Monday, August 25, 2008

Matthew Henry on God's Sovereignty



To start the week off, I'd like to share a brief clip from Matthew Henry's commentary on Romans 9. This particular chapter in Paul's letter to believers in Rome is the one that started me off on my way to a Reformed/Calvinist view of things. The doctrine of election was initially a difficult one for my human mind to grasp, but once you understand Romans 9, the rest of it begins to make sense. Here's what Matthew Henry said about verses 14-24 . . .

"The apostle, having asserted the true meaning of the promise, comes here to maintain and prove the absolute sovereignty of God, in disposing of the children of men, with reference to their eternal state. And herein God is to be considered, not as a rector and governor, distributing rewards and punishments according to His revealed laws and covenants, but as an owner and benefactor, giving to the children of men such grace and favour as He has determined in and by His secret and eternal will and counsel; both the favor of visible church-membership and privileges, which is given to some people and denied to others, and the favor of effectual grace, which is given to some particular persons and denied to others . . . He quotes that Scripture to show God's sovereignty in dispensing His favors (Exodus 33:19: I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious). All God's reasons of mercy are taken from within Himself. All of the children of men being equally plunged alike into a state of sin and misery, equally under guilt and wrath, God, in a way of sovereignty, picks out some from this fallen apostatized race, to be vessels of grace and glory. He dispenses His gifts to whom He will, without giving any reason: according to His own good pleasure He pitches upon some to be monuments of mercy and grace, preventing grace, effectual grace, while He passes by others. The expression is very emphatic, and the repetition makes it more so: I will have mercy on whom I have mercy. It imports a perfect absoluteness in God's will: He will do what He will, and giveth not account of any of His matters, nor is it fit that He should. As these great words, "I am that I am," (Exodus 3:14) do abundantly express the absolute independency of His being, so these words, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy," do as fully express the absolute prerogative and sovereignty of His will.

And God is entirely just to do so. This great doctrine gives offense to people, especially in churches whose theology is man-centered, but God isn't worried about who likes it or doesn't like it. He is entirely just. No one will be in Hell who doesn't deserve to be there.

To me, the amazing thing isn't that God elects some to salvation. The amazing thing to me is that He elects to save anybody.

2 comments:

Randy said...

Joel,

Even though I'm basically Calvinistic I have a problem with the comment "It's amazing that God would save anybody." That flies in the face of "Not willing that any perish", "That all may know eternal life", et.al.

Plus, the verse that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked shows me that God doesn't want anyone to perish.

Calvin or Armenius were just men. Even though I lean more Calivinistic I won't label myself as such. No one man had it totally right. Why in the world would Jesus die and not willing that ANY would perish?

These are just my humble thoughts. I know with your expertize in Calvin and his "Institutes" (which I don't buy into) you can probably give me a reason. Sure I know that Romans points out we are the potter and he is the clay.

I really think God calls everyone but some just refuse to accept. However with that said, they "can't" come to God unless he first draws them. That part Calvin had right.

Please take this in the spirit it was written. Just my humble thoughts and I always value your perspectives.

Your friend,

Randy

Solameanie said...

Hi, Randy..

Always glad to have you comment. No offense taken at all.

My remark is more out of my own amazement and nothing to do with Calvin or Calvinism at all. It amazes me that God saves anyone because of the level of human sin. I think my amazement also stems from the attitude some people have of making demands on God, as if God was "obligated" to save anyone. After all, the Word says "who is man to offer complaint in view of his sins?"

In a nutshell, we all need to have a more humble, thankful attitude when approaching the throne.