Sunday, November 16, 2008

Do "all men" and "world" really mean "every single person"?

"Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." - Romans 5:18.

"For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved." - John 3:17.

There are some who say that Christ died for every single person. These people point to verses which use the terms "all men" or "world", like 1 John 2:2, 1 Timothy 2:4, 1 Timothy 4:10, John 3:16, John 4:42 etc. This issue I have with this position is that it tears down what Christ actually did by His death and resurrection. If Christ died for every single person and some of those people are not saved, then what Christ did wasn't enough to save every person for whom He died. And worse, then the reason that some are saved and some are not is not the grace of God, but something of themselves.

If the difference is not of God but of man, then it is not of grace but of works.

This was the central point of the controversy at the time of the Reformation. There were many faults in the church at that time, but it came down to this one crucial issue: are we saved by grace alone, or do we contribute something of ourselves to our salvation. To put this another way, is Christ our complete Saviour, or are we and Christ both half-Saviours. Is salvation the work of God alone, or is it the work of God and man. Is salvation by unconditional grace alone of God, or is it by merit conditional upon something of man. The Bible presents only two options, grace or works (it cannot be both):

"And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work." - Romans 11:6.

A universal atonement means one of two things:
  1. Every single person is saved (Universalism).
  2. The atonement is conditional.

Every single person is not saved, so that leaves us with a conditional atonement. A conditional atonement means one of two things:
  1. If the condition is supplied by God, then salvation is by grace but the extent of the atonement is in conflict with the extent of His intention (Amyraldianism), but God is supposedly one and all wise.
  2. If the condition is supplied by man, then salvation is by works and not by grace (Romanism and Arminianism), but man supposedly has no grounds for boasting.

The Apostle Paul summarizes our conclusion from this in the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace alone:

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." - Ephesians 2:8-10.

In summary a universal atonement denies the efficacy of the atonement, the total depravity of man, salvation by grace alone, and that all glory belongs to God alone. It also tears down the theological basis for the perseverance of the saints (yet many try to retain that, at the same time as introducing the concept of "carnal Christians" along with their Semi-pelagianism). We can clearly see now that the doctrine of universal atonement is a vile heresy. It is insidious also, because it often comes under the guise of being "more loving" and "more inclusive" and "less offensive". It makes people feel better to think that Christ died for every single person and really wants to save every single person. But all the while it makes a wretched mockery of Christ's sacrifice, and God's sovereignty and His all-powerful love and man's depravity. To such blasphemies the Spirit loudly declares:

"What shall we say then to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is He that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" - Romans 8:31-35a.
"But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him." - Romans 5:8-9.

But aren't the verses of the many "gainsayers" compelling? "For God so loved the world!" "Who will have all men to be saved!" "He is the propitiation for ours sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."

Yet these verses actually condemn their position. If God loved every single person, every person would be saved, for isn't that the greatest expression of love? Surely God would not leave those He loved to their own sinful depraved wills, only enslaved to the sinful nature! If God would have every single person to be saved, then what power is greater than His that it might stop Him from saving them? Surely not our feeble resistance! If He had been the propitiation for all of every single person's sins, then how could He send any to hell? Surely He is not unjust to punish twice for one offence? If He is the Saviour of every single person, then how could some not be saved? Surely if some are not saved, He could not be called their Saviour!

Their argument is entirely based on their erroneous, alien and unjustifiable interpretation of the words "all men" and "world". Firstly "all men" quite often just means a general "all" which is only defined by the context, such as all fish, all sheep, all stars, all angels, all reprobate or all elect. Here the context defines what all refers to. For example:

"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." - 2 Peter 3:9.

Peter has just spoken about God's word keeping into store the heavens and the earth reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men, and about the false teachers of whom Jude 4 says that they "were of old ordained to this condemnation". Clearly he not teaching that God is not willing that they should perish and come to repentance. They were ordained by God to condemnation, and the heavens and the earth are being reserved unto fire against the day of their perdition! The plain meaning of this verse (and the only meaning that makes any sense in the context) is that the "any" that God desires not to perish and the "all" that He desires to come to repentance are the "us" that Peter refers to. Verse 1:1 explains, that Peter is speaking of the elect of God, the Church of Christ who will obtain like precious faith.

The phrase "all men" is best demonstrated in Romans 5:18 where Paul uses it to mean two different things in one verse. First he says that judgment came upon "all men" unto condemnation by the offense of one. There is no confusion here. The "one" refers to Adam (clear from the context) and the "all men" refers to every single person (clear from the context). This teaches us that by Adam's offense, judgment came upon every single person unto condemnation. This is what Ephesians 2:3 means when it says that we were by nature children of wrath. Every single person was born with a sinful nature and therefore justly under the condemnation of God.

Secondly he says that the free gift came upon "all men" unto justification of life by the righteousness of one. There can be no confusion here either. The "one" refers to Christ, the only Righteous One. The phrase "unto justification of life" means that just as the judgment was unto condemnation by the offense of Adam, the free gift was unto justification of life by the righteousness of Christ. Just as every person on whom the judgment came was under condemnation, now every person on whom the free gift came is under justification unto life. In this context "all men" can only mean those who are justified unto life, and all those whom the free gift came upon. If some are not justified unto life (which must be the case since not all are saved), then the free gift only came upon some and all of those on whom the free gift came are justified unto life.

In this one verse then, we find that in the first part "all men" probably refers to "every single person" and in the second part it can only refer to all upon whom the free gift came or all men of the elect. In other words, all men who Jesus Christ justified by His blood. The context must always determine what such a vague term as "all men" really means. In 1 Timothy 2:4 it means the same as in verse 1, all kinds of people, that is ranks and classes etc. Certainly we are not to pray for every single person, for example: not the dead and not those referred to in 1 John 5:16. 1 Timothy 4:10 of course explains itself: Christ is the Saviour of all kinds of people, that is in particular, those who believe, not those who do not believe. He cannot be the Saviour of those whom He does not save, and all those whom He saves will believe; He is only the Saviour of those who believe. To try to make these verses mean anything different is blatant Scripture-wresting.

What of the word "world"? This word simply means kosmos as in, the universe, the entire creation, space-time-matter continuum. It can refer to many different things depending on context: the world of the wicked reprobate (John 17:9 where Christ does not pray for the "world"), the evil world-system of the ungodly (1 John 2:15 where we are told not to love the "world" or anything in it), the world of the elect of every tribe, tongue and nation (John 3:16-17 where Christ declares God's love for the "world" and His Father's intention that He should not condemn the "world" but save it, while teaching the Jewish Nicodemus that salvation was for whosoever believeth, and 1 John 2:2 where it tells of who Christ's propitiation is for, and those propitiated for can no longer come under God's wrath).

In Noah's day, God both saved a "world" and destroyed a "world". He preserved the godly world with the Ark through baptism, and destroyed the ungodly world with the Flood by immersion. Afterwards He revealed His cosmic covenant of grace with the world of the elect, and reminds us of it every time we see the rainbow. Of course not all Noah's family were elect believers, Canaan was cursed, just as today in the church there are some who are wicked hypocrites. So today we know that there will be a new heavens and a new earth along with the New Jerusalem.

Those who claim that "world" means every single person have a completely untenable interpretation. It is not correct, and cannot be correct. To take that interpretation leads to the heresy of a universal atonement and wrests the Scriptures violently. Now, I boldly claim that there is not a hint anywhere in the Bible that Christ's atonement was universal or that some of those for whom He atoned with His blood would be condemned. Such would be to call the blood of Christ an unholy thing and to trample it underfoot.

There is just one final objection that is made (yet again Scripture interprets Scripture, so this cannot be an honest objection when so many passages speak so clearly about the efficacy of the atonement): that is a few verses like 2 Peter 2:1 and even Hebrew 10:29. Even a cursory glance at a few cross-references explain these without a doubt. 2 Peter 2:1 speaks of false teachers "denying the Lord who bought them". This is explained in verse 20 of the same chapter (if its meaning was not already apparent) they had "escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ", that is, these people were in the church institute (not the church organic). Outwardly they were in the church (the called ones, apart from the world), but inwardly they were not. They were hypocrites (Jude 1:4 says that they "crept in unawares"), without saving faith, only a surface knowledge. They knew all about the Saviour, and could recite the creeds in church etc, but they didn't know the Saviour and their hearts were far from Him.

They were bought in the same sense as the wicked hypocrites in Israel were bought from slavery in Egypt (Jude 5). They were bought out of the pollutions of the world into the church, but as the unbelievers with uncircumcised hearts in Israel died in the desert, the hypocrites in the church will also be condemned on the day of judgment. They were not of course truly ransomed by the blood of Jesus, because then they would be saved. They appeared to be bought with Christ's blood from a human perspective, but not in God's eyes.

Likewise Hebrews 10:29 carries the same idea, to the human perspective, they were in the church and had been baptised, and therefore seemed sanctified with the blood of Jesus (set apart as holy like the children of believers in 1 Co 7:14), but in God's eyes they were wicked hypocrites, still polluted by the stains of their sins. Just as not all the children of believers are elect, not all those in the church are elect and not all those baptised are elect. These reprobate covenant-violaters had received the outward sign of being sanctified with the blood of Jesus, by being outwardly baptised, but they were not inwardly baptised. Jude calls them blemishes in our feasts of charity (Jude 12). These verses use strong language to highight the depth of the hypocrisy and profaning of the covenant which these apostates are. To suggest that these verses teach that there are some who Jesus died for that are not saved would be to try to overturn all of Scripture and of course rob the believer of assurance and introduce the heresy of salvation by works again.

May we not err regarding the atonement, that we might say with Paul:

"God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." - Galatians 6:14.


Thanks to AiG for the pic!

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

So if God only loves the saved, that means He didn't love me before I was saved. And if He didn't love me before I was saved why would He have died for me? Didn't He only love and die for the saved...

Anonymous said...

If God only loves the saved, does that mean He didn't love me before I was saved? And ff He didn't love me before I was saved then he wouldn't have died for me. God only died for the ones He loved and were saved...right? How could He die for someone He didn't love?

Wiseguy said...

You seem a bit muddled there. Allow me to quote Eph 1, "In love He predestinated us..." God's love is eternal, without beginning and without end, as much as Christ is without beginning and without end.

We were loved in Christ before the foundations of the world, because we were elect in Christ before the foundations of the world. Election is an eternal decree. God's love for His people is then also eternal.

Christ died for all the people that were elect in Him, and none besides. So Christ only gave Himself for those He loves, and only they are saved.

Those whom He did not eternally love, He did not pay for their sins, nor even pray for them. See Romans 1 to 16, etc.

Thanks for asking, and God bless you.

Anonymous said...

Greetings:

I stumbled over here after reading several of your comments on the Pyromaniac blog. I was amazed to find another who seemed to have some disagreements with his definitions of hyper-Calvinism. Something to consider: Is God's love all God-centered? That is, does all true love both originate and ultimately end with God? I believe so -- for God to have something other than Himself as the "end" of his love would be idolatry for Him. What do you say? If this is true, then what God loves in believers is Himself -- believers have the life of Christ in their soul, Christ Himself dwelling in them (book by Henry Scougal -- The Life of God in the Soul of Man). So God loves the believer by loving Christ who is united with the believer. But then couldn't we say that in some sense, God loves the unbeliever because His image is stamped upon them and He loves His image? This is not a gracious love (because unbelievers do not have grace -- Christ dwelling in them) but there is still the remnant image that God cannot hate because it is His image. This is not to argue that God does not hate the reprobate but is to argue that there is some sense in which God's love is upon unbelievers.

Wiseguy said...

Very good argument. I hadn't heard that before. Yes, I agree that God's love for us is ultimately the Father's love for the Son through the Spirit.

However, this makes it further clearer that God does not love the wicked reprobate. They are not in Christ, and therefore are not loved as Christ is loved.

You say they still bear the image of God, and while perhaps true in some sense, it is doubtful. Jesus said to the Jews in John 8:44 that they were children of the devil, not children of God. That is, they bore the devil's image (since he is their father), not God's.

Unless God loves the devil, He cannot love the wicked reprobate, as the Scripture testifies. Now, you could say that there are similarities between the devil and God, in that they both speak and think etc. But the devil perverts all his faculties to the service of the kingdom of antichrist. Likewise, the reprobate wicked have some things in common with the believers, but they have entirely perverted all their abilities to the service of the kingdom of antichrist.

This is what I stand on: if the doctrine of total depravity (Romans 3) is true, then there is nothing in us for God to love, except that He had loved us before time began. In fact, if God is love, He must hate everything about us, unless we are in Christ.

So Ephesians 2 calls us "by nature children of wrath" because we "were dead in trespasses and sins... [we] walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience... [and] had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind".

In short, even if every single person still bore some resemblance of the image of God, we are taught that we so pervert this by our wickedness that God hates us utterly apart from salvation in Christ. This is why He throws people into hell. In fact you could even say that because we bear some resemblance of His image, our wickedness is even more abhorrent to Him, in that we are so perverting the image of the good and perfect God.

But the proof of God's hatred for those not in Christ are many many passages of Scripture. The problem in suggesting that God in some way loves the reprobate is to suggest that in some way He hates the elect. But God's love is of only one kind - it is eternal, all-powerful, active, zealous, perfect etc. Divine love leaves no room for divine hatred, as divine hatred leaves no room for divine love.

Finally, most of these objections are raised because of a lack of understanding of how His absolute hatred of the reprobate is for His glory and the good of His people. He raised Pharaoh up to show His people how He would so zealously and powerfully defend them, and to show them what a great God He is (Rom 9:17, Exo 9:16), and He gives people as a ransom for His people to display His love and grace for us, (Isa 43:4, Mal 1:2-5), and to humble us by His grace by teaching us that we just as much deserved the divine wrath poured out on the reprobate.

So, in fact, the more we understand God's absolute hatred of the wicked, the more we see His grace and love toward us and the more we are humbled and stirred up to worship Him.

Those who teach God's love for the reprobate are really redefining what love means. John Piper defines love as giving someone what they need most. By his own definition, God does not love the reprobate. And to suggest that there is room for love in these passages is to totally distort the love of God:

Psalm 1:4-6
Psalm 2:4-5
Psalm 3:7
Psalm 5:5
Psalm 6:10
Psalm 7:9-11
Psalm 10:3
Psalm 11:5
Psalm 21:8-11
Proverbs 6:16-19
Nahum 1:1-10
Nahum 2:13
Nahum 3:5-6
Habakkuk 2:6-20
Jeremiah 21:13-14
Jeremiah 50:21-32
Jeremiah 51:24-45
Ezekiel 5
Ezekiel 23
Ezekiel 26:1-6
Ezekiel 28:20-23
Ezekiel 29:1-12
Ezekiel 35:1-15
Ezekiel 38
Isaiah 8:13-15
Isaiah 37:35-36
Isaiah 47:1-3
Isaiah 49:25-26
Zechariah 11:8
Revelation 8-9
Revelation 14:9-20
Revelation 16
Revelation 19
Mark 9:42
John 12:37-40
John 17:9
Romans 9:6-24
2 Corinthians 2:14-17
1 Peter 2:6-9
2 Peter 2
2 Peter 3:7
Jude 4-19
Psalm 139:21-22
Psalm 35:1-9,26
Psalm 97
Psalm 34:16-22

And this is by no means a comprehensive list. God bless!

Anonymous said...

Sorry for posting anonymously -- I just don't have a blogger account.

WG: However, this makes it further clearer that God does not love the wicked reprobate. They are not in Christ, and therefore are not loved as Christ is loved.

Aaron: I would agree that they cannot share in God's love as a believer who is united to Christ and is a "partaker" in the love of God as it flows from the Father to the Son and from the Son to the Father. However:

WG: You say they still bear the image of God, and while perhaps true in some sense, it is doubtful. Jesus said to the Jews in John 8:44 that they were children of the devil, not children of God. That is, they bore the devil's image (since he is their father), not God's.

Aaron: Agreed that spiritually unbelievers are dead and children of "their father, the devil". And yet all things were created by the Word of Christ (the Son) and the Father delights in Himself and the Son. I'm just saying that there is "some sense" in which God sees His image in unbelievers. Not a spiritually alive image, but all humans are rational, intelligent beings and that is derived from God Himself. Humans also have a conscience, which is from God (animals do not have this). What I'm basically arguing is that ALL of God's love is for Himself. Thus His love for believers is really His love for Himself being shared by the believer. And yet there is scripture showing God's "mercy" being on the unbelivers. Is it because He pities/loves them? Or is it because of His love for Himself? I'd argue the latter and say that God's love for Himself / His character is shown in mercy towards His image-bearers even if they are children of the devil. But this is not a love for them but a love for Himself.

WG: This is what I stand on: if the doctrine of total depravity (Romans 3) is true, then there is nothing in us for God to love, except that He had loved us before time began. In fact, if God is love, He must hate everything about us, unless we are in Christ.

Aaron: Yes, AGREED! So what He loves about believers is not the believer themself but Christ IN the believer, right?

WG: In short, even if every single person still bore some resemblance of the image of God, we are taught that we so pervert this by our wickedness that God hates us utterly apart from salvation in Christ.

Aaron: Can God's hatred be distinguished from His love for His own glory?

WG: But God's love is of only one kind - it is eternal, all-powerful, active, zealous, perfect etc. Divine love leaves no room for divine hatred, as divine hatred leaves no room for divine love.

Aaron: Could it be that His hatred for what is opposed to His own character is really His love for Himself? If that is true, His love cannot be separated from His wrath (we can't understand one without the other).

Just to clarify some, what I'm basically arguing is that God's love is ONLY for Himself and if viewed this way then there is less of a problem saying that there is some sense in which unbelievers are beneficiaries or receipients of His love. But they do not SHARE in His love as believers do (grace), they simply enjoy the outward benefits of His love (they are not cast immediately into Hell, they are usually often provided for, etc.).

The main problem I have with the "primer on hyper-calvinism" is that it does not seem to come from a God-centered view of God. I take issue at almost every point:

point 2: Faith is a "gift" of God and is by grace. So saying that it is a "duty" can be very misleading and seems to say that faith is "our part". God commands what only He can give. Grace is necessary to obey God in any way. Yet saying even faith is a "duty" seems to say that "it's up to us."
point 3: The word "offer" today implies a choice to be made. Saving grace is the sovereign work of God and not something he "offers" for us to accept in our own strength. I would agree that we are commanded to preach the Gospel to all mankind, but we do not "offer" it as if it is up to them to accept or deny it. We preach that they are commanded to repent and then preach that only God can grant them repentance (they are unable to obtain it and so must seek God for grace).
point 4: If grace IS Christ dwelling in a believer and then the believer sharing in the love of God, then unbelievers can NOT in any way experience the grace of God without being born again & having the life of Christ in the soul. God does have mercy on unbelivers, but that is much different than grace. So I could not agree that God's grace is upon unblievers, but would say that his mercy is upon them.
point 5: This depends so much on what one means by God's love. If coming from a God-centered view of God's love, then I might be able to agree that unbelievers in some way are beneficiaries of God's love. However, to say that God has love for the non-elect seems to indicate that they are an end of His love whereas I do not think that any being other than God Himself can be a final end of His love.

Anyway, I'm not sure we're really disagreeing but maybe just taking a slightly different approach. I've somewhat recently been introduced to the "God-centered" view of God's love and it has really helped me to understand some previously perceived inconsistencies in scripture. I was also very glad to read your posts over on the Pyro blog. I tried once in the past to point out things mentioned above but I think was basically written off as some kind of crazy "hyper-calvinist."

-Aaron

Wiseguy said...

point 2: Faith is a "gift" of God and is by grace. So saying that it is a "duty" can be very misleading and seems to say that faith is "our part". God commands what only He can give. Grace is necessary to obey God in any way. Yet saying even faith is a "duty" seems to say that "it's up to us."

I agree that the word "duty" can be a bit misleading (which is probably why people use it), but it is technically correct I think. We need to be careful to say that if we ever fulfill our duty, it is only by God's grace. This is why we are "unprofitable servants" - the blind and deaf servant of Isaiah 42 except by His grace.

point 3: The word "offer" today implies a choice to be made. Saving grace is the sovereign work of God and not something he "offers" for us to accept in our own strength. I would agree that we are commanded to preach the Gospel to all mankind, but we do not "offer" it as if it is up to them to accept or deny it. We preach that they are commanded to repent and then preach that only God can grant them repentance (they are unable to obtain it and so must seek God for grace).

We are agreed, the Gospel is not an offer, it is a call/command and a particular, yet unconditional promise to God's elect. So it is a savor of death unto death to some, and life unto life to others. If it is not preached that only God grants faith and repentance, the Gospel of grace has not been preached.

point 4: If grace IS Christ dwelling in a believer and then the believer sharing in the love of God, then unbelievers can NOT in any way experience the grace of God without being born again & having the life of Christ in the soul. God does have mercy on unbelivers, but that is much different than grace. So I could not agree that God's grace is upon unblievers, but would say that his mercy is upon them.

Agreed here. The Father loves the Son, and we are loved because we are in the Son. Now, here I must correct your definition of mercy. God's good gifts to the wicked reprobate are not an indication of any attitude of love, mercy or grace toward them, because Psalm 73 teaches us that the prosperity of the wicked (or any good thing which God gives them) is used to harden them in their pride and sin, and to set their feet in slippery places.

So the chastenings and sufferings of the elect are a blessing because God is glorified through the perseverance He gives us and our delight in Him despite our circumstances, and the prosperity of the wicked reprobate is only ever a curse because it adds to their condemnation.

point 5: This depends so much on what one means by God's love. If coming from a God-centered view of God's love, then I might be able to agree that unbelievers in some way are beneficiaries of God's love. However, to say that God has love for the non-elect seems to indicate that they are an end of His love whereas I do not think that any being other than God Himself can be a final end of His love.

Agreed, except that unbelievers are not "beneficiaries of His love", as I said, the good things given to them, the punishment delayed is not love but hatred, all bring them to further condemnation.

Could it be that His hatred for what is opposed to His own character is really His love for Himself? If that is true, His love cannot be separated from His wrath (we can't understand one without the other).

Yes! God's hatred of the wicked, is for the sake of His love for Himself, and from our perspective, His hatred toward the enemies of the Church, is for the sake of His love for the Church in Christ.

Anonymous said...

WG: I agree that the word "duty" can be a bit misleading (which is probably why people use it), but it is technically correct I think. We need to be careful to say that if we ever fulfill our duty, it is only by God's grace. This is why we are "unprofitable servants" - the blind and deaf servant of Isaiah 42 except by His grace.

Aaron: I think we are agreed. My concern stems from how I think this word causes people to view not only salvation but sanctification. I once heard a "Reformed" teacher basically say we are saved by grace alone but not sanctified by grace alone. But believers are both saved and sanctified by grace alone yet it seems the approach of many is to look to their own ability to obey God (their duty), and then simply give God the credit once they have obeyed. This is much different than one who sees the perfect law of God and then sees their utter inability to satisfy it because they cannot do a single act of true love for God apart from grace. The believer (and unbeliever) should then seek God for the grace to obey and not simply "pull up their bootstraps", obey, and then give God the credit almost as an after-thought. Yes, we are commanded to obey God. But no, we have no ability to do so apart from grace. Thus we must seek God for grace rather than seeking to obey God from self.

WG: God's good gifts to the wicked reprobate are not an indication of any attitude of love, mercy or grace toward them, because Psalm 73 teaches us that the prosperity of the wicked (or any good thing which God gives them) is used to harden them in their pride and sin, and to set their feet in slippery places.

Aaron: I will have to think about this some more. I guess at this point I'm simply saying that I don't think it's an either/or. I agree with what you wrote above but think that God's actions can in a way both be love for and wrath against the reprobate at the same time. Ultimately everyting done for the non-elect will be used against them for their own condemnation as in the Psalm. Yet I still think that these same things (sending rain on the just & un-just, for example) can be a demonstration of the love of God for Himself as He sees his image stamped upon the non-elect. So perhaps God's love is immediately manifested and yet even these manifestations of his love will ultimately be a means of manifesting His wrath against them. I would think that if wrath is the only thing God ever manifests against the reprobate, he would immediately cast them into Hell.

Thanks for your reponses. This has been helpful at least for me.

Wiseguy said...

I have to say that this has been a very encouraging discussion for me too!

I once heard a "Reformed" teacher basically say we are saved by grace alone but not sanctified by grace alone.
Wow, that's shocking. "Reformed" seems to be becoming more and more meaningless. I recently wrote a poem on this subject:
http://wiseguysblog.blogspot.com/2008/11/glory-to-god-alone-for-lives-of-saints.html

This is much different than one who sees the perfect law of God and then sees their utter inability to satisfy it because they cannot do a single act of true love for God apart from grace.
I heartily agree. We need to first see our utter helplessness to obey and recognise our constant need of grace for God to work in us. The attitude of "just give thanks afterward" is not a truly Christian attitude.

The Heidelberg Catechism Q&A2 says that we need to know three things to live out our lives happily for the glory of God, and these are crucial: to know the extent of my miseries and sin, to know how I am redeemed by Christ alone, and to know how I may express my gratitude to Him. So practically, to follow Christ, we need to see our need, His sufficiency and how we may express our gratitude.

I will have to think about this some more.
Can I recommend the following article:
http://www.cprf.co.uk/articles/commongrace.htm

And this book is also very good:
http://www.cprf.co.uk/bookstore/prosperouswicked.htm

Yet I still think that these same things (sending rain on the just & un-just, for example) can be a demonstration of the love of God for Himself as He sees his image stamped upon the non-elect.
The problem here is that what God sees in a sinner is how wretchedly perverted His glorious image has been. And therefore, if they are not in Christ, He subjects them to utter hatred and cursing.

I would think that if wrath is the only thing God ever manifests against the reprobate, he would immediately cast them into Hell.
I see your argument, but I have to disagree. Again, it comes down to the fact that reprobation and God's hatred of the wicked is subservient to His love for the elect in Christ. The point I am making is this:

Pharaoh was not immediately cast into hell for one reason: that is, that he was raised up that God would show His power in him, and that His name would be declared throughout the earth (Romans 9:17).

Egypt, Ethiopia and Seba were not immediately cast into hell because God had determined to give them as a ransom for His people to show them how precious they are to Him (Isa 43:3).

Esau was not immediately cast into hell because God had determined that the elder would serve the younger (Romans 9:12).

The vessels of wrath fitted to destruction were endured with longsuffering (not immediately cast into hell), that God would show His wrath and make His power known and make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy (Romans 9:22-23).

Judas was not immediately cast into hell so that he would betray Christ for the salvation of the elect.

So we see that all the world of the reprobate are now presently in this world to serve the elect. As they persecute and torture the elect, God is glorified in the patience and perseverance of His Spirit in the elect and He is glorified in defending His church and defeating all her enemies. And everything they do, in all their wickedness, God works out for our good.

We see the love of our Father for us, when we see Him display His power and glory in destroying those evil and wicked who threaten us.

The reason this is not more commonly understand is because of so-called "Reformed" ministers like the one you mentioned. May God bring a reformation in His church, so that we would delight in understanding the whole counsel of God in the Bible (Acts 20:27), and not just the bits that people think are less offensive.

The Gospel is offensive to the wicked, and if the "gospel" being preached is not, then there is no power unto salvation, because there is no Gospel being preached.

"Always the gospel of salvation by grace alone provokes the response that this gospel denies the responsibility of man and makes God the author of sin (see Romans 3:5-8, 31; Romans 6:1; Romans 9:19). If the message of the church does not elicit this response, the church may well ask whether it is preaching the gospel of grace." - David J. Engelsma (2006) Trinity and Covenant, Jenison: RFPA.