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CHAPTER ONE

ON THE FUNDAMENTAL REALITY OF REPENTANCE

I
IN DOCTRINE

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

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

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

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

Thus in Jeremiah we find this:

  • "O Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness,


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

  • Again, "I have seen your adulteries, and your neighings, the lewdness of your whoredom, and your abominations on the hills in the fields. Woe to you, O Jerusalem! Will you not be made clean? When will it once be?" - in 13:27.
     

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

  • "Because I knew that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew, and your brow brass, I have even from the beginning declared it to you", and "I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of my mouth, and I showed them; I did them suddenly, and they came to pass," from Isaiah 45: 3-4.
     

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

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

Thus we read,

  • "Therefore my heart shall sound for Moab like pipes, and my heart shall sound like pipes for the men of Kirheres; because the riches that he has gained are perished.... There shall be lamentation generally upon all the housetops of Moab, and in its streets: for I have broken Moab like a vessel in which is no pleasure, says the Lord" -
     

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

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

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

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

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

  • In Jeremiah 17, we find not only that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? " but this, "I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways..." in 17:9-10. We look back at 16:21 and find this:
  • "Therefore, behold, I will this once cause them to know, I will cause them to know my hand and my might: and they shall know that my name is The Lord" - 16:21. In what respect is this to be?
  • "Therefore, behold, the days are coming,  says the Lord, that it will no more be said, The Lord lives, who brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but, The Lord lives, who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither He had driven them: and I will bring them again to their land, that I have to their fathers.
  • "Behold, I will send for many fishers, says the Lord, and they shall fish them; and afterwards I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks. For my eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hidden from my face, neither is their iniquity hidden from my eyes. And first I will recompense their iniquity..." from Jeremiah 16:14-18.
     

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

The Puny Phenomenon of Philosophic Slugging Matches Does not Adorn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was NOT a type of foreknowledge which revolved about the question, WILL THE PERSON COME TO FAITH, as if the operation of the will or goodness or virtue or spiritual vitality of the sinful person concerned were to settle the question; for Romans 9 expressly tells us that "it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs". That is, the vigour, virtue or perception of man and his ways and insights and so forth is not the criterion. Not based on the exercise of debased human will, on susceptibility or merit or any other contrived contribution of flesh (I Cor. 2:14, Eph.2:8), the divine choice IS based on divine foreknowledge. This is the Biblical fact. As noted, Predestination and Freewill gives ONE option which fulfils all this, for purposes of Christian Apologetics; the God who is love and the sin which disenables, may meet readily in such a way in the defining foreknowledge of God; and it is clear that here in the Bible alone is the total answer to the human conundrum, divinely placed all along.

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

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

  • "cease from man whose breath is in his nostrils, for what assessment is to be accorded him?"

or

  • "Oh, then, let man go, whose nose is a breath;


for what is he estimated at?"
 

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

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

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

Accordingly, again, we hear:

  • "What if..."

says Romans 9:22-26

  • "God, willing to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction."
     

Further (as the NASB renders it),

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • "I am sought of those who did not ask for me: I am found of those who did not seek Me.


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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Terms of Foreknowledge

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

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

 

In Terms of Christian Apologetics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOTH sides of the matter of Biblically clear and should be put, each in the modesty which the total word requires, and without that bluster of invention on either side which so unfortunately has tended to divide so many and so much in what is called the church of Christ.
 
 

II
IN PRACTICE

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

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

THEREFORE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES

*1

A Post-script of Encouragement:

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

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

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

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

  • Philosophy ? From the heart of man,
  • it is indeed "vain", as is anything which
  • tempers the word of God with human wit, and

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As the Psalmist puts it,

  • "Thy testimonies have I taken as a heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart" - Psalm 119:111, and again,
     
  • "The righteousness of Thy testimonies is everlasting: give me understanding, and I shall live" v.144;
     
  • "Thy word is true from the beginning,
    and every one of Thy righteous judgments endures for ever" -
    v. 160;
     
  • "Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors" - v. 24,
     
  • "How sweet are Thy words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" - v. 103;
     
  • "Thy word is very pure, therefore Thy servant loves it" - v. 140;
     
  • "concerning Thy testimonies, I have known from of old that Thou hast founded them for ever" - v. 152,
     
  • "forever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven" - v. 89, and
     
  • "Through Thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way" - v.104.
     

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

Let God be true, though every man a liar! His word? It is true that when we know as we are known, prophecies shall no longer be the sometimes indirect exposure, but sight the direct knowledge. Nevertheless, it is sufficiently clear that this does not render dispensable the word of God which is and always has been, utterly pure - "The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times" - Psalm 12:6. When God speaks, we do not hypothesise as to His meaning, we read it; far less do we hypothesise that it is contrary in Christ to the Deity, when He IS the deity, or that His human form defiles His truth, for He stated, "I am the truth". Let us therefore read and understand with the Psalmist, and BY IT try every false way, and REPENT of sin with all our hearts and abide in Him and have His words abide in us, for there is not merely safety, but the unspeakable joy of His company and comfort, who desires us so to abide.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To libel the love of God by constricting it where He affirms it, in the interests of a blind and circumscribed philosophy, is a rank act; just as is, at the other philosophical extremity, that distortion of sovereignty that imagines God to resolve in vain (v. Isaiah 43:13). Disabled by sin, man is nevertheless not deleted, and is found by that uncontractable love of God, of Colossians 1:19-23, I Timothy 2:1-6, being predestined to this. God does not contradict Himself, affirming the desire, while from eternity and in principle, withholding the means essential to its fulfilment, but cries to responsible man, 'Repent!' (Matthew 4:17, Luke 13:1-3), and to Jerusalem, weeping, "If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes..." (Luke 19:42, cf. The Kingdom of Heaven, Ch.4, esp. pp. 49ff.).

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

  • As in predestining sublimity (cf. Predestination and Freewill),
  • so in historical reality,
  • God is able to receive and be received by what is His own,
  • with no mechanics to defile His principles,
  • or derangements to over-rule His protestations.
     
  • It remains true that in the face of the ample and capacious love of God to the world
    (John 1-3 and elsewhere as noted),
  • the gift of repentance, like all the rest of the amazing deliverances
    to those elected to be the children of God,
  • is truly received,
  • and the non-reception of what is proffered
  • remains the divinely stated criterion of exclusion (John 3:17ff.),
    even in the face of such love, a love uninterested in this phase,
    in any condemnation, but in incorporation.

 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

If some did not receive the grant of repentance (Acts 11:18), even though Christ did not come to condemn, but that the world might be saved through Him (John 3:17), God being willing that all might be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (I Tim. 2:1-6): it was not because the Lord had  a lapse of concentration, or a technical failure. It was not for such reasons that many are doomed (Matthew 7:13-14, Mark 9). Pilfering His product (themselves), with those who do "always resist the Holy Spirit" (Acts 7:51-52), despite outpourings of divine grace, even reaching to manifest divine revelation (Acts 7:53) and in fact, to the Light Himself when He came (John 1-3) into the world, and the express willingness that it might be saved (John 3:17), they find gravity rather than grace as they hurtle with remorseless heart, over the cliff of the rock on which they should have stood, to the waters of death.

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

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

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

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

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

His judgments, to be sure on the other side, follow with distinctness, even if amazing extensions - before eventual impact - may occur to the point that Ezekiel was instructed to deal with a newer type of tortuous twisting on the part of mockers. Their new contortion of truth: it was to the effect and complaint that God prolongs things: THEREFORE, says the prophet from the mouth of the Lord, JUDGMENT IS NOW. There will be no more delay (Ezekiel 12:22-28). Compare to this, Jeremiah 17:19-27 where a proposition for prolonged and wonderful blessing, even to remain for ever (17:25), was made: even in the midst of judgment, a fresh proposal of splendid mercy was provided, one which their hearts were not in tune to keep, though it was ever so simple, and filled with grace. They would not heed even that.

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

Neither aspect, love or sovereignty, seeking in mercy (in which CATEGORICALLY, GOD DELIGHTS - Micah 7:18-19) or declaring in judgment - presenting or precluding, pre-empts the other: God is not divided, and knows His own mind, and declares in truth His own heart. What He says in principle, over and over in this form, phrase and phase and in that, as He constantly reveals the love and the seeking (cf. Hosea 12:10), and as He repeatedly constrains and controls with His decisions and determinations, His sovereign edicts: BOTH we know, and that, it is the whole point. Only philosophy objects with its running sore of uncontrolled thrusting past the word of God, to satisfy this or that human instinct: and as to that, as Paul declares, it is vain; for what is man's thought compared with the Lord, and man's thoughts are not as His.

As to those who know Him, however, they know this, that this miracle of miracles, that HE should penetrate to their heart and find them, it is the work of God for whom nothing shall be said to be impossible (Luke 1:37, John 6:28-29). Nothing BUT that work and that work alone, could have secured it (John 10:26); but as John 1-3 makes so superabundantly clear, God is not selectively disregarding where it counts, anyone in the scope of His offer and the reality of His love; it is a preference for darkness in the very face of this universality of the divine cover of charity, which is cited as the ground of condemnation (John 3:15-19); it is the failure to come to Him in the face of such words and deeds as these, which is cited against them (John 15:21-23). Without that, as the Scripture says, to the point at issue (their salvation), "they would have had no sin. But now...", it is the end, for there is no other beginning for sinners, but this.

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

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

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



He adds:



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

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

An impermeable, impenetrable, undying, ungrounded, unfounded, unruly and intemperate disregard of intimate, ultimate value and majesty, tenderness and mercy from Creator to creature. Christ is not demi-urge but deity, and denial of Him in His mercy mandate ministry is consignment to hell by one's own soaring folly as efficient - all too efficient - cause. It is this ultimate denial in His gracious, Messianic face which is the defined, despatch notice to doom.

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

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

"UNLESS YOU REPENT YOU WILL ALL LIKEWISE PERISH."

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

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

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

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

 

       To add to the purchase price by the work of sinners, your own merit or will (Romans 9:16, John 1:12) or proclivities or powers or any contribution therefrom, or anybody else's, or that of any group, theologian or body: this is a presumption so bold, an addition so contrived, a denial of the freedom of salvation so vast, an antidote to the deliverance of Galatians 3:1-5 so complete, a rejection of the amplitude of Galatians 6:14 so perfect, as to form almost a brigade within that everlasting contempt, which instead of rejection, adorns; instead of contempt for Christ, despises His covenant, protected by His blood, and with wasting substitute for faith, lets sinners 'help', as did the High Priest with Pilate. (Hebrews 9:12-15,24-28; 10:10,14, Romans 6:24, 5:15, 3:25-28, Galatians 3:1-5, 6:14, I Peter 1:18-21,3-5, John 11:49-50, II Corinthians 5:17-21, 11:1-13:6.)

Indeed, it is important that tradition should not blind to the fact that some may UNINTENTIONALLY add by implication with an X-factor of God-desirability (cf. Predestination and Freewill Section II and The Kingdom of HeavenCh. 4), just as much as others may do so with an express confession of the efficacy of their own wills in the selection for salvation! Moreover, in efforts and endeavours to make some point sure, instead of simply relying on the word of God, many bring in unnecessary controversy. In the end, it is all over before it begins: it is written, on the one side and the other, and neither can add by their traditions and irreconcilable antinomies or adverse contentions. The only safe procedure is to take the word of God as it comes, not to take it where you think it should go; and while God is merciful, there is no comfort to the church of God in philosophic preoccupations defiling the purity of His word.

 

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

  • As to that, nowadays it would probably be dignified by the term 'theology', but unless repented of, it is merely idolatry, allowing the things of man to add to the things of God, when the Gospel, even if  PAUL HIMSELF should change it, merely condemns the arrogance of those who so act (Galatians 1:6-9). Paul's gospel was not future, but PAST in this, that it was what HE HAD PREACHED at the time of writing. (See The Everlasting Gospel - Barbs, Arrows and Balms, Item 17.) Addition of ANYTHING to Christ's personal work is utterly condemned. It is monstrous and monumental perversion of the truth (Gal. 3:1-13). Those who add to "these things" are exemplified in Peter's momentary fall, not his repentance (I Peter 5:1-4, 1:3-5, Revelation 22:18-19, Proverbs 30:6).

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

What remains as much a delight is this further fact:

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

And then?
 

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


We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.'
 

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

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


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

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


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


That is the nature of His pleasure who DELIGHTS IN MERCY (Micah 7:19ff.). That is the way it is. Thank God that it is!

For the harmony and significance of these things in the beauty of the Lord's unique holiness, see also The Kingdom of Heaven Ch.4, SMR Appendix B and SMR Ch.8, initial pages, and The Biblical Workman Ch. 8, End-note 2, Tender Times for Timely Truths Ch. 2, esp. the Excursion in End-note 1, Repent or Perish Ch.1, End-note 1, together with Predestination and Freewill.

 

*2 See aptly here also The Westminster Confession, Ch.3, I; and on His coverage of all cases, in foreknowing sovereignty in Christ, Ch. X, part  III.