02 June, 2019

Herman C. Hanko on Ezekiel 33:11

Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? (Ezek. 33:11)


[Source: Common Grace Considered (2019 edition), pp. 347-349]

The context here is a charge to the elders in Israel to be watchmen on the walls of the city, whose responsibility it is to warn the inhabitants of the city of the approach of an enemy. If they fail to do this, and people perish as a result, the blood of these people will be required of the watchmen.
It is worth our while to note that the principle God lays down in Ezekiel 33 is still in force today. How dreadful it is when the elders of a church fail to warn the people of enemies who constitute a spiritual danger to the church. And how much more dreadful it is when these watchmen actually conspire with the enemies to assist them in entering the city—something they do when they approve of false doctrine.
Ezekiel is therefore told that he must warn the people of the enemy. If he does this, and the people do not listen, then Ezekiel will be free from their blood (v. 9).
Apparently, the people of the captivity, to whom Ezekiel prophesied, complained that they were so punished by God in being brought into captivity that they saw no possibility of living once again (v. 10). The implied criticism of God was that God had no interest in them anymore and that He did not really care if they died in Babylon.
To this, Ezekiel, speaking God’s word, tells them that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He does have pleasure in repentance and a turning away from the wicked ways that characterized Israel’s life.
One more remark needs to be made, and that is that Ezekiel is addressing the nation in captivity in their organic unity. That is, he is addressing the nation as a whole. But the nation, we must remember, consisted of many wicked who had gained control over the life of the nation and had led the nation into terrible idolatry so that the nation became ripe for judgment.
But there was also in that nation a remnant according to the election of grace. This remnant was small and seemingly insignificant. But it was represented by Daniel and his three friends, by Ezekiel himself, and by those who sang Psalm 137.
This word was spoken to the whole nation in its organic unity; that is, in such a way that the wicked and the faithful both heard it.
This truth remains always the same. The word of the gospel is proclaimed in the church in its organic unity. In that church are hypocrites and unfaithful members. But in that church are also believers, saved by the power of the gospel. To them all, comes the word of God: “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways, for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”
That is, as Canons 2.5 expresses it: God promises eternal life to all who receive the gospel and repent of their sins; but God condemns those who refuse to obey the command of the gospel.
Looking at the preaching from God’s point of view, and from the viewpoint of His eternal purpose, God uses that gospel with its promise and its command to save His people through the work of the Spirit in their hearts. And He uses the same gospel to harden the wicked in their way that it may be shown that God is righteous in all His ways.


[Source: Common Grace Considered (2019 edition), pp. 352-353]

The two passages in Ezekiel (18:31, 33:11) underscore … an extremely important truth concerning God’s purpose in the gospel. 
That God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked is not at all difficult to understand. God has no pleasure in sin. It is contrary to His own holy being. He detests sin and is filled with fury against it and the sinner. The punishment of the sinner is necessary because it is the manifestation of His hatred of sin. He must destroy the wicked to preserve His own holiness.
How out of keeping this is with the thinking of much of the church in our day. If one would listen to theologians one would get the impression that God does not mind sin all that much. He overlooks it rather easily and winks at the sinner as if the sinner is only a little naughty boy who does not know any better.
Common grace, with its doctrine of God’s universal love, takes sides with modern theology. But it is all unspeakably degrading of the holy God. Let us preserve at all costs the great holiness of Jehovah God before whom the angels cover their faces and cry all the day, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty.”
One final remark. Some will conclude from that what I have outlined here implies “two wills” in God. There is the will of His decree, and there is the will of God’s command. After all, the counsel of God is called God’s “good pleasure” in Scripture (Is. 44:28). And Scripture (and the Canons in 3–4.8-9) speaks of God’s serious command that all men repent of sin and believe in Christ and call this serious command, God’s good pleasure. On the one hand, therefore, God’s good pleasure is to reveal His justice in reprobation; while it is also God’s good pleasure to demand that all men repent of sin.
Reformed and Presbyterian theologians have always recognized that a distinction must be made between the eternal will of God’s counsel and the will of God’s command. But it would be a wrong conclusion to interpret this distinction as referring to “two wills” in God. The fact is that the will of God’s command is the means by which God carries out the will of His decree. God made man holy and able to keep all the commandments God laid down. Obedience to those commandments was required because those commandments expressed God’s purpose in creating man.
Man transgressed and lost completely his ability to obey God. God, rightly, and with perfect justice, still requires of man obedience. Man cannot and will not obey God. But in the hearts of the elect, God works through Christ’s perfect obedience to the law the salvation of His elect. So, both the eternal decree of election and reprobation are accomplished through the on-going demand of the law. In the elect, God accomplishes His purpose in Christ by enabling the elect to keep the law. In the reprobate God accomplishes His eternal purpose in the way of man’s refusal to repent of sin.
Perfect harmony, perfect justice, perfect mercy, and a perfect will of God to bring all praise and glory to Himself.

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