In the last number of our Standard Bearer I was discussing an article that appeared in the Missionary Monthly, written by Dr. Jerome De Jong. I was not quite finished with my discussion. Hence, I must now finish my criticism.
First of all, I must quote once more from the article in question. Dr. De Jong writes as follows:
“We also want to consider that ‘well-meant’ gospel offer.” Is the gospel only for the elect? Does God really want men saved? It is beyond me that men who seriously believe in the inspiration of the Bible argue away the plain invitation of such passages as “Come unto me all ye that labor, and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28) and “. . . . Not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” II Peter 3:9.
We must stop here a moment.
As to the first text which Dr. De Jong quotes, it is never advisable to quote a text outside of its immediate context, and not even apart from the entire Bible. This is exactly the way the Scriptures can be made to teach all kinds of heresies. The question is here whether this passage teaches a well-meant offer of salvation to all illen anywhere, in the whole world. Dr. De Jong will, no doubt agree with me when I say that “well-meant” signifies that God through the preaching of the gospel wants all men, head for head and soul for soul, to be saved. Now the question is whether the text in Matt. 11:28teaches this. I could quote all kinds of passages from the Bible to the contrary. But let me just adhere to the immediate context. From vs. 20ff. the Lord had upbraided the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, because they had not repented though all the mighty works of the Lord had been done in them accompanied, of course, by the preaching of the gospel. But what then? Does this mean that even one of the elect of God had been lost? Does it mean that God failed in His well-meant offer, according to which He would that all the inhabitants of those cities were saved? On the contrary. In the immediate context ofMatt. 11:28 we may notice that Jesus turns to the Father with thanksgiving in the following words: “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, but the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.”
Let us note, in these words of the Lord, the following plain facts:
1. The “wise and prudent” are those that are wise and prudent according to the flesh, filled with natural and worldly knowledge, such as the people of Bethsaida, Chorazin, and Capernaum. Such we all are by nature. As such we can never hear and receive the gospel but always reject it.
2. But there is more. God could, of course, by the power of His grace, have revealed the gospel unto them. And if the preaching of the gospel were, indeed, a well-meant offer of salvation to all that hear it, He would surely have done this. But He did not do this. But what then? Is there no operation of God at all, through the preaching of the gospel, upon the hearts of these wise and prudent? There surely is: He hid these things from them. And this is the teaching of the Lord and of all Scripture through out. Thus, for instance, in John 12:37-40: “But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted and I should heal them.” And again, in Rom. 9:15-18: “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. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, “Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.”
I could quote much more. But let this be sufficient.
3. Such, according to the text in Matt. 11, is God’s own good pleasure: “for so it seemed good in thy sight.” And that good pleasure of God is always fulfilled. But how, then, could it seem good in the sight of God to save all that hear the gospel? What about that well-meant offer of grace and salvation, if under the preaching of the gospel God hardens the hearts of the reprobates and blinds their eyes so that they can neither believe nor see?
4. Once more I must make an observation in connection with the text which I quoted above. It is this: in the same passage the Lord says: “No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, but the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” In the light of this I ask once more: what becomes of the so-called well-meant offer of grace and salvation, well-meant on the part of God? If under the preaching of the gospel the Son must reveal the Father, and if He does not reveal the Father to all the hearers, but only to some, i.e. the elect, to those whom the Father has given Him, and if, as far as His power is concerned, He could reveal the Father just as well to all that hear the gospel—would you still maintain that the Son is willing to save all as is the idea in the well-meant offer?
Now, in the light of this context, let us look once more at the text in Matt. 11:28: “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
1. Whom does Jesus call here? The answer is: those that labor and are heavy laden. Who are they? Not surely the physically burdened and weary, for in that sense He could not promise them rest. Hence, they must be the spiritually weary. And who are they? Surely not all men and not all those that hear the gospel: not those whom God hardens, not those that are spiritually blind, not those to whom the Son will not reveal the Father, not the wise and prudent of whom Jesus speaks in the context. Only those that are spiritually burdened and weary. They are those and those only that are conscious of their sin and misery and are sorry for their in. They are the babes of whom Jesus speaks in vs. 25.
2. To them Jesus issues the call: Come unto me. This is not a mere invitation which one may possibly accept or reject, but is the call of the gospel to all that hear and which no one has the right to reject and for which all that hear are responsible.
3. But how can anyone come to Jesus? The answer is: only when, not a man even when he preaches the gospel, proclaims the call; but when through the word of the preacher Christ Himself through the Spirit sends forth this summons into the hearts of those that labor and are heavy laden. For thus all the Scriptures teach us. In John 6:35-37 we read: “Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth unto me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” And again in vs. 44 of the same chapter: “No man can come to me, except that the Father that hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Hence, in Matt. 11:28 we have no well-meant offer of salvation to all that hear the gospel nor even a general invitation, but a powerful call of our Lord Jesus Christ to those that are spiritually laboring and heavy laden.
But how about II Peter 3:9 to which Dr. De Jong also refers?
The whole text, which Dr. De Jong quotes only in part, reads as follows: “The Lord is snot 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.” Here we remark:
1. In these words we, evidently, have no offer whatsoever but only a statement of what God does and will do and of his attitude over His people: He is longsuffering to His people. In the context the apostle had written that in the last days there would be scoffers that mocked at the idea that the Lord would ever come again. All things, so they argued remained from the beginning. To this the apostle replied, in the first place, that this is not true, for the world that was before Noah perished with the flood and the heavens and the earth that now are will be destroyed by fire at the last day, the day of judgment.
2. Then in vs. 9 the apostle writes that God is not slack concerning his promise. In other words, He hastens to the end. But many things must take place such as the gathering in of all the elect, the coming of antichrist, the man of sin etc. All these things take place as fast as possible. And when they have been realized, God will surely fulfill His promise.
3. Hence, rather than assume that God is Slack concerning His promise we must understand that He is longsuffering over us. Here we confront several questions such as: what is meant by longsuffering; over whom is God longsuffering: and why is God longsuffering? The questions we answer as follows:
a. Longsuffering is that attitude of God over His people according to which He restrains Himself as it were, from realizing the final fulfillment of His promise until all things shall have been fulfilled and all the elect shall have been called into the church and into the fellowship of God in Christ. O, surely, He would realize the promise immediately and glorify the saints with all the glory they shall have in the new creation, if this were possible. He longs to fulfill His promise especially in view of the fact that in the world His people suffer and are in tribulation. He suffers, as it were with them. Yet, in His longsuffering He restrains Himself till all things shall have been fulfilled.
b. The second question is: over whom is God longsuffering? The answer of the text is: over us. And who are “us”? Are they all men, wicked and righteous alike? The answer is: by no means. Why must this be the answer? In the first place, because the apostle is not writing this epistle to all men but to the church, to the saints in Christ Jesus. Hence, they are denoted by the pronoun “us.” In the second place, because Scripture never uses the term longsuffering with regard to the wicked reprobates (not even in Rom. 9:22), but always with respect to His own people, i.e. the elect.
c. And why is God longsuffering over them? The answer is in the text: not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. To whom does the apostle refer in these words? To all men? By no means. In the first place, if God, in His longsuffering would wait for the fulfillment of His promise till men would come to repentance, then Christ would never come, for all men will never be saved. In the second place, because the bringing to repentance is the work of God Himself which He performs only in the elect. Hence He is not willing that all men should be saved. And, thirdly, this is not in harmony with the rest of the text. For, surely, in the first part of the text, by the pronoun “us” refers to the church, to the elect. Hence, we must read the last part of the text in this way: not willing that any of us, of the church, of the elect, should perish, but that all of the church, the elect, should come to repentance. But, as I said, in this text there is no well-meant offer, or any offer whatsoever.