Do I Kings
21:27-29 and Jonah 3:4-10 Teach That There Is a
Blessing for All Men in the Preaching of the Gospel?
The First Point [of Common Grace of 1924 wrongly] teaches
that in the preaching of the gospel God evinces His general
love to all the ungodly, His pleasure in their life and His
willingness to save them all.
According to Prof.
Louis Berkhof, the same point also purposes to teach that in
the preaching of the gospel there is a temporal blessing
for all men, also for them that are not saved. He points to
the examples of Ahab, who repented and whose punishment was
postponed as a result of the preaching of Elijah (I Kings
21:27-29), and of Nineveh, that repented upon the preaching
of Jonah and was temporarily saved from destruction (Jonah
3:4-10). This is a minor point and we may dismiss it with a
few remarks. First of all, it may be remarked that this
presentation of the influence of the gospel upon the
reprobate ungodly is certainly not in harmony with our
Reformed confessions. The Heidelberg Catechism
teaches that by nature we daily increase our debt (Q.
& A. 13), that God is terribly displeased with our original
as well as our actual sins and that He will punish them in
His just judgment temporally and
eternally (Q. & A. 10). Nor is this contention in harmony
with the teaching of the Word of God. Temporal blessings
under the preaching of the gospel for the ungodly reprobate?
May I remind the professor of the terrible curse that was
threatened upon the people of Israel if they refused
to walk in the way of Jehovah? Will he read, for instance,
Deuteronomy 28? And were not these curses literally carried
out upon the ungodly nation?
The professor may
remark, perhaps, that these curses were threatened upon the
people of Israel under the law, and that they had a typical
significance. And I admit it. But are not the examples of
the professor taken from the Old Testament? True, judgment,
final judgment, was postponed in Ahab's case. But note,
That this was not
under the preaching of the gospel, but under the
announcement of most terrible judgment.
That this was not
a postponement of judgment for one that utterly refused
to listen to the Word of God, but for Ahab in as far as
he trembled still for God's terrible wrath.
That all that
took place in his case was, not that he was blessed, but
that the final execution of judgment was transferred to
the next generation. Ahab's house was not destroyed in
his own time. And thus postponement was entirely in
harmony with God's righteousness. Final judgment cannot
come till the sinner has shown himself to be utterly
hard. Ahab still fears and trembles under the
announcement of God's judgment. He assumes the
appearance of repentance. Hence, that God may appear as
perfectly just and righteous when He judges, this final
judgment is postponed till the next generation.
That Ahab did not
personally escape his punishment at all, for he died and
the dogs licked his blood.
Finally, that all
such examples clearly show how desperately the fathers
of the Three Points [of Common Grace] are in need of
some real scriptural proof for their contentions.
Regarding the case of
Nineveh, I remark that there is certainly nothing in the
Word of God to contradict the view that the men of that city
were really converted—not all, but the elect, which God for
His own prophetic purpose had in the city at that time. On
the contrary, everything is in favour of such an
interpretation of what happened in Nineveh.
The words of
Scripture that describe to us the conversion of the
Ninevites (Jonah 3:5-9).
The fact that the
Lord refers repeatedly to the sign of Jonah the prophet,
a sign of Jesus' death and burial, and His leaving of
the nation of Israel to turn to the world with the
gospel of salvation. Nineveh is, evidently, an old
dispensational type of the world from which Christ calls
His elect, and gathers His "other sheep, that are not of
The fact that the
Saviour, in words that leave no doubt as to their
meaning, asserts that the men of Nineveh repented upon
the preaching of Jonah, while the men of His own
generation refused to repent upon the preaching of One
much greater than Jonah. Sound interpretation certainly
would require us to take the word repentance each time
in the same sense. So we would maintain that, at the
time of Jonah, the Lord, for His own sovereign purpose,
chiefly of creating the prophetic sign of Jonah the
prophet, had some of His elect in the city of Nineveh,
that these repented through the preaching of Jonah, that
for a time the city was spared for their sake, while
eventually, not long after, it actually was destroyed.
Source: Herman Hoeksema,