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SECTION ONE CONTINUED
LOOKING FURTHER AT TWO OF THE ISLANDS, INCLUDING ONE PEAK
Chiefly, it is predestination, but there is also music for the ears, not to be impoverished.
MORE ON THE PREDESTINATION AND MUSICAL ELEMENTS APPROACHED IN Chapter 1
A) The First Predestinative Addition
*1, *2, Questions and Answers 7
The case in actual historical fact was Westminster Theological Seminary. The scope of the love of God towards mankind, as expressed in the first chapters of John's gospel (in fact, paralleled in I Tim. 2, Titus 2-3, Col.1 et al.) remains as it will remain: unharmed, unharassed and uncompressed by such light and ultimately irrelevant and indeed biblically inappropriate verbal play (II Timothy 2:14, Proverbs 8:8-9), based on arbitrary assumptions as occurred in response to my examinable and assessed sermon presentation, in the Westminster case noted. It is the word of God which binds; and its splendour must be received with simplicity, its authenticity without strivings. (See references in next paras.)
As noted in Biblical Blessings, pp. 111ff., Westminster can be of much assistance where the oppressive foretastes of antichrist are aroused as they were in my early ministerial career in Australia. However, as Tennyson put, Lest one good custom should corrupt the world ... Even Westminster is not at all perfection…
To confess this tendency, for misplaced zeal for an -ism, rather than fruitful zest for what, in EACH context of the word of God, is actually written, is to note something which, though understandable, does not increase understanding; though forgivable, is not profitable. It does nothing to reduce Westminster's valuable contribution on most fronts; but it does assist realism.
Its strong Calvinism is not objectionable in much, the famous five points of the same theologian, in their Biblical setting, being of great value. Unfortunately, he like so many others gifted, having added to the arsenal of the church in his systematics, failed to give adequate stress to another aspect: in this case, to the love of God. Indeed, the vast conflict in discussion between Wesley and Whitefield is eloquent testimony to the dangers of specialising on some scriptures, without real value being given to others. ALL scripture must be clearly regarded (II Tim 3:16, cf. I Tim. 6:4). Re this & Biblical fidelity: see Predestination and Freewill (P&F), pp.100ff., 114-189, 190-191, SMR, Appendix B , Appendix D; The Biblical Workman 8, End-note 2; and *2 . Without this special care, and indeed consistent regard to all that the word of God declares, a philosophic approach becomes all too possible; and this failure occurred at times at Westminster, perhaps being the reason for two events.
One is that given above; and the other came when systematics scholar, John Murray, a delightful man of great analytical ability, challenged me in class to give account of what was troubling me in his presentation, according 5 minutes for the task. Using Colossians 1:19-23, I showed the gap in the systematics, and the great danger it ran of not only aborting an aspect of the Bible, but of inadvertently becoming guilty of MERIT in salvation. Of course, this was not the aim of the system in view, but a real liability ( pp.1130ff. and P&F). No answer was forthcoming from John Murray, and this was just; for what God affirms in His word, is not severable by human assertion. You have to adopt the statements and find the correlative ones, seeing all as one non-contradictable whole. It is then that wisdom operates.
These things should be handled, as the Westminster Confession so justly says, with care and discretion. John Murray, then, did not answer this direct affirmation of the generic character of the love of God shown in Colossians 1; and never in any place have I seen an answer, for an answer to the basic challenge on the need to give the Biblical place to the love of God, in terms of the extent of His embracive attitude as love ab initio, could only be in contradicting the Bible. Sovereignty suffers not at all (P&F pp. 121ff.).
The answer to biblical interpretation is never to contradict what is written, with whatever 'good' intentions; any more than contradict laboratory results in science: you proceed FROM what is written, with all else, to seek understanding. This is the biblical way, and this alone of all, it works! Its results, when faithfully applied, are inimitable. You get what is given and its coherence is glorious, uniquely so, extravagantly delightful.
Accordingly, it is with sorrow that I have had to acknowledge that excellent as Westminster has been in many ways, yet in this area of being sensitive to research and emphasis in a phase of theology not à la mode for its preferred stance and posture in terms of "Calvinism", it fell down.
Often this is seen in life: someone or some body equipped and excellent in some way, becomes too hardened to OTHER aspects not in view. The most excellent way is to be adaptive to WHATEVER comes from WHEREVER, so long as the Bible warrants it. Let the chips fall where they may! To take the first occasion, mentioned in para 1 above: To let a student be formally muzzled in Class, in such a case was of course a gross misuse of authority, an invasion of scriptural systematics and a distasteful exhibition of intolerance, when it was followed by such erratic and shallow lampooning as occurred (in fact, II Timothy 2:14 - striving about words to no profit is forbidden), justly calling up the rebuke of the senior student concerned, who exposed it with some vim. For that, one glorifies God.
That the time of the occurrence was an examination on which the Degree depended, that the 'critique' of the instructor bypassed the actual systematics concerned, the directly scriptural presentation on the love of God, with philosophic imaginings about words, did not warrant confidence. There is a place for pearls, and confidence in a non-debate situation, where rights of reply and due continuity of discussion were arbitrarily severable, with such occurrences as this, could only be withheld.
Moreover, Calvinism, or any other -ism founded on man is signally rejected by the Bible in I Cor. 3:4-9.22, where even "of Paul" is refused (and how much more, it follows, 'of Calvin'), though of course this is not applicable to the SCRIPTURES he wrote, these being immediately inspired in a plenary way, by God (I Cor. 2:9-13 and see SMR Appendix D). You simply CANNOT give honour to one another in such a manner, and yet give the due honour to the ONE whose speech is infinitely superior to all other (John 4:40-47). It is time this was learnt, obeyed and done.
The Westminster Confession's system of doctrine is indeed Biblical; but for fidelity, the extra emphasis on the love of God is needed, as in the Basis of Union of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, which unfortunately has changed some of its approach. That aspect is, if you like, pre-systematic; yet none the less intensely vital for that!
The Biblical love of God does not alter the SYSTEM, which works in its own way: rather it alters the testimony to the One whose it is - of whom it is written "God is love" (I John 4:7-8). And as to that - inclusion of this as of all Biblical components - it is vital to precision (cf. The Kingdom of Heaven, Ch.4, pp. 45ff., Predestination and Freewill, pp. 114ff.) and justice in covering - and attesting - the uniquely harmonious Biblical revelation from God Almighty in this sphere.
Indeed, here as elsewhere, this and any other obedience to the word of God is wisdom itself! A good understanding, says the word of God, have they who do His commandments. Some things may seem "small", but ...how do "little things" mask great ones!
To be flexible with the
Bible is abhorrent, the ultimate intrusion and plagiarism, next beneath the
crucifixion of Christ, the eternal, living word of God made flesh. It does not
preserve the beautiful precision and utter wonder of the word of God: unique,
incomparable and illuminating. To be flexible to it, however, is entirely
different. It is not that emphasis on the sound teaching of the Bible needs to
be aborted at all (heaven forbid) but to be inclusive of all it says, while yet
exclusive of what it does not say. Biblical systematics
on sovereignty and grace are not lost through the whole counsel of God, but put
in place so that, like a completed jigsaw puzzle, the result is suddenly able to
show and depict the vital vision that flows like water, pure by His word from
the eternal magnificences and illimitable magnitudes
of His heart (Ephesians 1:17-18, Matthew 5:17-19, II Timothy 3:16).
the error made by the Instructor noted, at Westminster Seminary, who had first
demanded silence and then in the Class setting, lampooned with words at that
time forbidden an answer, is simply exposed in Repent or Perish,
Endnote 1. This may be read in conjunction with The Kingdom of Heaven...
Ch.4, and SMR
Ch.8, initial pages, and
The Biblical Workman Ch. 8, End-note 2,Repent or Perish Ch.1, End-note 1, Tender Times for Timely Truths Ch. 11, Ch. 2, End-note 1; and for full presentation, in Predestination and Freewill,
Another failing that could sometimes be found in that institution, despite its more general and valuable quality - namely the tendency to undue symbolism, not warranted by the criteria of the context but rather by the 'difficulty' of the material - it seems, was exhibited in the case of remarks from the same instructor on the topic of Moab. It is met in the word showing Biblical teaching on Moab. This is found in The Shadow of a Mighty Rock pp.1111-1112. It is necessary to "rightly divide" the word of God with care (II Timothy 2:15)! Does not the Maker of the brain require thought! Here as everywhere else the word of God is vindicated, requiring no 'help'. It is not enough to proceed with inexact exegesis of each context of the word of God; each context requires assiduity and accuracy, and when this is given, the payload in internal consistency and external sufficiency is astounding.
Indeed, the capacity of the Bible to withstand criticism is matched by its repugnance to this whole domain of fanciful interpretation in the face of 'problems', which are freely found in the mind of the reader rather than in the realities of the word, which without exception, simply comes to pass. While we all use figures and imagery in speech, the transformation of sober references in historical setting into intrusive change of context and thrust needs contextual indication, lest the Bible become a forum for every fancy, a take-off plane for any elevation of thought of man, in the face of God, and not from His mouth.
Hence, for this reason as for all others, it is most thrilling to find continually, decade after decade, every barrier and every blockade, whether from a philosophical 'position' or from frank and rank assault on the Bible, to be met with one result: its overthrow. The Bible stands unobliteratable (it is better to manufacture a word than a thought for someone else's mouth) and massive, ascending to the heights and proceeding to the depths, sui generis, without parallel, prop or addition, the word of God. It is in this capacity it rejoices the heart and enlightens the mind, for it simply stands erect and assured. The papier maché mounts of the mind of man stand puny and passé before their time, when erected in its near vicinity!
If your car meets any hill, climbs any mountain, crosses any stream, outdistances any pursuit, you naturally come to conceive of it in signal terms! When it is the truth which is the butt of so many for so long, for so many reasons, whether as apparently here, confusion, or other conflict: the result is the same. It stands; the other falls. Such is the word of God; such is to be expected; and so it is found to be. It is time to praise the Lord for the simple reason that it is fitting, and fitting because it is DUE!
B) The Second Predestinative Addition
AVOIDANCE OF PET PHILOSOPHIC PENCHANTS, ACCURACY FROM THE BIBLE, AND ELEMENTAL TRUTH
ON THE FUNDAMENTAL REALITY OF REPENTANCE
REPENT means, in the Greek normally found in the New Testament, to change your mind, your understanding, hence your appreciation of the disposition of things, their significance and moral status. It means that what you thought good, or suitable, or sufficient or desirable, one or all, you now think, esteem, consider, deem evil, foul, wrong, unsatisfactory, destructive, contrary to righteousness, incredible, one or all.
It depends of course on the HEIGHT at which the matter stands. In this Biblical setting, where it is a question of repentance towards GOD, the height is infinite, and the depth is in that sense, the same. BENEATH GOD is infinitely far in this, that at HIS HEIGHT, there is simply no limit, but THIS, the thing repented of, is not THERE. It falls short of God and anything falling short of that is in another realm altogether. The phrase "repentance to life" is found in Acts 11:18, where it is the subject of marvelling on the part of certain Jews, that the Gentiles had been GRANTED this by GOD! Repentance a GRANT! Yes.
It is all too easy facilely to construe from this that there is simply nothing that YOU can do about IT! I have even heard, if I recall, a learned Professor acting as if it were without alloy an act of God! and if so, of course, this would follow. A gift however may depend on certain features before it is made. Even an UNEARNED gift, which this is since Ephesians 2:8 tells us that the whole gamut, being saved by faith through grace is NOT of yourselves but is the gift of God, this does not mean that it is arbitrarily dealt out, or is such that the actual party receiving this grant has nothing whatever to do with it. THAT is not stated.
Since moreover, salvation is NOT of yourselves, and NOT of works lest any man should boast (Romans 3), it is all the more certain that repentance is a derivative of NO abilities, NO sensibilities, NOTHING in the whole domain of your merits or performances whatever. However, when you read the REST of scripture on the point, it is EQUALLY apparent that it is in a sense that God knows, MOST closely related to approaches which God may make and which man may reject.
Thus in Jeremiah we find this:
That you may be saved.
How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you?" - in 4:14.
Certainly it would be folly to imagine that the Lord is uncertain as to when it shall once be that repentance shall occur, since "known to the God are all His works from the foundation of the world" or as the NKJV puts it, "from eternity" - Acts 15:18, stated in a context in which His words of old find fulfilment in the present, and allow interpretation of how to understand the present. Again, we find in Isaiah 48:3,
Again, "His understanding is infinite" - Psalm 147:5, just as "His greatness is unsearchable" - Psalm 145:3. Further, we read in Ephesians 1:4, "According as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world" .
He is not asking because of ignorance but obviously, in expostulation at their tardiness, in poignancy of love concerned at their folly and its consequences as they persist in chronic unbelief! God is NOT IRONLY DOING IT, He is compassionately considering it, weighing it. WHEN and IF HE grants repentance, assuredly it IS a SOVEREIGN grant, but the SOVEREIGN is the ONE who does it, not some philosophically abstracted sovereignty which has neither heart nor head, which if not capricious, is immune to such small things as the field in view. It seems to be forgotten by some Calvinists, as the opposite by Arminians, that God is HIMSELF a PERSONAL BEING. His heart is mentioned in the Old Testament, not as a system cover, but as a place of emotion and desire, of love and concern, of compassion and consideration. He has not made us in His image in order to invent a "heart" in us which in the ultimate and eternal sense, He Himself lacks.
Thus we read,
from Jeremiah 48:38.
Of course an incarnation of Christ, the eternal Son, in the form of a man who has this expression of love and solace and concern and depth and personal counsel, when the One who made man in the first place had nothing such, would be merely fallacious. How make the centre of something in the image of God when God lacks it!
Differences of form surely, but not of essential centre, for an image bearer. Derivative merely, but not divergent in the criteria of fellowship. Yet we do not need so to consider, for it is, as we see above, clearly written, and constantly evident in the language with which God speaks through the prophets. Imagery is not to mislead, but to feed; and the community of concern and the correlativity of the matters in this regard, as to essence, between God and man is as constant as most other things that may be found in the word of God.
It is indeed one of the massive features of His love that He has this wonder of often empathetic involvement with exquisite sensitivity and sensibility, this centre of compassion, this personal concern for comfort and trouble, yes, even He, God has this self-humbling mercy (Psalm 34:18, 113:6, Isaiah 55:1-5), He who does not willingly afflict the children of men (Lamentations 3:33).
GOD WHO HAS A HEART in the spiritually correlative sense, indeed in the sense which makes man able to be so made when in His image, man the derivative, God moves and speaks to man, queries, probes, questions,
"His eyes behold, His eyelids try the children of men" - Psalm 11:4.
Accordingly, He probes Jerusalem making amazing final offers of opportunities for peace, even when that unhappy city - as at that time it assuredly was, found itself in the grip of the most powerful inward forces of pulverising destruction.
To ignore the human involvement in repentance, the investment by God, as military forces invest an area, or a region or city, in that to which He does or does not grant repentance is as wholly and ludicrously unbiblical as is the Arminian opposite, which has it OBTAINED by man, as if he could reach out his hand and take it with a thrust of autonomous gusto or virtue or sensibility of his own heart, which alas is not so construed by the Almighty, as we have seen! NO SUCH WORKS (Romans 3) are granted to our domain, and no such beauty is accorded to us in our stricken sinfulness (cf. I Corinthians 2:14).
The Puny Phenomenon of
Philosophic Slugging Matches Does not Adorn
The place in which to find the answer to these elements is surely not in philosophic slugging matches, and superficial announcements, far less pronunciamentos of theological majesty, drawn from the heart of confession-makers or the artisans of bon mots. THE WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD is not an option, but a necessity, and RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORD OF GOD is not a caprice but a duty, and only when ALL of it is taken into full account is the reality of revelation justly treated. In my earlier work, Predestination and Freewill, the reality that God BOTH sovereignly decides who is to be saved and FOREKNOWS those who are His, not some blank as if it were a game, but the person, is shown clearly from the Biblical requirements.
This concern and querying, "When shall it once be...?" (Jeremiah 13:27)is not the work of One who does not know, does not weigh, does not consider and investigate. Predestination, so far from distancing Him from this involvement, makes it yet nearer, for it means that whatever comes to pass is sure, and certain, and known from the beginning. God knows and construes and does, and it is all made from the first and executed to the last, no lack of quality control being there. And HIS is the quality, and as to Him, THIS is what HE REVEALS Himself to be like! (cf. John 14:7-9 and Appendix B, SMR). You see the same involved compassion in Luke 19:42. The heedlessness is taken into account, and with great reluctance the end is announced for Jerusalem; but yet, it is equally announced with great finality, like a failure by a Professor in the 60's, who knows that this is to lead to the student's being sent to Vietnam...
What then is the position? It is this. Neither does man contribute any grace or sensibility of heart, for he is fallen beyond such determinations; nor does God fail to know, indeed to foreknow, those who are His (Romans 8:28ff.). He does not foreknow what is not, but what is; does not look upon what is not, but upon what is; does not disregard what is before Him, but is in full possession of all about it, as one sees a scene from an aeroplane, though more than that, for with Him is no limit. And is this not one of the causes of this unseemly dissension which for so long has afflicted so many, even Wesley belabouring Whitefield with an energy of white heat! and admittedly, not entirely without some reason, though his own position was not equipped to cover all the facts either. (See Predestination and Freewill, Part II.)
GOD STATES (Eph.2:8-10) that it is all done in terms NOT OF YOURSELVES, and at that, it is positively stated simultaneously, "IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD". It is SO DONE that NO MAN could boast (Romans 3), and in such style that "WE ARE HIS WORKMANSHIP" . THESE are divine declarations, and should ALL be heeded, as should the involvement of the Lord as previously shown above.
To IGNORE one phase is merely philosophic penchant coming to the fore, and who knows where all that blather would ever end! It is unseemly substitution of human proclivity for divine pronouncement. Spurgeon was entirely right when he showed his entire agreement with the 'Amen' which greeting his reference to "Whosoever will may come" as well as to the reference to God being able to harden whom HE will! It is of GOD who shows mercy (Romans 9).
Nothing could be more decisive than the divine rejection of human participation in the saving reality (synergism), on the one hand; or, on the other, of any concept of divine disregard of the fact that He has declared Himself not merely to HAVE but to BE love (I John 4:7ff.). This love and the God-only character of divine salvation are equally true and Biblically attested. All this is traced and provided with one harmonious resolution, to demonstrate the unique magnificence of the word of God in this field also, in Appendix B in SMR as in Predestination and Freewill, esp. Part III. To show that possibility of such harmony in detailed reference to the Biblical data, is all that is required, for nowhere else may it be found from any source, or in any realm. What He is, He is; but His word is wholly harmonious as written.
God indeed FOREKNOWS whom He predestines, so that there is no philosophic surmise in the fact that this is an action, an activity, a reality. Is it not at least possible that He foreknows the person concerned, since after all, that same person is to be raised to glory, and is the one of whom it is said that he was CHOSEN IN CHRIST before the world was founded (Ephesians 1)... It is indeed impossible to reconcile these divinely inspired statements with some nebulosity which falls short of this declared fact!
Indeed, it is quite absolutely and overwhelmingly NECESSARY that He foreknows the person concerned, the one who is His for two very good reasons. One: He says so in Romans 8:29. "Whom He foreknew, He also did predestinate..." The second is this: in Ephesians 1:4, we are told that God chose His children in Christ before the world was. "Foreknow" means in advance, and this is in advance even of this world with its type of historical time with which we are familiar, ALTOGETHER. HOW He foreknew, in what FORM this foreknowledge existed, THIS is a subject which is of interest; and while its precise manner cannot be known without revelation, what revelation states and implies on the topic CAN be known and SHOULD be known, for God does not speak for vanity, but instruction. WHEN it is known, then the harmonious combination of the elements of Biblical revelation may also be shown to appear; and this is what has been done (Predestination and Freewill, esp. loc. cit.).
It was NOT a type of foreknowledge which revolved about the question, WILL THE PERSON COME TO FAITH, as if the operation of the will or goodness or virtue or spiritual vitality of the sinful person concerned were to settle the question; for Romans 9 expressly tells us that "it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs". That is, the vigour, virtue or perception of man and his ways and insights and so forth is not the criterion. Not based on the exercise of debased human will, on susceptibility or merit or any other contrived contribution of flesh (I Cor. 2:14, Eph.2:8), the divine choice IS based on divine foreknowledge. This is the Biblical fact. As noted, Predestination and Freewill gives ONE option which fulfils all this, for purposes of Christian Apologetics; the God who is love and the sin which disenables, may meet readily in such a way in the defining foreknowledge of God; and it is clear that here in the Bible alone is the total answer to the human conundrum, divinely placed all along.
Flesh but Looking to the Heart of Him
who Made Man in His Image
In Isaiah 2:22 we are even advised in context of the majesty of God and the minuteness and dependency of the human race (e.g. 2:17), its trend to self-importance, self-declaration and self-trust and boasting, to ...
for what is he estimated at?"
see Delitzsch, Keil and Delitzsch, in their brilliant and classic Commentary on the Old Testament).
Further, we learn in John 1:12, that the new birth does not depend on, is not operative at all in terms of the blood, the will of the flesh, the will of man. It is of GOD. That is moreover what one would EXPECT of birth, in terms of the basic realities of what being born implies!
Indeed, Romans 9 goes further. It not only indicates what is NOT the criterion, man with his vitesse, finesse, largesse; it says what is. BY CONTRA-DISTINCTION, it is GOD WHO SHOWS MERCY. In the context of II Thessalonians 2:10 we see in what sense "He hardens whom He will" (Romans 9:18) - there is a residual, or as Berkhouwer indicates in his "Faith and Sanctification", an implicative aspect. They are hardened because they did not receive the love of the truth. That is what Paul in principle reveals in this passage. This was the experience of Babylon (Jeremiah 51:9 for this Gentile body, cf. Hosea 7:1 for the Jews).This being what God says, it is well to ... listen.
Accordingly, again, we hear:
says Romans 9:22-26
Further (as the NASB renders it),
"He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. As He says also in Hosea, "I will call those who were not My people, 'My people',
And her who was not beloved, 'Beloved'",
And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people,'
There they shall be called sons of the living God."
God is willing to show wrath and He is willing to show mercy; and in the end, He shows both, and the poignant but imperial categories -'loved' and hated' and implicated destinations, assume their destined, indeed predestined proportions. All this is in wholly perfect control and accord with His principles, and the residual categories are so named in appropriate contexts, the final one being hell, being heaven. Accordingly also, it is IN CHRIST that the very choice occurs (Ephesians 1:4), in Him whose compassion (see Appendix B, SMR) is so often and so deeply expressed even to what is to be lost!
Here then we find the following aspects. God delivers to destruction NOT without patience but in terms of a "not receiving" the knowledge of the truth. His sovereignty is on the one hand protected from any argument or assertion of flesh, as if it bargained, or bartered or manipulated or controlled; and His love on the other is excluded from any impugnment, as if caprice or mere majesty were enabled to junk His love, His genuine longing and the loveliness of His entire person and being, ever or episodically; and this is quite as much protested as is His power, His sovereignty and His rule.
NEITHER of these
ridiculous "as if" extremes is the case. It is vain for men to argue about it as
if there were alternatives when God excluded both, specifically, simply, clearly
and repeatedly (see
Predestination and Freewill, SMR
Appendix B, and The Kingdom of Heaven...,
I Timothy 2:1-4 is neither less nor more clear than Romans 9 (cf. SMR pp. 1128ff.), and Romans 9 INCLUDES likewise the concept of patience in His dealings, as II Thessalonians SPECIFIES the logical progression to damnation. If politics has been effectively satirised by Jonathan Swift in Gulliver's Travels, is not theology in much the same case when the proud flesh gets into corners, like inveterate pugilists, and 'slugs it out' with as much discretion and finesse sometimes it would seem, as spiritual thugs! It is time for better things.
The irony here is both superb and extreme, when precisely this "flesh", this uncontrolled self-assertive, self-assurance, becomes the MECHANISM of 'argument' as diverse parties assail each other without regard to the whole counsel of God, seizing even the Biblical passages which relate to condemnation of flesh, in order to exhibit it; and worse, their own 'condemnation' of flesh, to utilise it! What a marvel is man! and accordingly, when he falls, he may fall quite marvellously!
The attitude of God then is expressly defined, in principle and in practice; and it relates generically to man and specifically to Jew or Gentile. Nothing deters or controls the love of God; His covenants do not create but rather specify; He does not change, has no shadow of turning or variation, and in all things at all times is the "I am", who shows neither partiality nor prejudice.
Indeed, since the Jews (like so many liberals in the Gentiles) often tended to want to affirm something of THEMSELVES as if they were special in some biological or ethnic or integral way (cf. Biblical Blessings, Appendix III, pp. 233ff.), He speaks "shockingly" like a therapist of the spirit, in Isaiah 65.
I said, 'Behold Me, behold Me!' to a nation which was not called by my name.
spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people who walk in a way that is
not good, after their own thoughts: a people who provoke Me to anger continually
to My face...
Who say, 'Stand by yourself, do not come near to me; for I am holier than you.'
These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burns all the day."
In Romans 11 in the parable or mini-allegory of the olive tree, we have the same declaration in high principle of the acceptance IN FAITH and the rejection FOR DISBELIEF, applying it to the two phases, Jew and Gentile, in even-handed impartiality.
He takes from all and from any, in whatever historical phasing He pleases, but always with the same restraint, the same power, the same principles and with results which show no favouritism, for God is no respecter of persons.
In all this, He is neither the butt of history, nor the captive of charms. He knows who are His own, and He knows them before history raises its head in order to affirm whatever it will affirm; indeed, history is on a leash with God, and cannot do what it will, though in it there are many who try in their puniness, to capture this and that in their will, only to be contained in the planning of the Almighty.
It is He who uses them and limits them, without obliterating their responsibility or their opportunity for the moment, according to the passion and the place which they may within His bounds, apportion themselves (cf. Isaiah 45:1,13-17, 48:1-8; Ezekiel 29:18-19, Isaiah 38:22-30, Jeremiah 51:7-24 with 25:12-26).
In these places, we see whole empires USED and then LIMITED, or even PUNISHED for their abuse of power WHILE BEING USED, a king forenamed as to his role in the deliverance of the Jews, before he was born, and a prophet declaring what will be the pivot of kings, in the midst of the cauldron of history, treating nations and empires like drops in the bucket, dripping in a way foreknown and composed and declared in advance (cf. Jeremiah 1:10): yet without in the least degree, reducing even a little, the responsibility of those who works and wills are so expressed and yet so surrounded with spiritual and majestic control from the King of Kings and Lords.
It is He who says what He
means, and then does it; and then notes the fact in one more of His many appeals
to man, to mankind, to persons and to individuals, to come, to return to Him who
would thus make his peace like a river and his righteousness like the waves of
the sea (Isaiah 48:16, Acts 38-41,46,48, Revelation 22:11-12, John 3:15-19). He
remonstrates, expostulates, tenderly appeals, reasons and urges, recalls and
evokes in the demonstration of His love from the heart to the heart such as
brought about the crucifixion (Jeremiah 2:5,11-14, Hosea 11:1-4, Matthew 23:37,
Luke 19:42, cf. SMR
In Terms of Foreknowledge
God then FOREKNOWS, and in Romans 8 this is logically PRIOR to His predestining. His foreknowledge is NOT based on works or virtue or specialised superiority in the subject, no, not of ANY kind; and Ephesians 2:1-10 reinforces this from the side of WHO MADE YOU, as well as HOW YOU OPERATE. Your inventions are not in the least degree determinative of His counsel! It is indeed God's choice, based on God's foreknowledge, not on your own actions or will or power, as you exercise it in history, on your flesh, at all. In fact, NOTHING which could IN ANY WAY be attributed to you as an effective CAUSE of your salvation, is permissible in the Bible, or is any PART (far less the whole) of the cause of your being chosen, being saved.
Similarly, effectively in
precise parallel, the love of God is uncontainable,
unmanipulable and seeks for the children of men. Thus, NOTHING,
equally, is Biblically permissible which could in any way indicate or imply that
God rejects a person FROM being saved, because of ANY PART of His love being
LESSER, of lesser quality, less real, far less because of His love as a whole
being diverse in quality and reality. BOTH argumentative excrescences are
utterly contrary to the Bible. Philosophic theologians seem to have a field day
affirming one (to Hurrahs!) or the other, and to forget that BOTH are EQUALLY
In Terms of Christian Apologetics
In terms of Christian Apologetics, it is - as shown in my Predestination and Freewill and Appendix B, SMR and Ch. 4 in The Kingdom of Heaven... - important to show that these features being so, there is an answer to which nothing has a logical equal, to the whole area of sovereignty and responsibility, guilt and government, for man, found in the Bible. It is perfectly proper for people to probe the aspects, and to ensure that the Biblical criteria themselves are met in any formulation. It is equally improper for any of them to be ignored or qualified which God does not qualify, on the perilous and presumptuous basis of fallible human philosophy.
God IN FOREKNOWING DOES NOT, then, act on the basis of merit in man in His choice. He does NOT act on the basis of quavers in His love, for He IS love, and WOULD have all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth, and REPEATEDLY indicates of man, His desire that he does not die, but rather lives; and PROLIFICALLY reasons and re-assesses, with His various appeals of the heart, in terms of His stated principles of the quality and perfection of His love. He does it to Jew, He does it to Gentile.
God IN FOREKNOWING DOES NOT VIOLATE the human will, having made man in His image. He does not FORCE 'CONVERSIONS', like the Moslems in history for so long. He is a Spirit and spiritual reality, not fearful conformity, is in view (John 4:24). He shows the restraint for which love - unlike lust - is justly famous, and mourns rather than forcibly launders, again and again in Jeremiah as in the New Testament, the folly of those who, faced with His presence, power and pity, reject the salvation He embodies. All this has been shown, but we here condense it to the point we have in mind. It is God's KNOWLEDGE, not man's will, not some "IF" or some "WORK" which is the criterion.
He FIRST (logically) foreknows, then predestines, He states in Romans 8:17, 28ff.; then proceeding through calling, justification and glorification. What does He know? Nothing? Of course not, for then there is nothing there to know. Knowing those who are His then involves a transcendence of mere human actions and passions, and an awareness of the fact. Some are His and some are not, and it is in His vital and penetrating awareness that what is what, is seen and found and determined, and being determined is worked out into history, where faith and repentance will duly appear in their sincerity, integrity and reality. They appear without some meretricious formality which denies that reality which is so great before the tender eyes of the Lord, who is truth, that He does not breach this barrier, but rather continually expresses His yearning.
It is not impotent yearning. This folly is so common, that it needs removal once and for all. It is loving yearning, the longing of purity and tenderness with compassion, that does not breach what it seeks, crushing it in the operation of rescue; but instead it FINDS it in His own way. It is not for nothing that we are formed in the image of God; and the penalties and privileges alike are profound.
It is therefore in fact true that a man must RESPOND to the divine call. The Christ in John 1 is seen COMING into the world which rejects HIM, but AS MANY AS RECEIVED HIM, to them He gave the power to become the children of God. The divine willingness is expressly stated in its universal form both in I Timothy 2:1-4 and - since He is no respecter of persons - in Ezekiel 33:11, as well as in II Peter 3:9 and Colossians 1:19-23 and elsewhere as we have shown (cf. above; and The Magnificence of the Messiah, Appendix III, Biblcal Blessings, pp. 234-237, SMR pp. 1130ff.). It would be as ridiculous to try to truncate this to "types of persons" whom He would not have to be lost, as to do the same in Ephesians 1:11, as if it read, "He works all types of things after the counsel of His own will", and so made it a freewheeling world, adding to His word is indeed a proclivity of the flesh, but not a wise one (Proverbs 30:6).
Thus in I Timothy 2, the heavens and the earth, as in Colossians 1:19ff., are the environment of terms. God and man are those involved. One mediator is He to whom the crux is related. A ransom for all (the term chosen is 'on behalf of', not in the place of), is in turn present, showing the aptness of the formulation that the atonement is sufficient for all, adapted for all, though it be limited to some (Romans 8:32 and see SMR Index, Limited Atonement). IN THIS FIELD, He is willing that all be saved (I Timothy 2) and is pleased in attitude "to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him (Christ), whether things on earth or things in heaven", in terms of "having made peace through the blood of His cross" (Colossians 1). That is His disposition, attitude, aptitude and the quality of His love.
What God qualifies, is qualified; and what He leaves open, is left open. What He multiply affirms is even the more presumptuously annulled. Not thus is the church given any power at all. Even Christ did not INVENT doctrine (John 12:48-50), and it behoves His followers to show a restraint far greater than did the Word of God incarnate in this, for He was sinless and deity, although He had abased Himself to that format; whereas the church, though redeemed in its true members, is yet not sinless! Humility is a wise watchword in such things therefore. As to the profound case of Matthew 23:37, see Appendix B of SMR, for the Lord there is shown unquestionably to address the city of Jerusalem with this Ezekiel-like affinity (33:11) and appeal. Similarly, Psalm 81:8-16, like Hosea 7:1, Jeremiah 51:9, indicates rejected grace.
Like Proverbs 1, it is a case, "But My people would not heed My voice, and Israel would have none of Me. So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels." With it, the grief: "Oh, that My people would listen to Me. That Israel would walk in My ways! I would soon subdue their enemies... The haters of the Lord would pretend submission to Him!" (from Psalm 81:13-14).
Repentance therefore is far from being a sovereign gift derived from some unknown heart, as if, as one Professor in the U.S. at whose seminary I was studying put it, God loved all, but the non-elect not in the same way as the elect, it being a lesser thing. The love however which, as to its basic quality and nature, stops just that little short of embracing the one, while it rejects the other, so that that little device known as hell creeps in for the one, but not for the other, is alas near to a mockery of the heart which the Lord continually shows in the Bible, and definitively declares as we have shown
It is true that love responded to - "I love those who love me" - declares wisdom in Proverbs 8, is a special feature and has depths of amazing wonder, when in the light. However the issue is this: does the love of God towards those who are in fact to be lost by His eternal predestinative decision, have no place or relation in its thrust, towards the actual salvation of those lost? It is clear from both the definitive scriptures quoted and the constant practice in the statements of the Lord in the Old Testament also, that this is not the case. There is a depth for those in fact to be lost which is utter. God does not stage-manage salvation, He secures it. God does not violate the human will, as the Westminster Confession wisely declares (Ch.3, I), far less by ignoring it. IT is disabled, HE is not, and HE who knows what man cannot find out in his depravity, who indeed foreknows, though not in terms of foreseen faith or works (Romans 9), which imply merit or susceptibility or their ilk, knows who are His.
BOTH sides of the matter of
Biblically clear and should be put, each in the modesty which the total word
requires, and without that bluster of invention on either side which so
unfortunately has tended to divide so many and so much in what is called the
church of Christ.
In practice, this means that repentance is something which in its integrity is found in predestination, where it is a correlate of salvation as always, since predestination is not of what is unbiblical in kind, but of what is there declared: It is the reality of what it is that is included in what is foreknown. The "call" of those who are called and receive the Lord, is in itself correlative to repentance, as shown in the initial impact of the words of Christ, Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! (Matthew 4:17 - cf. Biblical Blessings, Appendix IV, pp. 257ff.). Man is dealt with.
In Predestination and Freewill we prepare an hypostasis, a construction for consideration to demonstrate the entire and ready assimilation of all the Biblical principles in a possible format for predestination. They harmonise readily there. It is NOT that this is HOW it was done; for who will here know the FORM of God, in its interstices, when God dwells in light to which no man can approach? It is however simply shown that all these aspects are readily seen in logical harmony together.
1) There is NO PROBLEM in Apologetics, for this makes Biblical Christianity the ONLY place where these diverse elements of human responsibility and divine sovereignty, happenstance and control, freedom and compulsion, are met without reductionism. So far from this being an apologetic problem, it is a massive expression of the singular and magnificent virtue and logical beauty found alone, at this level, or ultimately indeed at any, in the word of God. This after all was the major purpose of the exercise in Predestination and Freewill, to act in this domain, to show these things.
A man is not simply determined but surveyed; and freedom relates to design, not to some autonomous pretence: to what one is and could be; and ultimately (see Predestination and Freewill Part I, III), one is responsible for not being different from what one is. One is treated so, because one IS so; for the way is there and if scorned, that too is decisively a matter of personal responsibility. Its construction was a practical work of immense cost to God; its consequence is a practical work of immense value to man. Predestination protects these things.
2) There is a VAST PROBLEM for those who do not repent. It is not that some God who cannot be called "love" has reconditely savaged the prospects, with a little listlessness or disregard passed over inscrutably the possibilities, so that you may well say, Ho hum, that is the way it is, the books are written in that obscure way! I might as well do what I will!
3) It is useless for some to say, 'Not at all! We are TOLD to repent so that is a DUTY and only REBELLION will fail to do so. It is a simple scenario of operational felicity.'
IF God in fact lacked in this dimension of love, so making error to inhere in His word, for He declares the opposite, then NO AMOUNT of obedience would help. That WORK would not be to the point, for it is not of works. Repentance in history is a gift which God grants, and when THAT is given, it is personal and correlative to the love of truth and the truth of love. There is freedom.
It is ONLY when the love of God is given the same status as the sovereignty of God, and man's inability to choose God for and from his own part, is matched with God's equally sovereign indictment of man for this failure IN THE FACE OF HIS LOVE IN THIS DIMENSION, that the reality is seen, the Biblical reality, alone logically valid and sound and consistent.
THEN, whatever the divine procedure in predestination, it is clear that it includes a Christ who does not VARY - as Calvin would have Him vary, as shown in Part II of Predestination and Freewill*1 - from showing His Father in His truth. God the Father emphatically does NOT depart in some sense from the yearnings of His Son for Jerusalem. That is even bad Christology, though this is a vagary of Calvin at this point, and not a systematic defect. Christ yearning for the lost, His compassion is no mere abasement of His declaration, He who has seen Me has seen the Father. Indeed, if while He thus acted, His Father knew better, it would quite obviously distort the picture!
Since this is so, it is the love of God itself in its vast embracive totality which is being dashed by the heart of impenitent man*2. God is not frustrated, for love has restraint, and in the end does not desire to enslave to its will what it loves. Indeed, as Romans 9 equally shows, there comes a consequence such that hate may ensue. We all understand this readily in our own lives indeed, being in the image of God. It is not that what we are shows what He is, but what we are enables us readily to understand what He here declares.
IF the love is not embraced, as the divine foreknowledge penetrating to the
depths and knowing past the ignorant sinfulness of man what it pertains to love
to know... if the love is rejected, and God who knows it, then the result is not
only just, and doubly so, since pardon for sin in the first instance was not a
necessity but a work of grace. It is also deserved intimately and deeply, so
that the threshold of hell is not crossed, indeed, except DESPITE THE LOVE OF
GOD. It is never because the love of God did not reach so far.
Hence to repent is a moral, an ethical, a personal, a just and a merciful necessity. Those who fail to repent towards God and departing from sin by His power, receive His salvation, are applicants for hell. In hell, their worst sensitivity, one might imagine, would be the KNOWLEDGE that THIS was their desire, this the epitome of the thoughts of their hearts, in rejecting what was His willingness.
There is NO equivocation possible, in Scripture, to the effect that God either lacked the love or failed to meet the case. In the FACE of the light of Christ, as we have seen, the judgment is that of evil preference, and it is this which is the charge: despite the divine, explicit and oft-repeated willingness, and NOT through any lack, the soul does not repent. Not merely is this ULTIMATELY the divine condemnation, but one expressed with passion, both in the steps to enable deliverance by the Cross (Colossians 1:19-23, John 3:17-19, I Timothy 2:1-3), and the light of that written declaration, and in the words to repudiate the squalor of denial before His provisions and love of heart (John 15:21-23, Luke 19:42, Acts 13:41,46ff., 13:10, I Timothy 4:1ff., I Cor. 10:1ff., Hebrews 4:1ff., 10:26ff., Ezekiel 16:30-43, Isaiah 5, Ezekiel 33:11).
Hosea as a whole, in one large representation of this, in a field of many mountains as well (cf. 7:1, 13ff., 8:11ff., 10:9-11, 11:1-7). As Romans makes it clear, God is no respecter of persons, and is one God, unchanging. This what is written, and to be preserved, avoiding the actions and reactions of philosophy, creeping in like mould on bread.
In this work, then, REPENT
OR PERISH, drawn in its phrasing from Luke 13:1-3, we are not presenting a
heartless ultimatum, but the divinely tender invitation which though that of a
God who is never frustrated, is from One whose love knows no limit, its
rejection being the open gate to the freeway to hell.
A Post-script of Encouragement:
See Predestination and Freewill pp. 79ff., re Calvin's declaration in Institutes Book 3, Ch.XXIV, 17. Calvin's endeavour to make metaphors a conveyor of what is not the case, as if we did not know metaphor for what it is, a CORRECT depiction of the POINT to which it refers is wholly irrelevant, and not admirable. "Stretching forth one's arms" is not a reference, one might without much difficulty discern, to God's having arms. If so, what is the use of metaphor at all! It is however a clear reference to what THIS ACTION IMPLIES, when it is performed, and so conveys this.
God does indeed have most deep thoughts, as Calvin indicates, and it is indeed entirely possible to misread this depth, which is infinite, and to imagine that some item on the agenda means something final, when it is merely an incident to alert, a device to sensitise and so forth. Indeed this equally is quite true. What however is not at all true is this: that God who in depth is so vast, in speech is not accurate.
When therefore He declares that something is so, it is His VERY DEPTH and righteousness, in whom is no unrighteousness at all, which MEANS that we CANNOT and DARE NOT and in all modesty SHOULD NOT attempt to "READ" it like the scribes of old, to MEAN something other than what it says. It is nothing to do with being literal, but only with handling the word of God with soft fingers, so that a declaration that HE WOULD, on the part of Christ, MEANS that He would, and not that His disfigurement was not only OF Him, on the Cross, but even BY Him, of the Father also, a blasphemous thought, when you tease it out and look it in the face.
The FORM of Christ
STATEDLY involved Him in what as a servant was not found in the FORM of God:
that is, He could thirst and be arrested. The declarations of Christ however are
not even His own invention, but He provided what His Father commanded (John
12:48-50). This then would make even the Father a communicative failure. It is
time such nonsense was ousted from the realms of theology, where its philosophic
intrusion is barred rightly by Paul in Colossians 2:8.
· tampers with direct statements as to the nature of the heart and will of God.
That is not theology, it is philosophy. The so-called five points of Calvinism, if read in the context of Scripture as always for all things necessary in doctrine, are indeed excellent. They help to exhibit many errors. But this is no reason for elevating Calvin to a pinnacle of which men will say, "I of Apollos, I of Calvin!" It is quite simply by the word of God FORBIDDEN to do this (I Corinthians 3:4,21-23).
How long does it take for this word to be obeyed! Does the word of God owe something to Augustine or to Calvin or to Apollos? Of course not, for as Paul states, he received it by revelation from God, not of man at all, neither from what he was taught, and in I Cor. 2:9-13 he traces how the wording itself is provided by God, whose is both the substance and its expression, preserved to His entire quality specifications for the word of God. (See SMR, Appendix D on this topic.) If this word is not heeded, then the errors, few though they may be, of one saint of great power and service to the church, may be imbibed as if the fluid of his speech were the very pure milk of the word. (Cf. The Kingdom of Heaven, Ch.9, pp. 174ff., items 12-13, The Biblical Workman Ch.8, including *2.)
Enough! It is forbidden and it is done, and it ought not to be done, and one of its results is not only a limitation of restrictive vision, as by blinkers on a horse, concerning the very word of God itself, but a restless divisiveness which can afflict the church. It is not merely wholly unnecessary, but to the praise of God let it be clearly stated, it COULD NOT HAPPEN IF THE WORD OF GOD WERE OBEYED. You are simply not permitted to develop a form of doctrine based on the correctness of any theologian, though you may choose of his works for formulations, always susceptible to testing.
These however, even these, may not be "of Calvin" or of "Augustine" or "of Apollos", but merely helps. Moreover, following such a stringently Biblical path as here recommended, and indeed divinely commanded, could only stimulate the real uniting church - not one in fellowship with Rome , but one ruled by the word of God, outside the philosophical and often personalised camps that conflict often both with each other and the word of God, minimising or adding to it. (Cf. Biblical Blessings Ch.3, end-note 1, and "moderation" in the Topical Index for "The Twenty One".)
Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, for there is simply nothing comparable (Colossians 3:17). It is one of the features of churches like the Presbyterian Church of Australia, at least before it developed novel features and changed its way, that it ADDED this emphasis on the love of God TO the Westminster Confession in the so-called Declaratory Statement, which in this was a wonderful refinement. The system was not wrong: that was not the point. The addition of this pre-systematic reality of the love of God in its Biblical force was needed, and efforts were made to ensure it was there. This was an excellent and discerning move. Let us however revert to Calvin.
Unfortunately, Calvin was carried away here. CHRIST WOULD HAVE GATHERED THEM UNDER HIS WINGS, just as He says, and these, the daughters or current generation of Jerusalem, her children, WERE NOT WILLING (Matthew 23:37, cf. SMR Appendix B and below). It is true that Calvin was dealing with some saucy doctrine of the flesh, and seeking to refute it, but to invent one's own doctrine is not the way to declare that of the Lord! The full analysis of this matter is found in Predestination and Freewill where shown, and in what follows throughout its presentation.. He wants to show that it does not "follow that God's plan was made void by man's evil intent", and this is a good objective, since He states that He works all things after the counsel of His own will, and does what He pleases in heaven and earth, albeit it is a good pleasure (Ephesians 1:11, Psalm 115, Ephesians 1:5). The objective does not however sanction the method taken to refute that error: it is not good to make one error to refute another.
God's restraint in love is shown throughout the whole Bible in such terms, in so many images, through so many deeds, in such declarations, with such pathos, poignancy, amid such protestations, with so many devices to delay judgment, that a failure to perceive that this Sovereign is so loving that John declares "God is love", is a lapse sufficient to have sent shock-waves through Christendom for long enough. It is time the striving ceased and the word of God ruled, and that the pugilistic "certainties" of philosophic camps, somehow arrayed within the walls of what is called the church, made peace first with the word of God, and then with each other.
Meanwhile, the word of God is true, and harmonious, and like God, it is wonderful, it is His, and as we read in our dissertation on the Song of Solomon, "His mouth is most sweet" (The Kingdom of Heaven... Ch.11). It is the textual certainties which do not vary, and cannot with truth be invaded. These have a harmony (as demonstrated in Predestination and Freewill) which is profoundly arresting and unique in this field. That is good. But it is HIS word; and that is better.
As the Psalmist puts it,
By these, one knows the true from the false, and one does not fiddle with the standard, which is then MADE false.
Let God be true, though every man a liar! His word? It is true that when we know as we are known, prophecies shall no longer be the sometimes indirect exposure, but sight the direct knowledge. Nevertheless, it is sufficiently clear that this does not render dispensable the word of God which is and always has been, utterly pure - "The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times" - Psalm 12:6.
When God speaks, we do not hypothesise as to His meaning, we read it; far less do we hypothesise that it is contrary in Christ to the Deity, when He IS the deity, or that His human form defiles His truth, for He stated, "I am the truth". Let us therefore read and understand with the Psalmist, and BY IT try every false way, and REPENT of sin with all our hearts and abide in Him and have His words abide in us, for there is not merely safety, but the unspeakable joy of His company and comfort, who desires us so to abide.
God did indeed so love THE WORLD that HE GAVE His only-begotten Son, and what obscures this mission is not of the Lord, but of sin; and those who in sin depart from this divine and universal offer from the very heart of God, do despite to their own hope, doubly in folly, that in the face of such a love and heart as this, they so distinguish themselves. As He says in Matthew 23:37, so in Isaiah 30:15: "In returning and rest shall you be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: and you would not."
Again, as noted in The
Kingdom of Heaven,
Ch.4, we have this:
· "Thus in John 3 we are told that THIS is the condemnation, that light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light, or more literally, men loved the darkness more than the light.
· "Now if anyone sought to establish that the light referred to was not Jesus Christ, he would have some difficulty in escaping a just charge of eisegesis. After all, the Gospel of John has been at extreme pains to show that the light IS Jesus Christ, sent into the world. It actually SAYS so (John 1:3,10-11). The Word is the focus, it was the light, is the light, became flesh and dwelt among us. This is the declaration" ... "
As we there show in detail from John's Gospel, with a declared PURPOSE of NON-CONDEMNATION Christ came into the world, that it might be saved, and the PRINCIPLE, in the light of this light, for actual CONDEMNATION is this: that light has come and men have preferred darkness to light. And the light, it is He who HAS COME, as just described in enormous detail, in the incarnation.
The purpose is EXPLICIT, the PROVISION is AMPLE, the DIVINE MOTIVE is DECLARED, and the principle for exclusion in hell is MANIFESTED in terms of human preference in the face of this Light... The Light is manifested in terms of Christ, who declares "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12), whose divine entry and full-orbed wonder is the chief focus of John 1. Its rejection, thus defined, is the condemnation, because of preference for darkness.
This, of condemnation, is the essence. It is not something hidden; it is something stated, stipulated in principle.
The fact that man is too sick in soul to make the "decision" for His salvation is not in the least relevant to the way in which GOD in His foreknowledge, being wholly apt for any knowledge, predestines those whom HE foreknows. It is not in the hands of man, but in those of God exclusively; but as to those hands, they are those which relate to the God who has declared His heart, His intention and His principles. There is no room for doubt except by butting into the word of God like a goat into a fence. He is always the same, and His ways do not change, and they are as Christ has shown them to be, declaring, He who has seen Me has seen the Father, that He spoke what His Father commanded, and who, in response to the cry for the showing of the Father to His disciples, replied,
"Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known ME, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father, so how can you say, 'Show us the Father!' "
Changes of form (Philippians 2) do nothing therefore to defile, distort or smash the reality, the principles, the force, the texture or the truth. He, as He there lived, declaring, "I am... the truth" (John 14:6).
To libel the love of God by constricting it where He affirms it, in the interests of a blind and circumscribed philosophy, is a rank act; just as is, at the other philosophical extremity, that distortion of sovereignty that imagines God to resolve in vain (v. Isaiah 43:13). Disabled by sin, man is nevertheless not deleted, and is found by that uncontractable love of God, of Colossians 1:19-23, I Timothy 2:1-6, being predestined to this. God does not contradict Himself, affirming the desire, while from eternity and in principle, withholding the means essential to its fulfilment, but cries to responsible man, 'Repent!' (Matthew 4:17, Luke 13:1-3), and to Jerusalem, weeping,
"If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make
for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes..."
(Luke 19:42, cf. The Kingdom of Heaven, Ch.4, esp. pp. 49ff.).
The shallow sophistications of misled philosophy always entice the unwary to their additive constraints; but God knows how to be what He is and get what He wants even in the realm of personality, achieving without dispersion, receiving without distortion, being received without violence, the lover who leaves all other love behind, yet inspires it and is its rest and source.
thoughts therefore, as those cited from Calvin, which would convey a breach
between the heart and mind of Christ and of His Father are vain. Such a
procedure is worse then irrelevant.
It does not move this fence. God's word protects God from such false allusions to His word, to His principles and to His purpose, just as, in the field of a parallel error, they protect man from delusive imaginations about His own "capacity" to gain His salvation by any work or nuance, any nobility or merit, any work of his own.
· Response then is in the end, real and apt for one in the image of God: it is merely a matter of how it is secured in the Lord before all time, as He who knows all, also know this: what is appropriate for His love in such a disenabled soul. Contentious cavils, philosophic intrusions with all their merely human and passing insistences, the constraints of confusion and illusion, will never erode the clear declaration of the word of God, from the right or from the left, from 'super-orthodoxy' or from rabbled and irrational radicalism. He who, in His love and salvation, does violence to the will of none, and in love does not shanghai or play the buccaneer, knows also this: who are His and why.
· "HOW OFTEN" He had sought, as He said. HOW often would He have gathered the children of Jerusalem together under His wings, those who, as with "the children of Israel" of old, were the current generation of the people, and here those of the great city (cf. II Chronicles 36:15ff.). In Christ's day we read of those of yore, He sent because "He had compassion on His people"! "IF ONLY...", as Christ cried in His own day on earth, if only they had known! But as to the daughter of Jerusalem, as the contemporary citizens are often called (Appendix B, SMR, cf. Matthew 23:37, Luke 19:42ff., Jeremiah 6:2-312-15,, 6:23,26, 8:11, 9:1,7, Lamentations 2:2,8), she was not interested. In former days, AFTER the judgment from Babylon, we read that the elders of this 'daughter' (Lamentations 2:10) "sit on the ground and weep in silence". It is as with Isaiah:
"...this is a rebellious people,
Children who will not hear the law of the LORD,
Who say to the seers, 'Do not see,'
And to the prophets, 'Do not prophesy to us right things;
Speak to us smooth things,
Get out of the way,
Turn aside from the path.
Cause the Holy One of Israel
To cease from before us"
30:9-11, emphasis added).
· As with Jeremiah, where 'she', the daughter of Jerusalem, was instructed to roll around in the dust in shame at her abominations, so now. He would have gathered that generation together under His wings, as a hen gathers her chickens ... just as He would have healed... even BABYLON (Jeremiah 51:9, Jeremiah 51:9). But it is not so!
· His tenderness and restraint, not to say patience, are clear in so many ways, that the small selection here made is merely indicative; but this it is. To divorce the Lord from this aspect is no less or more distorting that to humiliate His sovereignty into some cap-in-hand uncertainty. God is not only a lover, but an all-knowing one; He is not only a sovereign, but a wholly compassionate one: and what if, with much patience, He endured those foreknown for destruction! (Romans 9:22).
· He does not put the lost sheep in grappling irons, but carries it home on His shoulder.
The foreknowledge does not pre-empt love, but expresses what, as John 3 makes so clear, is undercut by nothing. If then, it is a sovereign love, it is the love of a loving sovereign. He is so towards Israel as already shown in many examples (cf. SMR Appendix B), even when they are rejected, statedly BECAUSE of their rejection of Him who appeals, provides and protests, and in protesting, protests His love that a peace and blessing should be theirs, of profound and beautiful character, in Him (as in Ezekiel 33:11 cf. Acme, Alpha and Omega: Jesus Christ, Ch.10. pp. 143ff., cf. I Tim. 2:1-5) .
Christ, desolate at their rejection of Him (because it would render them desolate, as we see in Luke 19:42ff.), yet receives it. He does not twiddle with words, like a verbally contentious scribe or a legal contortionist, with specious sophisms, or captious cavils: but He appeals to the heart, just as He who IS the truth (John 14;6) expresses with profundity and justice, His own!
If some did not receive the grant of repentance (Acts 11:18), even though Christ did not come to condemn, but that the world might be saved through Him (John 3:17), God being willing that all might be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (I Tim. 2:1-6): it was not because the Lord had a lapse of concentration, or a technical failure. It was not for such reasons that many are doomed (Matthew 7:13-14, Mark 9). Pilfering His product (themselves), with those who do "always resist the Holy Spirit" (Acts 7:51-52), despite outpourings of divine grace, even reaching to manifest divine revelation (Acts 7:53) and in fact, to the Light Himself when He came (John 1-3) into the world, and the express willingness that it might be saved (John 3:17), they find gravity rather than grace as they hurtle with remorseless heart, over the cliff of the rock on which they should have stood, to the waters of death.
Thus we find this living embodiment of the word of God, Christ Jesus the Lord (John 1, John 12:48ff.), lament at what was, in marred will and feverish restlessness, to be lost, rather than to awake to an understanding of the day of its visitation (Luke 19:42ff.). Alas, like Elisha of old (II Kings 8:11-13), Christ wept at the judgment on the remorselessly recalcitrant; for they achieve their damnation with notable diligence.
And what is their stated ground for judgment ? that their indefensible and indispensable preference for darkness endured, and did not falter. This preference in the beseeching presence of eternal light (John 3:19, cf. John 15:21ff.), the very cited basis of the condemnation, is as far from some imagined diversion of His heart, from His stated love (I John 3:19), some dimming of its amplitude (Col. 1:19ff.) and His gracious purpose (cf. I John 2:1-3) as it would readily be possible to move! Not in pettifogging ploys and words (I Tim. 2:14, Proverbs 8:8-9), but in explicit declaration of intent from His very nature (John 4:8-10) is the case in view.
With every avenue shut, every focus dimmed, every sacrifice delusively dismissed, every heart of many being sought, as hard as adamantine, as in the days of the prophets, He did not swoop in like German blitzkriegs in the shape of some medieval crusader. Rather did He fulfil His mission in power and word, in declaration and rebuttal, in divine attestation of His divinity, in crushing collision with sin on the cross where He bore it for those to be redeemed. Penetrating as foreknown and predestined in His love (for God IS love), He acted then as before time (Ephesians 1:4), in the very spirit and reality which he showed in earth, of whom it is rightly said, He who has seen Me has seen the Father.
Who said that ? Christ said it. Meanwhile, judgment set in like a cloud, as darkness symbolically covered the site of His execution. They but executed their own mercy.
Soon their very city would be executed by Rome. What is profoundly beautiful in His love, is this, that even as His own carnage come near, a work of indescribable dimensions since it included the actual bearing in the human format of the guilt of the sin of all to be redeemed from all ages, He wept. But for whom ? NOT for Himself, in this planned outrage on His person and purity, drafted into a vicarious sacrifice, but for the OBJECT of His concern, those of Jerusalem!
His judgments, to be sure on the other side, follow with distinctness, even if amazing extensions - before eventual impact - may occur to the point that Ezekiel was instructed to deal with a newer type of tortuous twisting on the part of mockers. Their new contortion of truth: it was to the effect and complaint that God prolongs things: THEREFORE, says the prophet from the mouth of the Lord, JUDGMENT IS NOW. There will be no more delay (Ezekiel 12:22-28). Compare to this, Jeremiah 17:19-27 where a proposition for prolonged and wonderful blessing, even to remain for ever (17:25), was made: even in the midst of judgment, a fresh proposal of splendid mercy was provided, one which their hearts were not in tune to keep, though it was ever so simple, and filled with grace. They would not heed even that.
"Therefore tell them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: 'None of My words will be postponed any more, but the word which I speak will be done,' says the Lord God." Imminent doom became an implacable end.
Neither aspect, love or sovereignty, seeking in mercy (in which CATEGORICALLY, GOD DELIGHTS - Micah 7:18-19) or declaring in judgment - presenting or precluding, pre-empts the other: God is not divided, and knows His own mind, and declares in truth His own heart. What He says in principle, over and over in this form, phrase and phase and in that, as He constantly reveals the love and the seeking (cf. Hosea 12:10), and as He repeatedly constrains and controls with His decisions and determinations, His sovereign edicts: BOTH we know, and that, it is the whole point. Only philosophy objects with its running sore of uncontrolled thrusting past the word of God, to satisfy this or that human instinct: and as to that, as Paul declares, it is vain; for what is man's thought compared with the Lord, and man's thoughts are not as His.
As to those who know Him, however, they know this, that this miracle of miracles, that HE should penetrate to their heart and find them, it is the work of God for whom nothing shall be said to be impossible (Luke 1:37, John 6:28-29). Nothing BUT that work and that work alone, could have secured it (John 10:26); but as John 1-3 makes so superabundantly clear, God is not selectively disregarding where it counts, anyone in the scope of His offer and the reality of His love; it is a preference for darkness in the very face of this universality of the divine cover of charity, which is cited as the ground of condemnation (John 3:15-19); it is the failure to come to Him in the face of such words and deeds as these, which is cited against them (John 15:21-23). Without that, as the Scripture says, to the point at issue (their salvation), "they would have had no sin. But now...", it is the end, for there is no other beginning for sinners, but this.
There is nothing wreathed or contorted, twisted or devious about the word of God. It is not least for that reason that as to His words, "They are all clear to him who understands". His word is pure, see times refined, and in Him is no iniquity at all (James 1:17, Psalm 92:15, Deuteronomy 32:4); and it is from His light that we see light (Psalm 27;1, 36:9). But let us resume.
If we put together the two conclusions of such impenitence in John 15:22,24, we gain the understanding. They "would have had no sin", but now, they having disbelieved though faced with the direct impact of His words and His deeds, He declares:
a) "they have no excuse for their sin"
b) "they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father".
"But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, 'They hate Me without a cause' " - John 15:25.
To disregard (Him) at this level, to discount at this intense place of value and sacrifice, is to relegate reality and mercy and hope to the point that all that is precious is despised. Indeed that, in spiritual things where the petty patter of legalisms is long since past, is to assign such a nethermost portion to the infinite God of all wonder, definitively declared in Jesus Christ and as His own Person, that it is classed rightly indeed, as hate.
Rejection of Christ at this point then appears as it is:
An impermeable, impenetrable, undying, ungrounded, unfounded,
unruly and intemperate disregard of intimate, ultimate value and majesty, tenderness and mercy from Creator to creature.
Christ is not demi-urge but deity, and denial of Him
in His mercy mandate ministry is consignment to hell by one's own soaring folly as efficient - all too efficient - cause.
It is this ultimate denial in His gracious, Messianic face which is the defined, despatch notice to doom.
For this, the first call is straightforward, simple and clear:
"REPENT FOR THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND" (Matthew 4:17), and this,
"UNLESS YOU REPENT YOU WILL ALL LIKEWISE PERISH."
And the invitation is no less clear, "For as many as received Him to them He gave the authority to become children of God" - John 1:12.
The interminable horror of the folly is justly seen in its counterpart and destiny: the "everlasting contempt" (Daniel 12:2).
· To subtract acceptance, as if one merely were on auto-pilot under mechanical control; or to add good works, church works, church acceptance, penances, indulgences, traditions, hopes, gurus, ancient as with Rome or recent as with mutant Buddhist, Hindu or other existential varieties, self-fulfilment, self-assertion in spiritual things, methods ... to the work of Christ, is to subtract truth or to add folly to love, blatancy to beauty, flesh to spirit, restlessness for rest, vinegar for balm, and pride for humility.
· Christ ALONE is perfect and offered Himself WITHOUT SIN or SPOT to God, His Father, thereby purchasing eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12), so that those so covered are “perfected for ever” by one offering (Heb. 10:10), and those thus redeemed (Ephesians 1:7), “have obtained an inheritance” (as in Romans 8:32 in precise parallel): for just as His love is vast and illimitable in scope, so is His redemption limited and arithmetically precise in coverage. It is a limited atonement, a limited attainment in sheep found, but an unlimited issuance in love presented. The price is adequate, effectual, delimited, pure, only His (Acts 4:11-12, Hebrews 9:12-14, Galatians 3:1-13).
· To add to the purchase price by the work of sinners, your own merit or will (Romans 9:16, John 1:12) or proclivities or powers or any contribution therefrom, or anybody else's, or that of any group, theologian or body: this is a presumption so bold, an addition so contrived, a denial of the freedom of salvation so vast, an antidote to the deliverance of Galatians 3:1-5 so complete, a rejection of the amplitude of Galatians 6:14 so perfect, as to form almost a brigade within that everlasting contempt, which instead of rejection, adorns; instead of contempt for Christ, despises His covenant, protected by His blood, and with wasting substitute for faith, lets sinners 'help', as did the High Priest with Pilate. (Hebrews 9:12-15,24-28; 10:10,14, Romans 6:24, 5:15, 3:25-28, Galatians 3:1-5, 6:14, I Peter 1:18-21,3-5, John 11:49-50, II Corinthians 5:17-21, 11:1-13:6.)
Indeed, it is important that tradition should not blind to the fact that some may UNINTENTIONALLY add by implication with an X-factor of God-desirability (cf. Predestination and Freewill Section II and The Kingdom of Heaven … Ch. 4), just as much as others may do so with an express confession of the efficacy of their own wills in the selection for salvation!
Moreover, in efforts and endeavours to make some point sure, instead of simply relying on the word of God, many bring in unnecessary controversy.
In the end, however, in all biblical authenticity and simplicity, it is all over before it begins: it is written, on the one side and the other. Neither can add by their traditions and irreconcilable antinomies or adverse contentions. The only safe procedure is to take the word of God as it comes, not to take it where you think it should go; and while God is merciful, there is no comfort to the church of God in philosophic preoccupations defiling the purity of His word. The beautiful fact ? it is this. WHEN and ONLY WHEN you give full value without equivocation or casuistry to what IS written ALL of it, then you have a harmony, a positive happiness of joyful exuberance in all the coherent concepts, the very bloom of truth, and delight of research.
· The rags of ecclesiastical or personal or social self-righteousness (Isaiah 64:6, Jeremiah 17:5-9, I Cor. 3:3-11) are indeed filthy. Did PAUL die for you, or PETER, or THE CHURCH, or some theologian, or some sect, or did some tradition of men, some named theologian amongst men (cf. the prohibition in I Corinthians 3:4) ? Did he or it rise for your justification (Romans 4:25). Does Christ need your help, or that of Peter, whom He had to rebuke sharply in terms of satanic error, when the latter took it into his head to 'help' Christ (Matthew 16:22-23) by some invention of his own?
Rejection is a perverse syndrome, sometimes acting in flamboyant disregard, at times in wily subtleties, seeking to add, or change without confrontation, at times acting as if to accept in forms, but without faith. However, without FAITH you cannot please God, and the OBJECT OF FAITH is the FOUNDATION, Jesus Christ (not a sinner, Creator in form of creature, but per se Creator, Philippians 2), whose death wholly atones (Galatians 3:1-13), whose resurrection brings justification, whose people are through faith in Him, already saved (II Timothy 1:9-10, Titus 3:5, Ephesians 2:1-10).
Acceptance however, acceptance "in the beloved" (Ephesians 1:3-6), whereby the Christian has already "obtained an inheritance" (1:11), like the clear-hearted acceptance of Christ crucified, yes rather risen (Romans 8:31-33), in repentance towards God, leads to such an abundance, an outpouring (cf. Proverbs 1:20-33) that it is scarcely comprehensible in its profundity (cf. Ephesians 3:17-21), being like a geyser for vigour, like a mountain for solidity, like a breeze for purity and freshness, like manna from heaven, as undeserved, like the love of the artist of beauty so long pre-programmed and now seen in dawning and sunset, when swept away are the clouds of sin and self and other-selves.
These last? Items such as church in the place of Christ, or pope, or priest, or self, or society, or community, or nation, or United Nations or some adventitious theology. Some of these are things that could, if acting in appointed places, levels or roles, be good; but which become damnable when they act to usurp the pre-rogatives of God. In others of these cases, it is their very nature, they are so constructed as to usurp; but not by God! (Cf. SMR pp. 1032-1088H.)
To all this there is indeed an "everlasting contempt" most horrible in that it is most apt; for how much fouler is it to modify a gift of another, to pollute by sinful imperfections the sinless perfection of God.
But do you not realise that this, the profundity of the ruin is correlative to what is indeed encouraging to receive with joy, the ultimate of all wonders? The intensity of the light needed is index to the blackness of darkness to be contrived in His absence, in departure from Him who is so high, so glorious, so close to heart, the key to the puzzle, the flaming life to the spark, the plateau on which to land our small craft. How intense is the love of God that He went so far to deliver from so much, with One so precious! and that THIS LOVE is not excluded from the seeker of salvation in terms of the same Jesus Christ, for
"God demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" - Romans 5:8. He did not wait for the gaining of righteousness in order to love.
What remains as much a delight is this further fact:
"having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" - Romans 5:1.
It is not in heaven that it needs to be arrested, it is not in hell that it needs excavation: it is right here, at your side, in your ear, by your mouth, that you might call upon the name of the Lord and be saved from the follies that being contemptible, will find contempt, for the life that being His who is magnificent, is abundant (Acts 2:38, 4:11-12, I Peter 3:21).
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.'
· "Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
· For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us form the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" - (Romans 36-38).
What then ? There is this amplitude, this restraint, this foreknowledge and predestination IN HIM who on earth showed His heart, which also is likewise therefore the very quality of His love IN the very act of predestination, which thus assures and does not remove, what is in His heart: for ...
and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross " Colossians 1:19-20.
That is the nature of His pleasure who DELIGHTS IN MERCY (Micah 7:19ff.). That is the way it is. Thank God that it is!
For the harmony and significance of these things in the beauty of the Lord's unique holiness, see also The Kingdom of Heaven Ch.4, SMR Appendix B and SMR Ch.8, initial pages, and The Biblical Workman Ch. 8, End-note 2, Tender Times for Timely Truths Ch. 2, esp. the Excursion in End-note 1, Repent or Perish Ch.1, End-note 1, together with Predestination and Freewill.
*2 See aptly here also The Westminster Confession, Ch.3, I; and on His coverage of all cases, in foreknowing sovereignty in Christ, Ch. X, part III.
C) The Third Predestinative Addition
GLORY, VAINGLORY AND GOODNESS
THE DYNAMIC AND DENIAL OF GOODNESS
From THE COURT OF CULTURE
to THE COMPANY OF CHRIST
MOSES AND THE OVERFLOW OF DIVINE GOODNESS
Moses understood it, for God made him understand.
The people had just let him down. He had sacrificed his career as a cultivated, elevated prince in Egypt, for the concern for his Jewish brothers, racial identities with himself, slaves. Ill-advisedly his passion has passed prudent and workable bounds. Forty years later, he was called by God to do something far better with the divine power back of it, to deliver his people.
Moses insisted that he be persuaded that the divine voice, and the divine form, appearing in a burning bush which despite the fire in it, was not consumed, should show power to perform, before he would act in the name of this, the living God, on His behalf for the people. God demonstrated this sself-same divine power to ears and eyes willing to see and to hear, for such were those of Moses. In this, they were unlike those of Israel in the day of Christ, as He Himself attested of them as a nation (Matthew 13:14-16). Yet like the apostles, to whom Christ then spoke, Moses heard, watched and was persuaded.
Therefore he acted, as faith always does in the end.
The name concerned him. By what name would he go to confront Pharaoh in order to deliver his people from slavery ? What was to be the distinctive name by which God would be known in a living, experimental, national and definitive fashion for this exercise, and indeed, in terms of reality, public, continual and to proceed as long as the days of Abraham's promise, which is without end in the seed promised, the Messiah. What then was to be the name of deliverance, intervention, redeeming thrust ?
It was this (Exodus 3:13-14): I AM! This had not been His signature name, or the covenantal criterion, as now it must be. Almighty always, and with such a name, now He wanted the everlasting, supra-temporal, self-sufficient, time-embracing, eternity-expressing name of a Being without dependency on anything, over all, beyond all, concerned for all and willing to find some. That is just what Christ conveyed as we read in John 8:58. It is disjoined from mere nature and the natural, with its passing sequence: Before Abraham was, I am, said Christ, definitively expressing in direct, categorical and historical format, that He was Jehovah.
That 'some' included the nation of Israel. God was committed to them.
When Moses therefore, after many prevarications on the part of a Pharaoh confronted by more than human might, came to act, power flowed freely. Delaying tactics exhibited by an Egyptian Ruler whose extravaganzas of equivocation make a history book of their own, as the various gods of Egypt thrashed by the Lord in His plagues, were exposed to scorn, and Moses uninhibited by the entire Egyptian army, chariots and all, led out a slave people from that vast nation which had enslaved them.
Indeed, it was the imperial zenith of the world of that time, one might have thought the case concluded. It was, but when the supernatural God of creation deals with nature, as in the flood, as in fulfilling all of His promises, there is no ability to resist. It was as in the resurrection. It was foretold by a millenium, Christ had spoken of it freely (e.g. Matthew 16-17), there was declared fear and concern, a guard was set, a tomb with a boulder over it was assigned; but none could produce the body, and only the Christians knew where it was.
Secret plans known a day beforehand may be crucial and one nation might thus overcome another by such knowledge, as might be gained in breaking a code. But in this case, there was no code, it was as clear as day in Psalm 16, Psalm 2, and there was the most potent exposure of the fact of the coming resurrection as in John 2; but no one COULD stop it. It was so simple: produce the body and show your power is more than that of the God of the Bible.
With maximum motivation, neither the priestly party nor Pilate could do so; and the disciples were changed by the empirical facts so closely conveyed, as seen in John 20.
So in the Exodus, this time not from death to life, but from slavery in search of the promised land, so much earlier, there was an historical drama which served also as a symbolic trip beforehand. This one was on the part of the nation; just as the resurrection was despite the nation, as God, the only Lamb who could expatriate sin's guilt, did it once for all in Himself (cf. Hosea 13:14, Hebrews 9-10). The nation baulked, but the Lord walked. They refused at first to enter the promised land, and lost forty years in the wilderness, till almost all had died. A new generation went in, surrounded once more by the power of God.
As to the nation, then, in their Exodus trip, they hesitated; but in Christ far more searching journey, neither did He hesitate nor halt: He expiated. There was no waiting there.
Indeed, the parallel is intense both in meaning and in an edifying phase of contrast. Israel the nation failed to enter the promised land when God showed it to them, invited them to it, and brought them to its very threshold, through many miracles and much labour of heart, so that they might freely enter. 40 years was the interval to wait, and except for those who in a mini-minority were willing to enter, those particular people in their masses, did not enter in at all. Their children did, but they did not!
So when the nation, at their historical crux, the historical season that Daniel predicted for the Messiah (cf. Daniel 9:23ff.*1), the neap tide of opportunity, had a vast new open way to glory, what happened ? Again failing, they did not put their faith in Jesus Christ, despite His maxi-fulfilment of all prophecies concerning His saving advent, Again, as a result of this failure, there was an interval for the nation. It was not this time one of 40 years' duration.
In this sublime and immortal instance of opportunity ("the time of your visitation" as Christ called it - Luke 19:42ff.), the interval so far has been some 1977 years, an increase of result, at the spiritual level for the nation, of nearly 50 times!
Thus who rejected Him throughout the entry period of their whole lives, in this case, did not enter in at all. The nation as a bloc, did not enter for near to 2000 years, into the spiritual promised land, the antitype of the land itself, into the glory of knowing God as Jeremiah had told them to ensure they should do, in Jeremiah 9:23-24.
"Thus says the Lord:
'Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the
exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight,' says the Lord."
The nation has been dispersed as Leviticus 26 predicted for successive waves of rebellion, and mocked, made to look foolish before 'a foolish nation', as those without wisdom, but proficient in carnal power, trod on them, crushed them, slew them and despised them. Such was the prediction of Deuteronomy 32. It is not the end for the nation, in terms of the spiritual promised land, the antitype for truth, the criterion for salvation, the nestling place in the Lord. Its time does come as in Romans 11*2.
Looking back, then, what is to be learned of the goodness of God in this Exodus instance ?
God had shown
1) His pity.
practical interest .
resolute resolutions of all problems.
deliverances in scope and dimension
beyond anything that could have been imagined,
even moving things botanical, biological, hydraulic and oceanic in ways that were
supplemented by celestial onsets, as things fell out of the sky and darkness
added its astronomical touch. This was an exhibit in the drama associated
with the Exodus and its preceding events.
Was this not enough to satisfy any empirically minded people, and to restore to faith a nation in the midst of dissolution, to the kinder life of resolution on the regality of God in their lives!
Quite apparently, it was not, as Hebrews and history alike make clear (Hebrews 3:16-4:10). Those who perished in the wilderness were almost the entirety of a nation, and few were those excepted. Faith was not mixed, nor united with their hearing of the testimony of evident truth, says Hebrews. That is not profitable in the spiritual domain. It is defunct.
That was the situation for the major corpus of the people. When Christ came, similarly, though multiplied thousands believed, despite this remnant, the entire nation was doomed by disbelief, its leadership a shambles, its ceremonial substitute for faith no less than a fraud, one outrageously culminating in killing the King whom ostensibly they served.
In this, there is a parallel, that speaks! Indeed, the people threatened to stone Moses, when they feared and failed to enter the Promised Land (Number 14:10). At the brink of glory (in faith proceeding where God sends, and here entering an entire category of blessing), they not only failed, but thought of killing the leader and returning to Egypt, This has been the procedure; it was so when Christ came, when they did more than THINK of killing the Commander; and it has been the step taken with those who have stood for Christ while many have sought to avoid and evade Christ's call, even in some bodies called churches! And so the fires of Smithfield and the incredible brutality of judicial murder and slowly burning fires to incinerate living human flesh, drama of the Romanist Inquisition, proceeded.
Faith becomes an incubus, life a burden through lack of faith. Glorious opportunity and scope for glory is painstakingly sacrificed. Faith is in recess, life in rebellion, formality acts as fraud.
Not so surprising therefore was Christ's parable of the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus, neglected in his earthly life, but secure in the haven of heaven at last (Luke 16:19ff.). Give me water! send Lazarus to bring it! cries the lost rich man. There was however no way for this to happen, for there was a gulf between the two. Christ then made his famous remark, that even if one were to rise from the dead, they would not believe.
Just as faith without works is dead, since faith is a living and acting sort of thing, as is the nature of all life, so form without function is defunct, and testimony without truth is mere tedium.
This observation made by Christ, then, was in response to the rich man, in hell, asking for someone to be sent to his brothers still living on this earth; but it had a subtler impact.
rise from the dead
and it was NOT sufficient to convince
those who could see only Rome embarrassed, the Sanhedrin incapacitated,
Israel at risk,
still blind as the well-noted tomb of Joseph of Arithmathea was evacuated (Luke 23:50-55),
that very significant, sealed and guarded one
which had been very carefully and naturally most emphatically observed
by the devoted women, who had burial duties to perform.
No one could do ANYTHING to stop the resurrection; but the Lord who had foretold that after just three days, He would rise from the dead, did as always, precisely what He had said. Because they COULD do nothing, this is what they did. Because the Lord can do ANYTHING, what was required, raising the dead body of the Saviour to life, He did.
Every simple practical force was there to prevent this fulfilment; but it was still fulfilled.
Could they not guard the body (they tried) ? could they not encircle the area (they provided soldiers and a boulder and seal) ? could they not note the prediction from a millenium before that He would rise bodily (Psalm 16) ? Would they not listen to Christ's deliberate prediction (Matthew 16-17) ? Were they strategically exempt or merely obfuscated by guilt ? Did they not realise that He answered every test, physical or mental, and so take steps ? Or did they rather do something, while God did all!
Were they to become asinine, incompetent and paralysed all at once ? Could they not do better than have a story (Matthew 28) to 'explain' it all, saying that the disciples had stolen the body while the guard slept ? for how could they know, if they slept!
But if they did not know, and were paralysed with fright as the tomb was opened by supernatural means, as dead men in fear and horror, amazement and dazed into delirium by life itself at work in the midst of death, with precise power and glorious order: then indeed you have the only natural explanation. The body went and they knew it, not as they slept, but as they were struck and dumbfounded with the divine power and presence, unable and bewildered by such supernatural almightiness. 'Sleep' was a cover up, inept for those not executed for incompetence, and irrelevant as testimony, except for this: that obviously it was a false testimony, self-contradictory in itself, as the outset. Sleep does not witness.
Just as Israel in the day of Christ, not all, but the nation as such, made of themselves an unbelieving morass deserving (and soon to obtain - A.D. 70) massive judgment, so in the day of Moses, for wilfully refusing to enter the promised land, after myriads of miracles in multiple dimensions, without one failure, they did not believe. Thus the 40 year penalty, in the wilderness, was what they obtained, and this was their reward for reneging; just as later, it was to be something close to 2000 years, of exclusion as a NATION. In that case, it was the apostles and the converts, who were the exceptions; just as earlier, it was Moses and some others, in the day of the Exodus, when their journey was complete, the Promised Land at hand, as later Christ was.
In the day of Christ's resurrection, and what followed, there was a larger 'remnant', as the apostles and disciples were joined by those thousands of other believers, whom their preaching was used to gain! The remnant was large, but a remnant still; for the nation was spiritually ill.
The history of refusal had been long.
In ancient Israel, the refusal of the people to enter the land at their very feet, into which they had already sent spies who had returned intact, was not alone as an exhibit of their approach to faith ...
Did the people not rebel on the very excursion out of Egypt, crying in terms of their missing pleasures, at the onset of the Pharaoh's army, threatening to close them in to the sea. Only the opening of it could deliver them; and it opened. How many MORE times, after the 10 plagues, did they need to be reassured!
Christ, then, did indeed put this sort of spirit well, when He indicated, in telling the parable of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus, that though one were to rise from the dead, it would not suffice to convince that generation! It is the perennial character of disfaith, of settled, pathological, animated animus against the truth, which so acts in any Age.
In the earlier time, the epoch of Moses, the people were surrounded by miracles that made a slave people overthrow the reins of the driver and his vast powers, and yet they were complaining, grumbling, mumbling, murmuring, secretly dismayed and then openly vocal in their lagging and laxities.
Moses, then, when he came down from the mount of prayer and revelation, to find the people wild in false religious exercises, attributing power to idols, made and crafted in vicious parallel to a Egyptian god, who they said, brought them out of Egypt, reached into a situation fast becoming chronic.
Harassed repeatedly, he was appalled by this, which could be the summary outcome of their great adventure.
Had it then all come to nought ? after so much sacrificed, endured, and shown supernaturally by the deadly dynamic and saving grace of the Lord!
You read of this personal situation for Moses in Exodus 33.
It is important for us, for in this we can see what is a highly significant period for the expression of the GOODNESS of the Lord. We must indeed first look at something in Exodus 31. Moses asks the Lord to look upon him, as he sought to lead the people. They have, he admitted, committed a "great sin".
Let us consider it further. The golden calf which they had made while for a few days Moses was communing and being instructed in epochal matters for the nation and the world, held, expressed and exhibited most publicly, various evils. Clear at once was the fact that it represented an Egyptian god, one of those utterly debunked as the Lord turned, in the 10 plagues, as first one of them and then another was scorned and sent back into the fabled imagination whence they came. In that famed event, the confrontation with dictatorial Pharaoh, despising thee powerlessness of these fictitious natural gods of Egypt, the Lord used their very forms and names, so sacred in that land, for this and that god, as practical emblems that ruined Egypt by the corresponding plagues, whether in frogs, flies or unprotected cattle.
If then Israel was so keen to say, This is the god who brought us out of Egypt, and to make an image of an Egyptian god, the calf, what could be more impudent, imprudent and blatant! What could possibly more distort the truth!
As an expression of scorn of the much shown power of God, something they exposed to contempt because they wanted to have the sort of living they had in Egypt (no doubt, ex-slavery), and were impatient, it could scarcely have been more brilliant. What was it like ? It was as if a petitioner for pardon, were to slap the face of the judge, call his power oppressive, his skill redundant, his calling an imposition and his will a laugh. Deriding, however, they were derisible; contemptuous, they were contemptible, like soldiers on mission, not only freely discussing with the enemy, all their plans, but with him, revising them.
They would not face the climb up the mountain which faith presented, even when the power already shown by God in their multiple deliverances and the care of their bodies in food and water, hundreds of thousands of them, had attested that it was simply a matter of acting in faith. God had the power.
It was assuredly a great sin, like many others, welling up in the heart in terms of long-held impatience and impenitence, as they went through the forms as their leader took them on, but complained many times, and sometimes bitterly.
If then, Moses urged the Lord (Exodus 31:31, an interesting arithmetical equivalent to Jeremiah's prediction of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:31), you will forgive their sin, well; but if not - then "BLOT ME OUT OF YOUR BOOK WHICH YOU HAVE WRITTEN!" he cried.
This in some ways was what is called a 'type' of Christ. That is, it shows in some facets a degree of similarity to the work that Jesus performed effectually for salvation, in an image beforehand.
CHRIST was willing to have to cry, "My God, My God, who have You forsaken Me!" as that sin that separated came as a curse (Galatians 3) upon Him, who bearing it, was then able to cancel its application to believers in Him; and who thus did it for them! The prediction of this desolatory experience to be suffered by the Messiah was quite clear in Psalm 22, a millenium before it happened. There was plenty of time to consider before He took a body to do the job, and became incarnate as man, the waiting sacrifice to come... (Psalm 40 cf. Joyful Jottings 22-25). He however came willingly (Psalm 40), delighting to do the will of the Father, as Messiah.
For Him, it was not any sort of request to blot out His name from the Book divine, as in Moses' case, but a work which blotted out His own life as a sin-sacrifice, itself! As God, of course, He was incapable of being held by death, which had to yield up His body (Psalm 16, Luke 24, John 20, Acts 2:23-24); but this did nothing to mitigate what He suffered in the midst of His passion.
This entire spirit of dedication, unable to redeem in the case of Moses (and Paul in Romans 10 gives an excoriating testimony not unlike that of Moses), was thus to be seen. With God, entirety of dedication is the norm; it is not the exception. Errors are one thing; erratic motions of heart that know no bounds and walk in blight, not light: these are something else!
The LORD exhibited His divine sovereignty in reminding the distraught Moses that as far as anyone being blotted out of the Book, this was for HIM to do, where sin still stood. ALL the sacrifices intimated at least the COVER of sin in sacrifice. The LORD knows who are His, and these, having received Him, are always covered; for it is a life for life transaction (as in Romans 5:9-10). It is always essential to realise this, lest 'works' of endurance or some other thing be added to the Lord's work in redemption, making the sinner a co-redeemer, which is ridiculous, since sin has a net debt! (Romans 6:23). If you are already legally dead by sin, what could you ever contribute! That would be like estimating the speed of a car before you had one.
The Lord then directed Moses to continue his leadership, and showed him that there would be indeed a presence with him.
In the next Chapter of Exodus, 33, we find the Lord exhibiting to Moses, His goodness. Having told the people to consecrate themselves to the Lord, he turned, as any good pastor should, to the Lord for his own part. "Now therefore," he communed as he spoke to the Lord (as the man of God must), "I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight..."
Eventually, the Lord did make a marvellous revelation of Himself to Moses, as we see in Exodus 33:19:19ff.. "Please show me Your glory!" Moses asked (33:18).
The Lord did. I know you by name, He told Moses (33:17). Hence He acted. Then He said:
"I will make all My goodness pass before you,
and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you.
I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious,
and I will have compassion
on whom I will have compassion."
Here at once you see that the Lord is not subject to man and his inclinations, but is sovereign, and makes His own intimations. We also see the operation of the "Seek and you will find," law.
God is not to be subject to negotiation, to change in order to be found satisfactory to any member of the human race. He is what He is as His name had already been declared to be and to imply (Exodus 3:14). Time itself cannot move Him, far less items inside it. If He hears prayer, it is because His unrelieved love sees fit to hear the cry of the heart (cf. Hosea 7:14-16, Psalm 145:18-19).
Some have of course for centuries misinterpreted this to mean that He is only arbitrarily, or in terms of some sort of self-fulfilment determined to have a few, and that it is all a mystery why there are not more, and so on. This is the misnamed mystery*3 (cf. Christ's Ineffable Peace and Grace Ch. 2 ). God makes it clear that He would have ALL (I Timothy 2, Colossians 1:19ff., John 3, I John 2, I Peter 3:9, Ezekiel 33:11), even in contexts of the most categorical character about heaven and earth, God and mankind. It is useless to believe some scriptures, and omit others, in a sort of doctrinal dither, as is the way of many.
God is utterly sovereign, and sovereignly would have all, but REFUSES to have any where faith is not to be found, love is not to be resident, and it is HE ALONE who knows who are who and which is what, as He moves on the surface of the waters of the peoples of this world: and indeed as God, before all time, He knew the answer to His OWN DIVINE and SOVEREIGN DETERMINATION. He knew it for one, and He knew it for all (Ephesians 1:4, Romans 8:30ff.).
He would have all, but none on false premises, and so took those whom He had foreknown. This has been shown often before; but it is well to show it again, in our present context, for many would have God an ineffective aspirant, constantly thwarted by man, and more would have Him a mysterious tyrant, marvellous to some but not really interested TO THE POINT THAT ETERNALLY MATTERS, in others. Alas, the one is as contrary to His word as the other, and this tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee folly continues without resolution, since each is wrong in part.
That is the sort of mischievous quagmire which tends to smear history, and it should be avoided by scriptural precision.
It is not all and only sovereignty: though sovereignty as in Moses and Paul - Romans 9:16, and John's Gospel, 1:12, is complete, and needs no philosophical shove by traditionalists who do not follow its purity. It is, on the other hand, not at all the work of the human will in its historical setting, nor of any action by human will in its own right and status (John 1:12, Romans 9:16). It IS relevant (John 3:19), but it achieves for itself, NOTHING. It is excluded as operationally efficient AT ALL, and that many times, just as the other equally unscriptural concept, that of some mysterious sovereignty, with blind patches where love did not get through.
The power of this love to distinguish what it is about, to find what it seeks, and to secure those who are its own is manifest at this point. It is the same with every Christian now. It is not because of any merit, gift, power or purity of our own that we are chosen. It is the Lord's own choice.
That choice is HIS ONLY, and it is made with the full scope of His desire in integrity and truth, for all, and His taking only some: love having its own limits, and never either forcing or falsifying.
Thus the Lord is showing Moses that some antics of annihilatory or self-destructive kind, as a bargaining chip or other, towards God, even if on behalf of the people, DO NOT WORK. God chooses whom He WILL in His own good will (Ephesians 1).
That is the current lesson about goodness. It flows where divinity has made the divine channels.
It does not flow into the absorbent desert. When God sent the water at the striking of the rock with the rod of Moses, it was not a general outpouring, but one for a purpose, at a signal as arranged, and it met need as intended.
You cannot direct pity; you cannot enjoin mercy. It comes from the heart of the one concerned. Such is the nature of pity, of mercy; and as God has a heart so irrepressibly profound as that, He can say that whether things in heaven or things on earth, He would have them ALL reconciled to Him. Then we KNOW how vast is the parameter of divine pity, and the majesty of divine mercy. There is no hole in its whole. It is however applied with truth, its inseparable companion, and where love is not, neither is there salvation; where truth is not, neither is redemption. Such things are not subject to mortal manipulation, but known to God only. WHEN the words heard ARE mixed with faith (unlike the case of the nation of Israel in Moses' day, as shown in Hebrews 3-4), then what is found is eternal, inseparable, spiritual.
Moses, known by name to God, was shown the glory of God by divine fiat, as sure as that which founded the earth. Nothing can remove that. What happens, happens; and this not by oversight, as if to omit, but by oversight, as to include through superintendence! God shows mercy to whom He will show mercy. It is He who acts.
Asking Moses to hide in a Rock, the enduring symbol of Christ as exhibiting the salvation of God (cf. Psalm 62, II Samuel 22:32ff., I Corinthians 10), the Lord caused His glory to pass before His servant.
What was elemental in that glory ? As Exodus 33:19 showed, it was the Lord's GOODNESS.
"I will make all My goodness pass before you,
and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you."
It included, then, grace, mercy, pity, required the Rock for its exposure, and involved a "cover" with His own hand, such as sacrifice in fact brings, this concept being fundamental to the 'atonement' word found so often in Leviticus.
The even greater definitive revelation was made when Christ became incarnate.
Here we must add that it is written that God did not show His FACE, to Moses, who saw Him in a way like One passing. In II Corinthians 4:6, we learn, just as Hebrews 11 announced that past all the Old Testament saints, there was something better, that they might not be complete without us of the New Testament, that
"it is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness,
who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God
in the face of Jesus Christ."
So are we introduced by the record of Moses to the goodness of God, its sovereignty, its pity and compassion, its mercy and its knowledge of people by name, its refusal to be dismissed when once it is found, and to the glory which accompanies it, the very glory of the living God.
DAVID, JEREMIAH AND PAUL ...
AND EMBARKING ON THE FLOW
OF DIVINE GOODNESS
We move to David, that shepherd of sheep and people, so beloved by God, a man, despite episodes of sin here and there, of continual godliness while seeking after the wisdom and will of God: one after His own heart (I Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22).
In Psalm 23, we find this David singing with that assurance that many mistake for pride, arrogance or presumption, but which is the Lord's own testimony as in Romans 8:16, to His servants, who by faith, according to His word and its promises, have found Him, and being invested with His Holy Spirit, are given that intimate knowledge of Himself which has as one outcome, this very thing.
Goodness and mercy shall SURELY follow me all the days of my life. As in Psalm 21, his inheritance in the Lord is for ever.
What then IS this goodness ? It has not changed since Moses. It is the Lord's enduement with strength (just as food has goodness), with security (as when a father cares for his son), with virtue (as when a child is brought up in a good school, to the standards of which his heart is attuned), and it has provision with mercy, like a twin, which impinges like a garden hose on the troubled cement, to clean it. If now for some, there is now PHYSICAL water shortage: yet with the Lord there is never any shortage of forgiveness to His children (I John 1:7-2:2). His sufficiency is ultimate, intimate and irrevocable (Romans 5:9ff.). His Spirit is eternal.
This, the goodness of the Lord, is associated with rest (cf. Licence for Liberty Ch. 8). There is with it, a sense of quietness and still (Psalm 23:2), as in Psalm 46 also, and Isaiah 48:17ff..
Indeed, the goodness of God is like a jutting stream, flowing with vigorous freshness, itself from the snowy uplands, moving fearlessly over the precipice to the ground below, and its spray is iridescent, speaking of mercy in its lights, while its volume is liberality and its surge is compassion, its fall sacrificial love, and its impact, the remedy for sin which dashes goodness in its inexorable flow, into the service of the stream below. (Cf. What is all this rot about not believing!). How serviceable the Lord was to David, we see in the stark reception of divine mercy, in Psalm 51! How great was His goodness, and how unfailing were the streams of cleansing.
When we come to Jeremiah, we find that the Lord has known him before he was formed in the womb (as is the case for all His born-again and redeemed children - Ephesians 1:4, cf. Revelation 13:8, I Peter 1:19, Romans 8:30ff.). Called, he was promised a brow endued with divine strength, so that he would and must prevail in his task. He found it appalling at times (as in Jeremiah 15, esp. vv.16ff.), but submitted to His service; he experienced anguish at the disobedience of his people, as with the Psalmist in 119: it was at times a burden and weight to him. Yet in His goodness, the Lord encouraged Him, as we see in Jeremiah 15:10-11, 15-21.
"Woe is me, my mother,
That you have borne me,
A man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth!
I have neither lent for interest,
Nor have men lent to me for interest.
Every one of them curses me.
"The Lord said:
'Surely it will be well with your remnant;
Surely I will cause the enemy to intercede with you
In the time of adversity and in the time of affliction.
· We resume at verse 15.
"O Lord, You know;
Remember me and visit me,
And take vengeance for me on my persecutors.
In Your enduring patience, do not take me away.
Know that for Your sake I have suffered rebuke.
"Your words were found, and I ate them,
And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart;
For I am called by Your name,
"O Lord God of hosts.
I did not sit in the assembly of the mockers,
Nor did I rejoice;
I sat alone because of Your hand,
For You have filled me with indignation.
"Why is my pain perpetual
And my wound incurable,
Which refuses to be healed?
Will You surely be to me like an unreliable stream,
As waters that fail?
"Therefore thus says the Lord:
'If you return,
Then I will bring you back;
You shall stand before Me;
If you take out the precious from the vile,
You shall be as My mouth.
Let them return to you,
But you must not return to them.
'And I will make you to this people a fortified bronze wall;
And they will fight against you,
But they shall not prevail against you;
For I am with you to save you
And deliver you,' says the Lord.
'I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked,
And I will redeem you from the grip of the terrible.' "
In the Lord, even in the midst of many evils which brought devastation to a deaf people, he found that the divine mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). It is, he declared, only because of this mercy that all are not consumed. He KNOWS that "the Lord is my portion", in the depth of his soul (Lamentations 3:24); and it is for this reason that he hopes in Him!
What however of the Lord's goodness ? Lamentations 3:25 reveals that "the Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him." Man must await discipline, deliverance and instruction, in intimate and close communion with the God of his life. Such an attitude on the part of the Lord is dead set against those who are vile and seek to avoid perishing but having others do so on their behalf!
"To crush under one's feet all the prisoners of the earth, to turn aside the justice
due to a man, before the face of the Most High, or subvert a man in his cause -
The Lord does not approve."
Survival of the fittest (to deceive, murder, grab, rob, impose) is not His way. He has no need of teh gutter in order to create the highway.
Indeed, as Amos 2:14ff. declares it,
" 'Therefore flight shall perish from the swift; the strong shall not strengthen his power,
nor shall the mighty deliver himself: He shall not stand who handles the bow,
the swift of foot shall not escape, nor shall he ho rides a horse deliver himself:
the most courageous men of might shall flee naked in that day,' says the Lord."
Moreover, to pursue the point, Isaiah 2 tells us:
"The loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men
shall be brought low: The lord alone will be exalted in that day..."
The little self-elevations of man are too ludicrous, and when their exact nature is shown in judgment, they become pit variations, like some Violin Concerto, THE PIT AND THE SPIT!
In Romans 11, we find that Paul in the midst of a survey of Jew and Gentile, in their spiritual history, past and to come, has this statement to make:
"Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity;
but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness.
Otherwise you also will be cut off."
This is speaking en bloc to the Gentile world, nations and entities at large. If the Jewish race had such a start, and such a judgment, who or what does the Gentile consider himself to be, that he should vaunt himself, his wisdom, his culture, his ways, his opinions! God is good to those who are His, but as to hypocrites, boasters, the belligerent in spirit who seek their own will, way, eminence or glory, defying design, in contempt of canons of life, witless willingly of salvation, He can be severe as the history of Israel attests.
Thus further in the context just noted above, we have this, before and after that verse.
And if some of the branches were broken off,
and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them,
and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree,
do not boast against the branches.
"But if you do boast, remember
that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.
"You will say then, 'Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.'
Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith.
Do not be haughty, but fear.
For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.
Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God:
on those who fell, severity;
but toward you, goodness,
if you continue in His goodness.
Otherwise you also will be cut off.
And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in,
for God is able to graft them in again.
"For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature,
and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree,
how much more will these, who are natural branches,
be grafted into their own olive tree?
"For I do not desire, brethren,
that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion,
that blindness in part has happened to Israel
until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in."
Sporting with God does not accomplish anything; being double-minded is worthless, and formalism is merely a prelude to condemnation, except it cease (as in Isaiah 1 cf. Questions and Answers 2 ). To those who know Him, and being regenerate, remain His always (I John 3:9, 5:11ff.), there may, in full accord with His goodness, be discipline (Hebrews 12); but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5, cf. II Samuel 7:13-14).
How vast however is the goodness which, not content even with enduring so thorough a breach of covenant as Israel showed in killing their King, Christ the Son of the Eternal God (cf. Zechariah 11), with a sale price set for the God of the earth, as that for one block of land, had further mercy still in store for them. Even though it could be deemed the end in indignation, God had already designed a different course. Thus as in Deuteronomy 32-33, despite the foreseen folly of Israel (as also in Isaiah 49:7), God designed that they should, bankrupt of merit but not of promise, be returned to their land (as also in Ezekiel 36-37 cf. It Bubbles ... Ch. 10, SMR Appendix A).
What a declaration of demerit is there made (Ezekiel 36:22)! There is no room for illusion; it is by no means a reward for faith or consistency that brings Israel at last, as then predicted and now fulfilled, back to their land. Instead, this mercy is found in a statement of goodness, the Lord's own name being their protection. For MY NAME'S SAKE, God declares, Israel is to be brought back to their promised land. What honour is this abiding in His divine goodness, and what infinitude of mercy is to be discovered in this very fact, in view of the highly personal affront presented in reckless dauntless and devilish deviousness by the rulers!
What affront ? It was to the front, indeed, even to death, given to God when the nation was given the opportunity to show the difference between form and ceremony, on the one hand, and true worship in spirit on the other: and failed abysmally. To be sure, it was foreknown and devised, and was sure to happen (Acts 2:23); but divine certainty is not the same as divine compulsion. Such divine mercy may thus be the antidote to human folly: it His own choice, and not any harassment of the Lord that brings it. That is what the Lord is like, honourable, merciful, far-seeing, wise, and good.
Thus the foretold return of the vagrant nation was not some congratulation on man's constitutional freedom, soiled and severed indeed as it was by sin: and though the mercy and goodness of God in this event were vast, it did no obesiance as if to some imaginary form of esteem, some bizarre form of national saintliness! (cf. Predestination and Freewill, and the Hexad, On Predestination and Foreknowledge, Liberty and Necessity, Responsibility, Duty and Creativity). It was precisely the opposite (Ezekiel 36:22). The divine expatiation leaves no doubt!
Did not the pulling out of beard, then, qualify for cessation of goodness ? (Isaiah 50). No... What about crucifying slowly, to maximise indignity, torture, torment, anguish and exposure to mockery ? Does that qualify for the remit of goodness to some other place ? No. There were results ... but one to come was this, that in honour, God brought them back to their land, long promised. It was not, to be sure, THEIR honour, but His! He IS honourable, and His goodness never fails. Where the line is cut, so that in His foreknowledge and man's reality, love has no place, goodness, which works in a milieu of love, and mercy, which is an expression of it, then there are results. Many achieve these (Matthew 7:15ff.).
Then even His bearing of sin is irrelevant for such cases ram the offer and the sacrifice alike, with the rest, if it were possible, back into the mouth of God.
Goodness never fails. Repentance and faith in Christ crucified, yes bodily risen, yes deity incarnate and the bridge from hell deserved to heaven found for the foundling, this never fails to find its home.
Thus, Romans 2:1ff. tells us that the way to find this home is NOT in acting as judge of others, but in finding the will of the Judge, and His goodness within it, by faith.
"Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge,
for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself;
for you who judge practice the same things.
"But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things.
"And do you think this, O man,
you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same,
that you will escape the judgment of God?
"Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering,
not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart
you are treasuring up for yourself wrath
in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God ..."
The broadcast of God's judgments is not judging but indicating the principles of Him who does assess, who commissions such things (Matthew 28:19-20). However, where moral rectitude becomes the basis of hope (contrary to Romans 10's condemnation), then evil has free reign, pride free fall and the pit is the course for it to follow. Notice in this, the "riches of His goodness, forbearance and longsuffering", so that these three are allies.
How well Israel illustrates it al; but what now of the Gentiles, who are bringing things to the very sort of inane vanity, emptiness and rebellion with deceit which Manasseh, which Ahaz secured, as they brought Judah to ruin!
In goodness, then, we learn of that kindness which is in no hurry to condemn, but knows how to forbear; while it has no tilt to trifle with truth-breakers, whose fruits are found in their own mouths, in due course: "They shall eat the fruit of their own way" (Proverbs 1:31).
Again in Proverbs 18:21, we have this wisdom:
"Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they who love it shall eat its fruit."
The goodness of the Lord however has RICHES, for He is inventive, like some massive construction firm, seeking for outlet in life for His lovingkindness, the repository among mankind, of His sweetness of disposition and glorious beauty of holiness. It cannot be tampered with; but He does not lose His temper. What is irrevocable, is acknowledged; but how far does it go before that is reached! Yet as you see in the day of the prophet Jeremiah, and in that of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the point can be reached (cf. Isaiah 57:15), where there is limit in man's very construction to such things. Judgment at last... amidst lamentation, even from the Lord, does come.
How grievous that man either tends to become rapacious of ceremonies, as if these could save him, or indifferent to truth, as if he could save himself. Reckless, irrational and unrepentant, he digs a grave, as if his very life depended on it; and how well he kills and maims and seeks to destroy those sent to warn him (cf. Mark 12, Matthew 23:34ff.).
Yet for those who come in faith to Him, what goodness continues; and that of the history of Israel, brought back at last, is merely one symbol of it. Thus, "All things work together for good to those who love God, the called according to His purpose," as in Romans 8:29 may seem hard to those who have just lost a missionary by beheading, the work of intemperate insolence against all spirituality and all seemliness, as they seek to proliferate in our generation, the crucifixion of Christ, by slaying His people!
Yet as we suffer, and some do so in multitudinous ways over the decades, we recall the words of Paul in I Corinthians 4:6ff., II Corinthians 4, concerning the multitude of his sufferings, ignominies, shipwreck and thrashing times, drifting, deprived, disesteemed. It is not a pleasure-pain equation; for that may safely and aptly be left to robots so programmed. For PERSONS, it is a question of what is worth while, to serve, and how to get it done. When God is found, these sufferings hurt; these travails are no mosquito bites; loss of name and fortune, through slander and pursuit of what this world does not value, is not a nothing, a bauble, a worthless thing in itself. It is a heavy import duty, to be paid for bringing fresh news of the unchanging works of God to this fallen world.
It is not that suffering on the part of Christians, does not exist: they are in some senses, specialists in sufferings. It is that it is worthless compared with the point, purpose and program, the Person served and the result to be obtained through fidelity, even that of working in integrity within the kingdom of heaven for the only one ever to be man, who IS perfect, and rich in goodness, filled with kindness, loving without blenching if it is to be to death, and with power, able to break death, which after all is only a penalty for sin, so that the payment excludes its eventual impact altogether on those who are His.
Goodness in all of this is multitudinous, and surpasses any suffering; and it is no more pleasure than is the face of one's wife. It is of a wholly different dimension. Goodness has a face, and that is the face of Christ. Longing is met by reality, truth is met by its personal exponent, mercy is found in righteousness and a family is discovered which has more delight in Him and in His ways, than any ever had in pleasure. This is life, not pleasure, marvel not money, victory not vice, truth not possessions, and what is this, "My beloved is mine and I am His!" as the Song of Solomon puts it (2:16).
Here is no sad letter announcing decease; for this is done, and done for all who come. Does Stephen grieve because he was stoned (Acts 7-8)! Did he regret warning a generation coming to ruin, if by any means some might be saved! Did the glory shining in his very face, as he passed to the Lord, not speak for itself!
The goodness of God is not lax, nor are its pursuits small, nor is it for small-minded hedonism or large-minded self-will. It has a nest, and we are reminded of this (Isaiah 66:2):
Thus is understood the word of II Thessalonians 1:11-12 (italics added for the sake of the point here in view):
"Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power,
that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you,
and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."
What an encompassment is this, the 'good pleasure' of 'His goodness'. How consistent, persistent, insistent and consistent is His goodness. It is as water, that given its channel, ever flows; but outside this, where the desert seems almost to blight the sand as if to make it yellow, such water does not ordinarily flow. It is necessary to be on course, to find the Lord, to believe the Gospel, to receive His mercies where they may be found (Isaiah 55), and to bring to Him a will charmed to receive His ministrations, and delighted to obey, not as a ground for goodness, but as a reciprocity which, though small in kind, is vast in intention!
Finally, in I Timothy 2, we find yet more of the scope of this celestial goodness.
"Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions,
and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority,
that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence:
"For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
GOOD is it in the sight of God that we act in such a way as this, leading quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence, making this an aim even in turbulence, because this is the will of the God who would have all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
There is God and man, all of mankind, and these are the two in relationship here. The One, God, would have the other, all men, to be saved, as also reconciled, seen in Colossians 1:19, where we find this desire extends even to heaven itself. Such is His goodness.
THE WRITTEN AND THE LIVING WORD:
CHRIST AND GOODNESS ...
what an uninhibited,
divinely inhabited torrent has fallen
freely in this world of man
He who IS good, where goodness has its place, He finds it good that we so act, His own desire being for good to all (Psalm 86:5, 145:9, Isaiah 55, Micah 7:18ff., Ezekiel 33:11). The Lord's name is such that "He is good to all and His tender mercies are over all His works."
Goodness is not discriminatory in this, that God is no respecter of persons. In His own heart, He so would like for all to come to Him to receive of His own bounty, goodness and truth; but not constrained by circumstances (for He created all), He moves with such an AMPLITUDE OF SCOPE, among men, and finding His own, neither forces not manipulates any, but changes where love finds place. Here the less finds the more; for what has impediment, has no room; and what has no impediment, repents.
God acts in truth and love acts with its vast restraint, so that we are assured that it is no lack of love, of amplitude of heart on the part of God, which excludes any, but rather that past all the willing and sin of man, He knows what is His own. It is as if all were seen in liberty before sin, where none being in sight sinful, can do better than any other; and in this, He who sees all, knowing His own, has them choose Him. In fact, and in history, they are in sin, and so cannot so act (I Cor. 2:14). Hence HE chooses them! But the GUILT remains that in the very face of such love, they would not! There are those, as Stephen declares in Acts 7, who do always resist the Holy Spirit.
That is the divine prescription for judgment, and not some endemic sin common to all. That is not the case; for in John 3 the entire emphasis and program for Chapters 1-3, is the coming of CHRIST THE LIGHT, and what does not want THIS LIGHT, is what by its preference condemns itself. It is not a moral fault, but a breach of mercy that counts in the end.
If someone wants to contradict God, and say that it is really God's own lack of willingness that is at fault, or in force, and not this preference in the heart of man: then this is mere impertinence in the deepest sense. God says over and again, the exact opposite.
To use philosophic presumption to try to force the issue against the word of God is not wise. Even if this is tried, however, it remains true that there is no slightest divergence of the word of God here or there. GOD chooses, it is true; but man is ultimately to the very zenith of destiny, RESPONSIBLE, not for what necessitated guilt, that his will is corrupt, but for failing to come when THE LIGHT came TO HIM!
The ready availability of a model*4 whereby all this logically flows like a river, is not the chief point. The fact is that God of course knows His own people (II Timothy 2:19), past every act or climate or condition of sin with its results of any kind, and that He as love does not seek His own way and will in a selfish fashion, as if to manipulate things to His liking; but rather, respecting the reality of the image of God made in man, though not the sin, He makes those who are His own to appear as such, not as virtual conscripts, but as those found by His own mind and knowledge, before all creation so much as arrived! It is not a matter of imitating Adam, an historical figure, but discerning the soul in its naked reality, sin apart, and knowing the soul: as it is written, Whom He FOREKNEW, those He predestinated.
It depends on divine knowledge (Romans 8:29), first of all, not of vacancy and vacuity, but of people; and not of people in their merit, since history is excluded (Romans 9:11), sin being repugnant to 'choosing the Lord' (I Cor. 2:14), its critical nature, and sin is not able to dim the eye of the Lord who sees in all, beyond all, but of people relative to Himself. Nor is it a case of superior susceptibility, since the will DOES NOT CHOOSE God, and seen past sin, persons are not better or worse; but of the divine knowledge which love embraces and mercy precipitates. Being born again means that the heart will love God, to be sure; but that this cannot be the criterion of choice is clear, since it is the result of divine choice, and imparts its own result. God KNOWS who are His own, past all sin and merit, and these alone does He take, without truncation of truth, or manipulation of heart.
Christ did not come to condemn the world but that the world might be saved, and with His definitive love to the world (John 3:17,3:16 in order), He sought that whoever believes might not perish. HIS motivation is express as in Colossians 1, I Timothy 2, Ezekiel 33, and all the many moving expressions of divine entreaty and desire to the heart, from the heart, met by human resolution to avoid this salvation, with judgment amid lamentation, to come (cf. Jeremiah 51:9, 48:35-36, Isaiah 48:17ff., Luke 19:42ff., Matthew 23:37ff., cf. SMR Appendix B). Why do people have to go past what is said, philosophically additive, and ignoring what is said, contradict it!
God it is who knows who and what He is, and what He wants, and His whole Being, so why reconstruct!
The whole error of Calvinism, which truncates God's goodness, is that it HAS to find its own philosophic satisfaction, despite multiple contrary statements in the word of God; and it then makes it appear more sanctified to defy divine statements of this kind, as if this in some way made man humbler. IS it any pride, if seen as if without sin, you are found to be one of God's children, your will being made, in that scenario before time, relevant to divine KNOWLEDGE! Did you make yourself ?
Heaven would be hell to those who do not desire it; and all find their place. God's goodness is not truncated; nor does He bow to invent NO ONE, lest any depart, for that would exclude from life eternal the many to whom it is granted.
It must be added that in all fairness, the five points of Calvin*5 are a great achievement for theology; but in their normative setting, they are a foul blot. Such is the wonder of man, that when one follows a man, one is likely to find all too soon, that great as he may be, something close either to idolatry or to blindness may result. Then, falling for his errors is worse than his own lassitude in making them! Humility does not trust in the word of man, but in that of God.
The goodness of God is thus so vast that it has no limit; and its flow is with love, so sensitive, that it never merely possesses, as if to secure what becomes a virtual revolutionised robot.
Indeed, God does not lament so often in the Bible, that man does not come, because He simply makes those whom He would, to come. It is because in so bringing home many sons to salvation, He as author of faith, implants it where the ground receives it (Matthew 13:18ff.), He being the One who knows. He laments because though His goodness is pure and unlimited, yet they do not come.
Though He would that they come, they divert mercy, disregard grace and continue without His offer, in terms of which He is the propitiation not for the sins of the saved only, but on behalf of the whole world! It is precisely as in the priestly sacrifices of old, preliminary symbols of Christ to come, where the offering on behalf of all the nation was of course applicable ONLY to those who believed (cf. Deuteronomy 29:18ff.).
That is why He gave it this amplitude in scope of purvey, that He so loved this same world, and so came to it, not to judge it, but that it might be saved. This is the realm of His operation, the butt of His love and the scope of His sacrifice.
It is for this reason that it is written, "Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?" This to to "man, whoever you are". In this three fold way, God's so loving the world that whosoever ...; and in accord with this providing a propitiation for sins, not on behalf of believers only, but for all the world; and again, showing goodness leading to repentance for man, whoever he is, He stresses His concern to avoid misrepresentation, limitation or other mischief (cf. Psalm 78:41).
Again, there is a fourth way, in which, having made peace by the Cross, He is desiring to reconcile to Himself ALL, whether in heaven or on earth; and again, it is presented in a fifth uniform, for being one God, He has one Mediator between God and man, desiring as He does that all men be saved. These are categorical characterisations in the most robust universality (cf. Great Execrations ... Chs. 7 and 9). .
You can move from Romans 2, to John 3, to I John 2, to Colossians 1, to I Timothy 2, and then find as in Ezekiel 20, after a review of the strenuous works of God in bypassing anger and seeking to give more opportunity to the people whom He loved, in 33:11, that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that he should turn from his evil way. In this, in the most powerful and articulate, relevant and ardent way, He is found remonstrating, affirming, negating ill-will, expostulating and entreating. In Micah 7:19ff., we find He delights in mercy.
The passion has all the amplitude of the Godhead.
Whether it be Israel or another, so does He speak, so act. Why then does man not come ? Of a certainty, it is nothing to do with a limit on the goodness of God, who so seeks man, WHOEVER HE IS!
The will that excludes is a portion of being made in the divine image, and thus essential to man, even if God, because of man's sin, finds it appropriate to operate for man, beyond man's own knowledge and indeed, before time began, in salvation. The goodness that WOULD include, is essential to God, whose it is, whose love is such towards the whole world, whose sacrifice is for all, in their behalf but not in their stead: so that those who before the very mind of God, reject Him stand responsible from eternity, to eternity as despising the goodness of God which was towards all, leading them to repentance, and NOT towards letting them go.
God has deemed it so.
"IF," said Christ, "I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have had sin;
but now they have no excuse for their sin," (John 15:22).
Why ? It can only be because it requires in some sense, known to God, a direct, total and adequate exposure to His Word, the Saviour, brings an informed negation. It is as in John 3:19,
"This is their condemnation, that the light has come into the world,
and men loved darkness more than light,
because their deeds were evil."
In John 15, we find Christ even pursued the topic of their answerability to the light given, of the necessity that HE be both seen and heard, or the equivalent, before final judgment can be given. It is not a matter of a hidden clause, but of an expressed sentence, paragraph, yes book, yes life, yes Person Himself, Jesus Christ. It is the word of Christ.
Such is the love of God that ONLY by the rejection of this light, viable, visible, expressed and express, can judgment happen; and this ? It is because God SO LOVED the world, that this exclusion is the one which is operative. God says it is; some say it is not: I believe God.
If, said Christ, pursuing His initial declaration of guilt, I had not come among them and done the works no one else did, had not come and spoken the words no one else did, they had not had sin. But now ... their sin remains (John 15:21ff.).
What then of those who do not come, are not His ?
The matter is not hidden, and far less does it devolve on horrible systems or authority which decides by mystery; but it is God who decides despite His love, and in terms of it, and such is His own declaration. Can someone then know better than God, who is not God!
I think not. He would lack the infinity, the omniscience; and of course, not being God, he would have to guess, and in guessing, guess contrary to what the God who speaks, and has said. This, it is theology ? Is this some form of Arminian choice in Calvinism, that of the theologian for his premises!
It is aspirant for the dunce's cap; but far worse, it implicates the goodness of God in violation of many scriptures, many themes of scripture, and many principles enunciated by God Himself in His book.
Let us however look at the results of what God does say.
He would have all, but in this, there is no scope for simple securing, but for the meekness in which love lives. Love, from God in its origin among men, is like that. It does not grasp, as if by the scruff of the neck. It is not selfish, rapacious, or disregarding of its own nature (I Corinthians 13). It does not impel, as by cunning deceit; it does not trick, nor does it manufacture. It is personal, and it is by its very nature, not inclined to ravish. That is for others, who do not love.
These are divinely revealed principles, shown in almost endless examples, from that of the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17ff.), whom Jesus loved but allowed to depart without Him, to that of Israel in its day of rebellion. How long and earnestly did God speak, with what dissertation, information, opportunity did He urge! Jeremiah 17 gives an extreme example, and Hosea an extreme stimulant to realisation to a people blinded by sin; while II Chronicles 36 gives to His love of His people the address of a spiritual saga.
Nor are we bound to any apologetic model, designed to show the singular and indeed unique rationality in terms of sovereignty and will, responsibility and response*6, in the Bible's presentation: we are bound by the word of God. Biblical Christian Apologetics, shows this wonder concerning it; but in what precise way God in His own form has secured these principles of His, it is a technical matter, neither needed for the current knowledge of man, nor fitting. It enough that the matter answers to reason, derives from scripture, and that nothing else can or does resolve the simultaneous operation of freedom and predestination, freedom and necessity, liberty and love*7; nor has anything else any basis in any professed declaration from God.
This is, quite simply, the way it is: God would have ALL; His goodness is over all His works; He SO loved the world; He SO presented His Son a sacrifice on behalf of all; He desires to reconcile ALL, to bring ALL to a knowledge of the truth.
It is equally true that He is never deceived, receives NONE on any other basis, can be manipulated for His own part, by NONE, makes effectual His sacrifice for NONE who does not receive Him, pays for NONE who rejects the ransom (cf. Isaiah 53, where those healed are those whose sins are laid on Him, and cf. Romans 8:32), allows NO other way, and it is by the will of NONE that He is selected (John 1:12), for it is HE and HE ALONE who is able and willing, who knows His own amidst those who, in history, are incapacitated by sin from such selection.
That, it is where trust comes in. He says it, we receive it, and rejoice that such is the divine goodness that He would have all, and such the divine grace, that He takes only those who receive Him, and such the divine charity, that this is not a mirage as if it were not love, being mere manipulation or mystic mix to remove the image of God in man as relevant at all; but a marvel of kindness toward mankind (TItus 2-3).
To forget what the image of God in man, does for man, and to ignore what the word of God says about His goodness and love toward man, that is one option. Another ? It is this: to remember both, and to thank God that Christ did not weep because He messed up sovereignty, but because His sovereign will (Matthew 11:28ff.) extending to all, yet received only some, love being completely satisfied, despite grief, with the results of love's purity.
Alas, that man is so freed to trust either in himself, the Arminian way, you and God managing somehow together (in form, though this may not be the intention), or in his own philosophy, the Calvinist way (in form, though this too may not be the intention). Alas that such miscarriages of divine goodness, not in God, but in man, should disadorn His complete sovereignty, and man's complete responsibility, even in the face of that divine love which knows no limit, in its heart, but knows its own, in truth! It is doubtless not at all normal that someone seeks to caricature instead of represent the love and goodness of God in its scope; but when the explicit in seeking love, is rendered in terms of some hideous decree, the distinction may be difficult to discern. It is a horrible distortion.
Whatever be professed by the philosophy of man, will does not change facts.
Man IS responsible for sinning, but NOT for sinning against the light if it is not shining in the way which God in John 1-3, designates: the incarnation. That is the point of John 15:21-23. Sinner at all times until paradise, man yet is not guilty of the special sin of rejecting the salvation of the Lord, in His preferment of explicit mercy, unless in some way known to God, in or before time, he so exhibits preference, in the way assigned in John 3:19. Christ even made Himself personally that criterion, and refused to assign the relevant, fatal and final sin WITHOUT THIS! Who is man who judges, who determines that it is otherwise, and dares in the presence of the goodness of God, to talk of such limitations, not in the atonement alone, but in the very love of God. The atonement is limited, since God does not pay for what is not procured; but the attainment is not.
Love and goodness are limitless is scope, but pure in operation. Hence God’s heart should not be so mis-used; nor His work expanded where it does not secure. It is as He describes, His word, His work, His salvation, His love and His result. Responsibility comes where rejection is available; and for Christ, it is as He has declared it in the most forcible possible terms: NO COME, NO GUILT GONE.
Indeed, in time itself, it is not just that CHRIST WOULD HAVE GATHERED them as chicks to His wing, but that He OFTEN would have done so. In fact, He apostrophises Jerusalem; HOW OFTEN WOULD I HAVE GATHERED! We have shown the sense of this in some detail in SMR Appendix B, but it is perfectly clear: He for His part would OFTEN have brought many to salvation, so escaping the devastations of judgment about to come. They would not. He wept.
Where is this non-goodness, this non-liberality, this non-totality and comprehensiveness of those whom He would have reconciled ? If it is so once, that it is broken, what if it be twice, and what if this be, by the word of the living Lord who DOES the thing! What if it be OFTEN! Does it then not occur ? Is there no limit to this travesty of the truth!
The love of God, the goodness of God is limited by no mysterious sovereignty. It is the resultant which is limited, and this by sovereign refusal to change the Gospel, the repentance needed or the impotence of man to do the saving for himself, yes, in this world, even the will relevant. It is all wrought beforehand in the mind and knowledge of God: what we have, it is the principles of His procedure. The North and South Pole might exchange themselves; but not the love or the word of God. The world WILL go, but the love of God will not alter in amplitude or in breadth, in depth or in wonder (Ephesians 3).
It is so in the Bible, and in fact. We may mash our faces, and be guilty of bad driving to get this result; but if a doctor is not found, we are NOT guilty of ALSO rejecting medical help.
Why invent when God says ? How often does He declaim against those who, despite the repeated intimations and actions of His merciful goodness, forbearance and kindness, yet insist on fleeing from the light which loving has sought them (cf. Ezekiel 20)! How is it that man so acts to diminish the love of God, in such ways! It is like a wobbly car, which wobbles first one way, and then the other. (Cf. Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch. 2 including End-note 1 ).
Why not rejoice that not only is His love and goodness of this repeatedly stated amplitude, but that His word is without problem or contortion, clear in all things as He has declared in Proverbs 8, Himself! There is no horrible mystery, only a hapless misconstruction which denies to God, what He repeatedly both affirms and exhibits of Himself.
For our part, we rejoice exceedingly in this, His goodness without limit, His love without barrier; and His wisdom without dark speck of any kind.
See Highway of Holiness Ch. 4.
EXCURSION ON ISRAEL,
THE NAME and the PREVAILING
of the MESSIAH
In the DEFEAT of all others: God only avails.
See SMR pp. 507.
Here the restoration of Israel to the symbolic 'olive tree' from which it had for lack of faith, been cut off, is depicted, as for their own part they come back, so fulfilling the rush of Jewish gladness in their new relationship; and at the same time, the stress is laid that it is after all to the ONE tree, now inhabited by Gentile believers, that they come back. There are these two elements.
Both points are true, and "all Israel" though undoubtedly a fulfilment for the Jew, as repeated shown on this site, is also by metonymy capable of extension readily, in context, to the glorious sense of universal racial inclusion, now no racial matter but the Regality of Christ, the eminent and obstructively obvious situation. It is He who is crucial at all, while the place of race passes away as a preliminary, as in Galatians 3:28, to the whole now multi-complemented Church. Both points are made there at the same place. Paul emphasises both aspects with precise applications.
In The Biblical Workman Chs. 1 and 3, the application of the olive tree parable is also provided. In the latter, the point is stressed that primarily in the context, in its pulsing interactions, the Israel that is saved is the nation in substance, its term as national hostage to the squalor of rebellion against the Lord, suddenly ceasing and its complementary phase arising, where those who had come earlier are joined by those coming to this significant flush of restoration of heart, so near to the end of the Age.
Thus is made a whole for Israel the nation; but it is one which by its very fulfilment after the time of the Gentiles is fulfilled, also constitutes another and broader whole, in which the final 'Israel of God' is seen as gathered from near and far, Jews and Gentile, and the entire perspective is fulfilled as Paul then expatiates, each part seen as a phase of the total, so that you have two completed phases combining into just one result in one tree of one kind for all. It is as much an error to ignore the root, the unchanged original basis of the tree, as to defy the trunk, where branches lie, in ONE tree, just one.
First there is phase 1 Jew, then phase 1 Gentile, in this sort of setting. Then there is Gentile phase fulfilled and later the Jewish phase fulfilled, so that then in and because of this now double result, you have BOTH phases fulfilled. The second, now added to the first, gives by that very fact a broader fulfilment yet.
In this, the literal and the metonymic are mixed as the former belatedly but eventually joins the latter, so completing both. Thus are brought to completion the two, now branches in the same tree, the tree of God, the Israel of God of Galatians 6, the Gentile Christian component in the era and epoch of grace, and the Israel that failed, each benighted in its time, both brought in by the work of Christ, who, as He came through the one, was sent to the other as wel (Isaiah 49:6)l. The one, the race, was too small, we read; the other is needed also.
Both now reside in that dear old, same tree in which so much activity in and out has occurred, and all continue in the integrity of Christ, that 'Israel' who prevailed (Isaiah 49:3), contradistinct from all earthly place, and as such distinguished and blessed, secure in the infinity of His identity as God. Thus delivered from above, all are now equipped with the same roots, and have the botanical criterion of faith.
Now each comes to the same ultimate point in Christ, in pointing to which, and providing a human base, although the race had failed, Israel the nation had been a prelude in its own phase.
Thus the vast nettage drawn from the whole human race, or put otherwise, that multiple grafting is completed, and through such dynamic and varying means it is brought to the point at which it all started, at this level: the tree which the Lord planted (cf. Isaiah 62:1ff.).
Here at last the proud formalism into which Israel the nation was inclined to fall (as in Isaiah 1) comes to the point of Isaiah 66, where the very format or formula or form in which the Old Covenant was expressed is daringly used by Isaiah, to show the two points.
What two points are these in Isaiah ? First, it is indeed the revelation of Jehovah which is fulfilled, without change; and secondly, it is the New Covenant amplitude to which it comes, so that only artificially now is the distinction made. Old form symbols are even used of the New in a way impossible to miss in Isaiah 66, in a deliberate provocation to subdue insularity and emphasise the ultimate meaning to which mere symbol once pointed.
The same sense of oneness of Old and New in the consummation of the New is made, with the same sense of the integrity of the tree, that final accomplishment of the 'Israel' of God, into which all, those of the land and the race, and those of the Lord who Himself is the Israel who obeys and saves, are poured.
As you see in Genesis 32, the very name 'Israel' derives from Jacob wrestling with God and prevailing, finding commission in contention that does not rest until in profound spiritual submission it finds its assignment. Thus and in those terms did the name arise, explicated by God who gave it.
So did Christ as in Hebrews 5:7, with great cries and seekings, prevail spiritually in His commission as Saviour, celestial and eternal though He was and is (cf. John 8:58, 3:13); for He had first to overcome horror of sin as that to be imbibed vicariously, its guilt; and He prevailed in prayer in princely power, by that submission into the aweful privilege of paying for salvation, and securing it for man, as many as received Him (John 1:12). This precious cargo was His profound accomplishment, to carry it out of sin into salvation, and to secure it in this realm.
How COULD man be forgiven, in that he had sinned (as in fact had Jacob)! It was only through the promised Messiah (Genesis 12:3).
How COULD Christ avail to save any among mankind, all of them, all races ? It was only because He WAS (and is) the Messiah, the sin-bearer, who through much humiliation, perseverance and power, purity and self-control, obedience and love, could and DID prevail, becoming a fitting substitute for all who believed, on the Cross, so cancelling sin and prevailing as a prince in bringing many children to salvation (cf. Hebrews 2, Isaiah 9:7). Thus did type yield to antitype, and thus does failed type yield to triumphant antitype, and man to God.
So did Christ, divinely sent from celestial eternity (Isaiah 48:16) prevail with God and with man, like the Jacob (Genesis 32:38), who thus was in this, a type of Christ. As in Genesis 12, the blessing through this very seed is for all mankind, with special application to Israel at a lesser level, in terms of land (Genesis 17), yet in an august role, as the terrestrial carrier for the Christ, and the word of God till He came, though they failed in much, and were divinely deemed worthless in themselves for all their work (Isaiah 30:8-17). Yet God, who in nothing fails, availed to take from this carrier, the way He wanted and to prevail amidst utter disaster in the people, with His glorious prupose.
So did He achieve through failing means, in glorious wisdom, His chosen and various appointments to come.
Nevertheless, the very land and the very capital, Jerusalem, where this same Jesus Christ was crucified, is to be an exemplar and centre through which the God of grace and glory will show the crucifying world, its flags now furled, the celestial wonder of divine rule over all (cf. Micah 4). The very site for the attempt at deicide becomes thus the centre of government in GOD'S own name: it is, after all, the Lord who died, not man, not a race. It is God who rules, and all those who as in Romans 11, have failed at the first, are in Christ, given place at the last, so that none should glory except in the Lord (Isaiah 2). It is alas the inveterate tendency of man, this race or that, this empire or that, this idea or that, to seek glory for himself, which whether in Israel or the Gentiles, is no glory but vainglory.
It is ONLY HE who obeyed and saved; it is FROM HIM, the Prince of God as the name 'Israel' essentially is, as explained by the one with whom Jacob wrestled, and as He is depicted to be in the Messianic Isaiah 49, in verse, 3, that all take the final name and unite free from guilt and guile, in the simplicity of One Saviour.
How greatly the Lord stressed in the transition from Isaiah 41 to 42, that there was no one who could act but the Lord Himself, for they had all failed; and just the same is found as Isaiah 51:18ff. moves on to Isaiah 52 where the only one of the entire race, Israel having failed and none prevailing, left to act was the Messiah: He being incarnate from heaven, He who alone could save, DOES SO. And what it cost Him! (Isaiah 52:13-15).
Here is the 'Israel' who in Isaiah 49:3 is named, is designated, is accorded power and is to prevail, as His further work for Jew and Gentile alike is specifically traced; and He BEING the salvation which only sinlessness can provide, and BEING the covenant (Isaiah 42:6) in Himself, is the One who satisfies. Yes, it is He who satisfied God, who as God has comes to fulfil the divine for the human (Isaiah 42:1-2, 48:16). Who among men could do it, do we repeatedly find ? NONE! Who from heaven, sinless, pure, chosen, choice, not in Himself deriving from man but sent as God from God (Isaiah 48:16). It is He, the Christ who so prevails. What is the glory to man ? It is the same as the availability FROM man! Zero. The Lord ALONE will be exalted in that day as Isaiah 2 differentially declared.
Thus what is found in Isaiah 57 ? It is this divine assessment (NASV).
"But you, draw near,
you sons of a sorceress,
adulterous, wanton race!
Of whom do you make sport,
at whom do you open wide your mouth,
and put out your tongue?
"Are you not rebellious children,
a worthless race;
"You who are in heat among the terebinths,
under every green tree;
You who immolate children in the wadies,
behind the crevices in the cliffs?
Among the smooth stones of the wadi is your portion,
these are your lot;
To these you poured out libations,
and brought offerings.
Should I decide not to punish these things?
"Upon a high and lofty mountain
you made your bed,
and there you went up to offer sacrifice.
Behind the door and the doorpost
you placed your indecent symbol.
Deserting me, you spread out
your high, wide bed;
And of those whose embraces you love
you carved the symbol and gazed upon it."
But what does Isaiah 30 declare ? It is this.
"Now go, write it before them on a tablet,
And note it on a scroll,
That it may be for time to come,
Forever and ever:
That this is a rebellious people,
Children who will not hear the law of the Lord;
Who say to the seers, 'Do not see,'
And to the prophets, 'Do not prophesy to us right things;
Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits.
Get out of the way,
Turn aside from the path,
Cause the Holy One of Israel
To cease from before us.'
"Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel:
'Because you despise this word,
And trust in oppression and perversity,
And rely on them,
Therefore this iniquity shall be to you
Like a breach ready to fall,
A bulge in a high wall,
Whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant.
And He shall break it like the breaking of the potter’s vessel,
Which is broken in pieces;
He shall not spare.
So there shall not be found among its fragments
A shard to take fire from the hearth,
Or to take water from the cistern.' "
What God in lovingkindness and compassion, declares and confers, this is one thing; but what the Lord does with self-exaltation and mixing of drinks of man's sin and divine purity, this is another. Then the flush is soon to fail, and the presumption brought low!
It is in this matter as in Isaiah 41-42, 52-53, a disjunction from all human contribution in deliverance, all human credibility for pursuing creation to salvation.
So here in Isaiah 49:3, by contrast contradistinct, by disjunction dynamic, here is the Messiah, "an Israel in whom I will be glorified", the servant who is servant indeed who will obtain a "just reward" (49:4), whose "work is with God." It is the one whom man despises (as in Isaiah 53), but in whom, as distinct from all of Israel the nation, God delights (Isaiah 41-42) who is here to be found, and it is on this ground that the Lord builds His Church, coming first from here, then from there, till at last it is completely one (49:6, 66).
Here, in this "an Israel in whom I will be glorified" of 49:3, is the answer. Here indeed is the only answer, so that only the Lord will be glorified, His stated intent (Isaiah 2), assessment and declaration.
Here is the ultimate elect! worthy, effectual and infinitely far from worthless: as Isaiah shows. It is the elected member of the deity who avails, prevails, is the prince and has power.
Indeed, for the third occasion, this time through Isaiah 48 to 49, Isaiah makes the appalling but wonderful contrast. Even in Isaiah 48, you have one of the most poignant and saddening passages in the Bible, where God laments for the failure of Israel the nation to act and find the vastly desired blessing which the Lord had for them (48:17ff.); and it is once more from this negation that the positive proceeds in the following chapter, here Isaiah 49.
It in this sequel, Isaiah 49, that God exposes the Israel who does not fail, the one in whom He will indeed be glorified, saving both Jew and Gentile by His action. Who is He ? It is He who was as One abhorred by the nation (49:7). It is indeed HE who is in Himself given as a covenant (49:6), constituting it (cf. Matthew 26:28), as also the salvation (49:6), always personal, IN HIMSELF.
Here is the salvation from sin, here is the sinless, here is the pure, here is the performance producer, here is the apt one, the reliable, the meek, the honourable, having salvation (as in Zechariah 9:7): HERE and NOWHERE ELSE.
It is as in Isaiah 41:
· "I looked, and there was no man;
· I looked among them, but there as no counsellor,
· who, when I asked of them,
· could answer a word.
· Indeed, they are all worthless, their works are nothing ..."
He whose beard was in part rooted out (Isaiah 50), who did not hide His face from shame and spitting, it is He who is the final and ultimate, the effectual and the glorious Israel, of whom Jacob was but typed in illustration of what was to come.
That fact by no means submerges the individuality of Israel the nation; but it assuredly removes any pride in it (cf. Isaiah 19:24-25); and it shows conclusively how vast is the final perspective in which the nation or the nations, one or the other, will be brought to the true Israel, who saves all who come from both segments, and in Himself constitutes the standing of any and all.
It in this extended sense that Paul moves on in Romans 11 to show the completeness both of the Gentile 'time' and the Jewish sudden accrual. So by Romans 11:28 BOTH are fulfilled as the apostle moves in his theme.
Thus, just as surely as the "ALL" in Romans 11:28 MUST be from Israel the nation, so does it flow on to the entire body of which that triumphant 'Israel', called Jesus Christ, is Head, in the context; and from Him it all takes its name. It is His life which flows to all, and here was the ONLY ONE, Jew or Gentile, worthy in the end, of the name 'Israel'. His whole body is now complete. It arrived in phases, but no more is it segmentalised. It is one, that of the Israel of God. In Him, now, nothing lacks, in this panorama of phases.
It is in HIS body, one body, that of the triumphant Israel of God, that all now find their constitution, and exist.
Be ashamed, the Lord said to Israel the nation as in Ezekiel 36:22, as they returned physically to their land, in the prophecy. It is not for your sake! He exclaims that I do this. It is for His name's sake. And it is in THAT name alone that any can glory. In Him, all is encompassed, and nothing lacks.
ALL have had their trials, each has had its place; but in the end, it is one new race, or 'one new man' as in Ephesians 2:14-22.
"For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one,
and has broken down the middle wall of separation,
having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is,
the law of commandments contained in ordinances,
so as to create in Himself
one new man from the two,
thus making peace,
and that He might reconcile them both to God
in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.
"And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
"Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners,
but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,
in whom the whole building, being joined together,
grows into a holy temple in the Lord,
in whom you also are being built together
for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit."
That, it was FAITH through one man, through whose seed on the human side, the Messiah came, precisely as promised: faith which then rushed out to Gentiles and back to Israel the nation. Just as in fulfilment, double at the last as in Romans 11, the one has come, the Gentile, so does the other, the Jew in a final rush and flush, so that not ONLY all of the latter, but this with all of the former, forms one gigantic new Israel, the Israel of God, in the body of the one Lord, to whom both come, this being the successive additive to the singular addition of Israel the national people at the end.
Calvin's error here is profound, just as his excellent contribution is in much else, no less at the positive level. Here is the warning verified in its wisdom: that not to disobey I Corinthians 3, which refuses the liberty to the Christian, to name his system after this or that person. Calvin's famed 'decretum horribile' which is the horrible decree as he deemed it (though in fact, NOTHING is horrible about God) was based on the presupposition that God in some mysterious way had a short of short-circuit, one might put it, a lack of that actual lustre of love which went so far as to have saving INTEREST in those to be lost.
What a miserable decree Calvin here invents. God would have all, repeatedly says so, and any man's failure to realise the restraint which is inherent in love, and imagination that where love does not force, or co-opt, or pre-empt, or get, it is a frustration, is no adornment to understanding. Love by nature is willing to take, or to leave. It is not a matter of power; that is irrelevant in love. It is relevant only IN the confines of love, where it provides; but to GET the love, it is not pertinent.
Where God therefore excludes, it is on the basis which He Himself states, a divinely discerned and understood preference for darkness in the face of light. This is given more attention in the text above, following this note.
See Predestination and Freewill, Section 3.
See The Biblical Workman, Ch. 8.
See the Hexad, On Predestination and Foreknowledge, Liberty and Necessity, Responsibility, Duty and Creativity.
See for example Marvels of Predestination and the Ways of Will Ch. 2.
D) The Fourth Predestinative Addition
Chapter 3 Epilogue
HOW GREAT IS THE GOD WE ADORE!
OF THE GOD OF ALL COMFORT
TO CONDEMN OR NOT TO CONDEMN ?
There is no Question!
The Marvel is the Divine Prodigy in the Answer
There is no question. When Christ came, the opportunity was for love, the aperture was to induce non-condemnation, the desire was to oppose the judgment, to show it was no fate but a spiritual fatuousness which was neither necessary not desirable nor good nor apt for the creation called man.
This fact is so uniformly omitted from the perspective of many theologians that one is tempted to wonder why their reading glasses seem to obscure the obvious, even the obstructively clear, instead of making it, if it were possible, more so!
This amiable and apt, this ample and profound seeking for mercy, as with Nineveh, as in the thrust towards Jerusalem, both in the day of Jeremiah (cf. Jeremiah 17) and in that of Christ on this earth, is so often confused with other things, that it is almost as if it is not to be looked upon, like the unclothed human form in public!
With what does it seem to be confused ? At times, it is mixed almost to a liquid, with the DUE and PROPER character of condemnation of sin, or the SOVEREIGN certainty that it will be condemned where left unkempt in the presence of the KING, or the severity of the condemnation which absolute purity imposes, or the necessity of such condemnation where peace is the proper option, or even the atrocity which sin is, or the total disablement from decision making processes which afflicts the race, at the level of receiving or even recognising divine mercy, past a touch or a taste: that one wonders why the list of substitutes for the teaching of the word of God on the issue of motivation for mercy, is so frequently left like a large suitcase on a railway platform, without an attendant.
This attendant ? In large letters his little station on the platform has this written: NOT TO BE CONDEMNED. Of course, another official passing, sets up another notice: EXEMPT PROVIDED PAID FOR.
They are both true. It is also true that the owner of the stuff, the emblem for sin, has maybe some desire to have it covered by proper arrangement, but not so much of this as to actually take paper and pen and sign the cover contract. It therefore attracts the withering gaze of those good at that sort of thing, and is in bad case altogether. Those are dogs, or pigs, or dingoes, or whatever else seems disapprobative, they chant.
However, the Station Master is a decent man, a fine example of moral probity and care, concern and consideration. It is not his DESIRE that the stuff be condemned, or that if it must be degraded, that the owner be condemned with it.
Intensely he seeks out the owner, presents the case for the contract; but the owner, though stirred at his thoughtfulness, is so prone to parsimony that he comes even in his own twisted mind to seek some other motive, or to wonder if the Station Master might not have some ulterior motive, or perhaps, is only apparently in charge, with some behind the scenes boss making a bit out of the deal.
The extravaganzas of sin can hardly be exaggeration: exaggeration and impoverishment of data by desire, are its very nature.
The DESIRE of GOD that NONE should PERISH but that ALL might be reconciled is so often stated, as in Colossians 1, that one wonders what is the obstruction in the vision of the authoritarians; and the certainty of condemnation without atonement is so clear and so often repeated, that one wonders where the permissive people have mislaid their glasses: that is when either bother to look at the Bible at all.
It is not enough to condemn the blindness of those who imagine that it all works out in the end; though like other blindness, it is potentially fatal, for when the car of correctitude hits you, there is no other option now, to intervene and make it miss. Nor is it enough to assault the apparent heartlessness of those who maintain that God looks at the race, lets most of it have it, and selects a few. That too is a half truth.
GOD DOES NOT DESIRE TO CONDEMN. If that is not clear from John 3:17, what could be! He did NOT come to this world to CONDEMN IT, but that it might be saved. The ONE who did this and said this, is GOD. Why the argumentation from theologians ?
But He DID, goes the super-Calvinist chorus; but He did, look at the passages telling us of the severity and disabling power of sin. But that is irrelevant. The point is here the divine motivation, and this is eminently, statedly clear. It is universal, even to the point of heaven and earth; and this is not only stated, but affirmed with rigour, with celestial and terrestrial scope, with emphasis and with repetition.
We are therefore NOT, emphatically not dealing with a divine procedure which turns from condemnation in a few little cases which are a testimony to grace. That too is a half-truth. We are looking at the magnificent attainment of deity in saving ANY while seeking ALL! That is what He says. When will the world of competing and antithetical theological camps wake up to this fact, without moving to the opposite, and then either deleting condemnation altogether, or making it less, or leaving other means of getting places other than the mire! The slime of the slither is not appreciated: neither is fully true. One ignores the statement of divine motivation, the other ignores the reality of what comes when the divine provision is ignored, trifled with or deemed tedious.
NOT TO BE CONDEMNED in on His breast plate. NOT to be condemned is in His mouth at the case of the fallen woman depicted in John 8:1-11. "Neither do I condemn you..." He declares to her.
NOT TO BE CONDEMNED is on His lips, as He addresses Peter, telling him that though he will deny Him three times, yet He has prayed for him; and that although Satan is lusting to get his soul, yet he will fail.
NOT TO BE CONDEMNED is the pith of His purpose when He heals the paralytic as in Mark 2, and indeed these words of pardon precede the healing which was the purpose of the letting down of the man into the midst of the Messiah's presence, in the densely packed room. The case of the blind man recorded in John 9 is one where man judges, and the poor afflicted person is cast out of the religious presence of the condemning crowd of exotic scholars and clerics because he dares to say of Christ, "Why this is a marvellous thing, that you do not know where He is from, yet He opened my eyes...", turning for a change from the dogmatic to the empirical. Earlier he had made a parallel point: "Whether or not he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I can see."
The interrogators have the view that he should see it differently: "Give God the glory, for we know that this Man is a sinner." The healed man points out that "God does not hear sinners", and that "if anyone is a worshipper of God and does His will, He hears him."
Faced with the simple prophetic fact of the Messiah, blind to the fulfilment of the myriads of associated predictions resting in and vested in Christ, they yet continue in dogmatic slumber, more blind than the healed man ever was.
Yet Christ penetrated this theological mist, this confused calamity of blind rhetoric that had been developing over time, for expression from time to time, and healed the man. When duly awakened, the man met Christ later, he was faced with the point.
Many receiving goodness from God prefer never to face the point, but this man did face it. "Do you believe in the Son of God ?" Christ interrogated him, for His own part. "Who is he, Lord ... ?" asks the recipient of healing. "You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking to you," Christ replied.
Did the man equivocate like some refined theologian at this ? Not at all. "Lord, I believe!" he declared and worshipped Him. His lips responded to his eyes, and what his eyes saw was God in flesh, motivated, activated, merciful and just, powerful and true.
"For judgment I have come into this world," Christ declared. How strange, some might think, that this be so, if He did not come to condemn the world, but that it might be saved.
However this is the repository of reality, and it has its phases. It is the motivational phase and the thrust of the desire that is here in focus, not the result of its abuse.
If your purpose is to save a camp site, and you dig around it and restore it, and then it is found afflicted with deadly mosquitoes bearing plague, then you may have to condemn it; but your whole purpose in coming to the site with labourers in the first place was that it might NOT be condemned.
THAT as all could see if they bothered to open an eye, was your objective. It is normal if you refuse remedy, that you are unremedied. This has precisely nothing to do with the availability of the remedy, or the heart with which it was offered, or, for that matter, the cost of making it available here and now in the situation of need, and that both freely and lovingly, with mercy and thoughtfulness combined in all directions. Though there was a procedure in its implantation, yet even then, when the Syro-Phoenician woman BESOUGHT Him to act, He did so!
Not only however is there a procedure to ensure the total amplification in due course (as in Romans 11), but there is one for what obstructs.
You see, indeed, as you examine John 9:39, that the matter is categorised. He has come that "those who DO NOT SEE may see, and that those who see may be made blind."
Thus there is the mercy that seeks the OUTCAST, the CONDEMNED, the CRUSHED, and seeks to restore, renew, relieve and help and heal. However as to those who would OBSTRUCT this and INSIST on condemning from their own merciless disposition, He rebuked them sharply and directly for this very thing as we read in Matthew 9:9-13.
There He exhorts the condemning critics, as He gathers the despised tax collectors together and presents grace, to learn what Hosea meant (6:6), in saying that the Lord desired MERCY AND NOT SACRIFICE. It was the objective, and it was not to be changed into toiling about with unchanged heart with a methodology ineffective because of no faith: it was this thrust for mercy that mattered. It was so in the day of Hosea, who declared it in the name of the Lord; and it remained so in His own day, and He resurrected it plainly before their eyes. "I did not come to call the righteous," He declared to the self-righteous seeming critics, "but sinners to repentance."
THAT was the constant purpose; but with what severity THEREFORE He addressed those who sought to PREVENT that mercy reaching the sinners by their obdurate obfuscations, and desolatory obstructions. In Luke 11:52 you see it at its height: "Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering, you hindered." How they counter-attacked! But His desire was this: NOT TO CONDEMN, as in John 3:17. He had to seek out, as He showed in preview and in spirit and outline in Ezekiel 34, in the very midst of ostensible 'shepherds' whose heart was set on profit and palmy days for themselves. Resistance ? it was not underground but had pride of place even in the Temple!
Those whose desire was TO CONDEMN, were antithetical and had not learned first principles. Therefore great was their rebuke; and as to those whose artificial and art-form religion was brazen as a business using humanity for profit, His excoriating condemnation was vast and still echoes down the ages, as may be read in Matthew 23, where the flash of ire is almost like radio-activity. God is not content with triflers, official or unofficial, ostensibly friends or openly enemies. His desire not to condemn means exposure both of the remedy and of those who discount. As in Jeremiah's day (5:32), "The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power, and My people love to have it so, but what will you do in the end ?".
If a doctor, impassioned to deliver eye patients from blindness, finds those who seek to burn down the hospital, one can see that this is a field where the medical clemency meets an enraged enemy, and this is the obstruction to such mercy that needs to be identified. Because it seeks to sever the mercy, it is condemned. Neither working for it nor with it, but and obtrusive if not delusive enemy of good, it acts to diminish life. It is like poison in the aspros, and it is to be removed from the product, here the proclamation. Those responsible are asking for judgment, and unless they too in good time seek mercy, what is their name! Identified, they are less dangerous, like any victimising agency.
Mercy seeks, meanwhile, for the good BECAUSE it is mercy, and shows KINDNESS because it is so.
Yet so far from indulgence of sin is this that Christ told the man impeded at the pool from gaining healing, "Go and sin no more lest a worse thing befall you." In other words, mercy is no substitute for righteousness, but a way back to it, a brake on breach and a reasonableness in fracture. The design neither ceases to be what it is because of mercy, nor does it lack tolerance, through the provisions of goodness. Mercy shows the tolerance, not of indolence, but of tragedy; and it moves back, not to self-will, but to righteousness.
"If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that belong to your peace ..., " we hear Christ speaking of the entire city of Jerusalem (Luke 19:42ff.). There is love, mercy, patience, truth, reality and pity. Truth is not deleted by mercy; mercy is not deleted by truth. In truth mercy played an immense role in the life of Christ on earth, in His ministry of word and deed, in His warnings and in His exhortations. Indeed it was so even in His judgments, which for some may well have had a therapeutic spiritual effect, since many priests joined the church (Acts 6), in due time. At all events, in His mercy the Lord was drawing all men towards Him (as specified in John 12:32-33, of His death), and in His death came the epitome to which He referred; for when He was at the lowest, pity was at the highest, its price supreme.
NOT TO CONDEMN, NOT TO CONDEMN! it is like a loud hailer going before the official car, a motorcycle escort giving the advance notice. Let the curious find out the nature of the danger of condemnation, since this Person is so keen not to be confused with those who simply would legislate condemnation. Let the hopeful investigate, and see what is this publication of peace! (Isaiah 52:7, cf. Mark 1:15). Let the estranged wonder what is the offer, and marvel that it is still the day of non-condemnation. Time to repent may be dying for those who do not receive Him, but it is not dead yet!
Yet let those who, like the scribes, the Pharisees, the disdainful, those without mercy or unwilling to take to heart the endless statements concerning the POLICY and DESIRE of God, the amplitude of His Spirit and the wonder of His patient heart: let them think. Was it not that those who "see" might be blind that He came ? Those obstructionists who philosophically make hey while the day still lasts for the Gospel, and declare that God has only a few in mind, as if the RESULT of His love were the same as the THRUST of it, who confuse predestination with a change of heart and not a security of spirit (cf. The Glow ... Ch. 8), who ignore the foreknowing that precedes it logically (Romans 8:30ff.), and the type of knowledge which the God of all comfort and mercy has: let them beware.
To truncate truth is horrid; to truncate mercy and to shred love is quite as horrible an ambition as a consequence. There is only one safety in the word of God: KEEP to it, all of it; add NOTHING to it, any of it. Then the believer dwells secure, surrounded by wisdom, the very wisdom of God.
E) The Musical
QUESTIONS and ANSWERS
Q. WHAT PRICE MUSICAL FREEDOM ?
LIBERTY WITH THE LYRE
A Little Look at Liberty with
the Language of Music in
The Worship of the Lord
Is it true that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty ? Of course it is, for God invented freedom, a most staggering addition to the arsenal of accomplishment at the merely technical level, that invests beauty with its appreciation, love with its depth and invention with its marvel (II Corinthians 3:17).
It is no accident that II Corinthians 3:18 follows this verse, with its emphasis on the beauty of holiness, as the saints look by the mirror of faith on the wonder of the Lord, being changed in likeness towards HIM, as they do. Nor is it accidental that prior to this verse, Paul is talking of the blinding by the preliminary provisions of the Law, to the intended outcomes and consummations. In this case of music however, far was it even from the law, with its tutelary stringencies, to be circumscribed in music as some are today.
As we shall see, the liberty to express the current wonders of the unchanging Lord in terms of His ultimate and irrefragable New Covenant and invariant principles is one of the parallels to the blessed work of sermon production, which attests the work and ways of the Lord to each generation, where it is, from where the Lord is.
WHAT PRICE MUSICAL FREEDOM ?
Q. Why sing only Psalms ? and why not ?
This is not an historical review, a sophisticated sally into erudition, such as scholars might delight in. It is sufficient that we find what the Bible in fact says on this topic.
ARE we to follow the world with its often grimily glamorous ways, and wallow in its hog-pits ? or are we to become reactionary and cling sanctimoniously to the tradition of this or that way, perhaps even allowing a Pharisaic fellowship of the super-superbs of spirituality who find the Bible too little ? or find its clear statements subversible, by studious substitutes, for the plain sense ?
Confessedly neither option has attractions for the Bible-believer. True, the world can be a disgusting slide, attracting the almost- Christian to its ways, and invading the church with its climate of opinion, its cultural options, its wayward rhythms and its spiritual seductions. Yet equally, historically limited vision, substituting for the Bible and putting clamps upon its mouth in terms of preferred 'orthodoxy' can make for precisely that Pharisaic empire which Jesus so radically attacked. The word of God, not the superb traditions of men, is the criterion - whether they are worldly in a carnal or in a spiritual fashion. Of the two, the latter, being the major focus of Jesus' exposure, is undoubtedly the worse.
This is not to question the sincerity of any; it IS to require solely Biblical credentials for any approach which may be made; and it is to warn of dangers inherent in our task, in both directions. The slightest presumption in moulding the word of God with one's own brilliant (or indeed clottish) grasp, individual or based in some historical 'camp' (Psalm 19:13) can be fatal.
The same is true when it comes to other doctrines. You have the super-Confessionalists whose desire is conformity to their traditions (which might be good, mainly good, bad or indifferent, but which in any case are likely to be limiting, for where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty); and you have the liberal radicals, whose desire is (though they often do not know it) to create new traditions, albeit with less ostensible reverence for the word of God. This they will often cover however, by claiming that the REAL word of God, obtainable through experience or other glamorous advents of flesh, is just what they are about to purvey.
Undue emphasis on Confessions can be exceedingly unwholesome, tending to blight like mould the holy purity of the Bible itself; and I have met such, even in one worship service, where I was, without evidence, held to account lest I had too little wallowed in Confessions. This spirit of antagonism is justly condemned and can be, as in that case, linked with astonishing immunity to what the Bible is saying, as shown in that case. Perhaps such a spirit has its own reward, when it is manifested.
On the other hand, let us by all means be thankful for former saints and indeed for the whole historical panoply of their renditions, remembering only this, that this is help to inspiration, not bracelets for the wrist. It is GOD ALONE who will be exalted in that day. In view, indeed, of I Corinthians 3:3-23, it is astonishing how many (perhaps basically sound) people can still call themselves 'of Pelagius', 'of Calvin' and so forth. Certainly, vast help may be gained through seeing formulations and counter-formulations, but it is not a life. The WORD OF GOD is the place for constant application, not something less. Further, some of these cases are horrific heresies, some impressive contributions; but the stricture of scripture remains, and for many, remains unheeded.
But now let us consider some subsidiary questions.
1. IS THE OLD TESTAMENT, WHICH INCIDENTALLY CONTAINS THE PSALMS,
RESTRICTIVE IN MUSICAL OCCASIONS OF WORSHIP,
TO THESE PSALMS ?
Let us take I Chronicles 25:1ff.. Here we find that King David, himself a Psalmist of the most expansive, made certain provisions for music. What were these?
SOME of the sons of Asaph, and of Jeduthun, were to PROPHESY with harps, stringed instruments, and cymbals. Many are then listed by name. Jeduthun in particular is named as one "who prophesied with a harp to give thanks and to praise the Lord."
Now are we to ASSUME that these 288 souls who STATEDLY prophesied in music, and who are NOT named in the Psalms to that number or to anything remotely resembling it, prophesied ONLY by repeating what others who ARE recorded in the Psalms, set forth ? Or that they did NOT prophesy, but were some type of spiritual stenographers ?
THAT, without question, is not what the Old Testament EVER indicates as the meaning of prophesying. The term CANNOT be so limited to such a concept without ADDING to the word of God, not to mention subverting the plain meaning. These 288 had a task with musical instruments (incidentally authorised for worship in terms of godly reverence and suitable praise, as you would expect in view of Psalm 150): it was to prophesy. IF we ASSUME restrictions not stated, WE are writing the word of God, instead of God, a policy which is not within the ambit of this discussion, or any wise one.
If we ASSUME NOTHING, then the word 'prophesy' is used of 288 persons in the domain of music, many of whom do not have their words in the scripture. You often find this in other respects, as when the Book of Jasher is mentioned, though it is not at all apparent in the Bible. GOD is NOT required to put into HIS MANDATE TO THE HUMAN RACE, HIS COVENANTAL expression, what man requires. He puts there what He chooses for His own purposes. Much said in HIS name is NOT there. It did not become the chosen vehicle of universal application conserved for the purpose by God. Let us let God be God; not least because we are infinitely unsuited to the task, but also because He IS! an excellent reason.
Hence, at once, it is apparent that there was no limit in the Old Testament, where the Psalms are found, to Psalms for worshipful music. On the contrary, MORE is AUTHORISED by the most extensive Psalmist of all time, to be sung before the Lord. If he to whom it was given so ordained, who are we to limit him! God has spoken in this word; let us simply notice and follow.
2. Does the New Testament however INSTITUTE
A LIMIT TO PSALMS IN WORSHIPFUL MUSIC,
IN CHURCH ?
Here let us consider the word of God in I Corinthians 14:9-15. This shows us that there were many practices of speaking (lalew)which occurred in the phenomenon of 'tongues' (see Questions and Answers 8). One of these related to singing with the spirit, but not with the mind; another to praying with the spirit, but not with the understanding. Contrariwise, Paul invites them to sing with the spirit but ALSO with the understanding. This particular form of utterance, singing, is therefore subject to edification rules, and these are pervasive and unexceptionable (I Corinthians14:8,17,26). If you have a psalm or an utterance, it must be interpreted.
It follows that some psalms could be in tongues. If these had to be those of the 150 in the Old Testament, then we have a strange phenomenon indeed. It would mean this: someone who put into a tongues format, a psalm. A well known and classical scripture would be misquoted in a garrulous formula which did not include the criterion of comprehensibility. It would appear nonsense, being imported from the Bible. It would then HAVE TO BE interpreted back into the psalm form, for if the miraculous gift of interpretation from the Lord enabled anything, it could not be other than truth. Contrary views constitute blasphemy.
God would then be conceived of as follows: He would scramble a psalm in someone's mind, then unscramble it like a decoding expert, with this - that not to elude an enemy, but to help friends He would do this!
With such a view, an intrusive conception of the Almighty to say no more, we have this additional feature. IT IS NOT STATED THAT THIS OCCURRED. To found a doctrine on that ASSUMPTION*1 is to add to the Bible, something with extreme severity, yes and most justified, forbidden. Since we CANNOT do this, we MUST NOT act on it to found a doctrine. Hence the psalms in view may or may not have been scriptural, presumably not; but whether this be so or not, they are left OPEN in the Bible as to their source, and to attribute that source where the Bible does not is inadmissible. It is not interpretation but eisegesis, illicit entry into the mind of God by the mind of man, when the latter is ostensibly interpreting the mind of God. Vocabulary shows nothing to the point here, for it is not for us to say what form or format the Lord may have chosen in his spiritual gift operation scene.
3. What must be concluded, if the Bible is to rule our musical operations in this field ?
This: there is in the mere fact that there are 150 psalms in the Bible a clear evidence that songs are equipped with marvellous standards and a sure repose and repository for worship.
However, to go further is merely to limit the Lord, and limiting the Holy One of Israel is not to His taste (Psalm 78:41), or indeed to any wise taste in this field, for WHO BEING HIS COUNSELLOR HAS TAUGHT HIM! as Isaiah (in Ch. 40) aptly asks, by the Spirit of God.
1. Psalms from the Bible should be sung because as words to musical items they are authorised and secure, spiritual and uplifting, God-given and awe-inspiring.
2. Psalms not from the Bible and spiritual songs from other formats, as in I Chronicles, may also be sung, as there is evidence in the New Testament which admits of songs without limitation, except as to their spirituality.
3. Since however, songs as a part of spiritual worship must partake like the rest of it in the beauty of holiness and the reverential fear of the Lord (see A Question of Gifts pp. 18, 89ff.), these must be most carefully considered for
a) doctrinal content
b) spirit and dynamic
c) correlation with evil by association which might intrude into worship and especially
d) intrinsic evils which were the ground of their development and of their creation.
That is, if songs and music are to be obtained, there should be godliness in the result in all categories. Adaptations of purpose
should be ordered with extreme care, lest hints that would mislead a "weaker brother" or sister should intrude and cause harm.
It is the same in so much in the history of Christianity. There are extremes; each has a measure of ground. Each can irritate the other. The result is often a hardening past scripture in the face of provocation, which then limits and arrests development in a church.
4. Why, however, should Psalms not be used, for precisely the above reasons, and used exclusively of all other church singing, even if this is not Biblically required? Do they not, above all, meet these criteria of usefulness ?
not "criteria of usefulness", but grounds for rejection. They are intended to
guard against the world, but can be used equally to guard against
pseudo-spiritual productions. However, the criteria of SELECTION are broader
than those of REJECTION (as in Psalm 78:41). Who are we to arrest the work or
confine the ways of the Lord ?
Let it suffice to do what He says, not defiling the liberties of His love, lest not acting in the scope He provides, we suppress His pleasure and would delete His desire. The word of Mark 7:7 must ever be in mind.
With food, removal of poison is not all; the negative is not king; but it does have a place.
So here. Other criteria would be these: Do the songs in question have some gateway from current times, to assist their impact,? and prevent misconception that nothing of the 20th century could really be spiritual, in itself a misleading vogue? If weaker brethren may be misled one way, they may no less be misled in this equally.
Does such music contribute something creative and representative of fulfilling what remains of the sufferings of Christ, as Paul puts it in broad terms? That of which Paul is there speaking has nothing to do with the atonement; it deals rather with the expression of the love of Christ, even if need be through suffering, on the part of the ongoing church. Thus such things may be noted in song, as was the crossing of the Red Sea by Miriam.
Is something signalised, then, or given a memorable treatment, some Christian experience in the deliverance of many? Or is it something which adds to the musical heart of the Christian by some fresh insight, derived from Scripture, and brought to light, precisely as occurs in contemporary sermons: not a doctrinal novelty, but a dew-fresh touch of the Lord on some heart ? Who are we to reject the current and contemporary movements of the Lord within the New Covenant as He shall please, and this the more as He specifically indicates in Acts 2 the dreaming of dreams and the having of visions as part of the preliminaries which, Biblically, proceed without limitation to the coming of the Lord ? (Cf. A Question of Gifts, pp. 1ff., for the locale of 'gifts'.)
True, precisely this point is often used to allow false teaching, addition to scripture and foolish heresy; but this is not the point here. We do not refuse to eat because someone was once poisoned; instead, we merely inspect the food. We do not raise up carnal shibboleths but adhere to spiritual criteria and select accordingly.
5. Finally, is there some way in which the concerns of both Psalm singers, mistakenly imagining the Bible so restricts them in many cases, and those using the liberty the Lord confers where He is, within His covenant, can be reasonably satisfied in justifiable principles ?
is a case of moderation and gentleness of spirit.
It requires that there be great restraint in choosing spiritual songs, acute
care in assessing their message and doctrine, watchful and informed alerting to
invasive intrusion and Trojan horses on the one hand; and an equal care and
conscientious and scrupulous regard not to play the Dutch Uncle in reducing the
songs used in worship until every hair-splitting concern is met, as if
psychology were king. We must all grow; some to be more tolerant of change, and
some to be more tolerant of conservation. In all cases, each must seek the good
of the other and not merely the indulgence of his/her own heart. Meanwhile, let
us serve and worship the Lord with reverence, rejoice with trembling and express
that joy unspeakable and full of glory as in the presence of Him whose glory it
is. (See I Peter 1:8, Psalm 97:12, 95:1-2,92:1-3, Hebrews 12:14,28-29, PSALM
- and see
A Question of Gifts, pp. 18,89,91ff.)
As in the cases of baptism and predestination, a lot of extremism and radicalism comes readily into play (cf. Questions and Answers 11, p. 133 supra), but not rightly into place, as people sometimes incite each other not to good, but to reaction; and reaction tends to be unreasonable and to ignore the tolerance of other people's sensitivities on the one hand, and to fail in self-control in showing needless sensitivities, on the other. The end of the whole matter is the Lord Himself, in whom is liberty according to His word, which is exceedingly "broad" (Psalm 119 to the point) in its provisions for His worship and expression, though very narrow in its strictures on the spiritually libertine and unruly. Let us not narrow the narrow or misuse the broad, but abide in His words and rejoice in His liberties, who law is perfect and is indeed the perfect law of liberty (James 1:25).
and to fail to use the liberties which He provides
becomes readily not circumspection but circumvallation:
the building of a wall about His leading in green pastures,
with rejoicing at the provision of the marvels of His grace.
Meanwhile, let us say advisedly with the Psalmist, "I will PRAISE THE LORD WHILE I HAVE MY BEING, or again (104:33), "I will sing to the Lord as long as I live". Indeed, David puts it (from 145:1-8): "I will extol Thee, my God, O king; and I will bless Thy name for ever and ever. Every day will I bless Thee; and I will praise Thy name for ever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable... I will speak of the glorious honour of Thy majesty, and of Thy wondrous works... (Men) shall abundantly utter the memory of Thy great goodness and shall sing of Thy righteousness. The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy." So does David welcome eternal life with an exuberance of song!
It is NOT WHY
should I sing, but how NOT sing;
not WHY should I bless His greatness
but how NOT bless Him, who is most blessed!
*1 The term translated into English as 'Psalm', as attested by Thayer's Greek Dictionary, a work of some elegance and eloquence and considerable fame, is not by any means limited to the 150 Psalms of the Old Testament. Indeed, the term rendered 'hymn' in Ephesians 5:18, can mean Psalm of David also. In fact, the data supplied by Thayer show that the three terms, translated 'hymns', 'psalms' and 'spiritual songs' in Ephesians, have slight differences of intonation and intimation, of meaning; and that they are not mutually exclusive. You often get such a thing in English, as in courage, bravery, audacity and fearlessness.
Reverting to I Corinthians 14, we note that someone may have a psalm to provide (14:26), a doctrine and so forth. This may be a highly reverential spiritual song, perhaps eminently fitted for joint worship; and in particular, it could refer to any of the 150 Psalms of the Old Testament.
If the latter is to be imagined as the limit of the term 'psalm', on nil grounds of any logical force or cogency, then as befits valid interpretation of scripture, this cannot be accepted. If however it should be done anyway, as if to over-ride the nature of the term Paul was led to choose, so that this imaginary limit to 'psalms' of the Bible is imposed, then as already observed, there are serious problems, almost amounting to the comic, in such a concept, coding and decoding the already well-known. Moreover, such a thing is not so written, and such a limit is not so stated - this, it is not a scriptural interpretation. It is an imagination, and any may act on imagination; and many frequently do just that: but such limitation is at all not the word of God any more than are assaults from other sources and motives, which for so many centuries, but especially the more recent ones, have tried to twist the clear, and invent in God's name, their own thoughts.
Indeed, the ultra-scriptural limitation which some would impose on the church, in this field of singing, is as massive an invasion of the context as it is in harsh dissonance with what is elsewhere written on the topic of spiritual worship, in the Bible; and we have already noted the case of Old Testament worship above, in our second point and the liberty which cannot be contained except by again imposing the thought of man from outside, in blatant eisegesis.
The psalms-only idea is contrary to what is written: by addition (of meaning), beyond the terms used; by subtraction (of liberty displayed); and by annulment (of the use of expository gifts in hymn format, in its own right).
It fits neither text, nor textual nor liturgical context, within the generic emphasis on liberty (II Cor. 5:17), whether here in in Psalm 148-150 or I Chronicles 25. It limits the Lord, and in addition to the 'psalm' constriction, noted in detail above, is the generic fact that you are authorised, indeed impelled by the apostolic word (I Corinthians 14:14-15) to "sing" with the Spirit, and with the understanding. Yet in the very face of this psalm-limitation concept, NOWHERE are we told that this authorised singing may be cut down to some sort of spiritual limitation, for it is not to be found in the word of God - the only one limit, other than reverence (Psalm 89:7), being that it be sound in doctrine, and motivated by the desire to glorify and praise Him: like anything and everything else in the church of God.
As to that, the liberty of the Spirit in preaching at once exhibits the misplacement of zeal to contain singing by artificial inhibitions. Where scripture is silent, it is better for man to avoid his own prohibitions, and far less is it apt to exalt as 'pure worship', what defiles the authority of the word of God, by adding to it, the word of man, so impeding both the historical and contemporary modes of worship by human fiat, adding mere man's voice, if not in singing, then instead, to the word of God. Indeed, this, by a weird paradox, is wrought as a means to reduce that very voice's scope and liberty in the worship which includes the praise of God.
So does human liberty, misused, reduce human liberty, divinely granted and indeed exhorted; and so do the prescriptions of man make of no effect, the word of God, just as in Mark 7:7ff..
That the aim may be good, in such affairs, is undoubted; that extreme care should be exercised to prevent hymns from being a medium for doctrinal invasion, is equally sure. Yet an aim of purity does not justify methods inhibitive of obedience to the directions of the word of God.
Courage and zeal must be applied in the application of the word of God, purely, practically and on all sides; but to dictate to it, or to require death for some of its liberties, injunctions and functions, is but a moribund mess, mistake and miasma. LIFE, not death, is both the requirement and the gift. Artificial constructions do not aid, but do rather oppress and inhibit the holiness of singing to the Lord "a new song"; and distance from the exuberance shown and attested, for example in Psalms 147-150.
In fact, the very idea of trying to make a tonality complex, such that to speak one has this and that liberty, but to sing one has ever so much less, being limited to the inspired word of God as such: this is a vision so extraordinarily twisted as to seem rather a concept of mirth, than a serious provision. For all that, as attested, this does nothing to reduce the need for the utmost stringency in subjecting possible hymns and songs for worship to the utmost scrutiny by scriptural principles and law, as in spiritual grace and zest, lest the liberty be abused, and, again contrary to the speaking voice, there be an opposite verbal disjunction, using singing as a shield for false teaching! Then indeed it would be as if one could sing quite carelessly, but must preach only in accord with the word of God written, the Bible!
In all things, a certain moderation is needed, except in fidelity to the word of God, love of the Lord, and in obedience to His will.