The text does not make a contrast between the Lord’s will and the wills of those whom he would gather, but between his compassion for Jerusalem’s children and the opposition of their leaders who have been denounced in the preceding passage. The sympathy of the Saviour is the expression of his humanity which he assumed in order that he might become a High Priest that could be touched with a feeling of our infirmities. To draw inferences as to what his divine nature might be in back of this distinctive feature of his sacred humanity is surely unwarrantable speculation into what has not been revealed.

To combine these passages and to add texts like Matthew 5:45 which do not refer to the way of salvation, but common mercies like rain and sunshine, is hardly to present cumulative evidence for a thesis nowhere plainly taught in Scripture, and contrary to Scripture when intended to conflict with the immutability of God’s counsel. The accumulation of a series of zeros, however elaborated, is, after all, only zero.

The desire to avoid extremes in declaring the truth is no doubt commendable, but yielding to the tempting claims of the opposite extreme even in minor matters has proved repeatedly in the history of the Church to be a step in the downward path to apostasy. The rampant evils of Arminianism among Evangelicals and Amyraldianism among Calvinists are only encouraged by adopting and even stressing the pet slogans with which they attack or obscure the doctrines of grace. Strangely, one favorite text of those who have throughout the history of Christianity insisted that God wants all men to be saved is not appealed to at present by Calvinists who use such expressions. Can it be that they realize that to take 1 Timothy 2:4 in a universalistic sense requires understanding verses 5 and 6 to teach a universal atonement, even if the will in 2:4 were taken as simply the will of command? Exegetically, as well as systematically, the thesis of Amyraldian universal grace issues in the assertion of universal redemption.

Double Reconciliation

April 18, 2014

In Romans 5:10 we are told, “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” We were God’s enemies, obnoxious to His righteous judgments. We stood to God as the objects of His displeasure, subject to the hostility of His law.

We were “reconciled,” that is, brought into His favor. And that, not by the Spirit’s work in us, but “by the death,” the propitiatory sacrifice, “of His Son.” That this statement refers to the averting of God’s anger from us may be seen by the following considerations:

First , in that the immediate context is commending the amazing love of God to us (v. 8), But if verse 10 were referring to the laying down of our enmity to God, it would rather be an instance of our love for Him, than of His for us.

Second , in that the terms of verse 10 are unmistakably parallel with those of verses 8, 9, and there we read, “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us,” which can only mean, Christ died for us as “ungodly,” to deliver us from the death which God’s holiness required and died thus to bring us into favor of God.

Third, in that “reconciled to God by the death of His Son” is only another description of “being justified by His blood” in verse 9. To be “justified” is God’s reconciliation TO US, His acceptance of us into His favor, and NOT our conversion to Him; and that was in order that we would be “saved from wrath” (v. 9).

Fourth, in that in the following verse we are said to have “received the reconciliation” (v. 11), which CANNOT BE MEANT the laying down of our arms of rebellion. we cannot be said to “receive” our conversion; but we can receive by imputation that which Christ’s sacrifice has procured for us. “All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ” ( 2 Corinthians 5:18).

“Who hath reconciled us.”

When did God do so? At the Cross, as verse 21 clearly enough shows. By whom were we reconciled? Not by the work of the Spirit within, subduing our enmity, but “by Jesus Christ.”

How were we reconciled? By Christ’s being “made sin for us” (v. 21), and thus receiving in Himself the penalty of the law, and thereby appeasing God’s justice.

It was by His sacrifice that the Lord Jesus reconciled us to God, for the design of the sacrifice was to propitiate God, and not to reform the sinner. “And that He would reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Ephesians 2:15,16).

Verses 11-15 reveal the fact that both a double alienation and a double reconciliation is under discussion. There is first an antagonism between Jews and Gentiles, verses 11, 12. Second, there is a separation between God and His people, verses 12, 13. Conversely, through the Satisfaction which Christ has made unto God, elect Jews and elect Gentiles have been united in “one new man” (v. 15), and both have been reconciled unto God (v. 16). Thus, the “Christ is our peace” of verse 14 is amplified as: between ourselves mutually(v.15),and between us and God (v.16).

It should be noted that the “enmity” of verse 16 cannot refer to that which existed between Jews and Gentiles, for that has been disposed of in verses 14, 15. “Enmity” is here personified (“slain”), as “sin” is in Romans 8:3. Thus, the verse means that all the sins of God’s people met upon Christ, and Divine justice took satisfaction from Him.

While the gracious provision originated in the love of God, the Reconciliation was the righteous means of removing His holy hatred against us. Thus, “O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry, with me, thine anger is turned away” ( Isaiah 12:1).

To merely present a God who is willing to be reconciled to sinners is a wretched and wicked perversion of the Gospel. For Christ to make perfect reconciliation it was required that He should turn away the wrath of God from His people by removing their sin from before His face by means of a propitiatory sacrifice, as also that we should be brought to turn away from our opposition to God’s gospel and brought into submission to the Truth. The one reconciliation is secured by Christ’s satisfaction, the other is accomplished by His sending His Spirit to renew us ( Titus 3:5).

“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” ( Amos 3:3). Hence the servants of God are bidden to go forth and beseech sinners to be reconciled to Him (2 Corinthians 5:20).

A W Pink

Is the Sanctification of a Christian like the Justification of Christ?

April 2, 2014

Mark Jones (Antinomianism, P and R, 2013) makes many provocative and condescending statements, as if to say that those who disagree with him have not read the historical documents in question. The most irritating claim he makes is that he’s correct because of a better Christology.

Jones, p 21—“If Christ is our mediator, our union with him means not only that we must be holy (i.e., necessity), but also that we will be able to be like him (i.e., motive)…”

Jones, p 21— “Whatever grace we receive for our holiness first belonged to the Savior (John 1:16)”.

Jones, p 24–“There was a perfect synergy involved in Jesus’ human obedience and the Holy Spirit’s influence…Following this pattern, although man is completely passive at the moment of regeneration, he cooperates with God in sanctification.”

The Christology of Mark Jones consists of equating the justification of Christ with the sanctification of a sinner. Denying the idea of a “covenant of works” in which Christ obeyed law to earn merits, Jones also denies the idea of substitution so that our works are not necessary for salvation. Jones accepts substitution FOR JUSTIFICATION ONLY, but like the Galatian false teachers, Jones equates “living by faith’ with obeying the law, and argues along with Richard Gaffin and Norman Shepherd that our living by faith means our obeying the law.

On p 22-23, Jones argues from the fact that Christ obtained salvation “bestowed on conditions”, that we too must obtain “sanctification” in the same way, bestowed on conditions. Instead of talking about the merits of Christ, he speaks of Christ’s living by faith, which was obeying the law, to get to the idea of our also living by faith, which then comes to mean our obeying the law.

On p 24, Jones argues from the fact that Christ “was not left to His own abilities but was enabled by the Spirit” to not only question the language of “covenant of works” but to say that we Christians are enabled by the Spirit “to cooperate with God in sanctification. Except for the emphasis on sanctification instead of justification, the conclusion is no different from that of NT Wrights—don’t be so Christocentric, because the work of the Spirit in us is Christ’s work also for our final justification.

I do NOT deny that the distinction between impetration and application. Rather, I affirm that distinction in order to affirm impetration for the specific sins of the elect alone AND to affirm LEGAL APPLICATION by God’s imputation (not by the agency or the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. God gives the Holy Spirit through Christ’s gift. It is not the Holy Spirit who gives us Christ. Christ’s propitiation must be legally applied by God to the elect so that the elect are justified from the sins for which impetration/ propitiation was made by Christ.

Accusations of antinomianism against those of who give priority to imputation do not prove the reality of our being against the law. To say that only Christ could or has satisfied the law is to properly fear God. Neonomians turn out to be antinomians. To think that one can produce “sanctification” synergsitically by something extra infused (then indwelling) into us in addition to what God has done in Christ is to not yet fear God as the Holy One who demands perfection.

Many experimental puritans put themselves on a superior level to the rest of us because of what they think they have been enabled to do and because of the righteousness they think they can and will now produce.