Monday, September 29, 2008

The Free Offer AND the Emotivity of God

This sermon touches on two of the issues I have blogged on recently.

Bob Gonzales, an elder at the Covenant Reformed Baptist Church of Easley, SC, provides an excellent lesson on The Free Offer of the Gospel: Does God Desire the Salvation of All Men? Yes. He also includes some helpful practical implications of this belief. The main implication is that we reflect the heart of God by earnestly desiring to see those we speak with to be saved. Gonzales notes that certainly we are not to presume that everyone is elect, but we are to certainly WISH that they all were elect!

And I love the D. A. Carson quote he uses: "It is no answer to espouse a form of impassibility that denies that God has an emotional life and that insists that all of the biblical evidence to the contrary is nothing more than anthropopathism. The price is too heavy. You may then rest in God’s sovereignty, but you can no longer rejoice in his love. You may rejoice only in a linguistic expression that is an accommodation of some reality of which we cannot conceive, couched in the anthropopathism of love. Give me a break. Paul did not pray that his readers might be able to grasp the height and length and breadth and depth of an anthropopathism and to know the anthropopathism that surpasses knowledge (Eph. 3:14-21)."

(Found in The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God

To those in #pros: Yes, he left out "your children" when he quoted Matthew 23:37, but it isn't as if he did so to change the meaning of the text! I think that there is reason to believe the text is soteriological but talking about the revealed will of God rather than the decretive will of God.

Here is a sermon on the parallel in Luke: Pleading for Jerusalem- Jim Savastio

I agree with this quote Gonzales uses from Spurgeon: "My love of consistency with my own doctrinal views is not great enough to allow me knowingly to alter a single text of Scripture. I have great respect for orthodoxy, but my reverence for inspiration is far greater. I would sooner a hundred times over appear to be inconsistent with myself than be inconsistent with the word of God. I never thought it to be any very great crime to seem to be inconsistent with myself; for who am I that I should everlastingly be consistent? But I do think it a great crime to be so inconsistent with the word of God that I should want to lop away a bough or even a twig from so much as a single tree of the forest of Scripture. God forbid that I should cut or shape, even in the least degree, any divine expression."

Salvation By Knowing the Truth


At October 1, 2008 at 10:54 AM , Blogger DrOakley said...


Could you point me to anytime, or anywhere, where "your children" has been interpreted as "the elect"? You might wish to look through the exegesis offered in The Potter's Freedom. :-)


At October 1, 2008 at 2:18 PM , Blogger MarieP said...

Hey Doc,

Please correct me if I misunderstood you, but I thought that was the implication of what you were saying.

You wrote:

"A vitally important point to make here is that the ones the Lord desired to gather are not the ones who 'were not willing'! Jesus speaks to the leaders about their children that they, the leaders, would not allow Him to 'gather.' Jesus was not seeking to gather the leaders, but their children. This one consideration alone renders the passage useless for the Arminian seeking to establish freewillism."

You then quoted John Gill:

"That the persons whom Christ would have gathered are not represented as being unwilling to be gathered; but their rulers were not willing that they should. The opposition and resistance to the will of Christ, were not made by the people, but by their governors. The common people seemed inclined to attend the ministry of Christ, as appears from the vast crowds which, at different times and places, followed him; but the chief priests and rulers did all they could to hinder the collection of them to him; and their belief in him as the Messiah, by traducing his character, miracles, and doctrines, and by passing an act that whosoever confessed him should be put out of the synagogue; so that the obvious meaning of the text is the same with that of verse 13"

Would you say that those whom Jesus desired to gather as a hen gathers her chicks included the non-elect? I thought that is what you were disagreeing with all the times I heard you explain the text.

Of course, we know the text in no way supports LFW or that the elect can finally resist God's grace!

At October 1, 2008 at 3:15 PM , Blogger MarieP said...

You also wrote:

"The 'children' of the leaders would be Jews who were hindered by the Jewish leaders from hearing Christ. The 'you would not' then is referring to the same men indicated by the context: the Jewish leaders who 'were unwilling' to allow those under their authority to hear the proclamation of the Christ. This verse, then, is speaking to the same issues raised earlier in Matthew 23:13:

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in."

I took this in a soteriological context, so I thought you meant the elect. Otherwise, why would it matter if it was the leaders or the citizens of Jerusalem (excluding the leaders)? Jesus was still longing to gather at least some non-elect to Himself.

At October 2, 2008 at 12:09 AM , Blogger MarieP said...

OK, I've listened to the SS lesson from the PRBC website, and in it you said that the context is not soteriological at all. So the image of a mother hen gathering her chicks under her wing is a picture of wanting to gather the multitudes together to preach the Gospel to them, not a picture of Jesus wanting to shelter them from the destruction to come?

And, how is "Jerusalem" limited to just its leaders by the context?

At October 2, 2008 at 6:11 PM , Blogger DrOakley said...

Thank you for taking the time to look at what I wrote, Marie. As you can see, I did not (and I have never heard anyone in channel either) say the "children" are "the elect." My point has always been that it is a misuse of the text to avoid its context; that it is a judgment oracle on the Jewish leaders, and hence distinguishes between them and the people under their authority; and that in reality, to force the text to address any kind of "intention" on God's part relating to salvation that then introduces an incapacity on God's part to accomplish His will is truly an act of desperation.

I simply felt the comment toward the chat channel was unwarranted. Thanks.


At October 2, 2008 at 7:17 PM , Blogger MarieP said...


I would have done the same. I do not in any way want to misrepresent you (there are so many who do that already!), so I edited my post to reflect that. I was not intending to take a pot-shot at anyone nor was I trying to pick a fight. The reason I brought up pros was that I thought you would have my skin for not noting that Matthew 23:37 was mis-cited ;-) It was an honest misunderstanding but a misunderstanding nonetheless. And yes we can agree to disagree on the two wills of God. And of course, Norm Geisler is still wrong on the text!


At October 5, 2008 at 4:03 PM , Blogger Jade said...

this is a difficult topic and I'm still investigating. Most reformed folks do not believe that God's decree is apart from God's desire. But both sermons you reference has got me thinking. I'm also putting in an order for DA Carson's book. I had heard him speak in one conference and he was great.

At October 6, 2008 at 7:12 PM , Blogger Jade said...

Hi Marie,
I'm still struggling about God's desire vs God's decree. If God so desires that all are saved, how do you explain why God did not decree this? How do you reconcile God's desire to what He decreed? Shouldn't the two be one and the same? I'm aware of verses Pastor Gonzales has pointed out. But I guess I'm finding difficulty in how Pastor Gonzales reconciles (or explains) what God decreed to what God desires. Could you explain that a bit more? Thanks!

At October 6, 2008 at 10:10 PM , Blogger MarieP said...

Hey, Jade!

You said:

"If God so desires that all are saved, how do you explain why God did not decree this?"

Well, first I would realize that, as Deut. 29:29 says, "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law."

Isaiah 55:8-10 are well-known verses on the same issue, and their context is very interesting:

1 "Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
3 Incline your ear, and come to Me.
Hear, and your soul shall live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you—
The sure mercies of David.
4 Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people,
A leader and commander for the people.
5 Surely you shall call a nation you do not know,
And nations who do not know you shall run to you,
Because of the LORD your God,
And the Holy One of Israel;
For He has glorified you."
6 Seek the LORD while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the LORD,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
8 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
10 "For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it."

In a passage in which God calls upon sinners without distinction to come receive the Gospel (and God knows who the elect are!), you also have God declaring His sovereignty and right to think and command what He will.

"How do you reconcile God's desire to what He decreed? Shouldn't the two be one and the same?"

I don't have to reconcile the two! And where in Scripture does it say God's desire and decree have to be the same? That is something that I too wrestled with!

Ezekiel 18:20 says, "The soul that sins shall die," and yet verse 23 says, "'Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?' says the Lord GOD, 'and not that he should turn from his ways and live?'"

You also have an argument from theodicy (the theology of God's relation to suffering and evil). Not one of us who believe in the absolute sovereignty of God would deny that good and ill comes from the hand of God (Job 1:21, 2:10; Lam. 3:38). And yet Lam. 3:33 says that God does not "For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men." There is a sort of "holy reluctance" in God, as Pastor Jim put it in this sermon. God would rather show compassion, but for whatever reasons, God chooses to send affliction and grief. Hebrews 12:3-11 also supports this idea. After all, what good and kind father really loves disciplining his kids? Should we expect any less of God? God would rather do something else, but for His own purposes, and for the greater good, He does another.

Here is yet another interesting passage:

Hosea 11
1 "When Israel was a child, I loved him,
And out of Egypt I called My son.
2 As they called them,[a]
So they went from them;[b]
They sacrificed to the Baals,
And burned incense to carved images.
3 "I taught Ephraim to walk,
Taking them by their arms;[c]
But they did not know that I healed them.
4 I drew them with gentle cords,
With bands of love,
And I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck.
I stooped and fed them.
5 "He shall not return to the land of Egypt;
But the Assyrian shall be his king,
Because they refused to repent.
6 And the sword shall slash in his cities,
Devour his districts,
And consume them,
Because of their own counsels.
7 My people are bent on backsliding from Me.
Though they call to the Most High,
None at all exalt Him.
8 "How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I set you like Zeboiim?
My heart churns within Me;
My sympathy is stirred.
9 I will not execute the fierceness of My anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim.
For I am God, and not man,
The Holy One in your midst;
And I will not come with terror.
10 "They shall walk after the LORD.
He will roar like a lion.
When He roars,
Then His sons shall come trembling from the west;
11 They shall come trembling like a bird from Egypt,
Like a dove from the land of Assyria.
And I will let them dwell in their houses,”
Says the LORD.

Obviously, we know that God has always had His divine plan, and He doesn't "repent" or "change his mind" in the way we do. But this passage has to mean something. Pastor Jim preached a sermon on this too.

I would also recommend reading this article by John Piper and this one by John Murray.

At October 22, 2008 at 2:56 PM , Blogger YnottonY said...

Hi Marie,

I thought you might be interested in this post:

Matt. 23:37 Calvinistically Considered

It is a false either/or dilemma to say that the passage is about judgment but not also about Jesus' saving will. It is about both. The leaders were being sharply rebuked because of their disobedience to act as faithful undershepherds, so that the nation could be gathered through their teaching (the means).

I say this in my above post:

How do you know that Jesus did not want to gather the leaders, i.e. "Jerusalem"? Why did God send prophets and wise men to the leaders from generation to generation? After all, verse 34 says:

NKJ Matthew 23:34 "Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city,

It appears that he wanted to save both to me, and thus their guilt is compounded since they sin against God's well-meant sending of the prophets. The rejection of Jesus by the leaders in that generation was typological of the rejection of Christ in the prophets in all the previous generations. It seems more reasonable to think that Jesus wanted to gather all of the people THROUGH the leaders, but the leaders were a hinderance rather than a help, therefore they were judged as wicked since they despise well-meant kindness, patience and goodness (Rom. 2:4).

This Calvinistic interpretation (viewing it as referencing the revealed will of God) is not even a plausible option for James White, since he [like Gill] adamantly denies that God in any sense wills the salvation of any of the non-elect (click for audio).

At October 22, 2008 at 3:46 PM , Blogger YnottonY said...

"In this verse [Matt. 23:37], Jerusalem evidently refers to the people of that city. It may have the leaders (denounced in the previous verses) especially in mind, but they were not solely responsible for the death of the prophets, or even of Christ himself; nor did the judgment fall only on them, as many ordinary people perished in the fall of Jerusalem."

David Silversides, The Free Offer: Biblical & Reformed (Marpet Press, 2005), p. 50.

"3. As his life, so his doctrine was a most pathetic invitation unto sinners. "Never man spake like this man." John 7:46. Whenever he opened his lips, heaven opened, the very heart of God was opened to sinners; the whole stream and current of his doctrine was one continued powerful persuasive to draw sinners to him. This was his language: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matt. 11 : 28. "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." John 7:37. He compares his invitations to the call of a hen, to gather her chickens under her wings: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings!" Luke 13:34. Certainly the whole gospel is nothing but the charming voice of the heavenly bridegroom."

John Flavel, Christ Knocking at the Door of Sinners' Hearts; or, A Solemn Entreaty to Receive the Saviour and His Gospel in This the Day of Mercy (New York: American Tract Society, 1850), 144-145.

"5. His sorrows and mourning upon account of the obstinacy and unbelief of sinners, speak the vehemence of his desire after union with them. It is said, Mark 3:5, "When he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts." You see that a hard heart is a grief to Jesus Christ. How tenderly did Christ mourn over Jerusalem, when it rejected him. It is said that when Jesus came nigh to the city, he wept over it. Luke 19:41. The Redeemer's tears wept over obstinate Jerusalem spoke the zeal and fervor of his concern for their salvation; how loath Christ is to give up sinners. What a mournful voice is that in John 5:40 : "Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." How ready would I be to give you life; but you would rather die than come to me for it. What can Christ do more to express his willingness? All the sorrows that ever touched the heart of Christ from men, were on this account, that they would not yield to his calls and invitations."

John Flavel, Ibid., p. 145-146.

See also the Puritan Oliver Heywood on God's Will, Christ's Desire and the Spirit's Kind Impulses. He references the passage.

See also Jonathan Edwards on the Sincerity of God's Calls and Invitations. It's quite good, and he references the text as well.

At October 22, 2008 at 5:52 PM , Blogger Steve said...

Really good, Marie. I think Dr. White is wrong, and his use of the noun "desperation" is an interesting one. To say that Matthew 23:37 is not addressing God's intent to save impresses me as the act of desperation. His argument from "context" is another good example of the misuse of the word. There's nothing in the "context" that directs us away from God's intent to save.

Thanks for your post, Marie.

At October 24, 2008 at 3:31 PM , Blogger YnottonY said...

Above, Marie represented White's interpretation as this:

"...the image of a mother hen gathering her chicks under her wing is a picture of wanting to gather the multitudes together to preach the Gospel to them..."

Here's at least 4 problems with this view:

1) So Jesus really wanted to preach to the multitudes, but was hindered from doing what he wanted by the leaders? How does this escape the issue of an inefficacious will in Christ? Wasn't Jesus also harshly rebuking the leaders because he wanted them to obey him and thus cooperate with his preaching wishes regarding the rest of the Israelites?

2) More importantly, are we to believe that Jesus wanted to preach to the multitude but didn't want all of that same multitude to be saved? Are we to believe that Jesus wanted to preach to the multitude so as to command them to repent and believe, but he didn't really want all to comply with or obey those evangelical commands?

3) Jesus likens himself to the prophets who were before sent to Israel. Are we to believe that those prophets, in the name of Christ, didn't want all to obey their gospel calls unto salvation? That they merely wanted to preach to Israel [not so that all would be saved], but were hindered by the leaders as well?

4) Who else in all of church history has taken the position of James White on this passage? Is he totally on his own here?

Incidentally, Steve, it is not our position [or Marie's] that Jesus or God INTENDS [in the sense of decreeing to effect] the salvation of all of Israel in the context. We're just saying, as historic Calvinists have said, that Jesus is expressing a sincere wish/will/desire to savingly gather all of the lost Israelites according to his revealed will. It's no different from saying that God really wanted them to keep or comply with his commandments, whether it's his will as in the law or his will as expressed in the distinct gospel call. We're clearly not saying that we think God "intended" [i.e. decreed] to effect their obedience, as if this sense of God's will was thwarted. So, James White set up a straw man above when he said, " force the text to address any kind of "intention" on God's part relating to salvation that then introduces an incapacity on God's part to accomplish His will is truly an act of desperation."

The bottom line is, James White's position entails that Jesus wanted to preach the gospel to the rest of the Israelites [i.e. the "children"], but not that he wanted them all to hear it so as to obey or comply with the gospel commands. For, if it's the case that Jesus wanted to preach to them with a view to obtaining their gospel obedience, that would mean that he wanted them to be saved, for repentance is salvation. As John Frame says, "If God desires people to repent of sin, then certainly he desires them to be saved, for salvation is the fruit of such repentance."

Given the above observations, we are justified in asking who is really forcing the text and/or acting in system-driven desperation?!

At October 26, 2008 at 10:26 AM , Blogger YnottonY said...

Here is a comment by Hanserd Knollys (1598-1691) on Revelation 3:20:

"[If any man hear my voice, and open the door.] That is in the Ministry of the Word, and open the door of his heart, by a willing consent to accept his offers of Grace upon Gospel-Terms. [I will come in to him, and will sup with him and he with me.] This is a great encouragement unto them to answer his earnest desire, and gracious Invitation to open their Hearts, and to admit him entrance, by promising them, First, Union with him; [I will come in to him.] Secondly, Communion with him; [and sup with him, and he with me.] By supping together, we may understand the mutual fellowship between Christ and their Souls, in the sacred Ordinances of God, 1 John 1. 3."

Hanserd Knollys, An Exposition of the Whole Book of the Revelation (London, 1689), p. 60.

A brief bio on Knollys at CCEL says:

"In London he was instrumental in the formation of a baptist church at Great St. Helen's, Bishopsgate. Knollys took part with Kiffin and Keach in many baptist endeavours. Knollys was one of the seven men who sent out the invitation to the 1689 General Assembly. Two years after he had subscribed the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, he was called to his Master."


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