21 July, 2019

Prof. David J. Engelsma on Matthew 5:44-45

[Source: “Is the ‘Well Meant Offer’ Biblical?” (A discussion between Prof. David J. Engelsma and Rev. Sonny Hernandez) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1hW1ZmL-t4, transcripted from 39:16-44:18]

The proponents of the “well-meant gospel offer” will have to appreciate that we are treating a text that they commonly appeal to in support of their position. But let them not overlook that, although they suppose to have some biblical basis in a stray text here or there, the overwhelming testimony of Scripture is against them. I am referring now, for one thing, to the entire history of the Old Testament.

God saved one small nation out of all the nations of the world. He gave His prophetic word, by which is salvation, only to the nation of Israel. He didn’t give it to the Philistines or the Egyptians or the Assyrians or the Chinese. If God had a sincere desire for the salvation of all humans in the Old Testament, He had an odd way of showing it. As Psalm 147 says, “He sheweth his word unto Jacob … He hath not dealt so with any nation” (vv. 19-20). Obviously, the grace of salvation was particular and restricted, in the Old Testament. Likewise, in the New Testament, the overwhelming testimony, in passages beyond numbering (e.g. John 10, Romans 8, Romans 9, and many other passages besides), is that God makes plain that He has a desire for the salvation of some only (i.e. election), that Christ died for the sheep, and for the sheep only (limited atonement), and that His grace is particular and irresistible. So, why do not the defenders of the well-meant gospel offer pay attention to the overwhelming teaching of the entire Bible?

But they do pick out texts here and there, and Matthew 5 is one of their favourites.

There may be different interpretations of God’s sending His rain and sunshine on the evil and on the just, about which good interpreters may debate. But there is one aspect that is perfectly clear in the Matthew 5 passage that puts an end to the defenders of the well-meant gospel offer appealing to it in support of their doctrine. And here’s the aspect that’s important: If Matthew 5 is referring to a favour of God to the ungodly (it isn’t, but if it is), it is referring to a favour that He shows in rain and sunshine.

Now I call attention to the fact that rain and sunshine are not saving operations of God—there is no will for salvation in rain and sunshine, in health and riches etc., and what the defenders of the well-meant gospel offer must prove is that God has a ‘saving’ will, and a ‘saving’ love towards all human beings.

You won’t find that in Matthew 5.

At the very most, you could find in that text proof that God has a certain favour towards the ungodly in this life, that He shows in rain and sunshine, health, and other physical welfare.

Now if rain and sunshine are evidences of God’s favour upon the wicked, then drought and sickness and disappointment are God’s disfavour upon His people. That would contradict all of Scripture. Whatever God does to His children, He does in love and for their good. So that would dismantle the explanation of the text by defenders of the well-meant gospel offer.

What, in fact, the text is teaching is this:

You and I, and all Christians, must do good, as much as possible, to our enemies—those who hate us and mistreat us—and the Lord Himself appeals to ‘deeds’ of God (not to an ‘attitude’ of God, much less, a saving attitude of God, but that there are ‘deeds’ of God that are good in themselves—not good for the spiritual and eternal welfare of the wicked, but those deeds of God are, nevertheless, ‘good’ deeds). God is good in His providential government of society, which includes causing crops to grow, which are enjoyed by the wicked, as well as by the righteous. And so, as God does deeds that are good in themselves to His enemies, we are to do good deeds to our enemies.

But there is nothing in it of a favour of God that wills the salvation of the wicked.

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