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Hoeksema on the simplicity of God's will, part 2

Let us return to Murray's disagreement with Calvin's belief in the simplicity of God's will, on the grounds that there is a supposed division introduced into God's will in light of the apparent contradiction between His will of precept and His will of decree. Hoeksema notes that Calvin, in his commentary on Ezekiel 18:23, writes:

"He confirms the same sentiment in other words, that God desires nothing more earnestly t han that those who were perishing and rushing to destruction should return into the way of safety. And for this reason not only is the Gospel spread abroad in the world, but God wished to bear witness through all ages how inclined he is to pity. For although the heathen were always endued with some taste of this doctrine. Truly enough they were suffocated by may errors: but we shall always find that they were induced by a secret impulse to seek for pardon, because this sense was in some way born with them, that God is to be appeased by all who seek him. Besides, God bore witness to it more clearly in the law and the prophets. In the Gospel we hear how familiarly he addresses us when he promises us pardon (Luke 1:78). And this is the knowledge of salvation, to embrace his mercy which He offers us in Christ. It follows, then, that what the prophet now says is very true, that God wills not the death of a sinner, because he meets him of his own accord, and is not only prepared to receive all who fly to his pity, but he calls them towards with a loud voice, when he sees how they are alienated from all hope of safety. But the manner must be noticed in which God wishes all to be saved, namely w hen they turn themselves from their ways. God thus does not so wish all men to be saved as to renounce the difference between good and evil; but repentnace, as we have said, must precede pardon. How, then, does God wish all to be saved? By the By the Spirit's condemning the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, at this day, by the Gospel, as he did formerly by the law and the prophets (John xvi. 8). God makes manifest to mankind their great misery, that they may betake themselves to him: he wounds that he may cure, and slays that he may give life. Behold, then, that God wills not the death of a sinner, since he calls all equally to repentance, and promises himself prepared to receive them if they only seriously repent. If anyone should object - then there is no election of God, by which he has predestinated a fixed number to salvation, the answer is at hand: the Prophet does not here speak of God's secret counsel, but only recalls miserable men from despair, that they may apprehend the hope of pardon, and repent and embrace the offered salvation. If any one again objects - this is making God act with duplicity, the answer is ready, that God always wishes the same thing, though by different ways, and in a manner inscrutable to us. Although, therefore, God's will is simple, yet great variety is involved in it, as far as our senses are concerned. Besides, it is not surprising that our eyes should be blinded by intense light, so that we cannot certainly judge how God wishes all to be saved, and yet has devoted all the reprobate to eternal destruction, and wishes them to perish. While we look now through a glass darkly, we should be content with the measure of our own intelligence (1 Cor. xiii. 12). When we shall be like God, and see him face to face, then what is now obscure will then become plain. But since captious men torture this and similar passages, it will be needful to refute them shortly, since it can be done weithout trouble.

God is said not to wish the death of a sinner. How so? Since he wishes all to be converted. Now we must see how God wishes all to be converted; for repentance is surely his peculiar gift: as it is his office to create men, so it is his province to renew them, and restore his image within them. For this reason we are said to be his workmanship, that is, his fashioning (Eph. ii. 10). Since, therefore, repentance is a kind of second creation, it follows that it is not in man's power; and if it is equally in God's power to convert men as well as to create t hem, it follows that the reprobate are not converted, because God does not wish their conversion; for if he wished it he could do it: and hence it appears that he does not wish it. But again they argue foolishly, since God does not wish all to be converted, he is himself deceptive, and nothing can be certainly stated concerning his paternal benevolence. But this know is easily untied; for he does not leave us in suspense when he says, that he wishes all to be saved. Why so? For is no one repents without finding God propitious, then this sentenc eis fulled up. But we must remark that God puts on a twofold character: for he here wishes to be taken at his word. As I have already said, the Prophet does not here dispute with subtlety about his incomprehensible plans, but wishes to keep our attention close to God's word. Now, what are the contents of this Word? The law, the prohpets, and the gospel. Now all are called to repentnace, and the hope of salvation is promised them when they repent: this is true, since God rejects no returning sinner: he pardons all without exception; meanwhile, this will of God which he sets forth in his word does not prevent him from decreeing before the world was created what he would do with every individual: and as I have now said, the Prophet only shows here, that when we have been converted we need not doubt that God immediately meets us and shows himself propitious."

Calvin thus accepts a distinction between God's hidden will and his revealed will. According to the latter, he accepts that God does indeed wish for everyone without exception to come to repentance. According to His secret counsel, however, he does not predestine everyone to salvation. In any case, Hoekseman notes that Murray is at odds with Calvin here with respect to the simplicity of God's will. While Murray finds a division within god's will, Calvin, though he accepts the distinction between God's hidden and revealed will, which is a position which does seem to necessitate such a distinction, nonetheless affirms that God's will is absolutely simple. Calvin concludes his commentary on this passage by noting that there is nothing deceptive about God conditioning salvation on repentance, since we who believe in unconditional election do indeed insist that the only way the elect come to salvation is through repentance. We simply maintain that has predestined only a fixed, determinate number to this repentance. Hoeksema notes that Calvin talks about this subject in Chapter 24, Section 5 of his "Institutes":

"But as objections are frequently raised from some passages of Scripture, in which God seems to deny that the destruction of the wicked is caused by his decree, but that, in opposition to his remonstrances, they voluntarily bring ruin upon themselves, - let us show by a brief explication that they are not at all inconsistent with the foregoing doctrine. A passage is produced from Ezekiel, where God says, "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live." If this is to be extended to all mankind, why does he not urge many to repentance, whose minds are more flexible to obedience than those of others, who grow more and more callous to his daily invitations? Among the inhabitants of Nineveh and Sodom, Christ himself declares that his evangelical preaching and miracles would have brought forth more fruit than in Judea. How is it, then, if God will have all men to be saved, that he opens the gate of repentance to those miserable men who would be more ready to receive the favour? Hence we perceive it to be a violent perversion of the passage, if the will of God, mentioned by the prophet, be set in opposition to his eternal counsel, by which he has distinguished the elect from the reprobate. Now, if we inquire the genuine sense of the prophet, his only meaning is to inspire the penitent with hopes of pardon. And this is the sum, that it is beyond a doubt that God is ready to pardon sinners immediately on their conversion. Therefore he ewills not their death, inasmuch as he wills their repentance. But experience teaches, that he does not will the rpeentance of those whom he externally calls, in such a manner as to affect all their hearts. Now should he on this account be charged with acting deceitfully; for, though his external call only renders those who hear without obeying it inexcusable, yet it is justly esteemed the testimony of God's grace, by which he reconciles men to himself. Let us observe, therefore, the design of the prophet in saying that God has no pleasure in the death of a sinner; it is to assure the pious of God's readiness to pardon them immediately on their repentnace, and to show the impious the aggravation of their sin in rejecting such great compassion and kindness of God. Repentance, therefore, will always be met by Divine mercy; but on whom repentance is bestowed, we are clearly taught by Ezekiel himself, as well as by all the prophets and apostles."

Calvin reiterates his point here in the Institutes that the preaching of the Gospel to everyone without exception even though He only intends to impart the grace to believe to a select few does not impugn His integrity. The aim in doing so is merely the means by which He assures the elect that they will be forgiven upon repentance. Hoeksema also notes that Calvin writes in his commentary on Ezekiel 33 that it would be a major distortion "if the will of God, mentioned by the prophet, be set in opposition to his eternal counsel, by which he has distinguished the elect from the reprobate." This again problematizes Murray's position. Finally, Hoeksema cites Calvin's "The Eternal Predestination of God":

"All this Pighius loudly denies, adducing that passage of the apostle (1 Tim. 2:4): "Who will have all men to be saved," and, referring also to Ezek. xviii. 23, he argues thus, "That God willeth not the death of a sinner," may be taken upon His own oath, w here He says by that prophet, "As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the wicked that dieth; but rather that he should return from hsi ways and live." Now we reply, that as the language of the prophet here is an exhortation to repentance, it is not at all marvellous in him to declare that God willeth all men to be saved. For t he mutual relation between threats and promises shows that such forms of speaking are conditional. In this same manner God declared to the Ninevites, and to the kings of Gerar and Egypt, that He would do that, which, in reality, He did not intend to do, for their repentnace averted the punishment which He had threatened to inflict upon them. Whence it is evident that the punishment was denounced on condition of their remaining obstinate and impenitent. And yet, the denunciation of the punishment was positive, as if it had been an irrevocable decree. But after God had terrified them with the apprehenesion of His wrath, and had duly humbled t hem as not being utterly desperate, He encourages them ewith the hope of pardon, that they might feel that there was yet left open a space for remedy. Just so it is with respect to the conditional promises of God, which invite all men to salvation. They do not positively prove that which God has decreed in His secret counsel, but declare only what God is ready to do to all those who are brought to faith and repentance."

But men untaught of God, not understanding these things, allege that we hereby attribute to God a twofold or double will. Whereas God is so far from being variable, that no shadow of such variableness appertains to Him, even in the most remote degree. Hence Pighius, ignorant of the Divine nature of these deep things, thus argues: "What else is this but making God a mocker of men, if God is represented as really not willing that which He professes to will, and as not having pleasure in that in which He is in reality has pleasure?" But if these two members of the sentence be read in conjunction, as they ever ought to be - "But that the wicked turn from his way and live" - read t hese two propositions in connection with each other, and the calumny is washed off at once. God requires of us this conversion, or "turning away from our iniquity," and in whomsoever He finds it He disappoints not such an one of the promised reward of eternal life. Wherefore, God is as much said to have pleasure in, and to will, this eternal life, as to have pleasure in the repentnace; and He has pleasure in the latter, because He invites all men to it by His Word. Now all this is in perfect harmony with His secret and eternal counsel, by which He has decreed to convert none but His own elect. None but God's elect, therefore, ever do turn from their wickedness. And yet, the adorable God is not, on these accounts, to be considered variable or capable of change, because, as a Lawgiver, He enlightens all men with the external doctrine of conditional life. in this primary manner He calls, or invites, all men unto eternal life. But in the latter case, He willeth according to His eternal purpose, regenerating by His Spirit, as an eternal Father, His own children only.

It is quite certain that men do not "turn from their evil ways" to the Lord of their own accord, nor by any instinct of nature. Equally certain is it that the gift of conversion is not common to all men; because this is that one of the two covenants which God promises that He will not make with any but His own children and His own elect people, concerning whom He has recorded His promise that "He will write His law in their hearts"(Jer. xxxi. 33). Now, a man must be utterly beside himself to assert that this promise is made to all men generally and indiscriminately. God says expressly by Paul, who refers to the prophet Jeremiah, "For this is the covenant that I will make with them. Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers: but I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts" (Heb. viii. 9, 10). Surely, to apply this promise to t hose who were worthy of this new covenant, or to such as had prepared themselves by their own merits or endeavours to receive it, must be worse than the grossest ignorance and folly; and the more so, as the Lord is speaking by the prophet to those who had before "stony hearts." All this is plainly stated also, and fully explained, by the prophet Ezekiel (chap. xxxvi. 26)."

Thus, Calvin strenuously avoids any internal division as to the will of God. Hoeksema makes the crucial point here that the reason that Calvin is not forced to postulate an internal division in the will of God is because he rejects the notion that there is in some sense in which God, though He only elects a particular, definite number of people, also desires in some sense for the reprobate to be saved. Murray, on the other hand, accepts such a distinction, and it is for this reason that he is forced to reject the simplicity of God's will.

In what sense, then, does God predestine sin? Murray is forced to maintain a distinction between God's will of precept, according to which He expresses His desire that the reprobate obey His call to faith and come to salvation, and His will of decree, according to which He decrees that only a particular, defininte number obey this command. Hoeksema against cites Calvin in this respect, this time in his "Calvin's Calvinism":

"And hereby is refuted either the ignorance of the wickedness of those who deny that the nature of the will of God can be one and simple, if there be any other will ascribed to Him than that which is plainly and manifestly revealed by Him in His own law. Some aslo ask in derision, "If there be any will of God which is not revealed in His law, by what name is that will called?" But those men must be deprived of their senses, in whose opinion all those Scriptures signify nothing which speak with so much wonder and admiration of the profound "depth" of the judgments of God!"

Thus, we see that Calvin rejects the notion that there must be some sort of internal division in the will of God. Hoeksema notes the importance of putting this quote into its broader context:

"And here the admonition of Augustine may be listened to with profit: "In point of oneness or agreement, there is sometimes a mighty difference between men and God in the matters of His righteous acts and judgments. As when, for instance, God wills righteously that which men will evilly, and when God righteously willeth not th at which men evilly will not. And so again, in point of difference or contrariety, God and men do not ill agree. As when men will well that which God righteously doth not will, and when, also men righteously do not will that which God rightoeusly doth will; for example, the son may wish for the death of his father, that he may rush upon the inheritance, God also may will that this same father should die. God willeth that Jerusalem be utterly destroyed, that the temple should be profaned and demolished, and that the Jews should suffer every extreme of torment. The Idumeans were all the while longing for the same. In order that the same measure might be measured to a dire and ruthless man, who had spared no one, God wills that no help whatever should be brought to him, when pressed to destruction on every side, by ineivtable necessity. His own son shall refuse him every duty of affection, nor s hall he have the least desire to aid him in his desperate need. God willed that the sons of Eli should not listen to the counsels of their father, because He had determined to destroy them. The sons, on their part also, would not hear father. Now t here appears herein, at first sight, a kind of harmony and agreement; but when we consider abstractedly the evil and good involved, there is as much disagreement and contrariety as between fire and water. A husband shall wish for a longer life of a beloved wife whom God calls out of this world. Christ shuddered at, and prayed against, that death, which was a sacrifice of the sweetest odour unto god. Now the will of each, both of the husband and of Christ, although diverse from the will of God, at first appearance, was equally without blame. Wherefore, far be it from any man to drag God into a participation of sin, or guilt, or blame, whenever any apparent similitude between the plainly depraved passions of men and His secret counsel may present itself. Let that sentiment of Augustine be ever present to our minds: "Wherefore, by the mighty and marvellous working of God (which is so exquisitely perfect in the accomplishment of every purpose and bent of His will), that, in a wonderful and ineffable way, is not done without His will which is even done contrary to His will, because it could not have been done had He not permitted it to be done; and yet, He did not permit it without His wi ll, but according to His will." And hereby is refuted either the ignorance of the wickedness of those who deny that the nature of the will of God can be one and simple, if there be any other will ascribed to Him than that which is plainly and manifestly revealed by Him in His own law. Some aslo ask in derision, "If there be any will of God which is not revealed in His law, by what name is that will called?" But those men must be deprived of their senses, in whose opinion all those Scriptures signify nothing which speak with so much wonder and admiration of the profound "depth" of the judgments of God! When Paul exclaims, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments!" he most certainly teaches us, in all plainness, that the judgment of God was something more and deeper, than that which is expressed by the simple words of Christ in that memorable ejaculation, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, but ye would not"(Matt. xxiii. 37). And whereas God willed that the sons of Eli should not be obedient to their father, that Divine will differed, in appearance from the precept of the law, which commands children to obey their parents. In a word, wherever the apostle sets forth the wonderful judgments of God, and the depth of His thoughts and ways, which are "past finding out," he is not speaking at all of the works of the law, which stand always plain before our eyes; he is rather magnifying that inaccessible light in which is hidden God's secret counsel, which being exalted far above the utmost stretch of the human mind, we are compelled to gaze upon with uplift eyes and to adore!

Someone will perhaps say, "If that light is inaccessible, why do you approach it?" I do not so approach it as to wish, by an insolent curiosity, to search into those things which God wills to keep hidden in Himself: but that which the Scripture openly declares, I embrace with a sure faith and look upon with reference. But you will say, "How can it be that God, who is ever consistent with Himself, and unchangeable even in the shadow of a turn, should yet will th at which is contrary to that which seems to be?" I reply, It is no matter of wonder that God, when speaking with men, should accommodate Himself to the limits of their comprehension. Who will affirm that God ever appeared to His servants, even in visions, such as He really is? For the brightness of His glory is such, that the sight of Him as He is, by our naked vision, would absorb and overwhelm all our senses in a moment. He has, therefore, ever so revealed Himself as men were able to bear the revelation. But whether God talks with us in the language of a child, or whether He conceals that which He knows to be beyond our comprehension - that there is naything in what He pleased to say, or feigned or dissembled, I solemnly deny. Most true is that which the Psalm affirms, "Thou hatest all workers of iniquity" (Psalm v. 5). Nor, indeed, does God there testify by the mouth of David, anything else than that which He exemplifies in reality every day when He punishes menf or their transgressions. Nor would He punish their sins if He did not hate those sins. You here see, then, that God is an avenger, from which we are fully assured that He is not an approver. But many are deceived in these sacred matters, not rightly considering that God willeth righteously those things which men do wickedly. "How ill you explain this?" you may say. I reply, God abominates all adulterous and incestuous intercourse. Absalom defiles his father's concubines in the sight of the people. Was this done, in every sense, contrary to t he will of God? No! God had predicted, by His servant Nathan, that Absalom should do this (2 Sam. xii. 11, 12). "I Will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou dist it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun."

Hoeksema makes the point that Calvin likewise "finds the harmony of God's decretive will and His preceptive will in God's infinitely perfect holiness." Thus:

"The Scripture is replete with examples of the same nature and tendency. Shall we, then, on that account either impute the cause or fault of sin to God, or represent Him as having a double or twofold will, and thus make Him inconsistent with Himself? But as I have already shown that He wills the same thing in certain cases, as the wicked and profane, but in a different manner; so we must, on the other hand, hold that He wills int he same manner with the wicked and reprobate that which is in appearance different; so that, in those things which are presented to our minds, the apparent diversity is tempered with the utmost oneness and harmony. Thus, inasmuch as Absalom's monstrous impetiy towards his father was a perfidious violation of the law of marriage and a gross profanation of the order of nature, it is most certain that his atrocious wickedness was highly offensive to God, who can be pleased with nothing but honesty, modesty, fidelity and chastity, and who wills that the lawful order which He has established among men should be preserved sacred and inviolate. And yet, it pleased Him to punish in this manner the adultery of David. And thus He wills in the same manner with men things which seem to us quite diverse. For that will of God by which He commands what shall be done, and by which He punishes all transgressions of His law, is one and simple."

Hoekseman notes that when Calvin was accused of making God's will internally inconsistent or divided, Calvin responded with:

"I am utterly unconcerned to make to this seventh article any reply at all. Produce me the place in my writings where I have asserted that "the will of God is frequently at variance with, or conflicts with, His precept." Such an idea never entered my mind; no, not even as a dream. Nay, on the entire contrary, among many other kindred explanations, I have faithfully expounded and set forth how simple and uniform, and one, the will of God is; although between the secret counsel of God and His general doctrine, there is, to ignorant and inexperienced persons, at first sight, a certain appearance of difference. But whosoever modestly and soberly and reverently submits and commits himself to God and His teaching will, in a moment, see and acknowledge (as far as the human mind's capacity can see and acknowledge it) how it is that God, who forbids adultery and fornication, punishes by the incestuous intercourse of Absalom with the wives of David, David's sin of adultery with the wife of Uriah. God ever wills one and the same thing, but frequently in different forms. Wherefore, that the foulness of your lies may not cast any filth on me or my doctrine, let my readers receive in one word this solemn declaration that that which you cast in my teeth, as promulgated by me concerning the two wills of God, is an entire fiction of your own. For, as to myself, I have ever proclaimed that there is between the secret or hidden counsel of God and the openly revealed voice of His doctrine, the most perfect, divine and consummate harmony.

Augustine did, indeed, by way of concession and explanation to hsi adversaries, make mention of a twofold will, or of different wills of God - a secret will, and an open or revealed will - but he so represented that twofold will as to show that they are in such consummate harmony with each other, that the "last day" will make it most gloriously manifest that there never was, nor is, in this multiform way of God's workings and doings, the least variance, conflict or contradiction, but the most divine and infinite harmony and oneness."

Likewise, Hoeksema quotes Calvin's "Eternal Predestination of God" at length:

"The worthless being afterwards adds, "That he can answer every argument which we may bring against him in two ways. By showing, first, that all those passages which seem to attribute the cause of evil to God, do not intend His effectuatl will, but His permitting or His leaving a thing to be done." But away witht hat calumny altogether, which is built upon the terms good and evil, when used in discussing God's eternal will and decrees. For we well know that nothing is more econtrary to the nature of God than sin. But mena ct from their own proper wickedness when they sin, so that the whole fault rests with themselves. But to turn all those passages of Scripture (wherein the affection of the mind, in the act, is distinctly described) into mere permission on the part of God is a frivolous subterfuge, and a vain attempt at escape from the mighty truth! The fathers, however, did interpret these passages by the term permission; for finding that the apparent asperity of the more direct terms gave offence to some at first hearing, they became anxious to mitigate them by milder expressions. In their too great anxiety, however, thus to mitigate, and in their study to avoiud giving any offence, they relaxed something of that fixedness of attention which was due to the great truth itself."

Hoeksema notes that Calvin uses numerous biblical examples to illustrate the fact that God does not merely permit the sin of the wicked, but positively and actively ordains it:

"From all that has been said, we can at once gather how vain and fluctuating is that flimsy defence of the Divine justice which desires to make it appear that the evil things that are done, are so done, not by the will of God, but by His permission only. As far indeed as those evil things which men perpetrate with an evil mind are, in themselves, evil, I willingly confess (as I will immediately more fully explain) that they by no means please God. But for men to represent God as sitting unconcerned, and merely permitting those things to be done wehich the Scripture plainly declares to be done, not only by His will, but by His authority, is a mere way of escape from the truth, utterly frivolous and vain. Augustine did, indeed, sometimes give way to this popular method of speaking; but where he devotes himself more closely to the consideration of the matter, and examines it more thoroughly, he by no means suffers the permission to be substituted for the act of God."

Hoeksema notes the importance of understanding that there are points at which God's preaching of the Gospel through His prophets is spoken of specifically with the aim of hardening the reprobate and converting the elect remnant.

9 He said, “Go and tell this people:

“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;

be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’

10 Make the heart of this people calloused;

make their ears dull

and close their eyes.[a]

Otherwise they might see with their eyes,

hear with their ears,

understand with their hearts,

and turn and be healed.”

11 Then I said, “For how long, Lord?”

And he answered:

“Until the cities lie ruined

and without inhabitant,

until the houses are left deserted

and the fields ruined and ravaged,

12 until the Lord has sent everyone far away

and the land is utterly forsaken.

13 And though a tenth remains in the land,

it will again be laid waste.

But as the terebinth and oak

leave stumps when they are cut down,

so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”(Isaiah 6:9-13)

10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that,

“‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,

and ever hearing but never understanding;

otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!(Mark 4:10-12)

We see from many other examples in addition, that God's intention in preaching the Gospel is to harden the reprobate further and to convert the elect. In any case, His desire is simple. He hardens whom He will and He has mercy on whom He will (Rom. 9:13-18). God's will is represented here as being simple. God desires that the elect be converted and He desires that the reprobate be hardened. Paul says nothing here of a desire in God to save the reprobate whom He in another sense desires to become hardened.

Hoeksema makes the important point that Heyns has made the mistake of interpreting the biblical language of "calling" as an invitation rather than an effectual and irresistible work performed in the elect sinner in concert with the reception of the preached word of God, though distinct from it(Col. 3:15, 1 Cor. 1:9, 1 Pet. 5:10). Calling is not a universal invitation, but a particular work in the elect. He also makes an important exegetical and etymological point about the relation of the Greek words for "Gospel" and "promise":

"Scripture employs two words in the original Greek which are very closely related to one another. They are the words epangelia, promise, and euangelion, gospel. That also in the consciousness of the church they were closely connected with one another appears indeed from the very frequently used expression: promise of the Gospel, which also occurrs in our own Confession. In this expression it is at least indicated that in the Gospel there is a promise proclaimed. But this close relationship between Gospel and promise, euangelion and epangelia is better indicated when we, instead of speaking of the promise of the Gospel, turn this around and speak of the Gospel of the promise. By the latter expression the real idea of the Gospel si set forth correctly. It is a Gospel of the Promise. The Promise is the real essence of the Gospel. And the Gospel is the good news concerning the Promise. This is literally according to Scripture. For this idea is verbally expressed in Galatians 3:8: "And the scripture, foreseeing that God would jutify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed." Notice that in the last part of the text the promise is simply mentioned: "In thee shall all nations be blessed." That is the promise which came to Abraham and his seed. And the text teache sus that when God gives this promise to Abraham, then He preaches the Gospel to him. Promise and Gospel are here, therefore, so identified that the Gospel is the preaching of the Promise. Thus we find it also in Acts 13:32, 33: "And we declare unto you glad tidings (euangelizometha, preaching of the Gospel) how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that He hath raised up Jesus again." It will hbe plain that the promise which is here mentioned and which was made unto the fathers is the same as that mentioned in Galatians 3:8. And also in the text from Acts the promise and the Gospel are simply identified. The proclamation of the Promise is the preaching of the Gospel. When Paul and the apostles proclaim that God has fulfilled the Promise, then they proclaim good news concerning the Promise and th en they preach thereby the Gospel. The Gospel is, therefore, essentially the Gospel of the Promise. It strikes us immediately how far distant this Scriptural description is from the "most commonly used" description of Heyns: "offer of grace." There is here just exactly no offer. God does not offer to Abraham that in him all nations shall be blessed, but gives him in the Gospel a promise, the fulfillment of which depends altogether upon God, as lies indeed in the nature of the case. The apostles have nothing to offer, but proclaim that God has fulfilled the Promise in Jesus; and then they preach the Gospel. If therefore we would understand the Gospel, then we must before all else pay attention to the promise.

Very often Scripture speaks of the promise. Sometimes God's Word employs the plural: the promises. This is to indicate th e manifold riches of the content of the promise. Frequently also the singular occursr in order to remind us that however manifold the riches of grace may be which God has promised, nevertheless the promise is essentially one. Of the promise Hebrews 11:13 speaks. After God's Word has here pointed to the examples of Abel and Enoch and Noah, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, it continues and says: "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on earth." And at the end of the chapter, referring to all the saints of the old dispensation, Scripture says: "And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise." It is plain from these quotations that throughout hte old dispensation there was a promise, the promise; the Gospel was proclaimed to the saints of the Old Testament. This promise was not yet fulfilled. They all died without seeing the fulfillment of the promise, because God had provided some better thing for us, in order that they without us should not be made perfect. But by God's grace they embraced the promise by faith and lived in the hope of that promise. With their eye on that promise, they were willing to sacrifice all, were willing to confess that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth, had subdued kingdoms, quenched the violence of fire, turned to flight the armies of the aliens; had not accepted deliverance, even though they were sawn assunder, even thought hey had to endur emocking sand scourgings, and bonds and imprisonment. So all overwhelmingly glorious and rich was the Gospel of the Promise to them that they allowed themselves to be stoned and burned, that they wandered in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented, in deserts and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth - all because of the Promise which they had never yet received but only seen from afar off. That was the power of the Gospel. The glimpse of the Promise filled the souls of the saints, filled them with that power of faith whereby they challenged and defied all int he world and, dying, conquered! In the light of all this it will surely be plain to everyone that Heyns substitutes something altogether different for this mighty Gospel of the Promise when he wants to teach us that the Gospel is nothing else than the powerless, lame, colorless, altogether uncertain offer of grace to a hopelessly lost world which is dependent on wicked men! No, no offer, but the proclamation of a divinely certain, eternal, unspeakably glorious Promise, confirmed by the oath of God - that was the Gospel in the old dispensation! Not an uncertain offer, but a certain Promise!

Of this Gospel the Epistle to the Galatians also speaks. For to Abraham and his seed were the promises made, 3:16. And, although for a tie the law was imposed upon the promise, nevertheless the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, could not disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect, 3:17. Not by the law, but by the promise was the inheritance given to Abraham, 3:18. And seeing that the real Seed of the promise is Christ, therefore are we also Abraham's seed if we are of Christ and heirs according to the promise. As far as the content of this Promise is concerned, Holy Scripture speaks of it as the promise of the Holy Ghost, which is centrally fuflilled to Christ: for He being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received the promise of the Holy Ghost, has shed forth this, Acts 2:33; and we also obtain it by faith, Galatians 3:14. Further, it is the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come, 1 Timothy 4:8; the promise of life, 2 Timothy 1:1; the promise of eternal life, for this is the promise which he hath promised us, even eternal life, 1 John 2:25. It is the promise of His coming, 2 Peter 3:4; the promise of entering into His rest, Hebrews 4:1; the promise of becoming heirs of the world, for the promise that he should be an heir of the world is to Abraham and his seed, not through the law, but by the rightoeusness which is of faith, Romans 4:13. Therefore also Holy Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit of promise, Ephesians 1:13; of children of the promise in distinctionf rom children of the flesh, that is, of children which were born according ot the promise and by the power of the promise as spiritual seed and upon whom the promise rested, Romans 9:8; of the heirs of the promise, to whom God certainly fuflills the promise, Hebrews 6:17; 11:9, etc. And at the inauguration fot he new dispensation on the day of Pentecost the Gospel is immediately proclaimed in the words: "For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall ca ll." And it is the glad tidings of God to the heirs of the promise in the midst of the world which are designated in Scripture by the term: Gospel. This thoroughly scriptural description, therefore, we place over agains tthe "most commonly employed descriptions" of Heyns: the holy Gospel is the glad tidings of God concerning the Promise of God to the seed of the Promise, those chosen by God as heirs of the Promise in the midst of this dark and comfortless, lost world!"(Hoeksema).

Thus, the Gospel is not a conditional declaration or offer but an unconditional promise that God will fulfill His intention in His elect. But what does this have to do with the simplicity of God's will? According to those who postulate a division in God's will, the Gospel is a conditional command or offer to everyone without exception, 'promising' that all who believe will be saved. This description is true as far as it goes, and we certainly affirm that the Gospel is to be preached to everyone without exception, since we do not know who the elect are, but those who reject the simplicity of God's will believe that God genuinely desires in some sense that those whom He has not elected be saved, and offers the Gospel to them with the "well-meant" disposition that they accept it. But if the Gospel is an unconditional promise to the elect, it is difficult to understand of what relevance it is to the reprobate, for whom the promise does not obtain because they are not recipients or heirs of it. There is therefore no sense in which it can be a well-meant offer of the Gospel to the non-elect. If the Gospel is a promise, it is well-meant only for the elect. It is not well-meant for the reprobate. Indeed, the Gospel says nothing of the reprobate. It is a promise of God's kind-intention for those who are heirs of it. There is therefore no division in God's will concerning the reprobate. God does not in one sense mean well for the reprobate in the preaching of the Gospel, but in another sense does not mean well for them because He has no intention of fulfilling the promise to them. He simply does not mean well for them at all.

Hoeksema, H. "Simplicity of God's will and the Free Offer." Protestant Reformed Journal.

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