August 31, 2020

Florus of Lyon (ca.800–ca.860): Sermon on Predestination

A note about this sermon:
Florus (c.800-860) served as deacon and teacher in the church at Lyons under the bishops Agobard, Amolo, and Remigius. He wrote several treatises related to the Gottschalk predestination controversy, some of which have been passed down under the names of Amolo and Remigius. Florus wrote this Sermon on Predestination (Sermo de praedestinatione) in response to certain persons who asked him about divine foreknowledge, predestination, and free will. In a codex at Trier, it was attached to Amolo’s Letter to Gottschalk (Epistola ad Godescalcum). Its concern that predestination does not mean a person is unable to change his spiritual status, and its comments about Gottschalk in the closing paragraph, suggest that it was written about the same time as Amolo’s letter, circa 851-852. Between 853-855, serving under Remigius, Florus concerned himself with responses to Hincmar, Pardulus, Rabanus, and Eriugena, and took a more mediating position with regard to Gottschalk. Edition: PL 119:95-102; PL 125:57-9; PL 116:97-100 (attributed to Amolo).
Francis X. Gumerlock, “Florus of Lyon—Sermon on Predestination,” in Gottschalk & A Medieval Predestination Controversy: Texts Translated from the Latin, ed. & trans. V. Genke and F. X. Gumerlock (Mediæval Philosophical Texts in Translation 47; Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 2010), 206.



Almighty God, since He is most truly the true and only God, has by His own eternal and unchangeable knowledge foreknown all things before they were done, as the Scripture testifies, saying, “Eternal God, who understandest secret things, who knowest all things before they are done.” He foreknew, therefore, without doubt, both the good deeds that the good would do, and the evil which the wicked would do: in the good He wrought by His grace that they should be good, but in the case of the wicked He did not cause that they should be wicked (which be far from Him!) but merely foreknew that they would be such through their own fault. For the foreknowledge of God has not imposed upon them such a necessity that they could not be otherwise than wicked; but only what they would be of their own freewill; this He, as God, foresaw by virtue of His Omnipotent Majesty. Whence the Scripture, pointing out to us His spotless justice, says of Him, “He hath commanded no one to act wickedly, neither hath He give to any man licence to sin.” So that inasmuch as unrighteous men act wickedly, and turn the space of this life, which God has given them to use for good purposes, to evil pursuits, the fault is not God’s, but their own, and so they are rightly damned by His justice. Moreover, the same Almighty God foreknew that the damnation of those would be eternal, whom He foresaw would persist in their own wickedness; but that this would be in consequence of their own deserts, and not (which be far from Him) from His own injustice, Who has ordained nothing contrary to justice, and who will reward every man according to his works; that is to say, He will give to those who do good works, eternal blessings, and to those who do evil, eternal misery. Therefore in regard of the good, He altogether foreknew both that they would be good by His grace, and by the exercise of the same grace would receive eternal rewards; that is, that both in the present life they would live rightly, and in the future would be rewarded blessedly,—but both from the gift of the mercy of God. Whence the Apostle calls them vessels of His mercy, saying, “That He might shew the riches of His grace on the vessels of mercy which He hath prepared for glory.” On the contrary, however, He both foreknew that the wicked would be wicked through their own depravity (malitia), and would be punished with eternal vengeance by His justice. Just as He foreknew concerning the traitor Judas, that “it was he who should betray Him,” as the Gospel says, “when he was one of the twelve,” for He foreknew his eternal damnation when He said, “Woe unto that man by whom the Son of Man shall be betrayed. It were good for him if that man had not been born.” And so in the case of the wicked Jews, He undoubtedly foreknew what their impiety would be, of which He spoke beforehand in the Psalm,—“They gave Me gall to eat, and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink.” He foreknew also their subsequent damnation, concerning which He added in the same Psalm,—“Let them be wiped out of the book of the living, and not be written among the righteous.” But in their case, as in the case of all the ungodly, wickedness arises from their own depravity, and then condemnation follows from the Divine justice. In this manner we must think of the predestination of God, because in the case of the good He has predestined both their goodness which should spring from the gift of His grace, and their eternal reward for the same goodness; that by His gift they should be made good, and by His gift should be rewarded. Whence the Apostle says, “Who hath predestined us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself;” and in another place, “Whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” He has therefore predestinated His elect, both that now they should be received into the adoption of sons of God by the grace of baptism, and hereafter be made conformable to the image of the Son of God. He has predestinated altogether that both here they should be good, not of themselves, but through Him; and that there they should be blessed, not by themselves, but by Him. In either case, therefore, He foreknew and predestinated His future blessings in them and concerning them; but in the wicked and impious, Almighty God did not predestinate wickedness and impiety, that is, that they should be wicked and impious, and that they could not be otherwise: but those whom He foreknew and foresaw would be wicked and impious through their own fault, He predestinated to eternal damnation by just judgment; not because they could not be otherwise, but because they would not. They themselves are therefore the cause of their own damnation, but God is the just Judge and Orderer of the damnation itself; for He has not predestinated what is unjust, but that which is just. He has predestinated therefore crowns for the righteous, and punishment for the ungodly, since each is just.

And the Apostle, commending this justice to us, says, “Is God unjust who taketh vengeance? God forbid.”

*                *                *                *                *                *

Almighty God is not then the cause of death or perdition to any man, but the wicked procure for themselves death and perdition by their own deeds and words, while by acting wickedly, and more wickedly persuading others, they bring damnation both on themselves and others; while, loving the way of iniquity and perdition, they turn aside from the right path, and hasten as it were with their hands joined, with a like consent in wickedness, to everlasting damnation; and being confederate with death, and enemies of eternal life, themselves, according to their hardness and impenitent heart, treasure up for themselves wrath against the day of wrath. In which day of the just judgment of God, because every one receives according to his works, no one is condemned by a foregone judgment (præjudicio) of God, but by the desert of his own iniquity. For He has not predestinated that any one should be wicked, but He has predestinated with regard to every wicked man that he should not go unpunished; because also every just law has not a fault (crimen), lest it should be unjust, and yet it punishes the guilty (criminosum), that it may be truly just. He, therefore, who says that they who perish are predestinated to perdition, and that therefore it cannot be otherwise, must likewise affirm this is the case of the righteous also, as if they are therefore saved, because, being predestinated to salvation, they could not be otherwise than saved. He, therefore, who talks so confusedly and foolishly, takes from the one the merit of damnation, and from the other the merit of salvation. And so what else is his meaning, but that, according to him, since the necessity of perdition is imposed on those who perish, so on those who are saved is imposed the necessity of salvation? And so neither can the one be damned with justice, because they could not be righteous; nor the other rewarded with justice, because they were not able to be anything but righteous. So that in either case both perdition and salvation does not result from the judgment of their own actions, but from the fore-judgment (præjudicio) of the Divine pre-ordination. And then, where will be that “who will render to every one according to his works?” and again, “Is God unjust who taketh vengeance? God forbid?” For the cause of the perdition of those who perish is openly referred to God, if He has so predestinated them to destruction that they are not able to alter their condition. But to think or speak this is horrible blasphemy. But the faith of the Catholic Church, of which we ought to be the sons and followers, thus commends itself to us to be most firmly held, as we have briefly pointed out above according to the authority of Holy Scripture, viz., that Almighty God foreknew in the case of the wicked their wickedness, because it is of themselves, but did not predestinate it, since it is not of Him; but their punishment He both foreknew, because He is God, and predestinated, because He is just, so that in themselves lies the deserving of their own damnation, and in Him the power and judgment of justly condemning. For God does not predestinate anything but what He designs to do; but He foreknows many things which He does not design to do, as all the wickedness which wicked men do, and not He. Also, that the wicked themselves do not therefore perish because they could not be good, but because they would not be good, and through their own fault arrived at the condition of vessels of wrath fitted for destruction, and continued in the mass of damnation, either by original or actual deserving of it. In the case of the good, however, Almighty God, as it has been sufficiently shewn above, both foreknew and predestinated that in the present life they should by His grace be good, and in the future also happy. For of each kind of their good, that is, both their present and future, He Himself is the Author and Giver, and therefore without doubt, of each the Foreknower and Predestinator; since they themselves by themselves not only could be otherwise, but also were otherwise, before that they were made righteous, from being unrighteous, by Him who justifies the ungodly. So that, whether in those who are saved or in those who perish, their own free-will is rewarded and their own free-will is condemned. But in the one, since by the grace of God our Saviour the will is healed, so that from wicked and depraved it becomes good and right, there can be non doubt that it is most worthily rewarded. But in the others, since the will does not submit to receive healing by the Saviour, most justly by the same Judge will feel eternal damnation.

And this in few words is the whole, which, according to the truth of the Catholic Faith, must be held concerning free-will. That is to say, that god has constituted every man capable of free-will; but because by one man sin entered the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, since all have sinned, so the free-will, belonging to the whole human race, being vitiated and corrupted by the fault of his sin, is so blinded and weakened that it suffices man for evil doing, that is, for the ruin of iniquity, and can be free to this alone; but to well-doing, that is, for the exercise of virtue and shewing forth the fruit of good works, in no way can it rise or be strong, unless by the faith of the one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, it be restored, illuminated, and healed, as the Saviour Himself promises in the Gospel, saying, “If the Son shall set you free, then shall ye be free indeed.” And the Apostle says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” And that the human will is freed, illuminated, and healed by this grace of Christ, and the Spirit of Christ, let that joyful exclamation of the Psalmist testify, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom then shall I fear?” Let him, therefore, who desires to receive this grace of liberty, so that he may become truly free to live piously and righteously, not presume on his own strength, but commit himself faithfully to Him to be healed and strengthened, concerning Whom the same Psalmist says, “Order my steps in Thy word, and so shall no wickedness have dominion over me.”
“Letter of Florus,” in Henry G. Newland, ed., A New Catena on St. Paul’s Epistles: A Practical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians (Oxford: J. H. and J. Parker, 1860), 15–20. The Latin text can be found here: Florus Lugdunensis Diaconus, Sermo de praedestinatione, Migne, CXIX. col. 95–102. His other works in Latin can be found here (click). Another English translation was done by Francis X. Gumerlock. See “Florus of Lyon—Sermon on Predestination,” in Gottschalk & A Medieval Predestination Controversy: Texts Translated from the Latin, ed. & trans. V. Genke and F. X. Gumerlock (Mediæval Philosophical Texts in Translation 47; Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 2010), 206–211. For more that may possibly be written by Florus (or Remegius) regarding predestination, see also “A Reply to the Three Letters,” in Early Medieval Theology, ed. George E. McCracken, trans. Allen Cabaniss (The Library of Christian Classics; Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006), 148–175.

Catholic Encyclopedia (New Advent)
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theoloogical and Ecclesiastical Literature

Other biographical information:
Florus of Lyon (Florus Magister, Florus Lugdenensis, ca. 800–ca. 860) was a Spanish scholar and deacon of Lyon. He seems to hve owed his ecclesiastical career to Agobard of Lyon and remained unwaveringly loyal to him throughout his life. It has proved difficult to document Florus’s early years, but it seems reasonable to assume that he had come to Lyon early in life, perhaps for his education or to begin his ecclesiastical career. Florus clearly benefited from an education in the classics, as well as a deep grounding in the church fathers. He became particularly adept at liturgical issues, a skill that was put to the test when Agobard was exiled in 835 and Amalarius of Metz was appointed the episcopal administrator. Amalarius began to disseminate a quite different understanding of the Mass, one that was far more allegorical than Florus could stomach. Florus published his rebuttal to Amalarius’s Service Book (Liber officialis) and eventually accused Amalarius of heresy. Florus was successful in having Amalarius and his book formally condemned at the Council of Quierzy in 838, which resulted in Agobard returning to Lyon. However, the eventual victory was Amalarius’s because his approach to explaining the Mass eventually becaue the common way in medieval Christianity.

In keeping with his liturgical interests, Florus compiled a martyrology for the Lyonnais church, drawing upon a similar work of the Venerable Bede. Florus’s avid reading of patristic sources led him to publish a compilation on the Pauline Epistles, a text that very much anticipates the Ordinary Gloss. Florus also wrote in support of Gottschalk of Orbais in the controversy over the doctrine of predestination.
James R. Ginther, “Florus of Lyon,” in The Westminster Handbook to Medieval Theology (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 69.
FLORUS (d. c.860). Scholar and controversialist. Nothing is known of his early life before he became a deacon of Lyons during the period when Agobard was its bishop (816-40). After Agobard’s deposition (he was later reinstated) in 835 because of his opposition to the schemes of Empress Judith, Florus defended the rights and independence of the Church of Gaul in De iniusta vexatione ecclesia Lugdonesis. His other writings included a defense of moderate predestination against the extreme views of Gottschalk, three treatises on liturgy, a commentary on the epistles of Paul, some additions to the Martyrology of Bede, and a collection of poems.
J. D. Douglas, ed., “FLORUS,” in The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 381.
Florus (d. c.860), deacon of Lyons. Little is known of his life, but he was prob[ably] born in the region of Lyons. He served successive Abps. of Lyons, Agobard, Amolo, and Remigius, and was a canon of the cathedral church. His works on canon law, liturgy, and theology, which he appears never to have signed, were written in their service. When Amalarius was made administrator of the see of Lyons and tried to make changes in the liturgy, Florus attacked him in a series of works, one of which, the ‘Expositio Missae’, continued to be read. He took part in the controversy on predestination, defending Gottschalk and attacking Johannes Scottus Erigena. He was deeply versed in patristic writings, and the manuscripts at Lyons contain many traces of his editorial work. He compiled various Expositions on the Pauline Epistles, based on the writings of different Fathers; the one based on works of St Augustine circulated widely under the name of Bede.
F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone, ed., “Florus,” in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd ed. (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 620–621.

June 3, 2020

George Bownd/Bound (d.1662) on God’s Proffered Blessedness Unto Sinners and Heaven Begging

Now to draw to a Conclusion, I have from the Scripture before us, held forth the bliss and happiness of Saints, and thereby an offer hath been made of the same blessedness unto Sinners: It offers it self to you, Oh that you would offer your selves to it! In this Sermon you may say, Salvation came to your House: it came to your Doors; Heaven goes a begging that it may be accepted; But it fares in this case, as we commonly observe in other cases, proffer'd things find little acceptance, because proffered: And indeed if we consider the multitude of Sermons that are preached, and how in every Sermon Christ, and Heaven, and Blessedness are offered, yet by very few accepted; We must needs think and judge, the frequent tenders do through the corruption of our hearts, occasion the horrible sleighting of them: Silver in the days of Solomon; being common was of no account: The Lord grant this sin bring not upon us the scarcity of the Word, that it should be with us as in the dayes of Samuel [1 Sam. 3:1], The Word of the Lord was precious in those dayes, there was no open vision. The time may come, when we would give a world to see one of the dayes of the Son of Man, and shall not see it: To hear one Sermon of Heaven and glory, but shall not hear it.
George Bownd, A VOYCE FROM HEAVEN, Speaking Good words and Comfortable words, concerning Saints departed. Which words are opened in a SERMON PREACHED At South-weal In Essex, 6. September, 1658. At the Funeral of what Worthy and Eminent Minister of the Gospel, Mr. Thomas Goodwin. Late Paster there. Hereunto is annexed a relation of many things observable in his Life and Death (London: Printed by S. Griffin, for J. Kirton, at the Kings-Arms, in Pauls Church-yard, 1659), 36.

Note: Observe carefully the connections in Bownd's sermon, in which he says "an offer hath been made," and "Heaven goes a begging that it may be accepted." God, through Bownd's sermon, is begging sinners indiscriminately that it may be accepted. That's a well-meant offer. Moreoever, Bownd further described this "offer" as a "proffer" and a "tender." That is no mere presentation, but a classic Calvinistic conception of the free and well-meant offer.

Other men within the Augustinian tradition who use the metaphor of God begging are the following:

Augustine (Early Church Father), Hugh Latimer (Early English Reformer), Isaac Ambrose (Puritan), Daniel Burgess (Puritan), Jeremiah Burroughs (Westminster divine), Richard Baxter (Puritan), Joseph Caryl (Westminster divine), Thomas Case (Puritan), Stephen Charnock (Puritan), John Collinges (Puritan), John Flavel (Puritan), Theophilus Gale (Puritan), William Gearing (Puritan), Andrew Gray (Puritan), William Gurnall (Puritan), Robert Harris (Westminster divine), Nathaniel Heywoood (Puritan), Thomas Larkham (Puritan), Thomas Manton (Puritan), John Murcot (Puritan), George Newton (Puritan), John Oldfield (Puritan), Anthony Palmer (Puritan), Edward Reynolds (Westminster divine), John Richardson (Puritan), Samuel Rutherford (Westminster divine), John Shower (Puritan), Richard Sibbes (Puritan), Sydrach Simpson (Westminster divine), William Strong (Westminster divine), George Swinnock (Puritan), John Trapp (Puritan), Ralph Venning (Puritan), Nathaniel Vincent (Puritan), Thomas Watson (Puritan), Daniel Williams (Puritan), Samuel Willard, Benjamin Wadsworth, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Solomon Stoddard, Samuel Davies, Ralph Erskine, Charles Spurgeon, Thomas Chalmers, Walter Chantry, Erroll Hulse, John MacArthur and Fred Zaspel.

May 27, 2020

Curt Daniel on the Four Main Issues Regarding Hyper-Calvinism

The Issues

The controversy [about hyper-Calvinism] revolves around four main issues. First, all Hyper-Calvinists reject the idea of the free offer (of the gospel, grace, and/or Christ). All Calvinists before 1700 and the vast majority since then have accepted the free offer. Hyperists sometimes claim Calvin for their cause, but the evidence is heavily against them. This is the main distinctive tenet of Hyper-Calvinism and has been identified as such by mainline Reformed writers for centuries.

Hyper-Calvinists argue that free offers are Arminian and contradict Reformed teaching on total depravity, limited atonement, and unconditional election as well as other teachings. They say we can preach but not offer. The Gospel Standard Baptists say that we can invite only ‘sensible sinners’ who have been convicted of sin to come to Christ. The word offer is never used in the Bible of preaching the gospel, they say, and the practice implies that salvation is for sale and is not free. They often say free offers make salvation conditional upon man rather than God. Some agree that the Latin word offero was used by Calvin and others as well as the English word offer by the Puritans and others, by then say that the word underwent a change and came to mean something different, so it should not be used today.

Mainline Calvinists respond as follows. First, the teaching of the free offer is indeed biblical. The word offer is used in several reputable translations of 1 Corinthians 9:18 (e.g., the NIV and NASB). We offer by presenting and setting forth the gospel to lost sinners in general with the call for them to repent and believe in Christ. We invite all lost sinners, not just ‘sensible’ sinners. The offer is free. God both offers and gives; the two are not contradictory. Lost sinners are unable to accept the offer, but this in no way contradicts either election or particular redemption. There has been no substantial change in the meaning of the words offero or offer. By far most leading Reformed theologians and preachers have believed in free offers — Calvin and all the Reformers, the Puritans, the Reformed Scholastics, the Nadere Reformatie divines, Jonathan Edwards, the Princetonians, Spurgeon, and thousands of others. It is the non-offer men who are out of step with historic Calvinism, not those who believe it.

Second, John Murray and Ned B. Stonehouse wisely note: “It would appear that the real point in connection with the free offer of the gospel is whether it can properly be said that God desires the salvation of all men.”6 Mainline Calvinists almost unanimously say yes; all Hyper-Calvinists say no. The free offer expresses a universal saving desire in God as part of His revealed will. It is well-meant and sincere. This does not nullify or contradict the secret will, for as Calvin said, it concerns the will of God in the gospel and not that of predestination.7 Calvin certainly taught the universal saving desire of God. For example: “God declares that he wills the conversion of all, and he directs exhortations to all in common.”8

Hyper-Calvinists deny that God desires all men to be saved, for that would include the reprobate and would contradict the doctrine of election. But mainline Calvinists argue that Scripture portrays God as holding out His hands all day long to sinners in general (Romans 10:21; Isaiah 65:2; Proverbs 1:14). He takes no pleasure in the death of the lost sinner but rather desires that he repent and be saved (Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11). Paul echoes this in Romans 10:1: “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they many be saved” (see also Acts 26:29). God commands faith unto salvation (Acts 16:31), and that certainly indicates a well-meant desire. The eternal decrees never fail, but the revealed will of law and gospel are usually rejected by sinners. Lastly, historic Calvinists differ on the interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9. Some apply both to predestination, others to the gospel. But even so, the vast majority of historic Calvinists believe in the universal saving will of God. In this the Hyper-Calvinists are in the tiny minority and go beyond biblical truth.

The third issue is Duty Faith. The English Hypers usually reject it, but it appears that the PRC tends to accept it in some form. The state of the question, known as the Modern Question, is this: “In the preaching of the gospel, do all lost sinners have the duty to savingly [i.e. evangelically] believe in Jesus Christ?” [John] Gill and [John] Brine said that sinners have only the duty to believe the report of the gospel, not the duty to savingly [i.e. evangelically] believe personally in Christ. [Evangelical] Faith is a gift, they contended, and therefore [that sense of faith is] not a duty. ‘Duty faith’ implies that sinners are able to [evangelically] believe, for responsibility assumes ability.

Historic Calvinists have replied that saving [i.e. evangelical] faith is both a duty and a gift. Spiritual inability does not negate one’s responsibility. Sinners are commanded to both believe the report of the gospel (Mark 1:15) and savingly believe in Christ (Acts 16:31). First John 3:23 clearly states, “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ.” A commandment is a duty on us. Christ commanded saving faith in John 12:36, 14:1, and 20:27, as did John the Baptist (Acts 19:4). God commands all men to believe (Isaiah 45:22). Paul commanded that we obey the gospel in “the obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5; 6:17; 10:16; 16:26). The same goes for duty repentance — which is both a duty and a gift (see Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30). Failure to repent and believe [in an evangelical sense] is a great sin (Mark 16:16; John 3:18, 36; 5:38; 16:8–9; Romans 14:23; 1 John 5:10; Hebrews 3:12). Unbelief would not be a sin if faith were not a duty, contrary to [W. J.] Style’s extreme notion. Therefore, the Hyper-Calvinists who deny Duty Faith are both unbiblical and out of the mainstream of Reformed teaching.

The fourth point in dispute is common grace. Hoeksema and the Protestant Reformed Church utterly reject it, but some others such as Gill accept a modified form of it. Mainstream Calvinists before and after Kuyper have taught that, yes, God does indeed have a general love, mercy, and favor for all men (e.g., Psalm 145:8–9), including the reprobate. Out of this general love, God gives good gifts to all men (Acts 14:17; James 1:17), even to the reprobate who end up in Hell (Luke 16:25). Christ, the perfect revelation of God, had compassion on the multitudes of thousands, not all of whom were elect (Matthew 14:14). This was not just in His humanity, as argued by some Hyper-Calvinists, for His holy humanity was in perfect harmony with His deity. He “loved” the lost rich young ruler (Mark 10:21). God commands us to imitate Him by loving all men in general, even our enemies (Matthew 5:43–48; Luke 6:35–36).

Contrary to Hoeksema’s contention, historic Calvinists have taught the Three Points of 1924, namely: (1) out of general mercy God restrains sinners (Genesis 20:6); (2) God enables the unconverted (including the reprobate) to do outwardly good things such as giving good gifts to their children (Matthew 7:11); and (3) God has a general love for mankind and provides for the development of culture, science, medicine, government, and the family (Acts 14:17). Out of this common grace there is a delay of judgment, as it were — anything short of Hell is a mercy. Referring to these and other verses, Louis Berkhof commented: “If such passages do not testify to a favourable disposition in God, it would seem that language has lost its meaning, and that God’s revelation is not dependable on this subject.”9

Those such as Herman Hoeksema are well out of the mainstream of the Reformed tradition to deny that God has any love, grace, mercy, kindness, or favor of any kind on all men in general, including the reprobate. Some Hyperists say that God is only fattening the reprobate up for the slaughter and has no remorse whatsoever for their lost state. That is supralapsarianism with a vengeance. It implies that the reprobate are never under grace but only wrath, and conversely, the elect are always under grace and never under wrath (contrary to Ephesians 2:3).
6. John Murray, The Free Offer of the Gospel (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2001), 3.
7. John Calvin, The Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews and the First and Second Epistles of St. Peter (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), 364 (on 2 Peter 3:9).

8. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeil, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 3:3:21, (p. 615).

9. Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 446.
Curt Daniel, The History and Theology of Calvinism (Darlington, UK: Evangelical Press, 2019), 104–107.

February 25, 2020

Simon J. Kistemaker’s (1930–2017) Doctrinal Considerations on 2 Peter 3:9

Even though Kistemaker seems to prefer to take the “you” (or the “us”) in 2 Peter 3:9 as applying to Peter’s readers, or to “his people” (which likely means the elect, in his view, or believers), not the scoffers, he still said:
Does not God want the false teachers to be saved? Yes, but they disregard God’s patience toward them, they employ their knowledge of Jesus Christ against him, and they willfully reject God’s offer of salvation. They, then, bear full responsibility for their own condemnation.33
33. Consult Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 2nd rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1941), p. 442.
Simon J. Kistemaker, James, Epistles of John, Peter, and Jude (NTC; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 334.

He then adds this doctrinal consideration:
Doctrinal Considerations in 3:18–19

“So wonderful is [God’s] love towards mankind, that he would have them all to be saved, and is of his own self prepared to bestow salvation on the lost.”34 So writes John Calvin on verse 9 and thus touches the doctrine of God’s mercy toward sinful man. Here are two examples of this divine love; one is from the Old Testament, the second from the New Testament.

First, God showed his love to Cain when he asked, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?” (Gen. 4:7). Yet Cain, filled with anger and jealousy, murdered Abel (v. 8). When God continued to speak to Cain, he did not meet a repentant sinner but a selfish individual who sought protection from an avenger. “Cain went out from the Lord’s presence” (v. 16), although God demonstrated mercy by shielding him (v. 15). Cain belonged to the evil one, says the apostle John (1 John 3:12). That is, he rejected God’s grace and mercy and willfully departed from God.

Second, before Jesus appointed the twelve disciples, he spent a whole night in prayer (Luke 6:12). He called Judas Iscariot to the circle of his immediate followers. After a period of instruction, Jesus commissioned the twelve disciples to preach the gospel, to heal the sick, to raise the dead, to cleanse the lepers, and to drive out demons (Matt. 10:7–8). In his love, Jesus commissioned Judas, too. Even at the last Passover celebration in the upper room, Jesus visibly indicated to Judas that he knew of the betrayal (John 13:26). Yet Judas delivered his Master to the chief priests. Granted that Judas was filled with remorse, he never repented (Matt. 27:3). He never returned to Jesus, but instead committed suicide.

When Paul writes that God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4; also see Ezek. 18:23, 32), he does not mean that all men are indeed saved. Although God desires the redemption of the entire race, he does not decree universal salvation. Therefore, in respect to the verb want or wish theologians distinguish between God’s desire and God’s decree.35

God extends his mercy to sinful man. However, when man repudiates God’s grace, divine condemnation hangs over him (II Peter 2:3) and he faces the inevitable day of judgment (3:7).
34. Calvin, The Second Epistle of Peter, p. 419.
35. Ibid. Compare [Edwin A.] Blum, 2 Peter [Hebrews–Revelation, in vol. 12 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. F. E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981)], p. 286.
Ibid., 334–335.


January 15, 2020

Robert Murray McCheyne (1813–1843) on God’s Wish for All to be Saved

Question: Does God not wish men to be saved? Answer: O yes; God willeth all men to be saved. I believe there is not one soul that the Saviour does not yearn over as he did over Jerusalem; and the Father says [in Psalm 81:13]: ‘O that they had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!’ But still, when Jerusalem resisted the word of Christ, Chirst said: ‘Now they are hid from thine eyes.’ And if you refuse the Word of Christ, and neglect this great salvation, I firmly believe that he shall soon come to you with Isaiah‘s dreadful message: ‘Hear ye indeed, but understand not.’
R. M. McCheyne, God Let None of His Words Fall to the Ground, in From the Preacher’s Heart (Additional Remains, 1846; repr. Geanies House, Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 1993), 94.

Notice that not only did McCheyne teach that God “wishes” all men to be saved, but he alluded to Matthew 23:37 for support. Moreover, it is not merely Jesus (or merely Jesus in His human nature), but the Father also (and so the entire Godhead, in Trinitarian harmony), who “yearns” over every soul according to Psalm 81:13.


November 15, 2019

John Stott on Ephesians 4:26–27 and Christian Anger

‘Be angry, but sin not’ is an echo of Psalm 4:4. It seems clear that this form of words is a Hebrew idiom which permits and then restricts anger, rather than actually commanding it. The equivalent English idiom would be ‘in your anger do not sin’ (NIV). Nevertheless, the verse recognizes that there is such a thing as Christian anger, and too few Christians either feel or express it. Indeed, when we fail to do so, we deny God, damage ourselves and encourage the spread of evil.

Scripture plainly teaches that there are two kinds of anger, righteous and unrighteous. In verse 31 ‘anger’ is one of a number of unpleasant things which we are to ‘put away’ from us. Evidently unrighteous anger is meant. But in 5:6 we are told of the anger of God which will fall on the disobedient, and we know that God’s anger is righteous. So was the anger of Jesus [Mark 3:5]. There must therefore be a good and true anger which God’s people can learn from him and from their Lord Jesus. I go further and say that there is a great need in the contemporary world for more Christian anger. We human beings compromise with sin in a way in which God never does. In the face of blatant evil, we should be indignant, not tolerant; angry, not apathetic. If God hates sin, His people should hate sin, too. If evil arouses His anger, it should arouse ours, too. ‘Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake thy law [Ps. 119:53].’ What other reaction can wickedness be expected to provoke in those who love God?

It is partiicularly noteworthy that the apostle introduces this reference to anger in a letter devoted to God’s new society of love, and in a paragraph concerned with harmonious relationships. He does so because true peace is not identical with appeasement. ‘In such a world as this,’ comments E. K. Simpson, ‘the truest peace-maker may have to assume the role of a peace-breaker as a sacred obligation’ [Commentary on the Epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians. NICNT (Eerdmans, 1957), 108].
John R.W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1979), 185–186.

Substitute the word “hate” for “anger” in the above quote and the same can be said about it.

June 10, 2019

Tom Nettles’s Summary of John Gill’s (1697–1771) View on the Love of God

The love of God, according to Gill, foundations all theology. God’s principal object of love is Himself. This is right and good, for He contains all excellence and perfection and worth. Second, God loves all that He has made, declares it very good and rejoices in His works. Because rational creatures are the particular objects of His care, love and delight, God supports, preserves and bestows the bounty of His providence upon all of His creatures.

To the elect, however, the Triune God bears a special love. Gill identifies this with the “great love” spoken of in Ephesians 2:4. The love of the Father is demonstrated toward the elect by His devising and effecting a plan whereby they might be reconciled to Him through Christ. The Father chose the elect in Christ from the beginning and, in Him, has bestowed upon them all other blessings. The Son’s love for the elect appears in His becoming a surety for their salvation by actually giving Himself as a sacrifice for them, laying down His life on their account, and shedding His blood for the remission of their sins. The special love the Spirit exhibits toward the elect appears in His convincing them of sin and righteousness, shedding abroad the love of God in their hearts, and implanting every grace in them.6
6. John Gill, Body of Divinity, 2 vols. (n.p. Tegg & Co., 1839; reprint ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1978), 1:112–115.
Thomas J. Nettles, By His Grace and For His Glory: A Historical, Theological and Practical Study of the Doctrines of Grace in Baptist Life. Revised and Expanded 20th Anniversary Edition (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2006), 25.

Note: One should not think that Gill is altogether orthodox or within the boundaries of mainstream Reformed thought on the universal love of God. In classic Calvinistic and Puritan thought, God’s love for all men, including the non-elect, involves His benevolent desire for their ultimate well-being, and His beneficent love or kindness is given with a view to bringing men to evangelical repentance (Rom. 2:4). In Gill’s theology, however, God simply has a regard for the temporal/physical well-being of the non-elect, and a kind of passive delight in them as a part of His good creation as such (which is what Nettles outlines above). It is a “love” that is totally devoid of any willingness or desire on God’s part to bring them to evangelical repentance, though at times he may want to bring them to external, civil repentance, so as to get them to avoid some physical calamity. Nevertheless, at least Gill, unlike other hyper-Calvinists, acknowledges a sense of love in God for all men, and Nettles’s brief summary is basically correct, though it lacks nuance.