Luke 23:34 Let It Be

This verse raises certain Christological questions even if it is acceptably canonical. It is not alone in being a verse which was added to the words of original writers. For instance, “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen,” is also not part of the original canon.

While the latter can be said to be in perfect harmony with the rest of the authorial intent of the Scripture, the former runs afoul of several things.

Jesus in John does not pray for the world. Also in John, Jesus said that the Father always hears him. We must conclude that the Father always answers the intercession of the Son. How could it fail? That would be unthinkable. We would have no assurance without the impeccable prayers of Christ. We also must conclude, then, that Jesus did not pray for the forgiveness of all in the crowd, for they would have all been forgiven. Unless one says that he only prayed for some sins of some. To what end would prayer for only some be?

There is another explanation.

If we say that the verse should be accepted as original,  we need to understand that the word forgive, in this passage, does not necessarily mean to pardon iniquity. It simply may mean to permit. In other words it may be rendered, “Father let this be…” Which would harken back to his prayer the night before, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Jesus’ prayer, then, would have been answered. And that according to precedence. In that, Jesus’ prayers are always answered, and it was this very thing, the mocking, the humiliations, the crucifixion itself, that Jesus prayed for, as well as always previously reminding his disciples that according to the will of God it would be let to be.

If Christ is being consistent with the other things he points to on the cross, then it is this. That those who were crucifying him and those who were watching fulfilled scripture but were blind to the reality. The did not know what they were doing, acting as it were, as the Psalm 22 says, as unthinking ravening beasts. When it is written, “They divided his garments..,” it was also in keeping with Psalm 22. If then he responded, “Father let this to be..,” it makes perfect sense, seeing that it was fulfilling what had been written just as he had prayed it would be done. The crowd was saying that since he trusted God, let God save him, also was done according to Psalm 22. There is then this complete context of the Psalm. He bracket the entire event in this one Psalm.

Isaiah 53:12 is often used in reference to the prayer of forgiveness. But the context of that is the intercession for the saints, and not for all. That is, if Jesus was asking for forgiveness of all in the crowd, it proposes universalism. But Jesus was not crucified for the whole of mankind, but only the elect. Now it may be that Jesus was praying for this one particular sin. But that is to stretch the whole of the concept of the intercession of the sacrifice of the cross. The atonement is, as mentioned above, even for acts of ignorance, required a live sacrifice.  No, we can only accept the prayer as  for those who are the elect, if Jesus prayed for forgiveness at all. That is the extent of his atonement.

Now, it is true that Isaiah 53 paints a vivid picture of the crucifixion. It makes mention that he was not recognized for who he was. And, some texts place the last line of Isaiah 53 in the context. But, alas, that is not the testimony of the historic cannon, but a scribal insertion. Jesus appeals repeatedly to the Psalmist, not Isaiah. Even when Jesus says it is finished, it harkens back to Psalm 22 and the completion of the fulfilling of vows, saying that the yet to be born will proclaim all that he has done. The Psalmist records that “you lay me in the dust of death.” Another way of saying it is finished.

Is it true that Jesus prayed for his enemies without regard? That is, is this prayer an example for us that we should do likewise? I think that should be considered a categorical error.

We are not as Jesus was, men without sin. We pray for our enemies in a distinctly different sense. That being, that we have been forgiven much, and vengeance is not ours, and we are humbled by the fact that our sin puts us at the same level as our enemies in every respect. Remember the Law was given to transgressors.

This is not so of Jesus. In fact the Scripture says he does not pray for the world. Also, when he sent out his disciples he only gave them charge to bless if those who heard accepted the Gospel.  The disciples were to leave a curse, they were not instructed to pray for their enemies.

The reference from Luke 23:34 is often made is to Matthew 5:44. But there Jesus is correcting a misinterpretation of the Law which he then corrects, pointing to Exodus. The lesson is equity and impartiality in the law. Even enemies were to be afforded what was true and good according to righteous judgment. As such the children of Israel were to judge righteous justice. So you see, Jesus praying for his enemies at the cross has nothing to do with the other. In Matthew, Jesus is addressing men as the salt of the earth. All men are just like any other men; their commonness and lowliness is what salt is all about. The are to judge with light of truth that they might be approved of by the Father. As the Father is perfect in judgment, so also were they to be. Salt and light have to do with the equity and impartiality of the Law, which is the context. Jesus is saying that they are to treat one another, even their enemies, without respect to persons.

But Jesus is not like any other man. He has respect to persons, for he knows what is in a man. We do not. Jesus did not, and does not now, pray without regard. He only intercedes for the saints. His judgments are sure and true, and as he judges, the Father also judges. Again, it makes no sense that Jesus is praying for his enemies unless one is saying that it is only his passion for which he prays they be forgiven. But then, that is not the context of Matthew 5, either. For there it is righteous judgment. And the righteous judgment is that they were guilty of murder, of which the Law was exacting in its punishment. It would be contrary to his reproof that not one jot or tittle of the Law is rescinded. For Jesus to be perfect as his Father is perfect he would have to judge righteous judgment. Further the Law held provisions for sins of ignorance. It didn’t, however, merely grant forgiveness for ignorance. It required a live sacrifice. But, then, we are back to the extent of the atonement. Jesus did not die for all, but for many. But, he died for all the sins of many. He did not die to forgive some sins of the rest.

Then there is this. The grand court of heaven was held on Calvary, where Jesus had previously said that now is this world judged. Even if the acts of the everyone in the crowd were forgiven, those for whom Christ did not die were condemned there and then. So again, it make no sense to say that Jesus prayed for them. For even if their mocking and scourging, humiliation and killing Jesus was forgiven, their sin remained.

The appeal to Matthew 5:44 is non sequitur.

Finally, let me part with this. The verse is controversial. Historically it cannot be established as being part of the original canon. Those who wish to hold on to it, need to explain it. But, as demonstrated above, that is plagued with problems.

God Is The Sign: Behold Vengeance Is Mine Immanuel Says

The trappings aside, Isaiah is fulfilled. A sign given by the weary God. Isaiah 7 is incredibly in-depth about the sign of joy and the woe pronounced upon the house of David that accompanied it and cannot be divorced from it if the full account of Scripture is to be upheld. Very much like the woes pronounced by Jesus over Jerusalem, Isaiah is prophesying doom along with blessings upon his covenant people.

But, then, the sign is the child, a precious stone, and he is God, Isaiah proclaimed:

But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken…

The child Jesus, set for the falling and rising of many.

That’s right. Peter said it and also Paul places this prophecy in the Messianic Kingdom Age. The annunciation of the angels marks the beginning of the end and portends a rough future for Jerusalem, Judea and the furthest reaches of the world. Wherever the Gospel was intended to go is wherever the curse is found. For Israel herself is set as a sign for the nations, a lesson that all must heed. Her rising and falling is a portent for the nations. For what happens to her happens to all.

All… because they refuse the waters of Shiloah:

Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently, and rejoice over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks, and it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.

This prophecy is not restricted to just Israel as can be seen.

Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. As many were astonished at you— his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind— so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.

Immanuel’s land is the whole earth. For his kingdom knows no end.

Be broken, you peoples, and be shattered; give ear, all you far countries; strap on your armor and be shattered; strap on your armor and be shattered. Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us.

The comfort that God gives is meted with the solemn warning that the world is the enemy of the church. It will attack her and try to kill the bride of Christ, pursuing her throughout the world for the rest of history as Revelation tells us. We might want to remember that Jesus was fond of quoting Isaiah and telling his disciples that the words that he had were for them to understand and not all could hear what was being said. However, all are subject to them. The somber warnings extend to the ends of the earth. The words are a heavy burden to bear:

Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples. I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him. Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion. And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.

Yet, who believes this report? What is wanted is a Christmas without a crucifixion.

We hear refrains of Christ’s words reflected in Isaiah 6. How long will this message be bound up among the disciples? Until the end, until the only thing that remains is the holy seed:

Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, and the Lord removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump.

We hear Jesus’ words of John 17:

Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are signs

with hints of the Resurrection and the sanctification by the word of the testimony. And there are the dire warnings against those disobedient to it, that they will be cast into utter darkness.

So goes the foreboding witness of the great sign of Immanuel, born in a manger, in Bethlehem to a virgin. We read further in Isaiah 9 about this little one who stepped down from glory and took on the form of a servant:

But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

How wonderous this message of great peace and joy on earth to all upon whom God’s favor rests. It is indeed a time to be recognized with songs and feasts and gatherings of the family of God.

We must remember that the joy of the annunciation came at great cost. For the child that was born, the one in whom all the hopes and fears were met came not merely as a babe, but as the Judge of all mankind. He came himself to bear the judgement of God against many so it was written, the judgement began with the household of God and cost the life of the babe born in Bethlehem. But woe was pronounced upon all those who reject the invitation to suffer along with him:

The Lord has sent a word against Jacob, and it will fall on Israel; and all the people will know, Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria, who say in pride and in arrogance of heart: “The bricks have fallen, but we will build with dressed stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place.”

But the Lord raises the adversaries of Rezin against him, and stirs up his enemies. The Syrians on the east and the Philistines on the west devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still. The people did not turn to him who struck them, nor inquire of the Lord of hosts. So the Lord cut off from Israel head and tail, palm branch and reed in one day— the elder and honored man is the head, and the prophet who teaches lies is the tail; for those who guide this people have been leading them astray, and those who are guided by them are swallowed up. Therefore the Lord does not rejoice over their young men, and has no compassion on their fatherless and widows; for everyone is godless and an evildoer, and every mouth speaks folly. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still. For wickedness burns like a fire; it consumes briers and thorns; it kindles the thickets of the forest, and they roll upward in a column of smoke. Through the wrath of the Lord of hosts the land is scorched, and the people are like fuel for the fire; no one spares another. They slice meat on the right, but are still hungry, and they devour on the left, but are not satisfied; each devours the flesh of his own arm, Manasseh devours Ephraim, and Ephraim devours Manasseh; together they are against Judah. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.

Isaiah 9 flows naturally into Isaiah 10 with this:

Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey! What will you do on the day of punishment, in the ruin that will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth? Nothing remains but to crouch among the prisoners or fall among the slain. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.

Who are the writers? Are they those who promise blessing and not cursing. Are they those who do not tell the whole story. Is that how they defraud the widow and the fatherless- by keeping them in the dark concerning the great and terrible day of the Lord?

Listen, the fast that the Lord requires is to set the record straight. That is how the captives are set free, this is how the widow is defended, the orphan given a home and the hungry fed. As Jesus remarked the only way to escape the woes pronounced against Israel and the world is to lay down your life. You cannot rebuild, you cannot replant. The only true relief from sorrow is the cross. There is only one way, and all disciples must take up their cross and follow him. Judgement will fall on all men. Just as he was under the yoke so must we all be. The poor you will have with you always, but who is he who is poor? The other side of the cross, for those who believe, is the resurrection to life and that rich and fat, abundance of peace and joy that passes man’s understanding. But for those who love their celebrations, the bright lights of the holy days without the recognition of the one true light who was born a babe in a manger, for them the only expectation at Christmas is as the writer to the Hebrews says:

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,

“Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

Joyfully accepting the plundering of possessions in hopes of that one true possession, is to be possessed by Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus wept over Jerusalem for their sin was to keep from her children the pronouncements of judgement for rejecting the Holy One of God. Just as they had done numerous times before, they had not announced the zeal of the Lord whose vengeance accomplishes salvation for his people through captivity and judgement. The teachers withheld the vital information about the suffering messianic path. As Jesus would command his followers that they must surely follow him, he commanded that they take up the very same cross upon which he was crucified. He asked if his disciples were willing to go through the baptism which he was to be baptized in, and even though he knew they were unable he promised that indeed they would eat and drink of the same cup. Our God is a Jealous God. Zealous is the same word. He is jealous for his people, his jealousy burns so much so that the very warnings of pending doom for his enemies are the very waters of deliverance for his people. As the waters of doom for the Egyptians were the waters of baptism for the people of Israel, this little child, the King of kings born in such humble circumstance was the portent of falling and rising of many people.

This Christmas do not neglect the entire story. For this is the wise prophecy of Simeon and of all the saints who await his appearance:

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

Have A Fear-filled And Dreadful Christmas: Our Immanuel, Our Brother, Our Refuge

The LORD spoke to me again: “Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently, and rejoice over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks, and it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.”

Be broken, you peoples, and be shattered;
give ear, all you far countries;
strap on your armor and be shattered;
strap on your armor and be shattered.
Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing;
speak a word, but it will not stand,
for God is with us.

For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples. I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him. Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion. And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness. (Isaiah 8:5-22 ESV)

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17 ESV)

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere,

“What is man, that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man, that you care for him?
You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned him with glory and honor,
putting everything in subjection under his feet.”

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying,

“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
And again,
“I will put my trust in him.”

And again,
“Behold, I and the children God has given me.”

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2 ESV)

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”
I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2 ESV)

Of the things the nations hate the most is the fact that the Father has given a particular people to the Son. Only for them was he born into this world. For some the Christmas story is very good news, for others it means judgement and doom. This little babe was set for the rising of the ones that the Father gave him as an inheritance, those whom he rightly calls brothers, not of this world, born as he, from above. At the same time he is set for the fall of many, a consuming fire, the Judge of all and warrior King. As we read in John 3 this is the way that God loves the world: that the believing ones would be saved, but the unbelieving ones would be condemned. And it was in this way that the world is not judged, that is destroyed, in his first coming, but as we find also, it was by his being born of a virgin, of being Immanuel, that the nations are judged by that coming and will be destroyed because of the world’s rejection of him. In light of the Lord’s name, Jealous, we recall that it is his to take vengeance upon his enemies for the release of his own from their captivity. It was for this purpose, as John 3 reminds us that he was given, a son, whose name is Wonderful, the Mighty God, Teacher, whose government knows no end, who crushes his enemies underfoot and presents to the father (John 17) all those who the Father had given him before the world began.

It is this that Christians celebrate, if indeed they celebrate at all the birth of the Christ. It was this message of dread and fear, and of hope and good news, that bowed the shepherds down and drew them to the Lord’s dawn. On this remembrance of his first advent, what then must be the Christmas message for this world that is perishing, that is being prepared for destruction at his next advent? Is it not this, that today if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts, but fear and dread the Lord and not those things that the world fears? Is it not good news that you should repent and believe in this child who was born, lived and died and was resurrected in holiness on your behalf, and show forth that you were in him from the beginnings of the world, prepared as children of the king, given to the Christ child? It is, unless of course you are of those whose condemnation was written about long ago, who are condemned already, who John said hate this light because they love evil, in which case, you will only rage.

“Double” Predestination by R.C. Sproul

“A horrible decree… .” “Most ruthless statement… .” “A terrible theological theory… .” “An illegitimate inference of logic… .” These and other similar epithets have been used frequently to articulate displeasure and revulsion at the Reformed doctrine of double predestination. Particularly abhorrent to many is the notion that God would predestinate (in any sense) the doom of the reprobate.

The “Double” of Predestination

The goal of this essay is not to provide a comprehensive analysis, exposition, or defense of the doctrine of election or predestination. Rather, the essay is limited to a concern for the “double” aspect of predestination with particular reference to the question of the relationship of God’s sovereignty to reprobation or preterition.

The use of the qualifying term “double” has been somewhat confusing in discussions concerning predestination. The term apparently means one thing within the circle of Reformed theology and quite another outside that circle and at a popular level of theological discourse. The term “double” has been set in contrast with a notion of “single” predestination. It has also been used as a synonym for a symmetrical view of predestination which sees election and reprobation being worked out in a parallel mode of divine operation. Both usages involve a serious distortion of the Reformed view of double predestination.

Viewing double predestination as a distinction from single predestination may be seen in the work of Emil Brunner. Brunner argues that it is impossible to deduce the doctrine of double predestination from the Bible. He says:

The Bible does not contain the doctrine of double predestination, although in a few isolated passages it seems to come close to it. The Bible teaches that all salvation is based on the eternal Election of God in Jesus Christ, and that this eternal Election springs wholly and entirely from God’s sovereign freedom. But wherever this happens, there is no mention of a decree of rejection. The Bible teaches that alongside of the elect there are those who are not elect, who are “reprobate,” and indeed that the former are the minority and the latter the majority; but in these passages the point at issue is not eternal election but “separation” or “selection” in judgment. Thus the Bible teaches that there will be a double outcome of world history, salvation and ruin, Heaven and hell. But while salvation is explicitly taught as derived from the eternal election, the further conclusion is not drawn that destruction is also based upon a corresponding decree of doom.1

Here Brunner argues passionately, though not coherently, for “single” predestination. There is a decree of election, but not of reprobation. Predestination has only one side—election. In this context, double predestination is “avoided” (or evaded) by the dialectical method. The dialectical method which sidesteps logical consistency has had a pervasive influence on contemporary discussions of double predestination. A growing antipathy to logic in theology is manifesting itself widely. Even G. C. Berkouwer seems allergic to the notion that logic should play a role in developing our understanding of election.

It is one thing to construct a theology of election (or any other kind of theology) purely on the basis of rational speculation. It is quite another to utilize logic in seeking a coherent understanding of biblical revelation. Brunner seems to abhor both.

Let us examine the “logic” of Brunner’s position. He maintains that (1) there is a divine decree of election that is eternal; (2) that divine decree is particular in scope (“There are those who are not elect”); (3) yet there is no decree of reprobation. Consider the implications. If God has predestined some but not all to election, does it not follow by what Luther called a “resistless logic” that some are not predestined to election? If, as Brunner maintains, all salvation is based upon the eternal election of God and not all men are elect from eternity, does that not mean that from eternity there are non-elect who most certainly will not be saved? Has not God chosen from eternity not to elect some people? If so, then we have an eternal choice of non-election which we call reprobation. The inference is clear and necessary, yet some shrink from drawing it.

I once heard the case for “single” predestination articulated by a prominent Lutheran theologian in the above manner. He admitted to me that the conclusion of reprobation was logically inescapable, but he refused to draw the inference, holding steadfastly to “single” predestination. Such a notion of predestination is manifest nonsense.

Theoretically there are four possible kinds of consistent single predestination. (1) Universal predestination to election (which Brunner does not hold); (2) universal predestination to reprobation (which nobody holds); (3) particular predestination to election with the option of salvation by self-initiative to those not elect (a qualified Arminianism) which Brunner emphatically rejects; and (4) particular predestination to reprobation with the option of salvation by self-initiative to those not reprobate (which nobody holds). The only other kind of single predestination is the dialectical kind, which is absurd. (I once witnessed a closed discussion of theology between H. M. Kuitert of the Netherlands and Cornelius Van Til of Westminster Seminary. Kuitert went into a lengthy discourse on theology, utilizing the method of the dialectic as he went. When he was finished, Dr. Van Til calmly replied: “Now tell me your theology without the dialectic so 1 can understand it!” Kuitert was unable to do so. With Brunner’s view of predestination the only way to avoid “double” predestination is with the use of “double-talk.”

Thus, “single” predestination can be consistently maintained only within the framework of universalism or some sort of qualified Arminianism. If particular election is to be maintained and if the notion that all salvation is ultimately based upon that particular election is to be maintained, then we must speak of double predestination.

The much greater issue of “double” predestination is the issue over the relationship between election and reprobation with respect to the nature of the decrees and the nature of the divine outworking of the decrees. If “double” predestination means a symmetrical view of predestination, then we must reject the notion. But such a view of “double” predestination would be a caricature and a serious distortion of the Reformed doctrine of predestination.

The Double-Predestination Distortion

The distortion of double predestination looks like this: There is a symmetry that exists between election and reprobation. God works in the same way and same manner with respect to the elect and to the reprobate. That is to say, from all eternity God decreed some to election and by divine initiative works faith in their hearts and brings them actively to salvation. By the same token, from all eternity God decrees some to sin and damnation (destinare ad peccatum) and actively intervenes to work sin in their lives, bringing them to damnation by divine initiative. In the case of the elect, regeneration is the monergistic work of God. In the case of the reprobate, sin and degeneration are the monergistic work of God. Stated another way, we can establish a parallelism of foreordination and predestination by means of a positive symmetry. We can call this a positive-positive view of predestination. This is, God positively and actively intervenes in the lives of the elect to bring them to salvation. In the same way God positively and actively intervenes in the life of the reprobate to bring him to sin.

This distortion of positive-positive predestination clearly makes God the author of sin who punishes a person for doing what God monergistically and irresistibly coerces man to do. Such a view is indeed a monstrous assault on the integrity of God. This is not the Reformed view of predestination, but a gross and inexcusable caricature of the doctrine. Such a view may be identified with what is often loosely described as hyper-Calvinism and involves a radical form of supralapsarianism. Such a view of predestination has been virtually universally and monolithically rejected by Reformed thinkers.

The Reformed View of Predestination

In sharp contrast to the caricature of double predestination seen in the positive-positive schema is the classic position of Reformed theology on predestination. In this view predestination is double in that it involves both election and reprobation but is not symmetrical with respect to the mode of divine activity. A strict parallelism of operation is denied. Rather we view predestination in terms of a positive-negative relationship.

In the Reformed view God from all eternity decrees some to election and positively intervenes in their lives to work regeneration and faith by a monergistic work of grace. To the non-elect God withholds this monergistic work of grace, passing them by and leaving them to themselves. He does not monergistically work sin or unbelief in their lives. Even in the case of the “hardening” of the sinners’ already recalcitrant hearts, God does not, as Luther stated, “work evil in us (for hardening is working evil) by creating fresh evil in us.”2 Luther continued:

When men hear us say that God works both good and evil in us, and that we are subject to God’s working by mere passive necessity, they seem to imagine a man who is in himself good, and not evil, having an evil work wrought in him by God; for they do not sufficiently bear in mind how incessantly active God is in all His creatures, allowing none of them to keep holiday. He who would understand these matters, however, should think thus: God works evil in us (that is, by means of us) not through God’s own fault, but by reason of our own defect. We being evil by nature, and God being good, when He impels us to act by His own acting upon us according to the nature of His omnipotence, good though He is in Himself, He cannot but do evil by our evil instrumentality; although, according to His wisdom, He makes good use of this evil for His own glory and for our salvation.2

Thus, the mode of operation in the lives of the elect is not parallel with that operation in the lives of the reprobate. God works regeneration monergistically but never sin. Sin falls within the category of providential concurrence.

Another significant difference between the activity of God with respect to the elect and the reprobate concerns God’s justice. The decree and fulfillment of election provide mercy for the elect while the efficacy of reprobation provides justice for the reprobate. God shows mercy sovereignly and unconditionally to some, and gives justice to those passed over in election. That is to say, God grants the mercy of election to some and justice to others. No one is the victim of injustice. To fail to receive mercy is not to be treated unjustly. God is under no obligation to grant mercy to all—in fact He is under no obligation to grant mercy to any. He says, “I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy” (Rom. 9). The divine prerogative to grant mercy voluntarily cannot be faulted. If God is required by some cosmic law apart from Himself to be merciful to all men, then we would have to conclude that justice demands mercy. If that is so, then mercy is no longer voluntary, but required. If mercy is required, it is no longer mercy, but justice. What God does not do is sin by visiting injustice upon the reprobate. Only by considering election and reprobation as being asymmetrical in terms of a positive-negative schema can God be exonerated from injustice.

The Reformed Confessions

By a brief reconnaissance of Reformed confessions and by a brief roll-call of the theologians of the Reformed faith, we can readily see that double predestination has been consistently maintained along the lines of a positive-negative schema.

The Reformed Confession: 1536

Our salvation is from God, but from ourselves there is nothing but sin and damnation. (Art. 9)

French Confession of Faith: 1559

We believe that from this corruption and general condemnation in which all men are plunged, God, according to his eternal and immutable counsel, calleth those whom he hath chosen by his goodness and mercy alone in our Lord Jesus Christ, without consideration of their works, to display in them the riches of his mercy; leaving the rest in this same corruption and condemnation to show in them his justice. (Art. XII)

The Belgic Confession of Faith: 1561

We believe that all the posterity of Adam, being thus fallen into perdition and ruin by the sin of our first parents, God then did manifest himself such as he is; that is to say, MERCIFUL AND JUST: MERCIFUL, since he delivers and preserves from this perdition all whom he, in his eternal and unchangeable council, of mere goodness hath elected in Christ Jesus our Lord, without respect to their works: JUST, in leaving others in the fall and perdition wherein they have involved themselves. (Art. XVI)

The Second Helvetic Confession: 1566

Finally, as often as God in Scripture is said or seems to do something evil, it is not thereby said that man does not do evil, but that God permits it and does not prevent it, according to his just judgment, who could prevent it if he wished, or because he turns man’s evil into good… . St. Augustine writes in his Enchiridion: “What happens contrary to his will occurs, in a wonderful and ineffable way, not apart from his will. For it would not happen if he did not allow it. And yet he does not allow it unwillingly but willingly.” (Art. VIII)

The Westminster Confession of Faith: 1643

As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected … are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.

The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extendeth or withholdeth mercy, as He pleaseth, for the glory of His Sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice. (Chap. III-Art. VI and VII)

These examples selected from confessional formulas of the Reformation indicate the care with which the doctrine of double predestination has been treated. The asymmetrical expression of the “double” aspect has been clearly maintained. This is in keeping with the care exhibited consistently throughout the history of the Church. The same kind of careful delineation can be seen in Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Zanchius, Turrettini, Edwards, Hodge, Warfield, Bavinck, Berkouwer, et al.

Foreordination to Reprobation

In spite of the distinction of positive-negative with respect to the mode of God’s activity toward the elect and the reprobate, we are left with the thorny question of God predestinating the reprobate. If God in any sense predestines or foreordains reprobation, doesn’t this make the rejection of Christ by the reprobate absolutely certain and inevitable? And if the reprobate’s reprobation is certain in light of predestination, doesn’t this make God responsible for the sin of the reprobate? We must answer the first question in the affirmative, and the second in the negative.

If God foreordains anything, it is absolutely certain that what He foreordains will come to pass. The purpose of God can never be frustrated. Even God’s foreknowledge or prescience makes future events certain with respect to time. That is to say, if God knows on Tuesday that I will drive to Pittsburgh on Friday, then there is no doubt that, come Friday, I will drive to Pittsburgh. Otherwise God’s knowledge would have been in error. Yet, there is a significant difference between God’s knowing that I would drive to Pittsburgh and God’s ordaining that I would do so. Theoretically He could know of a future act without ordaining it, but He could not ordain it without knowing what it is that He is ordaining. But in either case, the future event would be certain with respect to time and the knowledge of God.

Luther, in discussing the traitorous act of Judas, says:

Have I not put on record in many books that I am talking about necessity of immutability? I know that the Father begets willingly, and that Judas betrayed Christ willingly. My point is that this act of the will in Judas was certainly and infallibly bound to take place, if God foreknew it. That is to say (if my meaning is not yet grasped), I distinguish two necessities: one I call necessity of force (necessitatem violentam), referring to action; the other I call necessity of infallibility (necessitatem infallibilem), referring to time. Let him who hears me understand that I am speaking of the latter, not the former; that is, I am not discussing whether Judas became a traitor willingly or unwillingly, but whether it was infallibly bound to come to pass that Judas should willingly betray Christ at a time predetermined by God.3

We see then, that what God knows in advance comes to pass by necessity or infallibly or necessity of immutability. But what about His foreordaining or predestinating what comes to pass? If God foreordains reprobation does this not obliterate the distinction between positive-negative and involve a necessity of force? If God foreordains reprobation does this not mean that God forces, compels, or coerces the reprobate to sin? Again the answer must be negative.

If God, when He is decreeing reprobation, does so in consideration of the reprobate’s being already fallen, then He does not coerce him to sin. To be reprobate is to be left in sin, not pushed or forced to sin. If the decree of reprobation were made without a view to the fall, then the objection to double predestination would be valid and God would be properly charged with being the author of sin. But Reformed theologians have been careful to avoid such a blasphemous notion. Berkouwer states the boundaries of the discussion clearly:

On the one hand, we want to maintain the freedom of God in election, and on the other hand, we want to avoid any conclusion which would make God the cause of sin and unbelief.4

God’s decree of reprobation, given in light of the fall, is a decree to justice, not injustice. In this view the biblical a priori that God is neither the cause nor the author of sin is safeguarded. Turrettini says, “We have proved the object of predestination to be man considered as fallen, sin ought necessarily to be supposed as the condition in him who is reprobated, no less than him who is elected.”5 He writes elsewhere:

The negative act includes two, both preterition, by which in the election of some as well to glory as to grace, he neglected and slighted others, which is evident from the event of election, and negative desertion, by which he left them in the corrupt mass and in their misery; which, however, is as to be understood, 1. That they are not excepted from the laws of common providence, but remain subject to them, nor are immediately deprived of all God’s favor, but only of the saving and vivifying which is the fruit of election, 2. That preterition and desertion; not indeed from the nature of preterition and desertion itself, and the force of the denied grace itself, but from the nature of the corrupt free will, and the force of corruption in it; as he who does not cure the disease of a sick man, is not the cause per se of the disease, nor of the results flowing from it; so sins are the consequents, rather than the effects of reprobation, necessarily bringing about the futurition of the event, but yet not infusing nor producing the wickedness… .6

The importance of viewing the decree of reprobation in light of the fall is seen in the on-going discussions between Reformed theologians concerning infra-and supra-lapsarianism. Both viewpoints include the fall in God’s decree. Both view the decree of preterition in terms of divine permission. The real issue between the positions concerns the logical order of the decrees. In the supralapsarian view the decree of election and reprobation is logically prior to the decree to permit the fall. In the infralapsarian view the decree to permit the fall is logically prior to the decree to election and reprobation.

Though this writer favors the infralapsarian view along the lines developed by Turrettini, it is important to note that both views see election and reprobation in light of the fall and avoid the awful conclusion that God is the author of sin. Both views protect the boundaries Berkouwer mentions.

Only in a positive-positive schema of predestination does double-predestination leave us with a capricious deity whose sovereign decrees manifest a divine tyranny. Reformed theology has consistently eschewed such a hyper-supralapsarianism. Opponents of Calvinism, however, persistently caricature the straw man of hypersupralapsarianism, doing violence to the Reformed faith and assaulting the dignity of God’s sovereignty.

We rejoice in the biblical clarity which reveals God’s sovereignty in majestic terms. We rejoice in the knowledge of divine mercy and grace that go to such extremes to redeem the elect. We rejoice that God’s glory and honor are manifested both in His mercy and in His justice.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Chapter Notes

1. Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of God (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1950), p. 326.

2. Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will (Westwood: Fleming H. Revell, 1957), p. 206.

3. Ibid., p. 220.

4. G. C. Berkouwer, Divine Election (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1960), p. 181.

5. Francois Turrettini, Theological Institutes (Typescript manuscript of Institutio Theologlae Elencticae, 3 vo]s., 1679-1685), trans. George Musgrave Giger, D.D., p. 98.

6. Ibid., p. 97.

From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: | Phone: 1-800-435-4343”

"Double" Predestination by R.C. Sproul | Reformed Theology Articles at

SBC Today Continues Attack On Calvinism | On The Other Hand Ron Hale Ought To Read All Of John Calvin On Who The Whosoever And World Are

John Calvin in his own words, Article 3: John 3:16 | SBC Today.

John Calvin wrote a lot of words. When he did he was mindful of other things that he had written. Contrary to Hale’s assertion, Calvin didn’t import his philosophy into the text instead of proper exegesis, he drew from other works of his in which he had commented where he clearly draws from Scriptures everywhere those things which attach themselves to the subject at hand. For instance, where Hale neglects Calvin’s work on John 1, Calvin writes:

This is what Paul says, that the destruction of one nation was the life of the whole world, (Romans 11:12;) for the Gospel, which might be said to have been banished from them, began to be spread far and wide throughout the whole world. They were thus deprived of the privilege which they enjoyed above others. But their impiety was no obstruction to Christ; for he erected elsewhere the throne of his kingdom, and called indiscriminately to the hope of salvation all nations which formerly appeared to have been rejected by God.

You can begin to get a taste for what Calvin means by world, then. This broad category is further refined by what he says about who the whosoever are who believe.

Commentary on John – Volume 2 – Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

Calvin’s commentary on John 3 is not isolated from his commentary on John 12, neither is it isolated from his commentary on the other Gospels:

Similar reasoning may be applied to the passage in John, (12:38;) for he says that many believed not, because no man believes, except he to whom God reveals his arm, and immediately adds, that they could not believe, because it is again written, Blind the heart of this people. Such, too is the object which Christ has in view, when he ascribes it to the secret purpose of God, that the truth of the Gospel is not revealed indiscriminately to all, but is exhibited at a distance under obscure forms, so as to have no other effect than to overspread the minds of the people with grosser darkness. In all cases, I admit, those whom God blinds will be found to deserve this condemnation; but as the immediate cause is not always obvious in the persons of men, let it be held as a fixed principle, that God enlightens to salvation, and that by a peculiar gift, those whom He has freely chosen; and that all the reprobate are deprived of the light of life, whether God withholds his word from them, or keeps their eyes and ears closed, that they do not hear or see.

via Commentary on Matthew, Mark, Luke – Volume 2 – Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

Calvin restricts the meaning of both world and whosoever. He is acutely aware that among the Jews, as well as among those in the rest of the world, there are those to whom the Lord reveals himself and those to whom he doesn’t. The first division of the category world is the elect. The second is the reprobate. Calvin fully believes that whosoever believes will be saved, and that the Gospel is promiscuously preached to the whole world (which we must recognize is not every person who has or will ever live) so that the elect are revealed as the sons of God. He also recognizes what Hale fails to see. The Gospel itself is sent so that those who will not believe are hardened in their unbelief. Calvin makes a further division in the sub-category of unbelievers which includes those who have heard or will hear the Gospel and those who never did, or never will.

Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (John 10:25-38 ESV)

You can see how in this one Scripture Jesus is testifying that there are his sheep and that there are those who are not. Those who are were given him, they can hear, John 12. Those who are not given to him, not being his sheep, cannot hear. Not only that, but they are hardened by the testimony that God has a chosen people and has sent a savior for them alone. Not only do they disbelieve Jesus they further that testimony in seeking to have him arrested and murdered. Jesus testifies that what he has said about the opening of eyes and the closing of them was the work of the Father. He condemns those who cannot see him and the Father who sent him. At the same time he reminds his disciples that their eyes were blessed so as to see what the outsiders, the non-sheep, cannot. The hardening effect is abundantly testified to by Calvin and he does so by Scripture, not philosophy. It is Jesus who says that the Gospel separates those who will believe from those who won’t, and it is he who fixes the cause in that it was God who blinds, and makes deaf and dulls the understanding so that some of those in the broader category of the world will never believe even though they have the Gospel preached to them.

How does God so love the world? By saving some, not all. How does he save some and not others? By opening the eyes of the blind and blinding the eyes of those who are blind though they say they see. Those who are not of the elect saw him as a blasphemer, they did not see him in the way that Jesus commended Peter for- You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Who was it that revealed that to Peter? It was not the words preached by man, not even the Son, but the Father, Jesus said. It is the Father who does this by the Spirit, John 3:3. But it is only for those who have been given to Jesus, who are from above, not below, born of the Spirit of God and not by the freewill choice, Calvin confirms, of man, John 1:13. Who is Jesus sent to so as to save the world? Whosoever believes. And they are those alone who God has graciously opened the eyes and ears of their understanding. Calvin without doubt declares that regeneration precedes faith. He does so on the account of Jesus words from John 1,3,10,12, et cetera, and also from other Scriptures which declare that it is the Spirit, which reveals the arm of the Lord, and that to only some, not others.

And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:
“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’ (Matthew 13:11-15 ESV),

You can see that the category world includes the two sub-categories: those who are gifted and those who are not. And more, that those who are not gifted, even what they have is taken away. We cannot neglect this in Calvin’s interpretation of John 3:16, as this juxtaposition is also found in John 12. Let’s stop for a second… John 3:3 is not unconnected to John 12, either, and the synoptics declarations of the same thing. Unless one is born again he neither has the eyes, nor the ears, nor the understanding of those things to which faith must cling, e.g, the things of the kingdom of heaven. Those things and the ability to believe in them all are, as Jesus, not John Calvin, said, a gift from the Father. It is a gift, Jesus, not John Calvin, said, and is not given to all, but to save the world is it given to whosover by that gift believes.

David Allen: Hypocrisy Or Incompetence? | SBC Today

“A Selective Review of Whomever He Wills – Part 1” | SBC Today.

Though each of the statements quoted above range in my estimation from moderately problematic to egregious, taken together they seem to indicate something of a mindset concerning how the authors of the introduction in WHW view those who disagree with them. We should all remember that in one sense a way of seeing is a way of not seeing. We all come to the table with a certain grid through which we filter and interpret things. We think that our interpretation is the correct one; otherwise we would not hold it. But when we express ourselves in language that identifies our view with Scripture and the other guy’s view with “attacking” a Scriptural doctrine or when we give the appearance that we could not possibly be mistaken in our view and thus have to lovingly help or monish the errant one to see the error of his ways, we have moved beyond the boundary of suasion and have foreclosed on the discussion at the outset. At issue is the correct interpretation of texts, yes; but it would be helpful if we did not speak or write in such a way that tends to place our counterparts in the discussion on the defensive by assuming or overtly claiming the biblical and hermeneutical high ground. This appears to me to be especially important in an introduction to any work since the introduction usually serves to set the tone for the discussion.

The hypocrite speaks. Did Allen even read Neither Calvinists nor Arminians but Baptists? His name is on it.

Here’s their assertion of their claim to the high ground:

… in light of our own priorities. First, we do not believe that Dortian Calvinism properly represents the gospel of Jesus Christ in its simplicity and profundity according to the Bible. We are uncomfortable with Dortian Calvinism because we believe its rigid structure is imposed upon Scripture and that it does not allow Scripture to form theology. As philosopher Steve Lemke queried about the Calvinist belief in irresistible grace, “Is Scripture being shaped to make it agree with one’s theological system, or is one’s theological system being shaped according to Scripture?” (127). Malcolm Yarnell was similarly concerned that an exemplary Reformed theologian’s methodological approaches to Scripture “reflect a thoroughgoing rationalism that is prior to and formative for his treatment of Scripture” (The Formation of Christian Doctrine, 50).

Second, we are not Calvinists because we do not believe certain Calvinist doctrines can be found in a gospel-ruled, canonical reading of Scripture. This is why the authors of Whosoever Will repeatedly refer to the plain sense of scriptural passages according to the grammatical and historical context. From the detailed expository approach to John 3:16 by Jerry Vines (Whosoever Will, ch. 1), to the commonsense contextual reading of Ephesians 2:1ff by Paige Patterson (ch. 2), to the canonical approach to defining biblical language utilized by both David Allen (78–83) and Steve Lemke (117–29), the authors repeatedly demonstrate a necessary return to Scripture. Scripture is sufficient for the substance and structure of our preaching, and though we seek to address those living in contemporary cultural contexts, we call our listeners to begin with hearing the Bible in its own context and end with contemporary personal submission to that Word. As a result, most of us are convinced, against Dortian Calvinism, that Scripture does not teach that man is totally unable to respond to the call of God to believe, or that grace does violence to the human will, or that Jesus Christ’s death failed to propitiate for the sins of “the whole world” (1 John 2:2).

Third, we are not Calvinists because we are genuinely concerned about the impact of Dortian Calvinism upon evangelism. As David Allen asserted, “Christians must evangelize because God wills all men to be saved and has made atonement for all men, thus removing the legal barriers that necessitate their condemnation” (97). How could God offer salvation to all people with integrity if Jesus did not die for all (2 Corinthians 5:20)? Since the Calvinist doctrine of limited or particular atonement “provides an insufficient motive for evangelism by undercutting the well-meant gospel offer” by God to all men, as well as by us to all men, Southern Baptists should reject five-point Calvinism (107). We decry the efforts of Calvinist professors of limited atonement who argue the evangelistic altar call is unbiblical or that it somehow represents an attempt by those who deliver altar calls to “manipulate the sovereignty of God” (101). We are motivated to offer the gospel to all, and to invite all to respond, even in a public fashion, because Christ died for all.

Moreover, as the evangelistic preacher Jerry Vines argued, the crisis behind our understanding of Christ’s offer of “whosoever will” comes down to the type of God we are worshipping: “It is the design of the sovereign God to make the salvation of all people possible and to secure the salvation of all who believe. What kind of God would not make salvation possible for all?” (25). We do not ask such questions in order to score rhetorical points against our Calvinist Baptist brethren, but because we believe that the God revealed in Scripture is a God who loves all men, desires their salvation, and has made salvation possible for all by Christ’s death for all.

We say such things because we perceive grace when we hear the gospel verbally and enthusiastically offered to all men freely through personal repentance toward God and faith in Christ. With the first Baptist pastor in England, we believe that Christ died for all men. This is a “comfortable doctrine,” because “every poor soul may know that there is salvation for him by Christ and that Christ hath shed His blood for him, that believing in Him he may be saved, and that God wants not the death of him, but that he should repent and live” (Thomas Helwys, A Short and Plain Proof by the Word, 1611). This is our passion: that every sinner, without qualification, may hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, believe in Him and be saved! With regard to this God, who loves all people, we can agree with Roger Olson, who claims that Arminians “are in love with God’s goodness and unwilling to sacrifice that on the altar of divine determinism.”

I repeat Allen’s statement: But when we express ourselves in language that identifies our view with Scripture and the other guy’s view with “attacking” a Scriptural doctrine or when we give the appearance that we could not possibly be mistaken in our view and thus have to lovingly help or monish the errant one to see the error of his ways, we have moved beyond the boundary of suasion and have foreclosed on the discussion at the outset.

Here is Allen in summation. He’s convinced he is right but he is also convinced that he might be wrong. On the other hand, he condemns those who say they are right and are convinced of it and so say others are wrong. Duplicitously, Allen says that one should not make statements that rule out the other’s position peremptorily, and then makes statements that peremptorily rule out the other’s position. Further, he agrees with the White Paper that his position is the Scriptural position then condemns those who would assign their position to the Scriptural meaning. Allen would say he doesn’t identify his meanings with Scripture, but just what does it mean, then, to say that one holds a Scriptural meaning?

Allen is either absolutely blind to his prejudice blinding him to his hypocrisy, or, the man is utterly incompetent. He hates the fact that Calvinists claim that Calvinism is the Gospel. But, we must ask, what does Allen think of what he believes? That it is not the Gospel? Of course not, he believes it is. Just read the White Paper. As one of its co-authors, he said that what he believes, being convinced by Scripture, that it is what Scripture teaches as touching the Gospel. To say that he doesn’t believe his non-labeled theology is the Gospel, is a lie. To condemn others for doing what he is doing is hypocrisy.

The entire premise of those who want no labels attached to them is that their beliefs are what Scripture teaches. More than that, they believe that no other teaching should be taught for the very reason that they believe it to be destructive to the Gospel commission. In short, it is anti-Gospel to be a Calvinist. To the end, and to a man, they desire to destroy anything that contradicts them. The only alternative to such a conclusion is that Allen and his ilk are ignorant of the fact that they are wasting their time if their non-labelism is not the Gospel. If these matters are not of the utmost importance, (they think they are), if these matters are not the Gospel, but matters in dispute for which there is no doctrinal, final resolution, they are engaged in vain babble, violating the very Scripture that they claim to represent.

They do claim to represent Scripture’s Gospel, don’t they?

Or do they?

When speaking out of both sides of the mouth the obvious is not obliterated as Allen has attempted to do. Rather, it is spot-lighted. Allen paints those who disagree with him as false teachers, preaching a false Gospel, as arrogant in claiming their’s is the Gospel. Yet, he takes umbrage that others do the same. He claims that what he believes is the very teaching of Scripture as the Gospel, or he wouldn’t be in this fight. At the same time he is appalled at those who do what he does.

With people like Allen there is no real way forward. Their appeal for peace, irenicism, and unity is pretense to gain an audience. His intentional derogation of his is enemies is clear. He fools only his own.

What good is the pursuit of teaching or opposing teaching when the matters at hand cannot be proven true or false, anyway? It is a waste of time which engenders disputes and causes divisions needlessly. However, if the respective sides in the debate truly are convicted that theirs is the truth, as Allen asserts his is, they need to openly denounce the other and quit hiding behind the coy defense of feigned humility as Allen does. What Allen wants is the destruction of the Doctrines of Grace, not their acceptance as equals to his own non-labelism, no matter how much he says he is not. He wants his beliefs to dominate, no accommodate, to rule the SBC without challenge.

The other side likewise must advance their cause, not in the pursuit of unity, for that can never be where there is no doctrinal agreement, but with the affirmed conviction that error must be rooted out and truth secured for the preservation of the faith once and for all delivered to the saints.

Otherwise both sides are fools who plow and plant, wet and weed, never intending to harvest.

Is Pyromaniacs’ Frank Turk Really Killing Calvinism By Promoting Dutcher?

Pyromaniacs: Killing Calvinism

But perhaps dear Mr. Dutcher may be mistaken in this point, and call that passion which is only zeal for God’s truths. You know, dear Frank, the Apostle exhorts us to “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Therefore you must not condemn all that appear zealous for the doctrine of election as narrow-spirited, or persecutors, just because they think it their duty to oppose their enemies. I am sure, many love their enemies in the bowels of Jesus Christ, and they would lay down lives for their sake; but yet, some cannot help but strenuously opposing errors upon this important subject, because they think warmly of their enemies- most of them not designedly oppose the truth as it is in Jesus. May the Lord remove the scales of prejudice from off the eyes of your mind and give you a zeal according to true Christian knowledge!

I would hint further, that anti-Calvinists unjustly charge the doctrine of reprobation with blasphemy, whereas the doctrine of universal redemption, as they set it forth, is really the highest reproach upon the dignity of the Son of God, and the merit of his blood. Consider whether it be not rather blasphemy to say as they do, “Christ not only died for those that are saved, but also for those that perish.”

What amazes is how so many are quickly abandoning the strident, strenuous defense of the DoG for acceptability by exchanging that defense for a cup of coffee and endless dialogue. The above was an adaptation of Whitefield who, apparently, Dutcher has no clue about. As Dutcher quotes Whitefield one might get the impression that it was something other than doctrine to which he accredited sanctification in the Christian, or that it was doctrine which was to be the offer of the Gospel.

Whitefield was not above calling his friend an enemy, not above calling him on his heresy and blasphemy. Though Whitefield didn’t doubt Wesley’s salvation (how could he know), he did call it into question based upon what Wesley was publishing and preaching. So much for Dutcher’s book. We must lead with doctrine and it must be followed by transformation. However, without sound doctrine, Paul taught Timothy, the end is only destruction of lives not the saving of them. Paul was straight up with Timothy, silence the opposition, don’t dialogue with those telling myths, fables and old wives tales.

As I am reading it, Dutcher’s book appears as another one by a man whose backbone he has set aside for a mushy sentimentality of unity despite contradiction. Whitefield rightly recognized the destructive force of the doctrines that opposed his and vehemently attacked his opponent, just so did Calvin, did Luther, and so has every legitimate defender of the faith along the line. Whitefield’s idea of gentleness was quite different from the modern paradigm that is overtaking the championing the doctrines of grace. In his mind it wouldn’t have been nice to be nice at the expense of God’s children being systematically slaughtered by Wesley’s advancing troops while sitting down to a cup of joe with him.

Unless you missed it, this is a war. What the world needs is the peace offered by the Gospel doctrine once and for all delivered to the saints, not presented by witness to the genteel policing of insurgent infighting among the so called saints on display in Dutcher’s book. A world which struggles with defining anything is not served at all by a church which cannot define itself. And that means by its doctrine and practice (which is doctrine), will the church be defined. As Jesus said, “upon this rock” as he eschewed the shifting sands of opining. Neither can the children of God grow up into the maturity of the Son of God in full wisdom and knowledge lest they be tossed always by every wind of doctrine which come down the pike, unless there is an assurance of truth which alone can set free.

Dutcher’s plea must be considered, then, only in that most narrow band of Calvinists whose love is not for their brethren or those whom God is calling out of the world. It should not become the tome of reference used by the enemies of the faith, yes even those of the household of faith, believers or not. For all, as Whitefield says, who are defending the DoG from the same zeal for God’s household as Jesus’ did when he made whips of chords for the backs of blasphemers and turned the tables on them, is not a bad thing, but the real thing.

Applying John 13-17 For All Disciples Not Just The Dinner Party

Commentary on John – Volume 2 – Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

I have linked the above testimony of Calvin concerning the application of the promises in John’s Passover discourse. The discourse begins in Chapter 13 and runs through the High Priestly prayer in John 17. What is without question is that the promise of the Holy Spirit’s working is for all believers. As Calvin says:

That the desire of learning may not be weakened in us, or that we may not fall into despair, when we do not immediately perceive the meaning of Christ speaking to us, let us know that this is spoken to us all.

The Holy Spirit will bring to your remembrance all things that I have said to you. It is indeed a punishment threatened by Isaiah against unbelievers, that the Word of God shall be to them as a book that is sealed, (Isaiah 29:11) but in this manner, also, the Lord frequently humbles his people. We ought, therefore, to wait patiently and mildly for the time of revelation, and must not, on that account, reject the word. When Christ testifies that it is the peculiar office of the Holy Spirit to teach the apostles what they had already learned from his mouth, it follows that the outward preaching will be vain and useless, if it be not accompanied by the teaching of the Spirit. God has therefore two ways of teaching; for, first, he sounds in our ears by the mouth of men; and, secondly, he addresses us inwardly by his Spirit; and he does this either at the same moment, or at different times, as he thinks fit.

To be sure there is particular application, but there is also solid docrinal support for the working of the Holy Spirit in all believers to be found in the discourse. The preparation of the heavenly abode simply cannot be exclusive to the apostles. Those who deny it is so, simply wish to sequester passages to establish an exclusivistic, elitist application. But, as John Calvin acknowledges, these promise are for all.

John Gill in commenting on John 14:26 has a heavy emphasis on the intents of the promises for apostolic ministry. Though this is very important for understanding the passion and the consolation of the Apostles facing separation from Christ after having spent so long a time with him, it is directly connected to the promised Holy Spirit, viz a viz, Acts II. He is clear that the promises extend to all:

…and who acts the part of an intercessor, or advocate, for private believers

If one takes the time to expand their reading of Gill, he will notice that Gill extends all the texts to all believers whenever there is no direct necessity to keep such promises exclusive as pertinent to the specific events of the passion. Notice in Gill’s commentary on verse two:

…which is of his Father’s building, where he has, and will have all his family. This Christ says partly to reconcile the minds of his disciples to his departure from them, and partly to strengthen their hope of following him thither; since it was his Father’s, and their Father’s house whither he was going, and in which “are many mansions”; abiding or dwelling places; mansions of love, peace, joy, and rest, which always remain: and there are “many” of them, which does not design different degrees of glory; for since the saints are all loved with the same love, bought with the same price, justified with the same righteousness, and are equally the sons of God, their glory will be the same. But, it denotes fulness and sufficiency of room for all his people; for the many ordained to eternal life, for whom Christ gave his life a ransom, and whose blood is shed for the remission of their sins, whose sins he bore, and whom he justifies by his knowledge; who receive him by faith, and are the many sons he will bring to glory. And this is said for the comfort of the disciples who might be assured from hence, that there would be room not only for himself and Peter, whom he had promised should follow him hereafter, but for them all.

These are proper texts, then, for the establishing of certain doctrine on the work of the Holy Spirit in believers. He assures us from within according to the promises found in Scripture. As John Calvin says, these would be worthless except for that inward Teacher who enlightens and confirms the words of Christ in us.

Matthew Henry says:

And to all the saints the Spirit of grace is given to be a remembrancer, and to him by faith and prayer we should commit the keeping of what we hear and know.

All three commentators make the doctrinal application to all believers. While all acknowledge the particular application, what cannot be done, and should not ever be done, is to isolate the Scripture from its context which makes application to all believers. 1 John 3:24 confirms that this promise of the Holy Spirit is universally applicable to believers. The context of John 14:26, as I said, crescendos from Chapter 13 to 17. It is there that Jesus makes it clear that the many promises are not exclusive to the Eleven. He is specific about the union with the Father and the Son through the Spirit of truth and the sanctifying aspect of that work, our being comforted by the Spirit, and our being gathered to God’s house. Christ the mediator makes this all possible, not just for some but for all believers in some aspects for all things mentioned in the discourse as summarized in the prayer. To undo what Christ has promised by exclusion where there is no necessity to exclude, is to rob Christ of his very words of promise, his prayer, and of his mediatorial office.

We could explore many other Scriptural passages, NT and OT, which confirm this is the case. The point is that those things mentioned in John 13-17, which may be in some places vague as to just how the Holy Spirit does work, are made clear elsewhere in Scripture. That they might be clearer elsewhere doesn’t invalidate the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in this context. Again, why would anyone want to? What is gained by making these passages just about the Apostolic ministry, except as Calvin asserts, the error of the popish mind and an untouchable priesthood? It is best, where there is a sense in which they apply to the apostolic office we can emphasize that aspect, but where there is general application to all believers, we can, and should use these passages in support of the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit. There simply is no reason not to.

From Babylon and Back Again: Jeremiah 29:11 And Your Best Life Now

Jeremiah 45 contains one of the single greatest denunciations of prosperity teaching that one could imagine:

The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah, when he wrote these words in a book at the dictation of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah: “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch: You said, ‘Woe is me! For the Lord has added sorrow to my pain. I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest.’ Thus shall you say to him, Thus says the Lord: Behold, what I have built I am breaking down, and what I have planted I am plucking up—that is, the whole land. And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the Lord. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go.”

Baruch, the faithful scribe of Jeremiah, thought that he would be spared the terrible consequences of national sin. The Lord had split his punishment between the sword for those who would not submit to his discipline, and captivity for those who would. Baruch had thought that he would be spared both because of his faithful duty to the Word of God and to God’s faithful prophet. Alas, what the Lord determined was that Baruch, despite his patience and “upright” heart would suffer right along with the rest of Israel. This tells us two things, there is collateral damage when the Lord carries out his vengeance. And that, it is not really undeserved, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Accordingly though, God’s promises cannot be thwarted, even by our grievous sins.

“Now therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning this city of which you say, ‘It is given into the hand of the king of Babylon by sword, by famine, and by pestilence’: Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation. I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.

“For thus says the LORD: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good that I promise them.(Jeremiah 32:36-42 ESV)

Jer 17:9-10 tells us we don’t have an upright heart to be able to follow him and offers a foreboding declaration. We do not deserve whatever grace he might bestow, but only his indignation.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

On the other hand Jeremiah 24:7 says,

I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.

Before we can ever get to 29:11 we have to go through chapters one through twenty-eight. Of course 29:11 isn’t about a person, nor is Jeremiah at large about individuals. It is about Israel, her turning to international might for protection from God’s wrath, and the Babylonian captivity. Still, it holds out a hope of the future Kingdom and the Church glorified, prophetically. There are numerous messianic overtones in Jeremiah. Those overtones of a future glory, should not, as was Baruch mistake, become the expectation of one’s best life now.

Jeremiah must have read the same books Ezekiel and Isaiah were reading, for both tell us that God causes his children to walk in his statutes. Not only that, but if evil comes upon a city, is it not the Lord who has done it? Do we not read that it was God who sent Satan to tempt David? It is God who builds up and tears down. He doesn’t wait for us to do what we will, grounding his blessing in our patience, then he chimes in. We, like Israel are alway turning away from the Lord. Prone to wander, yes I feel it.

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

Instead, he takes the initiative, turns our heart towards him, washes and sanctifies, puts his Spirit in us, writes his statutes upon our hearts and causes us to walk in them. How I will sing of his sovereign grace. The temptations and trials of life are God’s work, and that for the future glorification of his church, not necessarily evident in the life of the believer, today.

Thank God, he doesn’t leave it up to us, for when he searches our hearts he finds nothing but dead men’s bones, corruption, evil, a constant proness to wander. Jeremiah knew that, and that is why the inferred question that since God knows man’s heart is evil, how will he bless man? “I will do it for my own name’s sake,” has always been God’s response. Jeremiah has this confirmation throughout it, he puts to death his sons for his name’s sake and for his glory. He was following the Lord, and yet God didn’t make all things beautiful in his time. He went into slavery and died there. It wouldn’t be until the future kingdom that a Daniel’s generation would be set free. It would be a new generation, a new man was to be set free. In other words, in the future, after Jeremiah was dead, in the resurrection, when old things have passed away, all things will be renewed, then he would have life, in realms of endless day.

In some cases, like David, life starts out pretty cushy- lands, servants- and ends up ugly. From his entry in to the service of the king, until the day he died he had nothing but trouble. A man after God’s own heart, he was fully following God, then bad Sheba happened. He died still married to a past that haunted even his bed in old age. Yet, his lips did not cease to sing God’s praise.

True enough, God knows the plans he has for us. It is not always the best life now. In fact, if in this life is our hope we are the most miserable of people. Never the less, God works all things for good for those who are called according to his grace. In the end, that is in the resurrection, we know we shall be like him, when the true heart of the Father, the Son, comes again into his possession to bless it for his glory.

I would like to say that I follow God with an upright heart, but that would be a lie. I would like to say I know some who do, but that would be a lie, also. If the heart has to be upright for God to act on its behalf, it would not be written that God shows his love as that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. It is a strange thing to say, “I am a repentant sinner.” But, then, Christ did not come to call the righteous to repentance.

We are not like a butterfly struggling to get out of our cocoon and by that struggle prepared for life and made beautiful in it. To the contrary, we are made vessels for his use such that having been fashioned as vessels of mercy, he casts us upon the heap of this life among all the other refuse, that broken we might be for him a testimony to his death, his burial, and his resurrection. For now, we count it all loss that in hope, by his good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.

It may seem that we have come along way since the days of our conversion. The reality is, that what we are is hidden in Christ and we are still who we are when he found us, how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be.

And a good thing that. As Isaiah says:

Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities. But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people. Your holy cities have become a wilderness; Zion has become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. Our holy and beautiful house, where our fathers praised you, has been burned by fire, and all our pleasant places have become ruins. Will you restrain yourself at these things, O Lord? Will you keep silent, and afflict us so terribly

The crushing and reforming of the children of God is not one that is accomplished in this life. But he binds our hearts to him through it all. Sorrowing I shall be in spirit, till released from flesh and sin. Though now we are left in the middle of enemies, we are grace by a feast, settled and at peace, even though the shadow of death is over us.

Truly, there are some who do not ever in this life become butterflies. For most, their trials begin and do not ever cease. The Teacher knew this very well. The righteous perish and none take it to heart. In many cases troubles only increase with time. That there are blessings manifold in the Christian life, they should never supplant the reality that as vessels, we are God’s work not our own. It is not our faithfulness, not our patience, not anything in us, but the work of Christ on our behalf. For all that is in us is only worthy of condemnation. All the riches are found in him. The real blessing comes in the ever-growing awareness of our depravity and the ever-growing awareness of his holiness, Isaiah 6. Like Baruch, we should not seek good things for ourselves, but as a first priority, we should seek his righteousness, not our own, his kingdom, and not our own, for we are all men of unclean lips, completely undone.

For many, coming through trials may be much like struggling as a butterfly to emerge, I suppose. Even at that, the understanding should be, that having once emerged, we are fodder for the birds, or targets for the pins of a collector, or we fall prey to a neighbor’s bug zapper. We need to remember, that Israel was in the Potters hand to do with him as God would before the captivity in Egypt, and after. Jacob and Joseph died in Egypt, never again seeing the promised land. Moses was taken from the waters a wonderful child, a chosen one, lived like a prince as a freeman among captives, despised Egypt’s sins, yet he too, died in the wilderness, the chosen of God prone in his heart to wander. Abraham came from Babylon, and went down to Egypt, and when he returned, spiritually speaking, in the persons of his great grand-children, it was only to return Babylon, again. All the wanderings of the children of God are God’s doing. Such is the walk of faith, such are the children of Abraham. It is for his name’s sake and nothing in us that he does it.

O Lord, why do you make us wander from your ways and harden our heart, so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage.

We fear, then, and work out our salvation with trembling, knowing it is not we, but God, who works in us the will and the power to do whatever he pleases with us. If he should leave us to the whim of our own sin, we have this promise, that he will let us escape with our life as a prize of war where ever we may go. For he will not abandon his own, he will not lose any, for we are his people, the sheep of his pastor, instruments of his use, whether we will to be, or not.