Rev. Heys is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
Do you want salvation?
Do you need to be saved from the wrong idea of salvation?
There is a world of difference between what some mean by salvation, and what its basic meaning is. The awesome fact is that the first lie presented to mankind was the devilish presentation of salvation.
Unto righteous Adam and Eve Satan came with the lie that there was a way for man to be saved from the lie which God gave him. Although he did not present it that way literally, Satan through a serpent did tell Eve that God had lied to her husband, Adam, namely, by telling Adam that they would die if they ate of the fruit of a particular tree in the Garden of Eden. When Satan said to Eve, “Thou shalt not die,” he said that God had lied to her husband, and that her husband had presented a lie to her when he informed her that to eat of the fruit of that one tree would bring death to her.
For our comfort and enjoyment of salvation it is very important for us to hold on to the truth which God gave to fallen Adam and Eve. He said to Satan – in Adam and Eve’s hearing – that He would put enmity against him in the hearts of the members of His church, and that all the devilish citizens of Satan’s kingdom would have their heads crushed!
The tragic thing in many churches today – and we ourselves can easily fall into that sin – is to preach and present salvation merely as deliverance from the punishment of sin. The sad fact is that, when we do that, we present a salvation that even Satan and all the fallen angels want! But our God did not begin that way when He presented the blessed truth of our salvation. Salvation is that work of God’s grace whereby He makes His elect hate sin. And Satan, who led us into sin, and all his servants, do not want that kind of salvation. But our God, first of all and very significantly, promises His elect that He will put enmity — that is hatred against sin in the hearts of those whom He saves. In effect, He said that He will instill in them love for Himself, and undo that work of Satan whereby the devil got that love out of their hearts.
And that will take away the pain and death (which Satan and his seed bring upon those in whom the love of God is restored) for evermore, and in its place there will be an everlasting life of blessedness as members of the body of Christ. Our God does not cause us to be returned to love of Him because we were already delivered from the punishment of sin. He delivers us from the punishment of sin because He, in Christ and by His Spirit, caused us to love Him with a new spiritual life. He causes us to love Him, and then causes us to reach a heavenly life where we may, without those hindrances of pain and misery, serve Him moment by moment everlastingly. We are given a resurrection of our bodies in order that we may serve Him in love. The curse is removed because the love of sin has been taken from us, and we have been made capable and willing to walk in love toward God.
Bearing all this in mind let us go back to that sharp and awesome difference between Jacob and Esau. Let us take hold of that amazing and very significant fact that Jacob had hold on Esau’s heel when he and Esau were born. Why does God present this fact to us, namely, that Jacob has a hold on Esau’s heel? Well, in the first place, Esau, the reprobate, unbelieving son of Isaac who was the first to be born to Isaac and Rebekah, reveals what is always first to those who beget children. Having lost their spiritual life, Adam and Eve could not bring forth the first child to be born to them as a believing child of God. The birth of ungodly, wicked Cain reveals that man always brings forth a child that is spiritually dead, until it pleases God to put spiritual life in him. God puts spiritual life in His elect through the Spirit of Christ, not through the parents who bring them forth as their seed. Very beautifully we sing that from Psalter number 383, the first stanza, which is based on Psalm 139:14-17, namely,
AII that I am I owe to Thee,
Thy wisdom, Lord, hath fashioned me:
I give my Maker thankful praise,
Whose wondrous works my soul amaze.
Yes, so very true, those wondrous works are God’s works in us apart from our parents, and by His Spirit. We are given earthly, physical life through our parents. But parents cannot give us spiritual life. They can and do teach us spiritual truths. But, after Adam and Eve died, man lost his spiritual life; and that life is given to the elect for Christ’s sake, and by His Spirit.
The very first child born namely, Cain, had no spiritual life given him through his parents. But their next son, Abel, had spiritual life that God gave him apart from his parents. So very, very often that spiritual life comes weeks and months and even years after physical birth. Think of the apostle Paul, who was at Christ’s cross plainly revealing his hatred of God and His Son in our flesh. Yet, later on, he was born again as a believing child of God. Get that! Salvation comes in the way of being born again, and not by and through our first birth.
Did not our God tell Satan that He would put enmity in some of the human race? Did not David write in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me”? Likewise, in Ephesians 2:5 Paul wrote, “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, by grace ye are saved.” And in Psalm 58:3 we read this very clearly, for there we read, “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.”
Once again, Adam and Eve first brought forth a totally depraved son. And Isaac and Rebekah had the first of twin sons come forth with a wholly corrupt and sinful nature. And this, if you please, was not months or years before Jacob the believer came forth into this world. It was the one and same conception and birth; but spiritually they were two completely different sons.
Take note of the fact that Jacob did not speak the truth. He lied to his father, declaring, “I am Esau, thy firstborn.” What is more, Jacob was looking for material things, not for spiritual blessings. He was seeking some carnal things which his totally depraved brother was expecting. And this event is revealed to us to show us I that we are saved by grace and not by our works. Jacob’s sin of lying to his father called for everlasting punishment rather than for covenant blessings, even as Adam and Eve’s believing in Satan’s lie called for their death.
We might then find it difficult to explain and understand what we find in Hebrews 11:20, namely, “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.” Is God’s grace presented here as falling upon Esau as well as on Jacob? Did our God through Isaac deal with both Jacob and Esau in His grace? Was there here a manifestation of God’s “common grace” upon Esau?
No, that which Isaac predicted would come upon Esau was by no means something which God would send upon Esau in His grace. Note first of all that Hebrews 11:20presents what Isaac did, not what God does. Isaac’s faith, which is here mentioned, did not speak of what God in His grace does for those He did not elect eternally in Christ.
That word “blessing,” presented in this verse, does not tell us what God does in His grace to those not chosen in Christ. The word “blessing” used here does not teach that what God does to the world of unbelievers is a work of His “common grace.” The awesome truth here in Hebrews 11:20 is that Isaac did a work of faith. By faith he performed spiritually good deeds upon his two sons. He was rightly concerned with the physical and spiritual well-being of his son Esau. And because God had given Isaac faith and desire to keep His law, he rightly had concern for Esau’s physical and spiritual wellbeing. By faith he knew that Esau was an enemy of God. But he also knew his calling to instruct his son in the truth which God had revealed to him.
Consider the awesome truth that the more earthly things that the unbeliever gets, the deeper is his punishment in hell! For he has sinned more fully than if he had not been given these things. If God would in His grace give to the non-elected unbelievers things their flesh enjoyed, then that grace of God ceases when that unbeliever is cast into hell. And God’s grace is temporary. It stops its falling on that unbeliever. But God’s grace is everlasting. All His virtues are everlasting! Man does not, and Satan cannot, change and stop God’s virtues. And the I AM never changes His virtues.
Hebrews 11:20 does not mean that God through Isaac blessed Esau. The Greek word “blessed” in this verse has, two elements. The first is one that means “good”; and the second means “word.” Isaac spoke a good word to Esau. That this word “blessed” does not mean make blessed is plain from what we read in Psalm 103:1, namely, “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” Surely David is not here telling his soul to make God blessed. We cannot add anything to God. But by His grace we can speak well about Him, praise Him, and call Him our God.
Now, if we look at Genesis 27:39, 40, we find Isaac saying to Esau, “Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above; And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck.” To that verse our God refers when He through the human author writes in Hebrews 11:20 that Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau. And it is important to note that not our God but Isaac here blessed Esau.
What is meant here in Hebrews 11:20, then, is that Isaac blessed Jacob in the sense of speaking good words to him, which in this case were words of God’s covenant promise. And, if we look carefully at what he said to Esau, we will see that he did indeed speak good words in the sense that he gives a warning to Esau. He warns him about what he sinfully wants to do, namely, according to Genesis 27:41, slay his brother Jacob and get back that land promised to him.
In that sense Isaac blessed both Jacob and Esau. To the one, namely Jacob, he spoke good words of a coming blessing. To Esau he spoke of sins he intends to perform. And to warn sinners in that sense is a blessing, for it is speaking good words to them. It is good for us to warn the world of its devilishness and coming sins. By faith we can and must proclaim to the world the coming of Christ, and our hope for the full salvation that He has earned for us.
In Luke 11:42-44 Jesus said three times: “Woe unto you Pharisees.” Those were good words, even though they did not promise good to these sinners. And Isaac blessed Jacob with good words of a promise; and he blessed Esau in the presentation of a good and correct warning of the sins which he would commit. By faith Isaac proclaimed the truth to both Jacob and Esau. That truth to Esau was hard for the flesh; but by God’s grace Isaac could by faith tell his, sons that which is true.