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).

 

 

WELL-MEANT OFFER ARGUMENT:

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.



 

(I)

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?

 

 

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(II)

 

Rev. Martyn McGeown

 

[Source: Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 53, no. 2, pp. 88-89]

 

To understand this text, we first survey the context.

 

At the beginning of John 5, Jesus heals an impotent man at the pool of Bethesda, which led to accusations of Sabbath-breaking against Him. Jesus does not defend His actions by categorizing His miracle an act of mercy, which He did on other occasions, but He gives a detailed explanation of His relationship to the Father. Since the Father is always working, Jesus works too, even on the Sabbath (v. 17). In brief, Jesus is the Son of the Father, which is a relationship of intimate love and affection (v. 20); He shares life with the Father (v. 26); and He enjoys open and free communication with the Father (vv. 19-20). His relationship with the Father is a relationship of communion and fellowship, therefore. Jesus also performs the works of the Father, such as quickening the dead (v. 21) and judging all men (v. 22), and Jesus is equal in glory and honor with the Father (v. 23).

 

Although as the Son of God Jesus does not need witnesses, He provides four witnesses to leave the Jews without excuse. The first witness is the Father, who sent Jesus into the world (vv. 30-32, 37). The second witness is John the Baptist, who as a burning and shining light testified of Jesus (vv. 33-35). The third witness is the miracles that Jesus performed (v. 36), which are the works that the Father sent Him to do (v. 36). The fourth, and final witness is the Scriptures, which testify of Jesus and which the Jews must search, for in them they will find eternal life (vv. 39, 45-47). In connection with that fourfold testimony Jesus says, “These things I say, that ye might be saved” (v. 34).

 

[The “Well-Meant Offer” advocate argues] a number of points from verse 34. First, the audience is unbelieving, which we grant: most, if not all, of the people in the audience were unbelievers, at least with respect to Jesus as the Messiah. They were religious Jews, not atheists. Nevertheless, they were Jews hostile to Jesus’ claims to be the Messiah, and they even wanted to kill Him (v. 18). Second, the audience consisted of people who were finally lost, that is, reprobates. However, [the Well-Meant Offer advocate] cannot prove that every hearer was reprobate, nor do we claim to be able to prove that any hearer was elect, nor is such proof necessary. We can agree that, with every public discourse in the gospel accounts, the audience was mixed. Third, Christ’s purpose in preaching was the salvation of His audience: “that ye might be saved,” where the word “that” expresses purpose and could be rendered “so that.” We agree that the primary purpose of Christ’s preaching and teaching ministry was salvation (Luke 9:56; 19:10; John 12:47). Nevertheless, that fact does not preclude a secondary purpose, which is the hardening of some. No preacher says to his audience, “I preach these things to you that you might be hardened,” and neither did Christ, although Christ recognized God’s sovereignty in His preaching, as do we. Ultimately, of course, Christ’s purpose in preaching was the glory of His Father. Indeed, Christ can say, “These things I say, that ye might be saved,” without implying that His purpose was the salvation of every hearer in the audience. Jesus does not say, “That every one of you might be saved,” but simply makes a general statement concerning His purpose in preaching. Fourth, since Jesus is the Son of God, His purpose (“that ye might be saved”) is God’s purpose; therefore, God purposed the salvation of Jesus’ audience, or Jesus’ words in John 5:34 are the expression of the will of God. We do not object to [the Well-Meant Offer advocate’s] contention here, for certainly as the Son of God Christ expresses God’s purpose in the preaching, although we disagree that there is expressed here a desire for the salvation of all the hearers. [They conclude] wrongly that, since Christ’s purpose, which is God’s purpose, in the preaching of the gospel is the salvation of the hearers, God must desire the salvation of the hearers—all the hearers—in John 5:34.

 

… Christ does not speak of any desire or will—either His own desire or will or God’s desire or will—but only of His purpose. Therefore, we must not speak of the will of God’s precept, and certainly not of His desire, but of God’s will of decree, which is what He has purposed to do: God has purposed in Christ’s preaching the salvation of Christ’s hearers, although not all of Christ’s hearers. If [the Well-Meant Offer advocate] wants to make application to the will of God’s precept, he must conclude that God commanded Christ’s hearers to believe and thus to be saved, but [they] cannot prove that Christ desired the salvation of all His hearers, or that God’s desire was unfulfilled or thwarted. In fact, God did save Christ’s hearers—not all of them, of course—for many Jews who heard Christ’s preaching were saved, either on that day or at a later day, such as on the Day of Pentecost or during the days of the apostles after Christ’s death and resurrection (Acts 2:41, 47; Acts 6:7).

 

 

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(III)

 

Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965)

 

[Source: The Standard Bearer, vol. 13, no. 9 (Feb. 1, 1937), p. 202]

 

The words, “that ye might be saved,” not only express clearly the desire on the part of Jesus that those intended might receive salvation, but what is more, that this was the positive purpose why they were spoken.

 

It is true that the context plainly shows that the predominating element among the multitude that heard the Lord at this occasion were unbelievers. This does not mean, however, (1) that everyone of them was an unbeliever at that time; (2) that those, who at this particular occasion did not believe on Him, were reprobate and never came to the faith. We know of those (e.g., His brethren) who did not believe till after the resurrection, and others believed not till the outpouring of the Spirit.

 

I think it is safe to say, that, because the Lord speaks with the positive purpose that they may be saved, that not the whole multitude consisted of reprobate unbelievers. The “ye” were saved.

 

 

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(IV)

 

More to come! (DV)

 

 





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