05 November, 2016

Luke 7:30—“But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him”

But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him (Luke 7:30).

This passage is sometimes used to support the “well-meant offer of the gospel” (so-called)—i.e. the notion that the Almighty earnestly and fervently wills, wishes, wants and desires the salvation of the reprobate; the notion that entails the ghostly spectre of a failing, foolish and frustrated God.
The idea of this text is that “the counsel of God” represents a purpose of God to save the Pharisees and lawyers that wasn’t carried out to completion … because it was rejected by this individuals—i.e. a frustrated purpose of God (K. W. Stebbins, Christ Freely Offered)


Rev. Angus Stewart

[Source: Audio lecture: God’s Saving Will in the New Testament (The responses to the following questions are a transcription compiled from both the lecture and the Q&A session)]

Q. 1. “What is your understanding of Luke 7:30? It is usually taken to refer to a purpose, will, wish or desire of God for the salvation of the Pharisees­—a purpose/will of God which is thwarted by the impenitence of those particular individuals mentioned in the text.”

God’s will has historically and very helpfully been spoken of in chiefly two ways: there is the “will of God’s decree” (i.e. what God shall do—this refers to His eternal counsel which determined absolutely everything that shall come to pass) and there is the “will of God’s command” (i.e. what He tells us we should do—this refers to His moral, ethical requirements which are summed in the Ten Commandments).

In Luke 7:30, the key word is “counsel” (in the Greek: boulē—a form of boúlomai). We usually think of the “counsel” of God in terms of the decree, but here the “counsel of God” refers to God’s command. The Pharisees and lawyers rejected the command of God against themselves, being not baptised by John. John came and said, “Repent! The axe is laid at the foot of the tree. Repent and be baptised! The Saviour (Christ) is coming. Believe in Him!”—and later he cries out “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.” The scribes and Pharisees rejected the command and preceptive will of God by rejecting the message of John and by not heeding him.

Q. 2. “But does not a ‘command’ of God entail a desire of God?”

When we come to the will of God’s decree, that definitely is what God desires, wishes and wants to happen—and therefore it comes about. When we deal with the commands of God, on the other hand, they don’t tell us what God desires or wishes or wants to happen—they tell us what God is pleased with.

If a command of God means that God wants every individual person to do it, what does that do to God? Thomas Aquinas [described] God as “the unmoved Mover,” [but the] view of a ‘command’ of God requiring that God desires that it take place makes God “the most frustrated Desirer ever.” Think of it this way: The unbeliever, because of his total depravity, cannot do any good (“There is none that doeth good”—Rom. 3:12). [If we follow the idea that God’s commands tell us what God ‘desires,’ then you end up with] the majority of people, all of their life, frustrating a desire of God. Think of the [elect child of God]—some are regenerated as infants and others are regenerated later: Let’s say there’s someone who’s effectually called when he’s thirty years old, so that everything up to that thirty years was only sinful and nothing righteous and pleasing to God in [anything] that person did. Then, after that person is converted, the good that he would, he does not, and the evil that he would not, that he does (cf. Rom. 7:14-16)—i.e. even in the good that he does, there is always sin; and, for use of a better phrase, even in the evil that we do, there is always a little bit of good in it—for you always hate it as a believer. So if every command means that God desires it (e.g. the Ten Commandments: “no other gods before Me; worship Me only in the way that I tell you; don’t take the name of the Lord God in vain and remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy; honour all authority over you; no killing, adultery, stealing, lying or coveting …”)—you end up with God’s desires with regard to the reprobate and all their lives … thwarted; and then all the life of the elect before they’re saved (more unfulfilled desires), and then with regard to the believer, as he never seems to do anything perfect either … This view ends up with God just incredibly frustrated, failed desires—all these things He wished and wanted to happen never happen (the opposite happens), and that He decreed these things so that they would never happen (He decreed the fall, He decreed reprobation, He decreed that Christ wouldn’t die for the reprobate, He decreed that He wouldn’t regenerate them or reveal Christ to them, or preserve them or keep them, or glorify them, or raise them up at the resurrection …) What does that do to God? [The] Bible talks about God’s will being sovereign, gracious, saving, etc.

A command of God doesn’t show what God desires. It shows what pleases God. So you can say to an unbeliever “You should repent, because your life has been totally displeasing to God and wicked. And this would be the first thing you do that has ever pleased God.” And you can say to someone who’s a Christian, “You need to change the way you are living in this area of your life because that’s dishonouring to God. This pleases Him. This is the good, perfect, acceptable and pleasing will of God (cf. Rom. 12:2, which is dealing with the will of command).”



Peter Nahuys

[Source: A Brief Summary of Christian Doctrine; Set Forth Against Heretics and Heresies, 1739;
quoted in The History of the Free Offer, chapter 8, by Prof. H. Hanko]

It is evident that in this passage the reference is not to an internal, but only to an external calling or invitation, which was done and presented by John the Baptist to their conversion, which invitation or demand of God, laid in the mouth of John, the Pharisees and Scribes rejected.



Prof. Herman C. Hanko

Luke 7:30 is about as far away from proof for common grace that I can find. First of all, the Greek boule is a word for God’s counsel, and although God’s counsel has the purpose of God attaining his glory, the word itself does not mean “purpose.” Secondly the text simply means that the Pharisees, who came to the Jordan to hear John preach, refused to be baptized by John. That is, they refused to be converted and confess their sins, a necessary way to be baptized. By doing this, their rejection brought judgment on them. By rejecting the counsel of God, they rejected Christ, whose way was being prepared by John. (HH, 18/11/2016)



More to come! (DV)

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