Love and Predestination:
It is as Stated and Not Another Thing!
We come now to consideration of the Biblical presentation of the love of the living God, with special focus on its nature as biblically revealed, so that the realities of its presentation may be seen in the perfection of the harmony of the whole, intact, unmolested, unconfined by man.
The love of God is inexhaustible, insurmountable, untruncatable! The devices of some to curtail it, with whatever good intentions, are illegitimate, and so far from solving any problems, merely distort both the issues and the text of the Bible, so producing confusion. The word of God needs no help from man, but speaks for itself. It is this fact that WHEN, and ONLY WHEN you treat it so, are all problems resolved, which is one of the cardinal attestations of its source! It is immutable not only in terms of the honour of not substituting our puny words for His, but in the sense that if you do, it is like a child playing with the internals of a Concorde aircraft, directing some crazy mechanic to make changes which appeal. Obviously, the thing would not and could not then fly!
For all details in any excerpt, please consult the original, if any
hyperlink here should happen to be inoperative, though this should be rather
exceptional. Here it is the thrust of the passage which is concerned; in the
original one may find the finesse aspects and broader context.
For all details in any excerpt, please consult the original, if any
hyperlink here should happen to be inoperative, though this should be rather
exceptional. Here it is the thrust of the passage which is concerned; in the
original one may find the finesse aspects and broader context.
In what way, if any, does will relate to salvation ?
Whilst considering these matters, it might be opportune now to ponder a point on will, initially considering an aspect as raised by Dr Clark in his Religion, Reason and Revelation. While this aspect is not essential to our treatment of predestination and freewill, in that a nexus of Scriptures establishes the criteria, and this is but one contributor: it is good to be thorough, and we will look at it now. It will then be used as an introduction, a more extensive treatment of the apologetics of will, in this work. Taking the words of Jesus in Matthew 23:37 (so often misused that it is most understandable they should be looked at again by Dr Clark in his work), he gives nevertheless a somewhat extreme view of them. The words are:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem you who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent unto you, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not!
This topic, primary in the predestination thesis, is yet relevant in apologetics, in that my PREDESTINATION AND FREEWILL exhibits that only in Scripture is there base for such a perfect harmony and comprehensibility - though we know only in part, the part is clear - relative to freedom and predestination. This is one of the many aspects of scripture which verify its divine origin. To this side of things, then, we will shortly turn; but in the meantime, our concern is with that phase of Scripture of which the above cited text is one representative. We will then consider the special function of will at this time, with initial reference to Matthew 23:37.
Dr Clark would urge that it is to
Yet does this device in fact avoid the relevance of the will in this scripture? We shall show that this is far from being the case. To be sure, Arminians might make the will not merely relevant to God but operable by unconverted man, in terms of conversion; they might well take this in a way grossly contrary to Romans 9:16 and similar words in scripture; but are we to go further and make this Scripture to be quite apart, even from reference to the will, in the focus of salvation ?
is the proposition. How does it fare ? First, let us note that the term "daughter"
This is the word which the Lord hath spoken
concerning him: The virgin, the daughter of
This personification is not difficult to comprehend. There
is no possible question that the next generation are in view; for here is a
strong, majestic woman tossing her dignified head in scorn at the rapacious
invader, summing up the city's courage and assurance, in so doing. The emotions
are very definitely adult in their setting and scope, and the base is
undoubtedly not sectional, but representative of
... of" is of course extremely common, and applies not only in the
- "Thus saith the Lord unto me, Go and stand in the
gate of the children of the people, by which the kings of
usage and its connotations are exceptionally widespread biblically. Thus the
use of the child concept for the city or people is further amplified in
Jeremiah, where it appears in the 'daughter' feature, itself suggestive of the
'derivative' nature of any generation likewise. We find this in such verses as ,31, 6:2,22, , 31:22, and the use of it for
Turn back, O virgin of
Be sure, in all this God is not addressing merely adolescent
delinquents, but His comments turn sharply to the pith of the race. Indeed, He
proceeds to tell this 'gadding about' daughter the famous prediction, "A
woman shall encompass a man" (Jeremiah 31:23). In 4:11, it is of
judgment to "this people and to
"This is your wickedness," He says, "because it is bitter, because it reaches to your heart" - Jeremiah .
Again, "How shall I pardon you for this ?Your children have forsaken me, and sworn by those who are not gods. When I had fed them to the full, then they committed adultery and assembled themselves by harlots' houses. They were like well-fed lusty stallions; every one neighed after his neighbour's wife"- Jeremiah 5:7. In all this there is a certain... adult quality! There is no even conceivable question to raise about the fact that the Jerusalem which is here being rebuked is the enduring place of many generations, like a mother (cf. Isaiah 66:8-9,12), a figure explicit in Isaiah, and that her current generation is deemed 'children', so becoming the recipients of the curse that comes.
To imagine a divergent figure when this is strong, frequent and normative, logically apt and definitively precise is as ludicrous an invasion of the word of God as is the effort to imagine some novel meaning for the 'children' of Matthew 23:37. Far then from being a case of comparing the word of God with the word of God precisely - it becomes even an abuse of the principle that the children shall not (literally) be held accountable for the sins of their parents (as defined in Ezekiel 18:20ff.), at some length. It is to this that the avoidance of the expression of the Lord is forced! and that, it is in double abuse of the privilege of interpretation. It is better to find what it means (Repent or Perish Ch.1), than dispense with what it says.
But now let us consider our next comparable item, contextual element in review.
"Return, you backsliding children," says the Lord in , "and I will heal your
backslidings." What preceded ? "A voice was heard on the
desolate heights, weeping and supplications of the children of
"My people", says the Lord in , "are foolish. They have not known me. They are silly children..." So the Lord defines the matter from His divine perspective, quite incisively. Thus, after specifying, again, "everyone" as being "given to covetousness", and that "everyone deals falsely", God says, giving the reason: "FOR they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly..." (-11). Is it on the head of sinning youth that God is putting the whole blame for the nation's ills ? Is the soul that sins not responsible, but only is it the young, for all this ? To ask, is to answer.
Ezekiel 18:3, as foreshadowed above, we find quite directly: "As
I live, saith the Lord God, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this
Now we must note this: "Ye shall not have occasion to use it any more." The case is Israel; hence if the view is, contrary to usage, that the children were in Israel being so treated because of their parents, it would be forbidden and that in God's name (cf. Ezekiel 18:2-5).
And that should suffice.
Another point may be mentioned purely for completeness. John Gill, whom Gordon Clark cites here, sought help from passages which cited 'fathers' as seniors and representatives - as in "fathers and brethren" forms of address; in distinction from usages referring to 'children' such as Matthew 12:27 and Isaiah 8:16 and 18. In the latter, there is a sense of discipleship or subjection. This usage does occur, where the context gives ground. Thus where an ecclesiastical assemblage is concerned, these being select and with authority endued, their title of reference relates to their then current function in Assembly. The other usage refers indeed to non-authoritarian role; and in this case, there is the implicit reference to Isaiah under whom they work. They resemble the "sons of the prophets" from the days of Elijah, who incidentally was not one of them. There is here the implicit relative authority.
In these cases, therefore, the context immediately interprets the reference: the men are met as in authority, and are as "fathers and brethren"; or the people concerned are learning or seen as under authority related to their situation specifically.
In the Matthew context as in the cognate cases so liberally shown in prophetic challenge, above, the opposite is true. Here, so far from having the seniors of the city distinctively addressed in their relative authority, by which to relate the 'children' contrast, Christ "spoke to the multitude, and to His disciples..." That is what the text says, and it would seem good to stay with it. It is written for our instruction; so let us be instructed. The apostrophe is directed, in theme, at certain persons; it is spoken, in time, to "the multitude and to His disciples" ... Matthew 23:1. The people as a whole are in view. And in such case, we have seen the normal usage of referring to them as the "children of..." a city, a nation, a progenitor. This is that. It is the one context and not the other. Indeed, the scope and perspective is even as wide as "this generation" (v.36) which of course is the force of "the children of..." in a very obvious way.
And where again could be even duplicated this reference to the "children of..." a city, with the meaning of 'a section of them', in an address to a stated 'multitude' ? The Isaiah case is one in which the contradistinct is perfectly apparent and direct: "Bind up the testimony; seal the law among my disciples..." It goes on: "And I will wait upon the Lord..." The distinctive character of the 'children' leaves no doubt as to the designation; we are not left wondering if this is a national reference as evidenced hundreds of times elsewhere in the Old Testament. The internal correlation of 'parent' and children is indeed express in the circumscribed context. The same is clear in Matthew 12:27, where Christ is definably addressing fathers relative to their children. Such a case is not therefore contextually relevant.
These references therefore are not pertinent, for they are distinctive two-tier cases of old and young, or senior and junior; as surely we may refer to the junior or the younger as sons without any ambiguity in such a context, where the express designation is made clear. The usage is however the same; where there is not this differentiation shown, the normal usage remains that personification with all the rich and multitudinous historical overtones and cases, of those who inhabited the place or constituted the race.
We are of course familiar with the more distantly genealogical phrase "children of Abraham" from John 8:39 in Christ's usage of it; and indeed this is most instructive in terms of usage, for it shows the strong implicit flavour which can come with this phrase:
If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham.
The term then can signify a correlation of quality, a
parallel of character, a descent of reality and not mere appearance. There is a
close correlation with the object of reference in "children of..."
So was it in the case where a city is named, as shown in Isaiah.
Here is a double grounding of the term: it relates on the
one hand to
The usage of Matthew 23:37 therefore is not some unusual or strange or uncommon or unique reference; it is wholly submerged in the general, the particular, interpreted and re-interpreted phraseology of God's book. There being here, therefore, no contextual ground for considering there is a variance from common usage, we take the phrase as subsisting in the Biblical usage. To do otherwise in such a context of total destruction for the city, is to ignore the idiom of the language.
however that we ignored this usage and the requirements of the context. Let us
suppose that Christ in fact was telling
It would mean that Jesus had a longing to select out the children from the wilful ruin of their parents but could not manage it (strange for the omnipotent). It would be a baulked moral issue,not a loving longing. Therefore, since the parents would not desist from their evils, He would personally superintend the destruction of the children in view of the sins of the parents. There was He, in the midst of a covenant people, looking helplessly at their children, positively wanting to remove these 'innocent,' or pleasant chicks from their wayward seniors, but in vain did He wish it; instead He would secure their destruction instead of their deliverance from those woeful parents (cf. John 5:19).
Further: it would fare worse. Christ would have wished to take these little ones, and would have failed; and His problem was that the parents would not. Their specified adverse will stopped Him from delivering their children. It is not the children's wills which are mentioned in the relevant delineation of the picture in terms of entreaty, desire and destruction. It is the parents' wills; the parents of these covenant children. Their sin did it. And yet in Ezekiel ff. we see that God is against the view that the son who has done well will inherit the judgment of his father. Indeed, in 18:2-3 we are forbidden the view:
What mean ye, that ye use this proverb
No incertitude attaches to the point.
we return to the actual text. Jesus speaks to the multitudes and to His
disciples. He gives advice in Matthew 23:1-12 intimately. He continues, having
spoken of the scribes and Pharisees to them, to apostrophise these... vv.
13-35. In v.36 he interdicts
the generation before Him, having spoken immediately before of preceding
Thus the stated audience is 'the whole multitude' and His disciples. God has spoken. The area to be destroyed is the total city. The body specifically designated is the generation, which implies the current inhabitants, conceived in their lineage. The body who refuses is in this context of wholeness, the whole; and in this context of a generation relative to preceding ones, it is the whole one; and in this context of a generation, it is the contemporary one the children of their day, the city of His time.
No other interpretation does justice to the stated audience; the stated generation; the stated destruction; and no other interpretation avoids clash with the stated principles of the word of God; or does justice to the sovereign omnipotence of that God who, if the children would have been willing, would have indeed saved them: for He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and would have all men come to a knowledge of the truth (Ezekiel 33:11; II Timothy 2:3-5). He does not lack power at all, to implement His stated principles! "Is anything too hard for the Lord!" (Genesis 18:14).
parallel in Luke is also instructive. In Luke we see that
In terms of a city, without more ado, the term 'children of...' is the populace; and in terms of guilt and devastation the thought of omitting some, when we are caused to see the very stones fall, would be to localise the impact, to limit the result in obvious mockery of the intent of the text (Luke 19:44). Moreover, there we face a structure and its children, with the structure yet personified: there can be no doubt the person's children are the people. To state otherwise is to limit the unlimited designation of the word of God. This does not delimit a section of the populace; it designates city contents.
to Matthew 23:37 we find that a similar consideration applies.
in Isaiah 66, we read: "As one whom his mother comforts, so will I
comfort you, and you shall be comforted in
Similarly, in Isaiah 66:10-12, we see a Jerusalem which is mother - we say still a mother city - which gives her breasts of consolation to "all ye that love her," for these terms interrelate. She will dandle them upon her knees. Though the figure requires the use of children in order to maintain the consistency of the metaphorical system, there is no possible thought of the dandled ones being of some preferable age group. The people who are to love her are those whom she comforts - this usage is also repetitive in Hosea 2:1-5.
Just so, away from the special air of controversy which predestination and the will so often engenders, we can return and see afresh that the personified Jerusalem of Matthew 23:37 will have children who are the correlate of herself as mother; and these are those whom she succours, and those are her inhabitants... set apart for destruction in the historical sweep of generations, leading to this one: the children of the day set before past times (cf. Matthew 23:34-36, in the same chapter, immediately prior).
We can of course sympathise with the desire to avoid this text with its contextually, figuratively, and pervasively clear implication; the Lord having spoken again and again in His word to cover the case. There is a feeling that this gives men the power to overcome the will of God. But it is not so. The willingness of God is not the will of God... as seen so often, and for example in II Chronicles 36:15-17. Here He had compassion both deep and prolonged on the people to such effect that He sent numerous messengers; with the result that an irremediable wrath arose. The same consideration is manifested repetitively in Psalm 106, where compassions abound, until their recipients are so provocative that wrath intrudes. The willingness is wonderful; the mercy is profound; but in time, there is another end.
now the reference had been: 'O part of
This conceivably might have been written, were it not for the inferential and noted collision with the express provisions of the word of God in terms of principle (Ezekiel 18). The point which attracts one's attention, however, is simple. It is not written.
the other hand, the usage of "
Her children, as so dramatically evident in Isaiah 66:7- 8, are simply the contemporary generation of the parent city. They may be "brought forth" (Isaiah 66:8) from the womb (v. 19), but they are thus residents in the presence of the old city. We are then not talking of a children's crusade but of a city which has had a habit - a bad one - of killing prophets (Matthew 23:37; cf. Matthew 23:28-33). They are a generation (-33) and so children of the city which was of such enduring history: on them as a 'GENERATION' was this wrath to come. Her citizens, the children of the day, were desired, unwilling and sovereignly rejected. This was done in irresolvable repudiation, always foreknown, long foretold, specifically predestinated by the God who was before time, and who at this time was investing history with Himself.
Here reference should be made to Jeremiah 51:9 and 29, concerning Babylon - the "would have healed" and the "every purpose will be performed"; Jeremiah 31:20 - the compunction and compassion amidst judgment; Isaiah 7 - the offer of sublime aid and performance and the result of its rejection: a happening that would not help the hapless king, just now so endued with hope; Hosea 7:1 - the "would have healed" in a condemnatory setting, once again.
then ? In Matthew 23, we find the divine eye on
The tenor of the Matthew 23 passage is closely allied to that in Proverbs 1:20-33, where there is seen wisdom calling to the 'simple ones': "Turn at my reproof; surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand, and no one regarded, Because you disdained all my counsel, And would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity ..."
Just as in Matthew 23, here is the pathos, the appeal, the rejection, the scorn and contempt, the rebuttal, the result. The divine willingness is here once again exhibited in action and in particular, and not in general principles alone, and this in a manner both practical and fundamental.
While, as stated, detailed treatment of this topic appears in Predestination and Freewill it might be convenient to add some little treatment here on the point (cf. pp. 489 ff., 515 ff., 723 ff., 861-868, 1040, 1059-1060 supra; 1205-1206 infra).
Thus the attitude of God is clearly shown in Ezekiel 33:11, Colossians 1:19ff. and I Timothy 2:3-5 for example. As John Murray has declaimed, in the first of these, we have divine asseveration, negation, affirmation, and we have protestation. The depth - "As I live"; the negation - "no pleasure in the death of the wicked"; the affirmation - but that the wicked should turn and live; the exhortation - "turn ye"; the protestation - "for why will ye die ?" This is clear. The people concerned are "the wicked". If they do not turn, then they will be cast out like any other wicked, and their non-elect souls will, like those of any other non-elect, languish in exclusion from the deity. The judicial turning of Paul to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46, cf. 1 John 2:1-2), like the sending of Jonah to Nineveh, makes clear the love of God and the applicability of His one Gospel to any and to all.
Let us turn now to the Timothy passage noted.
In the Timothy passage, we are brought into generalities in sweeping style. There are thoughts of "all men" in v.1 preceding; and for those in authority we are exhorted to make prayer. The reason relates to the authority over all - "for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour".
In v.4 we are given an indication concerning this final authority and His attitude. He has given tangible expression to His mind, and made suitable provisions for its intent (v.5). Never can it justly be construed, after reading this, that the Father is somewhat reticent in the disposition of His love and His practicality of implementation. Never again could we justly say: Well, the Father actually has no heart, as far as salvation is concerned, except for that of a few: there is a limit at that level so to speak. His attitude, His actuating attitude is restrictive, might it be urged ? and His result is restrictive, and the latter results from the former. Not this! for the exact opposite is here explicitly taught.
No, not at all: for the explicit areas of God and mankind are those to which we are directed to look, as we learn that God "would have all men to be saved". A restrictive exegesis of this passage therefore would ignore the very declaration made, would negate it... Perhaps such a distortion might seem in the interest of avoiding what is (wrongly) imagined to be an unacceptable implication - that God would in that case want something, indeed decide upon it, and then be frustrated. Such a result would indeed be incredible (and in fact reminds one of the results of the erroneous interpretation of Matthew which we had occasion to dismiss). It would be incredible, for example, in the light of His sovereign power (e.g. Ephesians ); but as shown at length in the above cited work, this is an erroneous implication. It does not follow. We must ADHERE TO THE TEXT and refine our logic; NOT DIVERGE from the text following AUTONOMOUS LOGIC not disposed to face the facts.
Indeed, we read in I Timothy 6:9 of the fact of perdition, damnation. We read in I Timothy 2:1 ff. of the mind of God, of the attitude if you will, of the way His face is set: God is He "who would have all men to be saved". Now the Greek verb rendered "would have" (I Timothy 2:4) is associated with an infinitive and the sense of 'purpose' or 'movement towards' is conveyed. This conceptually is entirely similar to the declaration in Ezekiel 33:11, and with the insight given in Jeremiah 18:7-9. Since, then, God makes it clear He works all things after the counsel of His will; has such thoughts, desires and attitudes, yet makes such resolutions and carries them out - it is apparent that we must be learners of the divine ways, not teachers. We must follow what is written sensitively through its elements, neither adding nor subtracting. When our minds meet the word of God, that is the only way...
As to the Greek verb mentioned, see PREDESTINATION AND FREEWILL,p. 47- here we noted that an unfulfilled type of attitude relative to action may be used in correlation with this construction. We may refer then to God's actuating attitude as distinct from His sovereign decision - as in Jeremiah 18, indeed. An attitudinal and dispositional fact is one thing; the eventual resolution is another, in which all one's desire and heart is fulfilled. The matter then is not new. Thus this attitude does indeed, as stated in I Timothy 2:4, relate to all men.
And if this were insufficient, the next verse (I Timothy 2:5) proceeds to indicate that in just accord with this amplitude of attitude and love toward men, there is an ample provision made. (It is as if a father indicated in his will that for all his sons, by his attitudinal relation, it was his wish that they go to University; and he supplied funds which could be taken for the purpose - only this one: but they could refuse - John 3:17-19.)
While however we must stress this amplitude of vital love, we must avoid an error opposite to that of restricting, contrary to His word, the dimension of His love. Thus we must not imagine that the redemption secured is as broad as the love shown. Some contort the love to a sort of class-conscious thing, related by contradiction to that God who is love, and says so: and to that world which He states He loved - and this is most important - "SO loved" (John 3:16). He so loved that He gave the Redeemer.
Others want to use purely human logic, and that without necessity, to embrace redemption for all - an equally unscriptural concept - in order to refute those who reduce the dimensions of the love. It is like children at a party, with their effervescent games. By failing to differentiate even to the extent of the difference between actuating love and effectuating love, they extend the first to make it the second, thus instituting an erroneous universal redemption. This is then used as a reduction ad absurdum to 'refute' the Biblically stated dimension of the vital love of God. Alas, it all appears childish, wildish clangour, as if to bump the arm of the word of God, in thoughtless exuberance, one way or the other: impatient or intolerant of what is written - ALL of it being binding.
We must protest. Let us consider, as such thinkers rightly show, first how clear a limited redemption in fact is. Thus in John 10, the Good Shepherd Himself signified that there was a variety of sheep that were not His - John 10:26. Now He did have other sheep not of that particular fold, such no doubt as Gentiles. But in addition there is a third category: those who are not His sheep. Indeed, Christ stated categorically that they did not believe because they were not His. These then are outside His protection and the due care of His calling, and hence also outside that supreme cost of His protection - the laying down of His life.
This vitally interesting point is in perfect accord with Romans ff. which as John Murray (Redemption Accomplished and Applied) well shows, requires a limited atonement, a limited redemption. Those for whom He is delivered up are those to whom the Father will give, with Christ, all things. This is not the lot of the unsaved!; and as to the saved, the justified, Paul asserts they will be glorified (Romans ). This 'us' in 'us all', consists of those who will by no means be separated from the love of Christ either by things present or by things to come. Yet those who gnash in outer darkness are distinctively, emphatically and irremediably separated. That is a thing to come. Thus these groups not merely differ: they are opposites in destiny.
Indeed, in Romans 8:33, the same group for whom Christ is delivered up - the saints to whom Paul states he is speaking and who will not at all be separated from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39) - are "the elect".
He lays down His life for His sheep, and these are limited, contra-distinct. He freely gives them all things. In the heart of the Shepherd is this knowledge: perhaps the last thing He would be ignorant of is - who are His! This settled, these require His utmost endeavours in intimate shepherd-sheep correlation even to the point of the sacrifice of His life for them (John -15,25-30).
Accordingly for His, those whose sins He bore (Romans ff.) there is justification (cf. Isaiah 53:10). The slaying of the wilderness creatures of sin requires His life; and what He covers is His. Being His, it is not only redeemed but justified, declared fit by virtue of the price He paid to secure them. "He shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities." The bearing is a sufficient condition for the justifying. What God covers is adequately covered, and what He does is effectual, as Romans so loudly trumpets, as we have just seen. Indeed, the clear teaching of John 10 is that He redeems it because it is His ().
Thus we avoid both the diminution of the love of God which Spurgeon sees in terms of caricature (infra) and the extension of the redemption of God to those to whom it is not given. Love in its breadth is satisfied - but it is real, within its own terms; and redemption is accomplished within what is fulfilled; and all is predestinated in genuineness and reality, and not at all in some imaginary short-circuit of the character of Christ or of the Father as shown in the numerous statements of principle (cf. Predestination and Freewill, pp. 160-9).
Now let us ponder further the categories in I Timothy 2. These are vast and total: God and man; God and rulers. The provision side of it is startling in the majestic totality of its compass: "There is one God, and one mediator between God and man, and the man Jesus Christ." It would not be possible to be more total in canvas, to establish with more certainty the dimensions of one's speech. It is stark, it is summary, it is overall.
It is clear the condemnation does not inexorably proceed for the many because of a limited actuating love in the Father, or a sacrifice incompetent to provide, were it needed. This is over and again, scripturally flatly contradicted, as we have shown and shall show. Such a proposition is no less at variance with scripture than is, for example, the errant view that man simply chooses God (versus Romans 9:22, where the decisive, divine will is conjoined with a what if - Romans 9:16, 22 - and John 15:16 with 10:26, where the will to disbelieve depends on their not being His sheep). The tradition that 'sovereignty' must be affirmed, whatever may be said for any other scripture or any other transcript of its mode of working, is in vast danger of being one more, as it were, tradition of the Pharisees, and the opposite, one more of the Sadducees.
Scripture must not be used (abused) to back up some philosophy, but to create the concepts of thought. Then and then only will harmonious developments occur, though not always without endeavour ... (Proverbs 25:2 - this is not to say the doctrine is to be created, but that it is, though present, to be found).
The atonement is limited, but not by actuating love; the selection is sovereignly made, but not without the love that God IS, not with chilling exclusivism at the attitudinal level. Rather is it limited with fiat finality at the operative level, the heart of the Father having fulfilled every love in accord with the many cited scriptures, whether to the 'covenant people' or not; both categories are citable and cited. The scope of the atonement is sufficient for all; the impact of the atonement is just as clearly on those for whom it is, in God's most loving purity, intended. God does not disregard the 'orphans' whom He does not select; His selection is not a 'sovereignty' over Him, which temporarily took over heaven in the predestinative action (or analytically did so, if you prefer non-time envisagement as a better conceptual field).
The sovereigntyISthat of a gracious person who is love. The predestination acts in its reality. Everything acts in this reality. God is what He is and not what some theologians appear to 'make' Him, however inadvertently.
It is clear a man must answer for his own sin, then (John ). The condemnation, after all is in terms of a preference not for light. It is not because of sin, as John 15:22-24 shows, but rejection of Christ. To this we shall return. Now of what is John 1 speaking ? would not one gain rather the impression that it is of Christ, of Him who came as light, though He had never been fully absent (John l:9-10); who was incarnated, though Himself the eternal word; who 'declared' His Father (), though none could 'see' Him! Is it not in fact a declaration that the true light became flesh, that receiving Him is receiving God, that here is the personal declaration of God in human form, reality ambulant
Is this not, as John tells us, the One who came down from Heaven, the singular demonstration of the Father? is this not the One who, in terms of God's great love for the world, has come so that believers should not perish? is this not He who did not, emphatically not come for the purpose of condemnation (that will come soon enough) - , but that believers might be His indeed, to quote Him, "that the world through Him might be saved"!
Then, in John 3:19, the condemnation is in this context. If this does not establish a context, nothing could; the other attitudinal scriptures at which we have looked and will look and could look, put the point past doubt in any case. What then is the ground of condemnation in this Christ and in relation to Him; for this is the One to whom authority is given (5:27) and who brings to the knowledge of the Father, those whom He wills (Matthew 11:27). It is informed preference against this Christ. He has come; and to deny Him is to deny all (cf. John ). In the very discourse that "he who does not believe (in Him) is condemned already" we read: "this is the condemnation". This ? Yes and more. It is in the context of a reason being given in both verses and given in terms of condemnation. In verse 18, the reason is that the person did not believe in Christ, and in verse 19, it is that light has come and darkness is preferred.
In other words, sin occurs with a breach of the law, any breach, however small. But the question is put in rather different terms: what brings condign condemnation at this level ? After all, the Saviour is talking. He came, as we are told, to save rather than to condemn. We are told it in this very place. What in His face, in the face of His love and presence and coming will bring, despite this vast expenditure and availability and expression, what WILL then bring condemnation ? It is like saying: The mechanic is here. What will make your car useless now! An explosion ?
Disbelief qualifies for condemnation. Why ? Verse 19 tells us: This Christ, this light who is in focus and on whom the whole book has been dwelling in terms of His person, mission and salvatory function, has come. He is the quintessence and fulness of light, and now condemnation, irrevocable condemnation, damnation depends on the failure to receive Him! He, the light, has come in express form and is expressly rejected. What more could be done or said, than has been done and said! Hence damnation ensues in the very presence of that One who is God, who is love (cf. Revelation -19).
It is, then, as we have noted, clear that a man must answer for his own sin (John ), and that this answer, if negative, is despite (and not because of) the loving actuating attitude in God. As Spurgeon well propounds it, in his address on Romans 9 in The Treasury of the Bible, to affirm any such abortion or shortage or non-operation, indeed exclusion, as if of 'grace', as if God were - we might paraphrase - short-circuited in love or grace: this a 'hideous caricature' of the love of God. It would also be in collision with the scriptures to which we are, in so many instances, referring.
(It might here be noted, for any interested for any reason, that the relation of some of these matters to various past theologians is shown at some length, in Predestination and Freewill, op.cit., though the Bible is and must be in the end the sole source for exposition.)
Colossians 1:19-21 in turn makes it clear what pleased the Father... that having made peace through the blood of the Cross, Christ might re-concile all things - rather that He, the Father, through Christ might reconcile all things. Which 'all' ? "Things in earth or in heaven", comes the expansive and specifying answer.
There again is the scope - God and man; divine attitude and the entire universe are in view. To read into this statement limitations is, of course, in the deepest and simplest sense of the word, to add to Scripture. Nay it is to contradict it. It would be like, for example, saying that 'God works all things after the counsel of His own will... (add) that is, all classes of things!' It would be an appalling insertion, intrusion and presumption. Nor can it be done here in these celestial-terrestrial categories. If one could do that, why one could virtually write one's own theology, merely using God as a taking-off point. The Liberals for long did just that. Re-writing in the name of God, however, lacks a certain realism ... one might also say, humility!
Yet such things are not unknown.
Let us then return to Colossians 1:19-21. Such total coverage of the field could not be indicated more clearly. As in I Timothy 2, it comes into the two categories without limitation, qualification or moderation. There - God, here - man.
So far, then, from the context relieving us of its force of this assertion, it amplifies it; in eloquence it underlines it. There is systematic correlation between what pleases the Father, what He would like, and what He did.
Underlines ? In this also: that there is even the repetition of emphasis. Thus we have, "By Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven." Again, there is "all" first, and then in the compass of the terrestrial-celestial cover, "things on earth or... in heaven". It even stresses further the categories: "whether things on earth or things in heaven". There is no distancing; there is intimacy. There is rapprochement that spills over. There is the emphatic emphasised. The thought of limitation is swept away and scope is amplified. What is repeated is the sense of universality: not of salvation but of scope for salvation. There is the Father's willingness, here literally, His good pleasure.
Further, not only did it please the Father that ALL THINGS should be reconciled to Him, but it pleased Him in a context of His choosing to correlate this, as it were, to put it in connective tissue with the fact that it also pleasedHim to have "ALL FULNESS... dwell" in Christ. (See Appendix D - He inspired the scripture.)
Just as surely as Christ incorporates the reality of deity, all fulness dwells in Him, so comes the rejoinder: reconcile all things. The 'all' is tied into a totality so qualitatively illimitable, irrepressible and wonderful, that it would represent an abortion bordering on blasphemy to try to limit the one in the face of the other. Further it would, as we have already noted, introduce an additive element into scripture, one that is not written, not there. Proverbs 30:6 would not advise this!
In the face of all this, and in the context also, man is held responsible. His negative response to God's overtures is continually cited, indicted and reviewed in Scripture (cf. II Chronicles 36:15-16). It is in fact one characteristic of Scripture, found in both Testaments with marvellous appeal and attitudinal reality, sincerity and involvement. Without this, scripture would be a different book, and God a different God.
Man is truly and meaningfully responsible, not only for his sin, but for his refusal (John 3:19, Proverbs 1:20-27, John 15:21- 23); and this refusal is in the face of the divine attitude, as expressed so forcibly in Ezekiel 33:11, 1 Timothy 2:1-7, I John 2:2, in which last case the availability - attitudinally - of the atonement is as clearly universal as in the cases cited above; though its limitation likewise is elsewhere exceedingly clear, in terms of actual sin-bearing.
It is not a matter of man's will being corrupt and so therefore irrelevant; it is a matter of God being able to operate in sickness or in health, in death or in life. He is not limited (Isaiah 43:13, Psalm 115:3). Let the will be dead, yes let it (to follow the Lazarus analogy) 'stink' if you will; let the understanding be alienated yet it is no barrier to Him.
Biblical predestination is far more and quite other than any matter of being impressed with future works (Romans 9), as a ground or consideration or future faith (Ephesians 2:8-9): it is Biblically a matter of the Lord knowing who are His own (I Timothy 2:19). As to the whole operation of being saved by faith through grace (the neuter is used for the word "that" in Ephesians 2:8, making the coverage one of the whole system cited), what does it say ? This salvation-by-faith-through-grace: It is not of ourselves, God's word declares. It is the gift of God.
It is then not these futures on which it depends; it is a matter of knowing who are His. Since man is a willing being, in the image of God, and since he is accountable for doing despite to God's willing offers (Psalm 106:7, II Chronicles 36:15-16, Psalm 95:6-11, Jeremiah 51:9, Hosea 7:1, 1 Timothy 2:4, Acts 7:51-53), man's will is indicatable not in some solemn farce, presupposing no genuineness on the part of the Almighty, not in denying the actuality of this height of love, the love which God is (I John 4:14).
It is indicatable because even when Christ came and did the works (John ) and spoke the words no other had spoken (John ), despite His power and love and indeed, His personal incarnation, commitment and His presence, they still did not respond. They could not ? True. But He, saving them, could make them able, regenerating without the denial of the reality of freedom, without subverting man's image-bearing reality which He had Himself made, as He says; and had seen fit to dower to man... Though now, for many sins it had become inoperative at this level, being so sick and so corrupt, yet the will of man did not bewilder Him! He could work His works of salvation both with restraint and with reality, neither abusing love in this thing, into violence, nor abating force into tepidity.
God can make them able in His so first choosing (predestinating: logical order) to save some in His love and in so regenerating them (chronological order: it comes in the end) that He deals with men's freedom. He deals with it as defunct, but not departed; as structurally present, as it were, with the divine image yet imprinted. Though functionally disqualified, being abused, it is not beyond His operation; and in this He is alone, the sole operative, and for this reason. In Christ, God secures those who are His own just where, when and how it pleases Him.
He could well take account of what He knew ("whom He 'FOREKNEW', He predestinated," says Paul in Romans ), yes knew, though neither they nor their wills were valid enough for men to understand, let alone to operate at such levels. Does not David in Psalm 139 make this overarching power of God entirely clear (cf. p. 426 supra)!
Will men, whether in the interest of a quasi-orthodoxy little better than mere traditionalism, or an open radicalism, then limit the Holy One and add to both scripture and structure as defined in scripture ? What does David say, attesting God's power (but does one need to stress this ?)...
Indeed the darkness shall not hide from Thee... darkness and light are both alike to Thee (Psalm 139:12).
Small wonder such knowledge is étoo wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain to it,é Psalm 139:6. When God tells us these relevant doctrines on will and wonder, we must be ready to see how such things could be, without presuming to declare any composition of doctrines beyond what they are; and so marvel at the unique CONSISTENCY of God's word in this area of freedom, responsibility and predestination. Indeed then we can do so without presuming to narrow them to the scope of our own intellects, demanding in neo-scholastic fear what in fact contradicts the clear statements of scripture, or on the other hand, to expand them, with flamboyant Arminian contradiction. This joint approach is taken here. Thus we may also fulfil 1 Peter 3:15.
As to God's thoughts for the one whose very body was programmed 'in secret' David says of these divinely caring creative contemplations:
How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand.
Again, If I make my bed in hell, Thou art there.
David is a believer ? Assuredly, but God is not limited by our conceptions or consciousness and knows us thoroughly. If we gained what we deserve, we would all be in hell, for there is no imperfection in heaven, but rather the spirits of the just, made perfect (Hebrews 12:23). Yet God is able to foreknow whom He predestinates (Romans ). In love, He is able to predestinate.
That is what He has done, without any conferment of merit either direct or indirect... by no means choosing those with an inherent X-factor of God-acceptability, the prefects of spirituality! a hideous factor which can so readily inferentially creep in, when the fact that God set His IMAGE in man is forgotten, and man is treated as if lacking that inheritance absolutely. (Cf. Romans 3:22-24, 4:25, 7:18-24 ... Indeed, observe that for body, Christ took that image of man, and in it, as God, proclaimed that truth in Person - as in Matthew 23:37 cf. Luke 19:42-45, John 15:22-24 - just as here in Colossians 1, it is proclaimed in principle.)
But now, rather, the responsibility is on man, and it is intensely meaningful and grounded in reality; and God made that reality. God is free - even from theologians - but exalts His word and magnifies His law (Isaiah 42:21, Psalm 138:2). Not only is God free, but He knows freedom, is the Father, author, base and meaning of it, and in liberality has the God of truth pleaded, not with His own will, but with that of men (Ephesians 1:11, Isaiah 30:18-19, 29:11-15, 30:16).
Merit then ? It is declared irrelevant by God except that absolute merit of Christ on whose merit indeed, salvation is granted, through which virtue operates. Salvation based on assessment of character might be meritoriously gained indeed; but God's word is clear, there is nothing of this. The will, then, which God so often cites as the agent of deceit and doom ? Negative preference on the part of man, divinely determined and not autonomously produced, is the precise paradigm of everlasting exclusion (cf. pp. 1129, 426 supra). What is inoperable at the relevant level is not therefore non-existent. Dead wills are not impenetrable by God, any more than guilty souls are unjustifiable through Christ's blood, when God justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5).
The "Lord is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working" (Isaiah 28:29): "how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33). To know what are His ways, we must attend therefore to what He says; and when we do, it has a harmony and a beauty which is incomparable. How He does what He does is His inimitable prerogative to know; what He does and what He chooses to tell us suffices for the exhibition of this uniquely majestic, wholly unpredictable and glorious consistency.
Let us however return to our preceding thought, in God's justification of the ungodly, as reminiscent of His unpredictable dealing in lavish generosity, with those whom He foreknew, following His good pleasure and His willingness, as Colossians 1 and 1 Timothy 2, for example, indicate.
Thus guilt before Christ's words and deeds is categorical and absolute (John -24). This separate scripture confirms and affirms what is found before: "if I had not come among them..." This is express and explicit. Once grant that He was not there; once imagine that He did not do these things among them, did not speak to them what He did.... and then what ? Is it not time to listen to what the Lord says... ? What then ?
"They would have no sin."That is what is written here. That is what is written TWICE here. The matter is affirmed relative to the absence of His speech and the absence of His personal performance of deeds among them. No deeds and words from Him coming among them ? Then, says the Lord, they would have no sin. What no sin ? not in the relevant category! (Cf. John 9:3.)
Who indeed is without sin! All have sinned (Romans ). What then is the relevant category here ? We are dealing with hating or loving Christ, with being of the world or of God (John ff.); of being persecuted as His or persecuting those who are His, of knowing the One who sent Christ or of not doing so. We are in the field of being expressly for or against the One who is manifesting God absolutely, though through a human form. Now this is, of course, the area of salvation and damnation; this is the crux, the pivot, the destining exhibition, what shows who and where you are. So (Luke -42) Christ wept:
If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things which make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
We are here reminded of the weeping of Elisha as he set about appointing the man to be king of Syria and plague to Israel, in divine discipline (II Kings 8:12). "Now", said Christ, "they are hidden from your eyes. If you had known," said the weeping Son of God... Then, ah then! So great is the love of God, so sure is His knowledge.
Thus if Christ had not so spoken, as we read in John 15, and done, in their midst these things, they would not have sinned relative to salvation, and would not be demonstrated as being on damnation duties. Of course, predestinatively God knows and has elected all who are elected; but historically, these would thus far and in this, not have sinned against salvation, the question at point. (Cf. Ephesians 1:4-5, John 5:19-23.)
It is, then, as we have seen, guilt before Christ's words and saving works which is categorical and absolute, which damns; and the eternal God does not change (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17). This is the categorical character of damnation on the part of God whose Son both mirrors Him (John 14:9, Hebrews 1:3,8) and wept. It is so in essential character before time. It is so no less in terms of historical validation, eventuation, verification, demonstration. Christ is not a suggestion of God; He is God manifest. Men go to hell, not divinely 'bedevilled'; not discreetly denied; not in each and every relevant sense to the issue, unsought.
They would assuredly deserve such treatment of their sins, but that is not the issue. It is the word of God about His approach to man, which is the present issue: not the undoubted due of sin, but the declared attitude of love. Thus force also has its ways; but God does not say that He is force (1*), though Almighty He certainly is. Love also has its ways, and the love of God is love's original. It is of this we read. Christ Himself is the gate-control to hell (Revelation -19) and thither more can reach except past His restraint : His character, His control, His love. No, to hell men do not go through mere absence of relevant love on the part of that God who Himself declares that He is love (1 John 4:8).
Not such is the criterion here stated. Rather it is in the face of all the love and power of God that they depart from Him who is divine, to their unprofitable destiny. And there are many who do! The way to life is narrow, and there are few who find it; we however are considering neither statistics nor guilt, at this point, as such: we look rather at the declared love of God and the stated principles which He elects to honour towards man.
Our text shows that it is this guilt before Christ which demarcates the damned; and it so demarcates them that the love of God is FULFILLED, not FRUSTRATED, and His power is triumphant. He has done what He will; and He has done it how He willed; and He always does.
Nowhere in all
philosophy has anyone ever performed
what God so quietly, so personally or so simply declares in His word, the Bible...
the reconciliation of freedom, and responsibility,
divine sovereignty and human reality,
divine love and human tempo,
the correlation of material determinism and spiritual freedom
without divorce and degrading of either:
a determinism which is derivative and dependent and irruptible at will,
but which goes on its course on divine sufferance and will.
Personality is preserved;
individuality is preserved;
accountability is meaningful;
responsibility is wholly real;
God is entirely omnipotent in practice as well as in 'theory' -
He gains just what He will just how He will,
being Himself and securing and procuring with a display which is not doubtful,
and with a declaration and a demonstration which is not obscure.
No mere circumstance is permitted to exclude from God, in the ultimate,
for love shuns mere shunning (I Corinthians 13, I Timothy 2:1-4, Colossians -22)
and God knows His own (Romans ) in Christ,
from before all time (Ephesians 1:4) and beyond all human eventuation (Romans -16).
Having apprehended, comprehended and responded to the whole matter beforehand, not in oblivion of His qualities of love or power, but wholly equipped with and consistent with the scripture in the use of both, He then irrevocably and unfailingly uses, but never abuses, the historical reality in which and through which He declares Himself, thus making freedom more real. Not limited to our limitations nor required to 'perform' in our time zones, God abides by His stated principles: matters consistent, harmonious and rationally unimpugnable.
This is one more element therefore in verification of that word of God, the Bible, which attests its source: its sufficiency, its proficiency for all things, its entire uniqueness.
Bent by nothing, it blends the rational, the spiritual, the moral with an integrity that surpasses the mere inventiveness of man, but which meets all tests. It rings with the voice of eternity, just as does the remorselessly real and divinely beautiful character of Jesus Christ.
Thus this Appendix may be deemed a verificatory work: it has taken us some time, but it is there; and the alert reader may have noted it so listed on p. xxviii at the commencement.
Let us revert to our reference a little earlier to this: "He has done what He will; and He has done it HOW He will; and He always does" (cf. Ps. 115:3, Ephesians 1:11). It is of such a movement we read earlier (II Chronicles 36:15-16): "And the Lord, the God of their fathers sent to them by His messengers rising up early and sending; because He had compassion on His people, and on His dwelling place"; but (*2)...
THEY MOCKED THE MESSENGERS OF GOD, AND DESPISED HIS WORDS AND SCOFFED AT HIS PROPHETS until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, TILL THERE WAS NO REMEDY
The "no remedy" is not (*3) the result of a law greater than God, but is His decision (Ephesians 1:11, Isaiah 40:8,14,25). Here also ponder Matthew 23:37, Jeremiah 18:1-18, Colossians 1:18-2:9 and allied scriptures. 'Sovereignty' does not transcend, amend or deport the stated, the revealed and the declared will, way and nature of God. It is a name given rather to the security with which He secures what He claims, does what He says, and is what He declares.
There is no need to do violence to Scripture (even on the part of the unruly!), in order to evacuate 'texts' of 'dangerous' meanings: the word of God is not merely charming but of chaste integrity, and must not suffer violence. It is necessary to do justice to it, avoiding the needlessly and wrongly controversial extremes that depend on intrusion or exclusion: building up an understanding of all the components as they come (II Timothy 2:15) - and learning of Him, for He is meek and lowly in heart (Matthew 11:29), the very expression of the infinite God, whose ways do not change.
It is His word. He says it.
HERE it would be good if the reader desires more directly bearing on this topic, to consult
Cascade of Truth, Torrent of Mercy Ch. 2.
Also highly pertinent is The
Power of Christ's Resurrection and the Fellowship
of His Sufferings Ch. 1, *2, found in part in Ch. 6 below, the (shorter) original being in the setting of Repent or Perish Ch. 1.
EXCERPT from the Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4
This will be kept to the format a little less in size,
to prevent a sense of too much space with the sizable excerpts.
There is need in all thing as to have fidelity to the scripture. Tradition may go this way or that, at this time or that; but it is not sufficient. It must be subjected to scrupulous scrutiny. What is taught and what is believed must not exceed what is written and its necessary implications. By no means must work in this area exceed what is necessarily implicit, for doctrine, in the interests of pleasant short cuts or real verbal rigour. Indeed, personal reticence in the presence of the word of God is required.
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 eisogesis. 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 ).
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 .
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 in John 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
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 , John 15:1-5, I Corinthians -15), but rather God's own choice per se: YET in
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.
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 ). 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).
IGNORANCE IS NOT BLISS,
NOR IS IT BLESSED:
SO WHERE DOES IT STAND?
CIRCUMSPECTION WITHOUT CALUMNY
How then would this affect the destiny of the ignorant non-hearers of the gospel? Here we must avoid mere traditionalism and consider what the word of God actually says. Thus, I Timothy 2 in the clearest possible fashion spells out the attitude the Almighty has to this matter of salvation. He would have all to be saved. Few will be; but that is not the point. His attitude is that all men might come to a knowledge of the truth. Numerous other aspects of this point from the Bible are shown in SMR Appendix B, and in Predestination and Freewill, Section 3.
SINCE He would
have all to be saved, and SINCE we read in Matthew 11:21 that the people of
Tyre and Sidon would have repented long ago if the mighty works done in
Chorazin had been done there!... WOULD HAVE!
what then? This implies that they did not. Since the Almighty is under no constraint to invent any system or structure whatsoever which in any way denies, contradicts or thwarts His will or wishes, attitudes or desires, then this one must not do so. Hence prima facie there may be some in Tyre and Sidon who, through lack of the John 15:21-23 type of impact, did not repent, but who would have done so if Christ had been among them, and "done the works which no other man did" - that is, works definitive of and declarative of deity, acting with the profound expedition He took in sending His only begotten Son.
In such areas, prudence is essential. We must allow that there may be certain features implicit in this Christ-painted picture of which we are not adequately aware. This is true. Nevertheless, there is a strong prima facie case for this point: that it is entirely possible that some who have not had the impact of the light of which John 1 speaks, and which is the criterion of condemnation in John 3 for its rejection, may nevertheless figure among the elect. If God has chosen ANYONE, HE will have that person. Chosen before the foundation of the world, such persons are not subject to chance or change. The unseverable sovereignty of God will ensure that they, being so chosen, are found.
NO CHANCE OF CHANCE
Does this imply that some may have a 'chance' after death ? No, of course not. The very thought of chance is just as contrary to all scripture and its predestinative and sovereign implications and indeed statements as the ignoring of John 3:19's statement would be to short-circuit the amplitude of the love of God. If THIS is the condemnation in terms of such rejected light, and in the light of the stated salvatory purpose, then such it is. If chance is ruled out, then so that is. Must we be like children who turn from ice cream to icy poles in delighted dilemma, instead of maturely considering ALL that is before us in seeking an understanding of the correct course. The WHOLE COUNSEL of God does not exclude inconvenient scriptures.
We must at last avoid this hideous theological proclivity, common as the common cold, it may be, to get into corners and 'patriotically' to some "Apollos" or other, slug it out.
There are NO chances, there is never a chance and never an operable option, since the fall, so that men may come as princes to a Prince and relate or not with a chance to come or go from His covenanted presence.
GOD determines these things in Himself (Ephesians e.g.). However, He does it, it is with certain statable and STATED PRINCIPLES which He CHOOSES to use and also to divulge. What is written, is written for our profit; so then let us do so. What He reveals, He reveals; what He reserves, He reserves. It is useless to try to push back the words into His mouth in the interests of significantly discourteous theology, if so it may be called. It is a kind of fierce blasphemy, a Sadducaism of horror, so to do.
The principle in view here, then, in various scriptures, and which seem to be implied in others is just this. GOD DAMNS - as distinct from condemns - on the basis of informed preference or its entire equivalent, against Jesus Christ. THIS is the STATED HIGHWAY that leads to HELL. THIS is that gate at the end of the row.
HOW does He execute such a principle in the case of the ignorant - who have not heard His Gospel, RELATIVE TO THE REVELATION EXPLICITY IN VIEW ? I DO NOT KNOW, FOR ONE. We can for apologetic purposes propose working hypotheses for examination in order to give a reason for the hope within us to those who ask, as is required of us (I Peter 3:15). There is no sin in obedience as such. Yet we cannot KNOW in this instance, more than this: that He will fulfil every principle which He enunciates, and this not partially, but fully. Strong is He who executes His word, and is faithful ( Joel 2:11, Isaiah 11:5, Matthew 5:17-18, 24:35, Psalm 119:89-90,138) .
To act assuredly on contrary hypothesis however, as if God forgot to the gracious because philosophers failed to perceive the unity of the depths of the ocean of the truth of the word of God: this does not appear wise, or to keep the path of His commandments.
Let us revert to His predestinative power in its overall nature. It is infinite, and it may be that He executes the option which is HIS, in some way which implicitly but totally covers the principle of knowing His own, in what you could almost call symbolic form. This is outlined in Section 3 of my Predestination and Freewill, and is used to DEMONSTRATE the entire and UNIQUE harmonisability of all the data with the Biblical picture, and hence to demonstrate the superiority of the Biblical coverage of man to anything else proposed or propounded. It works, it is not reductionist and it is perfectly internally harmonious. We are at some care to show that this proposed harmony is not the same as a declaration of doctrine.
It is a procedure for DEMONSTRATING the harmony of Biblical principles, nothing more, and hence an apologetic vindication of the majesty superiority of the word of God. Like scaffolding, its task complete, it has done what it should, and the building, the word of God itself, stands as always, firm and abiding, ALL of it important, NONE of it minimised, EACH word on EACH topic to be valued beyond minimisation or mutiny.
varied and magnificent PRINCIPLES themselves in the word of God, therefore,
these are not proposed; they are propounded in the Bible by God Himself. Our point here is that if we are willing to
follow the Bible, we must follow all of them, for all people over all time; and
give lip service to something less important, if that is our inclination. It is
not, for my part, mine to do lip service to anything. Let tradition with
In what way, then, God executes the principles of John 3, I John 4:7 and I Timothy 3, of Hosea 7:1, Jeremiah 51:9 and Ezekiel 33, for example, we do not know; but executed they will be. They present not the slightest problem to understand, as to compatibility; on the contrary, they embrace like lovers. It is simply that the chosen divine procedure or mode of operation to perform His words - as performed they assuredly will be - each one, and all in holy integrity: we do not know.
Reticence in the face of such majesty (I Timothy 6:16, Psalm 131) is right; just as failure to show its wonders as revealed and its unique capabilities would, equally, be remiss (I Peter 3:15, II Corinthians 10:5, Psalm 145:6-13). We do well not only to believe, but to do what we are told. In the domain of the truth, obedience is beautiful, effectual.
There are, then, things in the form of the Lord who dwells in light inaccessible (I Timothy , Philippians 2, I Timothy , Deuteronomy 29:29) and full of glory, to which we are not, at this point, party (I Corinthians 13:9-13). This is not a problem, but a glory and a joy. That to which we do not, however, have access, let us keep in its integrity in terms of what is revealed; and for apologetics, let us show the sheer wonder of its mutually agreeable parts. Nothing else on earth has this enduring depth which covers all aspects, all arguments, all points, all concern with an assured and delightful sufficiency which is literally on its own.
Another index which prima facie holds the suggestion that some who have been ignorant of Christ may be found, by sovereign and predestinate determination, after life as they were foreknown before it, is found in I Peter 3:17-19. Here we read in a sequence of historical steps, of Christ visiting the spirits in prison. In prison, as servants of sin, sinners are without the Lordship of Christ exercised on them. "Spirits in prison" however is a phrase not found, to my knowledge, in the Bible anywhere, OR SUGGESTED. As to the statement that Christ went by the Spirit, to preach to the spirits in prison, it is worth noting this: the Bible is indeed entirely devoid of Platonic philosophy. This sort of statement would not appear to be in the perspective portrayed Biblically, if it means He went to people living on earth. This point too is pregnantly suggestive, just as the alien nature of such terminology must be so.
The 'spirit' may be in prison, but it is the person who is the servant of sin. We are not disembodied, and although certain forms of speech are conceivable, they are not found. Spirits in chains awaiting judgment we find in Jude; but these are not on this earth. They are angels who left their first estate. Jude is talking of spirits as spirits.
From a verbal point of view, this language is that of the after-life in the Bible. Releasing the captives in Isaiah 61, is people on earth, not spirits in prison. There are times and places of being captive, and the Biblical mode of referring to the one and to the other is distinctive and apt. From the point of view of sequence, naturalness of progress in I Peter 3:17-19, we move from Christ suffering for sins, to bring us to God, being put to death, quickened by the Spirit: and from there we launch into the excursion noted in vv. 19-20.
Do we then move back a few thousand years in time in a sort of time jump? Or are we pursuing the point to the environs of judgment to which He wished to relate? Are we finding the other vast judgment which covered the earth so that almost all people were physically extinguished one earth; and here seeing Christ visit in a giant illustration and indication of the Colossians 1:19-23 scope and grandeur of His magnificent love and outreach and desire to "reconcile all things to Himself? The match is a marvel*1B.
And with what power and force does Paul speak of this reconciling passion on the part of the Almighty? This: "and having made peace by the blood of the Cross, by Him to reconcile all things to Himself: by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven", in just collaboration with I Timothy 2 and John -19.
MERCY IMMENSE AND INTENSE
Must we learn the lesson of Jonah again! God is intensely merciful, and does not concede to some 'system' the souls of men, but would have them all to be saved, and so does whatever seems good to that end. CERTAIN it is that no one will be lost for some technical hitch, problem or omission, who MIGHT have been saved. This is NOT to consider the will of man, as operative in salvation to determine or even to sway it: it IS to notice that man being in the image of God is treated accordingly, but BY God, who alone knows His own.
Peter, having in terms of sequence seemingly gone from Calvary to the condemned in the same sort of scope as Colossians indicates, he follows the work of Christ, then applies it back to us again, relating the ark of those times which led to such mass extinction to baptism now - but not the sacrament, rather the salvation which it connotes (I Peter 3:21).
meaning and depth of the passage is thus preserved, rather than what at least
would appear a somewhat jolting movement about, here and there, without a clear
time line, aborting the thrust of his words. The thrust of this principle and
the contextual study of the thrust and sequence of the Biblical passage before
us is illustrative then of an option which, not to secure but to express
predestination, God may employ at His pleasure. (Cf. The Kingdom of
Heaven Ch. 2, pp. 30ff.,
at Being 'Natural' or in the
It must be necessarily implied by scripture if it is to believed, or actually stated: and in this, again, the Westminster Confession speaks justly. Mere traditions may be comforting (or discomforting); but can be traps, and must never be relied on, nor have competition with the glorious certainties of the word of God. The penalty of Mark 7:7 is ever near to the adventurous.
To adopt traditions based on name and fame in mere history is to aggravate the assault on the word of God. The Apollos syndrome is scripturally condemned. Be thankful for your Apollos-gifted expositors; but leave the word of God to its own environs, lest a 0.1% pollution from the imperfect saint become blinkers on the wilful, and judgment on the disobedient... lest further, it develop into a carnal 'ism-itis', the inflammatory caricature of truth in the formula of the -ism, such as too frequently defiles the earth.
Such scriptures as earlier noted, then, in principle and practice, taken in concert make it impossible Biblically to refuse, except in autonomous sovereignty over the word of God, the possibility that some who were not found in this life, have been preserved to times to come, for their before-all-time appointment to the God of their Creation, to become effective.
How instructive therefore is the appearance of inextricable damnation, undeterrable damnation in the Scripture, in precisely such a Christ-related sort of way as John 1-3 has outlined. How informative amidst covenantal reasoning both deep and poignant, is the context of Hebrews 10:26-31, 6:4-8! How complete and superlative is the scripture for all just purposes! Indeed the ground of damnation is explicit, analytical, principial in the first three and the fifteenth chapters of John for example; and any theory which ignores it, stops short of a scriptural mandate for its provisions.
God does not speak in order to be ignored. When the Pharisees of old acted as if this were the case, their correction was amongst the most irresistibly severe imaginable. Whatever else is done, each word of Godmust be kept like a diamond on a ring, being the gift in its splendour.
SAVING FAITH IS NOT OUR WORK
One passage of interest in this regard is found in II Corinthians 5. ALL, including the apostle, we learn, face the reception of judgment for WHAT WAS DONE IN THE BODY. Yet because "GOD WAS, IN CHRIST, RECONCILING THE WORLD TO HIMSELF, NOT IMPUTING THEIR TRESPASSES TO THEM," and has committed to Paul and his colleagues the 'word of reconciliation'. Therefore and by this, this TERROR of the Lord () is abated, for indeed 'mercy smiles in the face of judgment', as James declares. Not for those outside of Christ however is this wonder, except they come. Hence Paul WARNS them!
ALL men must so "appear before the judgment seat of Christ". This includes Paul. Yet we know that the saint's sins are buried in the depths of the sea, and will be remembered no more (Micah 7:18-29, Hebrews 8:10-12). Thus a divine INTERVENTION in terms of the gospel mercies and pardon, swallows up this fearful apparition of just judgment. With regard to the terror, but constrained by love, Paul warns them. God will intervene only in terms of His Gospel, and if this be rejected then judgment is sure already.
In sum: confronted as for judgment, with the list and litany of wrong doing, the data of his faults, Paul is delivered by the supervention of the marvel of judicial mercy made manifest then, as Christ as made manifest Himself on earth earlier; and this predestinate mercy was made manifest in his heart (II Timothy 1:9,12). God being no respecter of persons, and this 'word' of reconciliation being preached: then others may look similarly by faith for such supervention in this sense ( I John , Romans 5:9-10). Others may receive it through its activation in terms of the everlasting Gospel, in the time of the appointment of the sovereign majesty of God, as He pleases: whose divine understanding no man wisely would dare to challenge, since it is infinite (Psalm 147:5).
The Westminster Confession speaks in Chapter III, of 'elect infants, dying in infancy' and 'all other elect persons, who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the word' as 'being regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth'. This emphasis is just. GOD appoints the gospel, the time, the manner of its dispersal, and sovereignly secures by its criterion, those who are His, who without works, He has before the world known.
We do not, may not and cannot rightly prescribe; to His patience or to His knowledge, by the wisdom of our little wits; but will leave to His divine knowledge the securing of His own WITH the love He protests He has (and I believe Him!), declares He is and executes without prejudice (I Timothy 2:1-6, Colossians 1:19ff.).
Against potentially damning, indeed justly damning evidence, then, comes the divine supervention in METHOD (pardon and regeneration), PRINCIPLE (the procurement as by the Gospel) and TIMING (when He will), that all chosen, repenting and believing may be, and indeed assuredly will be saved. Let us take then care not to distort or contort, to squeeze or to qualify outside the Bible that magnificent love of God. HE does NOT go through the souls of men as a philanthropist might go through an orphanage, and select now this one now that, condemning by non-selection those left.
DESPITE His love for all, He rejects some, but on the PRINCIPLES stated which fully delineate His love, and NOT in some way which denies them. NONE deserves to be selected, let alone through some mysterious X-factor of God-acceptability which is viewed as in some way endemic. (Cf. Predestination and Freewill pp. 82 and 97 - note 88. "I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good thing," says Paul in Romans 7:18 - cf. Psalm 16:1-5, Isaiah 45:23-24, 64:6, Romans 3:20-27). Perception of spiritual beauty differentially in the flesh is not the ground of salvation, or its criterion, but "the grace of God that brings salvation, which has appeared to all men" - Titus .
ALL deserve to be rejected. But GOD deserves to be taken at His word which He states that He would have all men to be saved and declares in the most categorical imaginable terms the barrier against salvation not in His love lack towards some, but in the response in the very face of His STATED intention (John 3:17) and His direct ADVENT, of those whom He rejects.
Those known before all time indeed are lost, but not through lack of love towards any as the basis and underlying cause, in His attitude. To state, makes parables or imagine to the contrary is to have an imagination at war with the word of God. Of all places in which to wage war, this is the last.
Let us then, as is well in such considerations of the divine mercy, recall to mind two vital principles. The first is that of grounded condemnation, and the double threshold, from John 3:19; and the second?
It is this: Micah's depiction of it, given in just and true inspiration of God (Micah -19): GOD DELIGHTS IN MERCY, relishes it, is not illiberal with it, but rather is worthy of praise in awe for the lavishness of this mercy which suffuses from His heart. He IS love (I John 4:7, John ,Acts 13:46-48, Romans 11:32-33, I Timothy 2:1-5). We have that on good authority, none better! Let us hear the pristine beauty of His approach to the Jew, first called in the saga of kingdoms outlined in Romans 11:
“Who is a God like You,
who pardons iniquity, and passes by the transgression
of the remnant of His heritage ?
He does not retain His anger for ever,
because He delights in mercy.
“He will turn again,
He will have compassion upon us;
He will subdue our iniquities, and
You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”
Ezekiel 33:11 is similar and of incomparable breadth, while Luke 19:42 shows a concern in parallel, and Jonah 3 in action. God loves mercy and God cites condemnation in terms of ultimate sin against the ultimate light. So much has been said by so many on the sovereignty of God, and by so many others on the freedom of the human will even in sin, that the justice of the first and the error of the second tend to be stalemated in terms of the bypass of the love of God often found in the second: something which had Wesley*1 in almost apoplectic seeming passion against Whitefield to the point.
It is of course the simple case that God is UTTERLY sovereign and UTTERLY merciful, and the way these things are at work together is as stated in the Bible, portions of which both sides have tended to ignore, suppress or treat too lightly. If only one could remember at all times that God means exactly what He says ON ALL SUBJECTS.
SIN is remorseless an agent to do what it can to undo; MERCY is NO LESS SO as the agent for deliverance. GOD in His wisdom moves wholly, truly and justly: in all His stated principles, magnificently true, truly magnificent. What He states to the Jew in terms of His love, He states to the Gentile, to the world! It is all written, whether by apostle or prophet to the Jew or to the Gentile...
Does however II Corinthians 5 limit the application of this mercy? IF Paul warns people of their facing judgment on the score of 'receiving' sins done in the body (5:10), does this NECESSARILY entail that the supervention of mercy will not occur unless believing is done in the flesh (in which case, farewell those not able to receive the ministry of the word, as cited from the Westminster Confession earlier).
However, Jesus said that believing itself is THE WORK OF GOD. (John is an example, and similar portent is Ephesians 2:8.) It is not a work done in the flesh for which reward is 'received', as in II Corinthians 5:10. It is a work of God which has its own reward.
Since many scriptures indicate that saving faith is not a work of ours, something evincible as meritorious or citable as attained; since merit is out, not indeed attributable to us as agents in salvation any more than such would be citable to a baby being born; since it is clear that this categorical and unrescindable (Romans 8:28) gift is given so that GOD DOES IT, and it is WROUGHT in us: then this becomes one more case, like that in Romans 1-3.
The universal condemnation or susceptibility for it or both is spelled out first; and then the supervening mercies in the gospel are spelled in. CATEGORICALLY and ANALYTICALLY and even PRINCIPIALLY, we ALL face and deserve hell; but divine supervention BY the Gospel WHEN God pleases chases away the law, and institutes redemption.
For each Christian, therefore, for each called at this or that time, this principle is equally in force. Into this arena of judgment, ALL must have the intervention of God; and the question is this - when does He do it?
Believing becomes the operation interceptive, the anti-missile missile carrier which brings deliverance. It intercepts what it will when God wills. For whom then does it make this interception? For all to whom this occurs, for them there is the deliverance from this judicial scourge, impending but disrupted by the gift of eternal life in which it is God who justifies, as Paul puts it in Romans 8.
"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, yes rather, who is risen again... Who shall separate us from the love of God!..." (see Romans 8:33-34,38-39).
WHEN DOES GOD ELECT TO ACT ?
IT STARTED BEFORE THE WORLD,
IS EVIDENCED AT JUDGMENT
We are in this context therefore faced with this: it simply means that all face the sourness of hell justly by deserts of their deeds, but in His inimitable style, God has sent Christ His Son, and will send sentences to those secured to Him, to the depths of the sea; whenever this has the assured correlative to predestination: in which the whole thing is determined at and indeed, before the outset of the world. That correlate is saving faith, the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).
Paul, out of love, not out of terror (II Corinthians 5:14), but with terror in mind, then tells whom he may, so that they may be saved, and none will be, without preaching (Romans 10); for without this Christ none will be saved, and that involves revelation and preaching, or its just divinely functioning equivalent in reality, known to God. It is indeed well to leave the secret things to God (Deuteronomy 29:30), and to employ and deploy the revelation HE has given to us, while leaving HIM to consummate its principle in His illimitable wisdom and freedom. What then God may do in terms of His freely declared PRINCIPLES and HOW He will do it , is HIS PREROGATIVE. He does not contradict Himself (Proverbs 8:8). He will act just as he says.
We, first of all,
do not know the whole outworking of predestination in history; and secondly, do
know that the judge of all the earth will do right and will execute His word,
including those magnificent principles of John 1-3. We do our part and preach,
teach, live for Christ; God does ALL He wishes as He wishes. His word is not
mocked or locked; HE will perform it. It is neither necessary nor wise to
exercise ourselves in things too high for us. Christ always and only is for
answer; and how He performs it in terms of His only and everlasting Gospel is
His affair. I for profoundly
delighted to leave that to Him as I marvel in survey of the passion and scope
of Colossians 1:19ff., and the seemingly endless repetitions of His enduring
desire expressed against the utmost provocation in the times of
As for whoever in this present world will be damned: such will not be so without the total application of the principles of John 1-3, -23 for example. HOW that is done is something one dare not seek to grasp from God for the sake of any theology, for the canon is closed as Revelation shows us; and not doing so, is a reticence to be commended to all theology.
There are, to be sure, highly suggestive intimations; and who would deny to anyone the privilege of constructing apologetics for the assistance of the saints and the reaching of the lost who desire it, with due reserve*2, keeping scriptures which have bearing, in mind, without addition or subtraction : while interpreting the system as it is, and exhibiting the thrust of its demonstrable harmonies with the liberty which the need imposes, and the care God imposes (I Peter 3:15, II Corinthians 10:5, I Corinthians 9:19-23, II Timothy 2:15)...
Such work is prima facie, however: structural concept for the sake of Apologetics, not adding to doctrine or subtracting from thought. NOTHING will in any case bankrupt the love of God, yes even at any point: any more than it will disperse His sovereignty or less human responsibility. The neat, all-embracing and elegant way in which the Bible weaves these together, this and this alone in all literature, allows such entirely harmonious combinations of these principles, and for this we praise the might, the marvel and the communication of God.
WHAT SHOULD BE SHRUGGED OFF
IS MINIMISATION OF THE LOVE OF GOD:
THE SOVEREIGN OF SOVEREIGNTY IS A MOST LOVING LORD
Enduring and simple realities remain clear and certain: as we have seen from John and Paul, a is also displayed in Hosea, Ezekiel and Jeremiah, as displayed in Predestination and Freewill and Appendix B, SMR: hell is for the second degree of rejection (Colossians 1:19-23, John 1-3,15, I Timothy 2:1-6), extending to the abyss of severance, awesomely excluded by reinforced guilt, away from the love of God. HOW to get there 'safely' is to reject mercy's commission, Jesus Christ! And this in the face of the divine willingness amply declared, and this in truth and in reality! God does not ask us to worship Him with greater simplicity and reality than He Himself has displayed in His own true testimonies and commandments.
We who love the Lord*3 have no call to presumption to prescribe times and seasons to the Almighty; but rather to proclaim the everlasting Gospel (Revelation 14:6, Genesis , Romans 4:11-25, Galatians 1, Ephesians 1:4, II Timothy1:9) without which no-one can be saved, and through the abuse of which is the toll-gate of damnation. For no one does love shrug, not for a moment, though it comes to rejection in the knowledge of God, whose passionate seeking for the lost is so amply displayed in Hosea 14 and II Chronicles 36; and though indeed, the results of dismissal in the FACE of this urgent and earnest endeavour is catastrophic as well as foreknown (cf. Jeremiah 9:1ff.). Double predestination (I Peter 2:8) is not unloving because it is sure; but sure because it is loving.
Not then for one moment does love shrug, in indifference to life; as if that were an acceptable vogue. It is contrary to the mind of the Creator and unacceptable for the people of God, whose salvation is at the hand of Him who IS life. Indifferent then? Love would rather ACT and speed the action for all or any who face the mangling jaws of life without Christ ( Ephesians ). Let us then neither limit the sovereignty of God nor add to His principles in our limited wisdom as if tradition were truth, nor move one iota from the truth, the word, the Gospel, rigorously exclusive of all unbelief, justly inclusive of all to whom the grace of God has accorded faith; and let us be diligent. The time is short; where live is, it acts.
It is God who is God; and all who make some submissions in theology in His name, must recall this constantly lest there should be a carrying away with systems of human thought, however godly may be the intention.
C. EXCERPT from Cascade of Truth, Torrent of Mercy Ch. 2
(the entire Chapter
from that volume is available
as Supplement for multiple reference in this work, or may be reached by the above hyperlink)
One recalls an instance in the years of pastorates, in which some were speaking with one who could not seem to realise clearly and distinctly the fact of SALVATION being now and real as offered (John 4:14, 10:9,27-28): or else that one does not believe. It was a matter of receiving by faith, Christ Jesus the Lord, as the door, and walking through Him into the life everlasting: what He offers. However, if you do not believe what He offers, how then do you believe HIM! Sometimes people are tested (I Peter 1:6), and there are needs (as in II Corinthians 13:5) which may arise when flagrant immorality may require radical assessment and self-investigation.
Nevertheless, though some areas of testing may thus arise, that concern faith, this is not the norm, any more than is pneumonia. Thus it is in the very same place that the apostle Peter (1:6-9) says just this: "In this, you greatly rejoice, though if need be for a little while, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honour, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen, you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith - the salvation of your souls."
The test expresses the fact, the faith, and the faith is in normal operation is buoyantly believing, joyously receiving. It is so in Romans likewise, in a categorical affirmation regarding the spirit of adoption.
It is necessary to have the simplicity of children and not the professional sophistication of philosophers in dealing with such things, though they alone stand above all philosophies in validity and comprehensiveness, answering all questions and meeting all challenge.
That is one of the beauties of not dancing or lagging either, but waiting on the Lord. In profundity, He has no equal; in depth of counsel, He is non-pareil; in simplicity to the penitent, He is absolute, in directness for the seeking, He is incomparable, and in bounty of offer, He is liberal past all measure. You enter the door which is Christ, receiving Him as He is, and His work as done and completed (Hebrews 8-10), or you do not. If you do, then it is by faith or not; if by faith, eternal life is yours, and your faith requires it, since it IS faith. Hence it is perceived as received. If you do not, then your lack of faith denies it. It is this which may be examined and examined well!
The human mind can readily invent thousands of ways of making the clear unclear, the certain uncertain and the contradistinct, indistinct - to itself. The objective reality however does not vary for that, any more than a lamp-post varies because someone who is for some reason of obscured vision, sees it 'differently'. It IS where it is. Nothing changes that. It is the fact that matters. God is where He is, to be found, in repentance of the sin which is the world's inheritance and love, including the individual's own error and folly; and in reception of the Saviour provided IN this world FOR the people of this world, WITHOUT WHOM, there is no peace for this world.
Meanwhile, it is quite a good plan, in observing the gluttony of passion to wreck this world, the relative indifference to preventing this phenomenon and the tremendous advances in its devastation, because progress is SO important, and a negative sign is but small: it is indeed a very sound plan not to join it.
As proverbs 1921 puts it:
are many plans in a man's heart,
Nevertheless the LORD's counsel - that will stand."
That is simply a fact.
the door lies open (John 10:9). You can quiver on the threshold, put through a
dangling foot, play hide and seek about the lintel, try to project through
mental projectiles as if in play, ponder the possibilities if you went through,
like a dreaming sheep; but until you enter by faith, you are on the outside,
and no amount of philosophy or psychology will alter it. If on the other hand,
you pass through by faith, no amount of devil's counsel can alter it. The thing
is done. Eternal life is the gift. It is then experienced in God's own way,
leading to the certainty of KNOWING Him (John 17:3), which is so prodigious an
event that you might as well say: I went past something or other, I don't
know, it might have been
If you so reacted, you would be aesthetically dead (forget the commercial aspect for the moment!).
If on the other hand, you specify the minimum requirements for you to recognise the passion of the falls, you might be so pre-occupied with yourself that you might indeed have only such a glimpse that you had no clear notion.
FAITH is not works, whether those of merit or aesthetics. It is only when FAITH is there, that the RESULTS CAN come. Thus those who want a better spiritual world for themselves, and testing, trying, wondering, experimenting in their psyches, do not achieve what they want, are not believing. They are being dependent on their own internal works. This produces the heavy irony: you do not get what you want, because your want is your god, guide and criterion. That is the peril by all means to be avoided. It is only when you BELIEVE IN HIM, that He manifests Himself. Faith tolerates NO works. It is a reception of the gift of eternal life which is required, by faith through grace, not by estimation and consideration. Leave that to the mathematicians.
That then is the WORLD which is first needed, the world of your own psyche, the microcosm of your very life as an individual. It is only then that any other world can come for you, in its way and day. In 2000 years, the world itself has been experimenting and tasting, inventing hideous idols in the name of Christ and false options, now surging into some spiritual splendour, now cashing in on it, now trying something, now compromising it, using the name of Christ not a little for its follies; and it too is coming to the end of itself. It will end (II Peter 310ff.), and this Age itself will first end (Matthew 24:12); but the end of the whole matter is Christ (Ephesians 1:10), not to surmise concerning His word, but to believe it, for it is HIS, and He is the Word of God eternal, incarnate, and the final, solemn sacrificial word from God to man (Hebrews 1).
The world is going, but to help it to do so is unwise. Judgment is coming, and to fail to be covered is folly. God is loving and to caricature His love, as if 'sovereignty' were in some way a requisition for a limitation on His love, is mere philosophy, as illogical as it is contrary to Biblical revelation. Colossians 1:19ff. makes it for ever clear, that God is pleased to reconcile all things, yes whether in heaven or on earth to Himself.
That is what it says, without qualification. To qualify the word of another is to become co-author. It is in categories, if you will, God and man. It is in terms of desire, that of God. It is to cover all dimensions of creation, heavenly and earthly. It is in this vein that He speaks, in those dimensions. It is to be believed or not believed; if not believed, then you are a philosopher on your own. For our part, we are considering the testimony of the word of God as defined and demonstrated to be His. What does it say ? THIS then is what it says. It says it to one, to all. All includes, of course, you.
If you believe the Bible, you have no option not to believe that amplitude of the desire of God. In that case, Colossians 1, as in John 1-3, it is ONLY when man in the face of God so loving the world, and in the face of the LIGHT which has come into the world, from the heart and mind of God, His fellow, Christ the Lord (Zech. 12:10, 13:7, John 8:58, 5:19ff.), that man can find hell. HE, we read did not come to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
These things being so, the Bible then offers comfort and condemnation. The former is in the ready provision for each little world, each cosmos of the psyche, every man, woman and child, of salvation, pardon and peace in the presence of the living God, presenting to the faith which accepts it from His hand, a non-perishing, and an adoption as children of God (John ). In fact, it is eternal life.
That is the comfort. What then of the residual condemnation, when PLAN A is not met ?
The latter - it is not just condemnation for sinning - Christ has come to remedy that. It is a specialised kind of sin and a special kind of condemnation which is the other arm of the river of life. THIS, says the Lord, is their condemnation that light has come into the world, and men have preferred darkness. That is summary, definitive and unarguable. Hence we come to the concept that the chief thing missing for this world is the microcosm, the psychic microcosm, the life of man, and it is missing where it ought to be, in the friendship and salvation of God. Its absenteeism is chronic, often devious and always in the end, disastrous. There are many such on this earth, and it is littered with their litter.
Against this futile failure, is the majestic truth.
SO loved that He gave His only begotten so that whoever believes might not
perish. God DID NOT come to condemn, but to save, yes the world. It is not
selective in the actuating love, in the issuance of offer, in the sincerity and
the passion of the provision (cf. I John 2:2). It is however most selective
as to destiny. IF you do NOT receive this light so offered, then you are THEREFORE condemned. Therefore ? Yes, it is BECAUSE they preferred otherwise, and without God there is spiritual darkness of course, since HE is the light of meaning, the basis of matter, the significance of spirit, the ground of judgment and the source of wisdom.
Does God then ensure that you cannot come so that He may condemn you anyway ? This is one of the greatest of the follies of theology, when it is pathologically wedded to philosophy. That is virtually to call God a liar. HE is saying relative to the world, which He so loved, that it is NOT to condemn that He came, and that if YOU do not come to Him in this salvation offer, then you are condemned BECAUSE you rejected IT. On the contrary, the philosophic perversion of the gospel says, He did not really want you anyway, did not so love you, and your condemnation is a contradiction of the principle that He did not come to condemn the world, and that He so loved the world, and that He would have all to be reconciled to Himself. In all this, this philosophic folly masquerading as Christian proceeds (and if it does not, the implication is not other), He lies. It is really just outward appearance. In fact, He precludes your coming to Him!
What a shocking lampoon, this is, what a gross and grace caricature it is of the love of God, and however unconsciously, of the lament of Christ over Jerusalem, and His pledge, How often I would have gathered you, but you would not! (Matthew cf. SMR Appendix B). NOT, I WOULD NOT! The pronoun is not obscure.
Moreover, to call or imply, or to so speak as to imply that God a liar, is not truth (cf. Barbs, Arrows and Balms 6 -7 and Repent or Perish Ch. 2 with SMR pp. 25ff.). HIS is the truth and He has made all things as He will and not otherwise, for His purposes, and not contrarily. To be sure, some get confused, and do not intend to call God a liar by any means, but the defilement of their contradiction is still present. The reason that the declared love of God to the world, which is visited with a negative, as far as condemnation is concerned, results in condemnation anyway is that in the very face of it, the ache of unbelief rejects it, the anguish of non-acceptance. THEN comes consequential condemnation, because the pardon being parlayed, the grace despised, the end is now certain.
Are they then condemned "because their deeds were evil" (John ) ? Not at all. This is not the scriptural statement. They are condemned because "the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."
Did it say that God so loved some of the world ? Did it say that He would like to reconcile some things to Himself, or ALL things ? Does it say in I Timothy 2, that He would have all men to come to a knowledge of the truth, or some ? Is it in the presence of absence of the light that their condemnation is stated in principle to become determinate ? Is the light stated to be one intent on condemnation or salvation of the world ? Is the loved stated to be SUCH (so) that the pre-loved might come, the special elect, or is the field the world ? It is of course true that GOD KNOWS who are His; it is equally true that He seeks the lost. It is true that God never changes and that Christ is definitive of God as His word (express in Hebrews 1), so that in whatever, however, wherever, whenever, God is the same, and the longing yearning love of Christ is the same, and there is nothing true of God that contradicts it (despite Calvin's error on this - see Tender Times for Timely Truths -TTT - Ch. 2).
Be you as predestinative as you like (and predestination is a glorious scriptural fact), it makes not a whit of difference. The God who predestines is the God who yearned, pled (as He pled in the Old Testament, Ezekiel 33:11), lamented (as He lamented in the Old Testament, even over non-Israel (cf. Jeremiah 48:30-35, Isaiah 30:15, 48:18ff., Jeremiah 9, Lamentations 3:33, Luke 19:42ff.). If any difference is made, the predestination is the guarantee that the love of God in NOTHING will miss its mark, nothing can overtake it, minimise, no circumstance control or qualify it. Knowing in advance is NOT knowing differently!
Hence reference to predestination as if it in some way curtailed the adequacy, accuracy or precision of the statements of the word of God, or that of the manifestation of Christ, is sheer waywardness. It is, on the contrary, the ensuring that the principles of God work perfectly, and one of these is this, that He would have all men to be saved, to come to a knowledge of the truth, to be reconciled to God, and that He WEPT over Jerusalem, pondering mournfully with a combination truly His own, of tender passion, judicial realism and reflection on the morbid refusals of His people (Luke 19:42ff., Matthew 23:37ff., cf. SMR Appendix B), on their now assured fate, DESPITE His immense, intense efforts to arouse, to awaken, that they might know the day of their visitation, as He declared.
The intention of God in love is clear; the desire to deliver is clear; the profundity of the sorrow of rejection, for those doing it, is clear; the sure knowledge of the outcomes is clear, and of the souls who are His before all time and with no reference to any merit, since none has any before the pure and incandescent standards of God (Ephesians 1;4, Romans 9, Psalm 71:16, 51:1ff., Ephesians 2). Indeed, it is only by condescension that He considers any, and only through the funnel of faith in His prior redemption that on this earth, they come.
Love is not rambunctious and God acts as He will, in His love, and uses power only as befits love. How many stumble over these patently obvious realities of love, of which God is the author, source and definition!
In the face of this, the rejection of Christ is deadly. The absence of faith in His offer, when made, is fatal if continued. The tremulous horror of it is this, that since He has such love, such PRACTICAL and necessarily sacrificial love, that any do not accept it, or act as if it were in some way in doubt, hence not according trust to Him, hence to His word, hence to His promises and hence finding the peace of realisation in Christ, of who He is, and so KNOWING GOD, an unforgettable marvel to the Christian!
Having the keys of death and hell (Revelation -19), Christ does not turn to the latter without mourning. Such is His love, statedly, experientally and expressly. To believe other is in this, to invent God, an unwise procedure.
Thus neither with the dancing feet of ignoring His limits for man, nor with the slack feet of hoping for the best while doing the worst, yes, and assuredly not in a missing microcosm, his own heart in the love of God, is man to find peace. He is first to find God, then only will He find the priorities, the perspectives and the power to live in this world.
Certainly, He will not do it as a race. Certainly the final bell will show the disaster in the last quarter all too clearly (cf. SMR Ch. 8*1). SO be it. This in no way alters the love, the offer or the necessity now and here, in all things and in all ways, to live by, with and for God, through the only appointed way to Him, His way to us, the Lord Jesus Christ. If you do not find God, it is not because He lacks love, but you do not enter the door of love provided. As to His willingness, it is stated repeatedly. As to yours, forget the stench of philosophy, ignorant in its many wisdoms, and simply realise the love is there and stated, that He is on record, and it is time you put yourself there. It is by grace ? Of course. Only ? That is express.
IF it depended at all on you, you COULD not do anything. It does not depend on you, however. In knowledge past your knowledge, He knows all. If HE were not able, or willing, it would be different. He is statedly both, demonstrably both. Then come or be damned, because you love the dark.
It is not a lark, this love of God. It is adequate in all things. It is not, on the other hand, a licence provision for unlimited folly. If you do not want, so be it; if you do, drink the water, enter the door and be thankful, that God who is verbally omnipotent has spoken saying,
"Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden: and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" -
He is not enticing you for a comedy, or a perversity, for all things are His, including His will, works and powers, and nothing wanders with Him. He is calling you to come. Refuse at your peril, come to your comfort.
To be sure, the microcosm which is your soul, your psyche, will no more be (pretendedly and pretentiously) autonomous. What would you ? Is it a lie which you wish to live ? But then, the liberty in the Creator is the designed one: you are not going to be able to fly like a bird, but you WILL be able to have the kind of independence, mixed with underlying dependence for which you are designed*2. For my own part, to be dependent on God is far better than being dependent on man, who is unpredictable (for us), unreliable (in multiplied instances, often astonishing in quality and extent), or on oneself (a man in kind after all).
This other way, the way of God: It is thrilling, inspiring and RIGHT! THEN and then only can the sort of independence which is filial and not foul, become functional. Then one can work with one's Father (by adoption - Ephesians 1), in a way which makes new delight roses in fragrance and multiplicity, whatever be the suffering which truth requires and love desires.
By this time, one has love oneself, the very love of God, not seeking acclaim, arrogance, or puerile pretences of humility for social gain, but seeking good because God is good, and His will because HE knows HOW! Moreover, by then, one has Christ as a brother (Hebrews 2), and there is NO sense of strangeness and alien things. He after all, became man, that He might bring us to God. When the new heavens and earth come (making these things is no great thing to God! and though it may seem so to some, so does it seem to a child, impossible to make a ... house!), then there is to be a righteousness like God, as standard issue. That, that will be a glorious and holy combination of just humility, true holiness and liberty of the most amazing kind, for it is sin which limits, its potential which calls for guards, and its action which defiles.
A macrocosm for non-missing microcosms! Heavenly indeed.
Meanwhile on this earth, neither haven nor heaven, responsibility is called
for, in the will of God, for each of His people. This pilgrimage is no less
than that; its terminus is glorious when the God of glory is your own Father;
but even its passage is sublime in this, that you can serve this God of
glory, NOW. That, it is a privilege indeed!
D. EXCERPT from
Great Enervations, Greater Grace Ch. 7
Since this is a short excerpt, it is left in its original font.
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 God … Ch. 1, however great much of his work is sound) 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
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 ), and what is this, their inheritance ? It is REDEMPTION of body and mind and soul and spirit (Ephesians ). 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 .
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 ) for His people.
Not totalitarian, God is nevertheless TOTAL IN GRACE, and in knowledge as well, for He knows who are His (II Timothy ).
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.
SEE also Chapter 6 below, Excerpt 1,
which while dealing with Calvin’s theories, also shows more on the nature of
the love of God, the Biblical ingredient sans pareil, incomparable, that
not merely rejoices the heart, but is crucial in solving all problems that
people try to make in this territory of the truth. See also further in Great
Execrations … Ch. 9,
and in the first part of Deliverance from Disorientation
Ch. 9. Finally, consult Supplement 5, Section 2
More recently, see in this field -
The Christian Pilgrimage, By His Grace Triumphant to His Face Divine Ch. 3.