16 March, 2017

Romans 10:1—“… my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved”

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved (Rom. 10:1 KJV).

This text is sometimes alluded to as proof that God must love all men—the argument being that if God desires only some to be saved, and yet Paul here desires all to be saved, that would therefore mean that Paul (and by extension, all of us) is “more loving” than God … something which can never be! Therefore God, it is said, must love all men in order to not be “out-done by His own creatures.”


Prof. David J. Engelsma

[Source: Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 47, no. 2 (April 2014), p. 70.]

The issue between the well-meant offer, on the one hand, and the doctrine of particular, efficacious grace in the call, on the other hand, is not whether we desire all to whom we preach or witness to come to Christ and be saved, but whether God desires this … Fact is, that even the natural desire of the preacher and church that all in the congregation or on the mission field be saved by the work of the preacher and church, in the way of repentance and faith, is consciously subjected to the sovereign will of God in predestination. Paul conducted his ministry “for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (II Timothy 2:10).



Prof. Herman C. Hanko

[Source: Covenant Reformed News, June 2017—volume XVI, issue 14]

Q. “Paul in Romans 9:1-3 and 10:1 reveals that he has an ardent, earnest desire and longing for all his kinsman (head for head) to be saved. Yet you deny that God Himself desires all to be saved. Does not that make you more loving than God?”

… Paul expressed his desire that all Israel be saved. Moses did something of the same thing when he prayed to God that He would spare Israel after their sin of worshipping the golden calf at Sinai. Moses loved God’s church so much that he was willing to go to hell for them (Ex. 32:32).

Has the defender of common grace never pleaded with God to spare someone whom he loved? His wife dying of cancer? His son who has fled home and lives a godless life? Have not godly parents, while watching their little child writhe in pain, wished that they could suffer in the place of their child?

God showed Moses and Paul that His will was not to save everyone. Moses learned this when God declared, “[I] will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy” (33:19). Paul wrote that, in spite of his personal desires, God does not save all Israel; He desires to save (and, therefore, saves) the true Israel of election (Rom. 9:6-8). God does not desire to save reprobate Jews or Gentiles: “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (13); “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will [or wants to] have mercy, and whom he will [or wants to] he hardeneth” (18); “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing [or wanting or desiring] to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction ...” (21-22).

And so the believer, in his anguish, prays, “Thy will be done,” and seeks the higher purpose in life’s sorrows: the glory of Almighty God.

I might add that neither Moses nor Paul had to go to hell because of their sin or the sin of the church, for Christ suffered for all His church so that, by the power of His particular and efficacious atonement, all the elect are saved from the hell we deserve.



Prof. David J. Engelsma

Q. “If God only desires some to be saved, and yet Paul here desires all men to be saved, does this therefore mean that Paul is ‘more loving’ than God?”

The argument of the persons of the “More-Loving-Than-God” thinking proves too much. It proves that God on His part actually attempts to save all humans, but fails. For we not only love our enemies, but exert ourselves on their behalf, that is, try to save them. If what is true of us must also be true of God, He, therefore, also tries to save all humans, but fails. This trying includes giving Jesus Christ to the death of the cross for all humans, for there can be no salvation apart from the cross. Christ then died for all, but His death is unavailing. 

All of this speculative thinking results in an impotent God, one frustrated by the will of sinners, and in a death of Christ that not only is a failure but that also was not effectual atonement for anyone. 
Besides, this reasoning conflicts with the express testimony of the Bible in Romans 8 and 9 that God loves only the elect with His saving love (which is the love the “More-Loving-Than-God” folk have in mind) and that Christ died effectually only for the elect.
The flaw in the reasoning of the “M-L-T-G” people is, first, that it is mere speculation, not based on the Bible. The Bible does not teach that we are to love our enemies or all humans because God loves all His enemies. The Bible clearly teaches that God hates some humans. God hated Esau (Romans 9), even though Jacob was called to love his brother. Theological conclusions must not be based merely on abstract reasoning, but on definite biblical grounds. The Bible teaches that we are to love our enemiesour enemies personally, not as God’s enemies (cf. Psalm 139:21-22: “Do not I hate them who hate thee? … I hate them with perfect hatred …”)because God loves men and women who are His enemies by nature, that is, the elect in the race who are by nature enemies on their part of God. Second, the reasoning is wrong in that it makes the comparison of our love with God’s a matter of numbers (if we are to love all, God must also love all). Fact is, the comparison is in the reality of God’s (particular) love of His enemies. As God loves His enemies, regardless that they are only some of the human race, so also are we to love our enemies, regardless that they are more in number than those whom God loves. 
This does not make us more loving than God, for the greatness of love is not found in mere number of objects of love. The greatness of love is found in the grace of love (how the objects of divine love are unworthy of love!) and in what love does for the beloved (the love of God gave the only begotten Son for the objects of love). 
Truth is that as a Christian, I must love some whom God hates, and this manifests the love of God, who loves men and women who hate Him, though not all humans who hate Him. These objects of His love are not a “few,” but an innumerable multitude.



More to come! (DV)

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