Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Works of John Calvin

Our View of God

I saw this statement floating around several Calvinist sites.  It reads:

God is glorified in the salvation of His people, and He is also glorified in the just condemnation of the wicked.

Now at just a reading of this, I have no problem with it.  It is true!  Those who repent and are saved are His people (1 Timothy 4:10) and God is glorified through saving them.  The opposite is true as well.  Those who reject the Lord Jesus and reject His salvation, these two glorify His name because they will bow their need and confess that He is Lord as well (Philippians 2:5-11; Revelation 20:11-15).  None will escape the judgment of our God (Hebrews 9:27-28).  Those who go to hell go there because of their own sinfulness and their own rejection of the truth of God (Romans 1:18-32; 2:7-10; 2 Thessalonians 2:10).  John 3:18 reads:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

The error that Calvinists make about this statement is that they are meaning that God is sovereign in His choosing whom He will save and in whom He will condemn.  They see this as God glorifying His name either way.  God is glorified when He acts to save by His unconditional electing and irresistible grace to salvation of His elect (notice “His people” which typically means “His elect”) and the Calvinist reasons that God is also glorified in His just condemnation of the wicked.

The problem is not in the glory of God.  The problem is in the reasoning.  If election is based on a condition then those who meet the condition that God has established are saved and bring Him glory  The condition in Scripture is faith and repentance.  This is contrasted to works in Romans 4.  Works can never produce eternal salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).  What we do does not earn God’s perfect righteousness.  This is a gift given to those who have faith and repentance that is wrought in us by the aid of the Holy Spirit (John 6:44).  I have no problem teaching that salvation is a gift or that faith is a gift or that repentance is a gift since all of these only come to sinful mankind by the goodness of God (Romans 2:4).

The problem I do have is when we begin to discuss God’s glory in the condemnation of the wicked.  I understand the condemnation and I agree with it.  However, Calvinism seeks to establish that God is glorified in His just punishment of sin even though the wicked are simply doing what God elected for them to do.  Some Calvinists teach that God simply “passes over” the non-elect (this seems to be the view of John MacArthur).  God does not actively harden the non-elect and in fact, some Calvinists argue that He loves them to a degree by giving them this world, this life, the air they breathe, etc.  Yet Calvin was clear that God does harden the non-elect.  Calvin even taught that God will allow some to think they are elect only to condemn them on the day of judgement.

Calvin wrote:

“I am aware it seems unaccountable to some how faith is attributed to the reprobate, seeing that it is declared by Paul to be one of the fruits of election; and yet the difficulty is easily solved: for though none are enlightened into faith, and truly feel the efficacy of the Gospel, with the exception of those who are fore-ordained to salvation, yet experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them.”

And then he wrote:

“Should it be objected, that believers have no stronger testimony to assure them of their adoption, I answer, that though there is a great resemblance and affinity between the elect of God and those who are impressed for a time with a fading faith, yet the elect alone have that full assurance which is extolled by Paul, and by which they are enabled to cry, Abba, Father. Therefore, as God regenerates the elect only for ever by incorruptible seed, as the seed of life once sown in their hearts never perishes, so he effectually seals in them the grace of his adoption, that it may be sure and steadfast. But in this there is nothing to prevent an inferior operation of the Spirit from taking its course in the reprobate. Meanwhile, believers are taught to examine themselves carefully and humbly, lest carnal security creep in and take the place of assurance of faith. We may add, that the reprobate never have any other than a confused sense of grace, laying hold of the shadow rather than the substance, because the Spirit properly seals the forgiveness of sins in the elect only, applying it by special faith to their use. Still it is correctly said, that the reprobate believe God to be propitious to them, inasmuch as they accept the gift of reconciliation, though confusedly and without due discernment; not that they are partakers of the same faith or regeneration with the children of God; but because, under a covering of hypocrisy, they seem to have a principle of faith in common with them.”

Notice that Calvin even asserts that there is “an inferior operation of the Spirit from taking its course in the reprobate.”  Remember that reprobate are all non-elect.  Calvin is saying that the Holy Spirit works in the life of the non-elect to even give them false hope.  Notice that Calvin even writes that the reprobate “accept the gift of reconciliation” but are “under a covering of hypocrisy.”  The reprobate believes himself to be elect but Calvin says they are wrong and only the elect receive regeneration.

So God misleads the reprobate? For what purpose?  The Calvinist would say for His own glory.  This is why they read Romans 9:22 and see the vessels of destruction as the reprobate whom God sovereignly has not chosen.

I do believe in the justice of God.  I do believe that all people will stand before a holy God and apart from being clothed in Christ, they will not be saved.  I do believe the way to eternal life is narrow and hard (Matthew 7:13-14) and I believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation (John 14:6) which is why we must preach the gospel to the lost (Matthew 28:19).  God certainly foreknows those who are His (Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 1:2) but I disagree that God is actively misleading people, condemning people apart from their sins.  Ezekiel 18:4 tells us that the soul that sins shall die.  Ezekiel 18:32 tells us that God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked.  His desire is for us to turn and live.  This is done by the preaching of the gospel of His grace (1 Corinthians 1:21, 30-31; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).

Now go and preach the gospel to all (Romans 11:32).

Hell Makes Sense If Conditional Election Is True

Hell is a hotly debated subject (sorry for the pun).  Is hell eternal conscious torment?  Is hell just a figure of speech for death for the ungodly?  Are people really burning forever in hell or is hell just where people are thrown and then destroyed forever?  These are all debated.

Yet hell is a biblical reality.  Even those who hold to conditionalism believe in hell.  They deny that hell is eternal conscious torment but they do believe in hell.  They can even warn people of hell and the need to repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus alone to save them or they will go to hell.

But hell doesn’t make sense unless one holds to conditional election.  Otherwise, one is faced with the idea that God has arbitrarily chosen to save a few while damning most human beings in hell not because of their sins but also because of His sovereign choice.  Hell, for those who hold to unconditional election, is simply the glory of God being manifested as He casts the lost into hell.  Calvinists such as John Piper teach that hell for the non-elect glorifies God by showing His goodness toward the elect.  Calvinists often will say that the fact that God chooses to save sinners from among the sinful lump shows His goodness.

John Calvin went further.  Calvin taught from Romans 9:22 that the vessels of wrath are people whom God has not just passed over but He hardens.  Calvin wrote:

But if we wish fully to understand Paul, almost every word must be examined. He then argues thus, — There are vessels prepared for destruction, that is, given up and appointed to destruction: they are also vessels of wrath, that is, made and formed for this end, that they may be examples of God’s vengeance and displeasure. If the Lord bears patiently for a time with these, not destroying them at the first moment, but deferring the judgment prepared for them, and this in order to set forth the decisions of his severity, that others may be terrified by so dreadful examples, and also to make known his power, to exhibit which he makes them in various ways to serve; and, further, that the amplitude of his mercy towards the elect may hence be more fully known and more brightly shine forth; — what is there worthy of being reprehended in this dispensation? But that he is silent as to the reason, why they are vessels appointed to destruction, is no matter of wonder. He indeed takes it as granted, according to what has been already said, that the reason is hid in the secret and inexplorable counsel of God; whose justice it behoves us rather to adore than to scrutinize.

Romans 9:21, according to the unconditional view of election, is clear that God has made both His elect and the non-elect for His own purposes.  God, from the foundation of the world, has chosen whom He will save and whom He will damn.  This is not merely God passing by the non-elect but His active choice to prepare them for the purpose of hell.

R.C. Sproul admits that he struggles with Romans 9:20-24.  He admits that the idea of double predestination seems very strong here and that hyper-Calvinism finds its heart in these texts.  Yet Sproul is not a hyper-Calvinist and so the best he can do is to teach that there is one batch of sinful creatures and that God endures the vessels of wrath which are reprobate (Chosen by God, p. 153).

Calvin’s successor in Geneva, Theodore Beza, taught that Romans 9:21 is mankind not yet made and much less corrupted.  In other words, Beza taught that God sovereignly chose to elect before even creating mankind while also choosing to reject those whom He had not chosen.  God then made humans and even before the Fall, He chose to elect and harden.  Beza taught that this view alone protects God of His sovereignty and glorifies Him since everything (including the Fall) was for the glory of God.

For the Arminian, Adam Clarke taught that Romans 9:22 were the unbelieving Jews.  Clarke taught that Romans 9 has the Jews and Gentiles in mind and not individual unconditional election.  Romans 9:24-29 point to Clarke’s view.  God has in mind Israel as the vessel of wrath since they rejected His grace.  Thomas Oden states that people harden themselves by the rejection of the grace of God.  2 Timothy 2:21 states the people can turn from vessels of wrath to vessels of honor by the grace of God.  This is conditioned upon faith in the Lord Jesus (1 Timothy 4:10; 2 Timothy 2:10).

Why then would God, in the Calvinist viewpoint, create mankind for destruction?  There is no clear teaching on this.  Most simply will quote Deuteronomy 29:29 as the end all of the debate.  Calvin warned that this is indeed a mystery that one need not ponder too deeply.

For the Arminian, hell makes sense since God has been reaching out to the world since the Fall.  Mankind was created in the image of God and by their own willful choice, brought sin into the world (Genesis 3:1-7).  Even in the Garden of Eden, Yahweh reached out to mankind in His grace by calling them (Genesis 3:9), giving them a promise even in the midst of the curse (Genesis 3:15) and then clothing them (Genesis 3:21).  From Genesis onward, God is preparing the world for His Messiah.  The Messiah would come and would bear the sins of the world (Isaiah 53:4-6; John 1:29).

In Matthew 7 Jesus speaks much of two’s.  He says there are two gates (Matthew 7:13-14), two types of fruit (Matthew 7:15-20), two confessions (Matthew 7:21-23), and two types of people who either obey or disobey (Matthew 7:24-27).  Even now there are two types of people: lost or saved.  The saved become the elect.  The lost remain outside of His elect but do so by their own free choice.

If this is the case, if the lost are still in rebellion because of their own hardness, their own refusal to submit to the Lordship of Christ, their own rejection of God’s grace and mercy, etc. then hell makes sense.  Hell is fitting for those who would reject the Lord God.  No sinner will be able to stand before a holy God and said, “You made me a vessel of wrath fitted for destruction” but will simply acknowledge the justice of God and condemning them in their sins.  It is sin that sends a person to hell and not God’s unconditional election (Romans 6:23).  It is willful rebellion against God that leads to mankind’s utter destruction.

If I were a Calvinist, I would then reject unending conscious torment in hell since I would hold that people go to hell because God has not chosen them to be elect.  The thought that a loving and good God would send people to hell not because of their sins but because He simply did not choose them to be His elect would be grievous to me.  God is pictured in the Bible as loving and good.  John 3:16 is probably the most known verse in the Bible yet how does it fit into the idea that God loved the world so much that He created vessels of wrath whom He fitted for everlasting destruction and misery in hell?  The only comfort I would be able to find is that people are destroyed in hell (or annihilated) because God simply did not choose them.

Jesus said that hell was created for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).  Revelation 20:10 says that the devil will be tormented there day and night forever and ever.  Hell was not created for the glory of God in condemning the non-elect but in destroying Satan.  Those who are not found in Christ will also go there (Revelation 20:11-15).  I believe that this is based on either salvation in Christ or rejection of Christ but is not based on the unconditional election of people.  Hell makes sense to me because I see hell as the final destruction for those who have hated God and rebelled against Him while on earth.  Hell makes sense because of the cross (John 3:17-18, 36).

John Wesley on Original Sin

John Wesley leaves no doubt that he holds to original sin as his Calvinist brethren did.  He states the following about those who would reject the doctrine.

1. I proceed to draw a few inferences from what has been said. And, First, from hence we may learn one grand fundamental difference between Christianity, considered as a system of doctrines, and the most refined Heathenism. Many of the ancient Heathens have largely described the vices of particular men. They have spoken much against their covetousness, or cruelty; their luxury, or prodigality. Some have dared to say that “no man is born without vices of one kind or another.” But still as none of them were apprized of the fall of man, so none of them knew of his total corruption. They knew not that all men were empty of all good, and filled with all manner of evil. They were wholly ignorant of the entire depravation of the whole human nature, of every man born into the world, in every faculty of his soul, not so much by those particular vices which reign in particular persons, as by the general flood of Atheism and idolatry, of pride, self-will, and love of the world. This, therefore, is the first grand distinguishing point between Heathenism and Christianity. The one acknowledges that many men are infected with many vices, and even born with a proneness to them; but supposes withal, that in some the natural good much over-balances the evil: The other declares that all men are conceived in sin,” and “shapen in wickedness;” — that hence there is in every man a “carnal mind, which is enmity against God, which is not, cannot be, subject to” his “law;” and which so infects the whole soul, that “there dwelleth in” him, “in his flesh,” in his natural state, “no good thing;” but “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is evil,” only evil, and that “continually.”

2. Hence we may, Secondly, learn, that all who deny this, call it original sin, or by any other title, are put Heathens still, in the fundamental point which differences Heathenism from Christianity. They may, indeed, allow, that men have many vices; that some are born with us; and that, consequently, we are not born altogether so wise or so virtuous as we should be; there being few that will roundly affirm, “We are born with as much propensity to good as to evil, and that every man is, by nature, as virtuous and wise as Adam was at his creation.” But here is the shibboleth: Is man by nature filled with all manner of evil Is he void of all good Is he wholly fallen Is his soul totally corrupted Or, to come back to the text, is “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart only evil continually” Allow this, and you are so far a Christian. Deny it, and you are but an Heathen still.

3. We may learn from hence, in the Third place, what is the proper nature of religion, of the religion of Jesus Christ. It is qerapeia yuchs, God’s method of healing a soul which is thus diseased. Hereby the great Physician of souls applies medicines to heal this sickness; to restore human nature, totally corrupted in all its faculties. God heals all our Atheism by the knowledge of Himself, and of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent; by giving us faith, a divine evidence and conviction of God, and of the things of God, — in particular, of this important truth, “Christ loved me” — and gave himself for me.” By repentance and lowliness of heart, the deadly disease of pride is healed; that of self-will by resignation, a meek and thankful submission to the will of God; and for the love of the world in all its branches, the love of God is the sovereign remedy. Now, this is properly religion, “faith” thus “working by love;” working the genuine meek humility, entire deadness to the world, with a loving, thankful acquiescence in, and conformity to, the whole will and word of God.

4. Indeed, if man were not thus fallen, there would be no need of all this. There would be no occasion for this work in the heart, this renewal in the spirit of our mind. The superfluity of godliness would then be a more proper expression than the “superfluity of naughtiness.” For an outside religion, without any godliness at all, would suffice to all rational intents and purposes. It does, accordingly, suffice, in the judgment of those who deny this corruption of our nature. They make very little more of religion than the famous Mr. Hobbes did of reason. According to him, reason is only “a well-ordered train of words:” According to them, religion is only a well-ordered train of words and actions. And they speak consistently with themselves; for if the inside be not full of wickedness, if this be clean already, what remains, but to “cleanse the outside of the cup” Outward reformation, if their supposition be just, is indeed the one thing needful.

5. But ye have not so learned the oracles of God. Ye know, that He who seeth what is in man gives a far different account both of nature and grace, of our fall and our recovery. Ye know that the great end of religion is, to renew our hearts in the image of God, to repair that total loss of righteousness and true holiness which we sustained by the sin of our first parent. Ye know that all religion which does not answer this end, all that stops short of this, the renewal of our soul in the image of God, after the likeness of Him that created it, is no other than a poor farce, and a mere mockery of God, to the destruction of our own soul. O beware of all those teachers of lies, who would palm this upon you for Christianity! Regard them not, although they should come unto you with all the deceivableness of unrighteousness; with all smoothness of language, all decency, yea, beauty and elegance of expression, all professions of earnest good will to you, and reverence for the Holy Scriptures. Keep to the plain, old faith, “once delivered to the saints,” and delivered by the Spirit of God to our hearts. Know your disease! Know your cure! Ye were born in sin: Therefore, “ye must be born again,” born of God. By nature ye are wholly corrupted. By grace ye shall be wholly renewed. In Adam ye all died: In the second Adam, in Christ, ye all are made alive. “You that were dead in sins hath he quickened:” He hath already given you a principle of life, even faith in him who loved you and gave himself for you! Now, “go on from faith to faith,” until your whole sickness be healed; and all that “mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus!”

There are those today who would deny that we are born with a sinful nature.  They teach that we are born sinless, that we do not inherit anything from Adam through the Fall (Genesis 3:1-7; Romans 5:12) but instead we are born into a sinful world that leads us to sin.  I hold that we are born with a sinful nature that we inherit from our father Adam.  Many hold that we are born with both a sinful nature and guilty of Adam’s sin.  They believe this because they believe that Romans 5:12-19 teaches that we are not just born with original sin but with original guilt.  I believe in original sin but deny original guilt.  A person goes to hell because of their sin and they sin because they desire to sin and commit sins against a holy God (1 John 3:4).  None will be in hell because of someone else’s sin but their own (Romans 1:18-32).  However, from the fall of Adam we do inherit original sin, the desire to be a sinner.  If we deny original sin, we must deny the substitutionary work of Christ who died in our place (Galatians 1:4).  If Adam is not our representative, how can Jesus be (Isaiah 53:4-11)?

Adam sinned so all die in him (1 Corinthians 15:22) because he was the head (1 Corinthians 11:3).  The explanation for the universality of death cannot be explained apart from Adam’s sin.  Why do babies die?  Why do the handicapped die?  They die because of Adam’s sin and he passed down his original sin to us all.  John Wesley went on to teach about how Adam’s sin has been imputed to all mankind.  Wesley said we all die because:

  1. Our bodies became mortal in Adam.
  2. Our souls died; that is, were disunited from God.  And hence,
  3. We are all born with a sinful, devilish nature.  By reason whereof,
  4. We are children of wrath, liable to death eternal (Romans 5:18; Ephesians 2:3).

John Calvin, on the other hand, taught clearly that we inherit both original sin and original guilt from Adam.  He wrote,

Hence, even infants bringing their condemnation with them from their mother’s womb, suffer not for another’s, but for their own defect. For although they have not yet produced the fruits of their own unrighteousness, they have the seed implanted in them.  Nay, their whole nature is, as it were, a seed-bred of sin, and therefore cannot but be odious and abominable to God.  Hence, it follows, that it is properly deemed sinful in the sight of God; for there could be no condemnation without guilt.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/10/2013 at 10:00 AM

You Were Not Willing To Come To Me

But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. 
– John 5:40 (NKJV)

There is no doubt that Arminianism holds that mankind cannot just choose in their own power to come to Christ.  They need divine aid to be saved.  Humanity is corrupted by sin (Romans 3:23) and in our free will, we would reject the Lord God.  Mankind does not love God.  We see evidence of this all around us with false worship of all types of false gods from the false gods of false religions to the gods of money, sex, power, sports, self, etc.  Romans 1:18-32 is true about humanity.  We are truly wicked before a holy God.

Yet we also deny the doctrine of unconditional election.  We reject the idea that God choose just a few to be saved while condemning the vast majority of people apart from their own rejection of His grace.  We teach that God sent His Son to die for the sins of all and whoever believes in the Lord Jesus Christ through saving faith will be the elect of God.  The non-elect are not those who were predestined to be rejected by God but instead are those who reject God in their own free will.  God does not make people believe or disbelieve.  He gives sufficient grace for people to be saved.

We see evidence of this in John 5:40 where Jesus tells the Jews that they have rejected Him despite studying the Scriptures which reveal Him (John 5:39).  Other evidences from Scripture of God calling people to repent but they reject Him by their own free will are Isaiah 65:2; Luke 7:30; 14:16-24; John 1:10-11; Romans 10:21; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17.  God hates sin and He hates those who abide in sin (Psalm 5:5; Proverbs 6:17-19) but He also loves the sinner by sending His Son to atone for the sinner’s sins who repents (John 3:16; Romans 2:4; 5:8; 2 Peter 3:9).

We believe this grace has been given by God for all to be saved.  This common grace enables us to repent.  None of us can repent on our own but we need the aid of the Spirit of God (John 6:44).  He opens our hearts (Acts 16:14-15).  We read of this common grace in John 1:9.  Adam Clarke comments on John 1:9 are worth reading here:

As the human creature sees the light of the world as soon as it is born, from which it had been excluded while in the womb of its parent; in like manner, this heavenly light shines into the soul of every man, to convince of sin, righteousness, and judgment; and it is through this light, which no man brings into the world with him, but which Christ mercifully gives to him on his coming into it, that what is termed conscience among men is produced. No man could discern good from evil, were it not for this light thus supernaturally and graciously restored. There was much light in the law, but this shone only upon the Jews; but the superior light of the Gospel is to be diffused over the face of the whole earth.

Interestingly is to read John Calvin’s comments on John 5:40:

He again reproaches them that it is nothing but their own malice that hinders them from becoming partakers of the life offered in the Scriptures; for when he says that they will not, he imputes the cause of their ignorance and blindness to wickedness and obstinacy. And, indeed, since he offered himself to them so graciously, they must have been willfully blind; but when they intentionally fled from the light, and even desired to extinguish the sun by the darkness of their unbelief, Christ justly reproves them with greater severity.

We Arminians would agree.  Mankind rejects the Lord Jesus by their own stubbornness, wickedness, and pride.  God does not make them reject the gospel.  We do just fine doing that without Him making us not believe.

John Calvin on 1 Timothy 1:9

1 Timothy 1:9 reads:

Understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers.

John Calvin’s comments on this verse are well worth reading:

The apostle did not intend to argue about the whole office of the law, but views it in reference to men. It frequently happens that they who wish to be regarded as the greatest zealots for the law, give evidence by their whole life that they are the greatest despisers of it. A remarkable and striking instance of this is found in those who maintain the righteousness of works and defend free-will. They have continually in their mouth these words, “Perfect holiness, merits, satisfactions;” but their whole life cries out against them, that they are outrageously wicked and ungodly, that they provoke in every possible way the wrath of God, and fearlessly set his judgment at naught. They extol in lofty terms the free choice of good and evil; but they openly shew, by their actions, that they are the slaves of Satan, and are most firmly held by him in the chains of slavery.

Having such adversaries, in order to restrain their haughty insolence, Paul remonstrates that the law is, as it were, the sword of God to slay them; and that neither he nor any like him have reason for viewing the law with dread or aversion; for it is not opposed to righteous persons, that is, to the godly and to those who willingly obey God. I am well aware that some learned men draw an ingenious sense out of these words; as if Paul were treating theologically about the nature of “the law.” They argue that the law has nothing to do with the sons of God, who have been regenerated by the Spirit; because it was not given for righteous persons. But the connection in which these words occur shuts me up to the necessity of giving a more simple interpretation to this statement. He takes for granted the well-known sentiment, that “from bad manners have sprung good laws,” and maintains that the law of God was given in order to restrain the licentiousness of wicked men; because they who are good of their own accord do not need the authoritative injunction of the law.

A question now arises, “Is there any mortal man who does not belong to this class?” I reply, in this passage Paul gives the appellation “righteous” to those who are not absolutely perfect, (for no such person will be found,) but who, with the strongest desire of their heart, aim at what is good; so that godly desire is to them a kind of voluntary law, without any motive or restraint from another quarter. He therefore wished to repress the impudence of adversaries, who armed themselves with the name of “the law” against godly men, whose whole life exhibits the actual role of the law, since they had very great need of the law, and yet did not care much about it; which is more clearly expressed by the opposite clause. If there be any who refuse to admit that Paul brings an implied or indirect charge against his adversaries as guilty of those wicked acts which he enumerates, still it will be acknowledged to be a simple repelling of the slander; and if they were animated by a sincere and unfeigned zeal for the law, they ought rather to have made use of their armor for carrying on war with offenses and crimes, instead of employing it as a pretext for their own ambition and silly talking.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/31/2013 at 8:00 AM

John Calvin’s Notes on Psalm 2:4-6

I found these comments from John Calvin on Psalm 2:4-6 worthy for us all to read and ponder.  Here are his words:

After David has told us of the tumult and commotions, the counsels and pride, the preparation and resources the strength and efforts of his enemies, in opposition to all these he places the power of God alone, which he concludes would be brought to bear against them, from their attempting to frustrate his decree. And, as a little before, by terming them kings of the earth, he expressed their feeble and perishable condition; so now, by the lofty title of He that dwelleth in heaven, he extols the power of God, as if he had said, that power remains intact and unimpaired, whatever men may attempt against it. Let them exalt themselves as they may, they shall never be able to reach to heaven; yea, while they think to confound heaven and earth together, they resemble so many grasshoppers, and the Lord, meanwhile, undisturbed beholds from on high their infatuated evolutions. And David ascribes laughter to God on two accounts; first, to teach us that he does not stand in need of great armies to repress the rebellion of wicked men, as if this were an arduous and difficult matter, but, on the contrary, could do this as often as he pleases with the most perfect ease. In the second place, he would have us to understand that when God permits the reign of his Son to be troubled, he does not cease from interfering because he is employed elsewhere, or unable to afford assistance, or because he is neglectful of the honor of his Son; but he purposely delays the inflictions of his wrath to the proper time, namely, until he has exposed their infatuated rage to general derision. Let us, therefore, assure ourselves that if God does not immediately stretch forth his hand against the ungodly, it is now his time of laughter; and although, in the meantime, we ought to weep, yet let us assuage the bitterness of our grief, yea, and wipe away our tears, with this reflection, that God does not connive at the wickedness of his enemies, as if from indolence or feebleness, but because for the time he would confront their insolence with quiet contempt. By the adverb then, he points to the fit time for exercising judgment, as if he had said, after the Lord shall have for a time apparently taken no notice of the malpractices of those who oppose the rule of his Son, he will suddenly change his course, and show that he retards nothing with greater abhorrence than such presumption.

Moreover, he ascribes speech to God, not for the purpose of instructing his enemies, but only to convict them of their madness; indeed, by the term speak, he means nothing else than a manifestation of God’s wrath, which the ungodly do not perceive until they feel it. The enemies of David thought it would be the easiest thing in the world for them to destroy one who, coming from a mean shepherd’s cot, had, in their view, presumptuously assumed the sovereign power. The prophecy and anointing of Samuel were, in their estimation, mere ridiculous pretences. But when God had at length overthrown them, and settled David on the throne, he, by this act, spoke not so much with his tongue as with his hand, to manifest himself the founder of David’s kingdom. The Psalmist hereon then, refers to speaking by actions, by which the Lord, without uttering a single word, makes manifest his purpose. In like manner, whenever he defends the kingdom of his Son against the ungodly, by the tokens and inflictions of his wrath, although he does not speak a single word, yet in effect he speaks enough to make himself understood.

David afterwards, speaking in the name of God, shows more clearly how his enemies were guilty of wickedly fighting against God himself in the hatred which they bore towards him whom God had made king. The sum is this: Wicked men may now conduct themselves as wickedly as they please, but they shall at length feel what it is to make war against heaven. The pronoun I is also emphatical, by which God signifies that he is so far exalted above the men of this world, that the whole mass of them could not possibly obscure his glory in the least degree. As often, then, as the power of man appears formidable to us, let us remember how much it is transcended by the power of God. In these words there is set before us the unchangeable and eternal purpose of God effectually to defend, even to the end, the kingdom of his Son, of which he is the founder; and this may well support our faith amidst the troublous storms of the world. Whatever plots, therefore, men may form against it, let this one consideration be sufficient to satisfy us, that they cannot render ineffectual the anointing of God. Mention is here made of mount Sion in express terms, not because David was first anointed thereon but because at length, in God’s own time, the truth of the prophecy was manifested and actually established by the solemn rite of his consecration. And although David in these words had a regard to the promise of God, and recalled the attention of himself and others to it, yet, at the same time, he meant to signify that his own reign is holy and inseparably connected with the temple of God. But this applies more appropriately to the kingdom of Christ, which we know to be both spiritual and joined to the priesthood, and this is the principal part of the worship of God.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/08/2012 at 12:08 AM

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