19 November, 2019

John 5:40, 43—“And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life”

And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. I receive not honour from men. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive (John 5:40-43).

This text is sometimes appealed to in support of the “well-meant offer” (or “free offer”).

Some see in it a frustrated desire of the Saviour towards those who rejected Him. Others see in Christ’s words an implied offer of salvation that has been refused/trampled on. Others even see in it an implied ability of man to come to Christ of his own free will (an objection to total depravity).


Q. “Is not Jesus in this text expressing disappointment or frustration that some refused to come to Him? Does not this text teach a desire or wish of Christ that these individuals ‘receive’ Him and consequently ‘might have life’ and be saved—although ultimately these individuals perished? Does not this text at least imply that there was redemption and salvation ‘available’ to those who have perished in their sins, if only they had ‘come to [Christ]’ and ‘received’ Him? (i.e. a universal, hypothetical redemption available for all upon condition of repentance and faith).”

Prof. David J. Engelsma:

With regard to John 5, there is neither a desire of Christ for the salvation of these lost souls nor frustration at their refusal to come to Him, whether expressed or implied. Jesus rather expressed their responsibility in refusing to come to Him, which coming was God’s command to them, so that they are guilty of the heinous sin of unbelief. That they on their part wickedly refused to believe on Christ so as to be guilty of the sin in no way negates the truth that no man can come to Jesus unless the Father draw him. (DJE, 28/09/2017)

Prof. Herman C. Hanko:

In the last sentence, the questioner describes a position known as Amyrauldianism. Shortly after the great Synod of Dordt (1618-1619), this error arose in France. It was taught in a somewhat different form in England and this view was represented at the Westminster Assembly by several delegates. It was advocated also in Scotland and is said to have been adopted by the Marrow Men. The view of the Marrow Men was condemned by the General Assembly of the Scottish Presbyterian Church. It was also rejected by the Westminster Assembly, although not by name. The Westminster Confession says that Christ died for “the elect only” (3:6; cf. 8:8).
The questioner asks whether John 5:40 does not express disappointment or frustration on Jesus’ part that they did not come to Him. Such a view, that of the well-meant offer, which holds that God earnestly desires to save the reprobate, immediately raises the question: Can the incarnate Son of God who is “very God of very God” be frustrated? He created the worlds and upholds them, giving life and being to every creature. He, frustrated? He does whatever pleases Him (Ps. 115:3; 135:6)!
The answer to the reader’s question is, even on the surface, a resounding NO. Here Jesus states a simple fact concerning these hard-hearted Jews: “ye will not [i.e., do not wish or want to] come to me.” In the context, Christ explains that they cannot trust in Him because they seek honour from men not God (John 5:44), do not have “the love of God in” them (v. 42) and do not even really believe the five books of Moses (vv. 46-47).
In brief, as our confessions teach, especially the Canons of Dordt, the preaching of the gospel comes with two things: 1) the promise that whoever believes in Christ will be saved; 2) the command that comes promiscuously to all men to repent of their sins and trust in the Saviour (II:5). For more, you could read my book, Corrupting the Word of God, which deals with the history of the well-meant offer, as well as theological and exegetical issues (available from the CPRC Bookstore for £15, inc. P&P).
You can ask, of course, “Doth not God then do injustice to man, by requiring from him in His law that which he cannot perform?” The answer is, “Not at all; for God made man capable of performing it; but man, by the instigation of the devil, and his own wilful disobedience, deprived himself and all his posterity of those divine gifts” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A. 9). God does not excuse man from serving Him because of his own foolishness in disobeying God when He had warned him, “in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17). (Source: “Covenant Reformed News,” vol. 16, no. 23 [March 2018])



More to come! (DV)

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