By Travis Fentiman
Order of Contents
Ps. 136:25; 145:8-9; Isa. 26:10; Jonah 2:8; Matt 5:44-45; Luke 6:35-36; Acts 14:16-17; Rom. 2:4-5; 9:22; Heb. 6:4-6
2. Outward Mercies in the Covenant of Grace to Reprobates Verses
Ex. 15:13; Num. 14:18-20,23,35; Deut. 7:8; Ps. 78:37-42; Isa. 63:7; Jer. 2:9; 16:5; Hosea 1:2; 2:8; 9:15; Heb. 10:29; 2 Pet. 2:1.
3. Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel Verses
Gen. 6:3; 7:1,4,10; Ex. 4:23; Deut. 5:29; 32:29; 30:11-15; 2 Chron. 24:19; 36:14-16; Neh. 9:17-19,29-31; Ps. 81:13-16; Prov. 8:1-4,8,10,30-33; 9:1-6; Isa. 45:22; Acts 17:30; Isa. 5:1-4; 49:4; 55:1-2; Isa. 65:1-2; Jer. 2:30,32; 7:13; 9:1; 13:17; 44:4,16; Eze. 16:4-15; Eze. 18:23,32; 33:11; Hos. 7:1; 11:1-4,7-8; Matt 11:28; 23:37; Luke 14:16-23; 19:41-42; John 3:16-17; 5:34,38,40; 6:32; 4:10; 12:47-48; Acts 3:12,19,26; 7:51; Rom. 7:10; 2 Cor. 5:20; Rom. 9:1-3; 10:1; 2 Cor. 6:1-2; Gal. 3:24; 1 Tim. 1:15; 2:1-6; 4:10; Titus 3:4; 2 Pet. 3:9
1. Common Grace
to the Reprobate
See the remarks of John Calvin on common grace and God’s love for all men, as well as many others on the subject.
“Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth for ever.”
Ps. 136 says throughout that God’s creating the heavens and ordaining the cycles of the stars for the benefit of all is mercy. His taking Israel out of Egypt, defeating their enemies and giving them a land for an inheritance, though the majority of Israel were unbelievers, was merciful. Verse 25 says that God’s providing food to all animals and people is merciful.
“The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.”
The term “good” in Hebrew, often means gracious. So 1 Pet. 2:3 translates it this way, quoting from Ps. 34:8. Other examples of God’s goodness being synonymous with mercy and loving kindness are found in Ps. 23:6, 25:7-8, 86:5 and others.
“Let favor be showed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness.”
‘Favor’ in the Hebrew is ‘chesed’, or grace, grace being undeserved favor. Verses 9 and 11 show that the wicked spoken here are not of Israel, but of the world. And, as they will not learn righteousness, they demonstrate themselves to be reprobates.
“They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.”
The reference is to idolaters who worship false gods and continue to do such (that is, reprobates). Yet the mercy that is offered to them, which they forsake, is their own mercy. That is, mercy offered to them is a merciful act towards them. They are the recipients of mercy designed for them, and yet they forsake it. See John “Rabbi” Duncan on this passage and James Durham.
“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
The parallelism, though it is implicit, is that we are to love evil people as our Father does. If God does not love evil people, the argument makes no sense. It is also the Holy Spirit that causes us to love our enemies, because He, being God, loves them. It would be strange for the Holy Spirit to cause us to love those people that He hates.
“But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again… and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”
These verses show that we are to pattern our character and actions after God’s, that we might be like Him. The word “kind” in v. 35, that God is kind to both the unthankful and the evil, is the same Greek word translated “love” in 1 Cor. 13. These common good gifts to all human kind are termed mercy in verse 36, as it is God’s character to be merciful to the elect and the reprobate.
“Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless He left not himself without witness, in that He did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”
This shows that God does “good” to the nations he leaves in darkness without the gospel
“Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;”
The end of verse 4 is a purpose clause (which should be translated “which ought to lead you to repentance”), which is frustrated in verse 5. Arminians are wrong because they believe God’s decrees can be, and are, frustrated by man. Calvinists believe that God’s decrees cannot be frustrated. However, the loving aspect of God’s revealed will as expressed in the free offer of the gospel can be frustrated as this verse shows, just as unbeliever’s also frustrate and disobey the moral aspect of God’s will by breaking His commandments.
That the ‘goodness of God’ in Rom. 2:4 is connected in both Greek and Hebrew (and the Westminster standards) to God’s love, see this demonstrated by David Silversides and preached by the Westminster divine Anthony Burgess.on this page.
Rom 12:20 is often used to deny the gracious intent of God’s common mercies. It says,
“Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.”
Note that the heaping of hot coals on the head of the person that scorns mercy is not the purpose of showing mercy to such people (such evil intent would be wicked), but it is a consequence. The purpose of showing people mercy is to draw them to repentance, as Paul already said at the beginning of the book in Rom. 2:4-5. It is true that the consequence of the person’s greater condemnation is ultimately, mysteriously, willed of God, yet it is contrary to the primary purpose of God’s revealed will, who is good unto all.
“What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction…”
Note that longsuffering is an expression of kindness and is often associated with God’s love and mercy (Ps. 86:15; 2 Cor. 6:6)
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”
Reprobates that hear the gospel and sit under the ministry of the Word partake of the gracious common operations of the Holy Spirit, tasting of the things of God, of the promises and of the world to come, and yet turn away to perdition. While all of these blessings are not-saving, do note that they are internal upon the soul of the reprobate.
2. Outward Mercies in the Covenant of Grace
to the Reprobate
See the careful definitions of Cunningham and Dabney on the subject, as well as others.
“Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation.”
This is part of Moses’ song after God mercifully lead Israel through the divided waters of the Red Sea. Yet, Deut. 32:5,6 calls those same people a perverse and crooked generation. Deut. 32:10,11 says that God lead this foolish and unwise people about in the wilderness as the apple of His eye and spread His wings over them as an eagle.
Num. 14:18-20, 23, 35
“The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now. And the LORD said, I have pardoned according to thy word…
Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it…
I the LORD have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.”
Moses prays that God would forgive Israel and not utterly destroy them after the 10 spies brought back the bad report. God forgives Israel according to the greatness of His mercy even though they are an evil congregation (and remain evil till the whole generation dies in the wilderness). Notice that God’s forgiveness here to the reprobate is non-salvific. Also notice that Moses pleads in his prayer that God is merciful and forgiving by His very nature even to the reprobate.
“But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”
This verse says that God loved Israel, that is, those in the Covenant of Grace, and brought them out of the Egypt. Yet, many in Israel were unbelievers, as Heb. 3 and 4 and 1 Cor. 10 says. God has a special love for those in the Covenant of Grace, unbelievers and believers alike.
“For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant. But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath. For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again. How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert! Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel. They remembered not his hand.”
Here again God is being merciful and compassionate to the unregenerate who are never converted.
“I will mention the loving-kindnesses of the Lord, and the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of His loving-kindnesses.”
This speaks of the love of God to Israel His people, yet in verse 10 it says these same people turned against Him and became His enemies, demonstrating that they were reprobates. They “vexed His Holy Spirit”. That is, they frustrated and resisted the common operations of the Holy Spirit, which is what Gen 6:3, Heb. 6:4-6 and 10:26,29 speak of.
“Wherefore I will yet plead with you, saith the LORD, and with your children’s children will I plead.”
The Lord legally pleads with His covenanted reprobate people who refuse to be faithful to Him. The whole chapter chronicles His kindness to them and their ungratefulness to Him.
“For thus saith the Lord, Enter not into the house of mourning, neither go to lament nor bemoan them: for I have taken away my peace from this people, saith the Lord, even loving-kindness and mercies.”
This verse says that God takes away His loving-kindnesses and mercy from an obstinate people because they are rebellious unbelievers.
Hosea 1:2; 2:8
“And the Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms… For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold…”
The Lord married Israel to Himself by covenant, though much of Israel whoreed after other lovers and proved herself to be reprobate, as the book of Hosea describes. Yet, during all this time, God showered and blessed His unbelieving people with His gracious covenant mercies.
“All their wickedness is in Gilgal: for there I hated them, for the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of mine house, I will love them no more.”
God is saying that at one time He loved the people in Gilgal, but due to their wickedness He will love them no more. Here is a love for reprobates that is not complacent or irresistible, and is withdrawn.
“Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?”
This verse speaks of one who apostatizes from the church and is demonstrated to be a reprobate. Yet, this reprobate was sanctified (set apart in a special manner) by the Covenant of Grace, which blessings were purchased by the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross. He apostatizes despite all the gracious influences that he had received as a reprobate from the Spirit of grace.
2 Peter 2:1
“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.”
“The Lord that bought them” is an allusion to “the people which thou has redeemed” in Ex. 15:13. Clearly God’s covenant mercies are to all those in the Covenant of Grace, though some, in this case false teachers, are reprobate. The same principles that concerned Israel in the OT apply to the church in the NT.
3. The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel
Including God’s love therein to the reprobate
See the remarks of John Calvin and many others on the subject.
“And the Lord said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.”
Here we see God the Spirit wrestling with sinners, sinners that resisted His strivings and were destroyed in the flood. These operations of the Holy Spirit are common and non-salvific. See 50+ historic reformed quotes on The Common Operations of the Spirit, and especially Philip Henry on the passage.
“And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark…
For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth…
And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth.”
God tells Noah to go into the ark. Does God then bring the floods? No. God waits seven more days, which can only be interpreted as an act of His kindness and longsuffering, delaying His judgments beyond all expectation, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. See Matthew Henry on the passage.
“And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve Me”
God’s intention, this verse says, in commanding Pharaoh to let his people go, is so that his visible people may serve Him. God, of course, never commands a mere outward, non-saving duty or service, but always commands a saving relation to Himself in submission to his will, which is what He desires. See Josh. 24:15 where the same language of ‘serving’ is used in relation to conversion. Yet, not all visible Israel served God with their heart, as God’s revealed will required. God’s revealed will in the outward call of the Gospel is sincere, even though men and women do not live up to it.
“O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!”
“O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!”
These verses express God’s desire that men would keep his commandments, and His sorrow when they don’t. This explains the language in scripture where it says God repented that he made man (Gen. 6) and others. While God does not have emotions as we experience them, and never changes, there is a relation towards creatures in God that He would not have them commit sin. This is something more than simply an indicative statement that if the creature sins he will be punished for it. There is a logically distinct relation in God (aspect of His will) that His creatures ought to be in conformity to His nature. This relation can be opposed, and, in fact, is more logically discernible when it is opposed. The opposition to this aspect of God’s will does not destroy it, but distinguishes it. See Historic Reformed Quotes on God’s Revealed Will Being His Will, Desire, Pleasure and Wish, as well as the exegesis of these texts by John Murray.
“For this commandment which I command you this day, it is not hidden from you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very near unto you, in your mouth, and in your heart, **that** you may do it. See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil;”
The reason and purpose that God set this offer of eternal life directly before Israel (most of whom were reprobates) in their hearing, verse 14 says, is so that they may do it. Of course, Israel by and large did not receive the promise held out to them in the outward offer, contrary to God’s gracious purpose and design. See Thomas Ridgley on the Term’s ‘Offer’ and ‘Invitation’ referencing this passage.
2 Chron. 24:19
“Yet He sent prophets to them, to bring them again unto the Lord; and they testified against them: but they would not give ear.”
What was God’s revealed purpose and intention in sending prophets to largely reprobate Israel? To bring them again unto the Lord in salvation. But they would not give ear. See the Westminster Annotations upon this passage. 2 Chron. 24:19 is the Old Testament version of the New Testament’s Acts 3:26 (see below).
2 Chronicles 36:14-16
“Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the LORD which he had hallowed in Jerusalem.
And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place:
But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy.”
This passage explains why God sent the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem and take Judah captive. The people, continuing to harden their hearts against God without repentance, are reprobates, as the passage concludes that there is no remedy for them. Yet God had compassion on them and demonstrated this by sending them preachers so that they might turn. It was only after their abuse of his compassionate gestures that His wrath arose against the reprobates till he ultimately destroyed them.
Notice that God’s intention in sending his preachers was to turn them if at all possible, so that He would not have to destroy them, though he had decreed them to this end. Also notice that God sending preachers to reprobates is in and of itself compassionate. God could have left them without any hope by not sending them His preachers. Seeing that this is very similar language to Matt 23:37, where Christ bewails Jerusalem, and Christ is undoubtedly making allusion to it, the two passages should be used to interpret each other. See the Westminster Annotations on this passage.
Nehemiah 9:17-19, 29-31
“And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not.
Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, This is thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations;
Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to shew them light, and the way wherein they should go.”
God’s elect in this passage are nowhere in view. The only people that are here considered are the impenitent wicked, that is, reprobates. When the Israelites wanted to return to Egypt after just being delivered therefrom, God demonstrated His readiness to pardon them, His graciousness, mercifulness, longsuffering, and kindness by not utterly destroying them immediately in the wilderness that moment. Notice that these are attributes of God’s nature and they are exercised towards the reprobate. God’s leading them in the wilderness by the pillar of the cloud was an expression of God’s manifold mercies to them.
“And testifiedst against them, **that thou mightest bring them again unto thy law**: yet they dealt proudly, and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgments, (which if a man do, he shall live in them;) and withdrew the shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear.
Yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by thy Spirit in thy prophets: yet would they not give ear: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the people of the lands.
Nevertheless for thy great mercies’ sake thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for thou art a gracious and merciful God.”
Notice that the purpose of God in sending prophets to show the reprobates their sin in v. 29 was to turn them back to Him. God purposes that the reprobate should repent and turn to Him. This purpose is frustrated and fails. Yet God still continued to strive with them by His prophets. His longsuffering with them, in and of itself, and not immediately destroying them is a gracious and merciful action because God has a gracious and merciful disposition to the reprobates because it reflects His nature, which is gracious and merciful even to the reprobate. To make a modern application, it is the kindness and mercy of God to all the reprobates in our land that He does not utterly destroy America off the face of the earth for her many provoking sins, and yet continues to compassionately send His ministers to preach in her streets. See Henry Ainsworth referencing this passage on Gen. 6:3 as well as Jeremiah Dyke also referencing this passage on p. 118 of his ‘Of Quenching and Not Quenching of the Spirit’.
“Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries. The haters of the LORD should have submitted themselves unto him: but their time should have endured for ever. He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee.”
God’s original revealed intention/purpose/desire of blessing Israel was frustrated because they refused to obey Him. Thus, what God intended, He did not do. Also, the temporal, physical blessings of Canaan were types of heavenly spiritual blessings and salvation. If God intended the former, which was frustrated, He also intended the latter which was frustrated according to his revealed will, Israel’s rebellion fulfilling God’s secret, mysterious, irresistible and never-frustrated eternal decree. See the masterful discussion of anthropopathisms in scripture by John Howe where he references this passage, as well as David Dickson on Ps. 81:13.
“Does not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice? She stands in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths. She cries at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors. Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man. Hear… Receive my instruction… Then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before Him; Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men. Now therefore hearken unto Me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not.”
Christ, the wisdom of God, here cries out through his preachers in the city streets for all who hear to come to Him. He reveals his will that He would have them receive his saving instruction, and (per Prov. 9:3-5) come into his banqueting house of mercy and communion. See Robert M. M’Cheyne’s Sermon on Prov. 8:4 and Thomas Brooks in his Appendix to his Precious Remedies.
“Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn out her seven pillars: She has killed her beasts; she has mingled her wine; she has also furnished her table. She has sent forth her maidens: she cries upon the highest places of the city, Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wants understanding, she saith to him, Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled. Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.”
This is Christ, personified as Wisdom in Proverbs 8 & 9, crying out to everyone in the streets to come and find life by means of Him. These two chapters are not only full of commands, but they also express desire as reasons are heaped up at length. Prov. 9:4 is in the jussive mode, which expresses desire. It could also be translated, “may he turn in hither.” Not only are the people commanded to turn in, but Christ desires that all who hear His voice should turn in to Him. See Charles Bridges on Proverbs 9 as well as William Arnot.
“Now will I sing to my well-beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My well-beloved has a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And He fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and He looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, between Me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?”
“Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God.”
Why did God cultivate and nurture Israel, according to Isa. 5:4? “That it should bring forth grapes.” Yet, contrary to God’s revealed purpose and the inherent nature and design of his blessings, God’s people brought forth rebellion. On Isa. 5, see Matthew Henry and the Westminster Annotations.
In Isa. 49:4, the Messiah says all that He labored for, outwardly speaking, was in vain. The culmination of his earthly ministry was being crucified by the very ones He came to call to repentance (see John 5:34 and Acts 3:26 below), having not a single earthly follower. However, as Isa. 49 goes on to speak of, God rewarded his earthly work that came to nothing by raising up the remnant of Israel and the gentiles into his kingdom. On Isa. 49:4, see Matthew Barker and Thomas Adams.
“Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.”
“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent”
These are commands for all people to repent and be saved. The question is: are commands expressions of God’s will? 1 Thess. 4:3 says that God wills our sanctification, that is, obedience to His commands. 1 Thess. 4:1,2 says that walking in God’s commands pleases God. This means that not obeying His commands displeases Him, including the command to repent and be saved.
Acts 17:30 is a good example of ‘all men’ not referring to the elect, but to mankind at large, as Thomas Chalmers notes in relation to John 3:16 (see below). See both the Isaiah and Acts passages, see George Swinnock in his sermon on John 1:29. See also Cotton Mather on Isa. 45 on p. 25 of his “What Shall I do to be Saved?”
“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.”
God is speaking to his largely apostate people during the time of Isaiah. He is here pleading with sinners by means of asking rhetorical questions. That God pleads at all with Israel and does not just leave them off like every other nation of the earth is gracious. God’s desire that they should turn to Him and be saved is emphasized by the emphatic “ho!”, “yea,” and the multiple commands and reasons heaped on on each other. See Samuel Rutherford on this passage as well as the Sum of Saving Knowledge.
“I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name. I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts;”
This passage is quoted in the NT in Romans 10:21. God is saying that He stretched forth his hands to Israel in order to receive them if they would repent. ‘All the day long’ is an expression for ‘continually’ over the period of hundreds of years, by sending them the preaching of the gospel by His prophets in the OT. God was showing reprobate Israel undeserved compassionate kindness in His attempts to gather them together unto Himself, which attempts proved ineffectual. See the Geneva Bible Notes on this passage as well as John Trapp.
“In vain have I smitten your children; they received no correction: your own sword hath devoured your prophets, like a destroying lion… Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number.”
God says that his correction of Israel was in vain. That is, it did not accomplish its intended effect. God’s purpose in it was for Israel’s correction, but they only grew worse in spite of it. The context, as verse 32 shows, was to draw God’s externally called and covenanted people to Himself, but they would not. See Matthew Barker on p. 208.
“And now, because ye have done all these works, saith the Lord, and I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not;”
This passage says that God called to the people of Israel (that is, to come to Him, see Matt 11:28; Rev. 22:17, etc) but they would not answer. God sincerely calls for gospel hearing reprobates to come to Him, though they do not come as they are called. See the Westminster Annotations on this passage.
“Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!”
“But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the LORD’s flock is carried away captive.”
Here Jeremiah manifests the compassion of the One that sent him. See Jer. 13:17 referenced to this effect by Anthony Burgess (a Westminster divine) in his first sermon on Eze. 33:11.
“Howbeit I sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate… As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee.”
Here we see God’s sincere warnings that his people do not do what is contrary to God’s revealed will, though they do not hearken unto Him. See also Eze. 3:7. For more, see William Hendricksen on God’s earnest warnings to the reprobate. Also see Jer. 44:16 referenced by the Westminster Annotations on Deut. 5:29 and Isa. 55:6.
In the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water… None eye pitied thee, to do any of these unto thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast cast out in the open field… And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live… Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest mine… Then washed I thee with water; yea, I throughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil. I clothed thee also with broidered work… I decked thee also with ornaments… thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom. And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord God. But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot…
Here is a recounting of God’s love espousals to Israel to make her His bride. Note that throughout Israel’s history, from beginning to end, many (if not most) were unbelieving reprobates, as is demonstrated from Heb. 3 & 4, and the second half of Ezekiel 16 where Israel forsakes God and runs to other lovers. Yet, it is these very unbelieving reprobates who God, in His time of love and Israel’s youth, woo’d with the loves of the Gospel to marry Him by covenant, though they would go on to break that covenant and apostatize. See Thomas Brooks reference Eze. 16 to this effect in his Appendix to his Precious Remedies.
“Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?…
For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.”
“As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”
There are other verses that speak of God taking pleasure in the death of the wicked in that it fulfills His decrees and His justice. So this must be another sense. That is, in one sense God takes pleasure in the death of the wicked, but in another sense God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked. Both are true at the same time in their respective senses.
“When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered, and the wickedness of Samaria”
This verse says that God would have healed his visible people Israel, which included many (if not mostly) reprobates. However, when God sent his loving kindness and drawings to their nation in order to savingly heal them, their hidden iniquity only became more inflamed. See the Westminster Annotations on this passage as well as John Trapp on Matt 15:10.
“When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images. I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them. I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them… And my people are bent to backsliding from Me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt Him. How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.”
This passage says that the outward call of the gospel to the reprobate stems from God’s love for them (verses 1,3). God’s call, works, and gracious motions of his Holy Spirit are for the purpose of lovingly drawing them to Himself (verse 4), though they rebel and never come to Him (verse 7). The anthropomorphic language of God’s heart and bowels turning in Him over the perishing children that He has brought forth and loved reflects that though for higher purposes He as decreed to pass them over from salvation and allow them to perish willfully in their sin, yet God sincerely wills by his benevolent nature and common mercies their highest good.
“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Here Christ expresses His will that all indiscriminately should come unto Him. To limit this command only to the few hundreds or thousands that heard Christ’s audible words on that one time occasion does no good: there were still reprobates in the crowd to whom He expressed His desire that they should come to Him. Nor was Christ speaking of earthly rest: the following verses make it very clear He was speaking of spiritual rest and the forgiveness of sins.
Further, it is illegitimate to limit this expression of His will to his original hearers: all mankind, to whom the Gospel of Matthew is to be preached to (Mk. 16:15) is included. This is seen in that the principle object in view is spiritual salvation, which is applicable to not just His original hearers, but to the whole world, transcending local and temporal circumstances.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”
To claim that the children of of the city are different people from those referred to by the city itself is mistaken. “Children” of the city are simply the people of the city, as the figure of speech is commonly used in the Psalms. Jesus’ (the God-man’s) intention was frustrated. God often held His hand out to Israel for good (as the prophets say) and yet they refused their own good that God would have blessed them with. God was willing, they were unwilling. The prophets plead with Israel and wept over them to turn. So Christ, the last and great, Prophet did as well. See David Silversides on the passage.
“A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.
And they all with one consent began to make excuse… So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind…
And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.“
This parable demonstrates the desire of the Father in bidding and inviting many to the Feast of the Lamb. Though reprobates pass over the invitation, yet they have full legal right, upon the legal warrant of the invitation (the invitation being made to them, and not to others who do not hear), to come to the salvific Feast.
The desire of the Father in inviting guests is seen in the opposite response He has when the invited guests refuse the invitation: the text says “angry.” His invitation is no dis-impassioned, take-it-or-leave-it, offer. He desires them to come and is angry when they turn down His gracious invitation. His desire for anyone and everyone to attend His feast is further demonstrated by Him further commanding the servant to go into the farthest reaches of the population and “compel them,” in accordance with the strength of His desire, to come to the Feast. See David Dickson on Matt 22:1-7.
“And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.”
Jesus, the God-man, here weeps over perishing sinners that would not receive Him. He repeats his address to them, ‘even you!’. ‘Only if you had known!’, expressing a wish and desire for their eternal good. The salvation He offered and pressed upon them belonged unto them. It was for them. It was for their peace, to bring them peace. But their season of grace being past, their offer slighted and gone, salvation is withdrawn from them. See John Calvin on the passage as well as John Howe in his The Redeemer’s Tears Wept over Lost Souls.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
The world is defined by the immediate context: those that reject the light (v. 18-20). God’s love is shown to the unbelieving world in holding out salvation to them in offering them eternal life through the gospel. The offer itself, whether or not anyone takes God up on it, is a manifestation of God’s love for them. It makes no sense for the world to mean the elect in verse 17, for why would God come into the world to condemn the elect.
Rather one might think from the prophets that when God came, He would condemn all unbelievers. But instead it has been revealed that the Father sent Christ not to condemn unbelievers, but to save them (verse 17 is a purpose clause). This purpose is frustrated as the world clings to its own sins (v. 20), though those whom God regenerates take God up on His conditional promise (conditioned by faith, whosoever believes) in verse 21. For a fuller exposition of John 3:16, see Travis Fentiman’s article, John 3:16 – God’s Love for all Mankind in the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel.
“But I receive not testimony from man; but these things I say, that ye might be saved… And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom He has sent, Him ye believe not. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.”
Jesus is speaking to the whole crowd, many of which were reprobates. Verse 16 says that his auditors sought to persecute and kill Him. Verses 38 and 40 say that they were not believers and would not come to Him. Jesus says, in verse 34, that Jesus spoke all this to them that (in order that) they might be saved. Jesus was sent for the revealed, sincere purpose of saving Israel, but they resisted and rejected his ministry. See John Calvin on Matt 15:24, Matthew Henry on John 5:34, and numerous puritans on Jesus’s complaint in John 5:40.
“Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.”
“Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water.”
These passages say that Christ is a gift from the Father (see also John 3:16 below). But is it the case that all the people in the crowd in John 6 were elect? No, for most of them immediately thereafter left Christ (John 6:66). Yet the text says the Father gave Christ to them. Christ is a gift from the Father to the whole world, including the reprobate. Receiving the salvific blessings of this offered gift designed for the whole world is conditioned upon the people receiving it by faith, as John 4:10 demonstrates: “If thou knewest the gift of God… thou wouldest have asked of Him and He would have given thee living water.” If people do not receive the gift, He is no less, as John 4:10 says, “the gift of God.”
“And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”
Jesus is saying in this passage that his first coming was not for the purpose of judging and condemning the world as on Judgment Day, but that his ministry was to save the world, though He be rejected by it. The person that does not believe and rejects Him, Jesus does not condemn because He came to save the world. ‘The world’ cannot mean the elect because it is the world that rejects Jesus and shall be condemned by his word on the Last Day.
“…Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel… Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out… Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.”
The apostle is here speaking to an indiscriminate, unconverted crowd of thousands of Israelites. Many of the crowd, after his message was given, did not believe (Acts 4:1-3) and therefore were reprobates. Peter cannot, therefore, be speaking of irresistible grace to the elect. Rather, as verse 26 naturally reads, Peter is saying that God sent his Son Jesus to turn every one of them from their iniquities. In verse 19, the revealed purpose of God commanding them to repent and be converted is so that their sins would be blotted out. However, God’s revealed purpose in this was resisted and overturned in that Israel by and large rejected Jesus’ saving overtures to them. See the Dutch Annotations and George Swinnock on this passage.
“Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.”
These unbelieving reprobates who rejected the gospel and stoned Stephen are said to have always resisted the Holy Spirit, as did their unbelieving Israel fathers who constantly resisted the prophets of old. One of course can only resist a drawing influence, as God continually sought to draw Israel to Himself in the Old Testament and these Jews to Himself through the ministry of the apostles.
“And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.”
This verse says that the ordained purpose of God’s commandments is for life. That is, God’s designed purpose in giving the law is for the good of the creature. Sin in the creature, though, resisting the will of God, turns that which was ordained for its good into its own condemnation, a secondary by product due to the creature’s sin. Thus when God ‘now commands all men everywhere to repent’ (Acts 17:30), it is ordained for the life of all creatures.
2 Cor. 5:20
“Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
“I say the truth in Christ… That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:”
“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.”
2 Cor. 5:20 says that ministers are ambassadors of Christ, beseeching in Christ’s stead that the world be reconciled to God. Thus it was Christ, through Paul, longing and praying for the salvation of Paul’s hearers (Acts 26:29). Preachers are to do the same. Christ often had compassion on the multitudes, being moved out of affection for His hearers, who were the same that would all leave Him (John 6:66). See Robert M. M’Cheyne on 2 Cor. 5:19-20.
2 Cor. 6:1
“We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.”
The context is the free offer of the gospel at the end of 2 Cor. 5, where Paul exhorts them to be reconciled to God (5:20) and sets the atonement in Christ before them (5:21). 2 Cor. 6:1 says this free offer, which they may or may not take God up on, is a grace to them. Yet they are able to receive this grace in vain by hearing of the free offer to no avail and perishing in their sin. See James Durham on this passage.
“Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”
This verse says that the Mosaic Law administration’s purpose was to lead Israel unto Christ so that they might be justified by faith and saved. This purpose was revealed in God driving them away from themselves by the Moral Law, in God giving Israel sacrifices and symbolic rites in the Ceremonial Law in order to draw them to faith in the Messiah, and in God giving them a foretaste of the equity of the Messianic Kingdom in the Civil Law. This has historically been defined as ‘the first use of the Law’ in reformed theology. This purpose of the Law, of course, was not fulfilled by all of Israel as not all of Israel was brought to Christ, contrary to God’s revealed purpose.
1 Tim. 1:15
“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…”
Jesus came into the world to save sinners as they are creaturely sinners. He threw the gospel net wide, preaching to all indiscriminately, calling many (though only few be chosen), sending his disciples into all of Israel, and his apostles into all the world.
1 Tim. 2:1-6
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers… be made for all men… For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”
Prayer is to be made not only for all types of men, but for all men head-for-head, as Matt 5:44 teaches (except those that sin the sin unto death, 1 John 5:16). The grounds for praying for the salvation of all men is God’s revealed will, that He would have all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. This universal will of God is fitting as there is only one God and one Mediator between Him and all men. It is further grounded in the atonement of Christ which (though not efficaciously paying for the sins of the whole world by decree) yet is made available to, and is designed for, the whole world. See Charles Hodge on this passage.
1 Tim. 4:10
For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.
Here the passage says that Christ is in some way the Savior of the reprobate. In what way is this? Christ is available to all men, offered to all men, sufficient for all men, has come to seek and save all men, and wills that all men should come to Him and be saved.
“But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared…”
Here Jesus is given the name ‘the kindness and love of God’, and this toward mankind in his revealing the Love of God to the human race. He is the Philanthropos, The Lover of Men.
2 Peter 3:9
“The Lord is not 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.”
If ‘not willing that any should perish’ refers to all God’s elect who will in the future will be converted, then Peter must, by ‘us-ward’, be referring to the unknown and hidden group of the elect (many of which were unconverted both in his day and yet to be in the future). To make the first person plural, ‘us’, refer to an unknown group (many of his hearers not being in that group) is to border on making Peter’s speech unintelligible. Rather, Peter is much more easily understood if ‘us’ included all of his hearers and the persons previously mentioned in the passage, all the generations of the human race (including the scoffers) that God was mercifully dealing with in his longsuffering, giving them more time to repent under the gospel, not willing that any of creature should perish. This reading of the passage would be expected as it is clearly true that God is willing that all people, elect and non-elect, should come to repentance (Acts 17:30).
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Bible Verses on God’s Revealed Will Being His Will, Desire, Pleasure and Wish
Historic Reformed Quotes on the Distinction Between God’s Revealed Will and his Will of Decree
The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel
Redemptive Benefits for the Reprobate