08 August, 2019

Acts 17:30—“but now commandeth all men every where to repent”

Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead (Acts 17:29-31).

“Romans 7:10 states: ‘And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.’ 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.”

Prof. David J. Engelsma:

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)

“Acts 17:30 (‘And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent’) and Isaiah 45:22 (‘Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else’) are commands for all people to repent and be saved.  The question is: are God’s commands expressions of His 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. Now if God is displeased by anyone’s disobedience to the command to repent and look to Him [and be saved], how does that not imply that He must therefore desire all to repent and be saved?

Prof. David J. Engelsma:

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). 
In the language of the question, 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)



More to come! (DV)

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