08 March, 2018

Westminster Confession, VIII: 4—“… He was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfil it …”

This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake; which that He might discharge, He was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfil it; endured most grievous torments immediately in His soul, and most painful sufferings in His body; was crucified, and died, was buried, and remained under the power of death, yet saw no corruption. On the third day He arose from the dead, with the same body in which He suffered, with which also He ascended into heaven, and there sits at the right hand of His Father, making intercession, and shall return, to judge men and angels, at the end of the world (Westminster Confession of Faith, VIII: 4).

“The command to love our neighbour was perfectly fulfilled by Christ. He was ‘made under the law, and did perfectly fulfill it’ (WCF, 8:4). In order for this to be true, He must have shown love, mercy and compassion to both elect and reprobate neighbours, as God requires us to do. Moreover, to say that Christ only loved His neighbour in His human nature is heretically to divide the person of Christ, who ‘was and continueth ever to be, God and man, in two distinct nature’s, and one person, forever’ (Shorter Catechism, 21).” [Source: David Silversides]

Obviously this debate over common grace involves important issues that strike at the heart of what we believe, since our very salvation (justification) demands that our Mediator perfectly fulfil the law on our behalf.

(a) PRCA (anon.):

Indeed, Jesus did fulfil fully the law of the loving of His enemies. In Romans 5:10 we read: “for if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” We by nature are enemies and rebels against Christ and His Word. Yet the unfathomable wonder is that Christ loved us, ugly, miserable, totally depraved, totally wicked sinners. That’s the glory of the love of God for His enemies.

Christ also fulfilled the law to hate those that hate Jehovah. Jesus fulfilled the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 139:21, “Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate Thee? And am not I grieved with those that rise up against Thee?” Proof of this righteous hatred of Christ for His enemies is found in Psalm 109: 

Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand. When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin. Let his days be few; and let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow. Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places. Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labour. Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favour his fatherless children. Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out. Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the Lord; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out. Let them be before the Lord continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth. Because that he remembered not to shew mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man, that he might even slay the broken in heart. As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him: as he delighted not in blessing, so let it be far from him. As he clothed himself with cursing like as with his garment, so let it come into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones. Let it be unto him as the garment which covereth him, and for a girdle wherewith he is girded continually. Let this be the reward of mine adversaries from the Lord, and of them that speak evil against my soul (vv. 6-20).

Christ fulfilled the imprecatory oaths of the Psalmist against his avowed enemies, who were enemies of Jehovah. 

Did Christ give good earthly gifts to the reprobate, as we inevitably will also do in and throughout our lifetime? He certainly did. But, the giving of good earthly gifts to the reprobate, whom He knew as reprobate, was not an indication that He loved them or desired to save them. Christ was bound by the will and purpose of God that, according to Psalm 73, the giving of the good things of this life (bread, fish, water) is governed by God’s eternal counsel, unchangeable purpose, and sovereign good pleasure. 

So, yes, Christ in His fullness fulfilled the law in perfect righteousness.

The question remains, of course, did Jesus love every one of His enemies? Jesus loves only His sheep whom the Father gave to Him in election. The Scriptures teach that Jesus did not love every one of His enemies. There are specific persons that Jesus revealed that He did not love, or that He hated. One example was Judas Iscariot. Jesus did not desire the salvation of the son of perdition, nor extend a supposed “general” or “common” goodness or love towards Judas.

The question or issue raised by the promoters of common grace, according to what you wrote, can be framed as a question this way:  Could Jesus love in His human nature those who in His divine nature He hates from eternity? Could Jesus hate in His human nature those whom Jesus in His divine nature loved? Can the man Jesus love those whom the Son of God hates from eternity?

The answers to those questions must be “no.” The Creed of Chalcedon teaches that there is no conflict between the two natures of Christ. Christ’s will is one. Christ’s love is one.

(b) Prof. David J. Engelsma:

My answer to this question is as follows.

First, both as personally God the eternal Son and as Saviour in His office, Jesus the Christ did not love all humans with whom He came into contact with the love that desired their salvation. It is this about the contemporary theory of common grace that is most offensive to the Protestant Reformed Churches (PRC) and to me. Not that God has a superficial favor towards all humans that results in their receiving good earthly gifts (although we deny this also), but that God loves all humans with His love in Christ, desiring their salvation and graciously offering them salvation out of this desire to save them all.

This fundamental element of the contemporary theory of common grace, Jesus Christ did not have during His earthly ministry according to the Scripture. As the eternal Son personally, He hated some humans and decreed their damnation in the way of their unbelief (Rom. 9). As the official Saviour of humans, He Himself said that He laid down His life for His sheep (the elect), not for all humans without exception (John 10). He did not have or express or act upon a (saving) love of God for all humans without exception. His gospel was not motivated by His will that all hearers should believe and be saved. But His purpose with the gospel was (as it is still today) that His sheep, or elect people, and they only, be saved by it (John 10:27, 28). Concerning the others, the reprobate, the purpose of Jesus with the gospel was, and still is, that they not truly hear it and believe (John 10:26). Notice concerning John 10:26 that Jesus teaches that some believe not, because they are not of His sheep. He has already explained that people are His sheep because the Father gave them to Him in eternity in the decree of election. The reason then why some do not believe when they hear the gospel is because they are not elect. God does not will their faith and salvation. God does not give them faith when the gospel is preached. On the contrary, He hardens them in their unbelief, which is conclusive against the notion that the gospel is a well-meant offer by God to all humans without exception. That God hardens some by the gospel is the teaching of Romans 9:18: “whom he will he hardeneth.”

The conclusion is, then, that Jesus did not, and does not, love all humans with the love that purposes their salvation and did not, and does not, offer salvation to all with the well-meant desire that all be saved by the gospel. As God, Jesus does not have “neighbours,” whom He must love, but only creatures whom He may love or hate as seems good to Him. He is not subject to the law, as we are, but is the lawgiver.

This, for the PRC, is the main issue in the controversy over common grace. Common grace, as officially taught by the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in 1924, when the PRC began, and as taught by many today, including the Banner of Truth in Great Britain, is the doctrine, above all else, that Jesus as the Saviour sincerely desires the salvation of all humans without exception and in this desire offers salvation to all humans in the gospel. This is Arminian heresy, condemned by the Canons of Dordt with its “five points of Calvinism.”

Then the question remains: Did Jesus as a human, as a real man, in His human nature love all His neighbours in any sense at all?

In the sense that He obeyed perfectly the second table of the law, the essence of which is loving the neighbour as oneself, He did. His behaviour towards even His reprobate enemies was righteous, a returning good for their evil, the behaviour of love in His dealings with them. An example is His behaviour before Pilate. He honoured the authoritative position the Roman magistrate occupied, despite the unjust treatment of Himself by Pilate. This was a keeping of the fifth commandment of the law of God as the behaviour of love towards that reprobate unbeliever. But even this was not the grace of the contemporary theory of common grace. For in this obedient behaviour of Jesus towards Pilate, God was at work—and Jesus Himself was at work as God the Son—to leave Pilate without excuse and to render him worthy of judgment. There was no grace of God towards Pilate in Jesus’ behaviour of love towards His neighbour for God’s sake.

If someone objects that this has Jesus hating and loving one and the same person at the same time, hating as God the Son and as Saviour, and loving as a human in that His behaviour was upright and honourable, my response is that there is an important sense in which even we do the same. As a believer, I must love my wicked neighbour, by doing good to him and not retaliating for evil by evil myself. At the same time, I hate him as the enemy of God (Psalm 139).

At the same time, in His human nature Jesus is in perfect accord with the will of God that Jesus is the loving Saviour of some only and that the end of His ministry be the hardening of some humans.

Also, the neighbours who are truly close, or near, to Him—His elect out of the human race, Jesus as a man loves with the full, profound love of the will to save.

No comments:

Post a Comment