10 May, 2016

Six Texts

Rev. Herman Hoeksema

(The following is taken from “A Power of God Unto Salvation Or Grace Not an Offer,” pp. 31-36)

In the following article we will demonstrate from the Holy Scriptures that the entire presentation of a general, well-meant offer of grace and salvation is at variance with the witness of God’s Word. We intend to do this by citing six texts. Yet we will not be content with merely quoting these texts; we will also expound them. In doing so we shall cite only those passages of Scripture that show beyond a shadow of doubt what they teach and how they prove the issue at hand.

Isaiah 6:9-11

First of all, we call to the attention of the reader Isaiah 6:9-11. There we read:

And he said, go and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes, that they see not with their eyes, and hear not with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be healed. Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate.

We note:

1.  That this passage is a part of the scriptural account of the calling of Isaiah to be a prophet in Israel. As a prophet he must proclaim to the people the Word of the Lord. Naturally the intent of this passage is not that Isaiah shall literally say to the people: Hear ye indeed, but understand not; see ye indeed, but perceive not. On the contrary, as is evident from the entire prophecy, as a watchman on the walls of Zion, he must faithfully proclaim all that the Lord will say to him.  By means of that Word of God he preaches repentance towards the Lord and eternal mercy, yet also destruction and misery for the wicked. In no uncertain terms, readily understood by all who hear them, he proclaims God’s Word to Israel. This passage deals with the preaching of the prophet Isaiah.

2.  That also the divine purpose of this preaching is revealed to the prophet. On the one hand, those who hear this Word must, from a natural point of view, clearly understand its content. This is expressed most emphatically. Hear ye indeed: that is, they must emphatically and clearly hear. See ye indeed: that is, they must clearly see that which the prophet declares to them. That is what God wills. Afterward they must not be able to say that the prophet spoke so ambiguously to them, proclaimed such deep and mysterious words that they could not grasp anything of what he was saying. It was beyond their comprehension. But on the other hand, God’s will and purpose with the preaching of Isaiah was that in the spiritual sense the people would not understand nor perceive. On the contrary, according to the purpose of God the word and preaching of Isaiah must serve to make the hearts of the people fat, their ears heavy, in order that they should not see with their eyes, hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts and that they should not repent and the Lord should not heal them. That is God’s purpose with the preaching of Isaiah to this particular people spoken of here.

3.  That this must continue until God’s judgment is carried out in Israel. For upon the anxious question of the prophet, “Lord, how long?” he received the answer: “Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate.” For the Lord will remove this people far away, and there will be a great forsaking in the midst of the land. Only a tenth shall remain, but that also shall be devastated. Yet this remnant will not be completely destroyed for the holy seed will be its real substance. The remnant according to election of grace shall be saved.

We conclude that this portion of Scripture plainly teaches that, according to the divine purpose, Isaiah’s preaching was no general, well-meant offer of grace and salvation. But even while it must serve to save the remnant, the Lord still mainly intended that the others should thereby be hardened. God willed that this preaching would be a savor of death unto death as well as a savor of life unto life, while the emphasis is laid on the former. He even uses the preaching of Isaiah to harden the wicked. Here Scripture most explicitly denies that the preaching is a general, well-meant offer of grace and salvation on the part of God. Here it teaches us that the very opposite is true.

Mark 4:11-12

And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them which are without these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing, they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.


1.  That this is an answer to the question of the disciples why the Savior speaks in parables. He gives them the reason for this particular type of preaching. When the Savior preaches He very consciously has this purpose in mind.

2.  That, in the second place, the Savior states that these things happen in parables. The Savior does not merely speak in parables, but they happen. Our natural experiences and the earthly creation are the stage on which the Lord God Himself performs the drama which portrays the heavenly and the spiritual. When a sower goes out to sow and some seed falls here and some falls there, then a parable happens. That is true of all parables. They happen before every one’s eyes.

3.  However, the Lord refers to this in order that those who are within and to whom it is given may understand the things of the kingdom of heaven and know its mysteries; but at the same time, that those who are without may clearly hear and see (they shall hear indeed and see indeed means also in this case that emphatically they shall hear and see), yet they will not perceive, nor understand, repent, and receive the forgiveness of their sins.

Again we come to exactly the same conclusion. Only now in connection with the preaching of the Savior Himself, namely, that the Scriptures most emphatically contradict the presentation given by many, as if the preaching should be a general, well-meant offer of grace and salvation.

Matthew 11:25-26

Further we focus our attention on another teaching of the Savior that can be found in Matthew 11:25, 26:

At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and the prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.

We note in this connection the following:

1.  That the Savior is speaking here of the fruit which He saw at that time upon His preaching and the performance of His miracles in Israel, indeed we read emphatically: “At that time,” Referring to the context to know what time is meant, we find that it was a time when a generation had arisen that refused to enter into the kingdom of heaven. They were like the children in the markets. When John came they played the flute and wanted him to dance. When John refused to dance they made the excuse that he had a devil, because he would not eat nor drink. When Jesus came they sang lamentations and wanted Him to weep along with them. Jesus refused to weep, but came eating and drinking, so they again made the excuse that He was a glutton and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. At the same time, it made absolutely no difference who preached the kingdom of heaven to them, they did not enter. That was the case with the inhabitants of Chorazin and Bethsaida, cities in which Jesus had performed most mighty works; that was also the case with Capernaum, which had been exalted to the heavens and in which Jesus had labored so often and so extensively. But there was also another generation, the generation of the spiritually powerful and mighty who, in Jesus’ time, stormed into the kingdom of heaven in the days of John the Baptist. That then was the result, the actual fruit of Jesus’ preaching. The ones who, according to the standard of this world are the wise and prudent did not receive Him, but rejected His preaching. The little children received the kingdom.

2.  In the second place, you must not fail to see that the Savior ascribes this two-fold fruit to the work of the Father. Not only that the children of the kingdom entered and understood its mysteries, but likewise the Savior ascribes directly to the Father that the wise and prudent did not understand and remained outside. The Lord had accompanied the labors and preaching of Jesus and the apostles with a revealing, power, so that they received eyes to see and ears to hear, for who would be able to understand the mysteries of the kingdom except by God’s grace? But no less, the Father, Who indeed is Lord of heaven and earth and is the exalted sovereign over all, Who has mercy upon whom He will, causes a hidden power to work upon the wise and prudent. The Savior acknowledges this and in this His soul finds peace. And since it is exactly the wise and the prudent for whom the things of the kingdom were hidden, and exactly the children to whom they were revealed, the Savior thanks the Father for that, for exactly therein the Father is most highly glorified.

3.  That in all the foregoing the Savior refers back to the counsel of the Lord when He says: “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.” It was eternally God’s good pleasure to bring some to eternal life and to make the others vessels of wrath. And indeed all is well when the Father now also carries out His counsel in time, for the good pleasure of the Father must be realized in those who are saved and in those who are lost.

We conclude once more that the Holy Scriptures emphatically contradict the presentation [given by many today], and maintain that according to the Word of God the preaching can never be a general, well-meant offer of grace and salvation.

John 12:39, 40

We also want to mention John 12:39, 40:

Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

These words bear weight, for would [advocates of the WMO] dare to maintain that the Lord blinds the eyes and hardens the hearts of those to whom He offers His well-meant grace? I dare to assert that [they do not] have the courage to do this. Some are very bold. They dare to gloss over many things with the perfect squelch that we are dealing with a mystery and that we must resign ourselves in faith to all sorts of contradictions that are found in the Word of God. Yet I still think too highly of [some of these people] to think that [they] would dare to maintain that the Lord God offers well-meaningly His grace and salvation to the same person whom He at the same time hardens and blinds in order that he can never be saved.

Yet notice:

1.  That the apostle John give an explanation here of a certain fact that was observed at that time. That fact was that the Savior had preached, had performed many miracles, and that yet, in spite of all this, many did not believe in Him. When taken as such and from a human viewpoint, that was a deplorable fact that could readily fill one with discouragement and despair.

2.  That the evangelist explains this first in this manner, that this was the Lord’s doing, and therefore there was no reason to be concerned about it, for that these people were so very blind and unbelieving was exactly the fulfilling of the Scriptures. They could not believe, John says, for firstly, the Scriptures had to be fulfilled, as spoken by the mouth of Esaias: “Who has believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” And that Scripture is, after all, the proclamation of God’s own good pleasure. This good pleasure must be realized. Therefore it was impossible for them to believe.

3.  That John adds to this in order to emphasize how impossible it was for them to believe, and he ascribes this to the work of God. The Lord Himself had blinded their eyes. God Himself had hardened their hearts. He did this with the very purpose that they should not believe, should not understand, should not repent, and He should not heal them. This is such clear language that it allows for no twofold interpretation. And it explicitly eliminates every possibility that the preaching of the Gospel would be a general and well-meant offer of grace and salvation for all those who come in contact with the Gospel.

Romans 11:7-10

What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (according as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear) unto this day. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling block, and a recompense unto them: Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back always.

Also in these words we have the same idea namely, that through the preaching of the Word God works a blinding process upon the wicked and the reprobate. Note:

1.  There can be no doubt about it that these verses also deal with the effect of the preaching brought about by God upon the reprobate. This becomes evident when we refer to Isaiah 29, which is quoted in part in Romans 11. There we read: “For the Lord hath poured out upon you a spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and rulers, the elders hath he covered. And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver unto one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee and he saith, I cannot, for it is sealed. And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray the, and he saith, I am not learned.” It is obvious that this passage, and therefore also the quotation from Romans 11, refers again to the preaching of the Word by mouth of the prophet Isaiah.

2.  In the second place, it is relevant that here also is taught that there was an operation of God’s wrath upon the hearers referred to, whereby they received a spirit of deep sleep, eyes that could not see, and ears that could not hear. Thus David’s prayer was answered which he prays against the enemies of God in Psalm 69.

3.  In the light of these passages of Scripture, how can one still maintain that the preaching of the Gospel is a well-meant offer of grace and salvation proceeding from God; that is, that it is God’s purpose that all who hear shall indeed hear, believe, and be saved? The “well-meant” in God’s offer must certainly mean that God sincerely wills that all shall hear, all shall understand, shall be converted and saved. But if this is God’s purpose in the preaching of the Gospel, how can He at the same time give them ears that cannot hear, and eyes that cannot see, and a spirit of deep sleep? Now do not object that this is a mystery, for that it is not. The whole issue is so simple that a child can understand that the preaching of the Word is no general, well-meant offer of grace and salvation from God’s aspect. It is a savor of life unto life, and a savor of death unto death, and that according to the expressed purpose of God.

II Corinthians 2:14-15

Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savor of death unto death; and to the other the savor of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?

Also this passage is perfectly clear with regard to the issue at hand. The apostle is speaking of himself and of this co-workers ministry of the Gospel, the apostle writes, they are a savor of Christ. And they are always a sweet savor of Christ unto God; that is, a savor that is pleasing to God both in those who perish and in those who are saved. The ministers are still a sweet savor of Christ also when some perish through the preaching of the Word, for this is according to His good pleasure and hereby God is glorified and justified in those who perish.

That is how it is.

A preacher may, from a human aspect, want to save and take along to heaven all who hear his word. He certainly will not desire, nor can he or may he desire to be a savor death unto death. It is his calling to be a sweet savor of Christ and faithfully to preach the Word. When he does that he had done his duty, and he leaves the outcome to the Lord. However, let him beware that he does not present God as a beggar, who stands and knocks helplessly at the heart of the hardened sinner, waiting if per chance the sinner might be pleased to open the door for Him. Let him beware of the contention that grace and salvation are an offer of God that the sinner can accept or reject. That is no Gospel. But let him preach the full glory of God in Christ Jesus, the completely helpless and dead sinner, and the almighty and efficacious grace of God, whereby He saves His chosen people. And let him prepare himself, that he may be willing to be a savor of death unto death as well as a savor of life unto life. For that is according to God’s will. And only thereby is he always the victor.

If anyone is not willing to serve that divine purpose, if he thinks he must set his goal upon saving the whole world, then he cannot be a minister of the Gospel simply because he does not desire which God has determined according to the clear revelation of God’s Word.

Then one of two things happens.

Either he becomes discouraged and gives up because as he continues to preach there are so many who do not embrace the Gospel.

Or, and this happens very often in our day, the preacher goes through all sorts of antics, makes the Gospel the cheapest article on sale in the public market, corrupts God’s truth, maintains that he has converted many souls, and deceives many who have never experienced the efficacious grace of God in their hearts.

Woe to those preachers!

They drag the name of the Most High God and of His Christ through the mud when on the public market they bring it up for grabs.

And they deceive thousands for eternity. But in any case it must be evident that from God’s viewpoint the preaching of the Gospel is no general offer of grace and salvation to all who hear it; but that also by the preaching God always shows mercy to whom He will show mercy, and hardens whom He will.

For that reason we have quoted passages from the prophets of the old dispensation and shown clearly that even then that was God’s purpose with the preaching of the Word. We have referred to the preaching of the Savior Himself, and discovered the same. We have referred to the presentation of the Gospel in the epistles of the apostles, showing their preaching and their motive. We always came to the same conclusion: the preaching is definitely no offer of grace.

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