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Whilst considering these matters, it might be opportune now to ponder a point on will, initially considering an aspect as raised by Dr Clark in his Religion, Reason and Revelation. While this aspect is not essential to our treatment of predestination and freewill, in that a nexus of Scriptures establishes the criteria, and this is but one contributor: it is good to be thorough, and we will look at it now. It will then be used as an introduction, a more extensive treatment of the apologetics of will, in this work. Taking the words of Jesus in Matthew 23:37 (so often misused that it is most understandable they should be looked at again by Dr Clark in his work), he gives nevertheless a somewhat extreme view of them. The words are:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem you who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent unto you, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not!This topic, primary in the predestination thesis, is yet relevant in apologetics, in that my PREDESTINATION AND FREEWILL exhibits that only in Scripture is there base for such a perfect harmony and comprehensibility - though we know only in part, the part is clear - relative to freedom and predestination. This is one of the many aspects of scripture which verify its divine origin. To this side of things, then, we will shortly turn; but in the meantime, our concern is with that phase of Scripture of which the above cited text is one representative. We will then consider the special function of will at this time, with initial reference to Matthew 23:37.
Yet does this device in fact avoid the relevance of the will in this scripture? We shall show that this is far from being the case. To be sure, Arminians might make the will not merely relevant to God but operable by unconverted man, in terms of conversion; they might well take this in a way grossly contrary to Romans 9:16 and similar words in scripture; but are we to go further and make this Scripture to be quite apart, even from reference to the will, in the focus of salvation ?
That is the proposition. How does it fare ? First, let us note that the term "daughter" of Jerusalem is used as a synonym for Jerusalem. This is usage; we can understand it- there are generations always coming on, and the old city is the host to them as they pass in, on and through. But the main point is simply that this IS usage. The term does not differentiate re 'Jerusalem' but specifies the inhabitants. We find it in Isaiah 37:22:
This is the word which the Lord hath spoken concerning him: The virgin, the daughter of Zion, has despised you, and laughed you to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem has shaken her head at you.This personification is not difficult to comprehend. There is no possible question that the next generation are in view; for here is a strong, majestic woman tossing her dignified head in scorn at the rapacious invader, summing up the city's courage and assurance, in so doing. The emotions are very definitely adult in their setting and scope, and the base is undoubtedly not sectional, but representative of Jerusalem in its strongest response. As to that "daughter" of Jerusalem, personifying the city, her maturity is seen in the assurance, poise and emotion of her behaviour; and the literary device is one which in context displays what all Jerusalem is to muster in response to the tyrant threatening the existence of all. We are not, I say, in any doubt about this.
The designation"children ... of" is of course extremely common, and applies not only in the case of Jerusalem, or indeed of Israel, but with great scope. In Jeremiah, this designation occurs dozens of times - for example, in 2:16, 2:30, 3:14, 3:22, 6:1, 17:19 - but the case would be too monotonous to exhibit further. Moreover, these cases invite some thought.
Take 17:19 - "Thus saith the Lord unto me, Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, by which the kings of Judah come..." There is here designation in terms of children; yet it is a most sober and undifferentiated message as to age level; unless indeed it is so maximally adult as to have almost no consideration for literal children as such, at all! These rather are that current generation who is 'spawned', as it were, in the old city. The term was almost ubiquitous in Exodus, where the "children of Israel" is a phrase signifying the nation as a whole, not once but dozens and dozens of times. In Numbers 7:72, we even see it referring to Asher as follows: "On the eleventh day Pagiel, the son of Ochran, prince of the children of Asher".
The usage and its connotations are exceptionally widespread biblically. Thus the use of the child concept for the city or people is further amplified in Jeremiah, where it appears in the 'daughter' feature, itself suggestive of the 'derivative' nature of any generation likewise. We find this in such verses as 4:11,31, 6:2,22, 8:21, 31:22, and the use of it for Egypt in 46:24... merely to select some items of this multitudinous usage.
Turn back, O virgin of Israel, turn back to these your cities...Be sure, in all this God is not addressing merely adolescent delinquents, but His comments turn sharply to the pith of the race. Indeed, He proceeds to tell this 'gadding about' daughter the famous prediction, "A woman shall encompass a man" (Jeremiah 31:23). In 4:11, it is of judgment to "this people and to Jerusalem", the Lord speaks, specifying later in the immediate context the affliction for "the daughter of my people". In 4:31 we see the "daughter of Jerusalem' crying: "Woe is me now, for my soul is weary because of murderers". God proceeds to tell "Jerusalem" to "wash thine heart from wickedness that you may be saved" - Jeremiah 4:14.
"This is your wickedness," He says, "because it is bitter, because it reaches to your heart" - Jeremiah 4:18.
Again, "How shall I pardon you for this ?Your children have forsaken me, and sworn by those who are not gods. When I had fed them to the full, then they committed adultery and assembled themselves by harlots' houses. They were like well-fed lusty stallions; every one neighed after his neighbour's wife"- Jeremiah 5:7. In all this there is a certain... adult quality! There is no even conceivable question to raise about the fact that the Jerusalem which is here being rebuked is the enduring place of many generations, like a mother (cf. Isaiah 66:8-9,12), a figure explicit in Isaiah, and that her current generation is deemed 'children', so becoming the recipients of the curse that comes.
To imagine a divergent figure when this is strong, frequent and normative, logically apt and definitively precise is as ludicrous an invasion of the word of God as is the effort to imagine some novel meaning for the 'children' of Matthew 23:37. Far then from being a case of comparing the word of God with the word of God precisely - it becomes even an abuse of the principle that the children shall not (literally) be held accountable for the sins of their parents (as defined in Ezekiel 18:20ff.), at some length. It is to this that the avoidance of the expression of the Lord is forced! and that, it is in double abuse of the privilege of interpretation. It is better to find what it means (Repent or Perish Ch.1), than dispense with what it says.
But now let us consider our next comparable item, contextual element in review.
"Return, you backsliding children," says the Lord in 3:22, "and I will heal your backslidings." What preceded ? "A voice was heard on the desolate heights, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel, for they have perverted their way, and they have forgotten the Lord their God." The usage is precisely as it had always been, relative to the "children of Israel" under the full sweep of divine rebuke and entreaty, with the focus now heavily on the city about to be destroyed, on it in particular.
"My people", says the Lord in 4:22, "are foolish. They have not known me. They are silly children..." So the Lord defines the matter from His divine perspective, quite incisively. Thus, after specifying, again, "everyone" as being "given to covetousness", and that "everyone deals falsely", God says, giving the reason: "FOR they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly..." (8:10-11). Is it on the head of sinning youth that God is putting the whole blame for the nation's ills ? Is the soul that sins not responsible, but only is it the young, for all this ? To ask, is to answer.
In Ezekiel 18:3, as foreshadowed above, we find quite directly: "As I live, saith the Lord God, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel." The proverb ? the one specifying sour grapes eaten by fathers setting the teeth of children on edge. No! "The soul that sins, it shall die!"
Now we must note this: "Ye shall not have occasion to use it any more." The case is Israel; hence if the view is, contrary to usage, that the children were in Israel being so treated because of their parents, it would be forbidden and that in God's name (cf. Ezekiel 18:2-5).
And that should suffice.
Another point may be mentioned purely for completeness. John Gill, whom Gordon Clark cites here, sought help from passages which cited 'fathers' as seniors and representatives - as in "fathers and brethren" forms of address; in distinction from usages referring to 'children' such as Matthew 12:27 and Isaiah 8:16 and 18. In the latter, there is a sense of discipleship or subjection. This usage does occur, where the context gives ground. Thus where an ecclesiastical assemblage is concerned, these being select and with authority endued, their title of reference relates to their then current function in Assembly. The other usage refers indeed to non-authoritarian role; and in this case, there is the implicit reference to Isaiah under whom they work. They resemble the "sons of the prophets" from the days of Elijah, who incidentally was not one of them. There is here the implicit relative authority.
In these cases, therefore, the context immediately interprets the reference: the men are met as in authority, and are as "fathers and brethren"; or the people concerned are learning or seen as under authority related to their situation specifically.
In the Matthew 23:37 context as in the cognate cases so liberally shown in prophetic challenge, above, the opposite is true. Here, so far from having the seniors of the city distinctively addressed in their relative authority, by which to relate the 'children' contrast, Christ "spoke to the multitude, and to His disciples..." That is what the text says, and it would seem good to stay with it. It is written for our instruction; so let us be instructed. The apostrophe is directed, in theme, at certain persons; it is spoken, in time, to "the multitude and to His disciples" ... Matthew 23:1. The people as a whole are in view. And in such case, we have seen the normal usage of referring to them as the "children of..." a city, a nation, a progenitor. This is that. It is the one context and not the other. Indeed, the scope and perspective is even as wide as "this generation" (v.36) which of course is the force of "the children of..." in a very obvious way.
And where again could be even duplicated this reference to the "children of..." a city, with the meaning of 'a section of them', in an address to a stated 'multitude' ? The Isaiah case is one in which the contradistinct is perfectly apparent and direct: "Bind up the testimony; seal the law among my disciples..." It goes on: "And I will wait upon the Lord..." The distinctive character of the 'children' leaves no doubt as to the designation; we are not left wondering if this is a national reference as evidenced hundreds of times elsewhere in the Old Testament. The internal correlation of 'parent' and children is indeed express in the circumscribed context. The same is clear in Matthew 12:27, where Christ is definably addressing fathers relative to their children. Such a case is not therefore contextually relevant.
These references therefore are not pertinent, for they are distinctive two-tier cases of old and young, or senior and junior; as surely we may refer to the junior or the younger as sons without any ambiguity in such a context, where the express designation is made clear. The usage is however the same; where there is not this differentiation shown, the normal usage remains that personification with all the rich and multitudinous historical overtones and cases, of those who inhabited the place or constituted the race.
We are of course familiar with the more distantly genealogical phrase "children of Abraham" from John 8:39 in Christ's usage of it; and indeed this is most instructive in terms of usage, for it shows the strong implicit flavour which can come with this phrase:
If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham.The term then can signify a correlation of quality, a parallel of character, a descent of reality and not mere appearance. There is a close correlation with the object of reference in "children of..." So was it in the case where a city is named, as shown in Isaiah. Jerusalem has a past, a history, a standing, it stands indeed for something - at least in measure and especially when, as there, there is dynamic intercession to the name of the Lord, from whose name its name has meaning. Thus again, in Psalm 149:2 we find not only a further 'city' reference, but we see in this parallelism, another aspect - that the specific location can stand for the general type. Thus we find:
Let Israel rejoice in Him who made him; let the children of Zion be joyful in their King... for the Lord takes pleasure in His people (v.4).Here is a double grounding of the term: it relates on the one hand to Israel (v.2) and on the other to "His people" (v.4).
The usage of Matthew 23:37 therefore is not some unusual or strange or uncommon or unique reference; it is wholly submerged in the general, the particular, interpreted and re-interpreted phraseology of God's book. There being here, therefore, no contextual ground for considering there is a variance from common usage, we take the phrase as subsisting in the Biblical usage. To do otherwise in such a context of total destruction for the city, is to ignore the idiom of the language.
Suppose however that we ignored this usage and the requirements of the context. Let us suppose that Christ in fact was telling Jerusalem, - Jerusalem who kills the prophets... that He would have liked to have selected the immature representatives of the species, while the parents disported themselves so horribly, and have gathered them protectively under His wings - what then ? Some strange results, predictably, would follow.
It would mean that Jesus had a longing to select out the children from the wilful ruin of their parents but could not manage it (strange for the omnipotent). It would be a baulked moral issue,not a loving longing. Therefore, since the parents would not desist from their evils, He would personally superintend the destruction of the children in view of the sins of the parents. There was He, in the midst of a covenant people, looking helplessly at their children, positively wanting to remove these 'innocent,' or pleasant chicks from their wayward seniors, but in vain did He wish it; instead He would secure their destruction instead of their deliverance from those woeful parents (cf. John 5:19).
Further: it would fare worse. Christ would have wished to take these little ones, and would have failed; and His problem was that the parents would not. Their specified adverse will stopped Him from delivering their children. It is not the children's wills which are mentioned in the relevant delineation of the picture in terms of entreaty, desire and destruction. It is the parents' wills; the parents of these covenant children. Their sin did it. And yet in Ezekiel 18:19 ff. we see that God is against the view that the son who has done well will inherit the judgment of his father. Indeed, in 18:2-3 we are forbidden the view:
What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge? As I live, says the Lord God, you shall no longer use this proverb in Israel.No incertitude attaches to the point.
Now we return to the actual text. Jesus speaks to the multitudes and to His disciples. He gives advice in Matthew 23:1-12 intimately. He continues, having spoken of the scribes and Pharisees to them, to apostrophise these... vv. 13-35. In v.36 he interdicts the generation before Him, having spoken immediately before of preceding generations of Israel. Then, having so stated specifically His target, He apostrophises Jerusalem as a whole for its destruction. In so doing He refers to its children, in a tender and idiomatically frequent personification, the children of Jerusalem to whom His love and mercy extended. Contrasting His will with the only other will He deems it relevant to mention, He proceeds on to the total destruction of the total city in which all, young and old were inhabitants. On this generation, as He had just stated, would come the judgment long stored. And they ? they were those before Him, who would suffer it, the city's people.
Thus the stated audience is 'the whole multitude' and His disciples. God has spoken. The area to be destroyed is the total city. The body specifically designated is the generation, which implies the current inhabitants, conceived in their lineage. The body who refuses is in this context of wholeness, the whole; and in this context of a generation relative to preceding ones, it is the whole one; and in this context of a generation, it is the contemporary one the children of their day, the city of His time.
No other interpretation does justice to the stated audience; the stated generation; the stated destruction; and no other interpretation avoids clash with the stated principles of the word of God; or does justice to the sovereign omnipotence of that God who, if the children would have been willing, would have indeed saved them: for He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and would have all men come to a knowledge of the truth (Ezekiel 33:11; II Timothy 2:3-5). He does not lack power at all, to implement His stated principles! "Is anything too hard for the Lord!" (Genesis 18:14).
A parallel in Luke is also instructive. In Luke 19:44 we see that Jerusalem is seen as the structure, and her children are seen as the inhabitants of that structure. The 'you' which is to be laid even with the ground is the city of materials. The "children" who are to be within that structure are undoubtedly the population, for all are involved and we are here dealing in categories of totality - the city and the people. Any other interpretation here would be not only an intrusion of a particularity into the context which is not called for, but a denial of that meaning which the nature of the judgment requires. The city is personified; but the populace is signified; and its signification is 'children.' The air and aura is deserved judgment, and to omit the senior citizens from this sweep would be to ignore the consideration not only of the sweep and grandeur of the devastation and the guilt, but to concentrate ineffectually on those less active in securing that guilt in the relevant city-wide respect.
In terms of a city, without more ado, the term 'children of...' is the populace; and in terms of guilt and devastation the thought of omitting some, when we are caused to see the very stones fall, would be to localise the impact, to limit the result in obvious mockery of the intent of the text (Luke 19:44). Moreover, there we face a structure and its children, with the structure yet personified: there can be no doubt the person's children are the people. To state otherwise is to limit the unlimited designation of the word of God. This does not delimit a section of the populace; it designates city contents.
Returning to Matthew 23:37 we find that a similar consideration applies. Jerusalem is singular and personified; and then her children are considered. If she be the adult, then the children are those whom she has 'spawned' or 'begotten.' To limit this, again, is to limit the word of God in its collation of parent city and children in a way unknown in Scripture; disruptive of the metaphor; superimposing alien and unnatural considerations on the clear correlation of the text.
Thus in Isaiah 66, we read: "As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you, and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem." There again is the sense of mothering a populace; the sense of maternal tenderness relative to a citizenry who without any doubt, correlatively, young and old, are the "children." Here a divine comforter closely collates with the city of comfort, which had become uncomfortable; but which through His comfort should again be the area of ministration of comfort. This intimacy of city and comfort goes further.
Similarly, in Isaiah 66:10-12, we see a Jerusalem which is mother - we say still a mother city - which gives her breasts of consolation to "all ye that love her," for these terms interrelate. She will dandle them upon her knees. Though the figure requires the use of children in order to maintain the consistency of the metaphorical system, there is no possible thought of the dandled ones being of some preferable age group. The people who are to love her are those whom she comforts - this usage is also repetitive in Hosea 2:1-5.
Just so, away from the special air of controversy which predestination and the will so often engenders, we can return and see afresh that the personified Jerusalem of Matthew 23:37 will have children who are the correlate of herself as mother; and these are those whom she succours, and those are her inhabitants... set apart for destruction in the historical sweep of generations, leading to this one: the children of the day set before past times (cf. Matthew 23:34-36, in the same chapter, immediately prior).
Indeed, Zion, in close correlation with Jerusalem (Isaiah 66:7-10) is seen as travailing and bringing forth... and what is born ? "Shall a nation be born at once ?" The Scriptural correlate of the mother city is the mothered people, and just as the figure requires it, so the text thrusts it home.
We can of course sympathise with the desire to avoid this text with its contextually, figuratively, and pervasively clear implication; the Lord having spoken again and again in His word to cover the case. There is a feeling that this gives men the power to overcome the will of God. But it is not so. The willingness of God is not the will of God... as seen so often, and for example in II Chronicles 36:15-17. Here He had compassion both deep and prolonged on the people to such effect that He sent numerous messengers; with the result that an irremediable wrath arose. The same consideration is manifested repetitively in Psalm 106, where compassions abound, until their recipients are so provocative that wrath intrudes. The willingness is wonderful; the mercy is profound; but in time, there is another end.
This subject is given more extensive treatment in my PREDESTINATION AND FREEWILL,for example on pp. 44ff..
If now the reference had been: 'O part of Jerusalem, O part of Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets... How often would I have gathered another part of you together'... but even that would have difficulties; for if the subject were 'part of Jerusalem' the rest would not be 'another part of you,' for the 'you' would itself be but part. Let us try again: 'O part of Jerusalem, O part of Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets... how often would I have gathered another part of Jerusalem together, the way a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you (the first part) were unwilling.'
This conceivably might have been written, were it not for the inferential and noted collision with the express provisions of the word of God in terms of principle (Ezekiel 18). The point which attracts one's attention, however, is simple. It is not written.
On the other hand, the usage of "Jerusalem," the name of a city... a designable and express entity: it is written.
Her children, as so dramatically evident in Isaiah 66:7- 8, are simply the contemporary generation of the parent city. They may be "brought forth" (Isaiah 66:8) from the womb (v. 19), but they are thus residents in the presence of the old city. We are then not talking of a children's crusade but of a city which has had a habit - a bad one - of killing prophets (Matthew 23:37; cf. Matthew 23:28-33). They are a generation (23:30-33) and so children of the city which was of such enduring history: on them as a 'GENERATION' was this wrath to come. Her citizens, the children of the day, were desired, unwilling and sovereignly rejected. This was done in irresolvable repudiation, always foreknown, long foretold, specifically predestinated by the God who was before time, and who at this time was investing history with Himself.
Here reference should be made to Jeremiah 51:9 and 29, concerning Babylon - the "would have healed" and the "every purpose will be performed"; Jeremiah 31:20 - the compunction and compassion amidst judgment; Isaiah 7 - the offer of sublime aid and performance and the result of its rejection: a happening that would not help the hapless king, just now so endued with hope; Hosea 7:1 - the "would have healed" in a condemnatory setting, once again.
What then ? In Matthew 23, we find the divine eye on Jerusalem in pity, looking with a tenderness, a pathos and an enduring interest that is not reciprocated, the breach of which, carried out in earnest and to the crucial climax inevitably brings destruction to that city.
The tenor of the Matthew 23 passage is closely allied to that in Proverbs 1:20-33, where there is seen wisdom calling to the 'simple ones': "Turn at my reproof; surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand, and no one regarded, Because you disdained all my counsel, And would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity ..."
Just as in Matthew 23, here is the pathos, the appeal, the rejection, the scorn and contempt, the rebuttal, the result. The divine willingness is here once again exhibited in action and in particular, and not in general principles alone, and this in a manner both practical and fundamental.
While, as stated, detailed treatment of this topic appears in Predestination and Freewill it might be convenient to add some little treatment here on the point (cf. pp. 489 ff., 515 ff., 723 ff., 861-868, 1040, 1059-1060 supra; 1205-1206 infra).
Let us turn now to the Timothy passage noted.
In v.4 we are given an indication concerning this final authority and His attitude. He has given tangible expression to His mind, and made suitable provisions for its intent (v.5). Never can it justly be construed, after reading this, that the Father is somewhat reticent in the disposition of His love and His practicality of implementation. Never again could we justly say: Well, the Father actually has no heart, as far as salvation is concerned, except for that of a few: there is a limit at that level so to speak. His attitude, His actuating attitude is restrictive, might it be urged ? and His result is restrictive, and the latter results from the former. Not this! for the exact opposite is here explicitly taught.
No, not at all: for the explicit areas of God and mankind are those to which we are directed to look, as we learn that God "would have all men to be saved". A restrictive exegesis of this passage therefore would ignore the very declaration made, would negate it... Perhaps such a distortion might seem in the interest of avoiding what is (wrongly) imagined to be an unacceptable implication - that God would in that case want something, indeed decide upon it, and then be frustrated. Such a result would indeed be incredible (and in fact reminds one of the results of the erroneous interpretation of Matthew 23:37 which we had occasion to dismiss). It would be incredible, for example, in the light of His sovereign power (e.g. Ephesians 1:11); but as shown at length in the above cited work, this is an erroneous implication. It does not follow. We must ADHERE TO THE TEXT and refine our logic; NOT DIVERGE from the text following AUTONOMOUS LOGIC not disposed to face the facts.
Indeed, we read in I Timothy 6:9 of the fact of perdition, damnation. We read in I Timothy 2:1 ff. of the mind of God, of the attitude if you will, of the way His face is set: God is He "who would have all men to be saved". Now the Greek verb rendered "would have" (I Timothy 2:4) is associated with an infinitive and the sense of 'purpose' or 'movement towards' is conveyed. This conceptually is entirely similar to the declaration in Ezekiel 33:11, and with the insight given in Jeremiah 18:7-9. Since, then, God makes it clear He works all things after the counsel of His will; has such thoughts, desires and attitudes, yet makes such resolutions and carries them out - it is apparent that we must be learners of the divine ways, not teachers. We must follow what is written sensitively through its elements, neither adding nor subtracting. When our minds meet the word of God, that is the only way...
As to the Greek verb mentioned, see PREDESTINATION AND FREEWILL,p. 47- here we noted that an unfulfilled type of attitude relative to action may be used in correlation with this construction. We may refer then to God's actuating attitude as distinct from His sovereign decision - as in Jeremiah 18, indeed. An attitudinal and dispositional fact is one thing; the eventual resolution is another, in which all one's desire and heart is fulfilled. The matter then is not new. Thus this attitude does indeed, as stated in I Timothy 2:4, relate to all men.
And if this were insufficient, the next verse (I Timothy 2:5) proceeds to indicate that in just accord with this amplitude of attitude and love toward men, there is an ample provision made. (It is as if a father indicated in his will that for all his sons, by his attitudinal relation, it was his wish that they go to University; and he supplied funds which could be taken for the purpose - only this one: but they could refuse - John 3:17-19.)
While however we must stress this amplitude of vital love, we must avoid an error opposite to that of restricting, contrary to His word, the dimension of His love. Thus we must not imagine that the redemption secured is as broad as the love shown. Some contort the love to a sort of class-conscious thing, related by contradiction to that God who is love, and says so: and to that world which He states He loved - and this is most important - "SO loved" (John 3:16). He so loved that He gave the Redeemer.
Others want to use purely human logic, and that without necessity, to embrace redemption for all - an equally unscriptural concept - in order to refute those who reduce the dimensions of the love. It is like children at a party, with their effervescent games. By failing to differentiate even to the extent of the difference between actuating love and effectuating love, they extend the first to make it the second, thus instituting an erroneous universal redemption. This is then used as a reduction ad absurdum to 'refute' the Biblically stated dimension of the vital love of God. Alas, it all appears childish, wildish clangour, as if to bump the arm of the word of God, in thoughtless exuberance, one way or the other: impatient or intolerant of what is written - ALL of it being binding.
We must protest. Let us consider, as such thinkers rightly show, first how clear a limited redemption in fact is. Thus in John 10, the Good Shepherd Himself signified that there was a variety of sheep that were not His - John 10:26. Now He did have other sheep not of that particular fold, such no doubt as Gentiles. But in addition there is a third category: those who are not His sheep. Indeed, Christ stated categorically that they did not believe because they were not His. These then are outside His protection and the due care of His calling, and hence also outside that supreme cost of His protection - the laying down of His life.
This vitally interesting point is in perfect accord with Romans 8:32 ff. which as John Murray (Redemption Accomplished and Applied) well shows, requires a limited atonement, a limited redemption. Those for whom He is delivered up are those to whom the Father will give, with Christ, all things. This is not the lot of the unsaved!; and as to the saved, the justified, Paul asserts they will be glorified (Romans 8:30). This 'us' in 'us all', consists of those who will by no means be separated from the love of Christ either by things present or by things to come. Yet those who gnash in outer darkness are distinctively, emphatically and irremediably separated. That is a thing to come. Thus these groups not merely differ: they are opposites in destiny.
Indeed, in Romans 8:33, the same group for whom Christ is delivered up - the saints to whom Paul states he is speaking and who will not at all be separated from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39) - are "the elect".
He lays down His life for His sheep, and these are limited, contra-distinct. He freely gives them all things. In the heart of the Shepherd is this knowledge: perhaps the last thing He would be ignorant of is - who are His! This settled, these require His utmost endeavours in intimate shepherd-sheep correlation even to the point of the sacrifice of His life for them (John 10:11-15,25-30).
Accordingly for His, those whose sins He bore (Romans 3:25 ff.) there is justification (cf. Isaiah 53:10). The slaying of the wilderness creatures of sin requires His life; and what He covers is His. Being His, it is not only redeemed but justified, declared fit by virtue of the price He paid to secure them. "He shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities." The bearing is a sufficient condition for the justifying. What God covers is adequately covered, and what He does is effectual, as Romans so loudly trumpets, as we have just seen. Indeed, the clear teaching of John 10 is that He redeems it because it is His (10:26).
Thus we avoid both the diminution of the love of God which Spurgeon sees in terms of caricature (infra) and the extension of the redemption of God to those to whom it is not given. Love in its breadth is satisfied - but it is real, within its own terms; and redemption is accomplished within what is fulfilled; and all is predestinated in genuineness and reality, and not at all in some imaginary short-circuit of the character of Christ or of the Father as shown in the numerous statements of principle (cf. Predestination and Freewill, pp. 160-9).
How are they 'wells' rather than pits - since they hold no water ? It is an irony, an oxymoron, a figure to convey the gigantic character of their fraudulent pretences. How are they those who are "denying the Lord who bought them" ? It would appear in some similar way. They are not really wells, but fictitious pretences designed to give the impression that they are ( for "through covetousness shall they, with feigned words, make merchandise of you" ). Their feigned words, feigned works, and feigned status is one long pretence; indeed they are "revelling with their own deceivings while they feast with you." How are they wells ? How are they those whom the Lord bought ? By appearance. It is all pretence, deceit, appearance, a matter of false claims being exposed with a fiery contempt - as if a mother should toss aside the cheap already tearing frock of her misled daughter, the 'fine linen that you bought.' There is no slightest intention to designate it as really fine linen. In a more serious case, the mother of the violated daughter might toss aside verbally the 'gentleman who loved you.' 'And did you forsake the gentleman who loved you ?' - she might poignantly but scathingly ask.
In such an environment of satire and scorn, of anomaly and of oxymoron, of brilliant figures and what one could almost characterise as a kind of grave burlesque, a mocking exposure, one must be alert to the tenor of the speech. Thus some, like Judas, to take a case, masquerade as Christ's... and illicitly, nominally may seem to lay claim for that redeeming fund, to purchase him, to secure its effectual flow. Though they may verbally appear to appeal to the blood, their hearts are such that they merely trample it under foot (Hebrews 10:29); hence it does not cover.
Again, we notice it does not indeed say "the Lord who redeemed them". Is it possible that there is a sense in which the Lord, having made most ample provision for the whole world (I John 2:2) should it but avail itself of it (and knowing who are His and what He has borne notwithstanding), when falsely appealed to, and continued with on a superficial basis (the seed on shallow ground) - has expended something ? It is not the redemption expenditure; but it IS an expenditure. There is indeed a stirring of His Spirit in the shallow ground, as it were (Hebrews 6 and 10); this is a cost. There is action in the field of salvation; and though it stops short of that decisive commitment and expenditure, it is not without cost.
It is a cost which is not the less because it does not issue in redemption. There is a strong sense of this in Hebrews, where the movement of the Lord upon the ultimately reprobate is quite near, precisely as with Judas, even though they are in fact never "sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all... for by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:10,14); and have never qualified as those who, having fled to Christ for refuge, can say this "hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast" (Hebrews 6:19).
Further, there may be some sense of mimicry and mockery here in particular. It could resemble Jeremiah 7:4 where this is mockery of those who with misplaced trust repeat: "the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these." If so, this would mean that they are being designated by their own deceivings: they said - 'We affirm the Lord who bought us; we are real Christians, solid pastors, sound servants of the church whom you can most happily pay: we have experience, we are saved people.' The retort in spirit might be: 'How do you say, the bought of the Lord, the bought of the Lord, the bought of the Lord are these ?' And in word it would simply amount to a scathing example of reported or indirect speech. Thus they say - 'The Lord bought us,' SO DO THEY BECOME THOSE WHO AFFIRMED THE LORD BOUGHT THEM; AND LATER THEY BECOME THOSE WHO DENY THE LORD'WHO BOUGHT THEM'. An exact parallel is found indeed in Isaiah 48:1-2. They ''lean'' on the Lord, but neither in truth nor in reality.
In a domestic situation it would proceed something like this. Jane says - This is my boyfriend Tom who loves me to distraction. Later he fails. Then Mother says in scornful wrath, having warned Jane: 'So you now deny Tom who loved you to distraction.' In our present context the mood is apt to such a meaning. Ironic mockery of an empty claim is notable for example in Isaiah 1:14, 65:5, 58:2, 29:10-15, 49:19-20.
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