October 2014 • Volume XV, Issue 6
The Voice Crying in the Wilderness (1)
Notice what the Bible highlights regarding John the
Baptist. It is not his face or body for he is not a model.
It is not his personality for he is not a celebrity.
It is not his hands as if he were a craftsman. It is not
his feet as though he were a runner or an athlete.
Scripture highlights John’s “voice.”
This is not because it had a beautiful or melodious pitch
or tone. John’s voice is emphasized because of what it
proclaimed: God’s Word! John is called a “voice” because he
was a preacher sent by the Lord. John’s was a voice “crying”
with power and urgency because of the greatness and burden of its
John’s voice cried in the wilderness, where all was still
and silent until his proclamation split the air. This is
Isaiah 40:3, quoted by all four of the evangelists: “The
voice of one crying in the wilderness” (Matt. 3:3; Mark
1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23).
And what is the proper response to a voice, especially a
voice declaring God’s Word and crying with force and vigour? One must
listen to such a voice!
The time when the voice cried is carefully delineated
in Luke 3:1-2. Seven men are mentioned: Tiberius Caesar (the
Roman emperor), four regional rulers of greater Palestine
(Pontius Pilate, Herod Antipas, Philip and Lysanias)
and two Jewish High Priests (Annas and Caiaphas). Luke even
states precisely when the voice began to cry: “in the
fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar” (Luke 3:1). Scholars
say this was AD 26. This remarkable temporal identification would
be like someone in a UK context speaking of the nth year of
A, the British monarch, when B was the Prime Minister
of the UK and C, D and E were the First Ministers of
Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland, and F was the Archbishop
of Canterbury with G his designated successor.
The birth of Jesus Christ is dated according to the
reigns of only two people (Luke 2:1-2), whereas the beginning of John
the Baptist’s ministry is dated according to the reigns of seven
people with even the year of the emperor’s reign being given (Luke
3:1-2). The beginning of Jesus Christ’s ministry was a few months
later and His crucifixion and resurrection occurred a few years later.
Luke is often called “the historian” in part because of the dates he gives
(2:1-2; 3:1-2) and the effort and care he took in his inspired gospel
account (1:1-4; cf. Acts 1:1f.). Luke the historian fixes the beginning of
John’s ministry so carefully because his voice in the wilderness ended the
400 silent years and heralded the coming of the promised Messiah and the
kingdom of heaven! Rev. Stewart
Contact us for a box set of six CDs or DVDs on “John the
Baptist’s Public Ministry (I)” by Rev. Stewart (£8 inc. P&P) or
listen free on-line or
watch free on YouTube.
Did Christ Die for Everybody?
Recently in the News, I have been explaining the truth of
God’s irresistible grace (vol. XV, issues 3-4) in response
to a brother who wanted assistance in his discussions with
an Arminian. The Arminian claimed that grace can be
resisted. This error leads to another error: all men receive
grace to accept Christ. This, in turn, leads to another
error: Christ died for everybody, head for head.
The brother wrote, “The argument of the Arminian in
connection with John 12:47 is ‘Grace is not irresistible,
because otherwise the whole world would be saved ... This
text is good [i.e., proves the point] because it gives no
chance to the Calvinist to say that the word “world” means
“world of the elect ...” The text cannot be talking about
the internal or external call. The text says that Jesus came
to save the world.’”
The question we face, therefore, is whether or not the
Scriptures teach that Christ died for every person, head for
head, so that by His death Christ made salvation available
to every person who ever lives. This, according to those who
claim that Christ did die for every human being, is taught
by Scripture’s use of the words “world” and “all” when they
are used in connection with His cross. The main texts to
which appeal is made are John 3:16, I Timothy 2:4, I John
2:2 and such like verses.
It is interesting that these passages have all been quoted
by those who make salvation dependent upon the will of man.
This has been the case since the early history of the
church. The Semi-Pelagians were guilty of this. Roman
Catholicism taught and teaches this doctrine. Although none
of the Reformers taught any such thing, the Arminians and
Amyraldians taught it. As Arminianism swept Europe and
America, the same doctrine became the common view of a
church that was falling away from the truth.
But the historical fact is that the Reformers, the great
synods of Dordt (1618-1619) and Westminster in the 1640s,
and the best theologians in the Reformed and Presbyterian
traditions rejected such perversions of the truth. With one
accord, they explained the texts in question in a way
agreeable to the whole of Scripture and in keeping with the
truth of God’s sovereignty. The interpretations of the words
“world” and “all” have always been the interpretations of
heretics and Roman Catholics with their perverted religion
of salvation by the will and works of man.
The word “all” that is found in such passages as I Timothy
2:4 has consistently been understood as referring to all
classes and all kinds of people, and not everyone head for
head. This interpretation is in keeping with the whole of
Scripture and makes most sense in the immediate context. It
defines the church as truly catholic, that is, gathered from
the entire world. We use the word “all” in the same sense. I
read an article in a local newspaper which described a bad
fire and remarked, “All of the city were at the fire.”
People from hospitals? New-born babies? Aged folk who are
bed-ridden? Obviously not. The statement meant: “People from
all parts of the city.”
In many places, the word “world” has been interpreted
correctly as referring to believers: the world of believers.
This is the context of the verses themselves, as anyone who
reads John 3:16 can learn by himself. The text needs no
interpretation if one explains God’s Word by the well-known
rule: Scripture interprets Scripture. Spurgeon has well
said, “There is nowhere in the Bible where the word ‘world’
means all men head for head.”
You can find quotations from a long list of theologians who
held firmly to the Scriptures and did not try to twist it to
suit their own fancies on the website of the Covenant
Protestant Reformed Church (www.cprf.co.uk/calvinismresources.htm).
That web page also contains a link to a manuscript that I
wrote (The History of the Free Offer) that will, in revised
form, soon be published, DV. It provides quotations,
beginning with Augustine (354-430) and throughout the whole
history of the church, that reject the interpretation that
Christ died for all men absolutely.
The true meaning of the word “world,” when used positively
of mankind, is, as Scripture teaches, the world of eternal
election and sovereign salvation: the universal church of
all believers. God chose us individually so that our names
are written in the book of life. God gave us to Christ who
died for us (read the whole of John 17 for it is powerful).
We are brought into the church by the work of the ascended
Christ, through His Spirit, who gathers, defends, preserves
and saves to the uttermost those given Him of His Father. We
are the true world. We are called that because we are
redeemed and saved from every nation, tribe, country, race
and people in the world. We are destined to live with Christ
Furthermore, the word “world” reminds us that God saves the
entire cosmos, the universe, the whole creation. He created
it; He loves it as His own work; He will not let Satan and
the wicked world take it from Him; He will glorify it along
with His people. That is the “cosmos,” the cosmos of God’s
eternal purpose (Rom. 8:19-23; Gen. 9:8-17; Col. 1:13-20).
But there is more. Those who claim that Christ died for all
men destroy the cross. That is a terrible sin.
Consider: If the Arminian is right, Christ shed His precious
blood for people who are never saved. If Christ’s blood,
shed on Calvary, cannot save those for whom He died, it can
save no one. It has been well said, “A Christ for everyone
is a Christ for no one.” Those who teach this must be
careful that they do not crucify the Son of God afresh,
because for them there is no repentance (Heb. 6:4-6).
Consider: If only those are saved who by their own free will
agree to be saved by believing in Christ, then salvation is
dependent on us and God cannot do anything without our
consent and help. Such subtracts from the infinitely
powerful One who does all His good pleasure (Ps. 115:3;
135:6). It is not the true God revealed in the Scriptures,
but a god of man’s imagination, an idol.
Consider that the one and only God of all glory now shares
His glory with puny, sinful, wicked man because God can do
nothing without man’s help (Eph. 2:8-10)!
Consider: Such terrible views of God make the church a
motley throng, a mob, a mass of people, a crowd of those who
happen to decide to believe in Christ; when, in fact, the
church is a glorious temple in which each elect saint has
his own eternally prepared place (Eph. 2:20-22; I Pet.
Consider: When all the nations of the earth are as
grasshoppers in God’s sight (Isa. 40:22), less than a speck
of dust in the balance or a drop hanging on the outside rim
of a bucket (15)—and totally depraved as well—that the
everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth (28),
the Wholly Other, the God of infinite perfection, the God of
glory greater than all the universe, is dependent on me. It
makes me shiver in horror to write it.
Let every Arminian remember that he must stand before the
judgment seat of Christ and answer especially this one
question: What did you do with Christ? Do you want to be
among those who say, “I made Christ an ineffectual Saviour
who depended on human help?” I for one have no need of such
a Saviour. I need one who can save by power that is divine.
Canons of Dordt II, Of the Death of Christ and the
Redemption of Men Thereby
Article 8. For this was the sovereign counsel and most
gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the
quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of
His Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon
them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring
them infallibly to salvation; that is, it was the will of
God that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby He
confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of
every people, tribe, nation, and language all those, and
those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and
given to Him by the Father; that He should confer upon them
faith, which, together with all the other saving gifts of
the Holy Spirit, He purchased for them by His death; should
purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether
committed before or after believing; and, having faithfully
preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them
free from every spot and blemish to the enjoyment of glory
in His own presence forever.
Article 9. This purpose, proceeding from everlasting love
towards the elect, has from the beginning of the world to
this day been powerfully accomplished, and will henceforward
still continue to be accomplished, notwithstanding all the
ineffectual opposition of the gates of hell, so that the
elect in due time may be gathered together into one, and
that there never may be wanting a church composed of
believers, the foundation of which is laid in the blood of
Christ, which may steadfastly love and faithfully serve Him
as their Saviour, who as a bridegroom for His bride, laid
down His life for them upon the cross, and which may
celebrate His praises here and through all eternity.
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