22 December, 2019

John 5:34—“these things I say, that ye might be saved”

If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true. Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved (John 5: 31-34).

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.


Prof. David J. Engelsma

[Source: Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 53, no. 1 (Nov. 2019), pp. 112-114]

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?



More to come! (DV)

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