18 March, 2016

Christ's Perfect Obedience to the Law to Love One's Neighbour (Prof. David J. Engelsma)

Q. "Since the Law of God requires us to love our neighbour, Christ therefore had to love all of his neighbours in order to fulfil the law. Love is the fulfilling of the Law: therefore, since Christ came into physical contact with even the reprobate aswell as elect, He would have had to fulfil the law with regards to them which would include showing "love" towards them in a certain sense. Is this not conclusive of a sort of "common love" shown towards the reprobate?" 

Prof. David J. Engelsma responds: 

You ask the question whether, in connection with the controversy over common grace, Jesus Himself did not have to, and did not, love all his neighbors, reprobate as well as elect. 

My answer to this question is as follows. 

First, both as personally God the eternal Son and as Savior in His office, Jesus the Christ did not love all humans with whom He came into contact with the love that desired their salvation. It is this about the contemporary theory of common grace that is most offensive to the PRC and to me. Not that God has a superficial favor towards all humans that results in their receiving good earthly gifts (although we deny this also), but that God loves all humans with His love in Christ, desiring their salvation and graciously offering them salvation out of this desire to save them all. 

This fundamental element of the contemporary theory of common grace, Jesus Christ did not have during His earthly ministry according to the Scripture. As the eternal Son personally, He hated some humans and decreed their damnation in the way of their unbelief (Rom. 9). As the official Savior of humans, He Himself said that He laid down His life for His sheep (the elect), not for all humans without exception (John 10). He did not have or express or act upon a (saving) love of God for all humans without exception. His gospel was not motivated by His will that all hearers should believe and be saved. But His purpose with the gospel was (as it is still today) that His sheep, or elect people, and they only, be saved by it (John 10:27, 28). Concerning the others, the reprobate, the purpose of Jesus with the gospel was, and still is, that they not truly hear it and believe (John 10:26). Notice concerning John 10:26 that Jesus teaches that some believe not, because they are not of His sheep. He has already explained that people are His sheep because the Father gave them to Him in eternity in the decree of election. The reason then why some do not believe when they hear the gospel is because they are not elect. God does not will their faith and salvation. God does not give them faith when the gospel is preached. On the contrary, He hardens them in their unbelief, which is conclusive against the notion that the gospel is a well-meant offer by God to all humans without exception. That God hardens some by the gospel is the teaching of Romans 9:18: "whom he will he hardeneth." 

The conclusion is, then, that Jesus did not, and does not, love all humans with the love that purposes their salvation and did not, and does not, offer salvation to all with the well-meant desire that all be saved by the gospel. As God, Jesus does not have "neighbors," whom He must love, but only creatures whom He may love or hate as seems good to Him. He is not subject to the law, as we are, but is the lawgiver. 

This, for the PRC, is the main issue in the controversy over common grace. Common grace, as officially taught by the CRC in 1924, when the PRC began, and as taught by many today, including the Banner of Truth in Great Britain, is the doctrine, above all else, that Jesus as the Savior sincerely desires the salvation of all humans without exception and in this desire offers salvation to all humans in the gospel. This is Arminian heresy, condemned by the Canons of Dordt with its "five points of Calvinism." 

Then the question remains: Did Jesus as a human, as a real man, in His human nature love all His neighbors in any sense at all? Also, the neighbors who are truly close, or near, to Him—His elect out of the human race—Jesus as a man loves with the full, profound love of the will to save. 

In the sense that He obeyed perfectly the second table of the law, the essence of which is loving the neighbor as oneself, He did. His behavior towards even His reprobate enemies was righteous, a returning good for their evil, the behavior of love in His dealings with them. An example is His behavior before Pilate. He honored the authoritative position the Roman magistrate occupied, despite the unjust treatment of Himself by Pilate. This was a keeping of the fifth commandment of the law of God as the behavior of love towards that reprobate unbeliever. But even this was not the grace of the contemporary theory of common grace. For in this obedient behavior of Jesus towards Pilate, God was at work—and Jesus Himself was at work as God the Son—to leave Pilate without excuse and to render him worthy of judgment. There was no grace of God towars Pilate in Jesus' behavior of love towards his neighbor for God's sake. 

If someone objects that this has Jesus hating and loving one and the same person at the same time, hating as God the Son and as Savior, and loving as a human in that His behavior was upright and honorable, my response is that there is an important sense in which even we do the same. As a believer, I must love my wicked neighbor, by doing good to him and not retaliating for evil by evil myself. At the same time, I hate him as the enemy of God (Psalm 139). 

At the same time, in His human nature Jesus is in perfect accord with the will of God that Jesus is the loving Savior of some only and that the end of His ministry be the hardening of some humans. 

Also, the neighbors who are truly close, or near, to Him--His elect out of the human race, Jesus as a man loves with the full, profound love of the will to save.  


Cordially in Christ, 

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