21 May, 2016

Exodus 5–13—“Thus saith the Lord God . . . Let My people go”

And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness (Exodus 5:1 KJV).


David J. Engelsma

[Source: Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 47, no. 2 (April 2014), pp. 73–75]

When Moses on God’s behalf called Pharaoh to let God’s people go, God was serious with the command (Exodus 5-13). In the language of Canons, 3&4. 8, God was in earnest with the command. How earnest, Pharaoh would learn from the ten plagues and from the swelling waves of the Red Sea—and then from the fires of hell.

But was this serious call to Pharaoh a well-meant offer to the reprobate king of Egypt on the part of the seriously calling God? Did it arise from a gracious attitude towards the king? Was it expressive of a sincere desire for the king’s salvation in the way of his heeding the call? Was it indicative of a purpose, or will, or desire in God for the salvation of Pharaoh? Did this divine purpose with the summons, or call, depend for its accomplishment upon the will of the Egyptian monarch? Did this call even intend that the king actually permit Israel to leave Egypt?
To ask these pertinent questions is to answer them. On the very occasion of God’s charging Moses to call Pharaoh to let Israel go, before Moses ever came before the king, before the king responded with his wicked “no,” God said: “But I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go” (Exodus 4:21). God hated Pharaoh. God’s will was Pharaoh’s just destruction and damnation. God’s purpose with the serious call to Pharaoh was not the king’s repentance and salvation, but his perdition. By means of the serious call to repentance, God worked out His purpose of damnation of the Egyptian king and the destruction of his ungodly, persecuting kingdom.
The serious call to Pharaoh was not motivated by God’s grace towards the king.
The serious call to Pharaoh did not work grace in the king.
The serious call to Pharaoh did not accomplish a gracious outcome for the king.
“Serious” (call) is not “well-meant,” that is, gracious, (offer)!
The entire, nominally Calvinistic community needs to hear, and take to heart, that “serious” (call) is not “well-meant,” that is, gracious, (offer) to all. Few truths are more important for the Reformed community today. Upon taking this truth to heart depends the genuine Calvinism of the community.

Lest defenders of the well-meant offer respond by denying the applicability of this Old Testament reality (of the call of God to Pharaoh) to the preaching and call of the gospel in the New Testament, I remind them that the apostle applies the Old Testament reality regarding the call of Pharaoh to the New Testament reality of the call of the gospel. In illustration and biblical support of his doctrine that the mercy and compassion—grace—of God in His saving work by the gospel are governed by His sovereign will of predestination, Paul quotes Exodus 9:16 regarding God’s will, or purpose, or intention with regard to Pharaoh: “For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth” (Romans 9:17).
What conclusion must be drawn from God’s ungracious will regarding Pharaoh and from God’s hardening work by His call to the king the apostle immediately shows in verse 18 of Romans 9: “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” The preaching of the gospel with its serious call is not mercy to all hearers. It is not a well-meant offer to all. The well-meaningness (to speak barbarously), the grace, the sincere desire to save, of and in the gospel and its call, is particular and restricted. What limits the grace of the call of the gospel—its particularity—is not the will of the sinner but the eternal decree of predestination: “mercy on whom he will have mercy…whom he will he hardeneth.”
Let [the advocate of the well-meant offer] demonstrate to the Reformed believer, indeed to any who regards Scripture as the infallible word of God, that “whom he will he hardeneth” is revelatory of, or even in harmony with, a “sincere desire to save” all who hear the gospel. He cannot. The thing is impossible. Who would accept, who would be inclined to suppose, that God is at work in the gospel hardening some sinners with a gracious desire to save them?
Barrett’s refusal to allow Romans 9 to judge his faulty doctrine of the gospel-call and to form the right doctrine of the promiscuous preaching of the gospel is reprehensible.



More to come (DV)

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