The Free Offer

The conclusion to which the authors of “The Free Offer” come in their study of the passages fromMatthew 5 and Luke 6 read as follows:

“The sum of this study of these passages in Matthew and Luke is simply this; that presupposed in God’s gifts bestowed upon the ungodly there is in God a disposition of love, kindness, mercifulness, and that the actual gifts and blessing accruing therefrom for the ungodly must not be abstracted from the loving-kindness of which they are the expression. And, of course, we must not think of this loving-kindness as conditioned upon a penitent attitude in the recipients. The loving-kindness rather is exercised toward them in their ungodly state and is expressed in the favors they enjoy. What bearing this may have upon the grace of God manifested in the free offer of the gospel to all without distinction remains to be seen. But we are hereby given a disclosure of goodness in the heart of God and of the relation there is between gifts bestowed and the loving-kindness from .which they flow. And there is indicated to us something respecting God’s love or benevolence that we might not or could not entertain if we concentrated our thought simply on the divine decree of reprobation.” p. 7.

I suppose that the authors have in mind that there are some that do exactly that which is expressed in the last sentence, they “concentrate their thought simply in the divine decree of reprobation.” If there are such, I do not know them. I do know, however, that God’s attitude to those that are wicked and ungodly and continue to be such without receiving the grace of repentance, is rooted in His decree of reprobation. Just as He loves the elect righteous and godly, even while they are yet sinners, with an eternal and unchangeable love, so He hates the reprobate wicked with a sovereign hatred from before the foundations of the world.

Such is the truth of Scripture.

But in my opposition to the theory of the authors of “The Free Offer” that God is filled with loving-kindness and mercy toward the wicked as such, and that this is manifest in the gifts bestowed on them in this present time, I will not even mention reprobation. I maintain that professors Murray and Stonehouse, with their conception of God’s love for the wicked, stand opposed to the current teaching of Scripture.

This I will prove.

In Psalm 1, which, by the way strikes the keynote of all the psalms, in the Word of God, David first describes the godly and righteous. He is the one that “walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” This, of course, is negative. Positively expressed, the righteous is he that has his delight in the law of the Lord and meditates on that law day and night. He is compared to a tree near the riverside, that brings forth fruit in due season: all that he does shall prosper. In contrast to this righteous man stands the ungodly. He is like the chaff driven away by the wind. He cannot stand in judgment nor in the congregation of the righteous. And the psalm closes with the antithetical statement: “For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”

I challenge the authors of “The Free Offer” so to explain this psalm and the perishing way of the ungodly that it is in harmony with the theory that God is motivated by love in guiding the ungodly on his perishing way.

Or consider Psalm 5:4-6: “For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the Lord will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.” Or again in vss. 9, 10: “For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulcher; they flatter with their tongue. Destroy them, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions; for they have rebelled against thee.” Let Murray and Stonehouse explain these passages in the light of their theory that God loves, instead of hating, all the workers of iniquity, and shows His love to them in the things they receive in this present time. And let them attempt to take the prayer of the psalmist on their own lips. It is, for them, simply impossible. Notice, too, that the psalmist does not speak of the reprobate in the abstract but of the ungodly, the workers of iniquity as they concretely exist and live in this world. Them the Lord does not love but hate.

The same is emphatically expressed in Psalm 7:11-16: “God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day. If he turn not, he will whet his sword, he hath bent his bow, and made it ready. He bath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors. Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood. He hath made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made. His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate.” Again, let the authors of “The Free Offer” so explain this passage that, instead of teaching that God is angry with the wicked that does not repent every day, it means that God loves the wicked irrespective of the question whether or not he turns from his wicked way, as they have, it, and manifests His love to him in rain and sunshine and in all the things he receives in this present time. They chin never do it.

The same note is sounded in Psalm 11:2-6: “For lo, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart. If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men. The Lord trieth the righteous; but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.” Also in this passage the question does not concern the reprobate in the abstract but the wicked and ungodly man in his concrete existence in the world. He is the one that, in this world, loveth violence and persecutes the righteous. Does God love him, as Murray and Stonehouse would have it? Does He manifest His love to them in rain and sunshine and in all the things of this present time? On the contrary, His soul hates them, and the portion of their cup shall be fire and brimstone.

Also in Psalm 37 throughout the subject is the antithesis between the righteous and the wicked and the attitude of the Lord to them both. Always He loves the righteous only and hates the wicked, Just let me quote a few instances. “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in anywise to do evil. For evil doers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. But the meek shall inherit the earth; and they shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth. The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming. The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to: slay such as be of upright conversation. Their sword shall enter into their own heart, arid their bows shall be broken.” vss. 8-15.

Surely, Murray and Stonehouse must admit that the psalm here does not speak of the reprobate in the abstract, as he appears in the decree of God, but of the wicked as he lives and exists and acts in the present world. And they also will have to admit that, in the passage quoted above as well as in the entire psalm, God’s attitude is that He loves the righteous and hates the wicked. Just let me quote a few more verses from the same psalm:

“A little that a righteous man bath is better than the riches of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken: but the Lord upholdeth the righteous. The Lord knoweth the days of the upright: and their, inheritance shall be for ever. They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied. But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs: into smoke shall they consume away.”

Thus the church of the old dispensation was taught to sing, and thus the church of the new dispensation still sings. Surely, there is not even a semblance of love for the wicked in the passages. The contrary is true.

And this is the current teaching of Holy Writ, not only in the Old, but also in the New Testament.

This we still hope to prove.

H.H.

Election and Reprobation

We have not finished our discussion and criticism of Berkouwer’s book “God’s Election.”

An important element we must still discuss more broadly and thoroughly, an element that stands in immediate connection with his criticism of my view, to which he devotes several pages of his book. I refer to his estimation of the relation between the preaching of the gospel and Gods election.

It stands to reason, in view of the fact that Berkouwer is very weak to express it mildly, on the truth of reprobation, that he emphasizes rather strongly that the preaching of the gospel is an offer, an invitation, well-meaning on the part of God, to all that hear the gospel, to come to Christ and be saved. He fully agrees with the First Point of the three that were adopted by the synod of the Christian Reformed Church in 1924.

In this connection he refers, of course, to Canons II, 5 and III, IV, 8, and also to certain: texts as I Tim. 2:4and II Peter 3:9. To his discussion of the latter we will now call attention, first of all.

Intentionally I say “discussion” and not exegesis. Exegesis of these passages he does not offer. He introduces the discussion of the verses with some paragraphs in which he emphasizes the universality of the gospel. We must, because of fear for universalism, not close our eyes for this universality of the gospel. This is done, according to Berkouwer, when we try to explain texts like Ezekiel 18:23 and Ezekiel 11:33 in the light of election and reprobation. We must not “as does Hoeksema, make a distinction between the ungodly that do turn and those that do not turn from their evil way, and then eliminate the latter from the first part of these texts of Ezekiel.” One certainly explains these texts erroneously as soon as the attempt is made to introduce the scheme of election and, reprobation into them, according to Berkouwer. Of course, you understand, that I do not agree with this fundamental principle of Berkouwer. It is my conviction that we may never explain any particular passage of the Word of God without taking into account the whole of the Bible, and all Scripture teaches the doctrine of election and reprobation and emphasizes that God’s grace is not general but particular.

But let this be for the moment.

As I said, this first paragraph on the universality of the gospel must serve as an introduction to the discussion of I Timothy 2:4 and II Peter 3:9.

In this connection, Berkouwer, first of all, presents various interpretations. There is the interpretation that speaks of an antecedent or preceding will of God, which is general and according to which God actually wills that everybody shall be saved, and a consequent or superseding or following will of God, according to which God wills that some, those that believe shall be saved, which latter will is limited by the free choice and will of man. Then he mentions the interpretation of Augustine, who at first interpreted all men as referring only to the elect, but later referred the term to the human race in general without having reference to individuals. In connection with the phrase in II Peter 3:9: Not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, he refers to the commentary of Greydanus, who first refutes the universalism of the Remonstrants, “but then speaks of ‘all the elect’ although the text does not mention the elect.” Then, too, there is the view that seeks refuge in the theory of a “secret” and “revealed” will of God. The former, then, refers, of course, to the will of predestination, according to which God wills that only the elect’ shall be saved, while the latter, the so-called revealed will of God seeks the salvation of all without distinction.

But we are interested in Berkhouwer’s own interpretation. And in this we are disappointed, for he does not give an explanation of these passages of Scripture. Nevertheless, he talks about these texts and leaves the impression of an interpretation. In this connection, I better quote him literally, lest I be accused of misrepresenting his would be interpretation. I quote from pp. 288-290:

“It is, however, in our opinion, neither possible to penetrate the meaning of these universal-sounding words of Scripture with the help of the distinction between the revealed and secret will of God. For exactly in what is called the revealed will of God the good pleasure of God in Jesus Christ is concerned, the one Mediator of God and man . . . This kerugma (preaching, H.H.) has, as the message of God’s saving dealings, a universal direction, which alone can explain the universality of the N.T. . . . This need not be denied over against various forms of absolute or relative universalism . . . For this direction of the gospel is aimed as the arrow to its mark; and here no one is excluded, not even the greatest of the sinners.

“Behind this message—in all these universal words—it is not necessary to fear for the real or secret will, which, after all, still manifests itself as a dark shadow will, and can still leave room for the limited will of consequence instead of the antecedent will. In the message of salvation, we are much rather—according to the will of God made known to all nations—shown the way of conversion and of the knowledge of the truth. That is the appeal and the invitation, the calling and the admonition in this Will of God. The universality of the gospel-call does not exclude but include the calling to faith and repentance. Apart from this faith and repentance one cannot speak about this universality and surely cannot be confident on its basis. The epistles of the apostles and their missionary activity are one in this respect.”

Briefly, therefore, Berkhouwer teaches here that the preaching of the gospel is universal in its effect for all that by faith accept the invitation.

There is nothing specifically or definitely Reformed in this teaching. As long as no more is said, any Arminian can subscribe to it.

But my question is: what does all this have to do with an interpretation of I Tim. 2:4 and II Pet. 3:9?

In I Tim. 2:4 we read: “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” For Reformed people the question that concerns them in connection with this text is, and always has been: how can this text, which speaks of the will of God to save all men, be harmonized with the truth of election and reprobation. Either the text means that it is the will of God to save all men without exception, head for head; or it means that God will have all men to be saved, not in the sense of every individual, but in the sense of all kinds and classes of men, which still includes the elect only though they are not mentioned. The universalist, the Remonstrants c.s., prefer the former interpretation. This implies, of course, that the will of God to save all men is limited by the freewill of the sinner. But Reformed theologians usually reject this interpretation and explain the text in the latter sense. Berkouwer offers no explanation, though he talks about the text rather elaborately.

We prefer the Reformed interpretation because:

1. Negatively, the universalist explanation is impossible as must be evident:

a. From the fact that God does not even have the gospel preached to all men. In the old dispensation salvation was, for a long time, limited to Israel; in the new dispensation the gospel is preached only to those to whom God, in his good pleasure, sends it. In the course of the history of the new dispensation it reached comparatively few.

b. From the fact that many to whom the gospel is preached do not receive but reject it. They do not believe. And, according to all Scripture, no man is able to believe unless faith is given him from God. “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” Hence, it is not true that God will have all men, head for head, to be saved.

2. Positively, the text in its context teaches this rather plainly and, in the light of all Scripture, can be interpreted in no other way:

a. As far as the context is concerned:

(1) Already in the first verse the apostle employs the same phrase “all men” as in vs. 4. He exhorts the congregation that prayers and giving of thanks be made for all men.

(2) What he means, however, is expressed in vs. 2: “for kings and all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”

b. It is plain, then, that according to the context, “all men” in vs. 4 does not mean every individual but all kinds and classes of men. The believers in Paul’s time, perhaps, had an idea that salvation was not for kings and those that were in authority. They were usually worldly and, besides, often persecuted them. Hence, the apostle corrects them and writes

The same truth though in a different way, is expressed in II Pet. 3:9.

But about this next time, D.V.

H.H.

QUESTION BOX

Oak Lawn, in their Men’s Society, their wives being also present, discussed the question of polygamy and not being able to come to what they considered to be a satisfactory conclusion, asks The Standard Bearer to shed some additional light on the question.

They write:

“The subject we discussed was: Polygamy in Old Testament Times. In general, we may say that it was agreed that polygamy is sin, a violation of the marriage ordinance instituted by God from the beginning. Our question then is: ‘Why did God tolerate it?’ Since adultery, according to Leviticus 20:10, was punishable by death and since polygamy is a form of adultery, why was not the same punishment administered when it was committed? Or, must we say that polygamy is not adultery?”

And a little farther they write:

“We are wondering whether it is correct to say that God had a positive purpose with the evil of polygamy? Can it be said that God, even as He used the sin of Esther, also used the sin of polygamy to serve the bringing forth of the covenant seed, etc.? We understand that this would not justify the sin and we also understand that God punished the polygamous marriages with many afflictions, but can this be a positive explanation as to why He tolerated it? Your view on the matter will be appreciated.”

My answer is as follows:

1. Undoubtedly, polygamy is adultery. All adultery is not polygamy, but all polygamy is adultery. If adultery may be defined as unfaithfulness of a married man to his legal wife by sexual intercourse with another woman, and if it be true, as it is, that a man can have only one legal wife, in, the sight of God, then polygamy is nothing less than adultery on a large scale.

2. The question of the society, however, is: why did God tolerate polygamy? It seems to me that the crux of the question must be found in the term “tolerate.” This term is rather ambiguous. If the meaning is that God permitted polygamy, then my answer is: He did not permit it. As the men’s society of Oak Lawn themselves point out, Leviticus 20:10demands that a man that commits adultery with another man’s wife shall be put to death. This surely implies that God looks with displeasure and wrath upon all adultery, even also on polygamy. That polygamy was not so punished but was, evidently, as in the case of David and Solomon, winked at and even approved and justified, was simply another sin added to the first. It is evident that during a certain period in the history of Israel in the old dispensation having more than one wife was not considered a great sin or even a sin at all, but this does not remove the fact that God considered it a sin which He will perish in time or eternity or both. And to my mind, God clearly revealed His wrath and displeasure on, for instance, the polygamy of David, by all the troubles he experienced.

3. If, however, instead of using the term “toleration” you employ the Scriptural terms “forbearance” and “longsuffering,” I would answer that this may be applied to the sin of polygamy, but at the same time to all sin. God is longsuffering with regard to the sin as well as to the suffering of His people as well as forbearing with respect to the sin .of the reprobate. It is also true, of course, that God reached His own purpose with the sin of both, the elect and the reprobate. Whether we dare say that His purpose or one of His purposes with the sin of polygamy was the bringing forth of the seed of the covenant, is another question. We know, of course, that, in some cases (Samuel, Solomon) this was true, but I would not subscribe to the general proposition that God’s purpose with polygamy in general was the bringing forth of the seed of the covenant.

Well, I made an attempt. If Oak Lawn is not satisfied, they better call again.

H.H.

From the same source comes the following question, although not from the Men’s Society: “Another question which is hypothetical I, would like to present for consideration. I shall use a hypothetical case. Suppose there are parents who with a baptized child belong to the Christian Reformed Church. This child reaches, let us say, the age of 16 to 18 and, still being a baptized member, arrives at the conviction that he should leave the Christian Reformed Church and become a member in the Protestant Reformed Church. Consequently, he desires to make confession of faith in the latter church. The parents, however, refuse to allow the baptism papers of the child to be given and insist that they remain in the Christian Reformed Church. The child in good conscience cannot make confession of faith in that church. The question now is: (1) Must the consistory grant the child’s request or must it grant the parents’ request? (2) If the latter, what must the child do? (3) Who is responsible for the baptism papers, the individual or the parents?”

Answer:

1. First of all, I wish to state that; in my answer, I will attempt to place myself, in my imagination, in the position of that Christian Reformed consistory and, of course, also of the parents.

2. To begin with the latter, it is their calling as members of the Christian Reformed Church carefully to instruct their child and to make plain to him the difference in doctrine between, the Christian Reformed and the Protestant Reformed Churches. In other words, they must explain to him and try to defend the Three Points. If the child is convinced that the doctrine of the Christian Reformed Church is the truth, they have gained him, and he can make confession of faith in his own church. He will, of course, no longer ask that his papers will be transferred to the Protestant Reformed Church. The matter is settled.

3. If, however, after all this instruction by the parents and also by the independent investigation of the child, the latter is still convinced that the Christian Reformed Church, in 1924, has departed from the truth and that the true doctrine is maintained by the Protestant Reformed Churches, it stands to reason that he, in that state, cannot make confession of faith in the Christian Reformed Church. For in that confession he promises to abide by the doctrine that “is taught here in this Christian church.” What, now, must the parents do? If they are wise parents, they will ask the child, to give the matter some time and prayerful consideration and seek contact with and advice from his minister.

4. If, however, after all this, the child still insists that he must become a member of the Protestant Reformed Church, and that he must make confession of faith there, what then must the parents do? Must they refuse that the child’s papers be transferred? This would, in the first place, be very foolish. It is, by this time, very evident that the child can never make confession in the Christian Reformed Church. Is it not spiritually foolish to attempt to force him to do so? But, in the second place, this is also impossible, for the papers belong to the child and not the parents, even though the child is still a minor. Ultimately, the child will surely have his papers transferred and make confession of faith in the church of his choice. You cannot force spiritual matters. Hence, my advice to those parents would be that they let the child join the Protestant Reformed Church and that they have his baptismal certificate transferred.

5. But how about the consistory? Must, if the parents refuse to have the child’s papers transferred, and the child comes to the consistory to ask for them, the consistory take the side of the parents or of the child. My advice would be as follows:

a. Let the consistory labor with the child for some time. Let them attempt to convince him of the error of his way in asking for his papers to what, in their conviction, is a heretical church. They can do so by a committee or even by asking him to appear before the consistory. If they gain him, the matter is settled.

b. But if the child is still convinced, and, besides, attends the Protestant Reformed Church in the place where he lives, the consistory can still follow two lines of action. They can put him under discipline and ultimately excommunicate him, if they have the courage of their conviction. Or they can simply send him his papers, regardless of the attitude of the parents. If they do the former, the child can still demand a copy of his baptismal certificate, for his papers are not the property of the parents, nor of the consistory, but his own.

I hope that I have answered your questions.

H.H.

No Good!

The Standard Bearer is no good!

Such is virtually the sweeping judgment of a certain party whose name I will not mention because the opinion was expressed in a private letter. The letter was addressed, not to me, but the Board of the RFPA and the board evidently thought I might be interested to learn to know what some think of our magazine.

And, of course, I am. One should always be willing to profit by the positive criticism of others. Besides, it stands to reason that our magazine is not perfect: there is always room for improvement.

But a sweeping judgment as expressed by this particular party I cannot swallow. I rather am of the opinion that it reflects upon the writer of the letter. I receive the impression from the letter that he is not and never was Reformed. He certainly does not love the Reformed truth.

Let me acquaint you with the contents of the letter which are entirely negative.

He begins by writing that he can still call the board members brethren even though they hold unbiblical opinions and call them biblical. Then he states that “The Standard Bearer” lacks emphasis on human responsibility which he calls a “most grievous biblical deficiency.” Next he writes that the Protestant Reformed Churches do not hold the whole counsel of God because they do not beseech men to be reconciled to God. He could not possibly be edified and blessed through the medium of the “Standard Bearer” and would not subscribe to it. And he ends with the prayer that God may deliver the Protestant Reformed Churches from the error of their ways.

Such are the contents of the letter. It is entirely lacking in positive contents. It is wholly negative. In one Word “The Standard Bearer” is no good!

What can you say to a man like that? Must we defend our paper over against these charges?

I will never deign to do this. All I will say is that all the issues of the paper we published ever since 1923 prove that the letter written by this party is one big lie.

This I am prepared to prove if the party has the courage to come out into open and asks me to sustain this contention.

H.H.