The Covenant of Grace and Baptism

Posted in 2013: As I work through Durham’s commentary on Revelation I am reminded over and over about the covenant. When I picked up this work I expected to find a fairly standard commentary except for the classic Post Mil Historicist point of view, but I find it is often devotional and always deeply theological. Durham never fails to open up the scriptures with detailed notes and exegesis well before offering any interpretation of prophecy. This has caused me to revisit and think deeply about Baptist covenant theology, what it means to be a Baptist and is it Biblical. While meditating upon this subject I was reminded of the work quoted below and wanted to share.

A selection from the work of Thomas Patient published in 1654 on the subject of the new covenant of grace and its relation to the ordinance of baptism.

The New Covenant Is Not Entailed Upon Any Fleshly Linebaptism

This New Covenant was never entailed upon any fleshly line or generation as the Covenant of Circumcision was, but was confirmed of God in Christ, and to such souls only in Christ. This you find in the promise to Abraham, Gen. 12:3. “In thee shall all the Nations of the earth be blessed.”

Here you may observe that there is no respect of persons in the matter of these blessings to everlasting life. All Nations in Christ, one Nation as well as another, if in Christ, have those blessings promised to them. This much is employed in that promise that all nations out of Him are accursed.

What Is Meant by the Blessedness Promised to Abraham and His Seed

God here directs His speech to Abraham (some may say) it is true, but with respect to Christ now, Who, as touching the flesh, was then in his loins. This blessedness or justification of life which was confirmed in Abraham as a Father of all Nations, is by the Apostle Paul called the Gospel, Gal. 3:8. The Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the Heathen through Faith, preached the Gospel to Abraham. As it is written, “In thee shall all the Nations of the Earth be blessed:” so this blessedness spoken of in Gen. 12:3 is expounded by Paul, to be justification by faith in Christ, and in Acts 3, this blessedness is there expounded to be a turning of every one of them from their iniquities, Acts 3:26.

The Covenant of Grace in Genesis 15:5

Also, this Gospel promise or covenant is spoken of in Gen. 15:5. Here God bids Abraham look up to the Heavens and if he could number the stars of heaven and the sands upon the seashore, so shall thy seed be. Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness. This promise is quoted by the apostle Paul as the Gospel Covenant in Rom. 4:3 in opposition to the Covenant of Circumcision entailed upon the flesh or fleshly line of Abraham. Circumcision was a covenant in the flesh as the Apostle calls it, which he also expounds in the 1st and 2nd verses, to be a Covenant of Works. More of that hereafter. Only that which I would observe at present is, that the Apostle confirms that Gospel promise in Gen. 12:3 and Gen. 15:5 to be the New Covenant, wherein was given, through faith, the justification of life, excluding in this point the Covenant of Circumcision, called Works, Rom. 4:1,2.

Both Covenants Were Made With Abraham

Both these covenants are made with Abraham in Gen. 17. Here you find the New Covenant made with him to verse 6. From the 7th verse to the 14th the Covenant of Circumcision in the flesh is revealed to him. The New Covenant is expressed in the third verse. Here He says, “As for Me My covenant shall be with thee, and thou shalt be a Father of many nations, or of a multitude of nations, and thy name shall be no more called Abram but Abraham, for a Father of a multitude of nations have I made thee.” This is, by the Apostle Paul in Rom. 4:17,18, held out to be the Covenant of Life. He does clearly hold the Covenant of Life distinct and different from the Covenant of Circumcision. In that place he denies that Abraham or his spiritual seed, had their justification in the Covenant of Circumcision. He brings in this, that Abraham should be a Father of many nations, “and so shall thy seed be,” as that in which Abraham and his spiritual seed, whether of Jews or Gentiles, were and should be justified.

Genesis 18:18

This promise or Covenant is made with Abraham in Gen. 18:18. “In thee shall all the Nations of the earth be blessed.” So long as Christ was, according to the flesh, in Abraham’s loins, the promise runs thus, “in thee,” meaning that through Christ, which then was in Him, should all nations of the earth be blessed.

The Seed in Isaac

But as soon as Isaac was come out of Abraham’s loins, Gen. 22:18, then He says, “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed:” whereby seed, most strictly is to be understood of Christ, as the Apostle Paul intimates in Gal. 3:16 where he expounds this word seed, to be not seeds, as of many, but seed as of one which is Christ. So this blessedness in the Seed, Christ, is here expounded to be God’s confirming His Covenant in Christ. Note that this blessedness which David holds out to be the Covenant confirmed of God in Christ, was not entailed upon the flesh of Abraham and his fleshly seed, but made in Abraham as a Father of all the Spiritual Seed in all nations. It was confirmed in the seed, Christ, to all nations.

Here the Jews, after the flesh, have no more interest than any other nation, except it be by faith. Faith only unites to this seed and gives an in-being in the same.

The Elect Were Blessed and the Rest Were Hardened

This blessedness is expounded by David in Psalm 32, last verse, to lie in remission of sins and purgation of the heart from guile and expounded by the Apostle in Acts 3, last verse, “to be a turning every one from his iniquities.” There Peter expounds this blessedness which was confirmed in Abraham and his seed. Though Christ did fulfill this Covenant to the Elect of the Jews, the rest were hardened. They were never in this sense blessed, either in the point of justification or purgation from sin, because they were never in Christ, the true seed, by faith, nor were they ever the spiritual seed of Abraham, walking in the steps of his faith as all his spiritual seed did, Rom. 4:12 and Gal. 3:29. “If you be in Christ, then are you Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Abraham and His Spiritual Seed in Christ Are Those in the Covenant of Grace

I have showed you from the clear light of Scripture that there were two covenants, a Covenant of Grace, and a Covenant of Works. The Covenant of Grace belongs to Abraham and his spiritual seed in Christ. All along from Adam to all the spiritual seed of the Woman, there are those who were born of promise as the Apostle describes the spiritual seed in Rom. 9:8. He says, “such are accounted the seed, that are so born of promise.” So at this day all nations, both Jews and Gentiles who are born again, are the seed and children. They only have an interest in the promise of salvation.

THE Doctrine of Baptism, AND THE Distinction of the COVENANTS; OR A Plain Christian Treatise, explaining the Doctrine of Baptism, and the two Covenants made with Abraham, and his two-fold Seed.

Advertisements

Toward a Covenantal Theology

Posted back in 2011 (I believe): It’s probably fair to say that most Calvinistic, Particular or “Reformed” Baptists feel peer pressure to pursue the study of paedobaptist covenantalism. I have been personally told on numerous occasions that I should move toward a “full” covenant theology and embrace the baptism of infants “into the covenant.” In an effort to deal with my Reformed brothers and sisters honestly I have taken the the time to understand the reasons for paedobaptism and still cannot agree with the practice. Over the years I have been blessed by more than a few titles that helped me move toward and define my Baptist covenant theology. In an effort to help others along I decided to create a list of books I consider essential reading on the subject, titles that I own, have read and will continue to re-read for years to come. This is not a definitive list of titles but a list to get you going in the right direction. Some of them I have mentioned before.

1divinecovenants) Most Particular Baptists have heard of A. W. Pink but not all Particular Baptists have heard or read his work on the covenants. The Divine Covenants can be read online for free which I how is read it the first time. I ordered a physical copy (so I could mark up and underline) from Pietan Publications via email for under $15 bucks. Solid deal.

believersbaptism

2) The second book on the Baptist shelf isn’t a slam dunk but it is important because the editor included choice articles that deal with patristics, the logic behind paedobaptism and the relationship one covenant has to another. Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ is part of the New American Commentary Studies in Bible & Theology published by B&H Academic.

infantbaptism

3) Baptism in the Early Church by H. F. Stander & J. P. Louw is one of the most interesting I have read. Both Stander and Louw are Reformed and therefore baptize infants. They examine passages often sited as proof for infant baptism from the early church including art work. They arrive at a decidedly credobaptist position.baptism

4) Paedobaptist covenant theology finds its fullest expression in the pronouncements of the Westminster Standards. Dr. Gary Crampton moved From Padeobaptism to Credobaptism as the title of his short work suggests offering a critique of the Westminster Standards in relation to baptism.

coxe5) One of the most important works for Particular Baptists to have been reprinted is Covenant Theology: From Adam To Christ by Nehemiah Coxe and John Owen. Coxe explains the differences of the old and new covenant, the difference between promise and fulfillment, who receives baptism is a give in after all the theological dust settles. For years I had referred to my own understanding of covenant theology as “modified” covenantalism only to find, with great joy, Coxe and Owen expressed the same theology with an emphasis on republication of the covenant of works at Sinai. Awesome read.

baptism

6) Last title on the list will add to your understanding of how covenant theology was expressed by Baptists and some Presbyterians during the 17th century. Many of our Particular Baptist fathers agreed with other non-conformists on the republican of the covenant at Sinai which was latter rejected by the Westminster Assembly. Dr. Beeke has a chapter in A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life titled The Minority Report in which he describes the idea of republication as being held by a minority of those in attendance at Westminster. Was it truly a minority view or the minority view held by those in attendance? Pascal Denault’s work titled The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology walks you through some important documents pertaining to covenant theology and the issues the church struggled with at the time. This work is key in tying up loose ends.

gillrebound3Honourable Mention: A Complete Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity by John Gill. No matter where I go in my theological study I just can’t shake Dr. Voluminous. He is the only man to write a COMPLETE verse-by-verse exposition of the ENTIRE Bible. Others have come close to matching this task but do in fact skip verses, bunch them together or died leaving the jgillwork for others to complete. Dr. John Gill’s work on the covenant differs in places from the work of Nehemiah Coxe and therefore the London Baptist Confession 1689, but you will benefit from reading his works, using his commentaries and taking time to ruminate on these deep truths. At one time Valley Gospel Mission Books in Canada offered the 3 volume paperback set listed for $37.

I pray this post was useful.

Yours in the Lord,

jm

The Westminster Assembly Debates Credopaedobaptism

Worth a read.

Particular Voices

In the seventeenth-century polemics of paedobaptism and credobaptism, one of the common arguments asserted by the English Particular Baptists was that their paedobaptist brothers agreed that a profession of faith was a necessary prerequisite for baptism. To make their point, Particular Baptists like Andrew Ritor, Benjamin Coxe, William Kiffin, Hanserd Knollys, and Thomas Patient appealed to the catechism of the Church of England, which was appended to the Book of Common Prayer. The catechism specifically required a profession of faith and repentance before admission to baptism. Here is the portion to which they referred:Church of England Catechism in Book of Common Prayer

The Particular Baptists viewed this as inconsistent credobaptism, or perhaps we could call it “credopaedobaptism.” If actual repentance and faith were necessary, how could these be promised by parents or godparents? Given their strong Calvinism, the idea of promising actual faith and repentance (which could only be given by God) for another was an absurdity. To the Particular Baptists…

View original post 132 more words

A Father’s Resolutions by Cotton Mather

Cotton_MatherPARENTS, Oh! how much ought you to be continually devising for the good of your children! Often device how to make them “wise children”; how to give them a desirable education, an education that may render them desirable; how to render them lovely and polite, and serviceable in their generation. Often devise how to enrich their minds with valuable knowledge; how to instill generous, gracious, and heavenly principles into their minds; how to restrain and rescue them from the paths of the destroyer, and fortify them against their peculiar temptations. There is a world of good that you have to do for them. You are without the natural feelings of humanity if you are not in a continual agony to do for them all the good that ever you can. It was no mistake of an ancient writer to say, “Nature teaches us to love our children as ourselves.”

RESOLVED—

  1. At the birth of my children, I will resolve to do all I can that they may be the Lord’s. I will now actually give them up by faith to God; entreating that each child may be a child of God the Father, a subject of God the Son, a temple of God the Spirit—and be rescued from the condition of a child of wrath, and be possessed and employed by the Lord as an everlasting instrument of His glory.
  2. As soon as my children are capable of minding my admonitions, I will often, often admonish them, saying, “Child, God has sent His son to die, to save sinners from death and hell. You must not sin against Him. You must every day cry to God that He would be your Father, and your Saviour, and your Leader. You must renounce the service of Satan, you must not follow the vanities of this world, you must lead a life of serious religion.
  3. Let me daily pray for my children with constancy, with fervency, with agony. Yea, by name let me mention each one of them every day before the Lord. I will importunately beg for all suitable blessings to be bestowed upon them: that God would give them grace, and give them glory, and withhold no good thing from them; that God would smile on their education, and give His good angels the charge over them, and keep them from evil, that it may not grieve them; that when their father and mother shall forsake them, the Lord may take them up. With importunity I will plead that promise on their behalf: “The Heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit unto them that ask Him.” Oh! happy children, if by asking I may obtain the Holy Spirit for them!
  4. I will early entertain the children with delightful stories out of the Bible. In the talk of the table, I will go through the Bible, when the olive-plants about my table are capable of being so watered. But I will always conclude the stories with some lessons of piety to be inferred from them.
  5. I will single out some Scriptural sentences of the greatest importance; and some also that have special antidotes in them against the common errors and vices of children. They shall quickly get those golden sayings by heart, and be rewarded with silver or gold, or some good thing, when they do it. Such as,
    • Psalm 11:10—”The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
    • Matthew 16:26—”What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
    • 1 Timothy 1:15—”Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”
    • Matthew 6:6—”When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret.”
    • Ephesians 4:25—”Putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour.”
    • Romans 12:17, 19—”Recompense to no man evil for evil . . .. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves.”
  6. Jewish treatise tells us that among the Jews, when a child began to speak, the father was bound to teach him Deuteronomy 33:4—”Moses commanded us a law, even the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob.” Oh! let me early make my children acquainted with the Law which our blessed Jesus has commanded us! ‘Tis the best inheritance I can give them.
  7. I will cause my children to learn the Catechism. In catechizing them, I will break the answers into many lesser and proper questions; and by their answer to them, observe and quicken their understandings. I will bring every truth into some duty and practice, and expect them to confess it, and consent unto it, and resolve upon it. As we go on in our catechizing, they shall, when they are able, turn to the proofs and read them, and say to me what they prove and how. Then, I will take my times, to put nicer and harder questions to them; and improve the times of conversation with my family (which every man ordinarily has or may have) for conferences on matters of religion.
  8. Restless will I be till I may be able to say of my children, “Behold, they pray!” I will therefore teach them to pray. But after they have learnt a form of prayer, I will press them to proceed unto points that are not in their form. I will charge them with all possible cogency to pray in secret; and often call upon them, “Child, I hope, you don’t forget my charge to you, about secret prayer: your crime is very great if you do!”
  9. I will do what I can very early to beget a temper of kindness in my children, both toward one another and toward all other people. I will instruct them how ready they should be to share with others a part of what they have; and they shall see my encouragements when they discover a loving, a courteous, an helpful disposition. I will give them now and then a piece of money, so that with their own little hands they may dispense unto the poor. Yea, if any one has hurt them, or vexed them, I will not only forbid them all revenge, but also oblige them to do a kindness as soon as may be to the vexatious person. All coarseness of language or carriage in them, I will discountenance.
  10. I will be solicitous to have my children expert, not only at reading handsomely, but also at writing a fair hand. I will then assign them such books to read as I may judge most agreeable and profitable; obliging them to give me some account of what they read; but keep a strict eye upon them, that they don’t stumble on the Devil’s library, and poison themselves with foolish romances, or novels, or plays, or songs, or jests that are not convenient. I will set them also, to write out such things as may be of the greatest benefit unto them; and they shall have their blank books, neatly kept on purpose, to enter such passages as I advise them to. I will particularly require them now and then to write a prayer of their own composing, and bring it unto me; that so I may discern what sense they have of their own everlasting interests.
  11. I wish that my children may as soon as may be, feel the principles of reason and honor working in them—and that I may carry on their education, very much upon those principles. Therefore, first, I will wholly avoid that harsh, fierce, crabbed usage of the children that would make them tremble and abhor to come into my presence. I will treat them so that they shall fear to offend me, and yet mightily love to see me, and be glad of my coming home if I have been abroad at any time. I will have it looked upon as a severe and awful punishment to be forbidden for awhile to come into my presence. I will raise in them an high opinion of their father’s love to them, and of his being better able to judge what is good for them than they are for themselves. I will bring them to believe ’tis best for them to be and do as I will have them. Hereupon I will continually magnify the matter to them, what a brave thing ’tis to know the things that are excellent; and more brave to do the things that are virtuous. I will have them to propose it as a reward of their well-doing at any time, I will now go to my father, and he will teach me something that I was never taught before. I will have them afraid of doing any base thing, from an horror of the baseness in it. My first response to finding a lesser fault in them shall be a surprise, a wonder, vehemently expressed before them, that ever they should be guilty of doing so foolishly; a vehement belief that they will never do the like again; a weeping resolution in them, that they will not. I will never dispense a blow, except it be for an atrocious crime or for a lesser fault obstinately persisted in; either for an enormity, or for an obstinacy. I will always proportion the chastisements to the miscarriages; neither smiting bitterly for a very small piece of childishness nor frowning only a little for some real wickedness. Nor shall my chastisement ever be dispensed in a passion and a fury; but I will first show them the command of God, by transgressing whereof they have displeased me. The slavish, raving, fighting way of discipline is too commonly used. I look upon it as a considerable article in the wrath and curse of God upon a miserable world.
  12. As soon as we can, we’ll get up to yet higher principles. I will often tell the children what cause they have to love a glorious Christ, who has died for them. And how much He will be well-pleased with their well-doing. And what a noble thing ’tis to follow His example; which example I will describe unto them. I will often tell them that the eye of God is upon them; the great God knows all they do and hears all they speak. I will often tell them that there will be a time when they must appear before the Judgment-Seat of the holy Lord; and they must now do nothing that may then be a grief and shame unto them. I will set before them the delights of that Heaven that is prepared for pious children; and the torments of that Hell that is prepared of old for naughty ones. I will inform them of the good things the good angels do for little ones that have the fear of God and are afraid of sin. And how the devils tempt them to do ill things; how they hearken to the devils, and are like them, when they do such things; and what mischiefs the devils may get leave to do them in this world, and what a sad thing ’twill be, to be among the devils in the Place of Dragons. I will cry to God, that He will make them feel the power of these principles.
  13. When the children are of a fit age for it, I will sometimes closet them; have them with me alone; talk with them about the state of their souls; their experiences, their proficiencies, their temptations; obtain their declared consent unto every jot nd tittle of the gospel; and then pray with them, and weep unto the Lord for His grace, to be bestowed upon them, and make them witnesses of the agony with which I am travailing to see the image of Christ formed in them. Certainly, they’ll never forget such actions!
  14. I will be very watchful and cautious about the companions of my children. I will be very inquisitive what company they keep; if they are in hazard of being ensnared by any vicious company, I will earnestly pull them out of it, as brands out of the burning. I will find out, and procure, laudable companions for them.
  15. As in catechizing the children, so in the repetition of the public sermons, I will use this method. I will put every truth into a question to be answered with Yes or No. By this method I hope to awaken their attention as well as enlighten their understanding. And thus I shall have an opportunity to ask, “Do you desire such or such a grace of God?” and the like. Yea, I may have opportunity to demand, and perhaps to obtain their early and frequent (and why not sincere?) consent unto the glorious gospel. The Spirit of Grace may fall upon them in this action; and they may be seized by Him, and held as His temples, through eternal ages.
  16. When a Day of Humiliation arrives, I will make them know the meaning of the day. And after time given them to consider of it, I will order them to tell me what special afflictions they have met with, and what good they hope to get by those afflictions. On a Day of Thanksgiving, they shall also be made to know the intent of the Day. And after consideration, they shall tell me what mercies of God unto them they take special notice of, and what duties to God they confess and resolve under such obligations. Indeed, for something of this importance, to be pursued in my conversation with the children, I will not confine myself unto the solemn days, which may occur too seldom for it. Very particularly, on the birthdays of the children, I will take them aside, and mind them of the age which (by God’s grace) they are come unto; how thankful they should be for the mercies of God which they have hitherto lived upon; how fruitful they should be in all goodness, that so they may still enjoy their mercies. And I will inquire of them whether they have ever yet begun to mind the work which God sent them into the world upon; how far they understand the work; and what good strokes they have struck at it; and, how they design to spend the rest of their time, if God still continue them in the world.
  17. When the children are in any trouble—if they be sick, or pained—I will take advantage therefrom, to set before them the evil of sin, which brings all our trouble; and how fearful a thing it will be to be cast among the damned, who are in ceaseless and endless trouble. I will set before them the benefit of an interest in a CHRIST, by which their trouble will be sanctified unto them, and they will be prepared for death, and for fullness of joy in a happy eternity after death.
  18. Among all the points of education which I will endeavor for my children, I hope to see that each of them—the daughters as well as the sons—may gain insight into some skill that lies in the way of gain (however their own inclination may most carry them), so that they may be able to subsist themselves, and get something of a livelihood, in case the Providence of God should bring them into necessities. Why not they as well as Paul the Tent-Maker! The children of the best fashion, may have occasion to bless the parents that make such a provision for them! The Jews have a saying worth remembering: “Whoever doesn’t teach his son some trade or business, teaches him to be a thief.”
  19. As soon as ever I can, I will make my children apprehensive of the main end for which they are to live; that so they may as soon as may be, begin to live; and their youth not be nothing but vanity. I will show them, that their main end must be, to, acknowledge the great God, and His glorious Christ; and bring others to acknowledge Him: and that they are never wise nor well, but when they are doing so. I will make them able to answer the grand question of why they live; and what is the end of the actions that fill their lives? I will teach them that their Creator and Redeemer is to be obeyed in everything, and everything is to be done in obedience to Him. I will teach them how even their diversions, and their ornaments, and the tasks of their education, must all be to fit them for the further service of Him to whom I have devoted them; and how in these also, His commandments must be the rule of all they do. I will sometimes therefore surprise them with an inquiry, “Child, what is this for? Give me a good account of why you do it?” How comfortably shall I see them walking in the light, if I may bring them wisely to answer this inquiry.
  20. I will oblige the children to retire sometimes, and ponder on that question: “What shall I wish to have done, if I were now a-dying?”—and report unto me their own answer to the question; of which I will then take advantage, to inculcate the lessons of godliness upon them.
  21. If I live to see the children marriageable, I will, before I consult with Heaven and earth for their best accommodation in the married state, endeavor the espousal of their souls unto their only Saviour. I will as plainly, and as fully as I can, propose unto them the terms on which the glorious Redeemer would espouse them to Himself, in righteousness, judgment, and favor and mercies forever; and solicit their consent unto His proposals and overtures. Then would I go on, to do what may be expected from a tender parent for them, in their temporal circumstances.”
—Cotton Mather

1689 Federalism compared to Westminster Federalism

“What is the nature of the federal union of an unregenerate person in the covenant of grace to Jesus Christ, and do they remain under Adam’s federal headship in spite of being in the covenant of grace (?) which is to say, can you be in the covenant of works and the covenant of grace at the same time? We would assert that you cannot.”

Does loving our enemies…establish God’s love for them?

love_of_god

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, 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. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48 King James Version (KJV)

Prof. Herman Hanko on Matthew 5 and God’s Love:

In general, there is no question about it that this is a key passage in the defense of God’s attitude of grace and love towards all men. Every defender of common grace that I have read or listened to has quoted this text as decisive in the debate. And all defenders of common grace assure us that this passage ought to mark the end of all debate.

The text itself reads: “But I say unto you, 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 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 unjust.”

The argument as I understand it goes like this. God sends rain on the just and on the unjust. The common rain that God sends is proof of His favor, love, kindness, etc. towards the unregenerate. Rain is God’s common grace.

Sometimes the argument is turned around, in the interests of showing that all who receive rain actually do receive favor. The argument goes like this: We are called to do good to the just and to the unjust. For us that doing good to the just and unjust includes all men without any distinction, or, at least, includes elect and reprobate alike, for we are unable to distinguish between them. Because we are imitating God as His children, in doing good to all, God also does good to all.

We may not, however, argue from our calling to love our neighbor as ourselves to God’s attitude of favor towards all men. We are creatures, living here in the world, in the world though not of the world. God is God, sovereign over all who does all His good pleasure. Known unto God are all His works from the beginning. We do not know who are God’s elect and who are reprobate. But God does know, for He determines it all. We ought to keep this in mind.

An important question that arises from the text is: Whom does Jesus mean by “the just and unjust” upon whom God sends rain? Does Jesus mean: good men in this world and bad men in this world? That is, men who deserve rain and sunshine and men who do not? The answer, very obviously, is: The text cannot mean that, for there are no just people in the world, for “there is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom 3:10).

Does it then mean to distinguish between those who are righteous because the perfect satisfaction for sin earned on the cross has been imputed to them, and those who are still in their sins and not righteous in Christ? That is, is the distinction between just and unjust a distinction between elect and reprobate? It would seem that the latter would have to be the meaning. But then the text means only, as we have repeatedly observed, that God manifests that He is a good God by giving good things to men, something no one denies. The question still remains: What is God’s attitude and purpose behind these good gifts? And then Psalm 73 and Proverbs 3:33 give us the answer.

But the whole idea that God loves the reprobate is an imposition on the text of man’s own devising.

A positive explanation of the text would, I think, be helpful.

Actually, I dealt with some of the issues in this verse in my last letters and I ask the reader to consult what I wrote there. There is some repetition here, therefore, but perhaps the points are worth repeating.

Before I take our journey through this text, it is necessary to put the text into its context. In the broader context Scripture gives us Jesus’ words in His Sermon on the Mount. This sermon is spoken to the disciples and, more broadly, to all citizens of the kingdom of heaven. The Sermon on the Mount has frequently and rightly been called, “The Constitution of the Kingdom of Heaven.” After describing the characteristics of the citizens of the kingdom in the Beatitudes, the Lord lays down fundamental principles that govern the lives of these citizens while they are still in this world. Note this: Jesus is laying down principles of conduct to be observed by those who are citizens of the kingdom.

In the section of which verses 44, 45 are a part, beginning with verse 21, Jesus is explaining how He did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. And in connection with His calling and work to fulfill the law, He condemns the keeping of the law as it was explained by the scribes and Pharisees. They saw the law only as an external code of conduct and paid no attention to the spiritual demands of the law: Love God, and love thy neighbor. Even to the command, Love thy neighbor, the Pharisees had added the command, Hate thy enemy (verse 43). This interpretation was indeed what the Pharisees taught, for in verses 46 and 47 the Lord adds, “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans the same?”

The evil interpretation of the law by the Pharisees was basically a self-centered conceit: I will be nice only to those who are nice to me . . . .

In other words, the command of God to love our neighbors as ourselves had been corrupted and abused by the self-righteous Pharisees and scribes. They had interpreted “neighbor” as referring to their brethren, and, even more narrowly, to those who loved them. The Lord warns the citizens of the kingdom not to do as the Pharisees, for that is not the law of God.

But the Pharisees forgot that the command to love our neighbor is rooted in and flows from the command to love God. We cannot love our neighbor without loving God. And, indeed, our love for our neighbor is a manifestation of our love for God. Furthermore, the love the citizens of the kingdom who love God must show to others is a manifestation of the fact that they are loved by God (I John 4:19). The Pharisees, when they interpreted the command, “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” and interpreted it to mean that we are to love those who love us, immediately had to face the question: Does God love those who love Him? What a foolish question to ask. The answer obviously is, He does not! Jesus’ answer demonstrates that God loves those who hate Him, though they be elect.

The term “neighbor” in the law of God is broader by far than our brethren and those who love us. That it has a broader connotation is evident from the parable of “The Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:25-37). In this parable Jesus explains that we are neighbors to anyone whom we meet or walk with on our life’s pathway, who is in need of our help. That means that our neighbors are not only those who unexpectedly cross our pathway and need our help, but also those with whom we walk on life’s pathway every moment of our lives, but who need our help: our wives or husbands, our children, out fellow saints . . . . Quite frankly, I have a great deal of difficulty accepting the hypocritically pious prating of the ministers who are continuously telling us to love our neighbor, but who divorce their own wives and marry others. Let them first love their neighbor nearest to them, their wives and their children.

For all that, we are also called to love the neighbor who is quite obviously an unbeliever. That is, we are called to love our neighbor without discriminating between those who love us and those who persecute us. We are not to love those only who love us. God does not love those who love Him. God does not love those who make themselves worthy of His love. He loves us, the worst of sinners. If we are children of our Father, therefore, we love those who do not love us. But those whom God loves are those wicked and undeserving people who are nevertheless those for whom Christ died.

The point of comparison between God’s love and our love is: God loves unworthy sinners (though they are the elect whom God knows) and we are to love unworthy sinners (though we do not know elect from reprobate.) In doing so we imitate our Father in heaven.

We may very well ask the question: Why does God want us to love our neighbor and not only our brethren? The very obvious answer to that question is: We do not know who are our brethren (or will become our brethren), and who are not. That is why the Pharisees interpreted the command to love our neighbor as referring to those who love them. If, said the Pharisees, a person loves us, he must be one of our brethren and we ought to love him.

This was very perverse and wicked. We do not even know with absolute certainty who among our brethren are truly people of God; much less do we know of those outside the circle of our brethren who are true people of God. Luther was right when he said that there would be many in heaven who surprised him by their presence, and there would be many he thought to meet in heaven who were not there. Hypocrites are to be found in the church and God’s people are to be found outside the circle of “brethren”, though they may as yet be unconverted. God knows who are His own; we do not know with absolute certainty. Nor need we know. It is enough for us to live in fellowship with those who manifest themselves as faithful servants of Christ, with whom we live in our homes and in the communion of the saints. Going back all the way to Calvin and our Reformed fathers after him and following them, we must exercise towards those who profess to be believers “the judgment of charity,” or “the judgment of love.”

But God is pleased to save His church from the world of unbelief. He is pleased to save His church by the preaching of the gospel. The effect of the preaching of the gospel is that God’s people are His witnesses in the world of sin; and the witness of God’s people is itself the power of the preaching within them. God uses the witness of Christians to bring His people outside the church into the fellowship of the saints and under the preaching. This is God’s reason for the command to love our neighbor.

As Jesus makes clear, our neighbor is anyone who comes in our pathway: our wives or husbands, our children, our fellow saints, the man next to us in the shop, the man who knocks on our door to ask for food, the man who threatens us with harm, the man who persecutes us – these and all the rest who, if only fleetingly, enter our lives. God brings them there. God has His purpose in bringing them there. That purpose is to hear our witness of what God has done for us. We do good to those on our pathway whom God has put there.

We who are husbands surely seek the salvation of our wives. We do all we can to help them fulfill their own calling in the home and in the church. We surely seek the salvation of our children, for we teach them the ways of God’s covenant and insist that they walk in those ways. We surely seek the salvation of our fellow saints, for we earnestly desire to go to heaven with them.

The command to love our neighbor is broader than showing love to our acquaintances. We are to love those whose pathway crosses our pathway and who, like the wounded Samaritan, block our path so that we have to go around them if we are to ignore them. God put him on our pathway and did so for a good purpose.

(end quote)pink

A. W. Pink concurs:

“‘Thou hatest all workers of iniquity’—not merely the works of iniquity. Here, then, is a flat repudiation of present teaching that, God hates sin but loves the sinner; Scripture says, ‘Thou hatest all workers of iniquity’ (Ps. 5:5)! ‘God is angry with the wicked every day.’ ‘He that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God’—not ‘shall abide,’ but even now—‘abideth on him’ (Ps. 5:5; 8:11; John 3:36). Can God ‘love’ the one on whom His ‘wrath’ abides? Again; is it not evident that the words ‘The love of God which is in Christ Jesus’ (Rom. 8:39) mark a limitation, both in the sphere and objects of His love? Again; is it not plain from the words ‘Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated’ (Rom. 9:13) that God does not love everybody? … Is it conceivable that God will love the damned in the Lake of Fire? Yet, if He loves them now He will do so then, seeing that His love knows no change—He is ‘without variableness or shadow of turning!’” (A. W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God)