26 August, 2016

Rev. Herman Hoeksema on Luke 6:35-36



The questions arise at once: Who are these enemies to whom God is merciful and kind? What is meant by the kindness of God? To these questions [the defender of common grace] immediately replies, “All unthankful and evil are mentioned in one breath in the text. The text does not distinguish between elect and reprobate. God’s kindness is non-saving grace and therefore refers to God’s common grace. He is kind to all the unthankful and evil.” . . .

The text does not speak of all the unthankful and evil. Nor must we be too hasty to argue that it speaks of unthankful and evil without further limitation and that, therefore, all the unthankful and evil are meant.  [This] is a very dangerous method [of reasoning]. Apart from the fact that such an interpretation does not consider at all the current teaching of scripture concerning God’s attitude toward the reprobate ungodly, it is quite improper to read Luke 6:35 as if it referred to all the ungodly, merely on the basis that they are not further defined. If this method of interpretation were sound in this instance, it certainly must be applied in all other cases. That is, wherever the Bible speaks of the ungodly without any limitation, we must insert the word all. If we would apply this method to similar passages of the word of God, we would conclude that the Arminian doctrine that Christ died for all men is correct.

[The defender of common grace often argues against our exegesis thus:]

It must be clear to anyone who is not controlled by prejudice that we have to do here with the worst example of perverting scripture. This is no explanation of the words of Jesus, but an induction of one’s notions into the text. Arbitrarily something that is not contained in the text is inserted. For the text does not say that God shows kindness to those who formerly were unthankful and evil, but are now converted from their unthankfulness and wickedness. Nor do we read here that God is kind to those who still are unthankful and evil, but will be converted from their unthankfulness and wickedness in the future. This is made of the text, but it does not say this. This arbitrary, high-handed exegesis is the result of dogmatic prejudice.

. . . The error and danger of this exegetical method, which refuses to interpret scripture in its own light and is satisfied with explaining each individual text by itself, become apparent when we apply it to other parts of Holy Writ. Just apply it to Romans 5:6: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” The result is that you will reason as follows: The text says that Christ died for the ungodly. It does not say that Christ died for those who formerly were ungodly, but now are no longer ungodly. Neither does the text teach that Christ died for those who at that time were still ungodly, but would be converted from their ungodliness. The text speaks wholly in general of “the ungodly.” Therefore, one has no right to insert the world elect into the text. One who limits the text to the elect ungodly is guilty of perverting the word of God, for the passage teaches clearly that Christ died for all the ungodly.

We know very well that in this case [our Reformed brethren] would not reason thus. [They] would not apply the same method to interpret Romans 5:6 that [they follow] in [their] explanation of Luke 6:35. [They] would object that the word of God elsewhere teaches plainly that Christ did not die for all men but only for the elect; that we must remember this in the interpretation of Romans 5:6; and that the true interpretation of the Romans passage cannot be that Christ died for all men.

But this is arbitrary. You cannot apply two completely different methods of interpretation to scripture. Yet this is precisely what [the defender of common grace] does. If we would follow the same method to interpret Luke 6:35 that [they] admit is the correct method with application to Romans 5:6, [they] would suddenly about-face and brand that method as a perversion of scripture and the result of dogmatic prejudice. Then [they] would deny us the right to limit the unthankful and evil to the elect only, although there is nothing in the text or context that forbids such an interpretation, and it harmonizes with the correct teaching of the word of God throughout. Then [our brethren] would not hesitate to insert the word all into the text.


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