Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Second Sunday in Lent.

The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect from the First Day of Lent is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the Day.

Daily Bible Verse

Friday, July 06, 2012

The 1662 Book of Common Prayer: God Does Not Desire the Death of the Wicked?

WHEN the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive. Ezek. xviii. 27. Evening Prayer, 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

In discussions and debate with Arminians and those who unwittingly profess doctrines in agreement with Arminianism Ezekiel 18:27 and Ezekiel 18:23 immediately enter into the discussion. Does God take pleasure in the death of the wicked? According to the Arminians, Anglo-Catholics, Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox the answer is a flat, unqualified no. But is it true? A brief survey of the Bible and interpreting these verses in the context of the Bible as a whole will answer this question definitively.

On at least one occasion the 1662 Book of Common Prayer does mention the fact that God does not desire the death of any man. That occurrence is in the gospel absolution said by the minister after the congregation says a common confession of sin together:

The Absolution or Remission of sins to be pronounced by the Priest alone, standing: the people still kneeling.
ALMIGHTY God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from his wickedness, and live; and hath given power, and commandment, to his Ministers, to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the Absolution and Remission of their sins : He pardoneth and absolveth all them that truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his holy Gospel. Wherefore let us beseech him to grant us true repentance, and his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him, which we do at this present; and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure, and holy; so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Evening Prayer

The section of the absolution I have put in bold and italics is likely from Ezekial 18:23, although the translation is slightly different:

Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? (Ezekiel 18:23 KJV)

The Geneva Bible more closely resembles the partial quote in 1662 BCP:

Haue I any desire that the wicked should die, sayth the Lord God? or shall he not liue, if he returne from his wayes? (Ezekiel 18:23 GNV)

So we see Ezekiel 18:27 in the opening sentences and a partial quote of Ezekiel 18:23 in the gospel absolution. Does this therefore mean that the Bible and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer teach that man saves himself by his own repentance and good works? May it never be so!

First of all, the passage in Ezekial is directed to the “house of Israel”. The term “house of Israel occurs 152 times in 146 verses in the New King James translation of the Bible. 78 of the occurrences of “house of Israel occur in the book of Ezekiel. The term never refers to all nations in general but rather refers to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament. In fact, in Ezekiel 3:1 the term refers to Israel alone:

Moreover He said to me, "Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel." (Ezekiel 3:1 NKJ)

Therefore, to apply Ezekiel 18:23 and Ezekiel 18:27 to all individuals in the whole world without exception is unbiblical. Moreover, since the Old Testament nation of Israel is a type or foreshadow of the Christian church, it is clear that God does not desire that anyone who is a member of the church should perish. That is at least the purpose of the giving of His moral law. All members of the church and of the nation of Israel are commanded to obey and it is promised to those who do repent that God does not desire for them to perish. (Cf. Ezekiel 18:32). According to Calvin, these verses do not contradict God's secret decrees to election and reprobation nor is the promise extended to all individuals without exception. (Deuteronomy 29:29). Rather repentance itself is a gift and that gift is given only to God's elect:

But since an objection is often founded on a few passages of Scripture, in which God seems to deny that the wicked perish through his ordination, except in so far as they spontaneously bring death upon themselves in opposition to his warning, let us briefly explain these passages, and demonstrate that they are not adverse to the above view. One of the passages adduced is, “have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God; and not that he should return from his ways and live?” ( [Ezek. 18:23] ). If we are to extend this to the whole human race, why are not the very many whose minds might be more easily bent to obey urged to repentance, rather than those who by his invitations become daily more and more hardened? Our Lord declares that the preaching of the gospel and miracles would have produced more fruit among the people of Nineveh and Sodom than in Judea ( [Mt. 13:23; Mt. 11:24; Mt. 11:32] ). How comes its then, that if God would have all to be saved he does not open a door of repentance for the wretched, who would more readily have received grace? Hence we may see that the passage is violently wrested, if the will of God, which the prophet mentions, is opposed to his eternal counsel, by which he separated the elect from the reprobate. Now, if the genuine meaning of the prophet is inquired into, it will be found that he only means to give the hope of pardon to them who repent. The sum is, that God is undoubtedly ready to pardon whenever the sinner turns. Therefore, he does not will his death, in so far as he wills repentance. But experience shows that this will, for the repentance of those whom he invites to himself, is not such as to make him touch all their hearts. Still, it cannot be said that he acts deceitfully; for though the external word only renders, those who hear its and do not obey it, inexcusable, it is still truly regarded as an evidence of the grace by which he reconciles men to himself. Let us therefore hold the doctrine of the prophet, that God has no pleasure in the death of the sinner; that the godly may feel confident that whenever they repent God is ready to pardon them; and that the wicked may feel that their guilt is doubled, when they respond not to the great mercy and condescension of God. The mercy of God, therefore will ever be ready to meet the penitent; but all the prophets, and apostles, and Ezekiel himself, clearly tell us who they are to whom repentance is given. [John Calvin. Institutes of the Christian Religion. 3:24:15].

I conclude, therefore, that the inclusion of the quotation of Ezekiel 18:27 and the allusion to Ezekiel 18:23 in no way contradicts the doctrine of absolute predestination to both election and reprobation. Salvation is completely and absolutely a divine gift of God and only the elect will believe it and receive because only the elect receive irresistible grace. (John 6:37, 44, 65; Matthew 22:14).  God will save whom He will save and ultimately God and God alone decides salvation and reprobation.  (Romans 9:11-18; John 1:13).  Only a rationalist would try to revise what the text of Romans 9 says in plain English translation.  The Arminian cannot accept Scripture at face value but must re-interpret Romans 9 by falsely assigning the individuals to a typological or analogical interpretation that plainly does not exist.  Even more pointedly, the 1552/1662 Book of Common Prayer and the 39 Articles teach absolute predestination to both election and reprobation in Article 17.

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