Tuesday, February 26, 2008

On The Free Offer of the Gospel

The Free Offer of the Gospel- John Murray

Sovereignty and Responsibility in Judas' Betrayal- Jim Savastio

Are There Two Wills in God?- John Piper

Now, at this point, I remain unconvinced that 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 are speaking of every individual. We also know from other places that God's judgments are just, and God is most assuredly glorified in having vessels of honor and dishonor (Romans 9, for example). None of the above links deny this. But Ezekiel 18:23 does say that, in some way, God does not take delight in the death of the wicked. And various other texts from the Old Testament brought up by Murray seem to agree. Other texts brought out in my pastor's sermon in respect to Judas are causing me to reconsider this issue. Does God merely declare that all men everywhere repent (Acts 17:30), or does He in some sense desire this as well?

Murray writes in his article:

It must be admitted that if the expression [desire] were intended to apply to the decretive will of God then there would be, at least, implicit contradiction. For to say that God desires the salvation of the reprobate and also that God wills the damnation of the reprobate and apply the former to the same thing as the latter, namely, the decretive will, would be contradiction; it would amount to averring of the same thing, viewed from the same aspect, God wills and God does not will. The question then is: what is implicit in, or lies back of; the full and free offer of the gospel to all without distinction? The word "desire" has come to be used in the debate, not because it is necessarily the most accurate or felicitous word but because it serves to set forth quite sharply a certain implication of the full and free offer of the gospel to all. This implication is that in the free offer there is expressed not simply the bare preceptive will of God but the disposition of lovingkindness on the part of God pointing to the salvation to be gained through compliance with the overtures of gospel grace. In other words, the gospel is not simply an offer or invitation but also implies that God delights that those to whom the offer comes would enjoy what is offered in all its fullness. And the word "desire" has been used in order to express the thought epitomized in Ezekiel 33:11, which is to the effect that God has pleasure that the wicked turn from his evil way and live. It might as well have been said, "It pleases God that the wicked repent and be saved."

Again, the expression "God desires,'' in the formula that crystallizes the crux of the question, is intended to notify not at all the "seeming" attitude of God but a real attitude, a real disposition of lovingkindness inherent in the free offer to all, in other words, a pleasure or delight in God, contemplating the blessed result to be achieved by compliance with the overture proffered and the invitation given.

This view would not mean that God was grieved over His ultimate plan, however. He is not sitting back wringing His hands, like the Arminians would have us believe. There is no plan B with God-- all His decrees are fulfilled, and He does what He pleases (Psalm 115:3 and 135:6). Piper says in his article:

The difference between Calvinists and Arminians lies not in whether there are two wills in God, but in what they say this higher commitment is. What does God will more than saving all? The answer given by Arminians is that human self-determination and the possible resulting love relationship with God are more valuable than saving all people by sovereign, efficacious grace. The answer given by Calvinists is that the greater value is the manifestation of the full range of God's glory in wrath and mercy (Romans 9:22-23) and the humbling of man so that he enjoys giving all credit to God for his salvation (1 Corinthians 1:29).

Biblical examples: the Fall, the sufferings of Christ

I will give a contemporary, everyday example. My pastor and I were talking several weeks ago about a snow-storm that had canceled a Wednesday night prayer meeting. He told me something he'd heard from another pastor: "We shouldn't judge God's heart by His hand." God delights in His people gathering for corporate prayer, but for whatever reason His hidden will decreed, He chose to send that snow-storm.

Hopefully this is good food for thought...


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