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CHAPTER SIX

 

ROMANS 9 PERSPECTIVE

 

The Fluency of Faith and the Finality of Rejection

in the Love, Pity and Mercy of God

 

Introduction

In Chapter 5 above, we have seen the fervour of the divine love in Christ's descent into hell, following the resurrection.

 

In this Chapter, this emphasis is extended, so that the love of God, being inviolate from human decrepitude, as if to give it some form of spiritual arthritis, limiting its movement in a manner wholly contrary to the Bible, is yet shown to have a sovereignty in its disposition. In nothing does this intrude on God's wisdom, but rather is fulfilment of it. Confusion of love and sovereignty as if they were two fighting dogs, incapable of correct discernment in the flying fur, is wholly unnecessary, undeservedly common and not always admitted by those who are infected with it.

 

Let us then by all means follow the word of God and THEN rejoice, firstly that it is so unquestionably clear, admiring its components, and avoiding by all  means the temptation to philosophise some word from the Bible into a compressed segment of our own thought,  as if avoiding one error gave to us complete liberty to commit another.

 

We  find as always,  that ONLY when the word of God is exhaustively given its freedom OVER our own thought in each phase of its revelation, and is not a springboard for invention, that the demands of reason  are sated (reason it is no king, human beings being imperfect, but it is a gift of God, and giving a reason for the hope that is in us is God-sanctified in I Peter 3:15). It is then also that  the principles of God are seen to be consistent, and the beauty of His love is found free from what so readily mars human love, a disposition for self-fulfilment and self-satisfaction,  as if the love were an instrument of power,  selfish extension, pleasure or an anointing to make things nicer to the hedonism of taste, and not an elemental reality, pure in its own being.

 

That, in solving one of the greatest areas of human conflict in ideas, self-designation and passion in understanding,  freedom, responsibility,  duty,  morals, destiny and the meaning of man, with efforts to  mechanise him, reduce him, re-draft him in reductionist models or exalted ones that forget the array of facts before us, is in turn another verification of  the Bible as God's word. It does what nothing  else  does or even  could!

 

What then  do we find as a result ?

 

As man is made in God's image, what the love of God is itself,  is precisely the SORT of love to which man should aspire. NOT doing so is the major underlying cause of man's folly and unwholesome evils. Thus the first  commandment shows its exercise towards God,  and the second that towards one's fellows. Love sits at the top level. I Corinthians 13 tells us that if you do not have this, be it looted indeed or lost, but that if it be missing, then all, your bravest empires or most facile constructions, is as nothing! God, as He tells us, IS love (I John 4:7ff.). It is HIS love which is the criterion, not our own. Ours is based on it; it is His which is its source.

 

Just as God would have ALL  to be reconciled (II Corinthians 5:17ff., Colossians 1:19ff.), but knows how to deal with those who prefer darkness, so man should have love to his neighbour as to himself, but know how to deal with the distorted, who merely seek to abuse it, misuse it or manipulate. The SPIRIT of love however should  remain, wherever man is; for hatred of our kin is forbidden to us, with man hatred being limited to principles and evils; for judgment rests finally in God. Even when Simon the sorcerer acted with utter horrific evil, seeking to buy the power to dispose the Spirit of God, or rather to use it to do this and that, Peter  told him to repent before his evils caught him (Acts 8:14ff.). The evil was not merged with the person; though in the end,  alas, before God who does judge, this becomes the unclean  end of much, known to Him from the first: for tares, weeds, these there are and will be.

 

Here then, in predestination based on a foreknowledge neither related to the things  one does, or is seen to be active in doing from the first, nor on any real or imagined merit, both things contrary to the biblical salvation by grace, with the righteousness of GOD ONLY in view (cf. Psalm 71, Romans 3, Ephesians 2): here is love seen to the uttermost. It is not selective by some sovereign mystery, the real mystery being how He could SO love any one of us at all! It is based on human responsibility, interpreted and applied by God as He will, both before time and in it, and this in the light of a love infinite in wisdom, incapable of deception, never dulled, burred or blurred. This same love is restrained neither by sedation nor servility, neither by sordid weariness nor by dulled decadence, as is the way so often with mankind. On the contrary, it is elemental and incapable of constraint to dull its extent or essential involvement at all levels.

 

AS love, God is not short of it! (I John 4). As SO loving the world to which He, in Christ, came to save it, and not to judge it, this being the love in the Gospel exposure of the essential magnificence of God, God is not leaning to this or to that one. He desires all, and says so (Colossians 1:19ff., I Timothy 2); He is sufficient for all, and says so (I John 2); He is not susceptible to bargaining or human criteria as the finale (Romans 9), but creates responsibility for man, and it is in THOSE terms that man is condemned, if this sad case occur. It is thus, and not in terms of His own imagined limits. We are considering what God has to say about Himself; let us not as audience import our own material: this is if you will, His autobiography, not ours. Let us not mix it; for that is bad enough in all cases, when the finite acts as if to mix his thought with that of God about God, it is obviously ludicrous. We can give a reason for the faith, but not interfere with the divine autograph (II Timothy 3:16, I Peter 1:10ff., Matthew 5:17ff., John 14:26).

 

What glory is in this God, whose mercy is so great that infinitude seems only a rough idea of it, whose love so vast that the oceanic seems merely a bounded thing by comparison, and whose justice is so pruned, that only by bypassing His Son, sent to salvation via death vicariously borne, can one meet it (John  3:19, I Timothy 2:1ff.).

 

 In this presentation, which is in itself becoming book length, but remains part of volume 170, there is first presented, below,  Perspective on Romans 9, to show its flow and meaning. Then follows a series of 11 excerpts from earlier volumes, showing various elements of the entire scope of biblical presentations on human will, responsibility, results, divine love, its extent, nature and application to mankind in the Gospel, and the glorious uniqueness of this biblical perspective in resolving all related philosophical problems. This, it is reminiscent of school days, when the outrageous seeming problem, by finding the truth about the thing, suddenly becomes resolved, with nothing left but the rejoicing that the criteria are now indeed met, and the realities being seen, they are like the very picture of health!

 

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The word of God as Proverbs 8:8 tells us, is indeed not perverse, or crooked,
not confused, jarring upon itself, not immersed in entanglements or woven in odd differentials.

Diverse it is, but as to the converse of clarity, this is not found. It is, says Proverbs,
all clear to the one who understands, and right to those who find knowledge.
 

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Where better to find knowledge than IN that word, which thus justifies itself!

When that is done, it speaks with one voice, challenging to the soporific,
harsh to the intruder, but entrancing to the digger, who finds here treasures incomparable
 on this earth, for wisdom and understanding, truth and finality, not made pappy as for puppies,
nor yet made incomprehensible, as for the resigned. Follow it and it all becomes clear. Insist
on conformity to your own thought, and this becomes muddied, if not muddled.
 

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The word of God as the word of GOD
is not to be taken with milk or water or spirits: it is to be taken as it comes! In easy parts,
it IS the milk, not a preparation for it; and in the hard, it IS meat,
not a substance for making meat patties.

Some things are not found, and not intended; God says what He will;
but what is said, if not twisted to conform to some philosophic imprint as desired,
has a harmony and a depth so great and delightful
that it is one of the aspects of the glory of God Himself!

 

The total of matters considered in this arena of our topic, this is provided in the PREDESTINATION AND FREEWILL HEXAD, dealing broadly and exactingly on these topics. The consequences of the work and will of God are considered more expansively in LIGHT DWELLS WITH THE LORD'S CHRIST WHO ANSWERS RIDDLES AND WHERE HE IS, DARKNESS DEPARTS. For further specialisations, see SEARCH.

 

Here there is a certain essentialising of basics! In the eleven excerpts which complete this Chapter, there are some additions, and two are

 major, some revision, but no change in the essentials. Points are extended here and there, and applications made more extensive, intensive.

 

 

 

 

ROMANS 9 PERSPECTIVE

 

 

This classical Chapter is not about glorifying masterful sovereignty, but a fire that surges through the undergrowth of human rebellion, with an intensity of love that is urgent, thrusting, effective for some, despised by many, grasping towards all, selective of some. Paul, at the very start of the chapter, shares with us his life-anointed, although often disappointed love for his countrymen.

 

This reaches the point that, within the presence of Christ, that is, with fealty to God foremost, he could almost wish himself accursed FOR them (Romans 9:1ff.). He almost did it; GOD did it! Christ in fact took that course, within the constraints of not ceasing to be God, for had He ignored that restraint, it would have eliminated heaven, the haven, for all. In the curse of desolation, for a time, He was taken; in the grave of mortality for a time, His body lay; in the cursing of effete men and diseased souls, He endured; but it was enough, the curse met, freedom of entry was thereby guaranteed to all who would come. What more!

 

How glorious are the gifts accorded Israel, says Romans 9:4-5, donations of deity, even culminating in Christ, Himself deity, covering Himself with flesh from human seed as foretold (that of David's line, according to His covenant with him)! It is precisely because of this that it is all the more appalling that this nation engaged in and actively pursued, a spiritual lapse, not a synapse with its Maker but a sin apse in a very different temple, that of naturalism and mysticism (cf. Jeremiah 2:23ff.). Paul is mortified, just as His life was all but willing to be cursed for them.

 

Alas for the nation, his countrymen, alienation from God and pride in flesh, in 'nature' (Romans 10:1-3, 1:17ff.), itself a mere parallel construction to man, and vastly below him, in correlation to God, these things led on to disaster. In the flesh, in man in his own estimation and consultation, and in Israel in particular, much was made of self-reliance, self-programmatics, efforts of life, lists of attainments; but the focus was eminently NOT the gift of atonement. What could be found ? It was this:  exercises in might and majesty, things even to  supervene the gift of God, and that  in the presence of God!

In rebellion this was appalling, as in Romans 1 which traces phases and basis; in result it is poignant, tragic for the nation.

 

Nor is it less for any who reject what having come in these phases, and now complete, is offered, be it Jew or Gentiles (Romans 2:25-3:26). God on earth for man, having paid for any and each who comes, these foreseen, foreknown, and inviting all with passionate integrity and sincerity, such as is seen repeatedly throughout the Bible in both Testaments, proclaims the path of peace with Himself, and blessedness in godliness through the Gospel. Nevertheless, He is left alone in this close availability, ditched in this offer, by the dereliction of duty, the disregard of opportunity and the lust of pride and power of those who do not love Him, or apply for His life. What comes for these ? Destiny without God, like life without air on this earth follows such a negation; but it comes,  and that ONLY indeed to those who, in the end, make love to disaster and court what is worse than any hydrogen bomb: for that is for a time, this for eternity.


As to God, you cannot get there from here; but when HE, GOD comes down, first in word written, in power and vision, and then in Person, Christ brought down from heaven as Paul indicates here in Romans 9:6, then it is HE who gets here from there, and you being here, have thereby access through faith by His grace, to the Almighty. Yes, you have more than a direct line to the Almighty, for you have the Almighty in PERSON within you (Colossians 1:27), with immediate contact (cf. Romans 5, 8).

 

Thus as in Romans 10:9, it is so simple: CONFESS (not merely attest, speaking truth from the heart) the Lord Jesus Christ and BELIEVE God has raised Him from the dead (validating His coming and gift), and you will be saved. It is not some other lord, not some combination of lords, be they men or man or nature, mentalities or constructions of any kind, other christs made in hell and exported to this earth (cf. II Corinthians 11), or any other. It is to HIM you come as Lord over all, above all, for all, requiring all (Luke 14:27ff.), and not some ambivalence or ambiguity.

 

But what of those who DO so receive Him ?

 

There are all but endless results of this: the pardon, the peace, the willingness to take the word of God as it comes, the blessing of being instructible by God, according to His written word because of what has been done, and now accepted: but done by whom! ... It is done by God in His transcendent and eternal Word, incarnate as Jesus Christ (cf. The Bright Light and the Uncomprehending Darkness Ch. 10,  John 5:19ff., 8:58). It is the work of God that you believe in Him who was so sent (John 8:29). Foreknown, responsibility assured from the scope and spiritual knowledge in that, you are engendered into new life as into life at all, in the first place. Precious is such birth, and sure the spiritual obstetrician. Where this is not the case, what of that then ?

 

The intense horror of it, as Paul expresses the point concerning Israel in particular, is seen in  Romans 9:1-5. Consider, he indicates, the blessings they have been given, the concerted, the continual gifts, and he lists these, rising to the very direct appearance of Christ in the flesh, God as man (cf. Member Contribution 11 on Romans 9-10).

 

What then of the aim of God, of salvation, in view of its abortion by some, as far as they are concerned. Is it as if, refusing to be born again, they abort the grace that was impending ?

 

Is the splendour of divine love made ineffectual by man ? Paul is asking in Romans 9:6.

 

Not at all, for the love is not lost, if limited in its application: after all, some are won. Each such one becomes a child of God, the God of tenderness as you see in Hosea 11, for example and in Isaiah 63:14.

 

"As a beast goes down into the valley,

And the Spirit of the Lord causes him to rest,

So You lead Your people,

              To make Yourself a glorious name."

 

Again, in Isaiah 63:8ff. we find this.

"For He said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie:
so He was their Saviour.

"In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them: in His love and in his pity He redeemed them; and He bare them,
and carried them all the days of old."

 

No, His work in spiritual terms for man in general, for Israel in particular, it was not ineffective; and even in the rampaging days of Elijah, and even in the maximally renegade Israel of the day, He still had 7000 left who had not wallowed in their wanderings with things evil, evocative of dissolution, educative in folly. Any ONE is a thing of wonder; 7000 at one day, in the worst of times, this was attainment indeed. A remnant ? but of course. Better a remnant than a ditch!

 

Romans brings in a further emphasis.

 

It is by faith as it always was (Romans 9:6-13), and perforce it involves divine selection as it always did, this being far from mere interposition, but the outworking of love such as would ALMOST lead Paul to become accursed for his brethren, and DID move God to go the further step, and bear the guilt that godliness might freely be restored (Romans 5:1-11). While we were yet sinners, Christ died, and for whom did He die ? It is written that He died for the ungodly, just as He so loved the world, and would have ALL reconciled to Himself, whether in heaven or on earth, and would have all come to a knowledge of the truth by the ONE MEDIATOR ((Romans 5:6, John 3:16ff., Colossians 1:19ff., I Timothy 2), and is the saviour of all men, especially of those that believe.

 

As to the last, it is in THIS POSITION that He stands relative to ALL, even though it is only those who believe who capitalise on it, activating what God provides in universal intent, but limited donation. It is in these that the labour of love is not lost, though all the rest, despite their eminent desirability in the redeeming love of God, yet leave it as alone, as the crowds when not mocking, left Christ on the cross.

 

It is true that God hardens some (Romans 9:14ff.), being not subject to man, but rather is man subject to Himself; but as in II Thessalonians 2:10, the failure to receive the love of the truth is the prescription stated for an active delusion so that they actually, instead, believe THE LIE! In Pharaoh's case, the delusion-activated rebellion was shown, like a series of photographs of the development of a disease, in Exodus 4-14; and since that is to be the type and style of this type of pathology, its end and its nature is here exposed laboriously, for all time! It becomes a classic in its field.

 

Thus when God even hardens some in their folly as in II Thess. 2, the fruit of their folly becomes an arrest of the heart; for they are inwardly stricken in their own rebellion against redemption itself. God does not always strive, for the spirit would fail before him: man is limited (Isaiah 57:15-16). Thus such cases as that of Pharaoh merely attest that while love drives, it does not seduce, and where sin is ultimate, not only in its action, but in its rejection of correction, as foreseen, foreknown and realised by God (I John 5:16), then wisdom acts freely. Alas and alas, for it is a thing of much grief!


There is no second sacrifice available: God has already done all, borne all that is needed, taken all strategic steps, provided liberty for man to resume in his relationship as a child of God, and when this is damned by man's direst derangements, there is no more offering for sin as in Hebrews 10. Fooling about with such things is about as wise as using the red button for activating an atomic bomb, as a plaything.

 

Meanwhile, in His depth, the love of God moves with infinite understanding to  select a racial remnant, to become a universal remnant in due time (cf. Isaiah 49, Romans 9:24-26, Jeremiah 16).

 

This the Lord did through Abraham at first, and continued to select the remnant of faith both through Sarah and Rebecca (Romans 9:9-10). He did not choose those outstanding (cf. I Corinthians 1:26ff.) in foreseen eminence, like a cattle breeder; but according to His own mercy and love's achievements, He received into His kingdom many who were the very least, so that the most might be seen for those who receiving Him, are not daunted by the extremity of their divergence from righteousness, or the exhaustively horrible look of their sins. He is better pleased, therefore, with the sinner who beats his breast, asking for God to have mercy on him as a sinner, than with the man who marvels at his own attainments! (Luke 18:9-11).

 

Indeed, in Romans 9:22 we find the elemental buffer. Indeed, it shows, it is true that God hardened the wantonly wilful Pharaoh; but WHAT IF HE ENDURED WITH MUCH PATIENCE, the ingredients of dishevelled souls, magnificently free from liberty (Romans 8:22), being under curse and virtually cursing cure itself. There are 'vessels fitted to destruction', it is true, and in any endeavour to lead God as to what He should do, as if He were some sort of elected social service institution, making life easier by authority conferred by those who indulge themselves, there is a certain buffer, an exclusion zone. God is NOT to be approached like that. It is then that there is stark authority to meet! There are such vessels, indeed, habitats not only of sin but of demons (John 6:70).

 

This stressed, this WHAT IF of 9:22, appears as a datum showing more the enormous eminence of the grace that saves any,  but not a little the futility of the exalted fast-breeder human 'reactors' that turn themselves or products into nuclear fuel, which in turn, becomes nuclear waste (cf. Romans 10:1-5). Thus, for all the folly, which must meet authority when it strives against mercy, there IS a remnant of grace (Romans 11:5), an election residue,  atoned for, evidence of the fulfilment of the love divine. Here in this grace-grouping, there is an achievement of love-in-wisdom, a marvel foretold for the Israel for which  Paul started by declaring his passionate and heartfelt love. It is no mean consolation that there is a remnant of grace (Romans 9:27).

 

Not selected spiritual athletes are these, but capitulating restorees, routed from a destruction as certain as that of Sodom and Gomorrah (Romans 9:27, with Isaiah 13:19), that otherwise would have applied to all. But God overthrew the overthrow, and made some His own.

 

In fact, so far from an attainment of ANY kind (cf. Romans 3:23ff., Ephesians 2:1-12), as the key of divine selection, it is precisely this mould and motif that excludes sinners from salvation, that inner and status change, both, that is the gift of God (Romans 5:15ff., 8:1-11, Ephesians 1:5,14).

 

What is the obverse of this, the other side of the coin that operates ? The way IN for the kingdom of heaven, it is through the work and will of God, to faith as it always was and will be, where it is lodged through persistent love, and divine oversight; and it takes the Cross of Christ to do it. You believe in Him, who is certain recipe for deliverance from sin's duress, but not vaguely. Since it is His works and not ours that matter here, you believe in Him who IS the Saviour, COME to save, and who in innocence was overcome as the death sentence ground out its power. You are, however,  saved  by a power far greater than this, for that led to death, this to resurrected life. That faced the facts; this invents the new functions, in life eternal.

 

In His death, He was placed on the ground; but through His life, whose is eternal life (I John 1:1-4), the sentence was ground down and His body left the ground in order to move from the tomb to the light of common day (cf. Romans 1:4, I Corinthians 15). By power, yes and plan, thus does He gratuitously grant the result to those receiving both Him who gives it, and this which He gives (Romans 10:9).
 

That, because it is HIS work which is in view, HIS attainment, HIS gift, HIS life, HIS victory, HIS overcoming, at once means two things. They are these. It shows that here is the measure of magnificence, that this, His gift in His own life,  MUST be sufficient, and that it CANNOT fail to suffice (Ephesians 1:11, 2:1-12, Romans 5:1-11). God simply does not fail, and this is the gift of eternal life, so that those who receive it actually pass from death to life (John 5:24) and do not come into condemnation (cf. John 4:14, Ephesians 1:11). The spurious is always rejected (Hebrews 6, 10 showing tasters, toying at the mouth of things); but faith receives Him (Hebrews 6:19) who declares, I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13, John 10).

 

What is HIS work alone is not relevant to ours! When salvation is His work, then ours cannot imperil it. What is received by faith from Him, is not subject to human imperfection, for whom He justified, He glorified (Romans 8:29ff.); and that is why. HE DID IT. It is even the work of God that we believe (John 8:29).

 

Thus from Romans 10:9, the ineffable opportunity, direct, unvarnished, plain, we come to Romans 10:6-8, that descent from heaven of the intimate ultimate, of Christ Himself who was brought down to earth that man might be raised through His resurrection power and by faith in Him, to heaven. The simplicity of purity of perfect love is here shown to be awesome. How man mangles even that with a very prodigy of additives and requisites, and use of the human will as if it would save you (John 1:12)!

 

The will of man  ? An instrument in foreknowledge, it is not a component in the actual practice of salvation: it is relevant, but not operational. In God, the operation is eternal (Ephesians 1:4), wrought in those who receive Him, endlessly discerned in His  infinite and intimate knowledge. It is truly a wonderful thing if ANYONE EVER becomes a saved soul, so great is the background to it, and so beautiful the foreground: it is so in all love, but infinitely so in infinite love.
 

Nevertheless, and indeed because love is as it is, to be forever disobedient and spit on deliverance, in the very face of grace (literal as in Matthew 26, but the physical is but one mode of showing this!), this is an option (John 3:19). It is one on which  neither the power of God, the nature of love, nor the reality of wisdom forecloses. The result is foreknown, but the attainment of that result, it involves a liberty which is apt for man, though interpreted by God. THOUGH interpreted ? It is BECAUSE it is interpreted that it is sure, accurate and the fullest expression of what and even WHO love is.

 

God does not unman in order to save man, but in His own understanding readily de-sins the spirit of man, where in His searching, He finds. It is thus and in such in His time, He removes sin's perfidious sovereignty. The extremity of liberty is indeed found only in the Lord, who neither to His children is dictator, though with Him are the ways of vitality and truth, nor to those whom He would find, is He is a tyrant; but He saves according to truth.

 

Desiring all, He knows some. But if anyone wants God, he or she has only to remember Romans 10:9, and if it is more than desire for more, but desire for God, and if it is sincere, then the desire and the response to it becomes the hand that takes the will of God, held out, and ready for application. The foreknowledge of God GUARANTEES the simplicity and effectuality of it; and likewise assures us that there are none for whom some kind of enlightened self-interest will be even so much as relevant to salvation. You CANNOT get there from that paltry plateau. Love is NOT interested in itself as the goal, but in what it gives and for whom it gives it, being filled and expending for what is empty.

 

While therefore for folly there is indeed an option as you see so dramatically in Proverbs 1, yet in the contrary, the reception, there is no option. You GO by your will; but you come by His. Here is the final implementation of His willingness as seen in Matthew 23:37, Luke 19:42ff., Ezekiel 33:11, I Timothy 2, Colossians 1, Jeremiah 48, Isaiah 55.

 

What is there instead is the love of God for all, that they be reconciled to Himself through the blood of the cross (Colossians 1:19), and this shows its RESULTS where it will (John 3:17), the massive injection of divinity into humanity in Christ Jesus being the template of truth; and the results appear as time passes. NOT to condemn He came; and in order to save the world, He came; but not all of this present world does He save, for it slips like so much water through the fingers, which not being grasping, despite the best appeal, let it go. Offering to all, as He seeks for all,  His sacrifice, which is sufficient for all, has its remedy paid out for those who receive it (Romans 8:32, Isaiah 53:1-6). Past all flutter and splutter, all those healed "by His stripes", we there learn, have their sins covered, borne. When, then, God is "for us", "how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things ?"

 

Through cross election and selection, those who in His infinite knowledge and wisdom, are willing to take up the cross and follow Him, being first transfixed with Christ (Galatians 5:24), are known, are found,  are saved, and  then walking in company with Him as saved (I Thessalonians 5:7ff., Galatians 3:1ff., 5:16ff.), they proceed to the heavenly Zion. Thus Cross selection is what provides scope for the faith filter for the finished divine work load, its deposit to  faith, so that those despising or demeaning this saving work, have no more hope (Hebrews 10). In His love, then, did Christ come to judge all this world or any in it ? John 3:17 states a resounding NO! There are two groupings, those receiving Him, fulfilment of His love, and those wishing to relieve Him of such a charge. The latter blight the beauty, but in the end, it rises anew, while the former receive, raised to die no more (Revelation 1:19), and are raised in the end of the matter, with Him and for Him and by Him.

 

While the  form of God is wonderful, and His word is our  revelation,  His Son its peak and star, centre and definitive mode, the principles lying within these matters as biblically given, stand firm, whether they be  applied precisely in this or that way. That there is considerable ease is setting forth such a presentation as here, attests as in so much that is truly great, the grand simplicity of the basics, while it gives not temptation to presume. It is rather to distort that must be  avoided,  to add or to subtract; thus there is no danger of prying on the one hand, past revelation,  or denying it on the other; and a reason  for the faith is indeed so thoroughly applicable that it would seem disastrous not to present it. It is there: let it then be used. The reasonableness of God is marvellous, and small wonder Jesus the incarnate deity, has the name LOGOS, which includes this element firmly, as also word, and cause; with all the rest of the wonder which is unique to God (John 16:15, 5:19ff.).

 

To these  principles, then, let us further look.

 

It may be helpful to collate here an excerpt from The Christian Pilgrimage Ch. 3. (For its broader context, follow this link to what is below.)

 

#  Let us focus this, for some have become confused, astray. The word of God however is clear to the uttermost (cf. Proverbs 8:8).

Thus God so loved the world

(not a segment of the world, as if to say, God so loved a segment of the world, that if any part of this segment of the object-state, should believe in Him, He would on that condition act to save that segment of a segment).

The case is far removed from this. The divine speech here is declarative, enunciating a generality of kind between GOD on the one hand, and the creation, this WORLD on the other; and it is the BODY, the whole, the thing made,  which includes its parts, towards which His own love is directed.

However, this love is not a mandatory thing. You do not have to respond to it. It may grieve Him sadly FOR YOUR SAKE if you reject its appeals, exhortations; but it does not alter His purity. Heaven is populated in liberty, not in compulsion. Nor is that liberty illusory, or merely verbal: it is the result of His construction of man in His image, responsible, responsive, and when sin dims man's capacity, it is God who yet knows and indeed foreknows what man forgets, and incapacitated in this, would disown. God KNOWS who are His, and desiring all, not a segment, achieves His limited attainment, applying the limited atonement accordingly.

 

Eternal life, offered with passion to all, becomes a selective gift for some; and it is in God's gift, but this in such a style, that while HE knows it, man is responsible for what He knows.

 

Hell with judgment is reached by desire, but not the desire of God. It is a resultant of love's omission, not by God, but by man. UNLIMITED is His desire, PURE is His love, LIMITED is His fold.

 

He came in a love thrust past all such things, where judgment is deferred and stretched far off while He speaks in terms spiritually therapeutic. That arena is not in view at this time, being explicitly negated in John 3:17 to the point at hand, so that rejection is an irresponsible misuse of responsibility, laid on man alone, by the God who foreknowing all, not as actors but persons, takes past human finding out, beyond all merit, with a wisdom unclouded by sin and untainted by its limits, those who are His. This He does, as seen in Christ,  weeping as folly gives eternal distance to those final in wilfulness, inveterate aliens. Only as shrieking in agony, could they be dragooned into heaven! For them is no rest, since they deny what they are, as well as Him who made them, and offers free salvation for them.

 

Such is the nature of His love, whose sovereignty appears dominant (not domineering) when truth is voided, for confrontation is no mode for learning, for understanding. Indeed, when even false appeals are in mind, rebellion is in heart and truth is distanced (cf. Hosea 7:14-16).

 

Consider what here the Lord says, for it is instructive in its perspective which though philosophy would smother it, is not ambiguous!

 

"They did not cry out to Me with their heart

When they wailed upon their beds.

They assemble together for grain and new wine,

They rebel against Me.

 

"Though I disciplined and strengthened their arms,

Yet they devise evil against Me;

They return, but not to the Most High;

They are like a treacherous bow.

 

"Their princes shall fall by the sword

              For the cursings of their tongue."

It is not some covert exclusion which dominates the mind of the Eternal God, but it is an express desire that animates His speech; nor is it muted, before it is commuted. It is elemental, utter, and to make of God the producer of diplomatic niceties rather than truth, is an abomination. Truth is not so described, and interpretation which alters the words, the work of their flow and the fervour of their speech, it is mere misuse of text for the provision of one's own thoughts. It is however the word of GOD with which we deal, not of some other, or some combination!

 

 Such a love, then,  as John 3:17 shows, and Paul exhibits at the start of Romans 9, as he does likewise  in Romans 10, creating the interim like meat in a sandwich, or like a paper held in an envelope, is found in echo in Colossians 1:19ff., I Timothy 2:1-6. It is all with vigour and animation excluding such a construction as that of Calvin with his decretum horribilis, his horrible decree, absurdly attributed to God, in whom the horrible has no place at all (I John 1:5, 4:7ff. - cf. Christ's Ineffable Peace and Grace Ch. 2).

 

Such is merely a distortion of all that is written, vacating some premises of the word, adding philosophy to others, and is a necessary eviction tenant in the temple of truth! Be not deceived, if Calvin like Augustine and Luther was a great theologian, this is all the MORE reason to beware of being uncritical; for all such becomes readily nothing less than idolatry. Be thankful for their many vastly blessed contributions; but do not disobey I Corinthians 3, as if by some sort of spiritual facial tic, while HE says one thing, YOU do another, and hold court with such variants as mentors (I John 2:19, Matthew 23:8-10).

 

The more you love them, the less you so misuse them!

 

Let us then reflect on basics. NEVER must anyone claim, pretend or speak truly as if God did not LOVE enough to win more. Such would be a cardinal contradiction of i John 4:7ff., before all the rest comes into play.

 

On the contrary, the message is that He SO loved that He CAME, not to judge the world, but so that WHOEVER believes in Him should not perish. Romans 9 shows selection as a resultant, John 3 shows non-selection as exclusively the differential achievement of man. He, mankind, only, is responsible for that!

 

The matter is considered further in The Christian Pilgrimage Ch. 3, in a segment entitled, Another Geneva Convention, that of Calvin. It is slightly adapted for use here.

 

John 3:16 is delightful, with 17-19, more so. Let us then extend our thoughts on this topic in this realm of the superabundant love of God, denying it the parody to which it is often, perhaps with excess of zeal, mistreated.

Does it say, then, this:

For God so loved a part of the world that He gave for that part of the world only, His only begotten Son, so that whoever, strictly of the part noted, should believe in Him, should have eternal life.

Nor does it continue in the next verse:

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but rather only part of it, His desire being that the other part - the one specified earlier - should be saved.

That is to limit what God does not limit. 

It is a parody of the verse, but not of what is often assigned to its 'interpretation'. In John 3:16-17, however, it is altogether a different statement that is to be found. it is one of non-restraint, non-limitation, maximal amplitude, total coverage and utter correlation of this with the free payment of the horrendous cost. It was and is the case, that it is because of the love of such a kind for the world, that even ANYONE in it might, adopting the provision,  be saved.

It is altogether a different and opposite connotation which follows the staggering affirmation of verse 16,  in verse 17, declaring blankly that the PURPOSE of this PURPORT, what drove it, was NOT condemnation of the world. This was not the basis of the action towards the body specified in the line of fire between God and His creation, this world. Instead, it was that the WORLD MIGHT BE SAVED. So far from entering into a judicial act of condemnation as a major part of His entry to this world, such an intention as the basis is excluded categorically, from His mind. Results will accrue, as seen in John 9:39, when there is RESPONSE to His offer, His light, His ambit, His mission; but these are dependent on development as His task passes, not initial limits, expressly denied.

Universal, inveterate, unbounded in His love in all its purity; for He stops at nothing of cost, embarks to all the world, and deletes any possible ground for obfuscation by adding this, that the purpose was positive not negative towards the world, that it was not for the quest, fulfilment,  implementation or purpose of condemnation, but that of salvation; and as to that salvation, it was directed not in some limited way, but to the world.

It is that same universalisation of which He later spoke (John 4:21-23) to the Samaritan woman, declaring that the days were coming, in the terms and terminology of His Messianic fulness, that the worship of God would in no way be restricted to this or that situational category, but would be in spirit and in truth: place would not be a consideration; it was the RACE, the human race as one whole, which was the setting for the action. The place was important as that of the Cross, singular in significance in His work as He was; but the grace is not so limited, for though the payment was made in one locale, it was limitless in application to any.

The "world" of John 1 is similarly the one created by the Christ with the Father, as specified in this Chapter from the beginning, so that "all things were made by Him",  He thus coming as the "true light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him," the word of God continues, "and the world did not know Him."

It is the one which is to be found in Colossians 1:19ff., in terms of the divine desire "to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace by the blood of the cross." Him ? Christ. It is indeed the same one which is to be found in I Timothy 2, where there is one Mediator between man and God, the man Jesus Christ, who was given a ransom on behalf of all. There is neither crimping nor cramping permitted, and with crampons fitted carefully to the feet, does one climb in the word of God, to its invincible clarity of conception, not with vagrant philosophical conundrums, founded on nothing, confusing everything in one fall, as if the feet slipping, nothing was left intact but confusion.

We are in no doubt about the extent of the conception which imbues the world to which John refers in terms of salvation: it is logically coherent from the first, definitively apparent at the outset, consistently applied and devastatingly total to the end.

But what follows John 3:16-17, but v. 18 telling us that he who believes in Jesus is not condemned, while the one who does not believe is condemned already. It is of universal application. The focus is final, the issuance is ultimate; it is in the cross one should glory, and not in something seemingly beyond (Galatians 6:14), as if even this were not enough to convince the gainsayers.

In verse 19, we have yet more to the point of what we are considering. What does it NOT SAY ?

This: And this is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, and that men who were not in the part of the world in which God was savingly interested, loved darkness rather than light.

Not at all, but rather is it this: "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."

The conditions are these: man, love of God, light, the world, the coming of Christ into the world, the criterion of salvation in the world which 1) He created and 2) was the site of His coming, where the things stated about the world, as for the world,  so specified applied.

The effort towards narrowing things down to something less represents an entire mis-disposition, not only of the terminology, but of the thrust.

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As to the latter, such an understanding as appears in the bold italics above,

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moves the ground of condemnation surreptitiously,

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from human preference - in the very face of divine willingness -

averse to the light of Him sent
towards the stated salvation of the world,
 

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to divine inhibition, limitation, circumscription of His saving interest.

This fouls the text, re-writes the grace and limiting the love of God, sequesters something of its beauty into domains which indeed have some element of the 'horribilis' of Calvin, their own reward for such daring seduction.

This would be such as to make

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the claim concerning His love for the world to the point of sending
His only begotten Son
to be fraudulent
, and
 

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the correlation of the limitless degree of that love with anyone believing,
vapid and misleading
,
 

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so that the ascription of the ground for condemnation - despite SUCH love for this world,
with such a STATED provision for ANYONE -
to contrary human preference for what is dark,
would be wholly irrelevant to the disjunction between the lost and the saved,
thus providing a species of window-dressing so specious as to be rampant irrationality.

Such is not the word of God, but the word of man running rampant.

And this astounding result is obtained by departing from the vocabulary and perspective in view in the text and context, the thrust of the salvation always in view as correlative to this world and to mankind (as in Titus 2 and 3, with Colossians 1). It would be outrageously and flagrantly narrowing the ambit of the intention from that specifically stated, and then re-writing scripture in one's own mental image.

As the English might say, Rather not!

Such distortion of the ingredients of this divine declaration, wrought by flatly anti-scriptural philosophy must stand, or rather fall, as one of the most monumental pieces of equivocal theological daring in modern times (that is, since the 'modern era' from the 16th century). For more detail on the WAY in which some of these things occur, relative to other scripture's 'interpretation', see Predestination and Freewill - PF - Section 2, Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch. 2, *1.

 

Faith, not fidgets; reception, not renegacy; selection, not bargaining; truth, and not fraud, sovereignty amid reality, and simplicity where sin makes for complexity, the imprint of almost unbearably deep love, this is the beginning, and in Romans 10 again, this is the conclusion. Such are some of the cardinal emphases of Romans 9.

 

 

 

APPENDIX of EXCERPTS

from  various SITES in this Set

which concern aspects of the issues raised above.

 

 

EXCERPT ONE

 

from

 

To Know God, the Power of Christ's Resurrection
and the Fellowship of His Suffering

 

Ch.  1

 

Thus it is in Christ before all time (Ephesians 1:4), and not in some other way; it is in the One who wept for Jerusalem and who cried for His people as a hen for chickens (SMR Appendix B), yes it is in Him that predestination was STATEDLY made; and just as it is central to the reality of the incarnation that He who has seen Christ has seen the Father (John 14:9), so it is central to realise that it is THIS Christ who shows the true heart and mind, character and disposition of God. Hence in predestination as in all other things, as He was on earth in spirit and character and word, SO He was in heaven; as He was in time, so before it. Accordingly, SO it was when in this love, many were elected, and so predestinated. These, then, they are known; they are foreknown; then the case is set: His blood has availed for them, just as it was freely offered to all, with a sincerity amounting to passion, with a depth amounting to weeping that they do not come.

 

OPEN to all, then, He is SAVIOUR TO SOME, and in so doing, He pays for those who in receiving His sacrifice, render it operative for themselves, for as to those who reject Him, of them He says this, “You shall die in your sins” – John 8:24.

 

For them, not a flicker of the register occurs, not a drop of blood is spilt, shed or oozes from the lacerations of the body of Christ, no death avails, and no redemption is provided. It is not that it is not THERE and AVAILABLE; but it is not touched. It is not that it is on the other hand, activated or applied at all, in such a case; the love is expended, but the blood is not received.  What is not received does not achieve transference. Redemption is as close as the brotherhood, while its offer is as wide as the earth, and yet wider, for it “pleased the Father that in Him should all the fullness dwell, and having made peace through the blood of the cross, through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, through Him, I say, whether they be things on earth or things in heaven” (Colossians 1:19).

 

The DESIRE of the loving heart of God is UNIVERSAL, and He says so in language frequently found, emphatic, and dramatic. The PAYMENT is adequate for all, apt for all, and interpretative of the love in this, as I John 2:2 so abundantly clearly proclaims. Thus it is, this sacrifice, “on behalf of all”, for there is none who is excluded who would come, as in the sacrifices of the Old Testament precisely;  but it is equally, effective only for many, for the whole of heaven is the inheritance of those whose sins He bore as Romans 8:32, with precise and perfect clarity, attests. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things ?”

 

Not only so, but Paul  proceeds to expatiate in the very terms of the elect: “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect ? It is God who justifies. Who is He who condemns ? It is Christ who died.”

 

Those for whom He was delivered up not merely have all of heaven as their inheritance, but are spoken of in terms of His elect! It is not for some exhibition of feeling that Christ died, though His death certainly DOES attest that feeling. To be sure, His desires and protestations as in Ezekiel 33:11 do mean that in dying He has attested His love to the uttermost; but He has not invested it in a redemption inapplicable to those for whom it is made. It is statedly for those to whom He will “also freely give all things”, that He is delivered up as a sacrifice.

 

All sacrifice indeed is meaningless to the spiritual recipient, without faith. Just as the individual in the temple patterns, would offer sacrifice on a personal substitutionary base, and would act as a believer within the terms of the covenant, so now also, it is to faith, by faith, on Him as objective, the object of faith (cf. Romans 4:24ff.). Again, just as a sacrificial offer  was made for Israel annually, so He once for all was offered; and just as only some believed (cf. Hebrews 4:1-2, I Corinthians 10:1ff.), so the sacrifice had no efficacy for such, but rather the contrary (Deuteronomy 29:18ff); and without contest, hell has no such conferment to present to any of its lonely inhabitants, nor have those eventually to be lost, any such celestial inheritance as those to whom Paul speaks in Romans 8:32ff., nor yet are the sons of hell,  the elect. It is these, the elect, for whom He is statedly delivered up, and it is to the world that He has come, out of love, proclaiming in all sincerity, “Whosoever …”

 

For God did not disdain the world, in order to send His Son, but so LOVED. He was not befuddled, but He bought. He did not pay for what He did not get, but obtained His purchase. Nor did He withhold that which might avail, but announcing love to all, He provided enough for them, but paid only for His own, not ashamed to pick up the cheques of divine credit. Where the offer is avoided, it is void.

 

The frequently found Calvinist contention is quite wrong in limiting the amplitude of that unlimited love, so that it does not relate at all to salvation*2 (cf.  Repent or Perish Ch. 1, *2, which being amplified recently, is here added as an Excursion). When God says He would have all to be saved (I Timothy 2), it is what He means.

 

His restraint is not the same either as frustration or diffuseness. The love is real, but so is its purity, and it proceeds as love does, as far as it may; and how far is that ? It is as far as He who IS love wishes to send it, though in yearning for His misspent creation, He would that it might yet reach further. Yet He will not breach His own nature, nor the natures of those for whom He has sought. The resurgence of His love, like giant rolling breakers, is most powerful and intense; but it does not fly, as if it forgot that to which it was directed. Its sincerity is towards all; its purity may reach only some, NOT because they were more meritorious, with any X-factor of desirable character, or superior operative will for that matter, but because He will not breach what He has made, and having made, both loves without limit, and acts without sullying.

 

SO He loves without limit, as He has indicated when treating of this aspect, repeatedly; and He loves also without violation of love (I John 4).

 

On the other hand, the Arminian*2 trend to expand the amplitude of His love into a deficiency of attainment, as if He paid for what is yet lost, is as bad if not worse. Here you have a flat contradiction of scripture, just as in the other case. No wonder they do war, have warred and presumably will war on and on. They are both wrong. It is as in a divorce: both parties may have sinned, each against the other and the truth, and without repentance what can be done ? So they separate.

 

In fact however, the love is as great as Wesley ever desired to express, and the sovereignty as sure as Calvin ever set his heart on expounding. Neither conflicts, neither is occasion for addition to the word of God, or for contraction of it (cf. Predestination and Freewill, Section  II and Section  III). In one point Wesley was right against Whitefield, and in one, Whitefield was right against Wesley. Love and sovereignty, each unembarrassed, each utterly integral and with utter integrity, is alike rule in this, that nothing breaches either, and each is what it is and not another.

 

 It is in this love that one works by suffering; and because it  IS this love, so ample, so vast, so unrestricted but not unrestrained in its purity, then when one proceeds thus,
it is indeed in fellowship with the Lord, a fellowship which the sufferings interpret
and their fruit depicts, for it is Christ only who saves.

 

The fellowship is not one of some synergistic symphony, as if one were a participant in providing others with salvation. Rather is it one of beautiful comradeship, so that the person speaking of Christ Jesus is provider of the word, testifier of the truth, but this as one who shares the research product of some great firm, to which one has contributed, and can contribute, NOTHING. Wrong is the often used phrase, “go out and convert someone”, or as one minister inadvisedly once applied it when as a teacher the author was speaking to a Science specialist, ‘Donaldson is converting so and so…’  

 

Yet how could I convert anyone ? If a man ministers, it is God who commands the light to shine out of darkness (II Corinthians 4:6). It is the word of God which is presented which does not return void (Isaiah 55:1-11), and the power of the Holy Spirit in His threefold work (John 16:9-11), which converts. I for my part am no more ‘converting’ someone than is the one who flies with an atomic bomb, either creating it or making its power (Romans 1:16). He merely brings it to the place where it does what it is to do. With the glorious gospel of Christ however, one is making a far greater explosion of grace,that the worst bomb of destruction; for this grace is priceless, while that may be purchased for a few millions.

 

Further, though Christ ALONE died for sins, a ransom (cf. Matthew 20:28), there is a spirit of service which endues this action, to which the Christian must come, and as Christ suffered to the most excruciating degree, in providing a redemption which hit the universe like a galaxy in collision with the earth, and its Milky Way, so the Christian may need to suffer in ways unthought of, though they could never begin to find equality with the suffering of God for man, in the form of a man, without sin and yet bearing its impact in order to dismiss it.

 

Suffering now,  for the purpose of seeking the application of His redemption by His word, this however is aptly dispensed with a liberality if required, that attests the One in whose name one comes.

 

 

Yes there is even more than this to be found in this phrase. What then do we find ?

 

In Philippians 3, Paul not only speaks of the power of God and of the sufferings which he is to endure in its exhibition and application to a suffering world; he also speaks of the “fellowship” of the sufferings of Christ, of that participation in this work of the Lord as a chief aim. In what sense then is there “fellowship” in sufferings, and how may we understand it more intimately than we have as yet ?

 

Fellowship of His sufferings: This is the easy part to SAY; but it is the hard part to DO! SINCE Christ as God is love, then His desire for the lost is most intense. WHEN you experience such a desire, and act to apply it, then you are one with Christ and He is one with you, as you follow His word, His Spirit in you (if you are a Christian – Romans 8:9). You toil for HIM, and He toils in YOU (cf. Philippians 2:12-13), and toiling together, He in you, and you to present the Gospel, expound the word, give reason for the faith, show the love of Christ, and find the self-discipline which is thus required, there is FELLOWSHIP. He acts to give power, grace and understanding, direction and joy with peace, you to implement His will in His friendship, which being divine, is incomparable.

 

There is a blessed peace between you and Him, as His life and love are shared, as a branch shares in the vine, and His power is propelling you as the sap moves through the vine to the leaves, and you rejoice in His desire, and He in your implementation.

 

He joins with you in this great project, and you with Him, and there is a cordial collaboration which engenders a friendly joy and a brotherly delight (cf. Hebrews 2:10-11,17).

 

With such a brother as this, who would not rejoice! Rejoice and again I say rejoice! says Paul (Philippians 4:4), and what is missing in that ? It is this phrase, “in the Lord” :

 

“Rejoice in the Lord, always. Again I say rejoice.”

 

 

 

KNOWING GOD

 

Yet now we return to the

 

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KNOWLEDGE of GOD: that I may KNOW HIM, says Paul, and this the first point,
we revisit and thus consider last.

 

 

This, to know God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent – not some philosophical speculation, some theosophical compilation, some vacuous visionary deposition as if this were for man to rely upon (and hence not least, no doubt, Paul’s extreme reticence on talking of his visions – II Corinthians 12:1-7).  To be sure, one may have visions (Acts 2:17), for this reference used by Peter at Pentecost and taken from Joel is one of the signals of our age, and it is to the young it is given, whilst in parallel, dreams to the old, and it is associated with the outpouring of the Spirit in a non-restrictive fashion.

 

The author had vision of God at the first leading to conversion, and it was associated at first with Gospel conviction and then with commission for ministry; and it was well to have such a commencement to such a ministry which in so much by so many for so long has been so assailed, as if simply INSISTING on the scripture of truth, the Bible as the sole authorised revelation of God to man, on its reliability and its sole efficacy, and on Christ as there presented, were fatal. It is as if it were in some way extraordinary, though it is this and must remain so to the unbelieving world, and this the more as it wanders into isolation from God with more fraud and falsity, emptiness and urbanity, terrors and acquired immunity to truth as its regress progresses to its own fatal finish. Does it not find itself outraged, inflamed, exasperated, hostile or alien even to the simplest of demonstrable propositions, which touch its pride, vainglory and false hopes!  

 

Despite all such things, like headwinds experienced by an aircraft on its journey,  there has been result, and there must be with the word of God: one naturally applies it, expounds it, expresses it point, preaches it, teaches it; but in this Age of Confusion there has been such a traditional air of this, linked to an innovative air of that,  as if the camp and not the Christ were important, or as if novelty and not necessity mattered, that it reeks of the false prophets and false christs whom Christ attested as the affliction of the times to come.

 

Visions as we read in Joel and Acts, will come. It is not at all, however, in such visions that one glories, but in God who gives the knowledge of Himself in MANY ways, as does any friend, and this One being my Creator, has inimitable ways and illimitable power: and He acts for those who wait for Him and keep His ways (Isaiah 64:5), and with what wonderful action! Moreover He has provided the decisive and definitive scripture, the incisive Christ and the expository experience of life in accord with this and with Him, just as He calls for a fellowship of sufferings; and as we proceed, who could fail to KNOW Him who calls, who enables, who delivers, who instructs the heart and teaches the mind! On the “highway of holiness” (Isaiah 35), it is of inexpressible delight that EVEN FOOLS do not err!

 

 

To know God and in particular Jesus Christ whom He has sent (John 17:3) is entirely crucial to salvation (John 17:3), just as knowing you are a man, is important in being one; for if you were confused, and thought perhaps you were an animal, you might indeed be so denatured as to be dehumanised into proportions at last contemptible. With contempt, alas, the scripture is quite clear, many will make their way to their ends (Daniel 12:2, II Peter 2:10-3:7, Matthew 7:21ff., Mark 9).

 

Imagine if a Volkswagen were convinced that it was a Boeing 747, or vice versa. Vice versa of course is the apt analogy for those who think of themselves as animals. Only recently, in conversation, one had to point out that a man could certainly DECIDE, CHOOSE to act as an animal, or a devil, or as one for whom the means of living were taken instead of the life to which they minister, but in being able so to CHOOSE, he shows that he is not this. An animal has NO CHOICE. It acts as it is. The spirit of man (Christ Jesus: the Wisdom and the Power of God, Ch. 7), enables this comedy and this tragedy of pretension; and so to act  is as mad in spirit (Hosea 9:7 gives this sense) as is its converse, where a man, being a mere sinner, comes to act as if he were God! So they RISE in folly, or FALL in baseness: astray!

 

God Himself may act as man by CHOOSING to become one; but for a man to act as God or a god, is for the Volkswagen, seeing it is popular, to decide that it is a car factory.

 

To know God means that you know what you are, whose you are by creation, whose you are by adoption as a Christian, whose blood was shed for you (Acts 20:28), whose Spirit inhabits you (Romans 8:9). You know whose inheritance is given to you (Ephesians 1:11) – though some may have seasons of confusion, alas, which should be quickly remedied in faith in Him according to His word, which is MOST clear as here shown – whose ways delight you, whose works enable you, whose finished work of atonement has paid for you, whose love embraces your spirit, whose understanding enables your mind and whose tender compassions and mercy uphold you despite your weakness, giving you strength for the day, patience for the task and rest for your soul (Matthew 11:28-30). And this ? It is indeed glorious (Isaiah 11:10, which is thus verified daily).

 

You then can know what it means that the young men will faint in their weakness, while you may be gray-headed, yet not forsaken, and with those who wait on the Lord,  INCREASE your strength, rise up with wings like eagles, run and not be weary, yes, walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:28ff.). Do you recall the word of Christ to Peter as in John 21, when finding him active anew in his earlier profession of fishing, and that after denying Christ three times at the dramatic crisis ? It was so gracious and pleasant, this word, if searching. 

 

The events were like the workings of a compressed spring. Peter realising from the very boat where he fished that it was the Lord, jumped in and swam to Him on the shore, enjoying in this way the POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION. Christ cooked the meal for them from the fish caught, just as He had eaten with them earlier (Luke 24:43), proclaiming that He was not spirit, but flesh and blood (Luke 24:39), exhorting them to HANDLE ME AND SEE!

 

Now later, in the fishing episode, when they were again led to catch many fish in a way so reminiscent of the earlier actions when He had now long known them, He proceeded to recommission Peter in terms of that love and loyalty in which He had failed, asking three times in different terms, similar questions. IF there was the warmth of friendship, and if the devotion to the Lord, then this was to be the spur for service, like that a shepherd, considerately caring for the sheep.

 

From the dead came this voice, in the living it came; and to the living to gave a privilege, for to have as employer the One who broke death leaves all knowledge in abeyance and meekness by comparison, and all power puny.  It is the power of One who was dead and is alive (Revelation 1:18-19), and having taken the whole course of triumph, the tour of duty, having visited the human form and lived in it, sickness and cured it, death and raised the dead, He then went through that supreme sacrifice of actually dying Himself, that in the breach of death, not only as an event and power, but as something having grounds in divine justice, there might be met the breath of life: and He lived. Would a manm forget this ? Would such a commission pall, or would it be inadequate ? for what power is greater, and what can threaten more than this, which is quenched, like flames, and what confidence could excel the trust in the One who did it!

 

“Because,” said Christ, “I live, you shall live also!” (John 14:19, Romans 3:23ff.).

 

The knowledge of God, to know Him, it is not a phrasing or a clutter of speech, but an experience so utterly exceptional, a function so truly unique, that one can understand, even before Christ put His seal on it all, the Psalmist well saying, as in Psalm 73:25:

 

“Whom have I in heaven, but Thee;

and there is none whom I desire on earth, beside Thee.”

 

If a tree were a man, would it not know the river by which it lives, as some giant red gum by an Australian stream (the Holy Spirit as in the imagery of Ezekiel 47 and Revelation 22 q.v.). Would he not know the fishermen who were by his side ? Would he not provide shade for them ? Would he not know the ground of his roots (“other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 3:11) ? Would he not know the skies above (we are sitting in heavenly places IN CHRIST – Ephesians 2:6) ? Would he not sense the profundity of peace as the stream ran on its course, bringing blessing on all sides (cf. Isaiah 48:18, Psalm 1),  beauty in arcades about it ?

 

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So when a man is IN Christ, and Christ in him (Colossians 1:27),

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does he not know it ? 

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Or when he knows WHO forgave his sins and pardoned his iniquities,

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WHO suffered for him and WHO gave His life for Him,

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WHO being sent by the LOVE of God, loved His own to the end (John 13:1)
and offered His salvation freely to all; and when he realises

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WHO lives in Him and

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WHOSE He is,

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is he unconscious of these specifications and dynamics of living ?

 

Further, when the Holy Spirit sent by Christ from the Father (John 15:26) works in Him, at times striving mightily (Philippians 2:13-14, Ephesians 3:16), does he not know it ? Indeed, in knowing Christ in this way, he does more than assent to propositions, though these do truly express reality when from the Bible they come; he knows the One who made them.

 

Some use some conception of this to try to ADD to the word of God, as if knowing God made you an apostle, or being saved gave you sanction to invent: but the canon is indeed closed (cf. SMR Appendix  C and  D, Ancient Words, Modern Deeds Ch. 11, Sparkling Life Chs. 1-2), and irreversibly the portrait of Christ is once for all made in history, and indited in word form, by those whom saw Him. It is useless trying to paint a portrait with your mind; for you must see the One concerned.

 

Some use it to subtract from the word of God, so that the authority of Him who came to make manifest who God is, what His love is and His salvation, is to be excluded in behalf of this great and sensational presumption, that someone neither witnessing His splendour nor living in His time, if it were possible would pare off, like some beauty surgeon, the divine face till it fits his own preferred philosophic and arrogant moulding. If such a task is purely spiritual, it is neither spiritually pure nor much to be preferred to that other remoulding which snatched out His beard and acted so to deform His physique that the residue, we read, was scarcely recognisably human (Isaiah 52:12ff.).

 

Some use it in seeking to evade what God has said. They use the reliability and definitive character of the word of God written, the Bible, to evade the personal reception of Christ, just as He Himself said when on earth! In John 5:39-47, we see it clearly, the incalculable intimacy of the word which depicts and the Christ whom it depicts like partners in marriage, and the failure of some to follow the one given, to the One shown:

 

“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. I do not receive honor from men.
 

“But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you.
 

“I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.
 

“How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?

 

"Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

 

 

 

EXCERPT TWO

 

from To Know God ... Ch.  1, *2

 

Post-script of Encouragement:

See Predestination and Freewill pp. 79ff., re Calvin's declaration in Institutes Book 3, Ch.XXIV, 17. Calvin's endeavour to make metaphors a conveyor of what is not the case, as if we did not know metaphor for what it is, a CORRECT depiction of the POINT to which it refers is wholly irrelevant, and not admirable. "Stretching forth one's arms" is not a reference, one might without much difficulty discern, to God's having arms. If so, what is the use of metaphor at all! It is however a clear reference to what THIS ACTION IMPLIES, when it is performed, and so conveys this.

God does indeed have most deep thoughts, as Calvin indicates, and it is indeed entirely possible to misread this depth, which is infinite, and to imagine that some item on the agenda means something final, when it is merely an incident to alert, a device to sensitise and so forth. Indeed this equally is quite true. What however is not at all true is this: that God who in depth is so vast, in speech is not accurate.

When therefore He declares that something is so, it is His VERY DEPTH and righteousness, in whom is no unrighteousness at all, which MEANS that we CANNOT and DARE NOT and in all modesty SHOULD NOT attempt to "READ" it like the scribes of old, to MEAN something other than what it says. It is nothing to do with being literal, but only with handling the word of God with soft fingers, so that a declaration that HE WOULD, on the part of Christ, MEANS that He would, and not that His disfigurement was not only OF  Him, on the Cross, but even BY Him, of the Father also, a blasphemous thought, when you tease it out and look it in the face.

The FORM of Christ STATEDLY involved Him in what as a servant was not found in the FORM of God: that is, He could thirst and be arrested. The declarations of Christ however are not even His own invention, but He provided what His Father commanded (John 12:48-50). This then would make even the Father a communicative failure. It is time such nonsense was ousted from the realms of theology, where its philosophic intrusion is barred rightly by Paul in Colossians 2:8.
 

·       Philosophy ? From the heart of man,

·       it is indeed "vain", as is anything which

·       tempers the word of God with human wit, and

·       tampers with direct statements as to the nature of the heart and will of God.

·       Christ became man not to distort or disorientate, but to declare and lead the Father forth, so that he who knew Him, knew the Father likewise, NOT some first beginnings in which error could creep, so that what was declared to be SO, in terms of principle and approach on the part of God, was NOT so.


That is not theology, it is philosophy. The so-called five points of Calvinism, if read in the context of Scripture as always for all things necessary in doctrine, are indeed excellent. They help to exhibit many errors. But this is no reason for elevating Calvin to a pinnacle of which men will say, "I of Apollos, I of Calvin!" It is quite simply by the word of God FORBIDDEN to do this (I Corinthians 3:4,21-23).

How long does it take for this word to be obeyed! Does the word of God owe something to Augustine or to Calvin or to Apollos? Of course not, for as Paul states, he received it by revelation from God, not of man at all, neither from what he was taught, and in I Cor. 2:9-13 he traces how the wording itself is provided by God, whose is both the substance and its expression, preserved to His entire quality specifications for the word of God. (See SMR, Appendix D on this topic.) If this word is not heeded, then the errors, few though they may be, of one saint of great power and service to the church, may be imbibed as if the fluid of his speech were the very pure milk of the word. (Cf. The Kingdom of Heaven, Ch.9, pp. 174ff., items 12-13, The Biblical Workman Ch.8, including *2.)

Enough! It is forbidden and it is done, and it ought not to be done, and one of its results is not only a limitation of restrictive vision, as by blinkers on a horse, concerning the very word of God itself, but a restless divisiveness which can afflict the church. It is not merely wholly unnecessary, but to the praise of God let it be clearly stated, it COULD NOT HAPPEN IF THE WORD OF GOD WERE OBEYED. You are simply not permitted to develop a form of doctrine based on the correctness of any theologian, though you may choose of his works for formulations, always susceptible to testing.

These however, even these, may not be "of Calvin" or of "Augustine" or "of Apollos", but merely helps. Moreover, following such a stringently Biblical path as here recommended, and indeed divinely commanded, could only stimulate the real uniting church - not one in fellowship with Rome , but one ruled by the word of God, outside the philosophical and often personalised camps that conflict often both with each other and the word of God, minimising or adding to it. (Cf. Biblical Blessings Ch.3, end-note 1, and "moderation" in the Topical Index for "The Twenty One".)

Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, for there is simply nothing comparable (Colossians 3:17). It is one of the features of churches like the Presbyterian Church of Australia, at least before it developed novel features and changed its way, that it ADDED this emphasis on the love of God TO the Westminster Confession in the so-called Declaratory Statement, which in this was a wonderful refinement. The system was not wrong: that was not the point. The addition of this pre-systematic reality of the love of God in its Biblical force was needed, and efforts were made to ensure it was there. This was an excellent and discerning move. Let us however revert to Calvin.

Unfortunately, Calvin was carried away here. CHRIST WOULD HAVE GATHERED THEM UNDER HIS WINGS, just as He says, and these, the daughters or current generation of Jerusalem, her children, WERE NOT WILLING (Matthew 23:37, cf. SMR Appendix B and below). It is true that Calvin was dealing with some saucy doctrine of the flesh, and seeking to refute it, but to invent one's own doctrine is not the way to declare that of the Lord! The full analysis of this matter is found in Predestination and Freewill where shown, and in what follows throughout its presentation.. He wants to show that it does not "follow that God's plan was made void by man's evil intent", and this is a good objective, since He states that He works all things after the counsel of His own will, and does what He pleases in heaven and earth, albeit it is a good pleasure (Ephesians 1:11, Psalm 115, Ephesians 1:5). The objective does not however sanction the method taken to refute that error: it is not good to make one error to refute another.

God's restraint in love is shown throughout the whole Bible in such terms, in so many images, through so many deeds, in such declarations, with such pathos, poignancy, amid such protestations, with so many devices to delay judgment, that a failure to perceive that this Sovereign is so loving that John declares "God is love", is a lapse sufficient to have sent shock-waves through Christendom for long enough. It is time the striving ceased and the word of God ruled, and that the pugilistic "certainties" of philosophic camps, somehow arrayed within the walls of what is called the church, made peace first with the word of God, and then with each other.

Meanwhile, the word of God is true, and harmonious, and like God, it is wonderful, it is His, and as we read in our dissertation on the Song of Solomon, "His mouth is most sweet" (The Kingdom of Heaven... Ch.11). It is the textual certainties which do not vary, and cannot with truth be invaded. These have a harmony (as demonstrated in Predestination and Freewill) which is profoundly arresting and unique in this field. That is good. But it is HIS word; and that is better.

As the Psalmist puts it,

·       "Thy testimonies have I taken as a heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart" - Psalm 119:111, and again,

·       "The righteousness of Thy testimonies is everlasting: give me understanding, and I shall live" v.144;

·       "Thy word is true from the beginning, and every one of Thy righteous judgments endures for ever" - v. 160;

·       "Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors" - v. 24,

·       "How sweet are Thy words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" - v. 103;

·       "Thy word is very pure, therefore Thy servant loves it" - v. 140;

·       "concerning Thy testimonies, I have known from of old that Thou hast founded them for ever" - v. 152,

·       "forever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven" - v. 89, and

·       "Through Thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way" - v.104.

By these, one knows the true from the false, and one does not fiddle with the standard, which is then MADE false.

Let God be true, though every man a liar! His word? It is true that when we know as we are known, prophecies shall no longer be the sometimes indirect exposure, but sight the direct knowledge. Nevertheless, it is sufficiently clear that this does not render dispensable the word of God which is and always has been, utterly pure - "The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times" - Psalm 12:6. When God speaks, we do not hypothesise as to His meaning, we read it; far less do we hypothesise that it is contrary in Christ to the Deity, when He IS the deity, or that His human form defiles His truth, for He stated, "I am the truth".

Let us therefore read and understand with the Psalmist, and BY IT try every false way, and REPENT of sin with all our hearts and abide in Him and have His words abide in us, for there is not merely safety, but the unspeakable joy of His company and comfort, who desires us so to abide.

God did indeed so love THE WORLD that HE GAVE His only-begotten Son, and what obscures this mission is not of the Lord, but of sin; and those who in sin depart from this divine and universal offer from the very heart of God, do despite to their own hope, doubly in folly, that in the face of such a love and heart as this, they so distinguish themselves. As He says in Matthew 23:37, so in Isaiah 30:15: "In returning and rest shall you be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: and you would not." Again, as noted in The Kingdom of Heaven, Ch.4, we have this:
 

·       "Thus in John 3 we are told that THIS is the condemnation, that light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light, or more literally, men loved the darkness more than the light.

·       "Now if anyone sought to establish that the light referred to was not Jesus Christ, he would have some difficulty in escaping a just charge of eisegesis. After all, the Gospel of John has been at extreme pains to show that the light IS Jesus Christ, sent into the world. It actually SAYS so (John 1:3,10-11). The Word is the focus, it was the light, is the light, became flesh and dwelt among us. This is the declaration" ... "

 

As we there show in detail from John's Gospel, with a declared PURPOSE of NON-CONDEMNATION Christ came into the world, that it might be saved, and the PRINCIPLE, in the light of this light, for actual CONDEMNATION is this: that light has come and men have preferred darkness to light. And the light, it is He who HAS COME, as just described in enormous detail, in the incarnation.

The purpose is EXPLICIT, the PROVISION is AMPLE, the DIVINE MOTIVE is DECLARED, and the principle for exclusion in hell is MANIFESTED in terms of human preference in the face of this Light... The Light is manifested in terms of Christ, who declares "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12), whose divine entry and full-orbed wonder is the chief focus of John 1. Its rejection, thus defined, is the condemnation, because of preference for darkness.

This, of condemnation, is the essence. It is not something hidden; it is something stated, stipulated in principle.

The fact that man is too sick in soul to make the "decision" for His salvation is not in the least relevant to the way in which GOD in His foreknowledge, being wholly apt for any knowledge, predestines those whom HE foreknows. It is not in the hands of man, but in those of God exclusively; but as to those hands, they are those which relate to the God who has declared His heart, His intention and His principles. There is no room for doubt except by butting into the word of God like a goat into a fence. He is always the same, and His ways do not change, and they are as Christ has shown them to be, declaring, He who has seen Me has seen the Father, that He spoke what His Father commanded, and who, in response to the cry for the showing of the Father to His disciples, replied,

"Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known ME, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father, so how can you say, 'Show us the Father!' "

Changes of form (Philippians 2) do nothing therefore to defile, distort or smash the reality, the principles, the force, the texture or the truth. He, as He there lived, declaring, "I am... the truth" (John 14:6).

To libel the love of God by constricting it where He affirms it, in the interests of a blind and circumscribed philosophy, is a rank act; just as is, at the other philosophical extremity, that distortion of sovereignty that imagines God to resolve in vain (v. Isaiah 43:13). Disabled by sin, man is nevertheless not deleted, and is found by that uncontractable love of God, of Colossians 1:19-23, I Timothy 2:1-6, being predestined to this.

God does not contradict Himself, affirming the desire, while from eternity and in principle, withholding the means essential to its fulfilment, but cries to responsible man, 'Repent!' (Matthew 4:17, Luke 13:1-3), and to Jerusalem, weeping, "If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes..." (Luke 19:42, cf. The Kingdom of Heaven, Ch.4, esp. pp. 49ff.).

The shallow sophistications of misled philosophy always entice the unwary to their additive constraints; but God knows how to be what He is and get what He wants even in the realm of personality, achieving without dispersion, receiving without distortion, being received without violence, the lover who leaves all other love behind, yet inspires it and is its rest and source.

·       As in predestining sublimity (cf. Predestination and Freewill),

·       so in historical reality,

·       God is able to receive and be received by what is His own,

·       with no mechanics to defile His principles,

·       or derangements to over-rule His protestations.

·       It remains true that in the face of the ample and capacious love of God to the world (John 1-3 and elsewhere as noted),

·       the gift of repentance, like all the rest of the amazing deliverances to those elected to be the children of God,

·       is truly received,

·       and the non-reception of what is proffered

·       remains the divinely stated criterion of exclusion (John 3:17ff.), even in the face of such love, a love uninterested in this phase, in any condemnation,
but rather desiring  incorporation.

 

Such thoughts therefore, as those cited from Calvin, which would convey a breach between the heart and mind of Christ and of His Father are vain. Such a procedure is worse then irrelevant.
It does not move this fence. God's word protects God from such false allusions to His word, to His principles and to His purpose, just as, in the field of  a parallel error, they protect man from delusive imaginations about His own "capacity" to gain His salvation by any work or nuance, any nobility or merit, any work of his own.
 

·       Response then is in the end, real and apt for one in the image of God: it is merely a matter of  how it is secured in the Lord before all time, as He who knows all, also know this: what is appropriate for His love in such a disenabled soul. Contentious cavils, philosophic intrusions with all their merely human and passing insistences, the constraints of confusion and illusion, will never erode the clear declaration of the word of God, from the right or from the left, from 'super-orthodoxy' or from rabbled and irrational radicalism. He who, in His love and salvation, does violence to the will of none, and in love does not shanghai or play the buccaneer, knows also this: who are His and why.

 

"HOW OFTEN" He had sought, as He said. HOW often would He have gathered the children of Jerusalem together under His wings, those who, as with "the children of Israel" of old, were the current generation of the people, and here those of the great city  (cf. II Chronicles 36:15ff.). In Christ's day we read of those of yore, He sent because "He had compassion on His people"! "IF ONLY...", as Christ cried in His own day on earth, if only they had known! But as to the daughter of Jerusalem, as the contemporary citizens are often called (Appendix B, SMR, cf. Matthew 23:37, Luke 19:42ff., Jeremiah 6:2-312-15,, 6:23,26, 8:11, 9:1,7, Lamentations 2:2,8), she was not interested. In former days, AFTER the judgment from Babylon, we read that the elders of this 'daughter' (Lamentations 2:10) "sit on the ground and weep in silence". It is as with Isaiah:


"...this is a rebellious people,
Lying children,
Children who will not hear the law of the LORD,
Who say to the seers, 'Do not see,'
And to the prophets, 'Do not prophesy to us right things;
Speak to us smooth things,
prophesy deceits.
Get out of the way,
Turn aside from the path.
Cause the Holy One of Israel
To cease from before us" (from Isaiah 30:9-11, emphasis added).
 

·       As with Jeremiah, where 'she', the daughter of Jerusalem, was instructed to roll around in the dust in shame at her abominations, so now. He would have gathered that generation together under His wings, as a hen gathers her chickens ... just as He would have healed... even BABYLON and Israel itself (Jeremiah 51:9, Hosea 7:1). But it is not so!
 

·       His tenderness and restraint, not to say patience, are clear in so many ways, that the small selection here made is merely indicative; but this it is. To divorce the Lord from this aspect is no less or more distorting that to humiliate His sovereignty into some cap-in-hand uncertainty. God is not only a lover, but an all-knowing one; He is not only a sovereign, but a wholly compassionate one: and what if, with much patience, He endured those foreknown for destruction! (Romans 9:22).
 

·       He does not put the lost sheep in grappling irons, but carries it home on His shoulder.

The foreknowledge does not pre-empt love, but expresses what, as John 3 makes so clear, is undercut by nothing. If then, it is a sovereign love, it is the love of a loving sovereign. He is so towards Israel as already shown in many examples (cf. SMR Appendix B), even when they are rejected, statedly BECAUSE of their rejection of Him who appeals, provides and protests, and in protesting, protests His love that a peace and blessing should be theirs, of profound and beautiful character, in Him (as in Ezekiel 33:11 cf. Acme, Alpha and Omega: Jesus Christ, Ch.10. pp. 143ff., cf. I Tim. 2:1-5) .

Christ, desolate at their rejection of Him (because it would render them desolate, as we see in Luke 19:42ff.), yet receives it. He does not twiddle with words, like a verbally contentious scribe or a legal contortionist, with specious sophisms, or captious cavils: but He appeals to the heart, just as He who IS the truth (John 14;6) expresses with profundity and justice, His own!

If some did not receive the grant of repentance (Acts 11:18), even though Christ did not come to condemn, but that the world might be saved through Him (John 3:17), God being willing that all might be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (I Tim. 2:1-6): it was not because the Lord had  a lapse of concentration, or a technical failure. It was not for such reasons that many are doomed (Matthew 7:13-14, Mark 9).

Pilfering His product (themselves), with those who do "always resist the Holy Spirit" (Acts 7:51-52), despite outpourings of divine grace, even reaching to manifest divine revelation (Acts 7:53) and in fact, to the Light Himself when He came (John 1-3) into the world, and the express willingness that it might be saved (John 3:17), they find gravity rather than grace as they hurtle with remorseless heart, over the cliff of the rock on which they should have stood, to the waters of death.

Thus we find this living embodiment of the word of God, Christ Jesus the Lord (John 1, John 12:48ff.), lament at what was, in marred will and feverish restlessness, to be lost, rather than to awake to an understanding of the day of its visitation (Luke 19:42ff.). Alas, like Elisha of old (II Kings 8:11-13), Christ wept at the judgment on the remorselessly recalcitrant; for they achieve their damnation with notable diligence.

And what is their stated ground for judgment ?  that their indefensible and indispensable preference for darkness endured, and did not falter. This preference in the beseeching presence of eternal light (John 3:19, cf. John 15:21ff.), the very cited basis of the condemnation, is as far from some imagined diversion of His heart, from His stated love (I John 3:19), some dimming of its amplitude (Col. 1:19ff.) and His gracious purpose (cf. I John 2:1-3) as it would readily be possible to move! Not in pettifogging ploys and words (I Tim. 2:14, Proverbs 8:8-9), but in explicit declaration of intent from His very nature (John 4:8-10) is the case in view.

With every avenue shut, every focus dimmed, every sacrifice delusively dismissed, every heart of many being sought, as hard as adamantine, as in the days of the prophets, He did not swoop in like German blitzkriegs in the shape of some medieval crusader. Rather did He fulfil His mission in power and word, in declaration and rebuttal, in divine attestation of His divinity, in crushing collision with sin on the cross where He bore it for those to be redeemed. Penetrating as foreknown and predestined in His love (for God IS love), He acted then as before time (Ephesians 1:4), in the very spirit and reality which he showed in earth, of whom it is rightly said, He who has seen Me has seen the Father.

Who said that ? Christ said it. Meanwhile, judgment set in like a cloud, as darkness symbolically covered the site of His execution. They but executed their own mercy.

Soon their very city would be executed by Rome. What is profoundly beautiful in His love, is this, that even as His own carnage come near, a work of indescribable dimensions since it included the actual bearing in the human format of the guilt of the sin of all to be redeemed from all ages, He wept. But for whom ? NOT for Himself, in this planned outrage on His person and purity, drafted into a vicarious sacrifice, but for the OBJECT of His concern, those of Jerusalem!

His judgments, to be sure on the other side, follow with distinctness, even if amazing extensions - before eventual impact - may occur to the point that Ezekiel was instructed to deal with a newer type of tortuous twisting on the part of mockers. Their new contortion of truth: it was to the effect and complaint that God prolongs things: THEREFORE, says the prophet from the mouth of the Lord, JUDGMENT IS NOW.

There will be no more delay (Ezekiel 12:22-28). Compare to this, Jeremiah 17:19-27 where a proposition for prolonged and wonderful blessing, even to remain for ever (17:25), was made: even in the midst of judgment, a fresh proposal of splendid mercy was provided, one which their hearts were not in tune to keep, though it was ever so simple, and filled with grace. They would not heed even that.

"Therefore tell them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: 'None of My words will be postponed any more, but the word which I speak will be done,' says the Lord God." Imminent doom became an implacable end.

Neither aspect, love or sovereignty, seeking in mercy (in which CATEGORICALLY, GOD DELIGHTS - Micah 7:18-19) or declaring in judgment - presenting or precluding, pre-empts the other: God is not divided, and knows His own mind, and declares in truth His own heart.

What He says in principle, over and over in this form, phrase and phase and in that, as He constantly reveals the love and the seeking (cf. Hosea 12:10), and as He repeatedly constrains and controls with His decisions and determinations, His sovereign edicts: BOTH we know, and that, it is the whole point. Only philosophy objects with its running sore of uncontrolled thrusting past the word of God, to satisfy this or that human instinct: and as to that, as Paul declares, it is vain; for what is man's thought compared with the Lord, and man's thoughts are not as His.

As to those who know Him, however, they know this, that this miracle of miracles, that HE should penetrate to their heart and find them, it is the work of God for whom nothing shall be said to be impossible (Luke 1:37, John 6:28-29). Nothing BUT that work and that work alone, could have secured it (John 10:26); but as John 1-3 makes so superabundantly clear, God is not selectively disregarding where it counts, anyone in the scope of His offer and the reality of His love; it is a preference for darkness in the very face of this universality of the divine cover of charity, which is cited as the ground of condemnation (John 3:15-19); it is the failure to come to Him in the face of such words and deeds as these, which is cited against them (John 15:21-23).

Without that, as the Scripture says, to the point at issue (their salvation), "they would have had no sin. But now...", it is the end, for there is no other beginning for sinners, but this.

There is nothing wreathed or contorted, twisted or devious about the word of God. It is not least for that reason that as to His words, "They are all clear to him who understands". His word is pure, see times refined, and in Him is no iniquity at all (James 1:17, Psalm 92:15, Deuteronomy 32:4); and it is from His light that we see light (Psalm 27;1, 36:9). But let us resume.

If we put together the two conclusions of such impenitence in John 15:22,24, we gain the understanding. They "would have had no sin", but now, they having disbelieved though faced with the direct impact of His words and His deeds, He declares:

a) "they have no excuse for their sin"
b) "they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father".

He adds:  "But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, 'They hate Me without a cause' " - John 15:25.

To disregard (Him) at this level, to discount at this intense place of value and sacrifice, is to relegate reality and mercy and hope to the point that all that is precious is despised. Indeed that, in spiritual things where the petty patter of legalisms is long since past,  is to assign such a nethermost portion to the infinite God of all wonder, definitively declared in Jesus Christ and as His own Person, that it is classed rightly indeed, as hate. Rejection of Christ at this point then appears as it is:

An impermeable, impenetrable,

undying, ungrounded, unfounded,

unruly and intemperate

disregard

of intimate, ultimate value and majesty,

tenderness and mercy from Creator to creature.

Christ is not demi-urge but deity, and denial of Him in His mercy mandate ministry is consignment to hell by one's own soaring folly as efficient - all too efficient - cause. It is this ultimate denial in His gracious, Messianic face which is the defined, despatch notice to doom.

For this, the first call is straightforward, simple and clear:

"REPENT FOR THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND" (Matthew 4:17), and this,

"UNLESS YOU REPENT YOU WILL ALL LIKEWISE PERISH."

And the invitation is no less clear, "For as many as received Him to them He gave the authority to become children of God" - John 1:12.

The interminable horror of the folly is justly seen in its counterpart and destiny: the "everlasting contempt" (Daniel 12:2).

·       To subtract acceptance, as if one merely were on auto-pilot under mechanical control; or to add good works, church works, church acceptance, penances, indulgences, traditions, hopes, gurus, ancient as with Rome or recent as with mutant Buddhist, Hindu or other existential varieties, self-fulfilment, self-assertion in spiritual things, methods ... to the work of Christ, is to subtract truth or to add folly to love, blatancy to beauty, flesh to spirit, restlessness for rest, vinegar for balm, and pride for humility.

Christ ALONE is perfect and offered Himself WITHOUT SIN or SPOT to God, His Father, thereby purchasing eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12), so that those so covered are “perfected for ever” by one offering (Heb. 10:10), and those thus redeemed (Ephesians 1:7), “have obtained an inheritance” (as in Romans 8:32 in precise parallel): for just as His love is vast and illimitable in scope, so is His redemption limited and arithmetically precise in coverage. It is a limited atonement, a limited attainment in sheep found, but an unlimited issuance in love presented. The price is adequate, effectual, delimited, pure, only His (Acts 4:11-12, Hebrews 9:12-14, Galatians 3:1-13).

 

·       To add to the purchase price given by God alone, by the work of sinners, in terms of your own merit or will (Romans 9:16, John 1:12), proclivities or powers, or any contribution therefrom;   or anybody else's, or that of any group, theologian or body, or in terms of any innate godliness or God-suitability (Ephesians 2:1-10): this is a presumption so bold, an addition so contrived, a denial of the freedom of salvation so vast, an antidote to the deliverance of Galatians 3:1-5 so complete, a rejection of the amplitude of Galatians 6:14 so perfect, as to form a badge almost for a brigade within that everlasting contempt.

·       There, instead of direct rejection, you find the adornment of God with man’s assertions; instead of open contempt for Christ, you find what despises His covenant; instead of protection by His blood, there is discovered a wasting substitute for faith.

·       Here sinners 'help', as did the High Priest with Pilate. (Hebrews 9:12-15,24-28; 10:10,14, Romans 6:24, 5:15, 3:25-28, Galatians 3:1-5, 6:14, I Peter 1:18-21,3-5, John 11:49-50, II Corinthians 5:17-21, 11:1-13:6.)

 

Indeed, it is important that tradition should not blind to the fact that some may UNINTENTIONALLY add by implication with an X-factor of God-desirability (cf. Calvin in Predestination and Freewill Section II and The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4), back of election, of predestination; just as much as others may do much the same with an express confession of the efficacy of their own wills, in the selection for salvation! Moreover, in efforts and endeavours to make some point sure, instead of simply relying on the word of God, many bring in unnecessary controversy. In the end, it is all over before it begins: it is written, on the one side and the other, and neither can add by their traditions and irreconcilable antinomies or adverse contentions.

 

The only safe procedure is to take the word of God as it comes, not to take it where you think it should go; and while God is merciful, there is no comfort to the church of God in philosophic preoccupations defiling the purity of His word.

 

 

·       The rags of ecclesiastical or personal or social self-righteousness (Isaiah 64:6, Jeremiah 17:5-9, I Cor. 3:3-11) are indeed filthy. Did PAUL die for you, or PETER, or THE CHURCH, or some theologian, or some sect, or did some tradition of men, some named theologian amongst men (cf. the prohibition in I Corinthians 3:4) ? Did he or it rise for your justification (Romans 4:25). Does Christ need your help, or that of Peter, whom He had to rebuke sharply in terms of satanic error, when the latter took it into his head to 'help' Christ (Matthew 16:22-23) by some invention of his own ?

·       In His divinity, God has accomplished His work of predestination, applying all His love, and securing the result. In your humanity, you need to receive it, leaving to God the treatment of will, knowing this, that what concerns you is not making excuse in terms of the only harmony on earth, touching responsibility and sovereignty, freedom and determinism, but facing it squarely, that this being gone, you must come or not. Changing the appeal to philosophic tantrums will do nothing to alter the result, except in the end, these merely attest your preference for darkness. In the truth, however, there is only light! (See references at the end of this Excursion, esp. where marked red.)

 

·       Such inventions, as Peter momentarily tell into, may be intentional, outrageous by design; or confused, imputing without thought; but when each is exposed, then to cling to it, or to some school of theology which is not endorsed by the Bible, adding to protect just as Liberals subtract to sack, then warning is needed; for the whole process is in vain.

 

·       What is written equally affirms the unlimited love of God back of the salvation enterprise, and the unlimited sovereignty of God in applying that love. He neither resiles from it, nor abandons its supervision. As to the love of God, it is necessary to remember that it is GOD’s; and as to the scope of it, it is in parallel needful to recall that it is without limit, that it does not flicker unsteadfastly, but is what He says it is, speaking again and again with both direct and indirect testimony of its intensity and the profundity of grief when it is not received.

 

In the end, much falls from His love, and naturally this He has known from the beginning (Ephesians 1:4); yet it is not by this limited in kind, but in the reception of its kindness. In all this, man is so adept at adding to the word of God, the ideas of his own mind, for this or for that, that to escape such pollution of the pure love of God, or His plan of salvation, requires a discipline that sees beyond tradition, and reads WHAT IS THERE!

 

·       As to that sort of pollution, nowadays it would probably be dignified by the term 'theology', but unless repented of, it readily becomes merely idolatry, allowing the things of man to add to the things of God, when the Gospel, even if  PAUL HIMSELF should change it, merely condemns the arrogance of those who so act (Galatians 1:6-9). Paul's gospel was not future, but PAST in this,  that it was what HE HAD PREACHED at the time of writing. (See The Everlasting Gospel - Barbs, Arrows and Balms, Item 17.) Addition of ANYTHING to Christ's personal work is utterly condemned, and of anything to our own value, but what grace provides, no less (Romans 10). Such things represent in the end, a monstrous and monumental perversion of the truth (Gal. 3:1-13). Indeed, those who add to "these things" are exemplified in Peter's momentary fall, not his repentance (I Peter 5:1-4, 1:3-5, Revelation 22:18-19, Proverbs 30:6).

Rejection is a perverse syndrome, sometimes acting in flamboyant disregard, at times in wily subtleties, seeking to add, or change without confrontation, at times acting as if to accept in forms, but without faith. However, without FAITH you cannot please God, and the OBJECT OF FAITH is the FOUNDATION, Jesus Christ (not a sinner, Creator in form of creature, but per se Creator, Philippians 2), whose death wholly atones (Galatians 3:1-13), whose resurrection brings justification, whose people are through faith in Him, already saved (II Timothy 1:9-10, Titus 3:5, Ephesians 2:1-10).

Acceptance however, acceptance "in the beloved" (Ephesians 1:3-6), whereby the Christian has already "obtained an inheritance" (1:11), like the clear-hearted acceptance of Christ crucified, yes rather risen (Romans 8:31-33), in repentance towards God, leads to such an abundance, an outpouring (cf. Proverbs 1:20-33) that it is scarcely comprehensible in its profundity (cf. Ephesians 3:17-21), being like a geyser for vigour, like a mountain for solidity, like a breeze for purity and freshness, like manna from heaven, as undeserved, like the love of the artist of beauty so long pre-programmed and now seen in dawning and sunset, when swept away are the clouds of sin and self and other-selves.

These last? They are found in items such as church in the place of Christ, or pope, or priest, or self, or society, or community, or nation, or United Nations or some adventitious theology. Some of these are things that could, if acting in appointed places, levels or roles,  be good; but which become damnable when they act to usurp the pre-rogatives of God. In others of these cases, it is their very nature, they are so constructed as to usurp; but not by God! (Cf. SMR pp. 1032-1088H.)

To all this there is indeed an "everlasting contempt" most horrible in that it is most apt; for how much fouler is it to modify a gift of another, to pollute by sinful imperfections the sinless perfection of God.

But do you not realise that this, the profundity of the ruin is correlative to what is indeed encouraging to receive with joy, the ultimate of all wonders? The intensity of the light needed is index to the blackness of darkness to be contrived in His absence, in departure from Him who is so high, so glorious, so close to heart, the key to the puzzle, the flaming life to the spark, the plateau on which to land our small craft. How intense is the love of God that He went so far to deliver from so much, with One so precious! and that THIS LOVE is not excluded from the seeker of salvation in terms of the same Jesus Christ, for

"God demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" - Romans 5:8. He did not wait for the gaining of righteousness in order to love.

What remains as much a delight is this further fact:

"having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" - Romans 5:1. It is not in heaven that it needs to be arrested, it is not in hell that it needs excavation: it is right here, at your side, in your ear, by your mouth, that you might call upon the name of the Lord and be saved from the follies that being contemptible, will find contempt, for the life that being His who is magnificent, is abundant (Acts 2:38, 4:11-12, I Peter 3:21).

And then?
 

·       " 'For Your sake we are killed all the day long;

We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.'


"Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

·       For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us form the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" - (Romans 36-38).


What then ? There is this amplitude, this restraint, this foreknowledge and predestination IN HIM who on earth showed His heart, which also is likewise therefore the very quality of His love IN the very act of predestination, which thus assures and does not remove, what is in His heart: for ...
 

·       "It pleased the Father that in Him all the fulness should dwell,

·       and having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, " Colossians 1:19-20.


That is the nature of His pleasure who DELIGHTS IN MERCY (Micah 7:19ff.). SO far from niggardly in the export of His love, He finds in the distribution of mercy, a cause and ground of rejoicing. That is the way it is. Thank God that it is!  How great is the marvel of Him whom to know is life eternal… Let us then not squander His word, but swallow it; not adding sugars and sweets of our own, or sour or bitter pills, as if a junior artist should attempt to ‘adjust’ the work of an artistic master; for with them, it is merely comparative in collision; but with God, it is superlative in squalor.

When therefore we set forth, it is with relish for the liberality of His love, the power that backs it and the fellowship of sufferings that are unimpugnable, for to Him nothing is inextricable; only He will not use to abuse, nor will He surrender to those who, in the fullness of arrogance, would like to manage His affairs for Him, making man master, or God of limited love, rather than He whose unlimited purity has marvellous restraint, not on its own standards, but on His approach to man (cf. The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4).

It is to this God that we look, as led forth in Christ, depicted in scripture, and it is He whose compassions are new every morning, who comes onto the spirit of man as rain on the grass to refresh its growth, with a purity apart from all human reservoirs and containers. It is He who is to be known, as He is, and not as He is concocted in the philosophies, traditions or intractabilities of man.

The power of this, the living God, the fellowship of His sufferings and the knowledge of Him, so that one can truly say, I know God: it is on these things that Paul has focused, and it is this which we have sought to follow in scriptural terms. They are uniquely harmonious, wholly adequate, answering every quibble, challenge and confrontation, while providing confrontations unanswerable, as befits the word of God, and joys inextinguishable in the performance of His wishes, in His presence. .

As to knowing God:  without this, there is a void implacable, and a nullity impenetrable, the stuff if philosophy and the dabbling with destiny as if it were a painting made by man, and not a grandeur correlative for His people, with God Himself; for HIS is the supply, and it is Christ who goes to prepare a place; and its best part is this, that it is HIS!

 

EXCERPT THREE

from

Repent or Perish Ch.1

 

CHAPTER ONE

ON THE FUNDAMENTAL REALITY OF REPENTANCE

I

IN DOCTRINE

REPENT means, in the Greek normally found in the New Testament, to change your mind, your understanding, hence your appreciation of the disposition of things, their significance and moral status. It means that what you thought good, or suitable, or sufficient or desirable, one or all, you now think, esteem, consider, deem evil, foul, wrong, unsatisfactory, destructive, contrary to righteousness, incredible, one or all.

It depends of course on the HEIGHT at which the matter stands. In this Biblical setting, where it is a question of repentance towards GOD, the height is infinite, and the depth is in that sense, the same. BENEATH GOD is infinitely far in this, that at HIS HEIGHT, there is simply no limit, but THIS, the thing repented of, is not THERE. It falls short of God and anything falling short of that is in another realm altogether. The phrase "repentance to life" is found in Acts 11:18, where it is the subject of marvelling on the part of certain Jews, that the Gentiles had been GRANTED this by GOD! Repentance a GRANT! Yes.

It is all too easy facilely to construe from this that there is simply nothing that YOU can do about IT! I have even heard, if I recall, a learned Professor acting as if it were without alloy an act of God! and if so, of course, this would follow. A gift however may depend on certain features before it is made. Even an UNEARNED gift, which this is since Ephesians 2:8 tells us that the whole gamut, being saved by faith through grace is NOT of yourselves but is the gift of God, this does not mean that it is arbitrarily dealt out, or is such that the actual party receiving this grant has nothing whatever to do with it. THAT is not stated.

Since moreover, salvation is NOT of yourselves, and NOT of works lest any man should boast (Romans 3), it is all the more certain that repentance is a derivative of NO abilities, NO sensibilities, NOTHING in the whole domain of your merits or performances whatever. However, when you read the REST of scripture on the point, it is EQUALLY apparent that it is in a sense that God knows, MOST closely related to approaches which God may make and which man may reject.

Thus in Jeremiah we find this:


That you may be saved.
How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you?" - in 4:14.

Certainly it would be folly to imagine that the Lord is uncertain as to when it shall once be that repentance shall occur, since "known to the God are all His works from the foundation of the world" or as the NKJV puts it, "from eternity" - Acts 15:18, stated in a context in which His words of old find fulfilment in the present, and allow interpretation of how to understand the present. Again, we find in Isaiah 48:3,

Again, "His understanding is infinite" - Psalm 147:5, just as "His greatness is unsearchable" - Psalm 145:3. Further, we read in Ephesians 1:4, "According as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world" .

He is not asking because of ignorance but obviously, in expostulation at their tardiness, in poignancy of love concerned at their folly and its consequences as they persist in chronic unbelief! God is NOT IRONLY DOING IT, He is compassionately considering it, weighing it. WHEN and IF HE grants repentance, assuredly it IS a SOVEREIGN grant, but the SOVEREIGN is the ONE who does it, not some philosophically abstracted sovereignty which has neither heart nor head, which if not capricious, is immune to such small things as the field in view. It seems to be forgotten by some Calvinists, as the opposite by Arminians, that God is HIMSELF a PERSONAL BEING. His heart is mentioned in the Old Testament, not as a system cover, but as a place of emotion and desire, of love and concern, of compassion and consideration. He has not made us in His image in order to invent a "heart" in us which in the ultimate and eternal sense, He Himself lacks.

Thus we read,

from Jeremiah 48:38. Of course an incarnation of Christ, the eternal Son, in the form of a man who has this expression of love and solace and concern and depth and personal counsel, when the One who made man in the first place had nothing such, would be merely fallacious. How make the centre of something in the image of God when God lacks it!

Differences of form surely, but not of essential centre, for an image bearer. Derivative merely, but not divergent in the criteria of fellowship. Yet we do not need so to consider, for it is, as we see above, clearly written, and constantly evident in the language with which God speaks through the prophets. Imagery is not to mislead, but to feed; and the community of concern and the correlativity of the matters in this regard, as to essence, between God and man is as constant as most other things that may be found in the word of God. It is indeed one of the massive features of His love that He has this wonder of often empathetic involvement with exquisite sensitivity and sensibility, this centre of compassion, this personal concern for comfort and trouble, yes, even He, God has this self-humbling mercy (Psalm 34:18, 113:6, Isaiah 55:1-5), He who does not willingly afflict the children of men (Lamentations 3:33).

GOD WHO HAS A HEART in the spiritually correlative sense, indeed in the sense which makes man able to be so made when in His image, man the derivative, God moves and speaks to man, queries, probes, questions,

"His eyes behold, His eyelids try the children of men" - Psalm 11:4.

Accordingly, He probes Jerusalem making amazing final offers of opportunities for peace, even when that unhappy city - as at that time it assuredly was, found itself in the grip of the most powerful inward forces of pulverising destruction.

To ignore the human involvement in repentance, the investment by God, as military forces invest an area, or a region or city, in that to which He does or does not grant repentance is as wholly and ludicrously unbiblical as is the Arminian opposite, which has it OBTAINED by man, as if he could reach out his hand and take it with a thrust of autonomous gusto or virtue or sensibility of his own heart, which alas is not so construed by the Almighty, as we have seen! NO SUCH WORKS (Romans 3) are granted to our domain, and no such beauty is accorded to us in our stricken sinfulness (cf. I Corinthians 2:14).

 

The Puny Phenomenon of Philosophic Slugging Matches Does not Adorn

The place in which to find the answer to these elements is surely not in philosophic slugging matches, and superficial announcements, far less pronunciamentos of theological majesty, drawn from the heart of confession-makers or the artisans of bon mots. THE WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD is not an option, but a necessity, and RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORD OF GOD is not a caprice but a duty, and only when ALL of it is taken into full account is the reality of revelation justly treated. In my earlier work, Predestination and Freewill, the reality that God BOTH sovereignly decides who is to be saved and FOREKNOWS those who are His, not some blank as if it were a game, but the person, is shown clearly from the Biblical requirements.

This concern and querying, "When shall it once be...?" (Jeremiah 13:27) is not the work of One who does not know, does not weigh, does not consider and investigate. Predestination, so far from distancing Him from this involvement, makes it yet nearer, for it means that whatever comes to pass is sure, and certain, and known from the beginning. God knows and construes and does, and it is all made from the first and executed to the last, no lack of quality control being there. And HIS is the quality, and as to Him, THIS is what HE REVEALS Himself to be like! (cf. John 14:7-9 and Appendix B, SMR). You see the same involved compassion in Luke 19:42. The heedlessness is taken into account, and with great reluctance the end is announced for Jerusalem; but yet, it is equally announced with great finality, like a failure by a Professor in the 60's, who knows that this is to lead to the student's being sent to Vietnam...

What then is the position? It is this. Neither does man contribute any grace or sensibility of heart, for he is fallen beyond such determinations; nor does God fail to know, indeed to foreknow, those who are His (Romans 8:28ff.). He does not foreknow what is not, but what is; does not look upon what is not, but upon what is; does not disregard what is before Him, but is in full possession of all about it, as one sees a scene from an aeroplane, though more than that, for with Him is no limit. And is this not one of the causes of this unseemly dissension which for so long has afflicted so many, even Wesley belabouring Whitefield with an energy of white heat! and admittedly, not entirely without some reason, though his own position was not equipped to cover all the facts either. (See Predestination and Freewill, Part II.)

GOD STATES (Eph.2:8-10) that it is all done in terms NOT OF YOURSELVES, and at that, it is positively stated simultaneously, "IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD". It is SO DONE that NO MAN could boast (Romans 3), and in such style that "WE ARE HIS WORKMANSHIP" . THESE are divine declarations, and should ALL be heeded, as should the involvement of the Lord as previously shown above.

To IGNORE one phase is merely philosophic penchant coming to the fore, and who knows where all that blather would ever end! It is unseemly substitution of human proclivity for divine pronouncement. Spurgeon was entirely right when he showed his entire agreement with the 'Amen' which greeting his reference to "Whosoever will may come" as well as to the reference to God being able to harden whom HE will! It is of GOD who shows mercy (Romans 9).

Nothing could be more decisive than the divine rejection of human participation in the saving reality (synergism), on the one hand; or, on the other, of any concept of divine disregard of the fact that He has declared Himself not merely to HAVE but to BE love (I John 4:7ff.). This love and the God-only character of divine salvation are equally true and Biblically attested. All this is traced and provided with one harmonious resolution, to demonstrate the unique magnificence of the word of God in this field also, in Appendix B in SMR as in Predestination and Freewill, esp. Part III. To show that possibility of such harmony in detailed reference to the Biblical data, is all that is required, for nowhere else may it be found from any source, or in any realm. What He is, He is; but His word is wholly harmonious as written.

God indeed FOREKNOWS whom He predestines, so that there is no philosophic surmise in the fact that this is an action, an activity, a reality. Is it not at least possible that He foreknows the person concerned, since after all, that same person is to be raised to glory, and is the one of whom it is said that he was CHOSEN IN CHRIST before the world was founded (Ephesians 1)... It is indeed impossible to reconcile these divinely inspired statements with some nebulosity which falls short of this declared fact!

Indeed, it is quite absolutely and overwhelmingly NECESSARY that He foreknows the person concerned, the one who is His for two very good reasons. One: He says so in Romans 8:29. "Whom He foreknew, He also did predestinate..." The second is this: in Ephesians 1:4, we are told that God chose His children in Christ before the world was. "Foreknow" means in advance, and this is in advance even of this world with its type of historical time with which we are familiar, ALTOGETHER. HOW He foreknew, in what FORM this foreknowledge existed, THIS is a subject which is of interest; and while its precise manner cannot be known without revelation, what revelation states and implies on the topic CAN be known and SHOULD be known, for God does not speak for vanity, but instruction. WHEN it is known, then the harmonious combination of the elements of Biblical revelation may also be shown to appear; and this is what has been done (Predestination and Freewill, esp. loc. cit.).

It was NOT a type of foreknowledge which revolved about the question, WILL THE PERSON COME TO FAITH, as if the operation of the will or goodness or virtue or spiritual vitality of the sinful person concerned were to settle the question; for Romans 9 expressly tells us that "it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs".

That is, the vigour, virtue or perception of man and his ways and insights and so forth is not the criterion. Not based on the exercise of debased human will, on susceptibility or merit or any other contrived contribution of flesh (I Cor. 2:14, Eph.2:8), the divine choice IS based on divine foreknowledge. This is the Biblical fact. As noted, Predestination and Freewill gives ONE option which fulfils all this, for purposes of Christian Apologetics; the God who is love and the sin which disenables, may meet readily in such a way in the defining foreknowledge of God; and it is clear that here in the Bible alone is the total answer to the human conundrum, divinely placed all along.

That God would have  all is repeatedly stated, as in  Colossians 1; but the  MODE in  which precisely He  did the  foreknowing, though it may be for the sake of Christian apologetics,  shown to be open to the most reasonable of understandings, is not the point. It is the intent and the principle which is crucial here. Anything further merely shows the entire  reasonableness of the Lord, with no comparison from any  quarter of human thought: as it ought to be as the word of the living God,  so it IS,  this Bible. It solves  where nothing  else avails, having the advance of the infinite insight of the  Creator, and the steadfast love of the Redeemer, who  acted in such vast degree, to deliver man from his woeful preoccupations. 

Is man at liberty not only to do as he will (within limits of course), but to will as he will ? In other words, is he in a position not only to implement what arrives on the threshold of consciousness and secures the consent of will, but to have something beyond his very present limits, a dimension other than his current one, something more than the mere execution of his desires, be they what they may ? Can he BE different ? Is there any liberty there ? so that liberty, rather than will and force, meaningless or merely self-expressive, is in view. He cannot of course be God, not having be there in the beginning, and not having begun it. Thus the maximum possible is to know God, and not to be spoiled as a creation, THIS creation being gifted with liberty of discourse, to understand, to seek, to apprehend, to have vision and imagination and discern and consider, weighing and pondering, resolving on bases this way or that. Yet within that ? If he cannot be God, can he have liberty beyond mere implementation, as man ?

The answer to that is in two steps. Freedom that is meaningful is available only here: where firstly there is one with the power and position to overtower what man has become, so that he can not only DO but BE different. To be sure, the change is one way only, but it IS available. He cannot be God, but he may find Him.

How then can a man who is so limited, CHOOSE when what he IS, limits and obscures, obfuscates, deletes or ignores the realities, since he like a implement, can take only what he is fitted to receive ? In practice, sin is the obscurant; but limits themselves are an obscuration on any model where truth is not available AS SUCH.

Any limit of access has the same negative result, when man is in charge, and sinful, limited.

Where then is freedom ? Where is the meaning of deliberation, shame, guilt and the acute awareness all but universal in man, of failure, error, meaningful only when purpose can be frustrated, and options exist ? It is of interest here to note that in man, purpose  and performance, aspiration and attainment, whether in the  realm of the moral or the intellectual or the  practical, are so different, and can be made into  such a  separation as a chasm might create from  the surface! This is the result of unlimited desires and limited means, unlimited boldness  towards God and repugnant results, soaring  vision  without even rationality,  the creation of  false  gods and such an array of follies as make it marvellous man is still here at all. THAT, it is grace.

It is found when God Himself, knowing the man, knows what he is, and what he might be, and makes Himself available in such a style that man has liberty. How may this be ? Only as it is, since the reality confines; though in this case, He is such that the liberty is granted, on His own terms, which being a liberation, are relevant to our theme.

In fact, as in the case of I Cor. 2:14, some amazingly proceed with all components of the situation, omitting only God! What man cannot do in himself, for himself, by himself, God can DO in him, not synergistically, but sovereignly,  exposing the realities that man could not find, impressing the actualities shrouded by sin, in this as in any other miracle, performing what nature cannot.

Omitting God is rather an infinite error, and makes for unremarkable theology! Indeed, in Hebrews 6, because of the direct operation of God, you see those who not being saved, yet taste of the powers of the world to come. Spiritual sojourners outside the camp, they peer in, toying, fudging, imaging, and one thinks of Balaam. it is not their failure but the grounds in which it occurs, that is here the relevant point. God is able to do what man is not, and to activate the  spiritual paralytic, still commanding what He does, and knowing the response for what it is, for this, it is the work of God. It is not one  of knowing a blank, but a being, called a person, human, unhallowed, available to God, who knows what He sees and sees what He knows, and can show it as He will, not to decide, but to declare. Alone sovereign, He can activate as He will.

Where man is incapable of being other than what he is while yet seeing what he must in order to have liberty, and moreover lacks the power to transform his very self so that what he is not, becomes what he is, in spirit and mind and heart and character and nature: then clearly such action can make liberty reality, only when God undertakes the mission. How is this done ? It is by interpreting what man is obscured from realising, and enabling what man is not empowered to produce, and securing it for him.

It is God who does it (John 1:12).  Does what ? In logical order, He first discerns the will of man, relative to the realities of what he is as created, a free being within the limits of desiring God or not God, and if not God, then one with legions of choices; and then, secondly,  He implements it both in enabling the will and enabling the work required to implement that, within the limits given. He knows it, does it, shows it.

Even this, however, runs into a further putative problem. ONLY when the One who does this for man, IS love is this going to work liberty for MAN rather than for his Transformer. That is, the One concerned must have no shadow of self-realisation, either in known or unknown mutations, apt to misrender what was incoherent, or not fully realised for man,nor have any shade of selfishness. Were this otherwise, that then would become abuse of power for the good of the donor, and hence not an expression of liberty for man, at all; but rather of its spoliation.

What then do we find ? It is this. If God were not love, or even were of  limited knowledge, then selfish aims might make a mockery of the power to do this work, for it could in theory be directed to some other and alien purpose, the good and liberty of man not actually being the point. Man would be in the shadow of the unknown, so that what now helps, then hinders, then is obscure, becomes the lot of the specious liberties of man, in such a case. Governments are often like that, and sometimes both chronically and despotically so.

Since however God IS love, and seeks the good of the persons created AS created, and to restore them to reconciliation  with Himself (Colossians 1:19ff.), to the image untrammelled by sin, unmarred by circumstance and unreversed by decline, then and then only is the case met, and liberty enabled for man. When the tests are over,  the truth triumphs,  and many who are first will be last, and  last first, as Christ  stated (Mark 10:31). There is however yet more in which ONLY the God of redemption relates.

Thus the love is assuredly a prerequisite, so that it is not just the will 'of Allah' as the Moslems put it of their being in whom they stake an interest, but of One bent on restoration of man, and not mere utilisation of him as a going concern, doing what he is told to  get things done. If truth itself is not to be maligned, then there must be a way in which what is just is not only done, but declared; for otherwise, truth is on parole and justice is misassigned. Where truth and justice do not rule, neither can liberty come; for the mere will of the Being is then the point, and that is what it is and will be, and when it will be, and for what it will be. It would then be like being a teacher in the Staff of a despotic, if pleasant enough, principal. That is not liberty, but subjection; and truth is not the control, but WILL, that of the self-seeking Being.

With God, however, His WILL is redemption, payment made for justice, fealty given to truth, pardon impressed on a basis which is neither arbitrary, capricious nor centred as a basis on the superiority of achievement in any. Hence such bending of power to other purposes is out. Moreover, liberty arises as one from the dead, when the diversion of wrath (Romans 1:17ff., 5:1ff.), and the conversion of inadequacy to adequacy and moreover, ruin to remediation, bondage because of misuse, into liberty because of full functionality, comes to be; and that with something as the bonus and indeed, more the heart of it all. What is that bonus ? It is that the image of God in man, being restored by these costly means, where God alone COULD pay, is renewed without penalty. Hence it does not merely limp, but lives in the liberty with which and for which it was made.

Hence in this way and in this alone COULD the challenge of liberty's meaning and implementation be made and met, and no other system or situation COULD provide it. It requires all that is the Gospel for its functionality, in outline, and the God who is more than mere outline, to do it. Indeed, it requires it to be freely granted, the restoration, since otherwise the more endowered could achieve more, making it a battle of talents differentially given, not a matter of liberty. Liberty comes as a grant from above, or is mimicked by an achievement below, even if that were possible. If the latter, It would become a joint work of God and man, and man in his self-limited state before liberation, for that is the RESULT in view! Such achievements becomes a fiddle instead of a liberation, so that the reality of choice is scuttled by the prior arrival of gifts, part of the self.

Differentiation is fine; but if it became a component in the achievement of a differential  design, an ultimate destiny,  that  of becoming different, then the result  at best would be partial  liberty, something in the confines of your doing what you will,  rather than willing as you will. The latter includes the resort of becoming a different kind of being. In this case, however, it is restoration to what you were in principle (Colossians 3:10), the removal of  distortion  and the opening to truth. Yet this being from the first,  as in the image of God, with a type of liberty extraordinary, but not autonomous since you cannot become God, always there, it is a vast liberty.

In all matters of human understanding, the deity and the Creator and the Redeemer is the One necessary. Starting on a model beginning or ending with man CANNOT succeed, since it is derelict in its actual basis, and hence is simply building on clouds. Be what you will as much as you please, this is still a   still-born limit, bound  to its actual self, as it has come. However, able to be lifted by the One beyond you, but understanding you, and  seeking for you, to have such restoration gratuitously in the manner of love, but not invasively, in the manner of mere force,  you are  faced with a liberty for which the human heart yearns, many willingly die, and which is in its distinct but living place,  no small part of the wonder of that creation  called man. It is indeed because he is  so made by such a Sponsor and  Creator, that he so yearns. It is NATURAL,  even when man  distorts his understanding and blindly misuses his will.

That God DOES so love is magnificent, one of the chief points of His message to man. Without THAT love,  liberty would be simply illusory for man; but with it, all the elements of guilt, shame, contempt, and despondency because of these, hidden or otherwise though they be, according to the highly variable case, are not merely met, but given a thoroughgoing explanation. That this is linked to a  practical mode of restoration is a wonder sublime: it is  vital, as  well as explanatory.

Small wonder that fear, apprehension, guilt in its smudginess, self-protection by lying, overreaction by pretensions of superiority, desire to subject others to one's own sinful proclivities or to prevent others from seeing one's actual unworthiness: that all of this flows as readily as streams from the ice-clad mountains, as Summer mounts. All is thus explained not in mere thrust, but in the very variability of man, and his sub-responses and reactions are resolved, like mist disappearing when the sun rises. Man was free; lost it;  and has its overtones and undertones still in him, stirred by this or that, ideals idle or profound, throbbing and enticing, like bees flying amid the garden, viewable in part.

Faced with the God against whom he has sinned, he therefore has the opportunity of liberation; but this, without the control of his sins and their obfuscations, now systematic. How is this to be obtained ? Just as God depending on nothing and in need of nothing,  psychic or other, is not limited to selfishness of any kind or degree, so He is freely able to impart liberty. Technically,  it is  all  wrought before sin or time was, in the mind and the foreknowledge of God (Ephesians 1:4, Romans 8:30). This, it was not in admiration of his attainments (Romans 9:11 assures us as does Ephesians 1-2); it was in the outthrust of that love which both desires wonder for its object, needs no payment and in God, knows who are His own, knows these in truth, undefiled by time, and undisordered by pathological inclination. It is anterior to  time, to fall,  even to creation.

God acting in love AND foreknowledge both, therefore, and being omnipotent and omniscient (cf. SMR Chs. 1-5, Sparkling Life ... Ch. 4), there is answer to HOW He can (as He does) predict minute details from millenia beforehand; and as to why, He makes it so very clear in Isaiah 41, 48, what is one major reason for this. it is so that there is made apparent to man,  what is the reality, that there is none but He, and He is all that could be desired in knowledge, power and security, who ALWAYS does what He promises to do, and NEVER fails. It is HIS power which is guarantor, in this situation, of man's liberty, His immutability which secures man from a variable tyrant, interior, exterior or both,whatever the intention. Indeed, it is His nature so plain and depicted, as well as exhibited, which makes the realisation of all that man as a limited being could possibly even rationally desire, come into the place of opportunity.

Could man in reason desire more ? More power with which to oppose God ? that simply if successful would delete deity and with this, liberty. Displacing with finite power, the One with infinite power, with limited knowledge the One with infinite knowledge, with circumcscribed distortion for understanding the one with Truth, is merely a conceited fad in the mind of folly. If unsuccessful, it would merely pre-implement hell, in its ignorance, egotism,  delusion and limits.

A more loving God ? Impossible. What He made man was when undefiled, brilliant in technical scope, procedural coverage, gifted of knowledge, power, understanding, wisdom, love, loveable-ness, power of discovery, scope for modes and models of thought and action, disposition of love, entry into courage, in a world of splendour beyond all art, where aesthetics is borne in upon the discovering mind, where man does not even HAVE to love, serve or follow Him, and where the case of his failing to do so has free remedy purchased at personal agony on the part of God Himself.

This is a result of industriousness, but not industry, of brilliance but not mere brio, of pity and not mere power, of love and not servile utilisation. This is the way of the Giver of Grace and the Wonder of Wisdom. Some  win a lottery; God has more than all  lotteries always, being the sole source of anything made (John 1:1-3), the whole  category of the made  given basis in the Maker, and not in illusion, delusion or in the vagueness of  simply averting the eyes.

That man has had so long to discover, to concoct, to adapt, to adopt, to try out has been a stretch of permission almost beyond conception; but with the remedy in line, it is linked to compassion. There is no scope for pretence, and costly are the endeavours to practice it. As man seeks to avoid God, he finds his own masters inconceivably foolish, rampant, corrupt or disposed to confusion or ineptitude, their visions often extensions of power lust, for the nation, empire or the man himself.

Some however follow Him, and mark that contribution, from God and from  man. NONE will be lost who might be gained, since foreknown are His own.

Man COULD not be made more; and the remedy COULD not be more total. The result of love of darkness could not be more just, for what is desired, is gained; and that it does not work, millenia have sufficed to demonstrate.

 

Some might want One more manipulable ? If more so, then some might have preference, and if any could sway the truth to make of it a lie, then many would suffer from the LIMITED knowledge of the power-monger, thus gaining capacity to sway what is unlimited. What then of a situation which gives more power for tyranny over man  ? This merely reduces liberty because of paranoia. Why paranoia ? It is because anyone wanting more power than now, where it is massive already for mankind, is seeking beyond what liberty requires;  and hence such a one or group becomes merely a truant from truth, inventing in minimal understanding, what is to be!

Man can, without being actively insane, desire OTHER. Certainly he may wish to be either God, or in charge of Him, or to become constitutive of Him, by social or other means, or to overthrow Him and take over in one or in many and so forth. God already knows such plans, has outlined them in the Bible, and implements His responses as declared, from time to time, while declaring how it all, diversion dynamics and delighted responses, will both reach its climax and finish. Nothing is in fact possible against this.

It is well. Here  then is the way to go beyond the delimiting facets of self,  the mere doing as one will, and not willing as one will,  since the will  of God supervenes and is available,  not only in principle, but guaranteed in practice from before the fall,  so that it is not God who lacks love in the saving dimension, but as in John 3, He who gave all  with maximal motivation, maximal gift and total coverage of the world,  as  likewise in  Colossians 1:19ff., of heaven as well, desiring reconciliation,  achieved as to means,  to be implemented for  all. It is as  John3:19 goes on to specify, in the light of this, MAN who  provides the missing criterion for adverse judgment.

IF GOD is so vast in desire and willingness and provision for  all,  then it is MAN who fouls  it up, each for himself or herself,  and THIS IS THE CONDEMNATION,  that light has come into the world,  and man has preferred darkness. Because of the goodness, the unbounded completeness in  all things of God, His purity, His entire love, so that God IS love, nothing  contrary  motivating Him, however much judgment according to truth at last enters where default rules, His free gift requiring no special talents in man, its free  conferring requiring no differential postage, and the gift of the Holy Spirit who convicts, applies and who seals (Ephesians 1, John 16), THEREFORE alone could be, and  in fact,  thus is solved two  great muddles made by man.

First, it  allows him  to  escape the crisis that his very nature is fouled and spoiled, giving adverse  tilt to truth (cf. Ephesians 4:17-19). Beyond his powers, is the power of God; and beyond his  limitation is the  purity of God, and from this source in love is the provision  made  which as  a great physician, God applies,  even before  time, not allowing anything to make man  subservient to the inessential. For all that, WHEN the time comes and man denies not only the commands of God but the Gospel, then  this enters the field of outcomes,  in accord with the foreknown and applied truth, and nothing is distorted.  As man is, so he then acts,  for it is now under the control of God, God who knows. Hence history becomes decisive when man rejects the Gospel (Luke 9:26). Though man is at it were tumble-dried in sin, God knows the garment, and grace has  found out all who are His own (John 13:1ff.), and God never fails (Zephaniah 3:5).

Man seeks in power to  protest,  to invest in autonomy, to divest his heart from God in  vast arrays. Yet it is but vagrancy, and neither useful nor capable of anything but frustration.

What then ? In every case, were it possible to sideline, overturn, or triumph over God,  which of course it is not, since God knows, predicts and prevails in all major events, and tells His enemies what He will do and often, just how He will do it, as in the resurrection: it is what is less in quality, power and wisdom, knowledge and understanding, awareness and survey, which seeks to overthrow what is more. It cannot be love that does it, since His is utter, in Him being  neither limit to His power nor need  for His  sufficiency. Man may be desire for dynamic sparkle and kicks; but this is not love, since the sparks fly on what gets the kicks, as the case lies this way or that. It cannot be truth, that is in view, since no truth is even possible without God, what replaces it being then and instead, thought subjected to limits in the matrix of limited and delimited self.

Such thought is what is called  delusion: evil and sin marry, and desire, having divorced from truth, fires imagination with folly. Such is the way of error, of falsehood, spoken of in Psalm 119 and the Proverbs.

 

Distrusting the Flesh but Looking to the
Heart of Him who Made Man in His Image

In Isaiah 2:22 we are even advised in context of the majesty of God and the minuteness and dependency of the human race (e.g. 2:17), its trend to self-importance, self-declaration and self-trust and boasting, to ...

or


for what is he estimated at?"
 

see Delitzsch, Keil and Delitzsch, in their brilliant  and classic Commentary on the Old Testament).

Further, we learn in John 1:12, that the new birth does not depend on, is not operative at all in terms of the blood, the will of the flesh, the will of man. It is of GOD. That is moreover what one would EXPECT of birth, in terms of the basic realities of what being born implies!

Indeed, Romans 9 goes further. It not only indicates what is NOT the criterion, man with his vitesse, finesse, largesse; it says what is. BY CONTRA-DISTINCTION, it is GOD WHO SHOWS MERCY. In the context of II Thessalonians 2:10 we see in what sense "He hardens whom He will" (Romans 9:18) - there is a residual, or as Berkhouwer indicates in his "Faith and Sanctification", an implicative aspect. They are hardened because they did not receive the love of the truth. That is what Paul in principle reveals in this passage. This was the experience of Babylon (Jeremiah 51:9 for this Gentile body, cf. Hosea 7:1 for the Jews).This being what God says, it is well to ... listen.

Accordingly, again, we hear:

says Romans 9:22-26

Further (as the NASB renders it),

"He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. As He says also in Hosea, "I will call those who were not My people, 'My people',

And her who was not beloved, 'Beloved'",

And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people,'

There they shall be called sons of the living God."

God is willing to show wrath and He is willing to show mercy; and in the end, He shows both, and the poignant but imperial categories -'loved' and hated' and implicated destinations, assume their destined, indeed predestined proportions. All this is in wholly perfect control and accord with His principles, and the residual categories are so named in appropriate contexts, the final one being hell, being heaven. Accordingly also, it is IN CHRIST that the very choice occurs (Ephesians 1:4), in Him whose compassion (see Appendix B, SMR) is so often and so deeply expressed even to what is to be lost!

Here then we find the following aspects. God delivers to destruction NOT without patience but in terms of a "not receiving" the knowledge of the truth. His sovereignty is on the one hand protected from any argument or assertion of flesh, as if it bargained, or bartered or manipulated or controlled; and His love on the other is excluded from any impugnment, as if caprice or mere majesty were enabled to junk His love, His genuine longing and the loveliness of His entire person and being, ever or episodically; and this is quite as much protested as is His power, His sovereignty and His rule.

NEITHER of these ridiculous "as if" extremes is the case. It is vain for men to argue about it as if there were alternatives when God excluded both, specifically, simply, clearly and repeatedly (see Predestination and Freewill, SMR Appendix B, and The Kingdom of Heaven..., Ch.4).
I Timothy 2:1-4 is neither less nor more clear than Romans 9 (cf. SMR pp. 1128ff.), and Romans 9 INCLUDES likewise the concept of patience in His dealings, as II Thessalonians SPECIFIES the logical progression to damnation. If politics has been effectively satirised by Jonathan Swift in Gulliver's Travels, is not theology in much the same case when the proud flesh gets into corners, like inveterate pugilists, and 'slugs it out' with as much discretion and finesse sometimes it would seem, as spiritual thugs! It is time for better things.

The irony here is both superb and extreme, when precisely this "flesh", this uncontrolled self-assertive, self-assurance, becomes the MECHANISM of 'argument' as diverse parties assail each other without regard to the whole counsel of God, seizing even the Biblical passages which relate to condemnation of flesh, in order to exhibit it; and worse, their own 'condemnation' of flesh, to utilise it! What a marvel is man! and accordingly, when he falls, he may fall quite marvellously!

The attitude of God then is expressly defined, in principle and in practice; and it relates generically to man and specifically to Jew or Gentile. Nothing deters or controls the love of God; His covenants do not create but rather specify; He does not change, has no shadow of turning or variation, and in all things at all times is the "I am", who shows neither partiality nor prejudice.

Indeed, since the Jews (like so many liberals in the Gentiles) often tended to want to affirm something of THEMSELVES as if they were special in some biological or ethnic or integral way (cf. Biblical Blessings, Appendix III, pp. 233ff.), He speaks "shockingly" like a therapist of the spirit, in Isaiah 65.


I said, 'Behold Me, behold Me!' to a nation which was not called by my name.
 

·       "I have spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people who walk in a way that is not good, after their own thoughts: a people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face...

Who say, 'Stand by yourself, do not come near to me; for I am holier than you.'
These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burns all the day."

 

In Romans 11 in the parable or mini-allegory of the olive tree, we have the same declaration in high principle of the acceptance IN FAITH and the rejection FOR DISBELIEF, applying it to the two phases, Jew and Gentile, in even-handed impartiality.

He takes from all and from any, in whatever historical phasing He pleases, but always with the same restraint, the same power, the same principles and with results which show no favouritism, for God is no respecter of persons.

In all this, He is neither the butt of history, nor the captive of charms. He knows who are His own, and He knows them before history raises its head in order to affirm whatever it will affirm; indeed, history is on a leash with God, and cannot do what it will, though in it there are many who try in their puniness, to capture this and that in their will, only to be contained in the planning of the Almighty.

It is He who uses them and limits them, without obliterating their responsibility or their opportunity for the moment, according to the passion and the place which they may within His bounds, apportion themselves (cf. Isaiah 45:1,13-17, 48:1-8; Ezekiel 29:18-19, Isaiah 38:22-30, Jeremiah 51:7-24 with 25:12-26).

In these places, we see whole empires USED and then LIMITED, or even PUNISHED for their abuse of power WHILE BEING USED, a king forenamed as to his role in the deliverance of the Jews, before he was born, and a prophet declaring what will be the pivot of kings, in the midst of the cauldron of history, treating nations and empires like drops in the bucket, dripping in a way foreknown and composed and declared in advance (cf. Jeremiah 1:10): yet without in the least degree, reducing even a little, the responsibility of those who works and wills are so expressed and yet so surrounded with spiritual and majestic control from the King of Kings and Lords.

It is He who says what He means, and then does it; and then notes the fact in one more of His many appeals to man, to mankind, to persons and to individuals, to come, to return to Him who would thus make his peace like a river and his righteousness like the waves of the sea (Isaiah 48:16, Acts 38-41,46,48, Revelation 22:11-12, John 3:15-19). He remonstrates, expostulates, tenderly appeals, reasons and urges, recalls and evokes in the demonstration of His love from the heart to the heart such as brought about the crucifixion (Jeremiah 2:5,11-14, Hosea 11:1-4, Matthew 23:37, Luke 19:42, cf. SMR Appendix B).
 
 

In Terms of Foreknowledge

God then FOREKNOWS, and in Romans 8 this is logically PRIOR to His predestining. His foreknowledge is NOT based on works or virtue or specialised superiority in the subject, no, not of ANY kind; and Ephesians 2:1-10 reinforces this from the side of WHO MADE YOU, as well as HOW YOU OPERATE. Your inventions are not in the least degree determinative of His counsel! It is indeed God's choice, based on God's foreknowledge, not on your own actions or will or power, as you exercise it in history, on your flesh, at all. In fact, NOTHING which could IN ANY WAY be attributed to you as an effective CAUSE of your salvation, is permissible in the Bible, or is any PART (far less the whole) of the cause of your being chosen, being saved.

Similarly, effectively in precise parallel, the love of God is uncontainable, unmanipulable and seeks for the children of men. Thus, NOTHING, equally, is Biblically permissible which could in any way indicate or imply that God rejects a person FROM being saved, because of ANY PART of His love being LESSER, of lesser quality, less real, far less because of His love as a whole being diverse in quality and reality. BOTH argumentative excrescences are utterly contrary to the Bible. Philosophic theologians seem to have a field day affirming one (to Hurrahs!) or the other, and to forget that BOTH are EQUALLY true.
 

 

In Terms of Christian Apologetics


In terms of Christian Apologetics, it is - as shown in my Predestination and Freewill and Appendix B, SMR and Ch. 4 in The Kingdom of Heaven... - important to show that these features being so, there is an answer to which nothing has a logical equal, to the whole area of sovereignty and responsibility, guilt and government, for man, found in the Bible. It is perfectly proper for people to probe the aspects, and to ensure that the Biblical criteria themselves are met in any formulation. It is equally improper for any of them to be ignored or qualified which God does not qualify, on the perilous and presumptuous basis of fallible human philosophy.

God IN FOREKNOWING DOES NOT, then, act on the basis of merit in man in His choice. He does not see the effectual superiority of some things He has made, and select them as more prodigious, since power and capacity are diverse from heart and disposition, perspective and love, and it is the latter realm that choice lies: for what rejects Him assuredly does not love Him who is the very principle and paragon of love. In this way, also, liberty is preserved, since performance is not the criterion at all (I Cor. 1), but  preferring darkness to light is the exclusion factor

He does NOT act on the basis of quavers in His love, for He IS love, and WOULD have all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth, and REPEATEDLY indicates of man, His desire that he does not die, but rather lives; and PROLIFICALLY reasons and re-assesses, with His various appeals of the heart, in terms of His stated principles of the quality and perfection of His love. He does it to Jew, He does it to Gentile.

God IN FOREKNOWING DOES NOT VIOLATE the human will, having made man in His image. He does not FORCE 'CONVERSIONS', like the Moslems in history for so long. He is a Spirit and spiritual reality, not fearful conformity, is in view (John 4:24). He shows the restraint for which love - unlike lust -  is justly famous, and mourns rather than forcibly launders, again and again in Jeremiah as in the New Testament, the folly of those who, faced with His presence, power and pity, reject the salvation He embodies. All this has been shown, but we here condense it to the point we have in mind. It is God's KNOWLEDGE, not man's will, not some "IF" or some "WORK" which is the criterion.

He FIRST (logically) foreknows, then predestines, He states in Romans 8:17, 28ff.; then proceeding through calling, justification and glorification. What does He know? Nothing? Of course not, for then there is nothing there to know. Knowing those who are His then involves a transcendence of mere human actions and passions, and an awareness of the fact. Some are His and some are not, and it is in His vital and penetrating awareness that what is what, is seen and found and determined, and being determined is worked out into history, where faith and repentance will duly appear in their sincerity, integrity and reality. They appear without some meretricious formality which denies that reality which is so great before the tender eyes of the Lord, who is truth, that He does not breach this barrier, but rather continually expresses His yearning.

It is not impotent yearning. This folly is so common, that it needs removal once and for all. It is loving yearning, the longing of purity and tenderness with compassion, that does not breach what it seeks, crushing it in the operation of rescue; but instead it FINDS it in His own way. It is not for nothing that we are formed in the image of God; and the penalties and privileges alike are profound.

It is therefore in fact true that a man must RESPOND to the divine call. The Christ in John 1 is seen COMING into the world which rejects HIM, but AS MANY AS RECEIVED HIM, to them He gave the power to become the children of God. The divine willingness is expressly stated in its universal form both in I Timothy 2:1-4 and - since He is no respecter of persons - in Ezekiel 33:11, as well as in II Peter 3:9 and Colossians 1:19-23 and elsewhere as we have shown (cf. above; and The Magnificence of the Messiah, Appendix III, Bible Blessings, pp. 234-237, SMR pp. 1130ff.). It would be as ridiculous to try to truncate this to "types of persons" whom He would not have to be lost, as to do the same in Ephesians 1:11, as if it read, "He works all types of things after the counsel of His own will", and so made it a freewheeling world, adding to His word is indeed a proclivity of the flesh, but not a wise one (Proverbs 30:6).

Thus in I Timothy 2, the heavens and the earth, as in Colossians 1:19ff., are the environment of terms. God and man are those involved. One mediator is He to whom the crux is related. A ransom for all (the term chosen is 'on behalf of', not in the place of), is in turn present, showing the aptness of the formulation that the atonement is sufficient for all, adapted for all, though it be limited to some (Romans 8:32 and see SMR Index, Limited Atonement). IN THIS FIELD, He is willing that all be saved (I Timothy 2) and is pleased in attitude "to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him (Christ), whether things on earth or things in heaven", in terms of "having made peace through the blood of His cross" (Colossians 1). That is His disposition, attitude, aptitude and the quality of His love.

What God qualifies, is qualified; and what He leaves open, is left open. What He multiply affirms is even the more presumptuously annulled. Not thus is the church given any power at all. Even Christ did not INVENT doctrine (John 12:48-50), and it behoves His followers to show a restraint far greater than did the Word of God incarnate in this, for He was sinless and deity, although He had abased Himself to that format; whereas the church, though redeemed in its true members, is yet not sinless! Humility is a wise watchword in such things therefore. As to the profound case of Matthew 23:37, see Appendix B of SMR, for the Lord there is shown unquestionably to address the city of Jerusalem with this Ezekiel-like affinity (33:11) and appeal. Similarly, Psalm 81:8-16, like Hosea 7:1, Jeremiah 51:9, indicates rejected grace.

Like Proverbs 1, it is a case, "But My people would not heed My voice, and Israel would have none of Me. So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels." With it, the grief: "Oh, that My people would listen to Me. That Israel would walk in My ways! I would soon subdue their enemies... The haters of the Lord would pretend submission to Him!" (from Psalm 81:13-14).

Repentance therefore is far from being a sovereign gift derived from some unknown heart, as if, as one Professor in the U.S. at whose seminary I was studying put it, God loved all, but the non-elect not in the same way as the elect, it being a lesser thing. The love however which, as to its basic quality and nature, stops just that little short of embracing the one, while it rejects the other, so that that little device known as hell creeps in for the one, but not for the other, is alas near to a mockery of the heart which the Lord continually shows in the Bible, and definitively declares as we have shown

It is true that love responded to - "I love those who love me" - declares wisdom in Proverbs 8, is a special feature and has depths of amazing wonder, when in the light. However the issue is this: does the love of God towards those who are in fact to be lost by His eternal predestinative decision, have no place or relation in its thrust, towards the actual salvation of those lost? It is clear from both the definitive scriptures quoted and the constant practice in the statements of the Lord in the Old Testament also, that this is not the case. There is a depth for those in fact to be lost which is utter. God does not stage-manage salvation, He secures it. God does not violate the human will, as the Westminster Confession wisely declares (Ch.3, I), far less by ignoring it. IT is disabled, HE is not, and HE who knows what man cannot find out in his depravity, who indeed foreknows, though not in terms of foreseen faith or works (Romans 9), which imply merit or susceptibility or their ilk, knows who are His.

BOTH aspects of the matter of Biblically clear and should be put, each in the modesty which the total word requires, and without that bluster of invention on either side which so unfortunately has tended to divide so many and so much in what is called the church of Christ. It is neither a matter of man slinging his will about and securing God like some new territory, since God is personal and requires the heart; nor is it a matter of God mysteriously selecting in some kind of inexpressible or unknown manner, contrary to His statements of His love, its scope and passion, such that ‘sovereignty’ like a semi-detached house, rules, and not the Sovereign.

It is He who has STATED His mind and will, willingness and desire for ALL, so that case is as exclusive of truth as the other. What is the truth is the love of God AS STATED, and the need of man to receive it on trust from Him, who knowing all, surpassing man without merely exploiting or dictating to Him, in foreknowledge has applied His love and known the result, without man’s woes and works, for their own sake, coming into it: for HIS knowledge is supreme, superb and illimitable and His love distinguishes, beyond each complexity and consequence: He knows His own, and buys them back. His ransom for many (Matthew 20:28) is as forthright as His passion towards all (Colossians 1:19ff.). So far from  competing, they are complementary; so removed from strangeness, they are as twins, bred in beauty, impelled with mercy, sovereign in disposition, sensitive in composition.

 

 
 

II
IN PRACTICE

In practice, this means that repentance is something which in its integrity is found in predestination, where it is a correlate of salvation as always, since predestination is not of what is unbiblical in kind, but of what is there declared: It is the reality of what it is that is included in what is foreknown. The "call" of those who are called and receive the Lord, is in itself correlative to repentance, as shown in the initial impact of the words of Christ, Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! (Matthew 4:17 - cf. Biblical Blessings, Appendix IV, pp. 257ff.). Man is dealt with.

In Predestination and Freewill we prepare an hypostasis, a construction for consideration to demonstrate the entire and ready assimilation of all the Biblical principles in a possible format for predestination. They harmonise readily there. It is NOT that this is HOW it was done; for who will here know the FORM of God, in its interstices, when God dwells in light to which no man can approach? It is however simply shown that all these aspects are readily seen in logical harmony together.

THEREFORE:

1) There is NO PROBLEM in Apologetics, for this makes Biblical Christianity the ONLY place where these diverse elements of human responsibility and divine sovereignty, happenstance and control, freedom and compulsion, are met without reductionism. So far from this being an apologetic problem, it is a massive expression of the singular and magnificent virtue and logical beauty found alone, at this level, or ultimately indeed at any, in the word of God. This after all was the major purpose of the exercise in Predestination and Freewill, to act in this domain, to show these things.

A man is not simply determined but surveyed; and freedom relates to design, not to some autonomous pretence: to what one is and could be; and ultimately (see Predestination and Freewill Part I, III), one is responsible for not being different from what one is. One is treated so, because one IS so; for the way is there and if scorned, that too is decisively a matter of personal responsibility. Its construction was a practical work of immense cost to God; its consequence is a practical work of immense value to man. Predestination protects these things.

2) There is a VAST PROBLEM for those who do not repent. It is not that some God who cannot be called "love" has reconditely savaged the prospects, with a little listlessness or disregard passed over inscrutably the possibilities, so that you may well say, Ho hum, that is the way it is, the books are written in that obscure way! I might as well do what I will!

3) It is useless for some to say, 'Not at all! We are TOLD to repent so that is a DUTY and only REBELLION will fail to do so. It is a simple scenario of operational felicity.'

IF God in fact lacked in this dimension of love, so making error to inhere in His word, for He declares the opposite, then NO AMOUNT of obedience would help. That WORK would not be to the point, for it is not of works. Repentance in history is a gift which God grants, and when THAT is given, it is personal and correlative to the love of truth and the truth of love. There is freedom.

It is ONLY when the love of God is given the same status as the sovereignty of God, and man's inability to choose God for and from his own part, is matched with God's equally sovereign indictment of man for this failure IN THE FACE OF HIS LOVE IN THIS DIMENSION, that the reality is seen, the Biblical reality, alone logically valid and sound and consistent.

THEN, whatever the divine procedure in predestination, it is clear that it includes a Christ who does not VARY - as Calvin would have Him vary, as shown in Part II of Predestination and Freewill*1 - from showing His Father in His truth. God the Father emphatically does NOT depart in some sense from the yearnings of His Son for Jerusalem. That is even bad Christology, though this is a vagary of Calvin at this point, and not a systematic defect. Christ yearning for the lost, His compassion is no mere abasement of His declaration, He who has seen Me has seen the Father. Indeed, if while He thus acted, His Father knew better, it would quite obviously distort the picture!

Since this is so, it is the love of God itself in its vast embracive totality which is being dashed by the heart of impenitent man*2. God is not frustrated, for love has restraint, and in the end does not desire to enslave to its will what it loves. Indeed, as Romans 9 equally shows, there comes a consequence such that hate may ensue. We all understand this readily in our own lives indeed, being in the image of God. It is not that what we are shows what He is, but what we are enables us readily to understand what He here declares.

4) IF the love is not embraced, as the divine foreknowledge penetrating to the depths and knowing past the ignorant sinfulness of man what it pertains to love to know... if the love is rejected, and God who knows it, then the result is not only just, and doubly so, since pardon for sin in the first instance was not a necessity but a work of grace. It is also deserved intimately and deeply. Thus the threshold of hell is not crossed, indeed, except DESPITE THE LOVE OF GOD. It is never because the love of God did not reach so far.
 

Hence to repent is a moral, an ethical, a personal, a just and a merciful necessity. Those who fail to repent towards God and departing from sin by His power, receive His salvation, are applicants for hell. In hell, their worst sensitivity, one might imagine, would be the KNOWLEDGE that THIS was their desire, this the epitome of the thoughts of their hearts, in rejecting what was His willingness.

There is NO equivocation possible, in Scripture, to the effect that God either lacked the love or failed to meet the case. In the FACE of the light of Christ, as we have seen, the judgment is that of evil preference, and it is this which is the charge: despite the divine, explicit and oft-repeated willingness, and NOT through any lack, the soul does not repent. Not merely is this ULTIMATELY the divine condemnation, but one expressed with passion, both in the steps to enable deliverance by the Cross (Colossians 1:19-23, John 3:17-19, I Timothy 2:1-3), and the light of that written declaration, and in the words to repudiate the squalor of denial before His provisions and love of heart (John 15:21-23, Luke 19:42, Acts 13:41,46ff., 13:10, I Timothy 4:1ff., I Cor. 10:1ff., Hebrews 4:1ff., 10:26ff., Ezekiel 16:30-43, Isaiah 5, Ezekiel 33:11).

Hosea as a whole, in one large representation of this, in a field of many mountains as well (cf. 7:1, 13ff., 8:11ff., 10:9-11, 11:1-7). As Romans makes it clear, God is no respecter of persons, and is one God, unchanging. This what is written, and to be preserved, avoiding the actions and reactions of philosophy, creeping in like mould on bread.

In this work, then, REPENT OR PERISH, drawn in its phrasing from Luke 13:1-3, we are not presenting a heartless ultimatum, but the divinely tender invitation which though that of a God who is never frustrated, is from One whose love knows no limit, its rejection being the open gate to the freeway to hell.
 

EXCERPT FOUR

 

from Cascade of Truth, Torrent of Mercy

Ch. 9

 

2) Psychic Subjectivity

To this statistical confusion (not in the least wrong to be big, provided the heart  is bigger and the clothes of faith fit over the enlarged body, without bodices, ah! but then...), is added psychic subjectivity. This also like Summer locusts eats up goodness like a wolf on a carcass. If of course the animal had not been dead, they would have more trouble! This is often the failure story attending spurious 'success'.

One has met this psychic subjectivity syndrome, especially in predestination. The "mystery" doctrines of Calvin, so vastly overdone, are seized by some with relish. One said, Am I going to heaven ? I will be if I am  elect! Such 'faith' may seem sublime to the hyper-orthodox, followers of man, of Calvin in his weakest point, but its very query is its knell.

Where then does such a thing stand ? It is of course a dodge from the doctrine of the Book. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you WILL be saved! ... is what is written (Acts 16:31). A person who has so believed IS saved, is GUARANTEED of that. Thus in Ephesians 2:8, Paul indifferently addressing an entire Church of believers, tells them that they and he are having-been-saved people, and this by grace through faith. The same past tense appears (or rather a different one, but still past) in Titus 3:5-7 and Romans 8:24. WE HAVE BEEN SAVED.

But what then is salvation (cf. Luke 1:77, Titus 3:5) if it does not as Paul indicates, include the mercy of God and the washing of regeneration, together with the renewing of the Holy Spirit! We are SAVED, the apostle affirms, by these very things in the mercy of God. It is a past thing: we WERE saved by this. If then you are regenerated, there is no hope for hell (I John 3:9), since the SEED by which you are regenerated STAYS in you. Again, as in I John 5:12-13, John is writing expressly to assure believers that theirs is eternal life, which as Christ makes clear, involves being raised up in life on the last day (John 6:51-54).

Again, it is not possible to ENTER that DOOR (John 10:9) without being assured of SALVATION, and further, it is spelled out in particular, such that you never perish, and none (and that includes all, and hence yourself) can snatch you from the Father's hand.

Further, if washed and forgiven, then you are justified (cf. Isaiah 53:11, Romans 8:34, 10:9, 3:25-26); and again, testifying of the Lord with your mouth and believing in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, involves salvation. Such a person "will be saved". If justified, then, you are certain to have been foreknown, predestinated, called effectuallly so that you will be glorified (Romans 8:17, 29ff.).

There is no escape from the word of God. Now if you want psychic subjectivity, you can say in your heart: UNLESS He gives the following shopping list (to be visited on sundry churches which might be visited in search of it), I shall NOT BELIEVE (a sort of Thomas on the topic of assurance). Unless I see the following emotions/visions/events of the psyche, I SHALL NOT BELIEVE. At least, Thomas was objective about it, and was at once convinced by the evidence, as those who "believe" the Bible should be by the word of God! But in this case, it is sometimes not so. Like the woman who visited many physicians and was not healed, some like this can visit many churches, and always withhold faith. The case then of course, like any health resisted or dismissed, tends to grow worse.

Thus a romance, a virtual extravaganza can  arise, in which doubt  is treasured above the word of God, and it can even become a sort of point of honour NOT to receive from the indubitable teaching of the word of God, the Bible, what it categorically provides!


For this reason, like the woman bound for many years, the blood flow, the haemorrhage not stanched, in such cases, people can go about from church to church, from psychic state to psychic state, and still miss the bus, the bus for heaven, still so concerned about their requirements of God, that they have all but forgotten in this, God's requirement of them: BELIEVE in the Lord Jesus Christ and you WILL BE SAVED. What is not saved is lost, a flat contradiction. Often people get troubled by scriptures about churches 'falling away' which are wholly irrelevant to the issue. Their personnel can change, or their rules can be manipulated by ecclesiastical  engineers. Nevertheless, the word of God does not change!

Statistical Spirituality, Psychic Subjectivity and Statistical Predestination alike lead to crises and calamities for many, and to each of these as to all, it is well to give a wide berth. None does the favour to the word of God of treating it with simple objectivity: what it says it means, what it declares is right and what is right is to be followed. In this there is great reward*1, whether for Christian Apologetics, or for the individual life.

Of the former two of these errors, we have now taken some account.
 

3) Statistical Predestination!

It is however when we come to statistical predestination that we come to a downthrust on the crown of thorns; for it is here that the very nature and character of God can be wrongly presented, almost, as Spurgeon once indicated, to the point of a hideous caricature.

People sometimes act as if the fact that GOD RULES, and SELECTS whom He will, is the same as some MYSTERY in which you never know. The ball might not land, as it were, in your number, and so you do not win the prize. Bad luck! You're out. If it is put in terms of more sanctimony, there is no less departure from the love of God as carefully defined in scripture as to its amplitude in outgoing force.

Such a representation is by no means excessive of some of the things which one hears as people apparently wish to make GOD responsible for what, Biblically, is to the point of guilt, exclusively their own WILL and responsibility.

Often we have examined this topic (e.g. Predestination and Freewill (PF),  The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4, and the present volume Chs. 2  and  7, as well as in Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch. 11). At present, our concern is not so directly with the love of God in its amplitude, to show it (as in Ch. 2) or the faith required to receive it (Ch. 7), but with a sort of depersonalised 'mystery' which seems to seduce some away from the simple  realities of the faith, in this sphere.

There is a great mystery in godliness (I Timothy 3:16), but it is NOT about the love of God, so that He SO loved that WHOLE world that WHOSOEVER (John 3:16, Colossians 1:19ff., I Timothy 2, Matthew 23:37ff., Luke 19:42ff., cf.  SMR Appendix B) believes in Him should not perish. Yes, as Colossians and Timothy make pellucid, it is the WHOLE world,  and indeed the spiritual beings elsewhere in high places as well. There is nothing else; there is no exemption, no exception, no lapse in the love of the God who is pleased to CALL Himself "love" (I John 4:7ff.).

It wonderful that He SHOULD BE like that, to be sure, and in a deep sense most mysterious that there should be such a latitude and wonder to His love. Again, the manner in which He chooses to exist, the very "form of God" (Philippians 2) is a great mystery. There is nothing in the slightest degree irrational about it (cf. SMR Ch. 7, pp.  532ff., 524ff.); but it is what it is, and it is something for a deep understanding of the whole glory of which, we await the time of heaven, when we shall see Him  face to face, and know Him as we are known (I Corinthians 13:11-12, Revelation 22:3-4).

It is just that the extent of His love is NOT a mystery because He has STATED numerous times, and exhibited and exemplified numerous times, what that is.

·       It is all a matter of a profound confusion that people like Calvin

·       (whose 5 points, when read in a Biblical context, and not in the midst of his error about the amplitude of God's love to the lost, are quite valid and very valuable indeed! cf. Tender Times for Timely Truths Ch. 2, end-note 1, PF Ch. 2  - on Calvin)

·       extend the mystery to contradict what is quite categorically written!


Confusion can come from simple mixture of sovereignty, as if it meant arbitrariness, or the wholly unknown. What is WHOLLY KNOWN as in the above references, is this, that HOWEVER God predestines (in the form of God, and it is in His own sublime infinitude of wisdom and knowledge), it is done in the MIDST of a SOVEREIGN desire that all might come to a knowledge of the truth, together with a sovereign determination not to VIOLATE that will of man: it is this will, that of man,  which He so often cites, in the midst of His insistences on His love, as the ground of exclusion. Thus in Matthew 23:37, Luke 19:42ff., we are without any vagarious hope of dismissing (as does Calvin with an appalling misuse of Christology cf. PF loc. cit.) the love of Christ in some diversification from that of His Father, or in any other odd way (as exposed in SMR Appendix B). To dismiss His clear attestations in the end, is to deform.

You need virtually a new christ for that, one who made no such claims that he who has seen Me has seen the Father, and if you had known the Father, you would have known Me also! ( as He does in John 14).  These things are there, stated and contrasted with the work of man in diverting himself FROM IT.

It is just the same in Ezekiel 33:11. There is no point in saying of this magnificent depiction of the breadth of the love of God for the wicked, Ah, but this is for the covenanted people, it is to THEM that God is so speaking! This is wholly beside the point. The tension between God and man at that stage, between God indeed and ISRAEL, as expressed in the prophecies of Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and others, is as profound as it well might be. Already in Amos we are seeing (quite some time before the tide of Babylon was used by God to discipline His straying nation as in Jeremiah 50-51, 25), that Israel is being viewed as the Ethiopians! (cf.Amos 9:6-8)! They are seen as an apostate crew, a wallowing vessel, a dismal failure, alien and alienated.

There is in fact no limitation or qualification in the Ezekiel 33 statement, and the whole book of Jonah shows that the mercy of God is not limited, that His erring prophet is without understanding of the breadth of God's mercy to PEOPLE AS PEOPLE! Did it matter that it was Assyria in which the judgment would have come ? Were they not real living people, able to suffer, and did the awfulness of what would befall them, not fully come to the mind of Jonah! So did God expostulate with his prophet! (Jonah 4).

It seems that lesson still for many, has to be relearned theologically!

Very well, let us look at Ezekiel 33:10-11:

“Therefore you, O son of man, say to the house of Israel: ‘Thus you say, “If our transgressions and our sins lie upon us, and we pine away in them, how can we then live?'

“Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’ "


AS I LIVE, asseveration, strong and most vigorous annunciation,  as John Murray expounded it (and the rest of this paragraph is in line with his exposition). I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked ... Negation. But that the wicked should turn (affirmation) - this being the contrary expression to the former one. He should turn from way and live. Turn, turn - exhortation. For why should you die, O house of Israel ? Interrogation.

AS GOD LIVES, it is so - this we read.

No more profound wish or determination, resolution of desire or declaration of intent is conceivable. Unlike any passing thought that mere men might have, this is to the depths of the divine being! It is NOT His wish to afflict the children of men (Lamentations 3:33), and any such thought is abomination, irreconcilably contrary and con-trary in terms of God's word.

It IS His wish that they turn from their evil way, for HE SAYS SO, as in Colossians 1. Reconciliation through Christ is the offer there displayed to all worlds, spiritual or physical, and to this one to the uttermost,  as in John 3:16 with Colossians; and precisely accordingly, knowledge of the truth is the direction of His desire as in I Timothy 2. For all men.

To be sure, Arminianism has thrown away the sovereignty in order in some things, to avoid the false point of Calvin, that the Father was diverse in His love from that of Christ, more restricted or restrictive or both. This is of course involves  a total exposure of the depth of Calvin's error. Yet it makes error of its own in the process, being too exuberant in its negation, to allow for the rest of Scripture.

Incidentally, one does not regard Calvin's teaching as heretical, since the subject is deep, but certainly ON THIS POINT it is  unscriptural and erroneous. To say less would be to fail in fidelity. At this point, Calvinism contradicts what is written, over and over, and this as further exemplified in multiple cases, expressed in multiple forms and language.

This however is no reason to follow either it or Calvin in his own error. Some, however, understandably most impressed with the latitude and scope of Calvin's understanding, seem determined to follow him when he falls, as if the breach with scripture is not there explicit.

What then must be said of this ? Perhaps, as one has noted, even profound and brilliant theologians err in some thing in order that people should fail to (virtually) idolise them, by FOLLOWING THEM, as some do, as when they call themselves Calvinists, for example,  and this is not the ONLY NAME so misused. It is forbidden quite expressly, and whether or not the result is EFFECTUAL IDOLATRY (putting this person, as RC's tend to do with the pope, where the WORD OF GOD should be put), it is still wrong (cf. I Corinthians 3:1-6). It is CARNAL, as well as CONDEMNED and CONTRARY, to use Paul's language. It results in hideous errors, almost as if pollution, and not purity, were the objective.

The worst features of someone's theology, presented for the great gain of the church, can thus become chains and tend to defile the good points!

Seeing, then, that it is not statistical predestination, as if some mystery did some choice and some numbers came up, as with the sadly unfortunate person mentioned above, the Christian can rejoice. It is not mystery but mastery which predestinates, and the Master is Christ who in all things co-operates with the most intense intimacy with His Father (John 5:19-23), sharing one throne and glory  (Revelation 5:9-13, 22:3 "the throne of God and of the Lamb"). No, it is not this, but  SPIRITUAL PREDESTINATION in which YOU ONLY can be blamed for NOT being a Christian, when confronted with the Gospel.

That is why it is expressly stated that "THIS is the condemnation," NOT that you sinned, no, that is not what does it IN THE END, but that "light has come into the world and men have loved darkness rather than light" - John 3:19. This is a categorical statement in the context of the vast love of God to the world, and the ground of condemnation in view of that. Thus in John 15: 21-23, we hear that IF HE, CHRIST JESUS had not come, then THEY would not have "sinned" - that is, have been in that sin which being relevant to the topic, results in hell: permanent, effectual exclusion from the divine presence. It is a matter of LIGHT COMING, LIGHT COMING TO ALL, LIGHT BEING REJECTED BY SOME, CONDEMNATION so accruing to those. It is despite the light, despite the love, and occasions lament on the part of Christ as in Luke 19:42ff., Jeremiah being in strict and abundant parallel.

HOW can God have such an inveterate, classical, uncontained love and yet hate Esau ? (Romans 9). That is predestination. Before that, however, in logical sequence as in Romans 8, is foreknowing*2 His people. Because of predestination everything is fixed; but it is because of foreknowledge that it IS SO fixed. IN this foreknowledge, God has TOLD us the scope of His love multiple times. It is the same as Christ showed Himself personally, and in His lament for those concertedly, perversely and finally lost.

Christ ? HE WHO HAS SEEN ME has seen the Father (John 14). Thus GOD IS LIKE THAT. What a horrendous distortion to pretend that sovereignty in THIS respect is a mystery, concerning the lost! It is one of the least mysterious things ever known. The condemnation is in the very face of the declared love, and it is only in the face of HIS BEING THERE and rejected that condemnation occurs, and indeed, this IS the condemnation, that He so loved, so came and so was the light, and men preferred darkness.

WHY then would God allow this to happen. Could He not construct  puppets and MAKE them love
Him  ? That is simply a contradiction in terms, like saying, Can't zero really be the same as one!

Puppets are by nature without personality and cannot love.

God has elected to love, and love is not the thing which forces its object, since it is not possessive ("seeks not its own" - I Cor. 13): that is the way it is, its very nature. Friends are not make at the point of a gun, nor healthy marriages either. Love has RESTRAINT, and it loves to be so. Nothing is frustrated, therefore, though lament indicates the reality of the self-restraining magnificence of this glorious love of God. The exuberance of divine love does not distort its purity, nor does His word lie when it asserts its total scope. It is moreover ONLY when such love as God repeatedly, categorically and in many applications attests, actually is there, that freedom has any meaning. It is only then that without manipulation, in purity, a Higher Person taking the lower, the Creator taking the creature, real liberty exists: for then the option to be quit of God is real, liberty and hence responsibility is operative, yet this is done not in the carnal sinfulness which so blinds that is not liberty but sin which controls! but in a love which is true, profound and effectual.

Neither tyrannical, nor inept, this love knows all, does all, implements all, and never varies from the truth. In this love, man basks as at the Gold Coast, without cancer; in this God, man may glory with utter unreserve, for HE, He is good! and it is from Him that such a life as ours can be good, and being good, bring glory to His name.

 

EXCERPT FIVE

from

 

The Christian Pilgrimage Ch. 3
 

 

Reductionisms fall about him like Autumn leaves, bare remnants of life, with little resemblance to the living original; and of these materialism, psychological and political programming together with social engineering for the humanistically conceived object call man, are as common and as helpful as dirt (cf. A Spiritual Potpourri Ch. 9, Earth Spasm ... Ch. 1, Biblical Blessings Appendix III, Cascade ... Ch. 6, Little Things Ch. 5, Repent or Perish Ch. 7,  Spiritual Refreshings Ch. 9, *1, It Bubbles ... Ch. 9).

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As man thus misconceives himself, in vast multitudes, cut down philosophically like so many
cut swathes of grain, so does the rot set in. Marred thought and action to fit, in unholy wedlock
conceive the children of disorder, murder, the abortions of misconception and the orphans that
youth in this deadly family often become (cf. News 51, Barbs, Arrows and Balms Appendix 1).

Its pathos is interminable, like its rebellion. It is like a glacier in its coldness; and from this moraine of the lost, one must look for those who may be found, revived, warmed into life, the seed of reality embalmed in their lostness,  brought back to its environment of nurture.

What man needs, God gives; and the reason man needs it, is simple: GOD who made him is LIKE THAT, in that love is crucial, truth is manifest and understanding flows from Him like rain from the clouds. It is inherent. Man without God is like drought-stricken territory, denied its natural environment. Here however the pathos is more poignant: for man is not denied rain, merely refusing the reign of Christ, as if to reject his own nervous system! Naturally, this being so, his politics look sometimes too absurd for contemplation, his social engineering too pathetic to ponder long, his manners beyond consideration and his death-throes, social, imperial, personal, psychological, often appear confused with life. The artificial becomes a dramatic orgy of mixed inconsequence, because of its unrealism, frequently erupting in dire consequences, for the same reason.

Not only however is God available, but He is so by supreme effort.

This includes

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the Cross which implies the incarnation (to be there),

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the love (to want to be there),

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the justice (to find the need to be there),

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the power (to turn the Cross, like scones turned over in the oven, to its desired objective and complementarity in the resurrection, that irrepressible and practical thrust affirming life beyond sin, and beyond this world's mere natural power and resources) and

bullet

the peace of God (for where the cause of war is removed in the God of truth and justice, the profundity of peace is immeasurable).

When therefore THIS is neglected, it is like SARS sites with never a mask to be seen. There they lie, the instruments for life unused,  tossed aside, while hospitals teem, so often fruitless in the plague,  sometimes in a perfect orgy of disorganisation and distemper. Refractory rejection of truth is like that; its results teem, though the protestations, as at first in China, might make them seem meretriciously ... small! Small the word, not small the distemper; small the number cited, not small the toll of those afflicted.

But how great is this love of God, revealed both in Christ and in the prophets who portrayed in detail*1, in advance, His coming, the reasons and the results to be, which now have been and obtain.

As to the reasons for His lavish expenditures on behalf of man, let us consider a moment, John 3.

 

THE INSURGENCY OF DIVINE LOVE
IS CLASSIC, CONTEMPORARY,
HISTORICAL, HOLY

The love of God ? Necessary and delightful, its omission in all the reductionisms of human philosophy is like omitting the heart in the perspective of physiology, or the conspectus of conscience. To be sure, in its own ramshackle way, philosophy pays tribute now to this aspect, now to that, but it is forever like some shamefaced boy, unable to face reality. This is because, as Paul is at great pains to point out, as the Lord inspired him in I Corinthians 1, that philosophy has failed since man has failed: the natural, the carnal, the merely terrestrial his girding, his guide and for many his god! (cf. Secular Myths and Sacred Truth Chs.  6,   7, Earth Spasm, Conscience Chasm: and Renewal of Life Ch. 1,  7, Ancient Words, Modern Deeds Chs.and 13, Spiritual Refreshings...  13, Beauty of Holiness  Ch. 7, Divine Deliverance Chs.  7 and  8, News 132 ).

They have talked of 'love-ins' and self-love, and love is to be found where it is sourced, in God, not in the twisted and often nearly demented derelictions of duty to Him, and wisdom with the body, mind and spirit which He, and He only has provided.

Love then ? The love that is safer than hatred, however, needs the truth. Without this, horrors may habitually be 'loved' into decadent power, and corruption in self-interested 'enlightenment' may become the prelude to self-fulfilling power grabs, or passionate desire for the fulfilment of heartless visions not to be sure from nothing, but often by express post from hell itself, from decadence, from desire for misrule, for man, for self, for race or nation, for its own sake, or even to avoid the rule of God, if it were possible. Such is the intemperance which is one of the first diseases, first plagues ever to hit the human race.

Truth and love, however,  are natural and indeed necessary partners. When you love, you need to know what is lovely; for if you love contention, emulation, self-adoration and the like, then the love is mere misnamed lust.

There is of course no solution amid the humanism stakes, nothing goes: all fails. Man HAS failed; so his ideological pronouncements are a failure in advance. They never work because he wilfully ignores the realities, building either without plans or with absurd 'solutions' based on crassly reductionist philosophy or ludicrously self-expansive mirages of 'greatness' (cf. Aviary of Idolatry, Earth Spasm ...Ch. 1, Little Things Ch. 5, SMR pp. 125ff., Beauty of Holiness... Ch. 4).

The need, then, is for love which is based in truth, which is not another name for force; and though such love  has power, yet it does not use it to adorn itself. Such precisely is the love of God as in I Corinthians 13; and its longsuffering hopefulness and intelligent planning exhibit its calibre just as its mercy is shown in the concern for the lost (cf. Luke 19:10, Mark 2). Lost they are and remain, not only in the personal and individual sense of not being in place, and not knowing - or at any rate caring to recognise - how to get back into their place, but in absenteeism from God, the maker of created mind, the master of all ceremonies in the appointments for man, and the non-condoner of wickedness.

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This need of man, God meets: naturally, for He made our natures, supernaturally, for He is God.

It is only one of innumerable verifications, that He does so. "The LORD is slow to anger and great in power: and will not at all acquit the wicked"  - Nahum 3. He will however have mercy on those who care to come where it may be found (Isaiah 55), and being found of God, receive regeneration from His constant power, mercy from His ONE ACT in Christ, made to be incarnate and so to become sacrificial for sin. All this was enshrined in His ONE LIFE, pure and holy as becomes the Almighty, expressed on earth (I Timothy 3:16, John 14:9 cf. SMR pp. 532ff.) and so able to remit the sin He did not commit, but yet bore (I Peter 3:18). Indeed, He CALLS them (Isaiah 55), to receive freely the freedom which is His (Isaiah 61:1-3).

In the light of this, let us then look at the affirmations in John 3, as we survey the relationship of the provision from the mind of God, and the obvious needs of man.

As to the kingdom of heaven, FORCE is irrelevant as its operational maxim, as Jesus declared (John 18:36): "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were of this world, then would My servants fight." Not only so, it is a kingdom that concerns itself first of all with the spirit of man, for GOD IS SPIRIT (John 4:21-24). It does not come, this kingdom, as an externally manifest thing: "The kingdom of heaven does not come with observation" - Luke 17:20. It is not "here" or "there" but in your midst! This term is used of the "inside" of the cup, and has an inward emphasis. It allows for both the individual (as in Revelation 3:20, John 14:21-23), and the family of God, the plural form being used here, though its distribution is left open. It is both within you and in your midst.

This, the kingdom of heaven, it cannot even be SEEN without regeneration. That is, a man who is a sinner, though created by God in the first instance, when the race began its seed continuity procedure, is astray and alien both from the knowledge and the life of God (Ephesians 4:17ff.), so that even if haunted by desire for the ultimate, he may still not find the gate.

Confused, bemused and even of feverish spirit, a man can be deluded very readily, and perhaps the more so when he is too wonderful to contemplate such a possibility, in proud flesh! (cf. II Thessalonians 2:10). It can be passed by, this kingdom, as a bull might pass by a buttercup, an ambitious knave, a fine wife in favour of wealth in a rich one; or as a politician might ignore a wonderful option for his State, because in his self-importance it would impact negatively on his pride, role, hopes or self-oriented plans.

Further, the kingdom of heaven cannot be ENTERED without regeneration. This too Christ declared (John 3:5). The first birth from the womb with its watery buffer is needed to BE there at all; the second is needed to be in HIS KINGDOM. You have to be made into a person relating to such a kingdom, before you CAN enter it. Here, boat people cannot arrive and dextrously invade its shores. It is mutually exclusive with unrepentant sinners, and exempted far beyond the power of any or all men, when it comes to birth rights: there is no right birth for this kingdom except one which is PERFORMED by GOD on the unconverted, transforming their inward beings, bringing peace as published, and pardon as promised, so that the dynamic of mutuality between man and God can resume! Those who thereby know God, are in His kingdom, in His grace and even in His presence (John 14:24, Colossians 1:27, Matthew 18:20, 28:20).

These basic things, concerning seeing and entering His kingdom,  we learn in John 3:1-5.

 

THE WORTH AND NATURE OF BIRTH

Further, in this Kingdom, PARENTHOOD is essential as a consideration. IF GOD SPIRITUALLY is not yet your Father, but only in the systematics of original creation and its train of generations, then YOU are still 'flesh'. In the Bible, this means:

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an array of potential autonomy,

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without its base, source, or savour,

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lacking saviour,

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without the knowledge of God and that perception which would enable you to LIVE in such a kingdom,

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 invisible but powerful, as this.

This we find in John 3:6. What is BORN of the flesh IS flesh; and what is born of SPIRIT IS spirit!

As to this, the kingdom of heaven, its PRACTICALITIES are INSCRUTABLE. The "wind" blows where it will, and though meteorology may hope to know more about the weather patterns and the like, even the most rambunctiously optimistic does not speak of knowing it all. If then weather can defeat the pretensions to omniscience in man, how much more is man duly and justly humbled by the obstetrics wing of the Divine Hospital, where God Himself, and NO OTHER brings to the birth. This is seen in John 3:8.

Indeed, birth is not an option, but a disposition of parents by which what is not yet able to think and choose and have intelligent perception in an organised and operational manner AS A PERSON, comes into the first beginnings of it, when born. It is therefore, in the ultimate, NOT CHOSEN. It may be found by CALLING on the name of the Lord, in deep repentance OF LIFE, and SEEKING Him where He may be found, and indeed it is God who works in you both to will and to do (Philippians 2); and the finding of yourself in HIS kingdom is not a matter at all of YOUR doing, as John directs our minds to realise, in John 1:12, for neither is this birth of the will of man, nor of the flesh. It is neither a summation of desire not a compilation of thought. It is an entry which ONLY GOD can provide.

Birth ? It is not at the option of the one born! Just as Abraham, Noah found grace in the sight of the Lord, and were chosen, not for their goodness but in God's absolute divine discretion, so here. It is a finding of love in foreknowledge, not of works but of what is to be born (Romans 8:28ff., 9:16, John 15:16), and as in I Timothy 1, Paul himself, despite atrocities of sin. was called even to be born and then be made into an apostle! (I Tim. 1:12ff.).

On the other hand, we are dealing just now with the love of God as in the Bible, and we find that this love is non-discriminatory in any sense of lacking the universality of its initial scope (John 3:16, Colossians 1:19ff., I Timothy 2). It operates without desire for self-fulfilment, for as to God, He is NOT a constructed Being in need of fulfilment: all things are consummately present from the first in Him who depends on nothing. This He does, not as do those philosophers who use reason while denying it, trying to make nothing the god back of it all, in rampant irrationality, self-contradiction and inconsistency: but simply as lacking dependence on what is not Himself. All depends on Him; but He, eternal and the base of all that is made, owes allegiance to none and to nothing: He is who He is, as He declares, and in this as in the magnificence of His being, there is simply none like Him, nor even could there be!

HENCE we find in entire and perfect consistency that He neither frustrates His principles, nor yet sates His mere will by finding some, as if they were the very best, the cream, for His companionship (since companionship is sated in the first, for He lacks nothing, being in any case a Trinity from eternity). In such ways He does not seek gratification in human 'magnificence', since He made it good and it has fallen, and His lack is null, time His mere creation. Moreover, as He declares,  love (I Cor. 13) DOES NOT SEEK ITS OWN, is not an intemperate or grasping thing. It GIVES.

This is the nature of God; but it is ALSO the nature that He seeks for man to receive, and receiving illustrate in a life of joy and fulness, these not sought but gained in the truth, since the truth is that God is filled with these things, and empties them out to man with zealous attention, as love does with what it has. Infinite, he never lacks; love, He does not cease to give; pure, He does not cast pearls before swine, but yet seeks with a tenderness of solicitude which is its own witness.

What then do we read later in John 3, for example in verse 16 ? God SO loved the world that He GAVE His ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, so that whosoever believes in Him should NOT perish but HAVE everlasting life.

#  Let us focus this, for some have become confused, astray. The word of God however is clear to the uttermost (cf. Proverbs 8:8).

Thus God so loved the world

(not a segment of the world, as if to say, God so loved a segment of the world, that if any part of this segment of the object-state, should believe in Him, He would on that condition act to save that segment of a segment).

The case is far removed from this. The divine speech here is declarative, enunciating a generality of kind between GOD on the one hand, and the creation, this WORLD on the other; and it is the BODY, the whole, the thing made,  which includes its parts, towards which His own love is directed.

However, this love is not a mandatory thing. You do not have to respond to it. It may grieve Him sadly FOR YOUR SAKE if you reject its appeals, exhortations; but it does not alter His purity. Heaven is populated in liberty, not in compulsion.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is (II Cor. 3:17), THERE is liberty. 

Nor is it contrivance, as if people made in God's own divine image, could be hoodwinked, manipulated or manhandled (God-handling) into acquiescence; for love is not of this sort, so that Christ could WEEP for Jerusalem (Luke 19:42ff., Matthew 23:37ff.) at the same time as enunciating the horrible devastation this rejection would OBJECTIVELY cost it, since the ONLY way out of their sin, being rejected, the only result could be to PAY for it!

Justice never takes a vacation in the Lord; it is mercy which interrupts it, not in unseemly discourse, but in divine love meeting the cost and so keeping holiness in place, and wonder in its orbit about the creation. Such is the teaching of John 3 here.

The WORLD is the object of this love, so that IF anyone in it should believe, then to that one, surrounded as it were, in a magnetic field of divine love, there would be salvation, with eternal life in train. Just as Israel was the object of divine love (as in Ezekiel 33:11), so that AS I LIVE, the Lord declared, I HAVE NO PLEASURE IN THE DEATH OF THE WICKED, this being an ultimate divine reality, but that HE SHOULD TURN FROM HIS EVIL WAY: so now was it with the world!

God had predicted this new amplitude of immediate application in such sites as Jeremiah 16:19, Isaiah 49:6, 42:6, and now, in Christ's day on earth,  it had come to pass. Moreover the PARALLEL in Jonah, on mission to the Gentiles as we read in the book of that name, is seen in Jonah 4, where God REMONSTRATES with Jonah at the hardness of heart which he displayed in not caring adequately, indeed passionately and hopefully to the uttermost, in not sharing with the Lord His passion for compassion. It was through this that He delighted not to destroy Nineveh, which had had the bans put on it, with NO exemption, except of course, the removal of the cause! How that ? ONLY BY REPENTANCE and seeking the Lord: this they did. God was swift to turn from the otherwise inalienable purpose, brought for so long by so much on that wicked city.

Since God is merciful to the uttermost, the cause is readily removed in repentance, for man coming to receive the gift of God, NEED NOT PAY (Isaiah 55, I Peter 1:18ff.). Indeed, if he tries to pay, he is outside it altogether (Romans 10, 3). That is how this very principle is exceedingly clearly stated in Colossians 1, that He would that ALL in heaven or in earth, ALL should be reconciled, as in I Tim. 2.

These things being so, and the parallel with Israel of old being express and explicit (John 3:14-15), we find this intense stress on INDIVIDUALITY, this "whosoever", which is paralleled in the negative by His statement of His own divine purpose, namely this, that God did not send His Son in order that He might condemn the world, but that the world by Him might be saved (John 3:17). THAT is the reason why it is the case that whosoever calls should be saved: FOR ... THIS is His will, that working individually with the locus and focus the world, He might save any, with the negative being by desire excluded to the uttermost, without being removed from existence, since mercy is so often despised.

 

THE SANDWICH

(for the double-decker see Appendix below)

What then is to be found in this word of God ?

¨    The object - the world.

¨    The motivating power - such love.

¨    The negation - NOT to condemn.

As E. J. Young so well pointed out, the negative is often necessary or at least most useful, in removing possible misinterpretations. It is not "all positive" but balanced in clarity between affirmation and negation!

¨    The affirmation - THAT the world might be saved.

¨    The explanation - failure to believe. It is emphatically NOT God blockading the world, one which in fact He SOUGHT. No, not that, for this is His stated purpose for the world, that it should be saved, and that by believing, so that eternal life becomes the consequence.

The thrust is salvation, and such is the desire for the stated body, the world, out of which individuals are envisaged as being brought on a belief-despite-sin basis, and others are removed on an unbelief-despite-love basis.

¨    The result (John 3:19) - The preference of man for his own evil works as a motif, man is seen PREFERRING darkness to light; but much more than that. What of the world then ? The many in it are  witnessed as having a preference, an inordinate and inveterate one,  for their OWN darkness, over the DIVINE light, which is exhibited not only in word, but in a love which PAYS utterly, personally and in vast humiliation, attesting its savour for the object, the world. The world alas ? This is seen as intent on the whole, and as a whole, on treating this love in all its truth,  with distaste. HENCE there is a penalty for this result. THIS is the ground of it; it results; it is consequential, derivative, in the very face of contrary divine desire, provision of contrary dynamic and performance of contradictory feats.

¨   The penalty (John 3:36) - The wrath of God broods over them, looms, dooms. They are intractable not because God did not love, but despite His so loving; not because He did not work, but despite His work, yes despite even His objectives: for the world is set on refusing grace, pardon, power and liberty, and this condemnation of those so preferring comes from the very MIND and CERTAIN KNOWLEDGE of God Himself (Romans 8:29).

¨   As noted, for all this, the PARALLEL is the divine chat to Jonah (Ch. 4), the Lord not at all free of distaste for that prophet's desire to have some kind of satisfaction in destruction of the vagrant city. To be sure, this was not only eminently deserved for Nineveh, but brimming over into immediate action. However, such devastation was for the time quelled in mercy, because of the city's repentant frame of mind. The prophet was troubled because the curse had not come. Not so is it with God, however, who roundly upbraided and scolded Jonah.

What is the good of having all kinds of godly love for ALL if  the results are distasteful UNLESS they come! Even though Jonah was aggrieved, God not only was of a different mind, but wholehearted so, pointing out to the prophet the cost to man, to cattle, to children if the judgment had come. Was it not delightful that it now could be removed! Sadly, it was not for ever, though the deliverance was for well over a century! The city fell further as time showed its passions and lusts, religious, social and military.

The point here is this: that in this case we see in a dramatic and serial form, the operation of the mercy of God in vast preference toward saving ALL of a pagan city, at the least opportunity in accord with His mercy, truth and compassion.

SIN was the topic of trouble, REPENTANCE toward the Lord, the result for relief.

¨   The proposition - is seen as also noted in Colossians 1:19ff., in entire certainty and indeed drama of categorical pronouncement. GOD WOULD LIKE ALL TO BE RECONCILED, WHETHER IN HEAVEN  OR ON EARTH, in the light of the cross of His payment, and the the glory of the incarnation towards this end. What is the use of denying the One who tells it as it is! The tendency of man to psychiatrise God, or if you will, tele-psychiatrise Him in aspiration, as if to tell of God what he does not even know of his own neighbour, is both ludicrous and common. It is however never possibly true. God is as He is, and is not subject to declaration from other hearts, even created ones indeed, who propose for Him what His plans and purposes may be. While His divine nature is clear (Romans 1:17ff.), His divine plans are HIS OWN. Face it: GOD WOULD HAVE ALL TO BE RECONCILED! Theologies that teach God as as nothing, mere impudence and imprudence of flesh.

¨   The reflection - If God so loved, and fought the evil and wrought the good so that even the LEAST of men might join the blessedness of God, since the payment to cover is utter and entire, correlatively with the love and passion of God who omits NOTHING from His love and presence and purchase payment (Hebrews 5, 9-10, with 2:3ff.), then ought we to LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Yes the family of God should be loved in intensity as brothers and sisters under ONE OPERATIVE FATHER of purity and light;  the very enemies, with His action in praying, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing!" become an opportunity for love, as a criterion for kindly forgiveness on our part.

Nothing is omitted. In these combined features there is no room for outrageous surmisings, or disruptive occasions.

Nothing could be further from this scripture than any thought of some mystery about the love of God, concerning the sublime splendour of its scope in the ambit of salvation, its zeal, its overview of this entire world, its seeking, so that its selection of His people is not through its demise or deficiency. On the contrary, its limitation as it surges to victory is through but one carefully CITED cause. What is this stated cause of rejection and judgment among men from the Lord ? It is this: it lies in evil and definable OPPOSITION to His wishes, namely the discerning and captious PREFERENCE to the contrary. THOUGH HE so loved, MEN so DISMISSED. (Refer to Appendix and to  *3 below.)

He does not make His mind so plain in all universality, in order to pretend that the blame for non-coming is differentially from this publication of His will, to be found in His own lack of coverage; far to the contrary, it is to be found, the light having come, in preference for darkness (cf. John 15:21-23 where it is obvious with dazzling emphasis). In fact,  that divine and impassioned coverage in the realm of world on the part of God, is already shown to the very point that single transfers from this world into His KINGDOM are expressly provided for as the outcome of His terrestrial liberality and the desire which moved in His program.

On the negative side,  non-coming is set at variance with such liberality, not as a defect, deficiency or lag, a lack or a negative within the purported positive of the One divine, but entirely to the contrary. It specifically and specified as being wrought on the part of the ones so significantly, so strenuously, so expensively, so passionately sought. They lagged in the face of deliverance; they withheld in the face of divine coming; they were averse and even perverse in betrayal of His Creator's love; and it is of them that His life, so placarded for the world, is not received.

Hence they are responsible, not merely for their sin, but for its retention when its dismissal was expressly divinely sought, with payment available most ample, with purity most intense, with practicalities most obvious. Indeed, FOR God did NOT send for condemnation but for SALVATION. That is what He says. To contradict Him, it is vile, as it is knowingly to say or even imply.

 

But what is it like ? Consider such a word as this, as if chattily to redefine the divine declaration.

'But ah yes! we know, WE know! REALLY, now, you did not send for the salvation of whosoever would come, for you secretly, in mysterious circumstances, did not even WANT their salvation: if you did, you would have taken them;  and the whosoevers were, quite apart from what might have been, most elaborately avoided in practice as simply not in your purvey; and this for all your protestation, is simply your own love-defective or at least love-avoiding fiat.'

Not so! Not at all so: what impudence is this that would erode and corrode the love of God with gratuitous invasions of His word, and evasions of His declarations...

 However blind some may have become, to arrest the word of God in its direct and repeated universal statements, and negativing of the contrary, to make it a prisoner of some more aristocratic mould, this is both an express contradiction of God (who does know His own love), and a denudation, like soil erosion, of His fertile will. My desire, He is saying, is as stated for the world so that any may come; FOR I did not send to condemn but to save (John 3:16-17). Such a proposition, then, as italicised above, drop it! Its tenor as well as its words is wholly averse to what is found written. What then is being said of the Saviour ?

Coming to condemn, to do a double work, to save AND to condemn, by a selective shielding or omission from such love as this! False! To the contrary, He is saying in effect, in John 3:17, to ANY SUCH proposition: HE DID NOT DO SO. This is alien to fact. The purpose was ONE, not two. The purpose was NOT to condemn. It was to save. So is it written; and the residual condemnation where unbelief occurs in the face of the light, this is contradistinct from the first great loving motif and motivation: as a purpose of His coming, what then ? It is SOVEREIGNLY rejected. THIS, it is sovereignty! and it is HIS.

The thrust then has this theme: That, condemnation, is NOT AT ALL what He sought. YOUR desire, however, the challenge is to unbelievers, that is to stifle this thing, and in that (as in John 15:21-23), you bring on a judgment in the face of this love which makes your position THEREFORE irremediable, even by love. It is the love from which you turn: intent on your other occupations. Wrath THEREFORE abides on you. God is explicit: the application of the thrust of the love which sent Christ, so that all believers should not perish. is that this was NOT to condemn, but to save the world.

This exposition of the nature of the action in 3:16, to be found in 3:17 defies dalliance with contrary consideration, such as a two-fold purpose, thrust and intention, to save some and implement a negation for others:  the motivation and the actualisation differ; and though this was foreknown, the motivation is known, now as always, by the word of God: both as to what it was, and what it was not. The negative aspect did not, repeat not, form part of it!

Such is the flow of the argumentation.

 

APPLYING THE LOVE OF GOD IN THE LIFE OF MAN

Of course, as to God,  it is in HIS MIND, not in the mind of man that this matter is resolved, and in HIS KNOWLEDGE, not that of man; but the principles are purely, passionately and pervasively, categorically and repetitively stated. How often must they be stated before they will be believed ? But believed or not, they are there; and this is our current interest. THIS love is that which solves the problems of the world.

Why ? Because it is non-discriminatory, not tied to prejudice or alien segmentalisation in its outgoing thrust as in Colossians 1; but discriminating, in the sense of knowing the truth, aware of what is what. It is what it is,  and not its opposite; it is what it is declared to be, and not some invention. Those who invent  love, are unlovely in the process, dysfunctional in the illusion; but those who find it, find what it is; and in the Lord, it is what it is stated to be, and stated to be what it is. It verifies itself in word as in deed.

Applied as it is, it is functional, favourable to man, strengthening to his development, contrary to his wilfulness, wise in truth and beneficial in interplay among those who have it, know it and so show it. It is as averse to manipulation and imagination as love always is; and as useless as is such misconception amongst mankind,  so much the more is it with the love of God.

It satisfies the mind, anoints the soul, enlivens the Spirit, and is like the very expression on the divine face, seeking with understanding, and among those who receive Him, regaling with the relish of His loveliness, the harmony of His peace, the reality of His truth. As a thirsty horse, climbing uphill on a sweltering day finds its trough, relaxes, surges to the cool refreshment, enjoys its savour, so does the one who loves God rejoice in His presence. The Song of Solomon is its marital symbolism, the life of Hosea its pictorial depiction, the work of Christ its historical enactment, building forever its structure in the visible, for the spirit of man.

That love of God ? It is pure, determined on justice for all. It is compassionate, willing to go to any lengths short of evil, for any, even to bearing many evils, and breaking them. It is filled with mercy, so that our efforts have no ground for vying and emulation: in mercy it acts, and only by mercy are any ever received through its portals. It is to be found active in the place of pardon, so that like a hospital accepting someone about to die, so does this kingdom accept those who come, not with boasting and self-fulfilment, but with humble and contrite hearts, MADE SO by the simple fact that their acceptance was based on entirely and precisely NOTHING that they had done  (Titus 3:3ff., Romans 3:23ff., Ephesians 2:1-10). That is only part of it. It is also CONTRARY to merit, and cancelling demerit (II Corinthians 5:17ff.).

"THIS is the work of GOD, that you should believe in Him whom He has sent!"  said Christ (John 6:29), and again, said He: “All whom the Father gives Me, will come to Me!” (John 6:37)… and after that ? “and he who comes to me I will certainly not cast out!” , for indeed, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”

This love of God is deep; its cause is profound; its objective lies in horror, which without intervention, only waits for its time to come:  I WOULD that they come and SO are not CONDEMNED; BUT they WOULD NOT, since their deeds are evil: this is the sequence in outline at our section of John  3.

IF thus they come, THEN the divine purpose is satisfied. It is not other than this, His purpose in coming; but this is on the contrary the exquisite passion of desire with the circumscription, not of His love, so poured out for the world, but of the WAY HOME which in His love, He paid so infinitely to procure. They may avoid it; there is no forced march to it. They may come. If they do not, then the comely beauty of His love does not deliver these self-imposed and self-inflicted detainees. He would have it so, but He WILL not abort love into carnality in order to satisfy some. He did not come to condemn but to save; but what He saves is the one who comes where He is to be found.

Peace, justice, life and purity are as one in Him, available; but these are not available for dismissal; nor is any. The offer may be dismissed; but not the beauty of its place or the purity of His abode.

The case is complete, the love is eternal, its results eternal, its purity infinite, its compassionate character supernal, its source supernatural: its focus here the natural, and within the natural, its bugle call is to ALL, so that ANY may come.

It must of course be noted that if any of those for whom He prayed DID NOT repent, then as stated in Luke 13, they would all likewise perish. This is the nature and name of His justice; which is met with such impassioned and sincere embrace by His mercy as in Psalm 85:10-11. Righteousness, through this love, is able to be at peace, since the payment, requisite for sin. is satisfied; and mercy is able to be harmonious with truth, since in very truth Christ has died to save sinners, yes even chief ones!

NO ONE has ANY credit in Christ but that OF Christ (Galatians 1-5), and whatever blessedness occurs thereafter - that is, after conversion, regeneration, washing - this has entirely NOTHING to do with the BEING IN the kingdom of heaven. It is then merely a matter of ACTING as ONE who having been brought into it, is now living as belonging to it,  of it! (Ephesians 2:1-12, Romans 3:23ff.).

Vying becomes spiritual squalor, debasing in the truth which accounts (cf. Matthew 20:20ff.), and what is guilefully self-seeking is not even relevant, since to lose one's life is the necessity if one is to be in the kingdom at all (Matthew 16:24ff.).

Hence the vying for superiority, the seeking for personal glory, national wonder, racial superiority and the like, are so many false paths, worthless, rags, follies. Wars built on such causes are mere day-dreams, bringing in the night, when no man can work, when judgment rules and many will gnash their teeth, being last not first, as in incompetent and passionate spiritual prurience, they had sought.

Peace is the publication of God. Here it is. It works; but even here, there are false ones who would steal grace, and make men work for their entry; and rob pardon, and make men labour for this result (Isaiah 55, Galatians 3-5); there are those who would use the monies for their upbuilding of some other kingdom, blasphemously making use of the name of Christ, perhaps even killing Christians in the wild folly of their carnal zeal for themselves and their own glory.

Did not Christ even foresee such folly (John 16:2), and predict such false teachers, some even assuming HIS OWN NAME! (Matthew 24:24); and did not Paul extend the list (II Timothy 3, I Timothy 4), making clear the coming horrors, before they should come, so that when they came, the faith of many would be strengthened, God glorified and all opposition made ignominious, being foreseen, foreknown, like contraband declared over the radio before the aeroplane so much as landed! Such is already exposed and destined for the pit (Mark 9).

The world, for its part, needs to see this kingdom, by faith, grounded in Christ, attested and verified in history, logic, personal testimony of His promises, truth: and then to cease the inane wars, hatreds, vengeances, and vices. Yet this world counterattacks by trying to invade the church, and much that is wealthy or powerful succumbs: but His kingdom does not succumb. It continues aloft in spirit, stout in heart, unvanquished, and vindicated. The kingdom of heaven continues is irrefutably functional reality, mocking its tormentors and providing for them the testimony they need.

So should the Christians in peace, bearing all things, seek to win sinners to Christ (we are all sinners, but the Christian is no longer under sin's sovereignty, any more than a boarder in a school is at that time still under his father's roof), and to consolidate the faith in many and its impact on the world: for God SO LOVED this world, and WOULD HAVE all, in heaven and in earth, to be RECONCILED TO HIM.

So too we should aggregate, not keeping ourselves apart, but in the body of His team, act as He enables us; and seek to STIMULATE others both to seek and to find, both to work and to be kind, in the ways of this invisible kingdom, where Christ, resurrected, by His Holy Spirit, invisibly but powerfully rules. After all (It Bubbles... Ch. 9), our own spirits and thoughts are invisible; but they are back of many actions of mere flesh!

When He comes, then the current trials become the coming manifestation: all, as on a School Speech Day, is exposed. It will be very wonderful then. Coming to speech night ? there is a place for His scholars.

What a pilgrimage is this Christian one, not into cities, but into Christ, and with Him (Matthew 28:19-20), and by His grace, so do His people, all sought, not founded on superiority but on HIS LOVE and MERCY in the Cross, come to see His face (Revelation 21ff.).

 

APPENDIX

Another Geneva Convention

that of Calvin

John 3:16 is delightful, with 17-19, more so. Let us then extend our thoughts on this topic in this realm of the superabundant love of God, denying it the parody to which it is often, perhaps with excess of zeal, mistreated.

Does it say, then, this:

For God so loved a part of the world that He gave for that part of the world only, His only begotten Son, so that whoever, strictly of the part noted, should believe in Him, should have eternal life.

Nor does it continue in the next verse:

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but rather only part of it, His desire being that the other part - the one specified earlier - should be saved.

This is a parody of the verse, but not of what is often assigned to its 'interpretation'. In John 3:16-17, however, it is altogether a different statement that is to be found. it is one of non-restraint, non-limitation, maximal amplitude, total coverage and utter correlation of this with the free payment of the horrendous cost. It was and is the case, that it is because of the love of such a kind for the world, that even ANYONE in it might, adopting the provision,  be saved.

It is altogether a different and opposite connotation which follows the staggering affirmation of verse 16,  in verse 17, declaring blankly that the PURPOSE of this PURPORT, what drove it, was NOT condemnation of the world. This was not the basis of the action towards the body specified in the line of fire between God and His creation, this world. Instead, it was that the WORLD MIGHT BE SAVED.

Universal, inveterate, unbounded in His love in all its purity, He stops at nothing of cost, embarks to all the world, and deletes any possible ground for obfuscation by adding this, that the purpose was positive not negative towards the world, that it was not for the quest, fulfilment,  implementation or purpose of condemnation, but that of salvation; and as to that salvation, it was directed not in some limited way, but to the world.

It is that same universalisation of which He later spoke (John 4:21-23) to the Samaritan woman, declaring that the days were coming, in the terms and terminology of His Messianic fulness, that the worship of God would in no way be restricted to this or that situational category, but would be in spirit and in truth: place would not be a consideration; it was the RACE, the human race as one whole, which was the setting for the action. The place was important as that of the Cross; the grace is not so limited, for though the payment was made in one locale, it was limitless in application to any.

The "world" of John 1 is similarly the one created by the Christ with the Father, as specified in this Chapter from the beginning, so that "all things were made by Him",  He thus coming as the "true light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him," the word of God continues, "and the world did not know Him."

We are in no doubt about the extent of the conception which imbues the world to which John refers in terms of salvation: it is logically coherent from the first, definitively apparent at the outset, consistently applied and devastatingly total to the end.

But what follows John 3:16-17, but v. 18 telling us that he who believes in Jesus is not condemned, while the one who does not believe is condemned already. It is of universal application.

In verse 19, we have yet more to the point of what we are considering. What does it NOT SAY ?

This: And this is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, and that men who were not in the part of the world in which God was savingly interested, loved darkness rather than light.

Not at all, but rather is it this: "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."

The conditions are these: man, love of God, light, the world, the coming of Christ into the world, the criterion of salvation in the world which 1) He created and 2) was the site of His coming, where the things stated about the world, as for the world,  so specified applied.

The effort towards narrowing things down to something less represents an entire mis-disposition, not only of the terminology, but of the thrust.

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As to the latter, such an understanding as appears in the bold italics above,

bullet

moves the ground of condemnation surreptitiously,

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from human preference - in the very face of divine willingness,  averse to the light of Him sent
towards the stated salvation of the world,

bullet

to divine inhibition, limitation, circumscription of His saving interest.

This would be such as to make

bullet

the claim concerning His love for the world to the point of sending His only begotten Son to be fraudulent, and
 

bullet

the correlation of the limitless degree of that love with anyone believing, vapid and
misleading
,
 

bullet

so that the ascription of the ground for condemnation - despite SUCH love for this world, with
such a STATED provision for ANYONE - to contrary human preference for what is dark, would
be wholly irrelevant to the disjunction between the lost and the saved, thus providing
a species of window-dressing so specious as to be rampant irrationality.

And this astounding result is obtained by departing from the vocabulary and perspective in view in the text and context, the thrust of the salvation always in view as correlative to this world and to mankind (as in Titus 2 and 3, with Colossians 1). It would be outrageously and flagrantly narrowing the ambit of the intention from that specifically stated, and then re-writing scripture in one's own mental image.

As the English might say, Rather not!

Such distortion of the ingredients of this divine declaration, wrought by flatly anti-scriptural philosophy must stand, or rather fall, as one of the most monumental pieces of equivocal theological daring in modern times (that is, since the 'modern era' from the 16th century). For more detail on the WAY in which some of these things occur, relative to other scripture's 'interpretation', see Predestination and Freewill - PF - Section 2, Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch. 2, *1.

Augustine (PF Section 2) was variable as has been demonstrated, but by no means so daring.

The so called 5 point of Calvinism (cf. The Biblical Workman Ch. 8, where here indicated) are, strictly by themselves, and read in the light of the Bible, not vice versa, really excellent in summary. Indeed, the tulip acronym there shown is really exquisite, and in this sovereignty of the Almighty is correctly maintained. The pre-systematics of love however are side-stepped. They are left out in their dimension, like a stamen from a flower. It may still look pretty, but it is dysfunctional for a flower!
Correction is needed.

The love of God, moreover, is in the accompanying presentation of Calvin in this area,  so defaced and in such contradiction to the word of God (cf. SMR Appendix B, The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4, and above references), that it is high time as in principle, Spurgeon so rightly emphasised, that justice be done to both. His reference to the "hideous caricature" of grace, which can be brought in to this field so readily, is to be seen in PF 2, at the section concerning this so famous preacher.

What then ? When God specifies a most costly love for the world so that anyone at all may come to accept from its abundance (cf. Isaiah 55), for a liberty which God there heartily enjoins one and all to come, to take and to find, and then cites the exclusion factor in terms of human preference for evil, for an "interpreter" to equate this to the divinity making a costly provision, not for the world with meaningful issuance on all, but one that in scope excludes much, indeed, most of this world by divine desire,  this being the 'true' nature of His love: what do we have ? This is to distort to negation, what is passionately positive, to twist to contradiction, what is categorically clear, and to put man's wisdom into God's mouth. (As to man's wisdom, consider I Corinthians 1!)

It is nothing less, whatever the intention to be 'helpful'. Such help is neither needed nor anything other than unseemly pollution of the word of God with the mouth of man.

God and this world, Creator and created, it is these two which are involved, precisely as in Colossians 1:19ff., except that there the scope is even BROADER YET! To state that He did not come to condemn the world, but came that it might be saved, then, is by this attrition of the word of God,  flatly contradicted. Thus, the Biblical index to the motivation of divinity excludes one thing, and asserts another. This heady doctrine of Calvin, however,  includes one thing as a motive, which in the Bible is EXCLUDED (John 3:17), and makes a broad category in the original,  into a sub-class in his derivative, thus fouling the direct assertion of the nature of the divine love and nature.

Let it be clear: one does not speak as a Calvinist, since such appellation is biblically forbidden, and one has grown not merely more and more adverse to such nauseous substitutes for necessity, by bypassing a command in the name of this or that, including ... convenience! (I Corinthians 3). Nor however does one speak as an anti-Calvinist, for since one does not accept the term 'Calvinist' as biblically proper, neither does one feel any call to attack the man. It is merely an error in his presentation that needs correction; to be sure it is large one. That is precisely why Wesleyanism and Calvinism never mix, and never seem to tire of their mutual assaults. They are both categorically wrong in certain places. Calvin in his remarkable talent, is so often most thorough, but has this exceedingly great weakness. Wesley in his very correct and vast emphasis on the love of God (as in Luther too) is also at fault in his Arminianism (see PF Section 2 and index). Hence they never end their dissatisfaction, each with the other: nor does reason for it cease to exist. Each is biblically in error here.

One of the purposes of PF has been to show the beautiful harmony which does not at all depreciate or even deprecate the excellent contributions of these emphases on love and on sovereignty; to show them nestling together in harmony, so that God is exalted, error is resolved, peace can be profound, co-operation cordial and above all, so that the word of God is taken as it is. In this, at one stage, a model is presented as explicative of the sort of relationship scripturally in view; but this done, the scaffolding removed, we are left with the most adequate amplitude to be found directly in the word of God. That was Christian Apologetics; this is the word of God. As to the love, it declares it, unremittingly, unbound, undefiled, undimmed and undiminished. God IS love (I John 4).

What then do we find ? This, that we return to the Bible as our source supreme, infallible, unmixed, and it leads us back to itself again, for when we do this, it resoundingly answers all problems, endorses its authority, fulfilling its function, verifying its capacities, astounding the senses with the marvels of light, incandescent but clear, illuminating all.

There in one thing the author has had to be most careful, to keep PRECISELY to what is written. In so doing, there has in this way been a huge bounty of amazing harmony and beauty, so that one comes to see (below) that not merely does the biblical position resolve the difficulties into which philosophy has fallen in this field - or for it, quagmire - for many centuries, but it ALONE has the necessary ingredients for any POSSIBLE resolution*2. This is turn is testimony and verification of two things: on the one hand, of its place as the word of God, telling all, learning from none over millenia; and on the other, of man's place under God: for it is only this word of GOD with the POWERS of God, which He alone has, that any resolution is even conceivable. Here however, it does not need to be conceived, for it is already conceived, AND WRITTEN. Where ? In the separately demonstrable word of the living God (SMR Chs. 1, 3, 5, 8-10).

How beautifully this illustrates the WISDOM of God in refusing to people the privilege of having 'name-brands' in biblical exposition as if this man is the leader and others follow HIM, whether Wesley, Calvin or Luther, yes or the pope also. These vary in their approach, the pope MAKING himself master (cf. SMR pp.  1032-1088H); with others, often, mastery is accorded: but to none is it given, whether purely voluntarily or under threat of duress, to have ANYONE in such a position.

Again, as we see in such illustrations (cf. PF 2), not only does the Bible not PERMIT such human additions (I Cor. 3), such party-name procedures (with some amply verifying results of trouble when this advice is disregarded! - party procedures tending to overshadow just research and scriptural liberty), but the case is even more emphatic. So intense is the purity of the word of God, that you might as well add arsenic to aspirin as an analgesic, as add human wisdom to this, God’s word, to make it work better: whatever the intention, adding traditions at the first or at the last, makes the word of God null (Mark 7:7ff.).

 

EXCERPT SIX

From Great Execrations, Greater Grace

Ch.  7

 

ALL have sinned, and adding to this, many proceed by ignoring, twisting or denying God’s word, and their conceptions of His being, though in His book, it is very clear, valid, verified and minutely left standing after all attack on it and assault is finished. It is the same with the Son whom God sent.

 

Yet the cost was penetrating, piercing, in His Son. When they had QUITE finished tormenting His flesh, mocking His Spirit, mauling His body, pretending His guilt (despite Pilate’s formally washed hands!), attacking His doctrine (with never any success), assaulting His healing ministry when it happened on a Sabbath (though quite willing to pull out a cow if it fell on a Sabbath into a pit), vehemently arguing against Him (Luke 11:52ff.), interring His body after exposing it to the skies with the blood dripping off, and the breath being depressed as the arms sagged over the hours of the crucifixion: THEN they still failed.

 

What they could not prevent was quite simply the FAILURE to produce His body after the 3 days which He set as the term for its being dead, before it would rise. HE was unable to be shown wrong even when State and Religious Power, in inglorious communion, had done their worst.

WHERE was the body, since they had been TOLD from ancient times and repeatedly from the lips of Christ that NOT ONLY would He rise from the dead (which, incidentally does NOT mean, NOT rise – cf. Luke 24:38-39), but would do so at an arithmetically distinct time, precisely THREE days after the burial.

To the delight of His friends, the joy of His apostles, the wonder of many, the turning of the tables on fraud, lying and deceit, the overturning of the power of the devil, the dealing of death to death and destruction to destruction, the elevation of mercy in glad glory over judgment, He met judgment and ruined its results by gladly bearing them. Convinced, His disciples spoke; oppressed they spoke; in prison, they sang; in torments of whipping, they praised God for the privilege (Acts 3-10), in confrontation, they fearlessly noted the murder and resurrection; told to cease, they continued; rescued from prison, they spoke again in the face of their tormentors; at peace they knew no weakness, in prayer, they abounded in endurement (Acts 4:22ff.).

 

How then did God do it ? We know why; but how ?

 

One obvious reason is this: the maximum planning of man, with soldiers and tombs, with the stark and customary reality of death in his face, is not adequate to displace the intention and planning of God; and this does not cease to be so,  EVEN WHEN GOD ANNOUNCES this in advance, as He very frequently does! (cf. SMR p. 743). There is no limit to God.

 

The experimental test is clear: man failed, God succeeded. As to the rest of the resurrection*3, His eating in their presence, His calling to them in their boats, His conversation with Peter in the midst of the other disciples, His differentiation about the different death modes to come for Peter and for John (accurate as always – John 21), His invitation to Thomas to try out the substantial character of His wounds by using fingers (a fitting rebuke, both personally and procedurally!), and to the disciples as in Luke 24, to verify for themselves that a SPIRIT does not have FLESH and BONES as He did: it is one long narrative of simplicity and testimony, of data and procedure according to plan.

 

In John 14, 16-17, you see Him telling that after His death, He will be going to be with His Father (John 14:2, 25ff., 16:7, 16:29, 32ff.), when He is ready, and in His own time returning in JUDGMENT so that all should be judged as the case requires.

 

In Matthew 24, you see Him telling of what would happen after His death and return to His Father, over long periods involving much international commotion and development, in which the Gospel would be preached to all nations. He would then RETURN to judge (24:29 to the end).

 

In Luke 24, you find Him telling them,

 

“O foolish ones and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory ?”

 

In all things the plan went according to plan, and the words, whether ancient or from Christ’s own lips, were to be fulfilled without any exemption or exception, any cavil or qualification, as always is the case with the word of God (cf. Isaiah 44:25ff., 48:6ff., 41:21ff.). If it were otherwise, there would be no Christianity, and Christ would have been a mockery (as in Mark 2!) long before it was found necessary to deprive Him of life on this earth (to the point of killing His formatted frame), as an exasperated and guileful grasp on life and national power was held out (John 11:49ff.), for the taking. HE goes, WE say. ONE goes, the nation stays.

 

They have merely inherited infamy. The nation inherited devastation, and the continuation of its unbelief, brings it untold suffering to this day; and who cannot lament for such things, so unnecessary in the very face of the love of God, so slighted, with such sad results.

 

The highest minds of His day, these could not answer His answers, taint His power, spoil His ministrations, exhibit any weakness. They could not stop Him  raising the dead (John 11), nor when His time came, could they  find the body, since He was freely walking about with it. The greatest Empire on earth could not keep His body, since God has His own ways of moving things and removing things, which depends on His entire comprehension of, and planning for what is to be. The author has great rights over His book, though in the events before us, THIS AUTHOR who is DEITY HIMSELF, is careful not to make of the test which we all face, a farce, by removing the suffering or obscuring the issue.

 

So Christ suffered in the grandeur of grace, performed in the illimitability of power, and did so in a body so frail that, like those we have ourselves, it could be snuffed in hours, and rose in the reliability of deity, allowing no rest for Rome or for Jerusalem alike, so that thousands came in short measure, after His death, knowing His return was to come, and seeing His Spirit (as in Acts 2) had come already as He promised (John 14, 16).

 

Suffering is not optional for love, where need is. Power is not optional where sin is. God acts neither so as to remove the reality of test, nor to remove the continuity of His people. Do then miracles such as those multiplied in Christ, and categorically exhibited in His resurrection remove the stringency and reality of test ? On the contrary, miracles do not alter the test, except to remind man of the conditions in which he is placed, and of the opportunities which he is ignoring, by his morbid defiance of the grace of the most gracious sovereign in heaven or on earth, the most wise and the most powerful. The cost in the interim remains colossal, as Paul put it in Colossians 1:24:

 

“I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church.”

 

(See for exposition of this, To Know God … Ch. 1.)

 

Carefully marking the place of the tomb (they were not mad! Luke 23:35, or inhuman in their grief!), they returned to find the action of deity, not in destroying Twin Towers, but in raising the twin towers of Truth and Mercy in His Son, so that those who would believe in Him would see both the suffering and the sense of glory. NO ONE CAN BEAT GOD, but God does not simply beat man; for man is not so made: rather, He provides for Him astutely, even in the very MIDST of his sin, by exposing Himself to evils untold, by plan, and overcoming them in suffering, by plan, and overturning them in ignominious defeat, by plan, so that in all things man might see the work for himself as image-bearer of God, and might savour the victory.

 

It is not to suffering-free selfishness, like some slug leaving its silver trail on the surface of the earth, that man is called; for man is not the centre, but a derivative from deity’s creation. It is not in vainglorious self-affirmation, for the selves which do so, are merely blind to the glory of the God who made them. It is however WITH suffering and in the MIDST of the glory of God that the children of God work, with the same power which raised Christ from the dead*4available, and the same sharing of ignominy as the case may require, as the Prince of this World blows his horns, and arrogantly asserts his place.

 

Yet it is not his place, and so brings judgment. Hence there is CONVICTION OF JUDGMENT for those who disbelieve in this ONLY PROVISION of Almighty God for mankind.

 

 

GRACES MULTIPLIED

 

Consider then the multiplying graces which, accelerating in speed before our astonished eyes, present themselves as they pass. Let us look at just some glimpse of a few of them, as tokens.

 

He cares ENOUGH TO CREATE, and having created enough to PROVIDE, and having provided, enough to be AVAILABLE, by His Spirit  (I Peter 5:7, Ephesians 3:16, Romans 5:5, 8:10ff..)

 

His is LOVING. There is really nothing to equal that. A mother, imperfectly but even passionately may care for her child, even to old age in one sense. My own devoted and blessed mother lived to 99 years, and her solicitude did not cease, nor her kindness. But God created the SYSTEM in which love might appear, and could have ignored this, and done otherwise.

 

Love in Him is ORIGINAL and ULTIMATE: God is love (I John 4:7ff.). This, we must always realise, does not mean that LOVE IS GOD. That is nonsense. Principles do not make themselves and kick about the universe. God whose omni-competence is the basis of all thought and order, IS LOVE. NOTHING contrary appears in Him. Nothing compromising to it is with Him. There is no quality which dispenses with it, censures it or withholds it, in Him.

 

That is one reason why some forms of Calvinism (and Calvin is not without fault in this cf. To Know GodCh. 1, however great much of his work is) have to be exposed as unscriptural. Quite simply Colossians 1, as the author has shown consistently since 1956 when it was, by consent, presented to the class of John Murray at Westminster Seminary, without reply, teaches the love of God in the most expansive possible manner.

 

It is not a merely regional matter, for its scope it indifferent, “Whether things on earth or things in heaven”: it is one.

It is not a matter of economy. “HAVING MADE PEACE THROUGH THE BLOOD OF HIS CROSS” sufficient was this for any or all, as the Bible Presbyterian Church of the 1930s rightly affirmed in its Constitution, in the USA.

It is not a merely bureaucratic style of venture, for “it PLEASED THE FATHER”. Nor is it impractical, for it led to action, in this that “it pleased the Father than in Him should all the fullness dwell”. This means that there was no truncation, shortening, partial presentation in the Christ who became man, sent from His eternity in heaven (John 1:1 – God knows only ONE GOD! Psalm 82, Exodus 20, and that is why Thomas addressed Him as My Lord and My God! Using in the Greek, the GOD OF ME, phrasing, when ‘answering Him’ who spoke to him).

It is not a reserved matter. God did not spare Himself, reserving select regions of His nature from attack. ALL FULNESS went into the incarnation, and that is one of the many reasons why there can never be another.

God is ONE BEING and it is impossible that He should come as two different beings, as if the image of God in man were not a definitive matter, or God’s use of it were not an expression of eternity, not subject to any duality. Moreover, ONE death is what men suffer, so ONE death is what Christ vicariously suffered, and ONE life is what is given to man, and ONE  life is what Christ assumed in presenting Himself a sacrifice for ANY man, and for ALL who come to Him (Romans 8:32 makes it quite clear that those for whom He is actually sacrificially offered up are possessors of heaven). So is the reality preserved with that astounding accuracy which is one of the prerogatives, without any exception at all, of God.

Thus it is not a PARTIAL MATTER, since in Christ to be crucified, dwelt all the fullness. Nor was it a merely selective matter in some sense of mere preference, for the Father WOULD HAVE ALL reconciled by this means. Statements to the contrary, on the basis of what is written, do injustice to the love of God, and simply, idly contradict the book of the Lord (cf. SMR Appendix B, The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4).

It is not a CIRCUMSCRIBED MATTER, for God is seeking nothing less than RECONCILATION TO HIMSELF. It is not a mere forbearance, not a simple toleration, as with David towards Absolam on his first return when he had fled, nor a putative matter, as if things were under review for eternity or some lesser time, on probation. The result of the blood and repentance with faith receiving the living God  in the name of His bodily resurrected Son, is one thing: reconciliation to God. There is no mere lazy waiver, no slack wave of the hand, nor is there any mixture: God loves, provides, forgives, receives as CHILDREN of His own, adopted into His own family in the name of His own Son (Ephesians 1:5). In Him they are ACCEPTED (Ephesians 1:6).

It is not temporary, for God is not double-minded in love, but loves absolutely. Hence of the children of God, we read this, that they “have obtained an inheritance” (Ephesians 1:11), and what is this, their inheritance ? It is REDEMPTION of body and mind and soul and spirit (Ephesians 1:14). What is lost is restored without diminution, and being paid for (as in Romans 5:1-11) is restored forever.

It is not unclear, for what does it say ? That if you believe in your heart that God has raised Christ from the dead, and confess Him with your lips, you will be saved. The Greek is not GO ON CONFESSING, incidentally, the present tense, but the aorist of past action. Faith is such and being such, reaches God by the power of His Spirit and the promise of His word, and when He is found, YOU are never lost.

If this is rejected, it is simple failure to believe. Indeed, whoever enters HIM AS DOOR, HE WILL KEEP, most explicitly in John 10:9,27-28, and NOTHING whatsoever can snatch out of His hand, nor will the life concerned ever PERISH.

It is not dependent on performance, for it is NOT OF WORKS, lest any man should boast (Romans 3:23ff., Ephesians 2:1-10), and it is not indifferent to performance, for when HE makes a tree good, it bears good fruit, not as a condition but as a consequence. Roots are not fruits, and every tree which He plants is His, and what is NOT planted by Him, does not last (Matthew 15:13, 7:18ff.).

It is not dependent on man, for when HE saves a person, he is KEPT BY THE POWER OF GOD (I Peter 1).

It is not indifferent to growth, for it prescribes growth areas, like a good gardener (II Peter 1).

It does not leave people in a mist of test as if they did not personally matter FOR THE PRESENT, for He sends His Holy Spirit (as in John 14:18ff.), so that His comforting strength and virtue and victory might inhere by His presence in His people (cf. I John 5:4, Romans 8:5ff.).

It is not merely abstract for it is wrought “in the body of His flesh through death” Colossians 1:22.

It is not impersonal, for churches which use His name without truth or faith, may indeed be severed, the personnel changing over time (Colossians 1:23, Revelation 2-3), while HIS sheep shall never perish, even those ever so simply, who ENTER HIM AS THE DOOR OF GOD, TO GOD and PRESENTED BY GOD. It is in this, God Himself placed for entrance, that they gain access and acceptance (Ephesians 1:5-6) into His own Kingdom.

It is not without price, since the ultimate sacrifice was made of God’s only begotten Son, in whom ALL His fullness dwelt, first in enduring entry to littleness of life as a babe, then to smallness of human resources, not in the houses of the rich, then to temptation (Matthew 4), the devil an advocate of evil in His very hearing, making offers, then to contradiction of sinners (Luke 11:47ff.), thence to condemnation (Mark 14:47ff.,62ff.), both in word and in all the awful folly of torture, which came relentlessly to the accompaniment of death in the very mocking presence of His enemies.

It is not without a blessed combination of  PURITY of MOTIVATION, PERFECT PERSEVERANCE (for what love deserves the name, that stops towards those who receive it!), TENDER SOLICITUDE and CAREFUL TEMPERING OF TEST (I Corinthians 10:13) for His people.

Not totalitarian, God is nevertheless TOTAL IN GRACE, and in knowledge as well, for He knows who are His (II Timothy 2:19).

Reconciled BY the work of LOVE, His people are reconciled TO the life of LOVE, and kept IN LOVE, for God is love!

 

In truth they grow, for HE is the truth, and in the way they  go, for HE is the way, and as the way, He provides the HIGHWAY OF HOLINESS, for He is holy (Isaiah 35).

 

Such is the grandeur of the greater grace, the glory of the greater king, the wonder of the Eternal God.

 

 

EXCERPT SEVEN

From Great Execrations ... Greater Grace

 Ch. 9

 

 

SOVEREIGN SELECTION,

LOVE’S TOTAL SCOPE   and

ABSOLUTE HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY

 

It is this. If you regard will as a mere expression of character, it might be urged that its action similarly and likewise, merely exhibits the superiority of the one who elects to be elected. If however you regard the will as that of one ESSENTIALLY in the image of God, and seen in God as not befuddled, limited or susceptible to inferiority or superiority AT ALL, and THEREFORE, someone regarded in the eye of God outside this whole concourse of the fall, in ultimate reality, then the case has no difficulty. ONLY SIN makes worse, so without this in the equation, there is nothing which CAN be worse, and therefore be BETTER! Hence this consideration evaporates.

 

Using the criterion the scripture DECLARES is therefore the resolution of the ‘problem’. Grace gives without being mandatory, though in its application in history, where sin breeds folly and blindness, it comes on this our scene, and in terms of the VISIBLE scenario, as irresistible.

 

Since love statedly, in the Bible, seeks all, but in its own modesty, does not thrust itself on any, however, we know that the fact that a grant is not the same as a forced grant merely reflects the reality of freedom in the image of God in predestination, though it is one divinely superintended and indeed mandated, so that the STATED ground of exclusion, the human will, is not  other than the fact.  

 

In this way, human responsibility is entire: for if you are not chosen, it is no mere divine caprice or choice of desired implements for special reasons, but rather that entire intractability of desire which puts you where you are to go. ALL the steps on the way are historical expressions, but not determinants, for what determines is the knowledge of God, which is as far above the knowledge of man in its totality and perfection, as the heavens are above the earth.

 

On the other hand, divine sovereignty is total, for God not only man made in His image because He wanted it that way, but in so doing made the essential option, even if sin removed it from man’s conscious sight, as if he were autonomous. The grace of God is not restricted, as if in some governmental program where there is some shortage of gifts; for it is not contained in some disposing preference, but according to the utmost opportunity which the nature of man admits, this nature itself the creation of God, and moreover in image, like Him! Man as such, indeed, is not DEFINITIVE of the form or nature of God, but constructed in His image, as a creature, so that correlative communication is possible, natural and proper.

 

He WOULD have all men to be saved, to come to repentance (II Peter 3:9, Colossians 1, I Timothy 2, Matthew 23:37, Luke 19:42, Hosea 7:1, Jeremiah 51:9 and so on). It is a work of GRACE and not the acknowledgement of some kind of spiritual aristocracy. He so loved the WORLD and so it is His very nature, and not some kind of programmatic assignation. Mankind is made of persons, God is personal, and although Arminian and autonomous misconceptions may make human will the determinant or even condition, it is not so.

 

It is GOD’s knowledge which is statedly the condition (Romans 8:29, 9:16), and where and how He chooses is not based on works at all, and since the works of man are expression of his will, not on the operation of man’s will at all. Man DOES NOT CHOOSE GOD at all. Yet is man’s election wholly concordant with the divine restraint which does not force, and is God’s decision expressive of limitless love and grace, that never moves past the margin that would obliterate the reality of the personal in man.

 

In short, as shown previously, there is not only no problem in predestination, but there is insoluble problem without it. Moreover, if it were not that man COULD become other than he is, there COULD be no freedom, for you would otherwise always be limited to what you are, and what you are is in the last analysis, the dower of body and spirit which you are given. What liberty is there in expressing what has come to you ? But if you can be OTHER than you are, then there is something outside the mere expression of your being, which is available, and to this you may come.

 

If however YOU had to choose yourself, then again, it would be a filtered or blind or directed decision, based on a being which, after all, you do not choose, in order that it might be you, including all your sensitivities and sensibilities; and there is no freedom in that. You merely respond as made.

 

When therefore GOD chooses you, and with restraint KNOWS you, and also BRINGS you to what you were not, beyond the whole ambit of your being, then there is liberty which is co-extensive with responsibility, whilst likewise, in God, there is love which is co-extensive with the field of operation as so summarily declared in Colossians 1.

 

Love is here GIVEN its meaning, and it is as we find it, though most pure and most effective, and most like itself, not thrusting but zealous. God has what He wants, for it is not His will to dominate frail fealties that are not heartfelt! It is ONLY because of this divine love and grace that freedom is possible for man, and it is in terms which are as much emphasised as any other topic in the Bible, that predestination and human responsibility thus find their only possible resolution. It is normative in Bible study so to find, that what it stresses is what, like the chassis for a car, is necessary, is WHAT IS THERE! Knowledgeability is total, harmony is a colossus, and the joy in beholding it all is boundless.

 

Yet someone might say, If a man is to be made into something different from what he is, how is this liberty ? How could he possibly know what it would be like, since he is limited to what he is in seeking to know what it would be ? Firstly, this however is merely to ignore the fact that it is scripturally GOD who chooses. We have just seen that in this choice it is not a sovereignty which is foreign to love, but expressive of it, and hence in this milieu, the lack of human imagination is not relevant. It is GOD WHO CHOOSES, but with respect to the nature of man, in whom the meaning of love is intrinsic, but not its operation, because of sin.

 

We therefore return to this fact, as a mere extension of the impossibility of explanation of the whole duty and nature of man, and of this world and its forces and powers, of liberty such as man expresses, in the restrictions and distortions of it which man has: without God and His love and grace and gifts and action.

 

This, it too is further verification of the scripture, for in this also, not only does it meet every rational consideration (that is, every aspect of the case with precision and harmony), but it does so in principle in ways not elsewhere available, since:

 

without God, it cannot be done,

without His love it is not explicative of man, and

without His nature, our nature is a mere confusion of contradictories.

 

Yet secondly, note how beautifully the nature of His love harmonises with the integrity which does not merely make something ELSE out of a man, but restores him to his own created nature, ex-sin and cum-Christ, so that restoration not innovation is the criterion. WITH the restoration, it is true, there goes an enrichment into an assured eternity and a close-knit correlation with Christ. Yet the result is not beyond man, made by and for God, and at the first realising a relationship of communing and communication; but rather is it that in his restored co-ordination with his Creator, there is renewal to life, the life he lost.

 

It is thus a passage not to foreign soil, or alien quarters, but to home both to source and situation, a rebuilding and since this is life, a rebirth. Since, moreover, God is God, it is to a glory of wonder in His presence, that man is then moved, one enhanced as dusk to the first full bloom of dawn. Wrought in love, this transmutation has focus on the plight of man as it provides his superb yet apposite deliverance.

 

In this regard, scriptures such as Colossians 1, considered in depth in the last chapter, with its insistence that it PLEASED the Father to have all fullness dwell in Christ, and through His blood on the cross to reconcile ALL things: these provide attestation of the ground of human responsibility with the utmost clarity.

 

This, Colossians 1 is the chapter of alls and we move from the firstborn of ALL creation (Christ occupying this on arrival, “FOR all things were created by Him”), a point added in summary, “all things were created through Him and for Him” (1:16). Indeed, in 1:17, further He is “before all things” just as in Him “all things consist”.

 

As total backdrop and creator of anything of which it may be said, “It is created”, and therefore not Himself created, since otherwise He would have had to create Himself without being there, an absurdity equal to that of any such thought, it is Christ who is the One in whom “all fullness dwells”, prior to and beyond time, itself a creation (Romans 8:39). This is both apt and appropriate for the eternal Creator and word of God, and fittingly, though marvelously, what pleased the Father was set  in a sort of all but geometrical totality also.

 

What was this ? It was that “having made peace through the blood of the Cross” something else should be wrought BY HIM (Colossians 1:19), a phrase repeated for emphasis in this verse! Before we consider what that is, there is a further element to contemplate.

 

Let us then pause to recall that in 1:18, we learn that “in all things”, He is to have the pre-eminence, just as in Philippians 1 we learn that equality with God was nothing to be snatched at, since He was in the very form of God, before becoming man. Accordingly to His infinite status, then, so is His total fullness in incarnation, even of the Godhead, affirmed: it is expressed as ALL the FULNESS, as declared in 1:19. But to what is affirmed the correlative of all these ‘all’ embracements ?

 

What is to be revealed to be comrade to all these ‘alls’ and consummation to this large prologue of totalities  in this passage in Colossians ?  It is that not only did it please the Father that in Him should all the fullness dwell, but that having thus made peace by the blood of the cross, it ALSO PLEASED HIM  “to reconcile ALL things to Himself.” Creator of all, pre-eminent above all, having made peace by His blood on the cross, with all fullness dwelling in Him (cf. Colossians 2:9), He is the agent, the pivot, the door, the table, the platform, the foundation on which this particular desire of the Father rests.

 

In what then does it so rest, and to what is it directed as it rests in Him ? that THUS and in THIS PERSON He might reconcile ALL things to Himself. It is exactly the same in tenor in I Timothy 2, where the scope is GOD on the one hand and MAN on the other, and His desire is that ALL might be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.

 

 

PRECISE CHARACTERISTICS OF DIVINE GRACE

 

It is then precisely a characteristic of divine grace, from which every other may take its name, that it is in terms of TRUTH that it is operative, not mere largesse; it is in terms of embracive totality of concern for ALL, by the Creator of ALL, so that ALL being committed to the task ALL might be reconciled to God. There is no partiality, no indulgence of mere preference and precisely NO mystery about this facet of the matter. God is emphatic, dramatically, repetitively, eloquently so on this point as in a nutshell it is likewise to be found in John 3:16.

 

HENCE human freedom is co-extensive with the race in this, that it is THIS preference in the ultimate, administered in terms of Christ and His Cross, that is operative where election is operative, before this world (Ephesians 1:4). There is precisely NOTHING else which excludes, and there is this totality of embracement from God, which is positively affirmed.

 

GRACE it is which operates with such resurgence beyond mere self-satisfaction, the enjoyment of one’s preference and so on, in the divine counsel; and let us be clear, we KNOW this because God has seen fit to TELL it in these eminently clear fashions! Grace has an aim, it has means, it has kindness, it is not selfish, it wishes to donate, it is restrained by love. It is impassioned in its tenor but never stumbling. It is Ephesians 2 which informs us that this action of God is replete with grace, impelled in grace just as it is moved in love, like twin streams converging in some vast junction. Thus in Ephesians 2, it is not enough that it is warmly asserted in v. 8, that

 

“by grace you are having-been-saved persons,

through faith,

and that whole thing

is not of yourselves,

 

it is the gift of God”.

 

Certainly that is a somewhat grammatically sensitive translation, but not one which even slightly distorts, but rather the more accurately expresses for the English ear, what is being asserted (the gender of the Greek term for  ‘faith’ requires this meaning). Thus grace is a point of entry, BY GRACE, this whole thing is occurring. That then is not enough, for Paul insists, or better is moved by the Spirit of the Lord to write this more briefly in parenthesis ALSO in verse 5, when advising us of an important fact. 

 

It is this:  

 

“when we were dead in trespasses, {God} made us alive together with Christ,”

is to be read with the fact that

“by grace you have been saved”.

 

It is in verse 8 that this preliminary notation, flowing over like some flush spring, is given its classic and comprehensive expression.

 

Unmerited favour, in a love of embracive totality, where Christ is the ground and Christ the implement, this is the depiction of divine grace.

 

 

 

 

EXCERPT EIGHT

 

From The Kingdom of Heaven

 

Ch. 4

 with significant additive

 

THE LIGHT IDENTIFIED

This in John 3 we are told that THIS is the condemnation, that light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light, or more literally, men loved the darkness more than the light.

Now if anyone sought to establish that the light referred to was not Jesus Christ, he would have some difficulty in escaping a just charge of eisegesis. After all, the Gospel of John has been at extreme pains to show that the light IS Jesus Christ, sent into the world. It actually SAYS so (John 1:3,10-11). The Word is the focus, it was the light, is the light, became flesh and dwelt among us. This is the declaration.

John the Baptist, we read in John 1, came for a witness. HE was not the light, we are told. That true light was in the world made by Him (as noted in John 1:3), came to His own, was not received by them, but was received by certain ones, who became His people, born not of the will of man but of God. Accordingly, Jesus declares in John 9:5, As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world; and again, in John 12:36ff.: "Yet a little while is the light with you . Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come on you": "While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may be the children of light". In John 8:12, He announces: "I am the light of the world: he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."

Again, as already noted, John the Baptist was a witness to this Light. What light ? The light of general exposure to the testimony of God's creation ? Was it necessary for him to teach them theism ? Is that the portent of John 1 ? In verse 14, we find that 'we' beheld His glory on His becoming flesh. It is this wonder to which John is sent to bear a witness, to which John 1 addresses it exposure; although it is of course true that this same Christ was present in the world before this, even at the creation, as the Word. That however merely amplifies the staggering sequence of the thrust from John. THOUGH that was His eminence, THIS is His intimacy, purpose and program for us men.

The definable event however adequately and actively emphasised is this: that

1) THIS word was always there, that THIS light was always there, this ultra-universal light in one sense accompanying every man in the world from birth; and that

2) THIS light, being God with God (there is only one God, the Creator - Isaiah 45:6-12,18, 46:9,44:6-8, 42:5-8, who stretches forth the heavens ALONE - as Moses indicated), did such an amazing thing.

It was so condescending as to become flesh, duly impactive as expressed in His being full of grace and truth: and further, the glory He showed reached the acme of wonder: for it was such as to attest in its effulgence, God's only begotten Son. It was divinity in human form with human face, whose goings were from everlasting.

Having noted all this in detail, however, we simply revert to the fact that:

the Word who became flesh, who was with God and was God, is the One of whom it is stated: "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men."

Who came to His own ? "The true Light"...

What became of those who received Him ?

They became the children of God. Then in John 1:15, we learn that John bore witness of Him saying, He who comes after me is preferred before me" -1:15.
 
 

PURPOSES: POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE

Important consequences follow, we learn in John 3: the project has a decisive and distinct purpose, and something equally distinctly not purposed.

Verse 16 tells us of the signal salvatory act of God in sending this, His only begotten Son.

1) It tells us what the purpose was not: to secure judgment against the world. The non-condemnation of the woman taken in adultery (through lack of accusers when Christ asked those without sin to cast the first stone).

2) He tells us what the purpose was : to secure salvation for believers. This is amplified in the statement earlier that as many as received Him, to these He gave power to become children of God.

There is the positive and the negative, therefore. The NEGATIVE is this: purpose not to condemn. The POSITIVE is this: purpose that the world through Him might be saved, even all who believe.

He tells us moreover of residual and implied judgment so secure that it is able to be announced categorically: the non-believer in the face of this exposed word of God-in-the-flesh is already condemned. The purpose is discarded, the opportunity despised, even when the ultimate step, personal from the Creator is taken, even when He becomes flesh and accepts condemnation that those worthy of it might be pardoned. At this level, as it were, of the examination, pass or fail is final, determinate and failure is irremediable. The analogy of course has failure as correlative to non-reception of Christ.

Here then, further judgment is unnecessary for the destined end: THIS is the key and password for judgment. JESUS is the password, the scriptural Christ, and on that all depends. The NAME of the ONLY BEGOTTEN SON is the key. THIS name is exposed and this reality is made manifest: THENCE non-believing in HIM in final, fatal, inexcusable. There are no extenuating circumstances when God presents His face and it is slapped, derided, or ignored. His is the ambulance: destroy the ambulance and rejoice in the discard, or merely turn from it, and there is no other way to the operating theatre required for restoration.

 

AND DOLEFUL CONSEQUENCES

The purpose of the surgeon is not to condemn to death those who refuse the operation; yet that is the equivalent result in terms of eventuation. The weeping of Jesus Christ noted in Luke 19:42 is eloquent testimony. Yet the result?

Here is the brink of love and the parameter of salvation in expressed form. Here it is reality facing reality: it is response facing divinity. It is, let us repeat it, the NAME of the SON which is the criterion (John 3:19). God's speech here walks and confronts you face to face.

Immediately we are told (John 3:19) that THIS is the judgment: that the Light has come and the faith has not! To seek to force a view that John here is ignoring all the paraphernalia of the advent, in its expressive and particularised form, its masterful impact and its finality and favour, expressing to men the word of God categorically and sacrificially, with the filial imprimatur never absent: this would not merely be to ignore but virtually even to ridicule the whole thrust of the GOSPEL as being announced.

THAT is not merely theistic and monotheistic, and annunciatory of good, and definitive of it in the context of salvation. It has a specificity about the very being of God registered, recorded and revealed for what it is: to the depths of it, nothing less.

Such ignoring therefore would be tantamount to a magnificently bold but unwisely daring bypass operation relative to the fact that John has just STATED right here what he means. God loved and sent His only Son in whom to believe is life; and He SO loved as to do THIS; and in this SON, contradistinct from all other conceptions and beyond all inferior connotations, not to believe is death. It rejects the source and origin of creation, the tide and thrust of love, the depth and horror of the remedy for the Creator, the wonder and grace of the offer from Him and the face He presents in Person.

Nothing more monumental, definitive and decisive is conceivable. It is true that predestinative security will ensure that no 'mistake' is made. But as to the principle and nature of the thing before us: the personal infinitude with beauty and wonder, God Himself, meets sinful derivatives, creations called man, and the flow is where it is. There is no more. All is said, and all is done.

Accordingly, John states that the CONDEMNATION IS TO BE PRONOUNCED IN THESE VERY TERMS, that the light that lights every man has come to earth, and it has been rejected in terms of preference concerning it. That is the PRINCIPLE. It is FOR THIS REASON, that the one who does not believe is CONDEMNED ALREADY (John 3:18).

 

RE-ASSURING BUT
INTRACTABLE PRINCIPLES

APPEARING IN THE FOUR-LANE HIGHWAY TO HELL

It is now necessary to face the teaching in these fields; and for this purpose, let us rehearse, recapitulate somewhat; but extend and apply our premises.

Not only then is there this principle, the condemnation in terms of the rejection of the remedy. We must consider the sequence of thought as we move from John 3:18 to 3:19.

In verse 18, we find that it is a matter of believing or otherwise in the One just expressly announced as having come in manifest and marvellous, explicit expression of Deity, as the Son, SO THAT the negative case, the non-believer in the light of this, is ALREADY condemned - condemned in the fact of such exception to the exposure of the Deity. That in the PRACTICE. This is a happening.

We are dealing with a magnificent and specialised event, just hot off the press (1:1-14,3:15; I John 1:1-6); with the purpose of it, negatively and positively (v.17); with the response to it (v. 18) - indeed to HIM as Son come, as name exposed; and we learn of condign judgment served to the wrong receptors, resistant and rejecting. THEN PRACTICE PAST, response reviewed, we proceed.

Now we have elaboration, analysis if you will and definition of this event just past and just announced: the condemnation in view IS a matter of rejecting THIS ONE SO SENT and so loving and so sacrificial and with such a name, background and status, such a situation in salvation - namely, the SON.

The PRINCIPLE of John 3:19 has been reviewed, not so that we might reject it, any more than we should reject the ONE whose written word this is. Christ has adequately associated words and love in John 14:21-23.

Now this is ONE thing. To reject a non-SON or a NOT THUS REVEALED God, that however, is ANOTHER thing. John 15:21-23 makes this super-emphatically clear. But it is here. No exposure, we read in this place, to the One who had not done the works no other had done, or spoken such words, and theirs was not the (relevant and fatal) sin (all men but Christ, being sinners). This merely confirms, and applies particularly, John 3:19 which is a principle in itself as well. Even if WE, in the light of glory, can see implications or think we do: yet there is a need to make APPLICATIONS of the revealed PRINCIPLE FIRST. Let us build on what God says, and confirms again: not on dim surmising, or worse, assured dim surmising.

In fact, some might reject various devilishly misinterpreted syncretised mis-versions of God and so on, without the true light of the Son. They may be, but need not be, philosophers; and they may, but need not, be PHYSICALLY dwelling in lands of super-abundant pagan darkness (for which competition these days may be strong from diverse quarters, civilised and uncivilised!).

Now of course they are responsible for not being perfect, for being confused, for not being sufficiently discerning to throw over such served up syncretism; and without any doubt at all, they deserve condemnation. They are without excuse. Unless love and light were gratuitously operative, darkness only would be their lot. This however is not the present question.

 

# IS John declaring the condemnation as a PRINCIPLE in terms of an exposed and revealed, and declared Jesus Christ- or is he not!

If he is not, then context is meaningless, thrust is irrelevant, words are a mere mirage and need not be consulted; theology is a substitute for expression, even for the word of God, even as pagan philosophies effect substitution more obviously. Yes, it then becomes just as it was in the days of the Pharisees, of whom Jesus declared, they made vain the word of God by their traditions, muzzled it, defiled it, bypassed it and made their doctrine their own. Be assured, to neither of these views does this writer subscribe: such action is unwise.

If however John IS declaring THIS PRINCIPLE just noted as such, then we have categorically exposed for assessment of all thought, what IS the FINAL criterion for a DESTINY IN HELL. And that, that principle, that application of John 3:18 in John 3:19 that specifies the dynamics of damnation in their ultimate principle? It is informed rejection of Jesus Christ, or its divinely assessed equal. It is preference for darkness in the face of light expressly come and sent, with the no-condemnation specific objective, with the specific face of God in its challenge, the Gospel in its thrust.*1A

Not only is it this principle which is applicable to this situation and the answer to this question: it is this principle in summary application, final exposition, irremediable operation, past all wisdom power and relief. As the origin, it is the finale; and as the finale it contains the result in itself.  It is accordingly, not stated that this relates to the condemnation, but rather what is written is this: THIS IS THE CONDEMNATION. This is its nature, explanation and ultimacy.

It does NOT concern God as distinguishing agent, giving to some, not to others; it concerns MAN as distinguishing agent, before God, receiving in the case of some, not doing so on the part of others. With judgment excluded from the whole rationale of the revelation of the nature of the coming of Christ as saving Messiah, there is only one place left for its basis to be found: it is in the field. It is in man. Man squirms out of his place, but it is still there. It is vain to harass God by implications, desired or not, with follies; it is man and he alone who is the cause of the sorrow in the first place (Romans 5, Genesis 3), and of its extension in the second, even in face of SUCH a love of God to the world, as THIS!

Those, therefore, who so prefer darkness in the sight of almighty God who, knowing all, has predestined all things, they are condemned already, past recall, repeal or relief. You have here the criterion, what in a personal way, is the correlative to the determinant. It is NOT divine dissidence, but divine determination; not divine anomaly, but divine assessment core and centre. IF THIS OCCURS, ALL IS SAID. THIS, it IS the condemnation before the One who has just finished saying that He SO loved the world that He gave even His only begotten Son, not to condemn it, but that it might be saved.

Here is the beginning, and here is the end; here is the depth, and here is the fatality; here is the truth, and here is the resultant, regal, not dissident, outcome, not compromise.

With this, place John 15:21-23 and we gain a result. It is this. Though all are predestinated without their sin-smitten wills being the operative sovereignty or autonomous or synergistic determinant or component (Romans 9:16, John 15:1-5, I Corinthians 1:14-15), but rather God's own choice per se: YET in God's pleasure , we gain depiction characterising the outcome and this crucial feature and principle. As for Him, the damnation-determinant is not sin. SIN is the desert-determinant. As to the damnation-determinant, it is this: rejection of the revealed Jesus Christ.

[There follows a large addition to the original, noted because of its size,
other additions not normally being noted. ]

{God so loved the world that He gave what is of infinite, irreplaceable and personal value so that anyone believing, shouldn't perish. In doing so, His objective excluded judgment, and was express in its application to saving the world which He had so loved. When therefore any prefer darkness in the light of this light, that IS their condemnation. It is because of this, that it is final, ultimate and definitionally dislodgeable. This is the final reality in the whole plan of salvation: What HE finds dissolute from deliverance, where any pathology is no barrier to HIS knowledge, where rebellion in its finale is before HIS eyes, then that PREFERENCE is the STATED and immediate ground of rejection. The light that liberates, faced with this, exposes complete disaster, abortion of the opportunity and non-realisation of the offer. In saving the world, the stated intention (as in Colossians 1:19ff.), this is the final severance from the scope, the essential finale, the irrevocable reality. So far from coming from God, it is from man: and though God it is who knows and foreknows it, it is of man that the foreknowledge is, not of a cipher, but differential man.

It is not something hidden; it is a divinely ascertained preference for darkness despite the divinely proclaimed and implemented love which seeks the opposite (John 3:19). To fiddle with this because God is sovereign is very simply to confuse an imagined sovereignty under which God is set, something operative contrary to His stated will, with the God who IS sovereign.

It is He whose sovereignty expresses not some human concept of direction and satisfaction, but the fulfilment of what He is, which being love, is contradistinct from imperiousness and authoritarian insistence. He does not change people in status, as to what they in essence are,  in order to get them, but liberates them in order that they may be what they were created to be. Having foreknown the realities and sought with His customary patience and exhortation, with tears in Christ if need be, with that patient perseverance of love, He at last grievously but willingly is abandoning the object sought; and it is not in frustration, but in fulfilment of what LOVE IS.

He is neither reckless nor irresponsible, such conditions being ascribable to what is IN PRINCIPLE subjectible to what is NOT GOD, which gives to any such being, a status of a creature. That is not the status of God, but of one of His products. We, however, speak with all care, of God, the sublime possessor of eternity, creator of time, moulder of space, disposer of format, embracing all time as a novel, writing in it as He will, never contradicting Himself, since time is as a thought, coming and going before His creative power, subject and subjectible, seen to its end before it begins; and His knowledge passes over it, as a satellite over the earth; but it is over the fields of time, in this case, rather than space, which is another condition.

In love, He seeks; in sovereignty He IS what He is, and not a despot, subjector of the desired to conditions which evict from it what it is: love does not DO that. That is self-fulfilment at the expense of the thing loved, which is indistinguishable from selfishness, inadequacy of heart which MUST have something irrespective of what it is; and since HE alone created what is, that makes Him a suitor in His own dominion, defective relative to what He has made, which is a contradiction in terms, subjecting the Creator to His own products, as if all were in one system, beyond each.

God is immutable: our time is a product which requires patience, which NOTHING can REQUIRE of God; for if it did, it would comprise a limit, which being beyond Him, would mean the 'Him' was in fact a 'him', not the Creator. Yet one says, Could God not subject Himself willingly to created conditions ? Of course He could, and in Christ He did; but this is a matter of format, not being: for if the very BEING of God, not the outward form chosen as when a prince decides to become a common soldier, but still IS the prince (as in Philippians 2), but the inward and eternal reality were to entirely subject to what He has made, then He would have contrived to make of Himself entirely what is a creature, to have changed from the immutable, beyond the ministrations and determinations of time as we have it, to something infinitely different, and hence shown either that time taught Him some other way (and since all is known to Him, this is impossible), or that He was inadequate as He was, and desired to be what He was not. This is to make of Him, once more, a component in a system which conferred inadequacy, creating that situation for Him, a thing you had to put up with - a direct contradiction of what God is. At NO time could God in His actual nature be so subjectible without being BY nature inadequate, and hence possessor of intrinsic limitations.

God is very great indeed, infinitely so, and the endless endeavours to subject Him to another role, or indeed to make for Him a role when His is the stage, rather than to find in Him the role maker, is a fearful waste of human time and opportunity for confusion.

Moreover, God is wholly responsible, responsive, but not to deception as if it were an army entering His being, or to delusion, as if what is not became as if what is, so making Him dupable by circumstances, which being foreknown and under His control from the first, have no power so to act. His sovereignty is neither despotic, as if to make people to be His by coming over the top and changing them so that they like it, an extreme form of it, nor is He distrait, as if unable through lack of power or knowledge, to gain His objectives. He has the way to deliver FROM the sovereignty of sin, but does not will to do it by CONTORTING out of the reality of being what is created in His image. HENCE His tears in Christ, and all His laments and sadness at what might have been (as in Isaiah 48:16ff., and in Luke 19:42ff.).

In so many over so long a time, sovereignty in forever getting confused with tyranny, and the rank hedonism of getting one's own way.

How LONG will it be before it is acutely and fully realised that sovereignty is RULE by what it IS that rules, and what THAT is depends on the case.

With God, who IS love, the restraints, constraints and reality of love is what has total power, and this rejoices in the truth (I Corinthians 13), not least in view of the fact that to do otherwise is to distort reality, and hence to subject it to a tyranny which contradicts what it is, and hence aborts what He has done, exploits it, and does not love it. God has absolute liberty as a very quality of His being, and what is in His image has it so far as the power given enables this; so that man is not snatched without regard to what he essentially is, as if this were love and not some kind of kidnapping, exploitation, transmutation contrary to reality, thrust of will into the tissue of liberty to annul it and turn man into spiritual robots, happy in their case, but never more operative as what they ARE (or were).

Hence in Colossians 3:10, we learn NOT that God brings sinful man back to a new TYPE of thing, but to the image of Him who created him. It is not a smash and grab raid, but an earnest, sincere, difficult, deep, reality-regarding fulfilment of a deliverance from what spoils and soils man to what does not do so. Being brought back to THAT image is being given liberty. It is like having a fungus infection in your fingers. Liberty is not to have your fingers cast in iron, since this fails in the thing that they are; it is to have the fungus dismissed, and the hand made new again for WHAT IT IS.

Deliverance of CAPTIVES (as in Isaiah 61, John 8), is not MAKING of them captives so that their very identity is lost, and they become something wholly other, but the change of their conditions to the point that what they are is now alive and well. When all things become new, it is not a newness of man NOT in the image of God, something ELSE, but that of being back where man had long failed to be, where he ALWAYS belonged, as made, a re-creation of utter novelty in this, that he was back from disease, removed from pathology, restored to grace (his natural place as in the image of God), and given a wholly changed vision; for no longer is his head down to this world, the flesh and the devil at his whim, or caprice, but he is seated in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6), such as his heritage displaced, such as was for long denied him, but now with this regained, is his once more.

That is total change, utter renewal; but it is not innovative, being rather culminative and exhibitive of the removal of confusion, delusion, and a profusion of blind darkness, with man inured to his fallen condition as if it were natural. It is NOT so, and deliverance from this makes all things new, as with one who was blind, but now sees, with one in prison, who now surveys the heavens, one deluded who now, like Nebuchadnezzar once more ponders freely the heavens. This he does,  not as beast grassing his mouth, but as man, noble creation of God, subject to Him in all things because this is as it was, the nature with which God created him: a nature immutable in essence simply because GOD is immutable in essence.

The commands are invariable, as is His nature: in the New Testament the former reaching their zenith for a free society; but what is not invariable is His insistence that anyone be saved. Saved, then kept ? of course, He often says this (cf. Ephesians 1:11, II Timothy 1:8ff., John 4:14 - for that is part of what salvation by God only is, YOU have no part in its status conferment and sustenance; it is God who saves you). That however is not here the point. IT is sought and HENCE saved! Not all ends that way, for many stumble, and fumble and bumble and tumble in the preludes to salvation, like Judas, so near and yet so far, even tasting but never swallowing (Hebrews 6). Their case, again, is that of the seed embedded in their soil, but alas, joy turns to sorrow when it is seen that there is no real repentance, for the soil stays shallow and the seed of the word of God perishes in such a case, the opportunity lost (Matthew 13:20-21).

In this case, the Lord as seen in the formatting in flesh of Christ, in effect weeps and yet acts sovereignly as to the result, not aborting love, not kidnapping the desire, but loving in truth and allowing reality to operate. This He does, yet does not pose as being confronted and confounded, if the love is rejected, in His sight, who knows and has known all things. He laments; but He institutes justice.

When alas the damage is done, not this time to the created condition, by sin, but to the opportunity of salvation offered, when the second degree of sin comes and passes and is so known to God, then as in Hebrews 10:27,31, there remains only that fiery confrontation with sin which is the confirmation of the reality of the status of man, really in the image of God and not a figment, and in the end, is part of the essence of liberty (as weedlessness is the essence of a flourishing crop, in that realm). For the one whose end is such, there that person now identified with sin, not by disease, but by that ultimate resolution known to God as operative through PREFERENCE, relevant preference, will experience his own fulfilment. This, it has its own savour, and truth endures, so that now discerned is the dissavour of what had been desired.

This, it is not the reason of heredity and environment, circumstances, but because of the inveterate heart's desire as foreknown to God. If heaven would be intolerable, the light dismissed, then what is not heaven is the option fulfilled. Milton so well expressed the spirit often found in it: Better to rule in hell than serve in heaven. But it is all delusion (cf. II Thessalonians 2:10). It is beautiful that God did literally everything to avoid this, even becoming man HIMSELF and enduring what it is that guilt brings IN Himself, so that justice be met, reality be purged, salvation be justified and man be sanctified. What time will be we do not know, and how it will be conducted; but the realities are here ultimate and the shame is everlasting.

Nevertheless, NONE need remain captive; NONE need suffer this. There is no condition, circumstance, set of conditions, tyranny, insurgency, spiritual al Qaeda here to dominate, nor any empire or nation to triumph. Over all this, God has HIS sovereignty and THIS ensures that NOTHING will snatch any of His foreknown souls from HIS hand (Romans 8:29ff., John 10:27-28), in whatever way He may wish to dispose them in history. These, they are not new-forged types of being, but part of MANKIND, created in and restored to the very image of God, as part of creation, to be sure, but as THAT part of it.

In this, His foreknowledge is operative,  and that of reality, actuality, where - beyond all sin's ministrations and occlusions - it does not depend on works, but on awareness  of what is what. Here exclusion is founded on KNOWLEDGE, foreknowledge to be sure, not as a tyranny, but an exercise of love in truth, and PREDESTINATION, double in intent, is the RESULT, as in the logical sequence of Romans 8:29ff. (cf. Tender Times ... Ch. 11).

Love with wisdom and knowledge, where sin does not determine the issue, here holds court, unharassed by limitations, unseduced by pathology, knowing its own, not imposing extradition in the realms of eternity (Colossians 1:19ff.), but applying it where and how it belongs to man. Here nothing disables discernment at the relevant level, where therefore differentials of constitution are not directive in themselves, so that superiorities are irrelevant and will is known differentially, though not by the fallen person concerned. It is this total and unconstrained knowledge of God which operates. HE is limited by NOTHING, and that includes lack of discernment of reality in any degree, kind or grade or time.

Though it be envisaged in this way or in that, it is not necessary so to do. The elemental nature of the case is that God knows without limit, and His knowledge may not be limited by man as a condition of his theology, without patent anthropomorphism, an intrusion in this case into what is divine by what is human with all the presumption of invalid presumption.

What is the milieu attributable to love ? God is truth, and nothing errant is to be found. God IS love, and this means that in NOTHING is ANYTHING ever to be wrought which anywhere or in anything ever goes contrary to it.

IF then love is rejected, as known to God, then it does not force; but truth then operates and what is hateful, sin, takes over the person concerned, who with it simply finds condemnation. This done, as John 3 states, that person is CONDEMNED ALREADY. THIS is the principle; once it operates, that is that. Why 'already' - it is because in the face of God's stated willingness to save the world so that anyone in it may not perish, THIS is the precise exclusive force, preference as known to the God who grants (John 6:65), for darkness.

That is operative without qualification, condition or compromise. That done in this milieu and there is nothing more to be said, no other qualification to be made. This is how it WORKS. The reason for the condemnation is STATED by Christ. He does not lie. It is not stated that His love had limits as to its envisagement and holy desire, so that He would not or could not make it spread so thin or so far; it is that DESPITE a love of a wholly different character, YET when this is what it meets, that IN ITSELF is determinative.

Man is determined, not by stars or by a lottery or by a mystery: it is by his OWN will as discerned by God and implemented without fail, confusion or distortion. How crucial is the confusion here that would put in the domain of deity what is in that of man! How horrid, to use Calvin's word, the thing is! But it is NOT the truth. ALL the decrees of God are founded in love and truth; and He rorts, distorts, tyrannises not at all, nor is His love like a stream that runs dry, or a mystery so that it ceases to BE love. It ceases in application only when it is rejected as known to Him, and as HE is God, foreknown.

Why then is this to be so ? Let us be candid, we either accept this word of God or not: the GIVEN reason in view of the STATED love and its STATED scope. It is NOT that God so loved a part of the world that He gave, but that God so loved the world that He gave, and in not coming to condemn, He does not, for all that, come with the explicit intention of doing precisely that; rather He SO loved that He SO came with just SUCH a desire, to save the world. This is in the milieu of love, not of dictatorship. There is no mystery in love, except its own purity.

That is the awesome magnificence of it. Yet it DOES what it is, it loves. It is not intent on judgment, but on saving; and this not of some, but of all; yet that, not in such a way that it contradicts what it is, but fulfils its pure longing: not dismantling what it takes, but enabling it.

He nevertheless DOES condemn when that love and its gift is rejected with a preference for darkness. How is this possible in view of what He has just said ? What do we then find as John 3 proceeds ? It tells us. It is BECAUSE of what He said before,  that this is now said. SINCE He came thus disposed to the world, THEREFORE when whatever is in it is NOT receptive, it is already condemned. This is a sufficient condition without addition.

HIS disposition is as stated. Let man then not receive it, the conclusion is what the infusion requires: exit. There was hope; here is dope. There was light; here is darkness. There was redress, ample in scope, universal in situation; here is rejection. SO be it. The hope is gone. There is no need for further deliberation. God knows the result and applies it.

The EXPRESS principle of this, then ? It is stated: THIS IS the condemnation that such and such a person prefers darkness to light, WHEN God so loving the world so gives that anyone believing may be saved. It is operative, final, functional, wholly expressive of THIS, the love of God for the world, directed towards its salvation, but passing through the mesh of its own purity, and so not achieving this salvation by making man what he is not in type, a robot, or Himself what He is not, unloving, or subject to a sovereignty seizure which would make Him forget who and what He is. Theologians, alas, as with Calvin in this point, may do this; God, however, He is immutable, love, beautiful, and AS STATED! (I John 47ff.).

In truth He loves, and in purity He loves and He never shoves the heart. He draws it.

Let us review this further.

For this result then, exclusion where applicable, in terms of the principle expressly stated in John 3:19, in the environment explicitly erected of His coming as the light:  MAN is statedly wholly to blame (cf. John 15:22). This is DESPITE the operations of the sublime, divine love which has stopped at nothing in payment FROM Himself, to secure its objectives, and yet has not blinded truth in order to expand them. It is sated with truth, and truth is sated with love, and mercy is sated with both. Man IS alone responsible for his trip, when this occurs, to hell.

If Christ were not, or some equivalent in the knowledge of the divine One, present and speaking His own words and doing such deeds as never otherwise seen by man on earth, they WOULD statedly NOT be condemned; but now, we see in John 15:21ff., they ARE. The reason ? They have seen and rejected, seen Him who had compassion, wept for its rejection, and thus the principle stated, operates. ALREADY they are condemned. It is not mysterious. It is ALL STATED, as this situation and its characterisation,  by its very construction and references, so stresses. If, in short, you want to KNOW the PRINCIPLE of condemnation, what makes it what it is, both applicable and applied, God defines it as in this milieu, His so coming, rejecting Him by preference. It reaches back to foreknowledge as in II Timothy 1:8ff., and it is seen in knowledge; but THIS is what it IS. WHO said so ? His name ? It is GOD.

What then have we found ? It is this. It is not a mysterious decree which operates, but a plain resultant as so often expressed in the very face of divine willingness (Proverbs 1, Colossians 1, I Timothy 2, Ezekiel 33, I John 2:1ff.) to save: it is this which operates. Of course it was resolved before the world was; but equally, THIS IS the principle of that resolution, where knowledge is perfected and pathology is incapable before His eye, for whom history unfolds.

This love,  that is lashed to the divine payment to cover whatever comes, is not so lashed to what rejects out of preference. There its nature ends application, and its purity ends pursuit. Some may imagine that this makes history a déjà vue thing for God. Naturally it is foreseen, how otherwise predict the end from the beginning ? But God is not in essence a man, though He took that form for a reason. God is not bored by knowledge, but active in it; and the love of eternity is not dulled by the time of its application, nor is His nature depressed by the certainty of what is to come. His cries were as total concerning Jerusalem, in the full knowledge of its rejection, and ruin to come, as heart could have! For a simple parallel, even when one has read a novel and knows the end, the appalling horror of some part may be almost unbearable, on a further reading.

But whose love is foreshortened, whose willingness is imputable when man fails ?

Whose ? God's  ? Never is it so stated regarding His outgoing love and ambition. It is man's which is in view, and the correct emphasis that it is ENTIRELY of divine grace and has NOTHING of human merit in it in any way, implication or condition, does nothing to remove this love and its scope, but rather to reinforce it. The X-factor when God KNOWS, the DIFFERENCE in some, not found in others, is what ? It follows from imagining a different God with some other plan of salvation, where the will as known to Him is not as stated by Him, the basis of exclusion. If however it is something else, then it is something other than the prescription and description in the Bible. God knows His own mind and heart, and it is well not to dictate to Him!

If then GOD found someone so attractive on some OTHER basis, where the cited relationship of human will as foreknown to Him was not decisively relevant, then He being perfect, what is this but a potential merit! Calvinism invents problems here, does not solve with light from the word of God, but darkens what is given.

Is then the divine foreknowledge of this one and that, is it based on nothing ?

It is not there ... ?

It is not so. Knowledge including foreknowledge is not ignorance. It is not features focussed, desirability to get which is the determinant of what is got; it is will, and that of man. If man is too sinfully sick to be its operator, he is not so opaque to God as to hide its reality. God takes some of the worst imaginable (cf. I Corinthians 1, Romans 5); love is like that. It is not self-satisfaction. That is precisely what it is not. It is not dictation; there is essentially what  it is not. Confusion here has bred a rabbit host on the continent of theology.

What then of the selection by God amid mankind ? It is founded on human will as known to the eternal mind of God ? Chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world is the ultra-temporal basis.

The Bible repeatedly so asserts, where the love of God is specified beyond question. Why then deny it ? Why cancel one part of the word of God in order to indulge a philosophy of fantasy which would not allow God to be a lover who is willing for His love to be rejected, but would have it otherwise with a longing neither disguised nor peremptory. Being truth, He does not distort His love or man's nature in order to have it happen.

Thwarted ? Not at all. Why ? In the simplest terms, it is because love is not lust. But how can we be sure of so pure and perfect love as this ? It is because He says so. How do we know that it is wrong to assert or imply that it is a short-circuit, constraint or limitation in His love which rejects some ultimately ? It is because He declares the opposite. He declares that He IS love. Nothing contrary to it is conceivable with such a reality, for it would manifestly contradict it.

How do we know that it is NOT because of sin that any is condemned but because of this obstruction to the mission of the saving love of God ? It is because He so declares.

It is found in many places, but not least in John 15:22ff., where it is ONLY because they saw and heard His words and works, that they 'have sin' in the relevant and final regard. Without this, there is no condemnation at the finale. How do we know ? HE there says so.

What does this show ? It is that the love motif is stronger than rejectionitis, as an inherent condition in fallen man. It rules out condemnation as result (but not condemnation as desert which is always relevant outside Christ), except a sufficient condition for that arises. And that ? It is so, unless there be the exposure, or its equivalent in principle, to this question: WHO and WHAT is Christ. Why is that ? It is because this IS the condemnation that light has COME and man has PREFERRED darkness. When this is ultimately and in reality the case, then condemnation is the case. In the end, as from the beginning, knowledge is there, preference is with knowledge, and results accrue inveterately, when the two come together. Only thus is man a) worthy of condemnation because of sin, and b) ready for final condemnation despite mercy.

The axis on which it turns is informed rejection, or its equivalent, of what God is, what He is, what He has done, in the pursuit of His loving address to man, which is underlined not in red ink, but red blood, statedly and that repeatedly. Its object and ambit ?  this world (I John 2:1ff.), and that in the most categorical of terms possible (Colossians 1:19ff.); not in abandon of operation, but in direction of flow, if by any means any may be found.

Is this the same as divine reticence ? Far from it: the only reticence in the outgoing love of God in the Bible is this: that He will not go beyond the parameters of rejection, assessed by Himself in foreknowledge without works or merit playing any part, in His determining, His resolution of the matter.

Where that rejection is assessed as ultimate, so is the negative destiny. Where the uttermost of gift is rejected, so is salvation not conferred. Human response is always in the Bible, in all generic statements, whether in emotional context, or judicial or in matters of desire or objective, made the criterion of rejection. Appeal, exhortation, longing, empathy, repeated entreaty, lovingkindness in acute anguish of sorrow, these are the parameters of what goes out, just as judicial certainty according to truth is the criterion when it is all over.

The love is intimate, ultimate, pure, undivorced.

Divine assessment of it in its outreach, however, thisis never abandoned; for how then would God be God ? Thus does Paul vehemently speak of mere insurrectionism, in Romans 9! God cannot be TOLD for man is unwise. He will answer informed challenge as in Job, and there is seen the obfuscatory shallowness which can make man like a diver at the bottom of the ocean, stirring up mud with his footprints, and unable to see. Yet the case is simple enough: it is just that circumstances FOR HIM, make it imperceptible. It is not that it IS not perceptible and perhaps as in the case of Job (as seen in Job 1), simple. It is that man is under test as to what he really is, by circumstances which like an examination, are THERE to test! So it is in I Peter 1:6-7, justly allied with 4:1ff..

That man is incapable of handling this in himself, and has it all done in perfection by another, his Creator and the Redeemer, by God Himself, this does not alter  that the fact that this is the criterion. THIS surgeon KNOWS the patient before the operation, and in this knowledge is the operation wrought: or not!

To what extent the human recipient or rejector, is in history aware of these things is entirely for God to determine. The case is the same: as stated. HE does it; but He does in these terms, which to deny is to make white black and love in abeyance, as if it were God Ltd.. God is NOT so limited. He IS love. NOTHING limits His love, and man's shame is not purchased by sin but by informed rejection or its correlative.

This principle underlies all theology, and the pathological consequences of its application is an entirely diverse realm. WHAT IF God endured for long the vessels fit for destruction, Paul asks ? (Romans 9:22). HE acts as He will, He does not dabble in unitary dichotomy, as if dissatisfied and inadequate, constrained by systems which abort, as if a mere creature, to be sure. He acts of course, sovereignly, with counsel, with knowledge, discernment, perception, understanding of all things, past the perimeters of time, always the same, committed to no development, complete in all fulness.

What however if on the way to judgment for man, there is a huge outpouring of His divine, His patient seeking! THIS does not limit His sovereignty; He knows and has elected what He is doing. Such an approach by God does however limit love's results, which is love's fare, without which NOTHING would be achieved for it: for then it would be transformed into something else in order to get it!

Thus love is sated, truth is applied and judgment is averted as love in mercy enables.

Hardened hearts, as with Pharaoh, indeed have historical significance, but the foreknowledge on which predestination is based is not to limit operational results, including their receiving a delusion because the truth is not received (II Thessalonians 2:10) - a biblically specified and explained condition. It is rather determinative in the presence of WHO and WHAT GOD IS, which is precisely what Jesus Christ showed in His weeping (Matthew 23:37ff., Luke 19:42ff.).

What then ? In the beginning it was all done, yet not by some other God, but by that one God whom Jesus Christ definitively expresses (Hebrews 1, John 14). It was done with the precise love which Christ showed on earth. Christ if for Christianity and Christianity is for Christ, and Christ is from God and he who has seen Him has seen the Father, and not another. It is HE who shows it directly, assuredly; and this ? It is this that He shows.

Christianity is based on Christ in this: it is HE who was sent to show, and this shown, it is this to be known. What He is and did, that is it. It is not something else. It is not some subordinate, some distortee who came. It is God with us, Christ the Lord. He did not say that he who had seen Him got some sort of a vague, theologically helpful clue; He said that he who had seen Him had seen the Father. It is not another.

God does NOT change. Theologians have a danger, a peril of changing what He says for what they would make of it, for their systems; but He is the same today, yesterday and forever, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 13:8); for as God, He changes NOT! On earth, He showed the love of God; in heaven, He acted with it; in predestination it was of course as applicable as at any other time, whether in A.D. 26 or at some other date, in this format or in that. What Christ was on earth, as to principle and precept, character and love, God is in heaven, and it is GOD who has come to earth, not some subordinate, secretary or sectary.

The Messiahship meant subordination, but this, not of the Word of God, eternal, in distortion, but in glorious fidelity expressive of Him who sent Him. It is not a portrait of what is not, but of what is that we find. He came from heaven, and in what condition was He there ? We learn that it was NOT parity with God as something to be snatched at,  as Philippians 2 has the concept. THAT is ruled out. He came then as the One AS SENT on the mission, via the subordination needed for sacrificial love to be implemented and souls to be saved. So far from His being marred in heart, to do it, it was because He was not, that His marring in face and life could occur, and be sufficient as sacrifice for truth, rolling back justice because its imprint could find nothing amiss. Truth prevailed. It was God Himself who as man bore the brunt, not someone else, inadequate, finite in nature, effectually someone else.

It is thus in the inordinate sense, that of equality, that the Father would have all honour the Son JUST AS (the Greek), they honour the Father (John 5:19ff.). Love, it is like that. He does what the Father does, in the SAME WAY. The infinite is characterisable; and it is not the finite. Its modes are its own. Before Abraham was, HE IS (John 8:58), for it is HE who is Jehovah, the Lord, and it is therefore to Him, even when ONLY to God will every knee bow (Isaiah 45), that every knee will bow (Philippians 2). That is the way of it. Other religions make up christs, and in the end, the devil himself will seek his importunate work as an impresario, to invent some sort of a spurious and unspiritual 'christ', his 'messiah', figure, conduit, but he is very limited indeed, and there is that final, fateful historical test, just as was the incarnation with the crucifixion when God allowed Himself to be tried. WHO will bow ? Those who do have their own preference! (Revelation 7, 13).

He is love. There is no limit to it; but there are real results to its exclusion, as foreknown by Himself, in the operation of His ultimate, quintessential nature. HENCE He wept, not for His errors, but for those of man, not because He lacked power (cf. Matthew 28), but because it does not ruin reality in order to express itself, but expresses reality and has constraints of truth, righteousness and principle neither voidable, nor desired to be. Hence Jerusalem for all that, did not open its eyes, seize its day, or make its way; and HE, He wept.

To contradict multiplied divine statements is one option; to cease to constrict the love of God is another. To confuse this refusal to constrict on the one hand, with merit or freewill on the other, as if the one meant the other, indeed as if these were relevant, operationally speaking now in history: that is a distortion of what the Bible ALSO clearly states (John 1:12), just as confusion of the results of rejection with initial lack of love, is another. BOTH are roundly contradicted in the Bible. It is time biblical Christianity recovered from its lapses in needless confrontation between these matters. They are not really hard.

God is love.  He would have all reconciled to Himself, in heaven and in earth. God is sovereign; none distorts His will nor His being, and His purity is preserved from any and every affront; and confrontation achieves nothing. Questions are answered, but raw will that seeks overthrow, that is for the devil, and gets its results at its own level. Light ? Yes, seek answers and it is on!

Man is responsible, and sin is not a mysterious contradiction of God's choices, but the weight Christ bore on behalf of, but not in the place  all of His people: offering sincerely to all, to those to be redeemed and to those not so, with a sufficient amplitude to cover all, but a channelled impact of result, actually covering those  redeemed (I John 2:1ff., Romans 8:32, Deuteronomy 29). He does not splash His gift; nor does He limit Himself in its application. Where it may go, it goes, and acts; and where it may not, though long held out to a recalcitrant people, it neither goes not acts. It is precisely as with the atonement in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 29), where the mere presence of such lavish provisions for the nation, intensely applicable for ALL, by no means implies that all will receive it. Let not the man who thinks wickedly in his heart imagine it is for him! we read.

When man rejects the love and the gift in it, the uttermost and ultimate available, all-sufficient, God who knows and understands, rejects the one who does this.

Nor is it a chance. There never was a chance. God is far too wise to let things of ultimate value rest on anything so dubious. It is predestined in security, known in advance; and the human responsibility in the very face of the divine love, explicitly asserted,  remains. This not only leaves man with no excuse, but with no ground for accepting what anyone may be telling him to excuse himself, or any other palliative. Sin is sin, defined, real; salvation is salvation, defined, real; rejection of the latter in the end, constitutes entry into judgment, and IS the condemnation. It is not that something else IS the condemnation. The authority for that ? God. He knows. He does it.

Reality is starkly available, and harshly rejectible. God knows beyond this; and acts in knowledge, foreknowledge. Reject him ? This is YOUR doing, essential, final if wrought in knowledge of who Christ is, with His words and works before you, or the equivalent in the sight of the Almighty, who is no respecter of persons (John 15:22ff.). He preceded it all with knowledge, foreknowledge, where wisdom and results are attained infallibly (II Timothy 1), and love is neither hijacked nor harrumphed, but nestles where it has place.

Thus when the Bible, as so often, declares God's appeals and announces His actions with pain, it is not that He is a hypocrite, really averse to some in advance, while declaring another case for His wishes, and showing specious pain. It is instead that He means precisely what He says. Truth is the point, and never must it be put in the hands of man, whether by futile subservience to some -ism, however great the proponent, or to some concept of one's own. What it is, it is; and God Himself, He says it, I am who I am.

HE is not for dabbling, but for finding out. His word has spoken, His Word has come. He remains, and salvation remains precisely what it was, was projected to be, is protecting to continue, and does not develop, being free, of grace, outreaching in passion, fashioned in love as to being and as to application.

Man is ALONE responsible for the final outcomes of sin, and must bear it whether as a race, or in terms of individuals. As to God Himself, HE has so loved that liberty is effected (for HE KNOWS in foreknowledge with what He is dealing) for what it is, that deliverance is effected where it may be applied, and that with certitude,  without making man robotic, which would leave God the source of evil. In fact, it is the opposite: He is the source of good which in liberty rejected by man creates the evil. Whoever or whatever else is in the same position, at any level or domain of being, does not alter the principle; and whoever seeks to prey on man, does not alter the character of test. Tests are to evidence what is the case, and what it takes, it gets.

The simplicity of it is, apparently, intractably inconvenient to some. Thus, however, all is explained. Man is neither autonomous nor robotic, the love of God is neither limited in outgoing scope, nor available in merely ostensible applications. All principles divinely stated cohere without mysterious contradictions, invented by man, such as Calvin's decretum horribile,  mere verbal inventions concerning the ALWAYS non-horrible God!

Only distortion and even rejection of the word of God removes this singular, unique fact about what the Bible teaches: it gives with no mystery at all, a rationale for life and liberty, sin and suffering, results and finale. The enduringly delicious mystery is not then one of contemplation of components: it is this, that God is such a Being that He COULD even love us who are sinners, COULD come to operate for our redemption, and is at such pains not only in the Cross but in what preceded it in divine counsel and followed it in divine outcomes, that none given is lost, no not one, and those given are those sovereignly known, and freely won, not fancied, but found, yes and brought home, in fulfilment of liberty by love, saved upon His shoulder.}

 

Let us now proceed with the actual text of this excerpt,
to which the above is here added.

It was saying this: As to the damnation-determinant, it is this: rejection of the revealed Jesus Christ.

This is a double barrier or threshold which is passed on the way to condemnation at the level of damnation. First is the sin which all men other than Christ have; second is the sin against the mercy which was shown when "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself" (II Corinthians 5:19). To achieve hell, as it were, a person must cross both. This then in a sense, becomes the double-cross... The alternative is to receive the gift of repentance and so repenting, to believe in the God of love by His grace, and to rest in Him (cf. Repent or Perish Ch.1, End-note 1).

God, we read in John 4, IS love; and in love that is how His loving action accrues. Justice is not lost; love is not thwarted but with the infinitude of purity, fulfils itself with the sacrificial splendour that is completed in the power that provides. The distorted pullulations which would disfigure His love by diminishing its power or its presence, even before all time, must be banished from scriptural discourse, except as an example of error. Philosophy loves to lose its head to unscriptural extremes, but Biblical scholarship and fidelity will not follow its writhings
(cf. Repent or Perish 1, End-Note 1, esp. p. 26, and SMR Appendix B, esp. pp. 1128-1130).

 
 


 

EXCERPT NINE

 

from Christ Incomparable, Lord Indomitable

Epilogue

The love of God is pure, unselfish (I Corinthians 13), not a matter of self-gratification but of desire for good, for reality and realisation, for kindness and removal of corruption, for pardon and mercy for ALL! This is the uniform definition of the Bible; and what is 'hated' is so only where refusal of restoration makes it a consignment in, from and for sin.

In fact, predestination itself is consequent logically on foreknowledge (Romans 8:29ff.), and this does not relate to merit, but to the understanding of Him who in love neither forces nor favours, but seeks (  To Know God ... Ch.   1).

Either this love is made insipid as by some, as if there were no sovereign majesty, wisdom or knowledge in God, and it were not true that those come to Christ whom the Father GRANTS (John 6); or else it is distorted as if sovereignty of some peculiar character is to replace the word of God and select on some basis not recorded in the scripture, and contrary to it. The truth is in neither of these. The exclusion agent cited by God is the human will (John 3:19), and this is the criterion of rejection in the light and face of the fact that Christ did not come to condemn the world, but to save it.

It is necessary to be clear, not shielded from that white light of biblical truth by things traditional or positional. It must be followed if you are to find the rigorous vigour of the light of life.

Thus, Calvin has deftly woven a system that is basically sound in the so-called TULIP, where God alone CAN bring sin-felled man to Himself, since sin excludes the wisdom to understand at this level (I Cor. 2:14, John 1:12!). But that theologian has gone far too far in making a philosophy which would have clear scriptures to be tormented into a shape they cannot bear (Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch.  2, End-note 1). That sovereignty does not deny but executes what He has sovereignly stated about His own desire and the work of the human will; all things He states must be taken, not some, preferring this one, a teeny bit or that one, like some society lady trying to influence your food selection.

God does the choosing; the nature of His perception of the human will is statedly the criterion, and He would like all.

Calvin has unfortunately, in doing a great service to the Church,  in failing in this point, done a considerable disservice also. It is wise to be thankful for the curry, not to praise the warts on the face of the waiter. Calvin-ism or any man-tagged -ism  is FORBIDDEN ( I Cor. 3); and this is just as well; for without this caveat,  fallen man, even if saved, being not perfected as yet, becomes a clay vessel with particles adhering. It is not well to follow the clay. In this case, Wesley stressed the scope of the love, while Calvin indicated the strength of the system. Each as a contributor in the specific field does well; neither covers all and so all should depend on the word of God, give thanks for the good each does, and add nothing, crimp nothing, being amplified in the liberty which the word of God provides.

As to the fallibility of man, corrected only by insistent, persistent return to His word written, ALL of it without slighting or twisting, ignoring or torturing any of it, this shows us to be humble, to love one another as brethren and to concentrate on God Himself, where the life of all is to be found, or not at all, and on His version of salvation, not that of man.

It is entirely different when God sees fit to DELIVER HIS WORD through His prophets (I Peter 1:10ff., II Peter 1:19ff., I Cor. 2:9ff.). Just as man is shown as inept as the one to trust, only God being this (Jeremiah 17), so God is shown able to use even man, when He so chooses, to deliver His word in its foundations, and to make this His own speech. A man can use a pen if he will, and God can so imbue a man with His Spirit and so lead him that he can be used with both the THINGS provided made clear, and the words with which to present them enabled to be found and written. This is called inscripturation.

If God uses His power in this way to bring accurately the good news of salvation, the tasks of edification and the form of illumination, that shows His majesty and the fall of all barriers before His will; if on the other hand, having done this, and indeed having even sent His only begotten Son in flesh to do the work for so long foretold, He allows even the most gifted to err here or there, it is to show that though man can be USED, it is God ONLY who is to be trusted.

In the merely theological field, what we have is what ? It is then an interpretation, and while the word of God  is in itself perspicuous, we sinners have to watch our way and especially avoid contradictions such as those which Calvin practised, for all his excellent facility and contribution in so many ways and things, relative to that divinely granted word, the Bible of divine deposition.

Thus, the love of God must be seen in the WHITE LIGHT, and so must the sovereignty and the desire, and the purity, all things together: it must not be philosophically man-ipulated (if you forgive the pun), for there is no mandate for that. Let us then move to Psalm 106 to consider a point in this context, and ponder the plight of those who in this, as often in other ways, fall for an -ism. In so doing, we shall be able to apply the above.

 

Looking at Psalm 106 for the Perspective Provision

In Psalm 106, as expounded in *2A, we saw the practise of burning children in the fire. While the SA Education Ministry (DECS) does this spiritually  in a fashion both horrific and apparently inveterate, by prosletysing through a program of debased, subjectivistic if not existential religiosity, in which it merely defames any religion such as Christianity, based on observable facts, superior verificatory performance, the power of God and the exhibit of the same according to His word: it is not alone, though near the front of such outrage.

On that, see TMR Ch. 8,and on the factual side, The gods of naturalism have no go! and TMR Ch. 1, with SMR Chs. 4 and 5. There is however a milder but still dangerous fire to be faced. It comes from a misuse of some of the great gifts given to the Church, which as so often, can lead to a scripturally forbidden concentration on the man concerned, as a criterion (I Corinthians 3), so that his -ism comes ruinously to rule. In this way, what was a blessing from God, through undue adulation if not idolatry, becomes nearer to a curse.

In a fire not so complete in its conflagration, but still burning flesh near the heart, is the error of the Presbyterian Church of Australia. It is grievous; for the 1901 Constitution of that body specifically and brilliantly excludes such a 'burning' and amplifies the Westminster Confession with biblical breadth; but through Assembly fiat, in 1991, they have now removed such point from view: on which see Biblical Blessings  Ch. 11.

In brief, on this topic, there is an enormous Biblical emphasis on the love of God, that He IS love, that He did NOT come to judge the world, but that the world through Him  might be saved, that He would have  all men to be reconciled to himself, indeed all in heaven or earth; and this has been detailed with scriptural ground given in detail, in such sites as SMR Appendix B, Great Execrations, Great Enervations, Greater Grace Chs.  7 and   9, with The Christian Pilgrimage Ch.   3 including Appendix.

What then ? Through a strange binding akin to Confessionalism, that sad substitute of tradition plus the Bible for the latter alone, using men's formulations not as helps (as the Westminster Confession prescribes, for the limit) but binding in detail, what has this Church done ? It has has put its opinions where they do not belong, defiling by defining in its own Confessional terms. Again, this is contrary to its Constitution, as something that rules, instead of the Bible as final and only court of reference at the decisive level (The Biblical Workman Ch. 8).

The net result is this, that the love of God is NOWHERE  affirmed in its full biblical perspective, in the synthesis of tradition and Bible which now rules. In this case, we now find the former limiting the latter, so that is biblically expressed, even to the point of reconciliation to God, towards all in heaven and earth, becomes not a highway but a minor road! The biblical scope of the love of God does not now appear.

It is a weakness of the Confession, despite its good system of doctrine, that this, before any system, is not in it.  It is however in the Bible; so that the net result is that  a form of barren Calvinism, which like so much else in this world, has some excellent features but in a serious lapse crimps the love of God, so that predestination, instead of being the godly assurance that the Lord looses none of His own, becomes a nightmare exclusion in what is called 'mystery', misplaced, and a ‘decretum horribile’ as if the horrible had any place in God; for there is no mystery in what the Lord Himself says about His heart, purpose and program in this particular, and only goodness so that God IS love!

That HE foreknows in logical order before He predestines (Romans 8:29ff.), that He is not bound by the invasive denudations of sin, like waters on the Dutch coastline, as man so readily is (I Cor. 2:14); that He is able to know man apart from the superior-inferior results of sin, where direct vision is on what being free is elemental, that He can love all and find some in this circumstance, apart from works and all their pomp and mischief, meritoriousness and meretriciousness: this is a simple matter… for Him. MAN cannot manipulate his own fallen will concerning God, but God knows. He needs no aid indeed, and implements truth with His elemental vigour (as in John 6).

All of this is expounded in detail either in the above references, with particular reference at Biblical Blessings  Ch. 11, and The Biblical Workman Ch. 8, or with further on Calvin's error (amidst his vast and effective contributions) at sites such as

The Christian Pilgrimage Ch.   3, Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch.  2, End-note 1,Christ's Ineffable Peace ... Ch. 2 Outrageous Attitudes ...Ch. 9,  
Cascade
... Ch. 9, Marvels of Predestination and the Ways of Will Part II, Ch.
. 6, and Supplement   2, Repent or Perish Ch.  1, esp. *1, News 112, Great Execrations Chs. 7, 8 and 9, Grand Biblical Perspectives Ch. 7. The last is of quintessential importance for a full understanding.

With this unfortunate error of Calvin thus restored to life, contrary to the Constitution in the PCA, we have a very sad excision. It reminds one of the old idea of removing tonsils en bloc, as if they were a needless appendage; whereas this is not known now to be the case!

In the flush of 'knowledge', it is so very easy to over-simplify, or over-codify, or over-generalise, or frankly as with Calvin, pointedly bypass an element which on occasion may be essential. As Spurgeon pointed out, it is one thing to say that it is all of grace and that it comes without merit as a ground; and another to say that when salvation does NOT come, this is the inverse of the all grace case!

It is a pointed lack of grace ? Not so. Grace is the life of love, and refusal is the essence of liberty, of being in God's image; and where pathology ruins its relevant exercise, it is not God who is imperilled in His exercise of love. It is merely man who is disenabled, leaving all in the hands of God, as indeed it was at the creation, and God in the hands of none, no, not even some 'sovereignty' which is strangely imagined to be free, as if to rule Him contrary to His express and repeated protestations that He would have ALL to be reconciled.

When a system starts denying the facts, in this case those of the Bible, at ANY point, it is then that you must abandon the system or correct it. In the case of the PCA, the Declaratory Statement constitutionally required to be read with the Confession to protect 'tender consciences' being now aborted by having the love of God containerised into the Confession's expression, the former fidelity is lost, the constitutional purpose is contravened and the Bible is misrepresented on this point. The 1991 Assembly's declaration that the Declaratory Statement adds nothing to the Westminster Confession, haplessly and retrogressively omits this provision for conscience.

There is thus loss of precisely what was at the outset, and what is still constitutionally  presented from the word of God, as it exercised those who received the Constitution in 1901. Now the fire of misplaced sovereignty, out of order in its supposed nature, contrary in its mode of effect to the word of God Himself, is imported from philosophy, and the exuberant grandeur of the love of God is re-made, not after His image, but after man's imagination.

It is crimped. It becomes like the old-age crimpings on the mouths of the aged; losing its essential vitality and divinely defined totality in scope from the outset. God says I WOULD HAVE ALL RECONCILED IN HEAVEN OR ON EARTH: the other ? HE WOULD NOT! Who knows best ? He or they! For me, God every time.

Such things, then,  tend to distort the conceptions of the young, as if they were given chocolate milk ( with the tax for taste added), which really wasn't even chocolate, but an emetic.  One can but pity them and seek a better way, as in the former day. With God, nothing shall be called impossible. He cares for His lambs, even beyond  even well-intentioned but unbiblical efforts of those whose philosophy gains access where it ought not. Whether the philosophy distort something of His majesty, dispel something of His love, or delight to delete His majesty direct as at Calvary, it is all one in this: the white light of truth becomes coloured this way or that, or discoloured and so brings but confusion to those who mistreat its source.

To be sure, when you turn your face away from the truth, there is no solution. When the word of God is rejected outright,  it is just judgment that ensues. When it is not, what is needed is continual pondering and meditation in it, delighted seeking of the Lord's face and application of His word, as He works in you (Psalms 1-2,27), providing that reasonable service, that living sacrifice which Christian life exhibits (Romans 12:1). You need no other name than that of Christ, in which to work (Acts 4:11-12, Matthew 23:9-10, Colossians 3:12-17), purged through His blood (Ephesians 1), fortified by His word (Matthew 7:21ff.), purified by His Spirit (Titus 3:3-7), through Him giving praise to the Father of lights for ever and ever (Psalm 145).

With God, it is FACT, knowledge and wisdom; not surmise and contention, modes and models from the imagination of man.

When God speaks, listening is the relevant art.

 

 

EXCERPT 10

from

Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch.  2,  Endnote 1

 

*1    A PROMINENT EXAMPLE of the INSULAR

 BEWARE OF THE -ISM, and the inflammation called ism-itis;
but TAKE THE GOOD, TESTING ALL THINGS!

A Detailed Note in the Field of Fidelity

For the actual statements of Calvin, clearly showing his error in this regard, see Predestination and Freewill pp.76ff. He 'admits' Christ's call as a hen to her chicks, which includes this, HOW OFTEN WOULD I have gathered you under My wings, but equivocates with the irrelevant, as if an expression of the divine desire in Christ is in some way to become enmeshed in metaphors, rather than being taken to mean what it precisely states, an index to Calvin's confusion at this point. "We must not define the will of God," he declares immediately after this 'admission' concerning Christ.

No, we assuredly must not, except from His word, and above all from His Son, the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus in whom dwells the fulness of the Godhead in bodily form, so that "He who has seen Me has seen the Father." There is nothing of the merely metaphorical about this statement of what Christ so often would have done, or the contrast between this willingness and their eventual desolation through rejection. Whether you use hands or wings or words, it is one: you show what you would have liked to do.

We MUST define the will of God from His word and His Son for HE has already done so and He is the EXACT EXPRESSION of His Person (Hebrews 1), so that the one seeing Him, has already seen the Father (cf. John 6:40, 14:9)! ANY DIVORCE IS IN THE MIND OF MAN, NOT OF GOD... 'Accommodation' is incommodious when it rips the reality from the representation coming from the very WORD of God, whose word is truth,  who IS the truth, whose words are as commanded. If God declares exact representation, then we must follow, for the jousting with false jubilation must cease.

As Christ is, so it is. He is not in the form of a man and of a servant (yet without sin), that becoming flesh He should cease to BE the ONE who was in the form of God. Informed with light, He sheds no darkness; and the light of the world is in nothing at fault; nor is God without means of expression, nor is His Word without ample capacity to express.

This then is perhaps the worst lapse of Calvin, and while he sought to avoid confusion, in this liberty and indeed laxity, he merely created more by presumption against the very words of Christ, and his own words ignoring the actual issue with irrelevancies that neither touch the issue, nor even contact it. The metaphorical forms of speech do not mangle the fact but illustrate it; and the will which these signify is not dulled but made simply clear and clearly simple in the process: not simplistic, but clear like light, in which is NO darkness at all.

It is time for more unity in this enthralling and delightful beauty spot, the love of God, His loving sovereignty and His sovereign love.

The opposite extreme is most common also. See Section 2, op. cit. for further development of this matter.

It needs attention in the love of Christ, according to His word, most clear and most perfect in this as in all its divulgements.
 
 

THE FIRST (1)

For convenience an excerpt from the above cited work is here given:

"Cf. Calvin's Institutes, Book 3, Ch. 24, Section 17. As for Christ's lament and statement of gathering in Matthew 23:37: Calvin's disregard here of the clear exposure of the heart of the incarnate God is a hiatus in the life of the divine picture, for which scripture gives no ground. If the "form" of God is not on earth as it is heaven, yet when we come to Christ's word: "He who has seen Me, has seen the Father", this is known,  because He expressly changed His form (John 1, Philippians 2), but not His reality (Heb. 1:3, Mal.3:6, John 8:58). Accordingly, rejection of a divine statement of heart and principle, for one at variance from it, is no interpretation! Concerning Matthew 23:37, see The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, Appendix B as also Ch.8, pp. 636-643."

Calvin's equivocation here is astounding. He speaks as if the fact that in Christ God appeared as man had a strange consequence. It is as if His being made man,  made truth not the criterion of His utterance, precise, profound. From Calvin at this place, it is as if Christ's coming precluded this, which nevertheless He said and TRULY: that "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" , as in John 14, and that "I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak... Therefore whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak."

What results from this then ?

You have only one choice. Irrationally to reject Christ, or to accept His words. If His words be true, Calvin here is not; if Calvin were true here, Christ's words would be contravened. This is no sacred mystery, but an evil aspersion on Christ's words, though doubtless such was never Calvin's intention. The fact however remains, that he has cardinally erred here. Christ declared two things clearly concerning His doctrine, which may be selected to this point. First, if any man wills to do the will of God, he will now the doctrine whether it is of God or whether Christ speaks on His own (John 7:17). Secondly, the Father has given a commandment what He should speak (John 12:48).

It is therefore not truth as per some accommodation to pressing realities (what are these, beyond God!), or limitations (who limits God who does the commanding, of whom Christ declared, He who has seen Me has seen the Father - John 14), it is not this that Christ speaks. It is the TRUTH, and for that matter, in Himself HE IS the TRUTH and He is a man who has TOLD YOU THE TRUTH (John 8:40), and as the Father has taught Him, so He speaks these things (John 8:28). In principal, in essence, in command, in commission, in presenting eternal life, in being the exact image of His Father, in authority, in relay, constitutively, expressly, Christ is and speaks the truth.

He indited it and is to be indicted by no man: His words stand, and describe even in advance, what falls. He sets the standard for what stands, and stand it does, to the last jot (Matthew 24:35), even if the stage called the universe depart (as it will). In logic, in life, in faith, it is one (cf. SMR Ch.1, Appendices   C, and   D).

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       Hence so far from speaking in some way which wavers from the utter, complete and holy truth
 

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(you do not need to know everything in order to know correctly
when it is GOD who utters and pronounces His words – Matthew 4:4, 5:17ff.,
far less is there any disjunction, as with Christ Himself,
who IS the living and eternal word of God incarnate!),
 

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Christ spoke truth, and His teachings were and are  as true as God is.

Calvin therefore in this is judged by Christ, and he is wrong, daring to insinuate a suggestion of some diversity, some moving this way in the Son and that way in the Father, in some complexity of duality, which is the contrary of unity.  Such is the price for his error. His walking in a dark room in this matter is self-induced, by shutting the door into which the light comes from the word of God, express, multiple and categorical (cf. SMR Appendix B, Great Execrations Chs.   7 and   9). The result at this point ? darkness, confirming the error of the omission and contrariness of the entry of Calvin's own philosophy.

Philosophy however has nothing to offer here, but the word of God shining, whether or not as here it is contravened, must be followed. While its light cannot be blighted, it must be sighted. It is there to be seen! When it is followed, then it embraces reality with the mastery which its Author commands.

Never move from Christ as THE TRUTH, speaking as DIRECTLY COMMANDED by His eternal Father, and you will never move from the incarnation as BEING THE EXACT IMAGE OF GOD in its outcome (Hebrews 1:3), or again be in the shelters of philosophy, cowering as before enemy aircraft, afraid of what is not known. KNOWLEDGE has come.

We do not know the FORM of God (I Timothy 6:16), but  we DO know Him to be holy, and wholly reliable; we DO know His character, His commands and His truth. Having seen Christ, we do indeed see the Father; and having known Christ, we do indeed KNOW THE FATHER (John 8:26,31,32,42,47,55; 14:7-11). His humanity is not a road block, but specifically the contrary: the AVENUE OF MANIFESTATION not of thought and hope, but of GOD! It may be veiled in flesh, but the veil exhibits what is below the veil: indeed this IS eternal life, that you should KNOW God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent (John 17:3).

Now of course Calvin brings up things like metaphors, including this:

"He says that he has stretched out his arms ... to call a rebellious people (Isa. 65:2); early and late he has taken care to lead them back to him. If they want to apply all this to God, disregarding the figure of speech, many superfluous contentions will arise."

This however simply is irrelevant to the point at issue and is a good illustration of the fact that NO MAN is to be followed, but the word of God only: though some man's words be found ever so helpful. The greatest can fall. NOT of Calvin, or of Wesley! THAT is the consideration that is CLEARLY written with not a metaphor in sight! (I Cor. 3).

Let us now be practical. It will not hurt. Is there any question of what God is saying in the cited passage in Isaiah? Of course not. There is no issue about whether He is earnest, diligent, whether He SENDS His messages through His messengers, seen presumably as engaging Him in their own activities ("in all their afflictions, He was afflicted" - Isaiah 63:9). The matter is INCAPABLE of misinterpretation. The metaphors enliven it, make it clear in human terms; they do not seduce, speaking in one set of imagery which obscures, renders ambiguous, far less denies what is the point of the metaphoric mini-parable, if you like. You see the Lord in this figure of Isaiah's, in His earnest, dawn breaking zeal. Very well, that is known. Since Christ Himself in fact DID just that, arising a great while before the break of day, it is even less of any tendentious character. AS MAN, GOD DID JUST THAT! (Mark 1:35).

Now how does this evacuate the MESSAGE which the FIGURE of hens and chickens provides in exact parallel to that of the zeal of the Lord, in the other ? The figure is about hens and chickens, in this, that LIKE that, He has acted. But the simile is simply passing. It proceeds:


I WOULD HAVE GATHERED YOU AS ....(simile), but YOU WERE NOT WILLING.

 

THIS is the DIRECT statement. One, called Christ, had a strong, deep and direct desire which is evocatively likened to that of a hen for her chickens. It is intense, immense, earnest and warm. This is the thrust. He is not BECOMING a hen in this picture. He is likening what HE FEELS and WOULD HAVE, to the way a hen appears to act. In the FACE of this (as in 'stretched out', the imagery cited from Isaiah by Calvin himself), this earnest zeal, this unequivocal desire (not a decision to force, but a decision to seek with ardour), CHRIST STATES WHAT HE FINDS. He has this zeal and this desire, and its character is compared to the hen's thirst and desire for chicks, to protect them.
 


Thus even the case cited by Calvin merely confirms the point. The imagery is evocative, and declarative of content, as is normal in imagery. It is clear, as is normal in good imagery. It means that the Lord NOT ONLY desired to find the lost, but that His desire was cardinal, direct, assured and indisputable. It is :

Now we come to the next error of Calvin, who sidestepped this issue with a mere flurry of words, in gross distortion of the simplicity of the positive-negative propositions of Christ: I WOULD... YOU WOULD NOT. And this which must be added : IT HAPPENED LIKE THAT .... OFTEN!! (HOW OFTEN WOULD I ...!).

Calvin states in his peculiar fashion in this context, that "although to our perception God's will is manifold, he does not will this and that in himself, but according to his diversely manifold wisdom, as Paul calls it (Eph.3:10), he strikes dumb our sense until it is given to us to recognize how wonderfully he wills what at the moment seems to be against his will."
 

So He is WILLING what in CHRIST'S OWN WORDS is ONE THING. The will celestially however is quite another. The Father, we evidently are to learn from Calvin at this point,  is NOT doing this. As to this, the Lord's own statement of simplicity and clarity, the theory is:
 

it merely distorts the complex situation which in essence is OTHER and DIVERSE, indeed DIVERGENT. In appearance ? If only in appearance, well: then in reality He is willing just as His son, speaking as commanded BY HIM, is speaking. That is the function of word when it is TRUTH. But if in reality, then the word of the Saviour is countermanded in heaven, and He who is to show God shows what is not TRUE. The ludicrous nature of truth being untrue, we shall leave for the scholars. The fidelity and precision of God is witnessed throughout all scripture, to the contrary, and He stakes His NAME on it! We for our part, in interpreting what He says, will stick FIRST to WHAT He says, both in Christ and elsewhere, and not make yes mean no, and assuredly mean not really!


 

First, however, let us consider Calvin's  quotation from Ephesians 3:10. There the context is this: formerly there was no such clear and manifest notion of Jew-Gentile fellowship in the Gospel as is now revealed. Unsearchable are the riches of Christ, and within them, wide is this amplitude of logical simplicity: the historical fact that first the Jew-Gentile mix was not at all close in the matter of relationship to God - indeed what they were was apart, but now the Jew and the Gentile are in this able to be together. While this is so, it is ONLY so in and because of Christ: the one - the Jewish nation,  having first rejected him, and the other, the Gentiles nations,  at first not knowing of him. They were differently OUT; they are similarly now IN. This WISDOM is indeed manifold, as the apostle states: but it is not in the least obscure!

There is not the slightest issue of DIFFICULTY:  merely it is one of strategic beauty, and glorious composition. It is not in the least a question of what is a flat contradiction becoming uncontradictory, what is a denial becoming an affirmation. It is that what was FOR AN ABSENT REASON, not present, now by the PRESENCE OF THAT REASON, has become operative. Without Christ, they were separate and severed in relationship to God, nation to nations. Now they are not so divided. Why ? It is because they have Christ, the great basis of unity in God, from God, for God.

What then ? Without a cheque book, you COULD not abide the high prices. NOW that you have a well-padded one, you find no problem at all. There is in NEITHER case, the slightest question about clarity or confusion. No means ? then no result: that is all.

The MANIFOLD WISDOM of God, then, is as is stated in Proverbs 8:8: in His words there is NOTHING "wreathed". It is ALL CLEAR to him who understands, we are told. That is what is written. There is the OPPOSITE of clever semantic play; and there the precise contrary of allowing misconception and misconstruction. The words of God are clear to the one who understands them, seeking as silver as in Psalm 119, and what is less clear, as on a fine day looming from the mist, becomes more so.

What is present is the simple need to read what is written, from God, in whom is no iniquity, to examine what it is saying as the speaker gives it out in His chosen place, and to examine all else like it that He has stated. If it is difficult, well. That is quite different from twisted, distorted, the very things that Proverbs EXPLICITLY DENIES to the word of God. It may be hard; it is never wrong. It may challenge ingenuity; it never threatens truth. ONLY by insertion or desertion can that happen! That is the challenge given, and this is the experience found. They are as one.

The ABUSE of this MANIFOLD CONCEPT, by Calvin,  to achieve what the apostle Paul is NOT saying, is if not contemptible, at least confused. People might at times have THOUGHT God would not favour the Gentiles (but He states the opposite often enough in Deuteronomy 32, Psalm 67ff., Isaiah 49 and so on, and relates it in Jonah with the utmost eloquence). People might not have realised that in Christ the result of togetherness would come (but God STATES that Israel is to have a new name, acknowledges they will reject their own Messiah - Isaiah 49:7, resoundingly states that HIS servants will be called by another name while Israel's servants will hunger and thirst, Isaiah 65:13-15, and makes it clear that in Christ will all the justified be covered, whoever and of whatever race they may be - Isaiah 53:6,10-11, 44:5, 45:22-25).

Thus we are not finding a conundrum solved, but a feature focussed, a commencement consummated, so that what He had begun to exhibit, He now exhibits in the utmost detail.

Hence any use of this passage in Ephesians 3:10, which deals centrally with the consummation of the preliminary attestation to the Jew in the Gospel even to the Gentile, to make it appear that God is an author of self-contradiction, or even One who makes statements of a devious, unclear or misleading character, is ludicrous. It is CONSUMMATION that is expressed here, of wisdom already shown, not NEGATION of oddities which were contrary. There is NEVER any question that God's words are not CLEAR to the understanding reader. He may be baulked by his own ineptitude, but not by divine deficiency in that beautiful art of coherent and logical speech.

Further, this appeal is merely trivial. To suggest that because God in fact can engage in progressive revelation, that therefore He can contradict in the most emphatic and direct sense what He is evocatively and potently declaring, is a case of making another sort of speech for the Lord, than that which He claims for Himself, and commends (Isaiah 41,43,44,45,48 are eloquent on His TESTABILITY in DETAIL and NEVER being unclear - so as to be untestable for comparison purposes - or misleading, inaccurate or wrong).

CHRIST as MAN speaking to MEN by DIRECT COMMAND of His eternal Father, as His eternal word, stated His feelings, His wishes and the results. There is no room for talking of a double will, or a confused will, or a forked will. CHRIST SAYS IT IS ONE THING, and CALVIN SAYS IT IS ANOTHER, the direct opposite. It is a choice in this case between Christ and Calvin. Do not even children do this, saying that mummy or daddy REALLY meant that they SHOULD go out when they said they SHOULD NOT, because how manifold (tricky ?) is the will of parents, and how often they ask one to show courage, so yes, one should GO out when told NOT to. This is fiddling and pettifoggery.

When "what is human is transferred to God" says Calvin on Matthew 23:37, as if this "explains" his flat contradiction of the words of the Saviour, that covers it. That is all it is, so we can now know that the thing stated by THE LORD is not final, is not indeed, true. It is suggestive of something; it is not expressive of what it says. What it says, this is intensely asserted as the case, and the One who does it, is the Maker of the case, for one, for all!

Does however this, Christ's being human, then explain it ? that what He says is not the case ? If that were so, then what is God when transferred to man, this too will not ACTUALLY  expose the reality of His character, expression, desire (for that is MOST EMPHATIC HERE) and so on. This represents is a denial of the incarnation, even of its relevance to TRUTH; yet Christ said He was the TRUTH. Now Calvin, carried away in a good cause (to prevent misconception of the power of man), has simply gone too far. Man DOES lack power relative to God, but GOD DOES NOT LACK POWER RELATIVE TO MAN, and in particular, His power of speech is consummate, precise, the subject of challenge in comparison with all other speech for the CLEAR and TESTABLE performance of what it claims.
 

Calvin does not mean so to deny, and if he did, then all his theology, like Barth's, would become illicit, vain, a contradiction of what he affirms. How can God make anything clear if this will, emotion and desire cannot be made clear because as a PERSON SENT FROM HEAVEN AND INCARNATED ON EARTH AS A MAN IN HIS OWN IMAGE, He cannot convey the actualities of the situation! The race having been manufactured thus, in this format, He cannot speak His
mind ?  How much LESS could He have done so, if this were so, through the prophets, for this so obscure 'reason', then! Since the prophets  were mere men, sinners to boot, how much LESS could they convey reality, truth, of God Himself AS MAN, in the image created for just such a thing (Isaiah 51:6) is reputed here to be UNABLE to communicate better than the opposite of what He means!


Calvin did not mean it (the implications, we assume, based on his other utterances); but he said it. Be warned you people -ism followers, you devotees of this or that, just because many Christians are indubitably excellent in much. Look to the head, not the shoulders! (cf. Hebrews 12:1). Calvin erred in this point, and one simply shows its enormity, not to make him appear heretical, but to show the grandeur of the error, contrary to his normal thought, into which he falls in his endeavours, misguided and misled, to avoid the teaching of the Saviour (not again, that he intended this, but he accomplished it!).  If Calvin could so err, let us all be careful, NOT to 'make' God mean what He either does not say, or the opposite of what He does! Let us read what is written, and find what is stated, and follow it, not some alternative, philosophically induced, in plain contrast to both the text and the terms it employs, such as  affirmation and negation!

Further, who is Calvin and who is any, to make it appear that when the Saviour is doing one thing, God in some OTHER way is so MANIFOLD in 'wisdom' that to HIS OWN WORD in the flesh, He is opposing a flat contradiction! Is God not then God ? But CHRIST IS in His own Person God ? Will God have a double mouth ? Will He so invest and invent a situation (incarnation) that His truth is lost and His mouth is not! This is for God to DENY HIMSELF, statedly and logically impossible! (cf. II Timothy 2:13; see SMR pp. 25ff., 581ff., Barbs, Arrows and Balms  6).

Indeed, says Calvin, God does not will this and that in Himself! This is news! His will is so manifold that it is excluded from being this or that: Read Isaiah 30:8ff., and see. The very vocalisation of the word of God and His infinite backing to its jots and tittles (Matthew 5:17ff., Isaiah 34:16, 59:21 etc. and see SMR Appendix D) means the precise opposite. What He knows is operative as He speaks, and He speaks what is true where truth is relevant, and He upbraids (John 8;40,44,46!) those who do not LISTEN to HIM a man who told them the truth! Yet how could He do so, if He was so inferior a representative of the divine word that the actuality of the thought of God was too manifest, manifold, to be reduced to mere speech! HOW HAVE a word if this were so, or incarnate it if jumbled semantics were the consequence, and clear unequivocal, even emphatic utterance of plainest kind were unreliable as to one little thing: that it accorded with FACT!

Mr Calvin, unfortunately though you have an objective, here, of some concern,  the price is too high, and the means are not right.

Now let us consider the reality of the word of God: GOD is indeed deep and masterful and marvellous, but PART of that WONDER is this, that He can SAY what He means and DO (accordingly) what HE SAYS, so that it OCCURS, the laboratory, the acid test (Isaiah 41,48)!


All this precludes any such nonsense as in this case, Calvin here falls into. Even the righteous man can fall seven times! Why worship man! Let us instead turn to the word of God, return to it and keep turning to it, for it is the TRUTH.

Calvin is of course utterly correct in rebuking those who want to make it appear GOD HAS TO ACT in this or that way towards all. However this is not that: GOD WANTS to act in this way towards all, and says so. HOW He works that out in history is His affair, and my Predestination and Freewill shows how it COULD happen, simply to remove any question of logical congestion. But that He knows how to be chaste and desirous would not appear too remarkable. All human love is informed with the same thing. However His sovereign majesty and double predestination of all needs no such help as this! (cf. I Peter 2:7-8, Romans 9:15-16 with 9:12!).

Let us not then throw away the power of Christ to SPEAK what His Father commanded, and BE the truth, and SPEAK the truth, in order to depart with some show of reverence from what that truth, in this matter, actually IS! It is all gloriously consistent, utterly delightful and by ANY alteration for ANY reason, it is like a beautiful design, spoiled. See on this also Predestination and Freewill. The word of God is indeed VERY PURE, refined seven times.

It is indeed regrettable that a man of the stature of Calvin should have made such mistakes, but it is a lesson, never to be so concerned for the appearance of difficulty (felt for some reason or other) as to actually CONTRADICT the word of God! He has His OWN answers; OUR part is to take it as it comes, not give such accolades that the meaning is reversed through sheer supremacy! as if speech were an art form divorced from deity when attempted to man, even by Himself as one of them: by incompetence of purpose, plan or equipment!
 
 

THE SECOND (2)

 

However in Calvin's Commentary on Romans, we have an allied error. It all seems to stem from the same misplaced fear, but the coherence of the parallel errors in this case is not admirable. Here, in commenting on Romans 1:17, Calvin advises us as follows: "In order that we may be loved by God we must first be righteous, for He hates unrighteousness. The meaning is, therefore, that we can obtain salvation from no other source than the Gospel..." This is in flamboyant contrast with Romans 5:8, the whole thrust of which is this: that amazing as it may seem, and beyond the highest human love expressed in sacrifice for what seems noble, God's love comes for what is INTRINSICALLY BAD! He loves the BAD in order to make it good, because it is His, and He made it and this is the nature of His heart's yearning (as in Lamentations 3:33, Ezekiel 33:11, I Timothy 2:1-6, Matthew 23:37 concerning which also, see SMR Appendix B for a fuller exposition).

It is NOT being said IN THE BIBLE, that God does not love until righteousness appears in the sinner; but the exact opposite. His love appears DESPITE THE ABSENCE of goodness in the object, indeed despiteits PROFOUND absence; and  He commends His love to us in this, that He died for us EVEN in such a deplorable condition as that in which we were. NOTHING commended us. His LOVE commends itself in this, that when that was OUR position, THIS was HIS! In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Calvin does seem to have real trouble with the love of God! His exposition in this case of Romans 1:17 is precisely opposite to the divine affirmation, relative to what GOD is willing to love! Now it is TRUE that He loves righteousness, and it is also true that He MAKES the convert righteous by imputation, and makes FOR righteousness by planting with His own hands, and giving a right seed (I John 3:9), so that the sinner is both pardoned judicially and enabled dynamically, albeit in the latter regard, only imperfectly, yet with scope for growth and for maturity and for depth!

Romans 1:17 is actually NOT saying this about the love of God, not even mentioning it. In the preceding verse 16, the word of God is telling us things about the Gospel, including this, that it brings into force and focus a power with a special purpose, salvation. Here in v. 17, it is explaining things, starting with -  'for'.

We learn therefore in verse 17 of Romans 1, that the Gospel's being the power of God with the payload of salvation, relates to its revealing righteousness, "from faith to faith", so that "the just shall live by faith". This is explained further in Romans 3:23ff.. Meanwhile what is "from faith to faith" ? From the faith of prophet to the faith of the reader, comes the faith in the Lord to salvation, according as a man is called: this is one rendering. Again, it can mean that faith reads of this wonder and this opening its eyes further, reads yet more, going from strength to strength. It may mean both. Faith is used to evoke faith, the work of faith in the word being the way of faith to the reader.

This is the apparent thrust. When no limit appears, no ground except utter constraint can exclude different vistas of meaning. Whichever emphasis however one takes, and the stresses cohere, and this by no means is to be assumed to exhaust the COMPLEMENTARY beauties of this verse, the word of God  is not here saying or even implying that God loves only what is righteous!

His love does not DALLY, it is true, for ever with wickedness or the flesh would fail before Him (Genesis 6); and the conscience may be seared as with a hot iron, in those who reject the love of the truth (II Thessalonians 2, I Timothy 4:2, II Timothy 4:3). Yes, but this is not the teaching Calvin raises here, in his unheroic treatment of this text.

These two parallel importations into the Bible, one by force of contradiction and one by force of addition, do nothing to adorn the name of the scholar; but they do show, in view of his prodigious brilliance and helpfulness in so many fields, the need to go slow on 'ISMS'! Calvinism and the rest are, we remind ourselves (as in Repent or Perish 1), simply forbidden (I Cor. 3).

Finally, even if it seem repetitive after Predestination and Freewill and The Kingdom of Heaven 4, let us realise that the SYSTEM of the 5 points of Calvin is NOT involved in this error, improper or lax means of preserving it never having been required (as shown in the above references, together with SMR Appendix B). They, for their part,  are a splendid array, seen in the light of the Bible as diversely shown throughout this site.

How pure is the word of God (Psalm 12, 111, 119), which for its part, NEVER ERRS, and how marvellous is the Lord who NEVER FAILS, and whose word is NOT WREATHED, contrived or imprecise, but rather soars like a space craft, perfect in comprehension, diligent in disposition, incorruptible in content.

Alas! it is man not God who can be 'manifold' in this sense, of being inconsistent! The word of God, for His part, is pure, seven times refined, not prolix. That is what it says, and what one finds. It is perfect in grace and nobility, in consistency and in depth; it challenges, but not by obscurity; it hammers, but not with dull noise. It is a precise instrument, and it reveals a love of righteousness and of the unrighteous, each in his or her place, so that the end result gains what is to be gained, but the initial outlay is something very different, enormously expensive, wholly sacred, and foreknown in the wisdom of God, in all its outcomes.

Indeed, WHOM He foreknew, not in works but in reality (Romans 8:28ff., 9:11), He set about predestining! This is the logical sequence. THAT is the order which it says. Who is He ? He tells us that He is love (I John 4:7ff.), In Colossians 1:19ff., He shows it in that vast all universe expedition in the cross, sole competence for any sinner. What then ? It is NOT to be sure, that love is He; but that HE is love: for it is HE who gives to love its very definition, as to faithfulness, for in each there is no alloy (James 1:17, Deuteronomy 32:4).

"For it pleased that Father than in Him {Christ} all the fulness should dwell,
and by Him, to reconcile all things to Himself,
by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven,
having made peace through he blood of His cross..."

Yet it is HE who knows: "YOU have not chosen ME, but I have chosen you!" (John 15).

For the harmony and significance of these things in the beauty of the Lord's unique holiness, see The Kingdom of Heaven Ch.4, SMR Appendix B and SMR Ch.8, initial pages, and The Biblical Workman Ch. 8, End-note 2, Repent or Perish Ch.1, End-note 1, together with Predestination and Freewill. In the end, we are all relevant to God (He does not know nothings!), but our  'virtues' do not in this domain of salvation, register; and His will is the determinant, not forcing man by violence, nor yet indulging man as if his were autonomy. In the end, He is the sovereign and it is His will which is done; it is His will that those saved are thus saved, that He and He alone justifies by grace, through faith, on the basis of His redemption as sacrifice and His resurrection as authentic; but He is the loving sovereign whose will is that man, not some enticed substitute, might be saved.


EXCERPT 11

 

from

Anguish, Ecstasy and the Mastery of the Messiah

 

Ch. 9

 

 

 

The Grace of Love and the Love of Grace

 

 

 

Continuing Ch. 8

 

  III  TO THE ANSWER

 

Consideration of Love and Grace in Wesley's Emphasis
and something of Whitefield's Reply
to Illustrate the Power of Partisan Combat
and its Perilous Vanities
in the Relevant Arena of Predestination;

and of the Underlying Answer Available in Biblical Terms

 

 

Now in answer to your questions, we can hope for some perspective.

First, yes I do think that the God of Wesley is the God of the Bible, and that Wesley, just like Calvin, got some things wrong. As noted, I cannot DETERMINE the personal issue, since that is the prerogative of God; but as you ask me what I think, this is it. Just as Wesley had strange notions about the KEEPING POWER of God in this context, so Calvin had equally unscriptural notions about the exercise of LOVING POWER of God in the world context. Wesley, in his famous sermon on Free Grace, excoriates the view (supposedly of Whitefield since much trouble had arisen between these formerly close associates on the point) that you can  call it biblical love which has some persons in some mysterious way excluded by a direct divine fiat.

It is indeed Wesley who, on this love issue, has the pre-eminence in terms of closeness to scripture in its actual articulation. The implications are not as well handled, but the elemental fact is by comparison excellently treated.

Your rather dramatic double exclamation marks seem to indicate something other than a mere spirit of enquiry, and I shall bear this in mind. For some reason you seem to wish to relate the odd expression of Wesley on justification, to the love issue, with God. So be it. In any case, when this issue became a torrential engagement between Whitefield's people and Wesley's, there was a statement to remove on Wesley's behalf what he states he never meant. I am not here to consider the stylistic and revision aspects of Wesley, just his definitive statement.

Thus in the two-volume work on History of Methodism, by Abel Stevens LLD, we find on p. 416
of Volume I, that in 1771 a Declaration was made. Its affirmation is so far from what you cite that
it both shows the variability of expression in the ultra-practical Wesley and the impact on your query.

This Declaration of the Conference is listed as follows.

"Whereas the doctrinal points in the Minutes of a Conference held in London, August 7, 1770, have been understood to favour justification by works, now we, the Rev. John Wesley, and others assembled in Conference, do declare that we had no such meaning, and that we abhor the doctrine of justification by works as a most perilous and abominable doctrine. And as the said minutes are not sufficiently guarded in the way they are expressed, we hereby solemnly declare, in the sight of God, that we have no trust or confidence but in the alone merits of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, for justification or salvation, either in life, death or the day of judgment. And though none is a real Christian believer (and consequently cannot be saved ) who doth not good works when there is time and opportunity, yet our works have no part in meriting or purchasing our justification, from first to last, either in whole or in part."

Since firstly, this is a clarification; secondly, it is acknowledged that their earlier statement was not aptly rendered, a pleasant piece of due modesty which helps; thirdly, the notably erroneous doctrine in view is said to be ABHORRED; fourthly, they avow that it was not in the earlier instance at all intended; fifthly, they comprehensively dismantle aspects of the doctrine with some skill and care: we draw a conclusion.

Without seeking to adorn the world in consistency of expression, they at least seek to disavow what any lack in expression led to, and to assure us that such contrary things were not in the first or in the last their intention.

We perceive that in the way which has been common for thousands of years, Wesley and company were lacking in restraint in their earlier statement, apparently meant to be vehement in denouncing the sort of thing Isaiah denounces in Isaiah 1 and 29, and not to inveigh against salvation by grace, but against mock salvation. As to that, as is so roundly declared over and again in the Bible, it is horrendous to God; it is like mock turtle soup, not the same, not having the same flavour; indeed in the mock case, there is not then the same testimony of the power and grace of God following it, so that its lifeless corpse litters the spiritual vales of the earth. A dead faith is one without works, James asseverates

(cf. TMR 2, Section 2  -see other refs. there, esp. pp. 54ff., TMR 4, Allegory 7;
SMR Ch.7,
pp. 520-532; 
TBW Appendix on Faith, DD  5);

and what wrath it evokes we see as in Isaiah, so in Matthew 23.

We conclude, then, on the basis of your quotation, that you have or should have no problem with the position later made clear, and in seeing that the backdrop is now exposed, their intention being not least to shake up holy blamelessness which stops with words,  and does not affect the heart (which Wesley was forever stressing, just as the Bible makes such enormous emphasis on it as in the chapters of Isaiah noted and of  course in many such places). Wesley likewise stressed holiness which is no small thing, since as he cites, "without holiness, no man shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 12 :14). The thrust seems also to stress that any orange tree which thought fruit superfluous  does not have sap; that indeed 'Christians' whom love does not constrain to work for the Lord,  run the risk which Christ assigned to them in Matthew 7:17-22 in the sermon on the mount.

While all this helps us understand the motivation and thrust of Wesley, the words astray are corrected in the official and formal way of the Conference in any case.

Indeed, such a vagrant walk as led to some of Wesley's thrusts has long  stirred the saints in many milieux, and runs foul of what James means when he spoke in James 2:26 (treated in depth and detail in SMR in the reference above, and relating to the others just given). Inter alia: Whitefield was wanting people saved, to rejoice in the magnificent saving power of the God who is obligated to none, and freely confers grace which it is His to give, where He will, exultant in the confined premises of absolute certainty as His; and Wesley was wishing people to realise the awesome splendour of the grace and love of God which would stoop so low as to raise so high, and not to presume in artless acts of arrant sinfulness as if such astounding love and grace were trivial.

Since, although it is left rather elliptical, you appear to be asking us whether in view of the quotation you first give, we still consider Wesley to be a notable evangelist who had a primary thrust in the love of God, then it is easy indeed to answer. To condemn someone whose testimony of evangelism is perhaps broader than anyone else's in centuries, in terms of means then available, whose impact has been so much towards closeness to Christ in the heart, whose penetration to the poor has been phenomenal, whose financial contribution and sacrifice has been vast, whose testimony to justification by faith is so strong, as NOT being a notable evangelist whose primary thrust is the love of God: it would on this basis appear suicidal to intelligence. If such a slur on Wesley is desired - and it seems as if this may be the direction of your queries, though your letter lacks some clarity - then it assuredly is not to be gained relative to his emphasis either on Gospel or love of God, in this field in terms of your citation.

That is an easy one. It is just necessary to have some understanding of what he, like so many others, probably including the Calvinist pastor mentioned in the last letter, is trying to do.  In Wesley's case, the formal corrective being available, the fault is cleft from the man, who seems to be an issue with you.

At least Wesley condescended to make himself clear on a crucial point at issue, in the Declaration from the Conference just cited, which being a self-humbling, is of the nature of love. In strict accord with this most necessary clarification, indeed rectification, is Wesley's dedication to the free grace in free giving of himself in the service of it. Thus, on p. 523 of Vol. 1 of Abel Steven's History of Methodism, we read of his declaration, in answer to the question, "Have we a right view of our work ?"

His answer is given as follows:

"Perhaps not. It is not to take care of this or that society, or to preach so many times; but to save as many souls as we can; to bring as many sinners as we can to repentance,  and with all our power to build them up in that holiness without which they cannot see the Lord."

That would be consistent with his passion for the explosive release in the Gospel of the love of God.

 Again, on p.  557 of the same volume, we find his lament for American.

"What are these to watch over all that extensive country ? I mourn for poor America,  for the sheep scattered up and down therein - part of them have no shepherds at all, and the case of the rest is little better, for their shepherds pity them not."

To be sure, there is a need to have the church in order, but to have this incandescent desire to spread the flame of the Gospel is a primary duty of any Church, in whatever way God ordains, enables and directs. Wesley's bursting insistence on travelling internationally, intra-nationally, on horse, by vessel, on sending others, on organising lay preachers, suggests no small evangelistic zeal, and if this at times indeed outshone his systematics! (and it did, and that with some variability ...), yet for all his academic status, this was not his forte. Thus you hear him (Abel Stevens, op. cit. p. 198), declaring this, concerning his opponents, who would separate from him. He was concerned at this.

Why ? he asks. "If you say, 'Because you hold opinions which I cannot believe are true,
' I answer, Believe them true or false, I will not quarrel with you about any opinion.
Only see that your heart be right toward God, that you know and love the Lord Jesus Christ; that you love your neighbour, and walk as your Master walked, and  I desire no more.
I am sick of opinions, I am weary to hear them. My soul loathes this frothy food."

This gives some insight into the eruptiveness he seemed at times to show, even injudiciousness, quite apart from any actual error. Interestingly enough, without going nearly so far, yet even Andrew Murray*1 in The True Vine gives an impression of fruit as winning souls to the point that there seems also a certain inadequacy in the beauty of his ardour, for all its most winning and attractive aspects.

To be sure, the winning of holiness, which Wesley stressed,  so to speak, is not less important than the other aspects, such as the winning of souls; for if God is denied in words that are much marred in deeds, it is one default; but if His word is diluted by a failure to seek with entire passion to implement it, and in particular, in the winning of souls, then that too is a failure and a grand one. Some are called more to this than others; and of course evangelists are called especially to it (Ephesians 4:11); but it is not wise to dwell unduly on one's own call when outlining the call of Christ to ALL, in such a way as even verbally, to squeeze or squash other elements.

Thus Church order is not some dull topic, when it is seen as the cleansing of the household of faith for service, the purging of the temple; and the presentation of the temple of holy stones, of praise to God in real co-ordination and co-operation; just as the shining of holy character not only in action, but in attitude is a gleam of light divine also. Multi-faceted is the leading, the love and the work of the Lord, though it be one jewel which is Himself.

Sometimes even great men will enunciate at times things which are narrower than their normative doctrine; and such is the imperfection which, we all have to realise, is only too pleased to grab our sleeves.

In the case of Wesley, then, we even have this tendency to 'get on with it' and hence, however eloquent the giving grace of evangelical passion (and how he gave himself to this enveloping thrust concerning the love of God towards this world!), there was the danger of no matching measure in the mouthing of doctrine. This is far from suggesting that he lacked method, for some laud his methodical attention to detail, order and system; it is rather that passion could so outrun verbal discretion that he added to the impediment of his error, by the manner in which he sometimes expressed it.

We need however erect no statue to a perfection, found only in Christ, in order to recognise an evangelist whose words, though dimmed at times by error, were insistent on the power, the grace, the love and the mercy of God in free pardon for Christ's sake, and on the proper zeal in pursuing His life who is within; and who intended to act in accord with a love of that dimension, as far as he could.

In correcting error from the scripture, then, we need firstly to ensure it is not a casual breach; and secondly to ensure that we do not do so by following some sect or sectarian schism of another or possibly opposite kind in a sort of unglamorous clamorousness, and at worst, a calamitous clamorousness, a verbal parallel to feasting and gluttony: but use the word of God only; and at that, ALL of it!

Your second quotation is from my own work. Thank you. In fact, Wesley in the above quotation has already covered this point, so it is inapplicable. Was Wesley a fake, fraud ? Heaven  forbid, such a suggestion! Do you not study his disavowal in this field! It is perspicuously clear.

Now if you had instead asked me if Wesley could make some apparently extemporaneous and ill-considered formulations, I would have to answer differently. Even he admits as much! However, since this is not your question, it is not my answer.

 

In your last charge against Wesley, as it at least seems to be intended, you mention what many err in - including the Pulpit Commentary. Yes Wesley is erring concerning Hebrews, and in this case, it appears a continuing error in his work. He appears to esteem that the conditions of Hebrews 6 and 10 are applicable to the Christian, though Hebrews 6 at its ending, 18-20,  shows this not to be the case


(cf. Light of Dawn... Ch. 5, Divine Agenda Ch. 9,
Outrageous Outages,
Awesome Inputs and the Courage of Christ
Ch. 4)
.

It is possible to taste and to savour and to feel and not to know God, as in Matthew 13 and the case of the seed which indeed had a 'rejoicing for a season' experience (Matthew 13:20-21, Mark 4:16ff.). It is possible to be as near in formal proximity as Judas Iscariot and yet not to know God, and never to have known Him - even to have been, indeed, a thief all along, ostensibly a Christian, yet to be one who is a devil, into whom the devil comes in his disastrous assumption in the end. If then Wesley failed to see the implications of his error here, are we to decide that he is not an evangelist, is not an exponent of the love of God in a notable fashion ?

Before deciding this, read his sermon on Free Grace, and you will find such emphasis on the undeserved status of salvation, the enormous wonder of the love of Christ, such detestation of the idea of some limit, that it is impossible to declaim that he has botched this specific love issue as Calvin did. Instead, Wesley here failed in two measures: one, to apply it as the Bible does say in John 5:24, 6:50ff., and secondly, he failed to watch the exact texture of the language of Hebrews 6 and10, and to correlate this with Matthew 13; and hence added without due scriptural correlation, a doctrine about falling away strongly contrary to Hebrews 6, John 6,10, I Thessalonians 5:9-10, I John 3:9 with I John 5:11ff. and so on. (See Christian Assurance.)

Now you need to ask yourself a question. It is this.  Is any evangelist who fails to realise necessary perseverance - once saved by the salvation of the electing God, always saved - however much he may nevertheless at least STATE explicitly that he MEANS that there is NO VESTIGE of your own works in salvation in ANY respect, and with whatever correlative failure (as Calvin fails to realise the clearest scriptures on the scope of the love of God): is such a person to be deemed not to have a primary stress on the love of God ? Or is he to be dubbed a fraud or failure ?

What then ? Is a failure in systematic theology the same as that ? Is a failure to think through implications and to be resourceful enough to see an error, the same as that ? Is impassioned insistence and exhortation to recognise the wonder of the intensity and scope of the love of God in its consuming wonder and pardoning power, free grace and purging parameters the same as lacking a primary emphasis on that love ? or even lacking credibility as an evangelist ? or worse ? If so, then many great theologians will pass, on this or some allied point of doctrine that is on the difficult side, and you would stand to become their mentor or even judge; an undesirable result.

Direct  rebellion against the word of God is one thing; confused extremism such as Calvin and Wesley showed in some things, is another; and when it is in the arena where great passions pursue wonderful rays of divine light, but do not stop in the confines of that light, but rather exceed, as both of these did, each in his own way, then one has to reflect that it is well that God is judge of men; but for our own part, we seek merely to direct doctrine aright, and leave nothing amiss in that glorious testimony of truth which, only when groomed with fidelity to the word of God, has that perfect harmony, balance and grace which is in the original. As a Christian Apologist, often labouring in a sub-division of Theology, I  am peculiarly sensitive to this; but as a Christian, I have to be no less restrained in the light of Matthew 7:1ff.. What Peter calls self-control remains an imperative in the way of Christ (II Peter 1:6). 

In this respect, such errors are those which confront us here, are rather like car accidents; they mar the beauty of the car, but so long as the wheels and engine are left, they do not of necessity prevent motion in the desired direction. Thus the things of God are much better judged than the men of God; and in the latter case, daring rebellion of the most conspicuous kind, or subtle deviation, is not the same at all as controversy of this highly regrettable and unnecessary character such as has arisen in the realm of the Wesleyan and Calvinism clash.

It is not that it does not matter; it matters very much; but what matters no less is that it be resolved biblically, and the judgment of men in such cases left to the God of grace, who has the great advantage of knowing all.  If it does when no concession is made, possibly lead to separation, yet let us pre-empt the judgment of God. In this, the varying desires, words and desires of Wesley and Whitefield towards each other are an apt testimony, for how keenly they felt drawn to co-operate and to love, and how severely this clash crashed like giant breakers on the sides of the vessels of their lives, leading to no small rupture.

Ironically, Wesley's error in the interests of the REAL THING and not fraud or fake, is much the same as that of Calvin in his treatment of Romans 1, where he wishes to exclude from the love of God anything not really lively in righteousness. Each is seeking the same thing in this; both are wrong in one aspect of the way they do it; each has made an error which has afflicted Christendom, which in any case, in significant measure asked for the trouble it got when instead of thanking God for the contributions of each, it tended almost to make quasi-theological popes, and to  name and follow men in precisely the way forbidden by Paul in I Cor. 3.

Is this severity of result however entirely attributable as the fault of that magnificent thinker, Calvin, of that most earnest and practical Wesley ? (Calvin's gross error does not remove this designation, since although grave, it is unusual). By no means. It is not least the fault of foolish partisanship which afflicts both itself and the church. The fault is that of Calvin and Wesley of course in being inaccurate in the first instance, but the affliction has become all but an epidemic because of wrong attribution of place to individuals, to 'leaders', and that in the very face of scriptural prohibition of this very thing!

Is therefore Calvin, in losing the biblical depiction of the scope of the love of God, expressly, and  Wesley in failing to see the system of the thing, to be deleted ? You asked questions, so let me return some of my own. These I do not ask or leave in the air, but they are for consideration by all.

What then is our answer to this question ? I think not.

Should each have been more careful ? Calvin in super-systematics, Wesley in improper extensions of his practical passion into fields scripturally covered ? Of course.

Is a failure in due care, leading to a thing called an error the same as making a God of your own ? I think not. It is an expression of human weakness; and indeed, young man, is it not at least thinkable that you too will make, have made some ... error ? albeit unintentionally, as they did. Are you then also worshipping in the fragmental way you seem to suggest to be applicable  ?

I think and hope not. It seems then that making a God is not at all the same as making an error on a scriptural issue, when there is some depth involved. It is rather a failure to receive aptly all that God declares concerning Himself, in these cases, and this apparently in a way that was neither in innovative intention nor creative mode!

I believe Baptists make a staggering error too, but would not cut them from fellowship, nor for that matter, cease to challenge them; but everything in its place. (Cf. Questions and Answers 11, Ch. 6 above,  What is the Chaff to the Wheat!  Ch. 1, and see Index.)

When the Israelites make (Deuteronomy 32) gods of their own, new gods, do you really think that this was the work of comparable innocence, or unguided zeal ? or was it rather alienation quite expressly and a grossly and directly provocative, a joining intentionally with the calves of Egypt, or the asherahs of the Philistines ? I think therefore Paul in Romans 14 must be heeded,  and we should avoid a veritable binge in the direction of acting the censor. If any such thought is in mind, or motion in action, it must be subjected to this scrutiny, this biblical restraint.

Before we leave this point, it would be good to think on the positive aspect a little more.

 

bullet If Whitefield found that the marvel of his being rescued from the sin,
bullet which amply deserves eternal destruction,
bullet moves him to relish the concept of free, undeserved, distinguishing grace,
bullet not in its historical impact there for all;
 
bullet yet Wesley found the wonder of the love of God
bullet which is not in some aristocratic or divisive way limited
in its actuating force as if to select only the most lovely or attractive,
bullet so that it could and would penetrate whatever the barrier, in its own integumental magnificence,
bullet and man had only himself to blame,
 
bullet to be no less wonderful.

God FINDS in His own inimitable way, says one; God LOOKS in His own pervasive munificence, sys the other. Each had much to marvel at. In reality, there is no barrier to BOTH these emphases, since each is in the Bible, as in Colossians 1:19ff., I Timothy 2, on the one hand, and in Romans 9 and John 1 on the other, to mention but two of the vast array  related to these arenas, for each.

The love as we see in Predestination and Freewill and others of the references given in the first part of this letter, is just as broad as Wesley and John 3:16 with I Timothy 2 unequivocally declaim; and the mystery of the wonder of God's actual selection, having shown that love whether here or there, now or then, in predestination or application, so that He removes by His active transformation of the sinner in sovereign rescue, is just as practically selective, in that phase, as Whitefield feels and may cite from Romans 9 or John 6. It is the truncation effected upon the word of God in one or other aspect, instead of upon the philosophic trends which were pulsing past it, or lagging beneath it, which is needed. It is not the word of God but the word of man, however which needs the truncation.

In my work just cited, it was my aim first to find from scripture alone propositions and principles clearly asserted, without reference to desire or tradition; and then to show the wonder of the harmony, since it is demonstrably there. That in turn became an apologetic device, since nothing else in philosophy or theology can match this scriptural harmony, which is there because there is nothing self-contradictory in God, who does not deny Himself (Proverbs 8:8, II Timothy 2:13). The imagination of irresolvable problems in such matters is the product of tradition; it is contrary to the word of God, and it has been a privilege to demonstrate this very thing, to the glory of God and the verification of His word.

Now with reference to your question about psychic fragments and so on, which you cite, when people make their own gods, the remaining thing is to consider the context of that. Here it is.

Q. How can I know God?

A: First by believing in Him.

Q: Oh I have no trouble about that - the trouble is this: I tend to make my own. I find it cheaper in cigarettes too.

A: Any 'god' you make is a word, or possibly a psychic fragment, a mental spawn, dependent on you; except that it may be of interest to the fraud friends who love to invade human kind, not only in wars on earth but in wars for the life of man. The sheer, fermented LUST which man often finds within him, not sexual, that is small by comparison in some ways, but spiritual - to be, to find, to know, to direct, to have the vision, to implement it at the cost of a few tens of millions of lives if necessary, as with Hitler and Mao. He KNOWS all except this, that his knowledge, being self-derivative, is self-confined, and what is needed is knowledge unconfined to the culture, history, genetics and prejudice of the latest artisan of mankind.

This is the context from which you statedly drew.

Thus you see in the site from which you quote for some reason, that there is nothing remotely akin to involuntary clumsiness or confusion in view in this context, such as appears in the zealously scripturally inclined Calvin and Wesley. Rather and emphatically we find in this citation above,  a self-confining creation of pseudo-gods by man's own pseudo-divine pretensions. It does not really relate at all to the case in hand or the issue in view. Indeed, the citation from my works and the topic in view are so far apart that it becomes an interesting thought to see why any person would even try to  put them together.

Since both the principle you invoke, from my words, and the matter you cull, from Wesley, are far removed from each other, each sailing on a different sea, the question is doubly irrelevant. I do not mind your making such mistakes, provided you are in earnest! You may say you were only asking ... if so, then I am only replying; but  your exclamation marks and your flitting about to gain these varied words in their respective spheres, both suggest an element of design, as does the tendency to accumulate one idea with another and the type of drift of it all, which however lands nowhere. If then it is instructive to you, it is still well.

 

As to the love of God, Wesley was inveterate in his passion to proclaim it. It would seem fitting in answering the scope of your enquiry to show something of this.

Here is an extract from the sermon on Free Grace which he preached. To be sure, he seems as far from realising that the WAY of predestination INCLUDES the very LOVE of Christ which he so strenuously wishes to protect from intrusive erosion, for in this Christ pre-incarnate was present WITH that very love (Ephesians 1:4, Hebrews 13:8); and he is as aloof from seeing the presence of this love in predestination as Calvin is from doing so! Yet Wesley at least stresses its NATURE and REALITY, though he erroneously fails to discern the scriptural presentation of its presence unremitting in predestination, which removes all his criticism, though he does not realise this (cf. Predestination and Freewill and the references given in the preceding chapter). Calvin does not so stress; and while it is not an attempt to rate the one and the other, when it comes to the highly specific point of whether Wesley was a prime advocate of the love of God, it is simply a fact.

That he made a foozle in applying this to predestination is regrettable; we are not here to judge the man, but to determine his emphasis.

That Calvin made such an extravagant omission of the same love in the very attitude of God, this too is a foozle; but until we learn to humble ourselves and not to regard it as lèse-majesté when we err, in sincere confusion or tangential thought, we are too important. It is not so very surprising when we err; but it is imperative in the fear of God to seek to avoid it with all our hearts, avoiding partyings in theological clans, and seeking irenically, with stout words if necessary but happy and hopeful hearts, the resolution which we are assured is there.

And it is there, as I have found and if you wish, experimentally found and attested in many a volume. It is included in the list of references given in the first part of this letter; and it is found ONLY by following ALL the word of God, without equivocation or interruption.

Discounting then Wesley's errors in application, we still can see the dazzling passion to protect the love of God from minimisation, to expand it to its proper purlieus, its profound and scriptural dimensions. In this, then, he was indeed a prime mover. There are many prime movers; and the host of sincere and passionate lovers of the Lord must not be lost sight of, just because all do not write. When you read the History of Methodism as I have done, you must be struck with the passionate attribution of free grace of man, out of pure love, which stuns the recipients and brings amazement to their souls, that such grace and love could be. This is exemplified in the case of Charles Wesley*2, John's brother,  who expresses such thoughts in hymns such as Amazing Love - asking how can it be that You,  my God, should die for me!

When this is seen, then the clouds of unfitting words can be seen through, as when one peers through mist; just as the intensity of Calvin can be regarded before the aweful majesty of scriptural truth, which he too seeks to preserve, but in one point fails, seeking like Wesley to PROTECT: but in his case, it is to protect the sovereignty of God, as for Wesley it was the love of God.

Neither need have done so, or to have erred in their strenuosity. The scripture protects itself.

However, let us hear, for all their mistaken application, the words of Wesley, to see the imposing emphasis, which is the point which you raised.

   1. And "the same Lord over all is rich" in mercy "to all that call upon him:" (Romans 10:12) But you say, "No; he is such only to those for whom Christ died. And those are not all, but only a few, whom God hath chosen out of the world; for he died not for all, but only for those who were 'chosen in him before the foundation of the world.' " (Eph. 1:4) Flatly contrary to your interpretation of these scriptures, also, is the whole tenor of the New Testament; as are in particular those texts: -- "Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died," (Rom. 14:15) -- a clear proof that Christ died, not only for those that are saved, but also for them that perish: He is "the Saviour of the world;" (John 4:42) He is "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world;" (John 1:29) "He is the propitiation, not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world;" (1 John 2:2) "He," the living God, "is the Savior of all men;" (1 Timothy 4:10) "He gave himself a ransom for all;" (1 Tim. 2:6) "He tasted death for every man." (Heb. 2:9)

   2. If you ask, "Why then are not all men saved?" the whole law and the testimony answer, First, Not because of any decree of God; not because it is his pleasure they should die; for, "As I live," saith the Lord God, "I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth." (Ezek. 18:3, 32) Whatever be the cause of their perishing, it cannot be his will, if the oracles of God are true; for they declare, "He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance;" (2 Pet. 3:9) "He willeth that all men should be saved." And they, Secondly, declare what is the cause why all men are not saved, namely, that they will not be saved: So our Lord expressly, "Ye will not come unto me that ye may have life." (John 5:40) "The power of the Lord is present to heal" them, but they will not be healed. "They reject the counsel," the merciful counsel, "of God against themselves," as did their stiff-necked forefathers. And therefore are they without excuse; because God would save them, but they will not be saved: This is the condemnation, "How often would I have gathered you together, and ye would not!" (Matt. 23:37)


VII.

   Thus manifestly does this doctrine tend to overthrow the whole Christian Revelation, by making it contradict itself; by giving such an interpretation of some texts, as flatly contradicts all the other texts, and indeed the whole scope and tenor of Scripture; -- an abundant proof that it is not of God. But neither is this all: For, Seventhly, it is a doctrine full of blasphemy; of such blasphemy as I should dread to mention, but that the honour of our gracious God, and the cause of his truth, will not suffer me to be silent. In the cause of God, then, and from a sincere concern for the glory of his great name, I will mention a few of the horrible blasphemies contained in this horrible doctrine. But first, I must warn every one of you that hears, as ye will answer it at the great day, not to charge me (as some have done) with blaspheming, because I mention the blasphemy of others. And the more you are grieve with them that do thus blaspheme, see that ye "confirm your love towards them: the more, and that your heart's desire, and continual prayer to God, be, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do!"

   1. This premised, let it be observed, that this doctrine represents our blessed Lord, "Jesus Christ the righteous," "the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth," as an hypocrite, a deceiver of the people, a man void of common sincerity. For it cannot be denied, that he everywhere speaks as if he was willing that all men should be saved. Therefore, to say he was not willing that all men should be saved, is to represent him as a mere hypocrite and dissembler. It cannot be denied that the gracious words which came out of his mouth are full of invitations to all sinners. To say, then, he did not intend to save all sinners, is to represent him as a gross deceiver of the people. You cannot deny that he says, "Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden." If, then, you say he calls those that cannot come; those whom he knows to be unable to come; those whom he can make able to come, but will not; how is it possible to describe greater insincerity? You represent him as mocking his helpless creatures, by offering what he never intends to give. You describe him as saying one thing, and meaning another; as pretending the love which his had not. Him, in "whose mouth was no guile," you make full of deceit, void of common sincerity; -- then especially, when, drawing nigh the city, He wept over it, and said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, -- and ye would not;" EthelEsa -- kai ouk EthelEsate. Now, if you say, they would, but he would not, you represent him (which who could hear?) as weeping crocodiles' tears; weeping over the prey which himself had doomed to destruction!

   2. Such blasphemy this, as one would think might make the ears of a Christian to tingle! But there is yet more behind; for just as it honours the Son, so doth this doctrine honour the Father. It destroys all his attributes at once: It overturns both his justice, mercy, and truth; yea, it represents the most holy God as worse than the devil, as both more false, more cruel, and more unjust. More false; because the devil, liar as he is, hath never said, "He willeth all men to be saved:" More unjust; because the devil cannot, if he would, be guilty of such injustice as you ascribe to God, when you say that God condemned millions of souls to everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels, for continuing in sin, which, for want of that grace he will not give them, they cannot avoid: And more cruel; because that unhappy spirit "seeketh rest and findeth none;" so that his own restless misery is a kind of temptation to him to tempt others. But God resteth in his high and holy place; so that to suppose him, of his own mere motion, of his pure will and pleasure, happy as he is, to doom his creatures, whether they will or no, to endless misery, is to impute such cruelty to him as we cannot impute even to the great enemy of God and man. It is to represent the high God (he that hath ears to hear let him hear!) as more cruel, false, and unjust than the devil!

 

It is well, therefore, consider such of the things Wesley urged on the love of God; for in this field, he is most passionate and his concept of the scope of it, per se, is that of the Bible precisely as in John 3:16, Colossians 1:19ff., I Timothy 2, Luke 19:42ff., and so on; and hence he is rightly indeed thought of as one emphasising it. He did so in the teeth of strong and sophisticated opposition and in this, for all his manifest errors, he was something of a hero. For that matter, so was Samson, but alas, he made too many mistakes! Nor are these alone in that ...

Thus I would advise that instead of answering yes to any of your double exclamation mark atmospherics, I answer, no; but one continues to note that there were faults of another  kind, for all that,  shared not least by Calvin, with whose system, largely right, but critically wrong in one antecedent element, it shares the role of contributor with strength not surrounded by accuracy. It is the errors which should now be abandoned, just as those of Calvin should be abandoned. As to their persons, it is not necessary to mock them, or act as if to exclude them or take whatever similar action some may seem to find attractive; it is necessary to use scripture to correct the error, and heart to appreciate the contribution outside this element. This would be the general character of my response in surveying this field.

In fact, for my part, for the sake of Paul's command in I Corinthians 3,  and the love of God, I COULD not call myself a Calvinist, for it is misleading in spirit as well as in terms of his major error, so to do; and far less an Arminian, since this interferes heavily with dogmatics and systematics adequately derived from the Bible and the use of the term, derived from the leader's name,  likewise in the personal and forbidden field as enunciated by Paul.

Such terms should be put where Paul indicates,  OUT OF PLACE ALTOGETHER as labels for one's doctrine. Rather, with thankful hearts, we should continue to absorb what is provided, but to excel in this one thing in doctrine: following what is written before and above all that people whosoever they may be, write about it! That is the outcome of the matter; and it is also the income of it! This is the point I have made on ISSUES, not this and that person whether today or then; it is THIS which must be met and which is a commanding challenge; and understanding is the thing to be sought.

Thus we read in Proverbs 9:10-11:

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom:
and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.
For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of your life shall be increased.
If you be wise, you will be wise for thyself: but if  you scorn, you alone will bear it."

How much more often the first part of this quotation seems to be mentioned, than the second!

Indeed,  emphatically, I would respond that it is high time the churches ACTIVELY sought to be rid of this
I am of Apollos
rigmarole, which Paul equates with immaturity, this partisanship; it is time to think again carefully and avoiding sides, to return irenically to all the scripture. Both Calvin and Wesley in this have served the  church: that in the clangour from their opposing statements, sparks have come, and some have begun to think. There has been  at least  some tendency to avoid the provocative and often ultra-scriptural statements which the 'sides' have set up. If more of Arminianism is systematically wrong than of Calvinism, and if indeed Calvin's five points,  taken in a scriptural context,  are good, yet the pre-systematics of Calvin is especially lacking. Wesley having with some vigour (and with no small  attendant  error) shown this up: yes, he is indeed one who has emphasised the love of God.

Past  the anguish and the ecstasy of philosophy, religious enthusiasms and aborted séances, there is this simple fact that God so loved the world, that God would have all to repent and come to the knowledge of the truth, yes whether in heaven or on earth, He would have all reconciled. There is the majesty of beneficence, the mastery of munificence, the guilelessness of mastery and the advent of holiness, wholesome in its beauty, serene in its amplitude, knowing in its results, deprived of nothing but what is self-deprived, seeking nothing but to give, and in giving, to gain what is beautiful in spirit, made so freely by His grace. The emphasis on such things is evangelical in its outreach and a jewel bursting with light.

Failure to see further aspects as here, is like an interference pattern in the light; but God has blessed both emphases, and each has been attended with great outpourings of blessedness. The restoration of ALL the emphases, however, is most blessed, and as with all doctrines from the word of God, is to be sought with zeal.

Is it not wonderful that neither you nor I have to worry about the destinations of these liberal givers  to the Church; but just consider the issues they addressed and  as they sought to do, PROGRESS in the word, growing both in GRACE and in KNOWLEDGE as Peter indicates (II  Peter 3:18). Actually, it is entirely delightful to follow the word of God, once you get rid of the barracking phenomenon about parties. For one thing, it is then and only then that all mysteries stand solved, that are basic to man's thought, and light makes darkness flee. If in heaven, Christians will know as they are known, yet even now, the divine word has nothing writhing or twisted, crooked or unsusceptible to light, as it states (Proverbs 8). In fact, as it states, so one finds and so one writes to show it, and has written.