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The Wednesday Word: When a Guilty Sinner met the Gracious Saviour

When a guilty sinner met the gracious Saviour the result was blessing (see Luke 7:36-50).

The Bible tells us that we are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-10) but grace makes no sense to the person who has not seen their lostness before God. Just as, when we are sick, our stomachs despise and reject health giving food, so the proud person rejects salvation by free grace.

To my unbelieving friends I would ask a question… have you become aware of your spiritual destitution? Have you discovered that your sin has already damned you? (John 3:18). Instead of being pure, have you discovered that your heart, like everyone else’s, is deceitful, and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). That’s a hard pill to swallow.

Do you not know yourself? Instead of your works being good, outside of Christ they are either “bad” or “dead” (see Philippians 3:4-9; John 6:28-29; Hebrews 6:1-3).

So, here’s a question, if you are a sinner at best, …what are you at worst?

The truth is, outside of Christ, we are all desperately wicked and guilty before the all-holy God. Guilty! Guilty of sins, innumerable sins, and responsible for every one of them!

Terrible!

But, what a wonderfully suitable Saviour we find in the Lord Jesus. He was and is full of grace. What He was … is what He is! He never changes.

Do you remember Simon the Pharisee?

No?

Let me then ‘stir up your pure mind by way of remembrance.’ Simon, a local leader of religion, ‘condescended’ to entertain the Master with a meal (see Luke 7:36-50). I’m sure, at the back of it, he prided himself on having such a famous man as Jesus for a guest. But, during the feast the Lord disrupted the party by announcing forgiveness and grace for a local prostitute. Simon was both shocked and offended. Grace will do that to us at times. Simon, you see, was self-righteous. In his estimation, Jesus was not for the likes of her. But this woman, this notorious sinner, had what Simon had not… she had a knowledge of personal guilt. Simon was ignorant of his.

This poor woman placed herself at the mercy of her Maker. And how did Jesus respond?

He forgave her.

Grace outweighed her guilt and she went home with the Master’s triple announcement:

“Thy sins are forgiven;” (Mark 7:47).

“Thy faith hath saved thee;” (Mark 7:50).

“Go in peace” (Mark 7:50).

Evidently, before she met Jesus, conviction of sin had taken possession of her. She rightly judged herself guilty, turned to the Lord for mercy and was met by perfect grace.´´Perfect Grace!´´ What a description of the character of God. Grace changed the dear woman’s hell into heaven and cleansed her filth.

In this story, guilt entered the lists with grace and grace triumphed. It’s no wonder then that we can boldly say, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief ” (1 Timothy 1:15).

So, let’s ask a question, … do you know Him? If you say you do, let’s ask another question … is He is precious to you? If you don’t know and love Him then may the Lord open your understanding and may you, “acquaint thyself now with him, and be at peace; …” (Job 22:21).

The unsaved’s desire is to get away from God … and keep away from Him (John 3:19-21). Unless grace, therefore, intervenes, your wish will be granted, and you will eventually find yourself excluded from God forever. In the Lake of Fire, there is no grace. Grace never visits. Rays of mercy make no surprise appearances. (see Matthew 25; Luke 14). I urge you, therefore, to “Believe (trust) in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:31). Rest on Him, He is the sure foundation (Isaiah 28:16).

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

Miles Mckee

www.milesmckee.com 

The Wednesday Word: Falling from Grace

September 14, 2016 Leave a comment

Gal 5:4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

The apostolic gospel we preach is a full gospel. Although eternal (Revelation 14:6), the gospel was declared fully in the person, doing, dying and rising again of Christ. Here’s a superb fact,…. there’s nothing in the apostolic gospel that should be out of it, and there’s nothing out of it that should be in it. It is as complete as it is perfect. However, the Galatian church had forgotten this truth. And what was the result? They fell from grace.

What was the problem with the Galatian church? Was it that they no longer believed Christ had been crucified? No! They believed that!

Was it that they no longer believed in the bodily resurrection of Jesus? No! They believed that.

Was it that they no longer believed in the blood? No! They believed that.

They looked quite orthodox, but they had fallen from grace. How come? They fell from grace because they were adding a little law to the gospel. What a drastic error. In their case, they added circumcision, but they ought to have known that no law can save. The Law cannot give us acquittal of sins it can only condemn! The Law cannot bless, it can only curse. The Law cannot build, it can only tear down. The Law can show us our guilt, but it can’t remove it. The Law holds the key to the prison of condemnation. It puts us inside and securely locks the door. However, although it can lock us in, it has no key to let us out. Only the Gospel possesses that key. Only the Gospel can set the captive free (Luke 4:18)!

Yet today, just like the Galatians, many people insist on adding a little something to the Gospel. They quietly think, for example, that the Gospel is insufficient to rest upon. So what do they do? They add feelings to it. “I know I’m saved,” they say, “because I feel saved.” In doing so, they’ve subtly perverted the Gospel and have fallen from grace. Still others look for evidence of salvation by their works. If they can see enough good works in their life, then they have peace. But again, this is to fall from grace. They are not resting on Christ alone.

In reality, every addition to the Gospel is a perverted wicked subversion. Jesus is our exclusive resting place. We grace believers really mean it when we sing, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling!” We know and are certain that Jesus is our only and entire confidence.

Remember this, if we are resting on feelings for salvation, we have fallen from grace.

If we are resting on the fact that we have a good prayer life, we have fallen from grace.

If we are resting on the fact that we have come under conviction of sins, we have fallen from grace.

If we are resting on the fact that we have repented, we have fallen from grace.

Repentance, conviction, prayer and works are wonderful, but we dare not put our confidence in them. They constitute no part of our hope.

“On Christ the solid rock I stand

All other ground is sinking sand.”

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

Miles Mckee

www.milesmckee.com

A word to the ungodly

Spurgeon 3Now, just one word to the ungodly — you who do not know Christ. You have heard what I have told you, that salvation is of Christ alone. Is not that a good doctrine for you? For you have not got anything, have you? You are a poor, lost, ruined sinner. Hear this, then, sinner: thou hast nothing, and thou dost not want anything, for Christ has all. “Oh!” sayest thou, “I am a bond slave.” Ah! but he has got the redemption. “Nay, sayest thou, “I am a black sinner.” Ay, but he has got the bath that can wash thee white. Sayest thou, “I am leprous?” Yes but the good Physician can take thy leprosy away. Sayest thou, “I am condemned?” Ay, but he has got the acquittal warrant signed and sealed, if thou dost believe in him. Sayest thou, “But I am dead?” Ay, but Christ has life and he can give thee life. Thou wantest nothing of thine own — nothing to rely on but Christ, and if there be a man, woman, or child here, who is prepared to say solemnly after me, with his or her heart, “I take Christ to be my Savior, with no powers and no merits of my own to trust in. I see my sins, but I see that Christ is higher than my sins, I see my guilt, but I believe that Christ is mightier than my guilt;” — I say, if any one of you can say that, you may go away and rejoice, for you are heirs of the kingdom of heaven.

Charles H. Spurgeon- God Alone the Salvation of His People-A Sermon Delivered On Sabbath Morning, May 18, 1856

This doctrine, as to the secret counsel of God in the government of the world, gives no favor to the wicked who argue that they are merely fulfilling God’s decrees

December 30, 2015 Leave a comment

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015This doctrine, as to the secret counsel of God in the government of the world, gives no countenance either to the impiety of those who throw the blame of their wickedness upon God, the petulance of those who reject means, or the error of those who neglect the duties of religion.

3. Those who have learned this modesty will neither murmur against God for adversity in time past, nor charge him with the blame of their own wickedness, as Homer’s Agamemnon does. — “Ego d’ ou haitios eimi, alla Zeus kai moira.” “Blame not me, but Jupiter and fate.” On the other hand, they will note like the youth in Plautus, destroy themselves in despairs as if hurried away by the Fates. “Unstable is the condition of affairs; instead of doing as they list, men only fulfill their fate: I will hie me to a rock, and there end my fortune with my life.” Nor will they, after the example of another, use the name of God as a cloak for their crimes. For in another comedy Lyconides thus expresses himself: — “God was the impeller: I believe the gods wished it. Did they not wish it, it would not be done, I know.” They will rather inquire and learn from Scripture what is pleasing to God, and then, under the guidance of the Spirit, endeavor to attain it. Prepared to follow whithersoever God may call, they will show by their example that nothing is more useful than the knowledge of this doctrine, which perverse men undeservedly assail, because it is sometimes wickedly abused. The profane make such a bluster with their foolish puerilities, that they almost, according to the expression, confound heaven and earth. If the Lord has marked the moment of our death, it cannot be escaped, — it is vain to toil and use precaution. Therefore, when one ventures not to travel on a road which he hears is infested by robbers; when another calls in the physician, and annoys himself with drugs, for the sake of his health; a third abstains from coarser food, that he may not injure a sickly constitution; and a fourth fears to dwell in a ruinous house; when all, in short, devise, and, with great eagerness of mind, strike out paths by which they may attain the objects of their desire; either these are all vain remedies, laid hold of to correct the will of God, or his certain decree does not fix the limits of life and death, health and sickness, peace and war, and other matters which men, according as they desire and hate, study by their own industry to secure or avoid. Nay, these trifles even infer, that the prayers of the faithful must be perverse, not to say superfluous, since they entreat the Lord to make a provision for things which he has decreed from eternity. And then, imputing whatever happens to the providence of God, they connive at the man who is known to have expressly designed it. Has an assassin slain an honest citizen? He has, say they, executed the counsel of God. Has some one committed theft or adultery? The deed having been provided and ordained by the Lord, he is the minister of his providence. Has a son waited with indifference for the death of his parent, without trying any remedy? He could not oppose God, who had so predetermined from eternity. Thus all crimes receive the name of virtues, as being in accordance with divine ordination.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 17-Henry Beveridge Translation

Purification

Lord Jesus, I sin. Grant that I may never cease grieving because of it, never be content with myself, never think I can reach a point of perfection. Kill my envy, command my tongue, trample down self. Give me grace to be holy, kind, gentle, pure, peaceable, to live for Thee and not for self, to copy Thy words, acts, spirit, to be transformed into Thy likeness, to be consecrated wholly to Thee, to live entirely to Thy glory.

Deliver me from attachment to things unclean, from wrong associations, from the predominance of evil passions, from the sugar of sin as well as its gap; that with selfloathing, deep contrition, earnest heart searching I may come to Thee, cast myself on Thee, trust in Thee, cry to Thee, be delivered by Thee.

O God, the Eternal All, help me to know that all things are shadows, but Thou art substance, all things are quicksands, but Thou art mountain, all things are shifting, but Thou art anchor, all things are ignorance, but Thou art wisdom.

If my life is to be a crucible amid burning heat, so be it, but do Thou sit at the furnace mouth to watch the ore that nothing be lost. If I sin wilfully, grievously, tormentedly, in grace take away my mourning and give me music; remove my sackcloth and clothe me with beauty; still my sighs and fill my mouth with song, then give me summer weather as a Christian.

Taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett. Reformatted by Eternal Life Ministries.

Bell’s Hell and the Destiny of Those Who’ve Never Heard of Jesus

by Sam Storm

In a recent interview with Sally Quinn of The Washington Post, Rob Bell again muddied the waters over the question of the fate of those who’ve never heard about Jesus. In doing so he also greatly misrepresented the evangelical answer to this question. Here are his words:

“If, billions and billions and billions of people, God is going to torture them in hell forever – people who never heard about Jesus are going to suffer in eternal agony because they didn’t believe in the Jesus they never heard of – then at that point we will have far bigger problems than a book from a pastor from Grand Rapids.”

Bell is responding to evangelicals who purportedly believe that people “are going to suffer in eternal agony because they didn’t believe in the Jesus they never heard of.” Let me say this as clearly as I can: No one will ever suffer for any length of time in hell or anywhere else for not believing in the Jesus they never heard of. Should I say that again or is it enough to ask that you go back and read it again?

Bell and others who make this sort of outrageous claim have evidently failed to look closely at Romans 1:18ff. Here we read that the wrath of God revealed from heaven is grounded in the persistent repudiation by mankind of the revelation God has made of himself in the created order. In other words, there is a reason for God’s wrath. It is not capricious. God’s wrath has been deliberately and persistently provoked by man’s willful rejection of God as he has revealed himself.

 

 

 

Read the entire article here.

Also check out: “What About Those Who have Never Heard of Jesus?A Classic Illustration From Francis Schaeffer”

The Wednesday Word: Counted Dead

“For you are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

Here’s the good news: our salvation rests entirely upon the penal, substitutionary sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. He, as our substitute, by Himself and on our behalf, exclusively satisfied the righteous demands of divine holiness and justice.

In the Old Testament, when the priest sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice on the worshipper (Exodus 24:8; Hebrews 9:19), that person was counted or reckoned as being dead! Being dead, it was further reckoned that he had, therefore, paid the penalty of the broken law. The worshipper was counted as having died in the person of his substitute. As long as the worshipper had not paid the death penalty, he was counted as unfit for God. However, as soon as he had paid the death penalty, through the death of his substitute, he was reckoned as now being unsoiled and fit for the Lord’s service.

For peace of conscience, we really need to grasp the great gospel truth of Christ our Substitute!

During the American Civil War, Union Army recruiters arrived at a certain home demanding that the man of the house join the army immediately. The man replied that he could not do so because he had already been killed in action two years ago. As it turned out, a neighbour had signed a ‘Substitute Volunteer’ paper and had gone to war in this man’s place. It was all done legally and since the substitute had died, the man the army had wanted to recruit was now reckoned as having already been killed in action. He, therefore, did not have to go to war as he had already been there and had died in the person of his substitute.

Because of the work of the Lord Jesus, our substitute, we are now reckoned as having already been punished for our sins (Isaiah 53:5). Yes, I know we weren’t physically punished at the cross, but legally we were (Romans 4:25). When Christ hung upon the cross, we legally hung there with him. His death was our death; His punishment was our punishment. We are now cleansed by His blood—- which is another way of saying that we have been made partakers of the death of Christ. The blood of Christ cleanses us by totally identifying us with the death of our Substitute.

We were once covered with guilt and under sentence of death, but our substitute, the Lord Jesus shed His blood (Matthew 26:28). In God’s eyes, that blood represents both his death and ours. He died as our substitute. The blood is shed for us, and in that way death, which is the law’s penalty, is reckoned legally to us. Legally we have died. We have been crucified with Christ and have undergone the death sentence; as a result, our guilt has passed away. We are cleansed! The fires of Hell have been doused for us with the blood of Jesus. This is good news we can live in!

Furthermore, our sin is taken away and Christ’s own righteousness is reckoned to us in its place (Philippians 3:9). This is how the believer makes use of the blood of Christ. Faith simply embraces and enjoys what the blood has already accomplished.

At the cross, Jesus was treated as having our sin. He was reckoned as the greatest sinner and rebel who had ever existed. All our sins were put on Him.

We know this, but have we ever paused to think about what it means? It means that our blasphemies and adulteries were reckoned as His. He took responsibility for all our lying, thieving, fornications and murders. This was awful for Him but wonderful for us. Martin Luther grasped this truth and wrote to a friend saying, “Learn to know Christ and him crucified. Learn to sing to him, and say, ‘Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your sin.”

Spurgeon said it like this; “The man, Christ Jesus, is exalted at the right hand of the majesty on high; and we, His elect, are in Him, crucified with Him, risen with Him .”(Ephesians 2:6)…….

We were:

One, when He died;
One, when He rose;
One, when He triumphed over His foes;
One, when in heaven He took His seat
And angels sang of hell’s defeat.

And that is the Gospel Truth!

Miles Mckee

www.milesmckee.com 

Chapter 35-Justification

August 27, 2014 2 comments

Justification

No doctrine of Scripture is more important than that of justification. It involves the whole method of the salvation of sinners. It is vitally connected with all other fundamental doctrines. A correct conception of it cannot exist when other truths are ignored, or only partially received. The opinions held upon this point control in great part the theological views in general of all Christian individuals and parties. The importance of a correct knowledge of what God has taught on this subject cannot therefore be exaggerated.

The discussion of this doctrine will be best presented by a definition of the word Justification, accompanied by proof of the several statements involved in that definition.

Justification is a judicial act of God, by which, on account of the meritorious work of Christ, imputed to a sinner and received by him through that faith which vitally unites him to his substitute and Saviour, God declares that sinner to be free from the demands of the law, and entitled to the rewards due to the obedience of that substitute.

I. It is a Judicial Act of God.

That God is its author is emphatically declared by Paul in Rom. 8:33; “It is God that justifieth.” As he is the lawgiver and judge so must he also be the justifier.

The act is not one of sovereignty, as is election, because he does not justify merely of good pleasure, but because the demands of the law have been met. Yet his act is free, and of grace, because it is of his own choice that he accepts a substitute, and because Christ and his meritorious work have been graciously secured and given by God himself. See Rom. 3:24.

The virtue of the act consists in its being his judicial act. Any one might perceive or declare the demands of the law to be satisfied upon knowledge of that fact. Any one might proclaim that the rewards of Christ’s merit have been secured. But, whether declared of the value and efficacy of Christ’s work in itself or of its application to an individual, such a declaration would not be justification. It only becomes so when uttered by God in his capacity as Judge. All others could only recognize or declare the fact. The declaration of the judge sets the sinner free from all demands of the law, and confers upon him all the blessings appertaining to this new condition.

This judicial act of justification is made necessary because the law has been broken. One who has completely fulfilled the law needs not to be justified. His position before the law is that of one personally just or righteous; not of one that is justified, or declared righteous, or treated as such, though not personally so. He may be said to be justified, because recognized or treated as such, though the ground of such action is that he is personally just. Thus the term “justified” is properly applied to the doers of the law, and that of “just” denied to the mere hearers of the law in Rom. 2:13. But while the terms may thus be used of one personally just, he, nevertheless, needs no such justification, because his righteousness is not questionable. His position, like that of those who fully obey human laws, is recognized without any special act affirming it.

Hence it is that the Scriptures so commonly use the word “just,” dikaios, of one who is, in some one or in all respects, perfectly conformed to the law by his own acts, and who is, to that extent, therefore, personally holy, applying the term not to men only or even to Christ, who was made under the law, but also to God himself. See Matt. 1:19; 5:45; 9:13; Luke 23:50; Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14; Rom. 3:26. This usage has given rise to the opinion of some that justification is not simply a judicial act, but that it involves holiness in the one justified, and in the case of justified sinners an infusion of holiness in the act of justification.

But that this is an error is obvious,–

1. From the fact that justification is presented as the opposite of condemnation (Rom. 8:33, 34), and not of sinfulness. Condemnation is never spoken of as the infusion of a corrupted nature, and consequently justification would not involve that of a holy nature.

2. That the justified are not declared in Scripture to be free from sin or possessed of holy natures, but are represented as still struggling against sin, and not only sin which arises from outward temptations, but that proceeding from the motions of sin within.

3. The change of nature which causes that of character is called in the Scriptures “regeneration,” and differs essentially from justification. The former is the special work of the Holy Spirit. The latter is the act of God the Father. That is an effect wrought inwardly, which develops itself in a continuous and progressive process which the Scriptures call sanctification. If justification includes an infused righteousness as the opposite of sinfulness, then it includes sanctification, and there is no ground for the scriptural distinction between them.

4. The usage of other words in connection with justification shows it to be a forensic act. The term “righteousness,” dikaiosune, which, like “righteous,” dikaios, is used in connection with personal righteousness, as of God in Acts 17:31, and of Christ “the Faithful and True,” Rev. 19:11, and of the martyrs in Heb. 11:33, and of human obedience to the law in Rom. 10:3, 5; Phil. 3:6, 9, is, in connection with God’s justification of sinners, applied, though chiefly by the Apostle Paul, to “the righteousness which God bestows or accepts,” and which is imputed to the sinner or reckoned to his account.

Another term, dikaiosis, signifies “the act or process of declaring righteous,” viz., justification.

The word dikaioma, which means “that which is declared righteous,” and hence a statute or command, as something which the law of God declares to be a righteous requirement, is used in connection with justification for “the deed by which one declares another righteous, and is partially equivalent to dikaiosis.”

The principal word which is used for expressing the nature of God’s action in justification is dikaioo, “to justify,” which means everywhere “to declare righteous,” “to regard and represent as righteous,” and not “to make righteous” in the sense of conferring personal righteousness.

This usage of terms shows plainly that justification is a judicial act of God, in which he does not confer holiness, but only declares the relation occupied to the law by the one who is in Christ.

 

II. The Ground of this Justification

It is manifest from what has already been said that the justification of the sinner must depend on something not personally his own. The Scriptures teach that it is due not to his own good works but to the meritorious work of Christ which is imputed to him, or put to his account. 

1. They teach us negatively that it is not due to his own good works.

(1.) They expressly deny that justification can be by the works of the law. Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:11; Eph. 2:9.

(2.) They assert that, could it thus have been attained, Christ’s death has been useless. Gal. 2:21; 5:4.

(3.) Sinfulness is declared to be the condition of every man, which excludes the possibility of works untainted by sin. Rom. 3:10.

(4.) The law is said to demand such complete obedience that “whosoever shall keep the whole law and stumble in one point, he is become guilty of all.” James 2:10.

(5.) We are told that “if there had been a law given which could make alive, verily, righteousness would have been of the law.” Gal. 3:21.

(6.) It is likewise stated as necessary to the certainty of attaining salvation that “it is of faith that it may be according to grace.” Rom. 4:16.

These statements show that, not only are men not saved by works alone, but not even by works combined with grace. Justification cannot arise, therefore, from the good works of men. Not even has its condition been so modified that a partial obedience can be accepted, whether this stands alone or is supplemented by, or is supplementary to the merits of Christ. Something entirely outside of man must constitute the basis of justification.

2. The word of God declares this outside something to be the meritorious work of Christ.

(1.) In general

(a) By declaring that the righteousness of God is connected with our relations to, or belief in Christ. Rom. 3:22, 26; 5:1; 10:4; 1 Cor. 1:30.

(b) By stating that redemption is in Christ Jesus. Rom. 3:24.

(c) By setting him forth as the only foundation of salvation.

(d) By asserting salvation to be found only in Christ. Acts 4:12.

(e) By asserting a definite relation between our sin and Christ, and his righteousness and ourselves. 2 Cor. 5:21.

2. More specifically by connecting the salvation and justification of man with Christ’s merits.

This may be shown.

(a) In connection with his sufferings, or what is usually called his passive obedience.

1. Christ is presented as “the Lamb of God,” John 1:29, in evident allusion to the sacrificial offerings of the olden days, and Paul speaks of him as one “whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, by his blood.” Rom. 3:25.

2. He is presented as one who has died for us. Rom. 5:6, 8; 8:34; 14:15; 1 Cor. 8:11; 2 Cor. 5:14, 15; 1 Thess. 5:10; and specifically as having died for our sins. 1 Cor. 15:3.

3. We are said to be justified by his blood (Rom. 5:9), and reconciled by his death (Rom. 5:10), and by his cross (Eph. 2:16).

(b) Our justification is due also to the active obedience of Christ, and not to passive obedience only.

1. Righteousness involves character, conduct and action, even more than suffering endured as penalty. The sinlessness of Christ is therefore plainly taught, and especially in connection with imputation. 2 Cor. 5:21.

2. The gracious salvation he brings is said to establish the law.

3. He assures us, that he came to fulfil the law. Matt. 5:17.

4. The obedience of Christ is not only contrasted with the disobedience of Adam, but is declared to be the means by which many shall be made righteous. Rom. 5:19.

It thus appears, that the ground of justification is the whole meritorious work of Christ. Not his sufferings and death only, but his obedience to, and conformity with the divine law are involved in the justification, which is attained by the believer. The question is here sometimes asked, how the active obedience of Christ can avail to us, when he was himself a man and under the law, and owed obedience personally on his own behalf. The answer to this is twofold, in each case depending upon the doctrine of the incarnation of the Son of God. On the one hand, the position was one voluntarily assumed by the Son of God. He was under no obligation to become man. He was not, and could not be made man without his own consent. In thus voluntarily coming under the law, his obedience would have merit to secure all the blessings connected with the covenant, under which he assumed such relations. But besides this, the fulfillment of the law would not simply be that fulfillment due by a mere man, which is all the law could demand of him on his own behalf, so that the merit secured is that due to the Son of God, thus as man rendering obedience to the law. That merit is immeasurable and is available for all for whom he was the substitute.

 

III. The Imputation

This meritorious work of Christ, called in the Scriptures “the righteousness of God,” is imputed by God to those whom he justifies, as the ground or cause of their justification. It is reckoned to their account. They are treated as though they had themselves done that which Christ has done for them.

This imputation is in accordance with the action of God throughout the economy of human affairs. Adam as the representative of man sinned, and his sin has been imputed to all of his descendants, and they are treated as though personally sinners. Christ stood also as the representative of his people and their sins were imputed to him and he was treated as though personally a sinner. Likewise his righteousness is imputed to them, and they are treated as though personally righteous.

In each of these cases there is, however, no such transfer as makes one personally what he is representatively. It is not the imputed sin of Adam which makes men personally sinners. The corrupted nature is one of the natural consequences of that sin, and is a punishment of it. So the imputation of our sin to Christ did not make him personally a sinner. He was still of himself “the holy and righteous one.” In like manner, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness does not make man holy and righteous personally. In each of these cases it is only relation to the law which is expressed.

 

IV. The Relation of Faith to Justification

It is not every sinner that is justified. It is the believer in Jesus. An important inquiry, therefore, is as to the relation of faith to justification. The Scriptures teach that faith is reckoned for righteousness. Rom. 4:5, 9.

By this is not meant, that faith is accepted in the place of righteousness as the cause of justification, for, as we have seen, that place is occupied by the meritorious work of Christ. Nor is it meant, that the righteousness of God has so lowered the law, that something less than obedience can be accepted by him as a full satisfaction of that law; because the demands of the law have not been lowered but have been completely fulfilled by Christ. Besides this would be to make of faith a work, by which salvation is secured, and the Scriptures deny that it has this character. Rom. 4:16. “We are never said to be justified, dia pistin, on account of faith, but only dia pisteos, through faith, or ek pisteos, of faith, eis pistin, unto faith, and epi te pistei, by faith. The fact that faith is counted for righteousness shows, that in itself it is not righteousness and has no merit, but it only so “reckoned on the ground of something outside of itself, viz.: the saving work of Christ.”

It is evidently so reckoned, because by faith the sinner appropriates to himself the work of Christ, and becomes vitally united with him. Faith may, therefore, be regarded as the condition upon which justification is bestowed upon those to whom Christ is presented as a Saviour, to be received and rested upon for salvation. “Faith,” says Dr. Charles Hodge, “is the condition of justification. That is, so far as adults are concerned, God does not impute the righteousness of Christ to the sinner, until and unless he (through grace) receives and rests on Christ alone for salvation.” Sys. Theol. Vol. 3, p. 118. It is a condition which has in it no merit in itself, but which only seizes upon merit in another. It is also an act of the sinner, to which he is graciously disposed and led by God himself through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

V. The Relation of Works to Justification

We have already seen that works cannot enter meritoriously into justification as its procuring cause. But the Scriptures evidently associate works in some manner with justification. Paul himself says that “love is the fulfillment of the law,” Rom. 13:10, and declares that that which avails in Christ Jesus is “faith working through love,” and that “the whole law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Gal. 5:6, 14. There is here an evident correspondence with, if not allusion to, the frequent teachings of our Lord, and especially to his answer to the Pharisee about the great commandment of the law. Matt. 22:34-40.

The teaching of the apostle James, is not, therefore, to be held to be opposed to the other Scriptures when he speaks of a justification by works. His language is very strong. He says that “faith apart from works is dead.” He asks, “was not Abraham, our father, justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac, his son, upon the altar?” He inquires, “thou seest that faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect,” and especially declares, “ye see how that by works a man is justified and not by faith only.” James 2:20, 21, 22, 24.

What then is the relation of works to justification?

1. Certainly not as a procuring cause, or a meritorious ground. The faith with which James associates works, and upon a level with which he seems to place them, does not itself occupy this position.

2. The works are not such as precede justification or are contemporaneous with it, and hence cannot be a cause, nor even a condition such as we have seen faith to be. Even in the case of Abraham the justifying work referred to occurred long after the justification which he attained by faith. Compare Rom. 4:9-11; Heb. 11:8; Gen. 15:6; 17:1-27; 22:1-19.

3. The works are referred to as means of manifesting as well the faith as the justification claimed to be by faith. James 2:18.

4. The apostle’s object is to deny the living character of any faith which has not wrought with works and has not been perfected through works.

It is thus evident that works occupy the position of subsequent, not antecedent, accompaniments of justification. They manifest that justification has taken place, because they are invariable consequence. They do this, however, not before man only, but God also, and consequently he, as well as man, perceives them, and because of them the believer performing these good works is justified before God. But such justification is not that actual justification which takes place in connection with faith, which is the judicial act of God declaring the relation of the believer to the law, but that declarative or manifesting justification, which cannot exist except as the result of the actual justification, but which is so inseparably connected with the latter that by its presence, or absence, the existence or non-existence of justification is distinctly established.

 

VI. The Benefits Included in Justification

The benefits conferred by justification are many.

1. Freedom from the condemnation of the law. This includes:

(1) Forgiveness of all sin. Not for the past only, but throughout the Christian’s life.

(2) Discharge from his relation to the law as a rule of bondage, for which is now exchanged his service to it in the newness of the spirit. Rom. 7:6.

(3) Peace with God,–assured peace,–because dependent on the merits of Christ and not those of himself.

These and all other blessings which may be included under the general idea of pardon are necessary results of justification.

2. But justification confers righteousness as well as pardon. Not only are sins remitted but men are made partakers of the righteousness procured by Christ which is imputed to them. They are thus recognized before the law as righteous persons, not simply as persons pardoned for breaking the law, but as those who are rewarded for having fulfilled all its demands.

3. But there are other blessings which arise from the relation to Christ of those whom God justifies. That relation was shown in the chapter on Faith. It is a vital and spiritual as well as a legal and federal union between Christ and his people. By virtue of this they are identified with him in his relation to God as their Representative and Covenant Head, and are made partakers of all the blessings which he has obtained as an inheritance. It is thus that they are adopted into the family of God and become his sons and daughters; thus are they sanctified by the Holy Spirit partly in this life, and progressively advance until complete holiness shall be theirs in Heaven. Thus also do they persevere in the divine life, being preserved or kept by God through faith unto complete salvation. By the same act of faith which is the condition of justification is secured by those united to Christ, the privilege of complete participation in the rewards of their federal head. They shall be heirs with him, shall reign with him, shall be partakers of his glory. No imagination can compass the reward which shall be theirs together with Christ. The Scriptures seem to teach that whatever Christ shall be or possess in his human nature they also shall be and possess.

 

VII. The Time of Justification

We may finally inquire into the time at which justification occurs.

1. It does not occur periodically but is a single act, and not one repeated with reference to new sins. This arises from its nature as an act of God declaring the relation of the believer to the law and from the ground of that act, the never failing merits of Christ. The pardon which the Christian seeks of God is that of a child for offences against a father’s love, and not of a culprit before an avenging judge. The sufferings which Christians endure are not avenging punishments for sin, but chastisements from a Father who chastises those whom he loves and scourges those whom he receives.

2. It is an instantaneous and not a continuing work as is sanctification. It is God’s act declaring the sinner’s relation to the law. That sinner is under condemnation until justified. As soon as justified his condemnation ceases. He cannot be partly condemned and partly justified. He is under condemnation until brought into that condition which secures his justification. When that moment comes God must justify.

3. But when is that moment? The Scriptures teach that it is when man believes. It is in the moment of trust in a personal Saviour.
It was not at the time that Christ finished his work and laid the foundation of justification in his merits and satisfaction. By these justification was secured but not bestowed. It was not in Eternity as is Election by which the subjects of the future justification were chosen. It is at the moment of belief when faith, which is its condition, is experienced. Then is consummated that which was purposed in eternity and which was made possible and certain by the work of Christ. The hour of faith was even the period of justification before the incarnation of Christ because of the faith which rested personally upon him through the promises of God, and the acceptance by God of the meritorious work of Christ as though already existing because of the absolute certainty that it would be performed.

 

Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D. D., LL. D.,–Abstract of Systematic Theology–First published in 1887

Meeting God

July 30, 2014 1 comment

Great God, in public and private, in sanctuary and home, may my life be steeped in prayer, filled with the spirit of grace and supplication, each prayer perfumed with the incense of atoning blood. Help me, defend me, until from praying ground I pass to the realm of unceasing praise. Urged by my need, invited by Thy promises, called by Thy Spirit, I enter Thy presence, worshipping Thee with godly fear, awed by Thy majesty, greatness, glory, but encouraged by Thy love.

I am all poverty as well as all guilt, having nothing of my own with which to repay Thee, but I bring Jesus to Thee in the arms of faith, pleading His righteousness to offset my iniquities, rejoicing that He will weigh down the scales for me, and satisfy thy justice. I bless Thee that great sin draws out great grace, that, although the lest sin deserves infinite punishment because done against an infinite God, yet there is mercy for me, for where guilt is most terrible, there Thy mercy in Christ is most free and deep. Bless me by revealing to me more of His saving merits, by causing Thy goodness to pass before me, by speaking peace to my contrite heart; strengthen me to give Thee no rest untiI Christ shall reign supreme within me in every thought, word, and deed, in a faith that purifies the heart, overcomes the world, works by love, fastens me to Thee, and ever clings to the cross.

 

Taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett. Reformatted by Eternal Life Ministries.

Chapter 30- Reprobation

Reprobation

THE doctrine of Election is intimately associated with and involves that of Reprobation. The latter has met with even greater opposition, and misconstructions of what the orthodox teach on this subject have been even more numerous.

The Scriptural statements as to Reprobation are that God, in eternity, when he elected some, did likewise not elect others; that as resulting from this non-election, but not as efficiently caused by it, he passes by these in the bestowment of the special favours shown to the Elect, and, as in like manner yet further resulting, condemns men, because of sin to everlasting destruction, and while they are in the state of sin and condemnation, he effects or permits the hardening of their heart, so that his truth is not appreciated, but actually rejected.

According to this statement there are four points involved in the decrees as to Reprobation:

1. The decree not to elect.

2. The decree to pass by in bestowing divine grace.

3. To condemn for sins committed.

4. To harden against the truth all or some persons, already sinners, and to confirm them in sin.

In considering this doctrine we are met by the difficulty arising from the want of knowledge of God’s purpose in action. It may he questioned whether we can arrive at this at all; yet to understand this subject fully, we must know that purpose. If, therefore, we cannot learn it, we see with what propriety we must submit simply to accept what God says.

A careful examination of the four points indicated will show that the third and fourth of them have necessary reference to sinners, and that the other two have not. These are only thus connected, because God, in carrying out his purpose, has chosen to do it by the creation of man, and by permitting him to fall. This may be shown by supposing God to have some great object in view to be accomplished by beings selected from those to remain holy, as through a part of the angelic hosts. He selects some as the ones through whom he will accomplish his purpose; he rejects the others as not choosing so to use them. He gives to the former special grace to fit them for their work or to remove from them any imperfection for it. His plan not having required that they be permitted to fall, the act of rejection and refusal to add the special grace given to others constitutes in this case all of Reprobation. The purpose of God as to man, on the other hand, affected a fallen race, and hence the other two points, in accordance with his determination to permit man to fall, are associated with and made a part of the decree of Reprobation, with which otherwise they would have no necessary connection.

The fact that God has permitted man to fall is undoubted. It is beyond our power to show how it is consistent with his justice and mercy. That it is so should be acknowledged by all, because God has done it.

In like manner must we deal with any result that flows from any doctrine in connection with that purpose. If it was right for God to permit man to fall, in order to carry out his purpose, it is right to condemn him for his sin. But the connection of condemnation for sin thus permitted with rejection from the number of those through whom that purpose is effected, extends no farther than that, from the circumstances of the case, the rejected in one part of the decree become the condemned in another.

The relation borne by these two parts of the decree will be better seen by the following table showing what is done on the one side for the Elect, and on the other for the rejected.

1. Election from good pleasure.

1. Rejection from good pleasure.
Sin having been committed.

2. To recover by the gospel and special grace.

3. As thus recovered, to glorify.

2. Not to recover, but to leave sinners.

3. As left sinners, to condemn for sin, and to harden some of those thus left.

In thus arranging this table no reference has been had to the views of either Sublapsarians or Supralapsarians. The doctrine of Reprobation is not affected by the scheme of either. This may be shown by presenting the order of the decrees as taught by each.

The Supralapsarians teach that there was:

1. God’s decree to glorify himself in the raising up of the church in which his grace should be peculiarly manifested.

2. To create the men whom he had selected and rejected for its composition.

3. To permit to fall.

4. To send Christ to redeem.

The Sublapsarian view is:

1. A decree to create.

2. To permit to fall.

3. To elect some to everlasting life.

4. To send Christ for their redemption and salvation.

The only difference in the decree of Reprobation as held by either of these views is that the Sublapsarians suppose man to have been decreed as fallen, before decreed as elected, or rejected; yet they deny that the rejection was because of the sin of the non-elect, for if so, they say, the others would have been rejected, being equally in sin. The Supralapsarian view supposes that the election to a certain purpose and the rejection took place before the decree to permit to fall had been entertained. According to each theory, therefore, the last two points of the decree have only what has been called an accidental connection with it.

This preliminary statement will prepare the way for the Scriptural proof of the points indicated.

I. The decree to reject some.

1. This is involved in the doctrine of Election. The choice of some and not of the whole, involves the non-election and thus the rejection of others.

2. But it is plainly taught in Scripture:

(1.) In such passages as declare salvation not to be attained because God has not given the means. These will be presented under the next general head.

(2.) In such as declare salvation not to be attained because men are not of the Elect, as

John 6:65. “No man can come unto me, except it be given unto him of the Father.”

John 10:26. “Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep.”

1 Cor. 1:26. “For behold your calling, brethren, how that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God chose, etc.”

(3.) In all such passages as declare the preordination, or appointment by God of these persons either to condemnation or destruction. Though not the direct result of this decree so as to be efficiently caused by it, these things yet prove the rejection of some who, under the circumstances thus accidentally arising, are thus preordained.

1 Peter 2:8. “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence; for they stumble at the word, being disobedient; whereunto also they were appointed.”

Jude 4. “There are certain men crept in privily, even they who were of old set forth unto this condemnation.”

1 Thess. 5:9. In this chapter, the Apostle tells of the evil that in the last day shall come upon certain ones, and then says: “For God appointed us not unto wrath but unto the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

(4.) In the illustrations from the twins, the potter, and the clay in the 9th chapter of Romans.

(5.) In the same chapter the words used are expressive directly of the truth involved.

Rom. 9:18. “So then he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth.”

(6.) The Apostle was teaching this doctrine in the ninth chapter of Romans and in verses 20 and 21 anticipated and answered the objection of one inquiring, why God should punish those who are thus fulfilling his will, by saying: “Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, why didst thou make me thus? Or hath not the potter a right over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour.”

II. The second point of proof is that God passes by some in the bestowment of his special grace.

That God does bestow many of the means of grace on many not to be saved is admitted; but what needs to be shown is that there are special effective means which distinguish the Elect, and which are not bestowed on others.

The language of Scripture on this point is twofold. There are passages which simply speak of the withholding of privileges, and others which seem to go beyond this and assert a positive influence exerted to keep men from the truth. The meaning of this latter class of passages will be examined when we come to speak of the fourth point. At present they are presented as though they meant no more than the mere neglect to bestow these spiritual advantages.

Deut. 29:4. “The Lord hath not given you an heart to know, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.”

Job. 17:4. “For thou hast hid their heart from understanding, therefore shalt thou not exalt them.”

1 Sam. 2:25. After Eli had exhorted his sons to refrain from making the people of the Lord transgress, it is said, “Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them.”

Isaiah 6: 9. “Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.”

Rom. 11:7, 8. “That which Israel seeketh for that he obtained not, but the election obtained it, and the rest were hardened according as it is written, God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear unto this very day.”

Matt. 13:11-15. “Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables, because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And unto them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, by hearing ye shall hear, and shall in nowise understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall in nowise perceive. For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest haply they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should turn again, and I should heal them.” The parallel to the first part is Luke 8:10, and to the last Mark 4:12. Similar passages also are in John 12:39, 40 and Acts 28:25-27.

2 Cor. 3:15. “But unto this day, whensoever Moses is read, a veil lieth upon their heart,”

These texts will suffice when it is remembered that to the plain declarations here made, may be added the proof afforded by all those passages which, teaching that God bestows on the elect alone salvation, with such attendant blessings as without fail lead to it, show that these blessings are also withheld from the non-elect.

At present it is assumed that this is done simply as an act of withholding. What is meant by this will be shown hereafter.

The question has been raised as to the two points considered above, whether the decree which has respect to them is positive or negative. By a positive decree is meant one which involves an actual direct exercise of the will of God. A negative decree is one in which the effect purposed flows as the result of the actual exercise of the will on something else.

The answer to this question depends upon the nature of the union of the different parts of the decree of reprobation. By some theologians all four of the points involved in the decree are included in one and by Reprobation they mean the actual preordination to damnation of certain persons, just as effectively as the preordination of others to salvation by Election. Others conceiving this to be a false statement have separated the first and second point from the third and fourth, uniting them together, however, as one, and giving to it the name of Preterition. The great difficulty which these had to encounter, arose from the fact that while it is true that the mere neglect to bestow certain blessings on some, may take place without their being conceived of as in the mind, and may, therefore, be a mere negative act, the choice of some so necessarily involves the rejection of others as to require that rejection to accompany the act of choice. Rejection must, therefore, have accompanied Election. In the very fact that some were chosen, was involved the rejection of others. [But even here it is not to be overlooked that rejection was not from God’s favour, not from salvation, not from hope of mercy. Rejection has nothing to do with any of these. The loss of these results from sin]. But the intimate connection between chosen and not chosen does not exist in the bestowment of gifts and graces. These were conferred on those chosen, and not conferred on those not chosen. Hence no positive act of God occurs as to those not chosen. Consequently it is better to divide this part of the decree and regard Rejection as a positive act, and Preterition in bestowing grace as a negative one.

From the first and second, the third and fourth points result consequentially but not effectively. This has been before shown. They do not result from these, so as to be their consequences, but they are actually caused only by the sin of man and are causally related only to it. It is neither as an effect of Election or Rejection or of Preterition that man has fallen, or sins, or is condemned, or will be destroyed. The simple effect is that he is not rescued, and consequently is left where he would have been without these acts. They do not lead to destruction. They simply do not rescue from it.

III. The third point needs no proof at present. The condemnation for the sins man commits is too plainly taught in the word of God. From this condemnation the Elect are rescued by special grace, the Rejected are left liable to it and consequently suffer from it.

This decree of God is positive, involving especially an act of God’s will in reference to the sin that is to be punished.

IV. The fourth point of Reprobation is the hardening some or all of the Rejected against the truth, and the confirmation of them in their sin.

Some or all sinners are spoken of as hardened, because according to the definition given to this hardening process must it be limited or not. If the hardening of God means no more than the mere permission of those influences by which this is accomplished, then it is universal, because the evil influences of the heart and of Satan undoubtedly lead to a constant increase of indisposition for God’s service. But if that process is to be regarded as a special act of God, it must be confined to those persons whom God by special acts of goodness or justice hardens so that they, in an extraordinary sense, are set against the truth and are led to reject it.

The language used in Scripture upon this point is very decided. The only question is about the meaning to be put on it as to a single point. It is best to state the two positions recognized as true and then add the other about which the discussion arises.

1. God is represented as hardening the heart.

2. This is admitted by all to be done so far as permitting it to work out its own destruction or not interfering to prevent the evil influences which would have that tendency.

It is not necessary to present the Scripture proof of these points which is abundant, because it will plainly appear in connection with the third which is that

3. God does himself operate upon and affect the heart and faculties of the individual so that he is hardened against the acceptance of the truth of the Gospel. This point is supported by many passages of Scripture and should be, at least briefly, considered.

(1) It may here again be suggested that it, upon an examination of the Scriptures, this is seen to be God’s teaching, we are bound, in the simplicity of faith, not only to receive it, but also to continue with firm confidence to believe and maintain that it is perfectly consistent with the character of God. The fact that we cannot show it to be so, ought not to make us hesitate a moment after we are convinced that God has taught it.

(2) But if so taught, it may be made to appear perfectly consistent with God’s righteous action and should be recognized as such.

The contrary has been argued from the alleged fact that thus the sinner is prevented from accepting the gospel plan of salvation. But this is not true. His previous condition has already caused this. It is not any action of God withholding grace or conferring further disability that leads any man to reject the gospel. All are already in such a state of depravity that they will certainly refuse it. This is proved from the fact that those who reject the gospel are not only not confined to the hardened, but comprise all sinners, and that nothing can prevent this result but a positive act of God by which he rescues man from his evil nature as well as from its effects.

The only evil then that arises to the sinner is that, under these influences, he sins more freely or more flagrantly than he would otherwise have done, or that his sinful nature more rapidly developes itself. But if it be wrong in God to do anything by which this shall be accomplished, it will be wrong to cast man into hell; for the change of state from this life to that has this tendency.

This illustration suggests indeed what God under these circumstances is doing, which is nothing more than inflicting punishment on the individual because of his sin. He is a sinner in God’s sight. His sin deserves punishment, and God punishes him by making his increased power to do wrong the punishment of the wrong already done.

In this view of the doctrine it is nothing worse than one very commonly taught by Arminians as well as by Calvinists of all kinds,–that of the closing of a day of grace, when the time comes at which the line is passed beyond which God no longer shows favour. That doctrine which asserts an eternal shutting out of light as the penalty of resistance to truth is of precisely the same nature as this the most objectionable form in which this point of Reprobation can he presented.

(3) But, again, whence are the influences which thus tend to salvation? Do they arise from the rights of man, or from the claims which he as man may be said to have upon his Creator? Not at all. They are involved, not in Creation, but in Redemption. They are influences, therefore, which belong, in the purpose of God, to the elect only. This is true, whether we regard the atonement as particular, or as general with a particular application.

These influences, therefore, come to man simply as the chosen of God. God may withhold them from all others. He does withhold them from the heathen. He might withhold them from those to whom they are thus given. But if God may justly withhold them from any, he may, with equal justice, stay the hand that would be stretched out to take what he has intended shall not be given. So long as the things which he withholds or prevents man from taking are not things on which man has any claim, God cannot be charged with injustice in thus acting. Admitting this doctrine, therefore, in its worst form it may be defended.

(4) But fourthly, we are liable to hold this form of the doctrine simply from want of consideration as to the method of God’s action, as well as from overlooking the language of Scripture elsewhere. Let these be regarded, and it will appear that God does not teach us that he directly hardens the heart of any. We must remember

(a) That there is a sense in which God is said to do everything that is done. Whatever happens must either be done by him, or permitted by him; and must be done or permitted directly or indirectly, according as his action is immediate or through secondary means. Now it is the custom of the Scriptures to speak of God as doing whatever is done in any of these ways. If, therefore, we have no indications of the mode of his action, we cannot, from the mere declaration that the Lord did it, decide that he did it directly, or indirectly, efficiently, or permissively. Thus Joseph said to his brethren, “It was not you that sent me hither, but God” (Gen. 45:8), and yet we know that these men were willing instruments of God. The Scripture declarations as to reprobation, or hardening, are not stronger than these which are thus used relative to other matters where we know that God only acted indirectly and permissively.

(b) There are causes at work fully sufficient to accomplish all that God would thus purpose without requiring efficient and causal action. These are the sinful depravity of the heart and the wiles of Satan. It can hardly be supposed that, when the work to be done could thus be effected, God would not leave it to be thus done.

(c) In James 1:13, 14, the apostle uses language inconsistent with the idea that God efficiently leads to sin. “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot he tempted with evil, and he himself tempteth no man: but each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed.”

(d) Whenever the heart is hardened as the result of any action of God, it is always as the result of merciful action, which should have had an opposite tendency. Thus was it with Pharaoh, and thus was it with the Jews in the time of Christ.

(5.) An examination of the passages which refer to the hardening of the heart will show that (a) some expressly declare this hardening to have been by means, or by the individuals themselves; (b) that others are explained by parallel or allied passages to have this meaning; and (c) that there is nothing inconsistent with this view.

1. Passages which affirm this hardening to be the work of the individuals themselves.

2 Kings 17:14. The people of Israel carried away by the Assyrians are said to have hardened their necks like their fathers. See also Neb. 9:16-29 and Jer. 7:26.

2. Passages which furnish explanations. To these belong the famous passages concerning Pharaoh. There could be no stronger expressions than those there used.

(1.) God foretells that he will harden Pharaoh’s heart. Ex. 7:3.

(2.) It is expressly said that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. Ex. 7:13.

(3.) God declares that for this very purpose did he raise up Pharaoh that he might show his glory. Ex. 10:1, 2.

(4.) And yet Pharaoh is expressly declared to have hardened his own heart. Ex. 8:15, 32. Notice in this case the way of hardening; whenever the curse was sent, Pharaoh yielded; whenever it was removed, his heart was hardened. And, that this was not an accidental connection, is seen by the fact that in Ex. 9:34, it is said of Pharaoh that, “when Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet wore, and hardened his heart.”

Another passage, which has often been commented on, is that in 1 Kings, 22nd chapter, where Ahab calls on his prophets and receives assurance of success (verse 6). He sends for a prophet of God (verses 7-9) who gives him the same answer (verse 15), probably ironically, as Ahab immediately turns and says to him, “How many times shall I adjure thee that thou speak unto me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord” (verse 16). The prophet then proceeds to tell of the scattered house of Israel, as sheep that have no shepherd, thus foretelling evil. The king says to Jehoshaphat, “did I not tell thee that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil” (verse 18). Then the prophet proceeds to tell a vision wherein God is represented as wishing to destroy Ahab and asking of all his hosts, who will persuade Ahab that he may go and fall at Ramoth Gilead. And after various replies one Spirit came and said, that he would persuade him by being a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And the prophet adds, “Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets; and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee.” This 1 Kings 22:21-23, is the place that is frequently referred to as a case of God’s misleading Ahab. Independently of the fact that the prophet uses drapery for what he says, he tells the King distinctly God’s will, and, as his prophet who ought to be heard, declares the truth. This passage ought not to weigh for a moment in favor of the idea that God seeks effectively to harden, and thus to destroy.

Again, we have a class of passages, for they are many, such as the one before referred to as showing Reprobation, Matt. 13:11-15. This passage follows the Septuagint translation. The corresponding passages (Mark 4:11, 12, and Luke 8:10) follow the Hebrew of Isaiah 6:9, 10, and are still stronger than Matthew. But Matthew may be taken as explanatory of the parallel and other like passages. The doctrine meant was so plainly understood that the language is not always guarded. It may not have been by Christ in its utterance. But we have here the intended meaning manifested in a single phrase, “and their eyes they have closed lest haply they should perceive,” “and should turn again and I should heal them.”

The passage in Isaiah 63:17, is easily explained in like manner: “O Lord, why dost thou make us to err from thy ways, and hardenest our heart from thy fear?”

3. Passages not inconsistent with this interpretation.

On the contrary, in view of what has been said, this interpretation seems most natural. These are fair examples.

Deut. 2:30. “But Sihon, king of Heshbon, would not let us pass by him: for the Lord thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as at this day.”

Acts 19:9. “But when some were hardened, and disobedient, etc., . . . he (Paul) departed from them.”

Rom. 9:18. “So then he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth.” The example referred to here is that of Pharaoh which, as we have seen, is a case of self-hardening under mercies.

 

Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D. D., LL. D.,–Abstract of Systematic Theology–First published in 1887