18 November, 2019

Reformed Responses to Travis Fentiman’s “Common Grace/Free Offer” Arguments on “Reformed Books Online”




The following are responses to every single one of Mr. Travis Fentiman’s arguments for the “Free Offer” and “Common Grace” on a website of his, under the name “Reformed Books Online.” It is to be noted that these responses are written by officially-ordained Reformed ministers, professors, and theologians who have very kindly taken the time to examine each one and write some brief critical comments as an answer.

It must be added that this is a work still in progress and will be completed in due course.


Scripture Passage
Travis Fentiman’s
Argument
Reformed Responses



Common Grace Texts





“Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth for ever” (Ps. 136:25).
Ps. 136 says throughout that God’s creating the heavens and ordaining the cycles of the stars for the benefit of all is mercy.  His taking Israel out of Egypt, defeating their enemies and giving them a land for an inheritance, though the majority of Israel were unbelievers, was merciful.  Verse 25 says that God’s providing food to all animals and people is merciful.
1)  If the proponent of common grace is arguing that 136:25 speaks of a mercy of God to every human, the Psalm itself will not allow it.  The Psalm regards God’s mercy to Israel.  Therefore, the “all flesh” of verse 25 is not every human, but the people of God.  Evidence in the Psalm that Jehovah’s mercy is particularly for Israel, and not for all humans, is His destruction of Egypt (vv. 10, 15), and other nations (vv. 18-20).  I remember a seminary professor telling me years ago that “all flesh” could even include the care of God for Israel’s sheep and goats and bullocks; but still, it is a particular mercy shown to Israel alone.
2)  If the proponent of common grace is arguing that 136:25 speaks of mercy in material things, such as rain and sunshine, the answer is twofold:  (a) In the Old Testament, God did give His people earthly abundance, in the way of their obedience, as tokens of His favor.  (b) Even today, though God does not promise earthly abundance to those who love Him, yet what He does give is given in His love for us. (DK, 29/04/2019)
“The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.  The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works” (Ps. 145:8-9)
The term “good” in Hebrew, often means gracious.  So 1 Pet. 2:3 translates it this way, quoting from Ps. 34:8.  Other examples of God’s goodness being synonymous with mercy and loving kindness are found in Ps. 23:6, 25:7-8, 86:5 and others.
David, indeed, tells us that ‘the Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy;’ that ‘the Lord is good to all; and his tender mercies are over all his works,’ Ps. 145:8, 9: but he tells us withal whom he intends by the ‘all’ in this place, even the ‘generations which praise his works and declare his mighty acts,’ verse 4; those who ‘abundantly utter the memory of his great goodness, and sing of his righteousness,’ verse 7; or his ‘saints,’ as he expressly calls them, verse 10. The work he there mentions is the work of the kingdom of Christ over all, wherein the tender mercies of God are spread abroad in reference to them that do enjoy them (The Works of John Owen, vol. 12, pp. 559-560).
“Let favor be showed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness” (Isa. 26:10).
‘Favor’ in the Hebrew is ‘chesed’, or grace, grace being undeserved favor.  Verses 9 and 11 show that the wicked spoken here are not of Israel, but of the world.  And, as they will not learn righteousness, they demonstrate themselves to be reprobates.

“They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy” (Jonah 2:8).
The reference is to idolaters who worship false gods and continue to do such (that is, reprobates).  Yet the mercy that is offered to them, which they forsake, is their own mercy.  That is, mercy offered to them is a merciful act towards them.  They are the recipients of mercy designed for them, and yet they forsake it.
The gospel, that there is one only God who reveals Himself in Jesus Christ, contains a promise that those who fear, trust, and obey Him will experience His mercy.  The idolater does not experience mercy, for he turns from the true God.  I do not understand, then, why any say that there is mercy for the idolater.  Jonah makes clear that there is not.  They turn their back on mercy.
If the point of the argument is that the very presentation of the gospel, which they refused to heed, was, itself, merciful, then someone is trying to find in this text a support for the “well-meant offer of the gospel.”  To that, my response would be:  (1) only if the “well-meant offer” is clearly taught elsewhere in Scripture can it be read into this text.  (2) but the rest of Scripture and the Reformed confessions teach that God, in causing the reprobate to hear the gospel, is not being “merciful” to them; He is only making plain to their mind what it is that they are rejecting.
If the Bible were to teach the well-meant offer, one could read Jonah 2:8 in light of it.  If the Bible rejects the well-meant offer, Jonah cannot be used to support it.  More to the point, when looking in the Bible for support for the well-meant offer, one certainly cannot claim that Jonah 2:8 trumps Romans 9-11. (DK, 29/04/2019)
“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matt. 5:44-45).
“The parallelism, though it is implicit, is that we are to love evil people as our Father does.  If God does not love evil people, the argument makes no sense.  It is also the Holy Spirit that causes us to love our enemies, because He, being God, loves them.  It would be strange for the Holy Spirit to cause us to love those people that He hates.”
/// “The parallelism, though it is implicit, is that we are to love evil people as our Father does.  If God does not love evil people, the argument makes no sense.” ///

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. (DJE, Dialogue with Rev. Sonny Hernandez, “Is the ‘Well-Meant Offer’ Biblical?”)

/// “It is also the Holy Spirit that causes us to love our enemies, because He, being God, loves them.  It would be strange for the Holy Spirit to cause us to love those people that He hates.” ///

Why is that strange? Who is to say what is strange? The Bible tells us what is true, not our feelings of strangeness. (MM, 06/10/2019)

Using similar argumentation someone could also say, “The Holy Spirit creates in us repentance and the desire to repent … Surely therefore the Holy Spirit has desires to repent ...?” Or, “The Holy Spirit works in us faith, and He works in us the desire to believe more and more (“Lord, increase our faith”—Luke 17:5). Does not this mean that the Holy Spirit Himself ‘believes’? or desires to believe ...?”
What the Holy Spirit works in us are desires that are fitting for a ‘creature’ to walk in the will of God. Ones appropriate for a ‘creature’ are not appropriate for God.
For instance, human beings have souls and different thoughts and emotions. As creatures, it is appropriate for us to think things from several different perspectives. Let’s say, for example, that someone known to us sins. You feel really angry for what that person has done, or done to somebody else, and yet you also feel ‘pity’ towards that person (“If only that person realised what they were doing ... they’re going to ruin their lives”).
What is the will of God in this situation? The will of God, if this person is an elect, is to save them (“all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose”—Rom. 8:28). God’s desire in this situation is to sanctify this person, or maybe use it to bring him to repentance later on.
God has one desire, and yet God, by His Spirit, makes us human beings who are creatures who don’t know everything to feel various emotions and sentiments correlating to the various perspectives of events (i.e. we only see a little bit of what’s going on and react in all the ways in which limited human beings react—we don’t know the past or the future and we don’t know what’s going on, etc.). (Rev. Angus Stewart—public lecture: “God’s Saving Will in the New Testament,” Q&A session)
“But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again … and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.  Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:35-36).
“These verses show that we are to pattern our character and actions after God’s, that we might be like Him.  The word ‘kind’ in v. 35, that God is kind to both the unthankful and the evil, is the same Greek word translated ‘love’ in 1 Cor. 13.  These common good gifts to all human kind are termed mercy in verse 36, as it is God’s character to be merciful to the elect and the reprobate.”
Plainly, Luke 6:35 cannot bear the interpretation given it by the defenders of common grace. This interpretation is that God is kind to reprobate unthankful and evil men with a non-saving, common grace kindness … God’s kindness in Luke 6:35 is [said to be] a “positive, albeit non-salvific, regard for those who are not elect.” But the text teaches the saving grace, or kindness, of God toward unthankful and evil people. The word that is translated “kind” is the Greek word chreestos (χρηστός)This word is used of God elsewhere in the New Testament in I Peter 2:3 and in Romans 2:4. In I Peter 2:3, where the King James Version translates the word as “gracious,” the word refers to God’s kindness in saving His elect. “As newborn babes,” regenerated believers are to desire the sincere milk of the word, “if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious (Greek: chreestos). In Romans 2:4, the King James Version translates chreestos as “goodness”: “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” [See footnote below]. Inasmuch as this goodness, or kindness, of God leads one to repentance, it is a saving kindness, not a “common grace” kindness …
Scripture denies that God is kind and merciful to unthankful and evil reprobates, having compassion on them in their misery, willing their salvation, leading them to repentance, and forgiving their sins: “For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion … Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth” (Rom. 9:15, 18). Scripture teaches that the Christ of God, carrying out the will of God who sent Him, refused to pray for all men without exception. Thus, He showed that He did not sincerely desire the salvation of all without exception. He prayed only for those whom the Father had given Him out of the world. “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine” (John 17:9).
The meaning of Luke 6:35 is that we Christians are to love our neighbors, including our enemies. These enemies are unbelievers, non-Christians, who are hostile toward us because of our confession and discipleship of Christ. They may well be reprobate enemies, although we hope that our prayers and kind behavior may be useful to win them to Christ.
In loving our enemies, we reflect the character of our Father. Like Father, like children. For God is kind to unthankful and evil people. He is not kind to all unthankful and evil people. Nor does Luke 6:35 say this. But He is kind to people who are unthankful and evil. These are the elect in Christ, “the children of the Highest,” who now are called and privileged to show the marvelous goodness of their heavenly Father in their own attitude and behavior toward their enemies.
We were the unthankful and evil when in kindness He set His love upon us in the eternal decree of election.
We were the unthankful and evil when in kindness He gave up His own Son for us in the redeeming death of the cross.
We were the unthankful and evil when in kindness He translated us by the regenerating Spirit into the kingdom of His dear Son.
And still we are the unthankful and evil when daily, in kindness, He brings us to repentance, forgives our sins, preserves us in the faith, and shows us a fatherly face in Jesus Christ. For, although by His grace we are also thankful and holy, we have only a very small beginning of this thankfulness and holiness. How unthankful we are for the love of God to us in Jesus Christ! And this is evil! This is a great evil!
[Luke 6:35] does not teach a common grace of God. It teaches a saving kindness of God. If the unthankful and evil in the text are all humans without exception, the text teaches that the saving grace of God is universal, a doctrine that the rest of Scripture denies, a doctrine that the Reformed confessions condemn, and a doctrine that [all Calvinists] repudiate. (DJE, “Common Grace Revisited” [RFPA])
“Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.  Nevertheless He left not himself without witness, in that He did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:16-17).
“This shows that God does ‘good’ to the nations he leaves in darkness without the gospel.”
[When] God “did good” in Acts 14:17 … it was as a “witness,” but the ungodly heathen must never imagine, when God “gave [them] rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling [their] hearts with food and gladness,” that this was a demonstration that the Creator loved them, favoured them or sought to bless them. Indeed, Paul writes elsewhere that the wrath of God—and not His love or favour—is revealed from heaven through the creation that God has made (Rom. 1:18-20).
God reveals His love, grace, mercy and favour in Jesus Christ! Only in Jesus Christ!
(Rev. Martyn McGeown, “British Reformed Journal,” Issue 63 [Autumn/Winter 2016])
“Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?  But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Rom. 2:4-5).
“The end of verse 4 is a purpose clause (which should be translated “which ought to lead you to repentance”), which is frustrated in verse 5.  Arminians are wrong because they believe God’s decrees can be, and are, frustrated by man.  Calvinists believe that God’s decrees cannot be frustrated.  However, the loving aspect of God’s revealed will as expressed in the free offer of the gospel can be frustrated as this verse shows, just as unbeliever’s also frustrate and disobey the moral aspect of God’s will by breaking His commandments.

“What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction” (Rom. 9:22).
Note that longsuffering is an expression of kindness and is often associated with God’s love and mercy (Ps. 86:15; 2 Cor. 6:6).
According to Romans 9:22, God endures “with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.” It would be easy, but wrong, to interpret this to mean that longsuffering here denotes an attitude of God’s favor toward the reprobate wicked. What the text says is that He endures the vessels of wrath (and their wickedness), doing so with much longsuffering; or while He endures the wicked (the tares), He experiences and reveals longsuffering to His people. It is like a loving father witnessing His children being beaten by muggers. He, for a time, endures their being painfully afflicted (that they through a measure of suffering may learn to endure hardness). Those wicked oppressors (cp. the Egyptians) He endures and endures, until He must finally say, Enough is enough! and rescue His own (cp. the Israelites) from their frightening beatings. Of course, all the while He endured those violent enemies He was longsuffering over His children! (See also Reformed Dogmatics, Herman Hoeksema, first two paragraphs, p. 121). God's waiting out the wicked is in order “that He might be gracious” (Isa. 30:18) to His people. Grace is both revealed only in Christ and only to those in Christ. This then of necessity goes for His longsuffering and patience (aspects of His grace). Jesus Christ, our faithful Savior, fully satisfied for all our sins to lay down the ground for manifestations of His longsuffering. Then this mercy is not common, showered also on the wicked, but is particular, experienced only by the righteous. For “the longsuffering of God is (not merely has a tendency to) salvation” (II Pet. 3:15). Then no comfort is there for the wicked that God endures them until He cannot stand them any more. (Robert Harbach [1914-1996], “The Standard Bearer,” vol. 60, no. 4 [Nov. 15, 1983])
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame” (Heb. 6:4-6).
Reprobates that hear the gospel and sit under the ministry of the Word partake of the gracious common operations of the Holy Spirit, tasting of the things of God, of the promises and of the world to come, and yet turn away to perdition.  While all of these blessings are not-saving, do note that they are internal upon the soul of the reprobate.
In the sphere of the visible church, the understanding of some reprobate can even be said to be “enlightened” by the Spirit, so that they have a clear natural understanding of spiritual things (Heb. 6:4) and a sense or “taste” of the beauty of the Scriptures, the glory of heaven and the power of God (vv. 4-5). The ungodly prophet Balaam (II Pet. 2:15-16) certainly experienced this, as one can see from his four prophecies concerning Israel (Num. 23:7-10, 18-24; 24:3-9, 15-24) and especially certain parts of them (e.g., 23:10, 23; 24:5, 9, 17, 23), for he “knew the knowledge of the most High” (24:16) and spoke by “the spirit of God” (v. 2). Through the preaching, the Spirit even gives some non-elect “joy” in their natural understanding of spiritual things, before they fall away from their (hypocritical) profession of faith (Matt. 13:20-21). After all, it is only through the Spirit that unbelievers experience (an earthly) joy in the pleasant things of God’s creation like a beautiful sunset or a good meal or finally grasping a difficult concept. Even so, it is the Spirit who gives some reprobate a natural understanding of spiritual things and a (temporary) natural joy in spiritual things. Moreover, reprobate unbelievers, such as Judas Iscariot, were given power to exorcise demons (7:22; 10:1, 4) of the Father, through the Son and by the Holy Spirit (10:1; 12:28).
In connection with the three proof texts often listed with Westminster Confession 10:4, we note, first, that those who merely receive the “common operations of the Spirit,” such as, a natural illumination in, and a natural taste of, spiritual things in Hebrews 6:4-5 are subject to God’s “cursing” (v. 8), which is His powerful, damning wrath (Matt. 25:41). Second, sandwiched between the parable of the sower (13:3-9) and its explanation (vv. 18-23), including its word about those who experience natural joy over the mysteries of the kingdom for a time (vv. 20-21), is Christ’s affirmation of God’s election and reprobation as determining man’s response to the gospel (vv. 14-15; cf. Isa. 6:9-10; John 12:39-40). Third, to those not elected to salvation who have uttered prophecies, exorcised demons and performed miracles (Matt. 7:22), the Lord states that He will say, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (v. 23). Since Christ, the incarnate Son of God, knows all men head for head intellectually, and must know everybody in order to proclaim this judgment upon many at the last day, “I never knew you” refers to His knowledge of love: “I never loved you, not now, not before the foundation of the world, not during your life on earth, never!” Thus all these good gifts to the reprobate come to them not in God’s love and grace (Ps. 73; Prov. 3:33; Rom. 9:13; 11:7-10) but by His sovereign, all-controlling providence, which is of the Father, through the Son and by the Holy Spirit.
These “operations of the Spirit” are “common” to the elect and the reprobate in that some elect and some reprobate have performed miracles (Matt. 7:22) and all elect and some reprobate have been enlightened and given joy in, and a taste of, the mysteries of the gospel by the Spirit (13:20; Heb. 6:4-5). There are especially three differences, however, with regard to the “operations of the Spirit” in the elect and the non-elect. First, the Spirit gives to some reprobate a natural understanding, joy and taste of or in spiritual things, whereas the elect receive a spiritual understanding, joy and taste of or in spiritual things (John 17:13; I Cor. 2:14). Second, the “operations of the Spirit” come to the two groups of people with a different divine motivation and in a different way: the elect receive them in God’s grace but the reprobate receive them in providence and not grace. (Rev. Angus Stewart, “Covenant Reformed News,” vol. XIV, issue 14 [June 2013])



Outward Mercies in the Covenant of Grace to the Reprobate


“Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation” (Exod. 15:13).
“This is part of Moses’ song after God mercifully lead Israel through the divided waters of the Red Sea.  Yet, Deut. 32:5,6 calls those same people a perverse and crooked generation.  Deut. 32:10,11 says that God lead this foolish and unwise people about in the wilderness as the apple of His eye and spread His wings over them as an eagle.”

“The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.  And the LORD said, I have pardoned according to thy word…" (Num. 14:18-20).

"Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it…" (Num. 14:23).

"I the LORD have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die” (Num. 14:35).
“Moses prays that God would forgive Israel and not utterly destroy them after the 10 spies brought back the bad report.  God forgives Israel according to the greatness of His mercy even though they are an evil congregation (and remain evil till the whole generation dies in the wilderness).  Notice that God’s forgiveness here to the reprobate is non-salvific.  Also notice that Moses pleads in his prayer that God is merciful and forgiving by His very nature even to the reprobate.”

“But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deut. 7:8).
“This verse says that God loved Israel, that is, those in the Covenant of Grace, and brought them out of the Egypt.  Yet, many in Israel were unbelievers, as Heb. 3 and 4 and 1 Cor. 10 says.  God has a special love for those in the Covenant of Grace, unbelievers and believers alike.”
The short and quick answer [to this argument] is found in Romans 9. Israel are the seed of Abraham (Gen. 17:7). Romans 9:3-8 directly answers the question by declaring that “they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.” And all the seed of Abraham are not automatically the children of the promise, but a distinction must be made between the children of Israel who are children of the flesh and those children of Israel who are the children of the promise. The “seed of Abraham” are only “the children of the promise.”
A lengthier response would be to point out that when God speaks through Moses to the nation of Israel, He is addressing the church as it existed in that day. They were the church militant. They were the true church of that day.
God speaks to the nation/church as a whole, even though he knows that there are unbelievers among them. It is the same way with a farmer who looks at his field of planted corn and says “That is my corn field,” even though he knows that there are weeds in it. So God is addressing Israel as a whole.
Deuteronomy 7:6-8 make it clear that God is looking at the church as a whole with words which are only for the true seed of Abraham, the children of the promise. This should be easily understood when the passage speaks of God’s activity of choosing them to be a “special people unto Himself” and His setting “His love upon” them. This is God’s work of election, which is a work of love (Eph. 1:4b,5a) and which Scripture limits to the elect. This would conflict with Psalm 5:5; 7:11; 11:5 and many other passages which speak of God’s hatred for sinners.
Also, to hold to common grace proves too much. The common grace would have to be particular, namely, not for the Canaanites and other nations which God did not choose, but only for those Israelites who were unbelievers.(RVO, 05/08/2019)
“For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant.  But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath.  For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.  How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert!  Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.  They remembered not his hand” (Ps. 78:37-42).
“Here again God is being merciful and compassionate to the unregenerate who are never converted.”
There is forgiveness only in Christ. So when God says that He “forgave their iniquity” that has to refer to the elect remnant who are in Christ. (JL, 29/07/2019)
“I will mention the loving-kindnesses of the Lord, and the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of His loving-kindnesses” (Isa. 63:7).
“This speaks of the love of God to Israel His people, yet in verse 10 it says these same people turned against Him and became His enemies, demonstrating that they were reprobates.  They “vexed His Holy Spirit”.  That is, they frustrated and resisted the common operations of the Holy Spirit, which is what Gen 6:3, Heb. 6:4-6 and 10:26,29 speak of.”

“Wherefore I will yet plead with you, saith the LORD, and with your children’s children will I plead” (Jer. 2:9).
The Lord legally pleads with His covenanted reprobate people who refuse to be faithful to Him.  The whole chapter chronicles His kindness to them and their ungratefulness to Him.
It’s important to note that “plead” has the idea of “contending with” or “striving with words” as in “getting into a quarrel.” So the word is used in the sense of carrying on a lawsuit against someone. For example, the word is used in Genesis 13:7: “And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land.” Similarly, Genesis 26:20: “And the herdmen of Gerar did strive with Isaac’s herdmen, saying, The water is ours: and he called the name of the well Esek; because they strove with him.” Also, Exodus 17:2: “Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt the LORD?”  So, pleading is not necessarily a begging and hoping against hope that those who hear the word would repent. 
But, when God directs his argument against those who are walking in sin, the reprobate will hear the word and harden their hearts. At the same time, God will graciously work in the hearts of His elect to BRING them to repentance through the word of warning. So this does not qualify as a well-meant offer in the sense that God is graciously dealing with the reprobate trying to get them to repent. (JM, 09/08/2019)
“For thus saith the Lord, Enter not into the house of mourning, neither go to lament nor bemoan them: for I have taken away my peace from this people, saith the Lord, even loving-kindness and mercies” (Jer. 16:5).
“This verse says that God takes away His loving-kindnesses and mercy from an obstinate people because they are rebellious unbelievers.

“And the Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms… For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold…” (Hos. 1:2; 2:8).
The Lord married Israel to Himself by covenant, though much of Israel whored after other lovers and proved herself to be reprobate, as the book of Hosea describes.  Yet, during all this time, God showered and blessed His unbelieving people with His gracious covenant mercies.
The erroneous interpretation of that text (Hosea 2:8) which would find there God bestowing gracious covenant mercies upon unbelieving Israel, partakes of either one of two errors:
(1) It either looks at God’s grace or mercy in the things He gives—something powerfully refuted in Psalm 73, or (2) It fails to understand that “not all are Israel which are of Israel” (Romans 9:6), and therefore the good gifts which God bestows upon people (including in the outward manifestation of Israel, His church) are given either for their salvation or damnation.  In the opening verses of Romans 9, e.g., the apostle points out the greater condemnation for those who have rejected the gospel, even after having been brought into such intimate connection with those precious gifts of God.  A very similar teaching is seen in the opening verses of Hebrews 6.  You might also consider the last verses of II Corinthians 2, where the same gospel proclamation is “the sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish.” “To the one we are the savour of life unto life,” says the apostle.  But that same gospel is the “savour of death unto death” in those who perish.
To speak of a “mercy” or “grace” of God that does not save, but works greater condemnation, is a most peculiar conception of “mercy” or “grace.” (SK, 31/07/2019)
“All their wickedness is in Gilgal: for there I hated them, for the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of mine house, I will love them no more” (Hos. 9:15.)
God is saying that at one time He loved the people in Gilgal, but due to their wickedness He will love them no more.  Here is a love for reprobates that is not complacent or irresistible, and is withdrawn.
First, there is no way to understand this text apart from understanding election and reprobation, as the Reformed confessions teach it. The elect He loves, unchangingly; the reprobate He hates, unchangingly.
Second, the key to understanding this text is to realize that God was speaking to the northern kingdom of Israel—the ten tribes, who were already apostatizing. They had begun in sin, by worshiping the golden calves; had progressed in sin, by turning to idols; and had hardened themselves in sin, by refusing to heed the warnings of God’s prophets.  When I say “They” I mean the ten tribes as a whole.  Within the ten tribes were some who were elect, and God loved them; but as anation, and with regard to most in the nation, they were increasingly apostate, manifesting they were reprobate.
To the southern kingdom of Judah God spoke no such words as in this text. They were sinful also, and would be chastised for their sin, but never did God say He hated them.
But to the northern kingdom God both said He hated them, and would manifest that hatred by destroying the nation completely in the Assyrian captivity, from which the nation would never be restored.
Interesting is the question, Why did God once love, and now hate?  Again, God does not formerlylove some, and then hate some—that is, the text is not speaking of God’s attitude toward individual persons.  But it speaks of His attitude toward the nation as a whole. Though Israel’s beginnings were in sin, yet God had many of His people among the ten tribes, earlier in their history. Naboth was one example. As they progressed in apostasy, the nation became more and more wicked and filled with reprobate.  God could then say He hated them.
So the text speaks of God transitioning from divine love to divine hatred, in accord with His decree of election and reprobation, and that transition according with the transition of the nation from faith and obedience (relatively) to unbelief and disobedience.
It is a powerful word to churches today. If we once were faithful, and enjoyed God’s blessing, let us not take His blessing for granted. We must be faithful to Him, or we will not experience His blessing.  Our faithfulness is not the REASON for His blessing; but He hates unfaithful churches, which are filled with unfaithful, unbelieving people who outwardly profess Christianity.
If I didn’t answer every question, ask specific questions again;
Hosea 9:15  cannot be used in support of common grace or to teach that God’s love is changeable. (DK, 30/07/2019)
“Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:29).
This verse speaks of one who apostatizes from the church and is demonstrated to be a reprobate.  Yet, this reprobate was sanctified (set apart in a special manner) by the Covenant of Grace, which blessings were purchased by the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross.  He apostatizes despite all the gracious influences that he had received as a reprobate from the Spirit of grace.
That the Bible here speaks of these as having been “sanctified” in the blood of the Covenant means that that is what was their professed position once.  They had a very accurate knowledge of this, and even for a “time” rejoiced in it.  They tasted in a sense the power of the coming age, and the good word of God.  But when once they sin wilfully, when they sin the sin of “falling away from the living God” in doctrine and life, then there is no more offering for their sin.  They really never were sanctified in their hearts, serving the Lord in spirit and in truth! (George Lubbers, Commentary on Hebrews)
“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction” (II Pet. 2:1).
“The Lord that bought them” is an allusion to “the people which thou has redeemed” in Ex. 15:13.  Clearly God’s covenant mercies are to all those in the Covenant of Grace, though some, in this case false teachers, are reprobate.  The same principles that concerned Israel in the OT apply to the church in the NT.
With respect to 2 Peter 2:1, it must be remembered, first of all, that the passage cannot mean that these people were actually purchased by Christ with His own blood. If that were the case, they would belong to Christ and belong to Him forever, for as Jesus says in John 10:28, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” Keeping that in mind, there are several possible ways to interpret 2 Peter 2:1. The first would simply make the words “the Lord that bought them” a reference to the truth of blood atonement as taught by and believed in the church, leaving the reference of the pronoun “them” general and not a reference to these false prophets. These false prophets deny the confession of the church, “the Lord bought us.” The other interpretation is very similar and would make the word “them” refer back to “people” instead of making it refer to the false teachers. Those who are bought by the blood of Christ, then, are the people of God in the past and also in the present (those to whom Peter is writing). (Ronald Hanko & Ronald Cammenga, “Saved By Grace: A Study of the Five Points of Calvinism” [RFPA)



The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel


“And the Lord said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years” (Gen. 6:3).
Here we see God the Spirit wrestling with sinners, sinners that resisted His strivings and were destroyed in the flood.  These operations of the Holy Spirit are common and non-salvific.
[If one is to use this text to support common grace, he] should show from the text, and that, too, in the light of Scripture, that this striving is gracious. The term grace is not so much as mentioned. One might even argue that the very term strive, which would seem to indicate opposition and conflict, indicates the opposite of a gracious attitude. (HCH, “The Standard Bearer,” vol. 50, no. 9, [Feb. 1974])
“And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark …” (Gen. 7:1).

“For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth …” (Gen. 7:4).

“And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth” (Gen. 7:10).
God tells Noah to go into the ark.  Does God then bring the floods?  No.  God waits seven more days, which can only be interpreted as an act of His kindness and longsuffering, delaying His judgments beyond all expectation, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
/// “God tells Noah to go into the ark ... Does God then bring the floods?  No.  God waits seven more days, which can only be interpreted as an act of His kindness and longsuffering, delaying His judgments beyond all expectation, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance …” ///

How would you reconcile the idea of God’s longsufferingness and desire for all to be saved with the fact that the ark was closed with Noah and family in it, and that God had told them that they must enter and shut the door? (DK, 23/09/2019)


/// “But the ark door was only shut (and sealed by God) after the 7 extra days ... not before.” ///

Genesis 7:16 makes clear that the Lord shut the door to the ark. WHEN the Lord did so, Scripture does not say explicitly. But 7:16 can certainly be read to mean that God did so as soon as Noah was in. There is NO indication that the door stayed open for a time. (DK, 04/10/2019)


/// Also, the very fact that the ark could have held many more people is a testimony to God’s ‘sincerity’ and benevolence in that the offer is real:  if they would believe, there is room for them, a sufficient atonement that could save them, and they would be saved. If there was no such benevolence, offer, or desire for the rest of the human population on God’s part, He would have had an ark minimally necessary for the animals and Noah’s family, and no one else, and there would be no de facto allowance for other persons to come into the ark if they would, and the atonement would not be sufficient for them …” ///

The argument here raises other questions. God commanded Noah to go in; why then did He not command others? Or, if God was merely waiting to see if any others would go in, why did He not just wait to see if Noah would go in?  Clearly there is a recognition here that God treats some men differently than others–to Noah the command, to others a wait and see approach.  In fact, we see no indication that God commanded, or desired any others to go in. If it weren’t for the idea of the well-meant offer already implanted in someone’s mind, he would never read of it here.  But we can’t disprove it from Genesis 7, because that chapter does not say the things he suggests it says. (DK, 04/10/2019)
“And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve Me” (Exod. 4:23).
God’s intention, this verse says, in commanding Pharaoh to let his people go, is so that his visible people may serve Him.  God, of course, never commands a mere outward, non-saving duty or service, but always commands a saving relation to Himself in submission to his will, which is what He desires.  See Josh. 24:15 where the same language of ‘serving’ is used in relation to conversion.  Yet, not all visible Israel served God with their heart, as God’s revealed will required.  God’s revealed will in the outward call of the Gospel is sincere, even though men and women do not live up to it.

“O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!” (Deut. 5:29).

“O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” (Deut. 32:29).
These verses express God’s desire that men would keep his commandments, and His sorrow when they don’t.  This explains the language in scripture where it says God repented that he made man (Gen. 6) and others.  While God does not have emotions as we experience them, and never changes, there is a relation towards creatures in God that He would not have them commit sin.  This is something more than simply an indicative statement that if the creature sins he will be punished for it.  There is a logically distinct relation in God (aspect of His will) that His creatures ought to be in conformity to His nature.  This relation can be opposed, and, in fact, is more logically discernible when it is opposed.  The opposition to this aspect of God’s will does not destroy it, but distinguishes it.
To this collection of expostulations I shall very briefly answer with some few observations, manifesting of how little use it is to the business in hand ... Not that I deny that there is sufficient matter of expostulation with sinners about the blood of Christ and the ransom paid thereby, that so the elect may be drawn and wrought upon to faith and repentance, and believers more and more endeared to forsake all ungodliness and worldly lusts, to live unto him who died for them, and that others may be left more inexcusable; only for the present there are no such expostulations here expressed, nor can any be found holding out the purpose and intention of God in Christ towards them that perish ... Fourthly, It is confessed, I hope by all, that there are none of those things for the want whereof God expostulateth with the sons of men, but that he could, if it so seemed good before him, effectually work them in their hearts, at least, by the exceeding greatness of his power: so that these things cannot be declarative of his purpose, which he might, if he pleased, fulfill; “for who hath resisted his will,” Romans 9:19. Fifthly, That desires and wishings should properly be ascribed unto God is exceedingly opposite to his all-sufficiency and the perfection of his nature; they are no more in him than he hath eyes, ears, and hands. These things are to be understood [in a way befitting to God]. Sixthly, It is evident that all these are nothing but pathetical declarations of our duty in the enjoyment of the means of grace, strong convictions of the stubborn and disobedient, with a full justification of the excellency of God’s ways to draw us to the performance of our duties. (The Works of John Owen [Great Britain: Banner, 1967], vol. 10, pp. 400-401, emphasis added.)
“For this commandment which I command you this day, it is not hidden from you, neither is it far off.  It is not in heaven, that you should say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?  Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?  But the word is very near unto you, in your mouth, and in your heart, **that** you may do it.  See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil” (Deut. 30:11-15).
The reason and purpose that God set this offer of eternal life directly before Israel (most of whom were reprobates) in their hearing, verse 14 says, is so that they may do it.  Of course, Israel by and large did not receive the promise held out to them in the outward offer, contrary to God’s gracious purpose and design.



[II Chron. 36:14-16] explains why God sent the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem and take Judah captive.  The people, continuing to harden their hearts against God without repentance, are reprobates, as the passage concludes that there is no remedy for them.  Yet God had compassion on them and demonstrated this by sending them preachers so that they might turn.  It was only after their abuse of his compassionate gestures that His wrath arose against the reprobates till he ultimately destroyed them.

Notice that God’s intention in sending his preachers was to turn them if at all possible, so that He would not have to destroy them, though he had decreed them to this end.  Also notice that God sending preachers to reprobates is in and of itself compassionate.  God could have left them without any hope by not sending them His preachers.  Seeing that this is very similar language to Matt 23:37, where Christ bewails Jerusalem, and Christ is undoubtedly making allusion to it, the two passages should be used to interpret each other.

I find two main points of misinterpretation made in this argument.
The FIRST regards God’s purpose in sending the prophets to the reprobate element in Judah. This purpose, according to the Free Offer defender, was “To bring them again unto the Lord in salvation.” To bring them AGAIN to the Lord in salvation? When, prior to this, had the reprobate been with the Lord in salvation? Anyone who understands and believes the doctrine of an eternal, sovereign, unconditional election and reprobation understands that the Lord never did and never does and never will desire to save the reprobate. 
The passage underscores that the preaching of the gospel has, and God intends it to have, a twofold effect. Toward the reprobate that effect is to harden their hearts, and leave them without excuse.
The SECOND is that the argument says nothing about the purposes of God toward the elect in Judah, while the passage—particularly the second—indicates it is speaking of God’s purposes towards his elect: “until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy”.  “His people” are not reprobates. They are elect.
The passage teaches that even some elect are so given over to sin for a period of time that they will not heed the warnings of the gospel, so that the Lord must chastise them in some grievous way. “There was no remedy” does not mean that the Lord then could not turn them; it underscores that the way of turning involved sending them out of the promised land, sending the Babylonians against them. The verses alluded to (II Chron. 36:14-16) give the reason for the captivity.
In sum, the verses fit with a proper view of God’s purpose in the preaching of the gospel to all, to both elect and reprobate. To the elect, to save – and if they will not be turned by the preaching, their salvation necessitates grievous chastisement; and to the reprobate, to harden. (DK, 04/11/2019)
“… And [Israel] refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not. Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, This is thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations; yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to shew them light, and the way wherein they should go” (Neh. 9:17-19).

“And testifiedst against them, that thou mightest bring them again unto thy law: yet they dealt proudly, and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgments, (which if a man do, he shall live in them;) and withdrew the shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear.  Yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by thy Spirit in thy prophets: yet would they not give ear: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the people of the lands.  Nevertheless for thy great mercies’ sake thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for thou art a gracious and merciful God.”  (Neh. 9:29-31)
“[In verses 17-19], God’s elect are nowhere in view.  The only people that are here considered are the impenitent wicked—the reprobate.  When the Israelites wanted to return to Egypt after just being delivered therefrom, God demonstrated His readiness to pardon them—His graciousness, mercifulness, longsuffering, and kindness—by not utterly destroying them immediately in the wilderness that moment.  Notice that these are attributes of God’s nature and they are exercised towards the reprobate.  God’s leading them in the wilderness by the pillar of the cloud was an expression of God’s manifold mercies to them ...

... [Regarding verses 29-31] notice, in verse 29, that the purpose of God in sending prophets to show the reprobates their sin was to turn them back to Him.  God purposes that the reprobate should repent and turn to Him.  This purpose is frustrated and fails.   Yet God still continued to strive with them by His prophets.  His longsuffering with them, in and of itself (and not immediately destroying them), is a gracious and merciful action … because God has a gracious and merciful disposition to them, for it reflects His nature, which is gracious and merciful, even to the reprobate.  To make a modern application, it is the kindness and mercy of God to all the reprobates in our land that He does not utterly destroy America off the face of the earth for her many provoking sins, and yet continues to compassionately send His ministers to preach in her streets.”
Theology answers this argument by referring to the “organic” view of Israel.  Basically, this means that the OT Israel in view is the nation as determined by Christ Jesus, who was the head of the nation.  It was the Israel according to election, not as made up of every individual Israelite.  This is shown by the NT, particularly Romans 2 and Galatians 3.  Israel is Christ and those in Him by faith.  Romans 9 also speaks to the issue:  they are not all Israel that are of Israel.  The true Israel is the Israel of election.  The individuals that make up God's Israel are themselves depraved and disobedient.  But God does not abandon them.  Rather He is faithful in grace.
Nehemiah like all the OT must be explained in light of Romans 2 and 9 and Galatians 3.
The true Israel is Christ the seed of Abraham and all those, but those only, who are in Christ by faith according to election. (DJE, 29/10/2019)
“Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!  I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries.  The haters of the LORD should have submitted themselves unto him: but their time should have endured for ever.  He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee” (Ps. 81:13-16).
God’s original revealed intention/purpose/desire of blessing Israel was frustrated because they refused to obey Him.  Thus, what God intended, He did not do.  Also, the temporal, physical blessings of Canaan were types of heavenly spiritual blessings and salvation.  If God intended the former, which was frustrated, He also intended the latter which was frustrated according to his revealed will, Israel’s rebellion fulfilling God’s secret, mysterious, irresistible and never-frustrated eternal decree.
1. The idea that “God’s original revealed intention/purpose/desire of blessing Israel was frustrated because they refused to obey Him” sounds a lot like the dispensationalists who believe that Christ was frustrated by the Jews who rejected the offer of an earthly political kingdom.
2.  Does God really have intentions that He does not realise? What a lot of frustrations! The ever-blessed, frustrated God!   John Owen on this passage writes: “That desires and wishing should properly be ascribed unto God is exceedingly opposite to his all-sufficiency and the perfection of his nature; they are no more in him than he hath eyes, ears, and hands.” (AS, 12/06/2019)
“Does not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice?  She stands in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths.  She cries at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors.  Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man.  Hear… Receive my instruction… Then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before Him; Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.  Now therefore hearken unto Me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways.  Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not” (Prov. 8:1-4, 8, 10, 30-33).
Christ, the wisdom of God, here cries out through his preachers in the city streets for all who hear to come to Him.  He reveals his will that He would have them receive his saving instruction, and (per Prov. 9:3-5) come into his banqueting house of mercy and communion.

“Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn out her seven pillars: She has killed her beasts; she has mingled her wine; she has also furnished her table.  She has sent forth her maidens: she cries upon the highest places of the city, Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wants understanding, she saith to him, Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled.  Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding” (Prov. 9:1-6).
This is Christ, personified as Wisdom in Proverbs 8 & 9, crying out to everyone in the streets to come and find life by means of Him.  These two chapters are not only full of commands, but they also express desire as reasons are heaped up at length.  Prov. 9:4 is in the jussive mode, which expresses desire.  It could also be translated, “may he turn in hither.”  Not only are the people commanded to turn in, but Christ desires that all who hear His voice should turn in to Him.
It is the plain testimony of Scripture that God’s predestination, or will and desire to save some only, is the source of all salvation.  Thus does God receive the glory in the salvation of the sinner—not the sinner himself, who, on the view of the well-meant offer, distinguishes himself from other sinners by virtue of his accepting the offered salvation.  This is the issue; it must not be forgotten.
As for Proverbs 9, it might be explained simply as the external call of the gospel, namely, the truth that God confronts all humans with Jesus Christ and commands or exhorts all to believe on Him.  Many are called, but few are chosen.  This external call is not a well-meant offer.  Rather, by it God hardens some, whereas He draws others by grace that He gives only to them (the elect).
I, however, explain it as expressing God’s sincere desire for the salvation of some hearers which He then realizes by drawing them savingly to the Wisdom.  This call is not general, or universal.  It is particular.  It is addressed to the “simple” and to the one who “wants understanding.”  These are those humans who, by grace, have come to know their own spiritual destitution and foolishness.  They are the same as those addressed in the New Testament as the “weary” and “heavy laden”—spiritual characteristics of those in whose heart God has worked true knowledge of sin.  Only those who are, in their own knowledge of themselves, “simple” will feel the need of the heavenly Wisdom and respond to the call.
There is no well-meant offer to all in the text on any account. (DJE, 03/01/2020)
“Now will I sing to my well-beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard.  My well-beloved has a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And He fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and He looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.  And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, between Me and my vineyard.  What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?” (Isa. 5:1-4).

“Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God” (Isa. 49:4).
Why did God cultivate and nurture Israel, according to Isa. 5:4?  “That it should bring forth grapes.”  Yet, contrary to God’s revealed purpose and the inherent nature and design of his blessings, God’s people brought forth rebellion.

In Isa. 49:4, the Messiah says all that He labored for, outwardly speaking, was in vain.  The culmination of his earthly ministry was being crucified by the very ones He came to call to repentance (see John 5:34 and Acts 3:26 below), having not a single earthly follower.  However, as Isa. 49 goes on to speak of, God rewarded his earthly work that came to nothing by raising up the remnant of Israel and the gentiles into his kingdom.

“Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” (Isa. 45:22).

“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30).
These are commands for all people to repent and be saved.  The question is: are commands expressions of God’s will?  1 Thess. 4:3 says that God wills our sanctification, that is, obedience to His commands.  1 Thess. 4:1,2 says that walking in God’s commands pleases God.  This means that not obeying His commands displeases Him, including the command to repent and be saved.
Keeping in mind that the call of the gospel is essentially different from the commandments of the law, Acts 17 and Isaiah 45 are the call of the gospel, the imperative that displays Christ as the only Savior and commands all to come to Him.  What saves is not obedience to the command, as though this obedience is itself righteousness and eternal life, but the Christ to whom it calls.  God works by the command of the gospel to draw His elect to Christ. 
The question about the will of God in the call of the gospel is answered by a distinction that the Reformed faith has made long ago.  It is the distinction between the will of God’s decree and the will of God’s command.  The will of decree is what God Himself has decreed, or ordained, should take place, in His counsel.  The will of command is what He orders humans to do in His revealed word.  For example, God commanded the Jewish leaders and Pilate to let the just man Jesus go free:  will of command.  At the same time, He planned that they would condemn and kill Jesus:  will of decree (see Acts 2 and Acts 4).  The will of command does not indicate what God has planned will occur, only what the duty of humans is.  God is truly displeased that sinners reject the gospel and the Christ presented in the gospel.  But He has ordained, or decreed, that many will not only not believe, but also that the gospel will harden them unto eternal damnation (Romans 9). 
It is a mistake to conclude from a command to all to repent and believe that God desires the salvation of all.  All that may be concluded is that it is the duty of all to repent and believe, and that whoever does repent and believe will be saved. (DJE, 08/08/2019)
“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness” (Isa. 55:1,2).
God is speaking to his largely apostate people during the time of Isaiah.  He is here pleading with sinners by means of asking rhetorical questions.  That God pleads at all with Israel and does not just leave them off like every other nation of the earth is gracious. God’s desire that they should turn to Him and be saved is emphasized by the emphatic “ho!”, “yea,” and the multiple commands and reasons heaped on on each other.
[In] Isaiah 55:1 the prophet addresses “every one that thirsteth” (not every sinner is thirsty—many do not have any sense of their urgent need for salvation; many detest the bread of life, which is loathsome to them).  Through the prophet, God promises life, the everlasting covenant, and the sure mercies of David not to everyone, but to them who hear and come to Him (v. 3). This does not mean that we preach only to the thirsty, for we do not know who they are—we preach to all, but God promises salvation only to the thirsty, whom He makes thirsty by the power of His grace, a thirst that He also graciously satisfies (Matt. 5:6). (Rev. Martyn McGeown, PRTJ, 55:2 [April 2018], p. 68)

“And wonder it is, that in the words of the prophet and in the words of our master Christ Jesus also, you see not a plain difference made, for the prophet calls not all indifferently to drink of these waters but such as do thirst [Isa. 55:1-3]. And Christ restrains his generality to such as did travail and were burdened with sin [Matt. 11:28]; such, I say, he confesses himself to call to repentance, but to such as were just and whole, he affirms that he was not sent [Mark 2:17] … That we thirst to do good, that we have some power to execute the same, this proceeds from the supernatural grace, by the which we are regenerate and newly born to a better and more godly life. Behold then what God works in his children: first, putting away their perverse nature [as to its dominion], he conducts and guides them by his Holy Spirit in obedience to his will.” (John Knox, “On Predestination, in Answer to the Cavillations by an Anabaptist” [1560], p. 118; [spelling and punctuation modernized; emphasis added].)

“They [i.e., the Arminians] scatter some little motives [i.e., appeal to certain texts?], as that Isaiah 55:1. They that thirst are invited by God, that is, those that are desirous of reconciliation with God, and of salvation. And that Matthew 11:28. They that are heavy laden are called, Come unto me ye that are weary and heavy laden: By those that are laden, are noted out, those that are pressed down with the conscience of their sins, and sighing under the burden of them: Therefore (say they [i.e., the Arminians]) they were already desirous of salvation, and were pressed down with the conscience of their sins, before they were [externally] called, and regeneration is after calling: And therefore in the unregenerate there may be a saving grief, and a desire of remission of sins; but I affirm that those men so thirsting, and so laden, were not unregenerate: For that very desire of salvation and the grace of God, and the sighs of the conscience, panting under the weight of sin, by which we are compelled to fly to Christ, is a part of regeneration: And that beginning of fear (if it be acceptable to God) is an effect of the Holy Spirit moving the heart: For what hinders, that he who thirsts after the grace of God, hath not already tasted of it, and as it were licked it with his lips? What hinders that he who is commanded to come to Christ, should not already move himself and begin to go, although with a slow pace? Doth Christ as often as he commands men to believe in him, speak only to unbelievers? Yea, this exhortation to believe and to come to him, doth especially belong to them, whose faith being new bred, and weak, doth strive with the doubtings of the flesh.” (Pierre du Moulin, “Anatomie of Arminianism,” pp. 321-322 [emphasis added])
“I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name.  I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts” (Isa. 65:1-2).
This passage is quoted in the NT in Romans 10:21.  God is saying that He stretched forth his hands to Israel in order to receive them if they would repent.  ‘All the day long’ is an expression for ‘continually’ over the period of hundreds of years, by sending them the preaching of the gospel by His prophets in the OT.  God was showing reprobate Israel undeserved compassionate kindness in His attempts to gather them together unto Himself, which attempts proved ineffectual.
God's stretching forth His hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people is His revelation of Himself in the gospel as the God of mercy in Jesus Christ, ready to receive and save every sinner who comes to Him in faith and repentance. This is how He shows Himself in the gospel to all who hear the gospel. I do not say that He is gracious to all who hear the gospel. If this were the case, all who hear the gospel would be saved, for the grace of God is almighty, irresistible. But He shows to all that He is gracious, and that in this grace He will receive every one who comes to Him. The stretched forth hands, therefore, are what Reformed theology refers to as the "external call" of the gospel. God makes Himself known to all that He is a God of grace. He calls all hearers to come to Him by believing on Jesus. He promises to every one who comes that he will be received.
But this does not mean that God is gracious to all, that He wills the salvation of all, or that coming to God for salvation depends on the willingness of the sinner. This would contradict everything that the apostle has taught previously in Romans, including the total depravity of the sinner—his inability to come to Christ; limited, effectual atonement; the sovereignty and irresistibility of grace; and the government of salvation by God's predestination, election and reprobation. No one can come to Christ except the Father draw him (John 6:44).
But now also, these truths of sovereign, particular grace do not at all detract from the preaching of the gospel to all or from the serious call to all hearers to come to God by believing on Jesus Christ, with the promise that every one who comes will be received and saved by God. This preaching is the outstretched arms of God. When wicked men and women refuse to come to God, disobeying the external call of the gospel, they can never say that the reason is that God would not receive them even it they came. The God of the gospel is the God of the outstretched arms, ready and eager to receive every one who comes.
It is true that only those come whom God has chosen to salvation. It is also true that those who refuse to come refuse according to God's eternal reprobation of them. But none of this detracts from the truth that in the gospel God calls all, with the external call, or command, and that He shows Himself ready to receive every sinner who comes in faith. (DJE, date unknown)
“In vain have I smitten your children; they received no correction: your own sword hath devoured your prophets, like a destroying lion…  Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number” (Jer. 2:30, 32).
God says that his correction of Israel was in vain.  That is, it did not accomplish its intended effect.  God’s purpose in it was for Israel’s correction, but they only grew worse in spite of it.  The context, as verse 32 shows, was to draw God’s externally called and covenanted people to Himself, but they would not.

“And now, because ye have done all these works, saith the Lord, and I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not” (Jer. 7:13).
This passage says that God called to the people of Israel (that is, to come to Him, see Matt 11:28; Rev. 22:17, etc) but they would not answer.  God sincerely calls for gospel hearing reprobates to come to Him, though they do not come as they are called.

“Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jer. 9:1).

“But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the LORD’s flock is carried away captive” (Jer. 13:17).
Here Jeremiah manifests the compassion of the One that sent him.

“Howbeit I sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate… As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee” (Jer. 44:4, 16).
Here we see God’s sincere warnings that his people do not do what is contrary to God’s revealed will, though they do not hearken unto Him.  See also Eze. 3:7.

"In the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water … None eye pitied thee, to do any of these unto thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast cast out in the open field …  And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live …  Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest mine … Then washed I thee with water; yea, I throughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil.  I clothed thee also with broidered work … I decked thee also with ornaments … thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom.  And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord God.  But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot …" (Ezek. 16:4-15)
Here is a recounting of God’s love espousals to Israel to make her His bride.  Note that throughout Israel’s history, from beginning to end, many (if not most) were unbelieving reprobates, as is demonstrated from Heb. 3 & 4, and the second half of Ezekiel 16 where Israel forsakes God and runs to other lovers.  Yet, it is these very unbelieving reprobates who God, in His time of love and Israel’s youth, woo’d with the loves of the Gospel to marry Him by covenant, though they would go on to break that covenant and apostatize.

“Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? … For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye” (Eze. 18:23, 32).

“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).
There are other verses that speak of God taking pleasure in the death of the wicked in that it fulfills His decrees and His justice.  So this must be another sense.  That is, in one sense God takes pleasure in the death of the wicked, but in another sense God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked.  Both are true at the same time in their respective senses. 

“When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered, and the wickedness of Samaria …” (Hos. 7:1).
This verse says that God would have healed His visible people Israel, which included many (if not mostly) reprobates.  However, when God sent His loving kindness and drawings to their nation in order to savingly heal them, their hidden iniquity only became more inflamed.
1. The basic principle for understanding all the OT prophets is the same basic principle by which to understand all gospel preaching today. There are two kinds of hearers: 1) Those who hear outwardly, but for whom the promises were not meant, because they were not God’s elect and were not given the gift of faith, and 2) those who hear outwardly and inwardly. The latter are those truly addressed. The point is not that God was not serious in his words to the first group, but their own unbelief and refusal to repent explains why God’s promises are not fulfilled toward them.
Jesus sets forth this basic principle in Matthew 13, the parable of the sower. Those who hold to the WMO seem (from my perspective) not to understand Jesus point, and not to be willing to apply it to all preaching in the NT, and prophecy in the OT.
2.  Another key to understanding OT prophecy is Romans 9:6: “They are not all Israel which are of Israel.” (DK, 04/10/2019)
“When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.  As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.  I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them.  I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them… And my people are bent to backsliding from Me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt Him.  How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together” (Hos. 11:1-4,7-8).
This passage says that the outward call of the gospel to the reprobate stems from God’s love for them (verses 1,3).  God’s call, works, and gracious motions of his Holy Spirit are for the purpose of lovingly drawing them to Himself (verse 4), though they rebel and never come to Him (verse 7).  The anthropomorphic language of God’s heart and bowels turning in Him over the perishing children that He has brought forth and loved reflects that though for higher purposes He as decreed to pass them over from salvation and allow them to perish willfully in their sin, yet God sincerely wills by his benevolent nature and common mercies their highest good.
As to Hosea 11: First, the “Israel” of whom the passage speaks is the elect Israel—not the 10 tribes outwardly, and especially not every member of the tribes head for head. That it is the elect Israel is plain from, 1) the fact that God calls him His “son" (v. 1) and “my people” later; and 2) that the gospel of Matthew, finding fulfillment of verse 1 in Jesus’ coming out of Egypt. In Hosea 11, God speaks to that Israel which is represented by and encompassed in Jesus Christ—that is, the elect. So the first sentence of the Free Offer argument—that the outward call of the gospel to the reprobate stems from God’s love for them—is already erroneous.  Of course, the gospel call comes to the reprobate as well as the elect. But this is not the point of Hosea 11.
Second, even Hosea did call both elect and reprobate in Israel to repentance; but the promise of God that those whom He calls will repent (vv. 10-11) indicates also that the true call is to the elect, and that it is efficacious and irresistible—by this call, God does and will turn His elect back to Himself.
Third, the passage indicates the grievous effect of the sins of the elect (particularly deliberate, gross sin of idolatry and utter disregard for God’s law) on their/our relationship with God. God’s love never ceases; His covenant is never broken; but our enjoyment of fellowship with Him is broken and in need of restoration, and He grieves. Jehovah’s grief in this passage is not due to reprobate not heeding His call; it is due to elect persisting in sin when they have every evidence of their Father’s love in His past dealings, and when He calls them back to Him. Of course, His grief is an anthropomorphism—I won’t get into that, but the point is that our Heavenly Father delights in fellowship with us, delights in our loving and grateful obedience. And this is why He calls us to repentance.
Why would He call the reprobate to repentance?  He does, of course; but the answer to why is different from the answer to the question why He calls the elect to repentance. He calls the elect, because He loves us, is grieved because of the way in which we walk, and delights in fellowship with us. (DK, 21/08/2019)
“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
Here Christ expresses His will that all indiscriminately should come unto Him.  To limit this command only to the few hundreds or thousands that heard Christ’s audible words on that one time occasion does no good:  there were still reprobates in the crowd to whom He expressed His desire that they should come to Him.  Nor was Christ speaking of earthly rest:  the following verses make it very clear He was speaking of spiritual rest and the forgiveness of sins.

Further, it is illegitimate to limit this expression of His will to his original hearers:  all mankind, to whom the Gospel of Matthew is to be preached to (Mk. 16:15) is included.  This is seen in that the principle object in view is spiritual salvation, which is applicable to not just His original hearers, but to the whole world, transcending local and temporal circumstances.
In Matthew 11:28 (similar to Isaiah 55:1) Jesus does not give a general invitation—He calls the labouring and heavy laden (the burdened) to come.  While the command is universal, for all must come whether they feel the burden or not, the promise “I will give you rest” and “ye shall find rest unto your souls” (v. 29) is only for the ones who are burdened and who, therefore, come. Indeed, Jesus prefaces His call in verse 28 with a declaration of God’s will or desire—God wills to or desires to reveal His Son to only some, while He hides the truth from others (vv. 25-27). (Rev. Martyn McGeown, PRTJ 55:2 [April 2018], p. 69)

Jesus’ (the God-man’s) intention was frustrated.  God often held His hand out to Israel for good (as the prophets say) and yet they refused their own good that God would have blessed them with.  God was willing, they were unwilling.  The prophets plead with Israel and wept over them to turn.  So Christ, the last and great, Prophet did as well.
There are indeed texts found in Scripture, such as Psalm 137:7 (“Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom …”), where the phrase “children of X” does mean the people of that city. But those are simply passages where “children” is used without any other distinct group or class also mentioned in the text that are distinguished from the “children,” as Matthew 23:37 has it.
Matthew 23:37 speaks explicitly, however, of “Jerusalem” and Jerusalem’s “children” as two distinct people groups in the very same text. For the critic’s argument to be valid, however, he needs to cite passage where “X” and X’s “children,” although appearing as two distinct groups, nevertheless mean the same thing, in order to have something against our exegesis.
The critic, in the latter half of his argument, appears to be conflating Matthew 23:37 with Luke 19:41-44 (which refer to separate occasions). The differences between those two passage, however, are crucial, for, in Luke 19, there is no contrast between “Jerusalem” and her “children,” nor are there different and opposing things said about what “Jerusalem” and Jerusalem’s “children” do or the attitude of other parties to them; nor does Luke 19 come after a chapter of Christ’s denunciations of Jerusalem’s leaders (as in Matthew 23), who seek to stop people entering the kingdom of heaven (cf. Matt. 23:13). (Anon, 25/11/2019)




Historical Support:

Augustine (354-430): “Our Lord says plainly, however, in the Gospel, when upbraiding the impious city: ‘How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!’ as if the will of God had been overcome by the will of men, and when the weakest stood in the way with their want of will, the will of the strongest could not be carried out. And where is that omnipotence which hath done all that it pleased on earth and in heaven, if God willed to gather together the children of Jerusalem, and did not accomplish it? Or rather, Jerusalem was not willing that her children should be gathered together, but even though she was unwilling, He gathered together as many of her children as He wished: for He does not will some things and do them, and will others and do them not; but “He hath done all that He pleased in heaven and in earth” (Source: “The Enchiridion,” xcvii).

Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562): “They [i.e., our Roman Catholic adversaries] bring up a saying of Christ’s: ‘How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chicks, and you would not?’ Here also it is the antecedent will of the sign that is meant. God through his prophets, preachers, apostles, and Scriptures invited the Jews to fly to him by repentance time after time, but they refused, but by his effective will, which is called consequent, he always drew to himself those who were his. Nor was there any age when he did not gather as many of the Hebrews as he had predestined. Therefore, as Augustine said, those that I would, I have gathered together, although you would not” (Predestination and Justification [Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2003], pp. 64-65).

Francis Turretin (1623-1687): “… Christ willed to gather together those whom Jerusalem (i.e., the chiefs of the people) nilled to be gathered together, but notwithstanding their opposition Christ did not fail in gathering together those whom he willed … Jerusalem is here to be distinguished from her sons as the words themselves prove (and the design of the chapter, in which from v. 13 to v. 37, he addresses the scribes and Pharisees and rebukes them because ‘they neither went into the kingdom of heaven themselves, nor suffered those that were entering, to go in’)” (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 1 [Phillipsburg, NJ; P&R, 1992], p. 228).
“A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.   And they all with one consent began to make excuse … So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind … And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled" (Luke 14:16-23).
This parable demonstrates the desire of the Father in bidding and inviting many to the Feast of the Lamb.  Though reprobates pass over the invitation, yet they have full legal right, upon the legal warrant of the invitation (the invitation being made to them, and not to others who do not hear), to come to the salvific Feast.

The desire of the Father in inviting guests is seen in the opposite response He has when the invited guests refuse the invitation: the text says “angry.”  His invitation is no dis-impassioned, take-it-or-leave-it, offer.  He desires them to come and is angry when they turn down His gracious invitation.  His desire for anyone and everyone to attend His feast is further demonstrated by Him further commanding the servant to go into the farthest reaches of the population and “compel them,” in accordance with the strength of His desire, to come to the Feast.

“And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes” (Luke 19:41,42).
Jesus, the God-man, here weeps over perishing sinners that would not receive Him.  He repeats his address to them, ‘even you!’.  ‘Only if you had known!’, expressing a wish and desire for their eternal good.  The salvation He offered and pressed upon them belonged unto them.  It was for them.  It was for their peace, to bring them peace.  But their season of grace being past, their offer slighted and gone, salvation is withdrawn from them.
One thing that helps guide the exegesis of the Luke 19 passage is the earlier context. In the earlier verses in Luke 19, Jesus had just entered Jerusalem. The Jerusalem that receives Jesus cries out, “Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest” (vv. 37-38). The Pharisees rebuked this outcry (v. 39), but Jesus replied that if these loud Hosannas had not been uttered, then the rocks of Jerusalem would have cried out (v. 40), indicating that this was the will of the Father that Christ be received into Jerusalem as the King, as the Christ, as the Son of David. Over the Jerusalem that received Jesus as the Christ in Luke 19, Jesus wept. He takes the organic view of the Jerusalem, that OT revelation of the Church, from the viewpoint of its receiving the King.
Among what has been written by Reformed commentators in harmony with the Canons of Dordt and all of Scripture regarding double predestination and the particularity of God’s mercy, we see in the weeping of Jesus over Jerusalem a revelation of God’s righteousness and judgment against Jerusalem. Jerusalem could never say in the judgment that they were not told that judgment was coming upon them. Jerusalem (neither reprobate nor elect) could not accuse God of failing to warn them of judgment and destruction related to the cross, resurrection, ascension, and Pentecost because God sent them the prophets and even His only begotten Son to warn and call to repentance and faith, but even Him they would not hear. Jesus faithfully declares that God is righteous in the destruction of Jerusalem in the day of her visitation. But, Jesus weeps for His own who rejected Him, but through that coming judgment, would be redeemed. Jerusalem is redeemed through judgment. Through the death and atonement of Christ, God justifies ungodly Jerusalem, that must receive the King, by faith alone. God does not justify everyone, but the Jerusalem of His elect, who by nature crucified Christ, but must be justified through Him and sanctified by His Spirit and glorified with Him.
When the Man of Sorrows weeps (Isaiah 53; John 11:35), He weeps always in connection with His humiliation and the curse which He bore His whole life as the Mediator of His elect. His weeping is not merely a human emotion with no basis or a very superficial knowledge. His weeping and sorrow, even at the grave of Lazarus, was part of the work of the redemption of His elect from sin, guilt, death, and grave. It is connected to His cross and resurrection.
Further, because Christ made plain that His death is particular for His sheep only, it is important exegetically that we work from that starting point to interpret Luke 19:41-44 or Matthew 23:34ff or even Ezekiel 33:11 (more difficult passages). Let us not do, as others have mistakenly done, and take our starting point in Luke 19 and interpret it how we might like it to mean, and then use that as a basis then to figure out for whom Christ died and what He meant by “sheep” in John 10. That does not follow the rule: clearer passages of Scripture must be used to interpret more difficult passages. A simple rule. Safe. And, by it we develop sound interpretations and confessions. And, as is the case in Luke 19, the context will help us interpret the text. The context helps us interpret over what Jerusalem Jesus wept and why. (RJS, 26/03/2018)
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).
The world is defined by the immediate context: those that reject the light (v. 18-20).  God’s love is shown to the unbelieving world in holding out salvation to them in offering them eternal life through the gospel.  The offer itself, whether or not anyone takes God up on it, is a manifestation of God’s love for them. 

It makes no sense for the world to mean the elect in verse 17, for why would God come into the world to condemn the elect?

Rather one might think from the prophets that when God came, He would condemn all unbelievers.  But instead it has been revealed that the Father sent Christ not to condemn unbelievers, but to save them (verse 17 is a purpose clause).  This purpose is frustrated as the world clings to its own sins (v. 20), though those whom God regenerates take God up on His conditional promise (conditioned by faith, whosoever believes) in verse 21.

“But I receive not testimony from man; but these things I say, that ye might be saved … And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom He has sent, Him ye believe not.  And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:34, 38, 40).
Jesus is speaking to the whole crowd, many of which were reprobates.  Verse 16 says that His auditors sought to persecute and kill Him.  Verses 38 and 40 say that they were not believers and would not come to Him.  Jesus says, in verse 34, that Jesus spoke all this to them that (in order that) they might be saved.  Jesus was sent for the revealed, sincere purpose of saving Israel, but they resisted and rejected His ministry.
John 5:34 … proves far too much, if it be explained as the expression of the well-meant offer. The text has Jesus saying to His Jewish enemies, “But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved.” The explanation of [the ‘well-meant offer’ advocate] is that Jesus purposed, intended, desired, came into the world to achieve, and worked at the salvation of every one of the Jews to whom He spoke, indeed of every Jew of the Jewish nation at that time, if not of all time. Because Jesus came to do the will of the Father who sent Him (v. 30), if it is the will of Jesus to save all the Jews, head for head, this is also the will of the Father, that is, the will of election. And, if [the ‘well-meant offer’ advocate’s] explanation of John 5:34 is right, this was the will of the Father in sending Jesus into the world in the incarnation, as well as the will of the Father in all the ministry of Jesus, including His redemptive death, that is, universal atonement.
But, according to [the defender of the ‘well-meant offer’] the will of Jesus and the will of the Father in sending Jesus failed, an astounding admission and a blasphemous assertion. Jesus did not accomplish the salvation of many of the Jews. The reason was that the wicked will of many of the Jews frustrated the saving will of Jesus and of God His Father. Necessarily, then, the reason for the salvation of those Jews who believed was their own will, by which they distinguished themselves from their unwilling compatriots.  This blatant heresy, [the ‘well-meant offer’ man] gladly embraces, promulgates, and defends …
No doctrinal error is too much in nominally Calvinistic circles today if only it serves to defend and advance the precious teaching of the well-meant offer! To this impotent offer (which saves not one human more than God has elected), the entirety of the gospel of sovereign particular grace and of the Canons of Dordt is gladly sacrificed.
The contrary testimony of the rest of John’s gospel is not allowed to shed light on the passage in John 5.  In John 10, Jesus states that He did not come to save all the Jews. He came to save those Jews who are His sheep, in that His Father gave them to Him. There were Jews who were not His sheep. Them, He did not come to save (vv. 1-30). In John 6:38-39, Jesus teaches that He came down from heaven to do the Father’s will and that the will of His Father was that He save and lose nothing of all which the Father has given Him.  In verse 33, He adds that the coming to Him which is salvation is not a matter of sinners accepting [the “free offer”], but the Father’s efficacious drawing sinners to Jesus. All of this, it should be noted, belongs to the revealed will of God.
When Jesus declares that all His ministry has as its purpose that “ye” might be saved, His reference is to the Jewish people who are God’s Israel, not every Jew who stood in His presence that day, or every Jew who was alive at that time, or every Jew who ever lived or would live. As Paul would explain in Romans 9, they are not all Israel, who are of Israel (v. 6). According to Romans 2:28, 29, “he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly. But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly …”  As the same apostle will clarify in Galatians 3:29, even among the physical descendants of Abraham, the Jews, it is only “if be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
In John 5:34, those whom Jesus willed to save, in accordance with the Father’s will of election, were the genuine Jews, all those and those only, who were the true Israel of God, according to election. And every one whom Jesus willed to save would be saved. In them, Israel would be saved, not by their own willing, but by the will of God in Jesus Christ.
[Does the ‘well-meant offer’ advocate] really want a gospel of a failed Jesus and of self-saving Jews? A gospel of “so that ye might be saved,” but of many, if not a majority, of these “ye” who are lost nevertheless? Is this really to be the message now of the faith of the Canons of Dordt and of the Westminster Standards? And can it really be the case that vast numbers of confessing Calvinists will allow themselves to be frightened by the bogeyman of hyper-Calvinism into embracing this heretical doctrine?
(David J. Engelsma, PRTJ, vol. 53, no. 1 [Nov. 2019], pp. 112-114)


[In John 5:40], 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). (Herman C. Hanko, Covenant Reformed News, vol. 16, no. 23 [March 2018])


With regard to [John 5:40], 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)
“Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven” (John 6:32).

“Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water” (John 4:10).
These passages say that Christ is a gift from the Father. But is it the case that all the people in the crowd in John 6 were elect?  No, for most of them immediately thereafter left Christ (John 6:66).  Yet the text says the Father gave Christ to them.  Christ is a gift from the Father to the whole world, including the reprobate.  Receiving the salvific blessings of this offered gift designed for the whole world is conditioned upon the people receiving it by faith, as John 4:10 demonstrates: “If thou knewest the gift of God … thou wouldest have asked of Him and He would have given thee living water.”  If people do not receive the gift, He is no less, as John 4:10 says, “the gift of God.”
This is an example of “special pleading”—an argument in which the speaker deliberately ignores aspects that are unfavourable to their point of view—for in John 4, the woman was ELECT! (And what is the Free Offer/Well-Meant Offer in the first place? A desire of God to save … the reprobate, is it not?).
The argument is also absurd. Christ, a gift to the reprobate?
Christ is speaking organically in John 6. Some of those who heard Christ’s words were elect and believed (e.g., 11 disciples themselves and some of those who did not go away). God loves, saves and redeems the people/the audience, from the perspective of the elect. He hates and damns the people/audience from the perspective of the reprobate. (AS, 15/11/2019)

For a further critique of the Free Offer view of John 6:32 by Reformed theologian, Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965), see the following:

https://commongracedebate.blogspot.com/2019/11/my-father-giveth-you-true-bread.html
“And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.  He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:47-48).
Jesus is saying in this passage that his first coming was not for the purpose of judging and condemning the world as on Judgment Day, but that his ministry was to save the world, though He be rejected by it.  The person that does not believe and rejects Him, Jesus does not condemn because He came to save the world.  ‘The world’ cannot mean the elect because it is the world that rejects Jesus and shall be condemned by his word on the Last Day.
Difficult as the passage may be, it does not express or imply the well-meant offer.  There is nothing in the passage of a love of God for all men with a desire to save all.
First, with regard to the difficult denial of Jesus that he came not to judge the world, this must be understood in light of other passages of the Bible that plainly teach that he is the judge of the world.  I think of Matthew 25 which has Jesus on the throne of judgment before whom all the world will stand to be judged.  There are also such passages as John 5:22, 27, which teach that Jesus, by Gods appointment, will judge all.
In the light of all of Scripture, what Jesus taught in John 12 is that it was not the main purpose of God in sending Jesus that Jesus be judge.  The main purpose was that he be savior.  In fact, there was no need to send Jesus as judge, inasmuch as the entire world stood judged by God apart from and before Jesus coming.  God did not have to send his Son into the world to condemn it.  The world stood condemned apart from the coming of Jesus.  Even after his coming, there is no need for Jesus to judge, because there is one—God the Father—who judges everyone, including those who reject Jesus.
Second, the text itself teaches that in fact Jesus does judge humans and that this obviously was an aspect of the purpose of God in sending him.  For if the word that Jesus has spoken judges those who reject him, it is Jesus himself who does the judging by means of his word.
Third, the implication of the doctrine of those who appeal to the text and explain it as described in the free offer argument is that Jesus fails to save the world that he desires to save and gave his life to save.  This is not only to make him a failure, but also to imply that those whom he does save are saved by their own will, rather than by the will and work of Jesus.  This is the denial of the gospel of grace.
Fourth, positively, Jesus came to save the world that was lost and under the judgment of God, even though as a secondary purpose, he will also judge those individuals who are in the world who reject him.  He did not need to come into the world to condemn the world because the world stood under judgment without his coming.  As he willed to save the world, so also does he save the world, the world of John 3:16all those in all nations and of all races whom God elected and who believe on Jesus.  Jesus did not come for the Jews alone, but for the world.  As this primary purpose of Jesus is being carried out, his word also judges.  It judges all those who reject his word.  This is a secondary, almost incidental, effect of his coming and work.  And this judgment will be publicly confirmed in the great day of judgment as Matthew 25 teaches. (DJE, 14/12/2019)
“… Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel … Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out … Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:12, 19, 26).
The apostle is here speaking to an indiscriminate, unconverted crowd of thousands of Israelites.  Many of the crowd, after his message was given, did not believe (Acts 4:1-3) and therefore were reprobates.  Peter cannot, therefore, be speaking of irresistible grace to the elect.  Rather, as verse 26 naturally reads, Peter is saying that God sent his Son Jesus to turn every one of them from their iniquities.   In verse 19, the revealed purpose of God commanding them to repent and be converted is so that their sins would be blotted out.  However, God’s revealed purpose in this was resisted and overturned in that Israel by and large rejected Jesus’ saving overtures to them.

“Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye” (Acts 7:51).
These unbelieving reprobates who rejected the gospel and stoned Stephen are said to have always resisted the Holy Spirit, as did their unbelieving Israelite fathers who constantly resisted the prophets of old.  One of course can only resist a drawing influence, as God continually sought to draw Israel to Himself in the Old Testament and these Jews to Himself through the ministry of the apostles.
It is the plain testimony of Scripture that God’s predestination, or will and desire to save some only, is the source of all salvation.  Thus does God receive the glory in the salvation of the sinner—not the sinner himself, who, on the view of the well-meant offer, distinguishes himself from other sinners by virtue of his accepting the offered salvation.  This is the issue; it must not be forgotten.
As for Acts 7, the context clearly shows that Stephen accuses the Jews of opposition to the Word of God and those who brought it (see vv. 52, 53).  The text could more accurately be translated, “ye do always oppose the Holy Ghost.”  In fact, the Greek verb translated “resist” is antipiptoo, which means “oppose, contradict” and the like.  The lexicons do not even give the word “resist” as a possible translation of the word (cf. Thayer).  What the deacon charges his opponents with is opposing the Holy Ghost in His presence in the Word and in the preachers of it.  No desire for the salvation of these men is expressed or implied.  One can oppose another without the implication that that other wishes one to accept him.   The devil opposes God and Christ by contending against the Word and the church (antipiptoo).  But God has no desire that the devil be saved by accepting the Word.  Nor is the devil’s saving acceptance of the Word a motive of God in sending the Word out. 
Men ought to understand the truth of Acts 7 by reading it in light of Romans 9.  God sends the gospel forth with the determination that it save some but harden others.  This chapter is clear and decisive. (DJE, 03/01/2020)
“And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death” (Rom. 7:10).
This verse says that the ordained purpose of God’s commandments is for life.  That is, God’s designed purpose in giving the law is for the good of the creature.  Sin in the creature, though, resisting the will of God, turns that which was ordained for its good into its own condemnation, a secondary by product due to the creature’s sin.  Thus when God ‘now commands all men everywhere to repent’ (Acts 17:30), it is ordained for the life of all creatures.
Originally in Paradise, where the human race began, the law was designed to point out the way in which the race would live. Still today, the law points out and calls to the way of life: “Do this and live.” It is not the law’s fault that the law now condemns and damns every human. As Romans 7 clearly states, the trouble is not in the law but in us. What was originally designed to point out the way of life, now, by man’s sin, condemns to death.
The reference to Acts 17 with the erroneous explanation of the call is wrong on two counts. First, the call is not the law’s call, but the call of the gospel. The law does not command to repent, but to live a perfectly obedient life, with the threat that failure means damnation. Second, neither the law nor the gospel is ordained by God for the life of all creatures. Romans 9 teaches that God wills, or ordains, the gospel to harden some. Besides, Romans 7:10 does not use the word “ordains” with regard to the law. The KJV has the word “ordained” in italics, which shows that this word is not in the original Greek. The text says only that the law was “to life” with reference to its function originally. It showed the way of life. Even for Adam, God did not ordain the law unto Adam’s *perpetual* life. If He had, Adam would not have disobeyed. What God “ordains” happens(DJE, 07/08/2019)
“Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (II Cor. 5:20).

“I say the truth in Christ… That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.  For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:1-3).

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved” (Rom. 10:1).
II Cor. 5:20 says that ministers are ambassadors of Christ, beseeching in Christ’s stead that the world be reconciled to God.  Thus it was Christ, through Paul, longing and praying for the salvation of Paul’s hearers (Acts 26:29).  Preachers are to do the same. 

Christ often had compassion on the multitudes, being moved out of affection for His hearers, who were the same that would all leave Him (John 6:66).
Without denying that preachers of the gospel fervently exhort unbelievers to be reconciled to God by believing on Jesus, with regards to II Corinthians 5:20 Paul is addressing the believing church, or believing members of the church.  He makes this plain in the opening verses of chapter one, as throughout the preceding chapters.  The opening verses of this chapter make this certain.  He speaks to those who groan to be delivered from this life and to be with God at death.  Surely, these are believers.  If there yet remained any doubt, verse 21 removes this doubt:  those whom he addresses in verse 20 are those for whom God made Jesus to be sin and who are the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ.  These are not all humans but the believing members of the church. (DJE, 15/11/2019).

“Even if we concede the point that all hearers, whether believers or unbelievers, elect or reprobate, are addressed in II Corinthians 5:20, the text still does not teach the “free offer” … What the text does not teach is that Christ pleads with sinners to be saved—the preacher might do that, and he often does.  However, Christ, the sovereign Lord, never pleads with sinners, and the text does not teach that He does:  “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ (Greek: huper Christou), as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead (Greek: huper Christou), be ye reconciled to God.” To prove the free offer, someone would have to demonstrate that God desires the salvation of the hearers and that He sincerely offers salvation to all of them (including to all the reprobate).” (Rev. Martyn McGeown, PRTJ, vol. 55, no. 2 [April 2018], p. 71)


Historical Support:

John Calvin (1509-1564): “It is to be observed, that Paul is here addressing himself to believers. He declares, that he brings to them every day this embassy. Christ therefore, did not suffer, merely that he might once expiate our sins, nor was the gospel appointed merely with a view to the pardon of those sins which we committed previously to baptism, but that, as we daily sin, so we might, also, by a daily remission, be received by God into his favor. For this is a continued embassy, which must be assiduously sounded forth in the Church, till the end of the world; and the gospel cannot be preached, unless remission of sins is promised.” (Comm. on II Cor. 5:20)
“We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain” (II Cor. 6:1).
The context is the free offer of the gospel at the end of II Cor. 5, where Paul exhorts them to be reconciled to God (5:20) and sets the atonement in Christ before them (5:21).  II Cor. 6:1 says this free offer, which they may or may not take God up on, is a grace to them.  Yet they are able to receive this grace in vain by hearing of the free offer to no avail and perishing in their sin.
The short answer is that Paul is addressing the church in these verses (and the church from an organic perspective at that). They are not an “evangelistic appeal.” (AS, 18/05/2017)

The point is that God saves a number of people and that group becomes a congregation of Jesus Christ. Upon that congregation, God sends the blessings of His grace. They grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. God is gracious to that church as a body.
It almost always happens that there are also those in the congregation who are not true believers. They confess the truth for a while. They may even be chosen as office-bearers. But they are not faithful. Hebrews 6:1-6 speaks of such people. And so the warning is pertinent and needed.
There is also the carnal seed born in the church who do not show their ungodly colours until they become young people or confessing adults.
The grace God gives to a congregation creates a sphere of Christ’s gracious workings in saving His church. The congregation as a whole and each individual in it is called not to use this grace of God in vain.
Everyone knows that, when a farmer irrigates his field, he waters weeds, as well as his crop. But the weeds receive the water in vain. Indeed, the watering causes them to grow rapidly and manifest themselves as weeds. So it is in the church. Hebrews 6:7-8 uses this figure too. (Herman C. Hanko, “Covenant Reformed News,” vol. 16, no. 16 [Aug. 2017])

The exhortation that the Corinthians not receive the grace of God in vain does not imply that this is possible in the sense that a man is the recipient of the grace of God, but perishes. In light of verse 2, the apostle is exhorting the church not to receive the gospel that Paul preached in vain in the sense that the gospel of grace came to it, but the church did not believe it or hold on to it. This is a possibility, indeed a reality in many cases. The church and its members are therefore guilty of having the gospel brought to them, but, by their unbelief, not benefiting from the gospel. This implies neither a frustration of gracious purposes of God, nor a falling from grace on the part of individuals.
The implication [that] the [Free Offer interpretation] proposes is that all hearers of the preaching of the gospel have the ability to receive the gospel. How is this to be squared with the doctrine of total depravity? Also, if this is true, salvation depends upon the sinner. How does this harmonize with salvation by grace? In addition, if God sincerely desires the salvation of all who hear, this contradicts His will of predestination. It also makes God powerless to save, and makes salvation depend on the will of the sinner. Grace is at stake.
The text teaches the reality and urgency of the external call to salvation by preachers: a beseeching of all to repent and believe, and in this way, to be saved.  The gospel calls all hearers to believe and instructs all hearers that all who believe will be saved. There is no teaching in the text that all are able to believe or that salvation depends on the will of the sinner. The [Free Offer interpretation] begs the question whether all hearers have the natural ability to repent and believe. Ephesians 2 describes all to whom the gospel comes as “dead in sin.” Dead sinners do not have the ability to do what the gospel calls them to do. When one does what the gospel calls him to do, namely, believe, this is because of the particular grace of God to him: “By grace are ye saved, through faith, and this [faith] is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2).
To use the language of Ezekiel, when God passes by the dead infant weltering in his blood and says, “Live!” the exhortation does not imply that the dead child has the ability to do so. With the call to the elect, God gives the efficacious grace to obey the call. According to His reprobation, He withholds this grace from the others to whom the external call also comes. The reprobate is responsible for rejecting the call, even though he has no ability to heed it. It is his fault that he is in his desperate spiritual condition. (DJE, 20/04/2017)
“Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24).
This verse says that the Mosaic Law administration’s purpose was to lead Israel unto Christ so that they might be justified by faith and saved.  This purpose was revealed in God driving them away from themselves by the Moral Law, in God giving Israel sacrifices and symbolic rites in the Ceremonial Law in order to draw them to faith in the Messiah, and in God giving them a foretaste of the equity of the Messianic Kingdom in the Civil Law.  This has historically been defined as ‘the first use of the Law’ in reformed theology.  This purpose of the Law, of course, was not fulfilled by all of Israel as not all of Israel was brought to Christ, contrary to God’s revealed purpose.
The law is a pedagogue to lead some sinners to Christ.  It does not itself justify or save.  Only Christ in the gospel saves.  This is the message of the book of Galatians.  Law does not save; only the gospel saves, since only the gospel reveals Jesus Christ.  It is the overwhelming message of Galatians to distinguish law and gospel and to insist that the law—commandments—does not justify and save.  
Galatians 3 teaches that the promise of salvation was given to Abraham’s seed and that this seed is Christ so that the promise of salvation comes only to those who are in Christ by faith, not to all physical children of Abraham.  The promise with its salvation is particular, not universal.  
And what determines who are included in Christ?  See Romans 9. (DJE, 08/08/2019)

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners ...” (I Tim. 1:15).
Jesus came into the world to save sinners as they are creaturely sinners.  He threw the gospel net wide, preaching to all indiscriminately, calling many (though only few be chosen), sending his disciples into all of Israel, and his apostles into all the world.
This argument doesn’t even mention the “well-meant offer/free offer” position and could easily be understood our way. Anyone who thinks that I Timothy 1:15 teaches the well-meant offer has not grasped the issue at all and doesn’t even understand what we teach. (AS, 03/11/2019)
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers … be made for all men … For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior;  Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;  Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (I Tim. 2:1-6).
Prayer is to be made not only for all types of men, but for all men head-for-head, as Matt 5:44 teaches (except those that sin the sin unto death, 1 John 5:16).  The grounds for praying for the salvation of all men is God’s revealed will, that He would have all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.  This universal will of God is fitting as there is only one God and one Mediator between Him and all men.  It is further grounded in the atonement of Christ which (though not efficaciously paying for the sins of the whole world by decree) yet is made available to, and is designed for, the whole world.

“For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe” (1 Tim. 4:10).
“Here the passage says that Christ is in some way the Savior of the reprobate.  In what way is this?  Christ is available to all men, offered to all men, sufficient for all men, has come to seek and save all men, and wills that all men should come to Him and be saved.”
Notice that the verse does not just say that God sent His Son for all, but that He is the Savior of all. The explanation we prefer, though Calvin gives an alternative, has to do with the use of the word “specially.” The word “all” seems to indicate that “all men” is a larger and less exclusive group than “those that believe.” In fact, they are the same group. The idea of the verse is therefore this: “The Saviour of all men, that is, of those that believe.”
Three other verses in the New Testament use the same word translated “specially” and “chiefly” in that way. In Acts 25:26, “you” and “king Agrippa” are the same person, so that the verse can be read, “before you, that is, before thee, O king Agrippa.” In I Timothy 5:8 “his own” and “those of his own house” are also the same group, and the word “specially” again has the idea of “that is.” Thus, everyone is commanded to care for “his own, that is, for those of his own house.” Finally in II Peter 2:9-10 the “unjust” and “them that walk after the flesh” are the same group of people, and the word translated “chiefly” again has the idea of “that is.” God reserves “the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished, that is, them that walk after the flesh.”
Insofar as the word has any other meaning, it indicates that the group referred to in each case has a special name, a name that reinforces what each passage says about them. In Acts 25:26, “you” is “king Agrippa.” In I Timothy 5:8 “his own” are “those of his own house,” reinforcing the command to care for them. And in II Peter 2:9-10, the “unjust” are “those that walk after the “flesh,” emphasizing the reason that they are reserved unto judgment.
So in I Timothy 4:10, “all men” are especially “those that believe,” and the text is explaining by the second name why God is their Savior. Thus, the verse, instead of suggesting that God in some sense is Savior of all men without exception, actually shows that “all men” is the equivalent of “those that believe,” a limited number of persons. (Ronald Hanko & Ronald Cammenga, “Saved by Grace: A Study of the Five Points of Calvinism,” [RFPA, 2002], pp. 110-112)
“But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared …” (Titus 3:4).
Here Jesus is given the name ‘the kindness and love of God’, and this toward mankind in his revealing the Love of God to the human race.  He is the Philanthropos, The Lover of Men.
And who are embraced by the Philanthropos? Who are the men whom God loves (Tit. 3:4)?  It is surrounded by “we” and “us” and “our” (vv. 3, 5, 6, 7). Moreover, verse 4 is part of one lengthy sentence (vv. 4-7) controlled by “us” and “we” and “our”—the whole thing is particular: particular grace to some people, God’s people who are loved by Him in Christ, saved by mercy, regenerated and justified by grace alone. (AS, 03/11/2019)
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (II Pet. 3:9).
If ‘not willing that any should perish’ refers to all God’s elect who will in the future will be converted, then Peter must, by ‘us-ward’, be referring to the unknown and hidden group of the elect (many of which were unconverted both in his day and yet to be in the future).  To make the first person plural, ‘us’, refer to an unknown group (many of his hearers not being in that group) is to border on making Peter’s speech unintelligible.  Rather, Peter is much more easily understood if ‘us’ included all of his hearers and the persons previously mentioned in the passage, all the generations of the human race (including the scoffers) that God was mercifully dealing with in his longsuffering, giving them more time to repent under the gospel, not willing that any of creature should perish.  This reading of the passage would be expected as it is clearly true that God is willing that all people, elect and non-elect, should come to repentance (Acts 17:30).




That God Desires His Revealed Will to be Done


“For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering” (Ps. 51:16).


"Why leap ye, ye high hills? this is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea, the Lord will dwell in it for ever" (Ps. 68:16).


"For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings" (Hos. 6:6).

1. God expressed his desire for mercy and not sacrifice in the law and in the prophets; this desire, as he speaks of it in Hosea 6:6, is indeed a matter of his revealed will.
2. God did not express this desire to the entire world, or all mankind; he expressed it to Israel, his covenant people, his holy nation.
3. In the text, God reminds Israel of this to call her to repentance. He is not speaking of an unfulfilled desire; he is rebuking a people who did not do what He commanded them to do. This rebuke makes plain to those in Israel who will not obey Him that their disobedience is willful, and God is just in punishing them for it.  And this rebuke is the means by which true believers turn back to God again. (DK, 03/09/2019)

There are two ways of responding to those who urge this verse in support of the Well-Meant Offer (WMO) ...
1) The WMO teaches that God (earnestly) desires (or wishes or wants) the salvation of the reprobate (which involves also the propositions that God desires the reprobate to repent and to do good works).
God does desire people to show mercy. By His irresistible grace, He makes His elect show mercy. Hosea 6:6 does not say whom He desires to exercise mercy. Thus Hosea 6:6 is like John 4:23 which says that the Father seeks people to worship Him in spirit and in truth. He actually (desires and) seeks (and creates and finds) such people to worship Him—by election, Christ's saving death and irresistible grace.
Or …
2) Hosea 6:6 is a comparison. It does not literally mean that God did not desire sacrifice per se. For He did desire (animal) sacrifice—as a picture of Christ’s coming sacrifice and as a way for the true people of God to show their gratitude (by an expensive gift)—and, therefore, God saw to it that such actually happened. But now the advocates of the WMO are caught on the horns of a dilemma, for they claim that all God’s commands indicate a desire that they be kept (instead, they indicate that God approves of the good He commands), yet this text contradicts their thesis, since God commanded animal sacrifice in Old Testament days, yet, if they take it literally, it says that He did not desire what He commanded! Instead, the text teaches that God values our showing mercy (out of a believing and thankful heart) more highly than he does offering an animal as a sacrifice (apart from faith in the coming Saviour). And, again, this desire (even taking the word literally) was realised in the elect. Thus, again, no unfulfilled divine desires. (AS, 30/08/2019)



That God’s Revealed Will is his Wish


“O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!” (Deut. 5:29).

“O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” (Deut. 32:29).

“Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!  I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries.  The haters of the Lord should have submitted themselves unto him: but their time should have endured for ever.  He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee” (Ps. 81:13-16).

“O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea” (Isa. 48:18).

Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635-1711): “When God is said to desire something which does not occur, such as when He states, ‘O that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear Me … that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!’ (Deu. 5:29), or, ‘O that thou hadst hearkened to My commandments! then had thy peace been as a river’ (Isa. 48:18), He is speaking in the manner of men. Strictly speaking, such can never be said concerning the omniscient, omnipotent, immovable, and most perfect God. Rather, it indicates God’s displeasure against sin and how He delights in holiness” (“The Christian’s Reasonable Service,” trans. Bartel Elshout, vol. 1 [Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1992], p. 117).

Matthew Poole (1624-1679):O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! the failure hath not been on my part, but on thine: I gave thee my counsels and commands, but thou hast neglected and disobeyed them, and that to thy own great disadvantage. Such wishes as these are not to be taken properly, as if God longed for something which he gladly would but could not effect, or as if he wished that to be undone which was irrevocably past and done; which is a vain and foolish wish even in a man; and much more are such wishes inconsistent with the infinite perfection and happiness of the Divine nature; but they are only significations of God’s good and holy will, whereby he requires and loves obedience, and condemns and hates disobedience” (Comm. on Isa. 48:18).

John Owen (1616-1683): “That desires and wishings should properly be ascribed unto God is exceedingly opposite to his all-sufficiency and the perfection of his nature; they are no more in him than he hath eyes, ears, and hands. These things are to be understood [in a way befitting to God]” (“The Works of John Owen” [Great Britain: Banner, 1967], vol. 10, p. 401).

Formula Consensus Helvetica (1675): “The same Holy Scriptures testify that the counsel and the will of God do not change, but stand immovable, and God in the heavens does whatsoever he will (Ps. 115:3; Isa. 46:10); for God is infinitely removed from all that human imperfection which characterizes inefficacious affections and desires, rashness, repentance, and change of purpose” (Canon VI).



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