Sovereignty of God

From the Archives – Of God and Basketball Victories

On the evening of March 30, 2002, in the city of Atlanta, Georgia, the Indiana Hoosiers upset the Oklahoma Sooners in a “Final Four” contest of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Following the game, Indiana coach, Mike Davis, credited God for giving Indiana University the victory. “I have a lot of people praying for me,” he told the press, “God has placed His favor on me.”

Let me be the last to object to any praise going to God in the media. A man steps up to the microphone and declares that God factors into his view of the world, including the world of basketball—I’m with that! I lauded Mike Davis’ courage to proclaim his faith to the world on that occasion and I laud him still.

But I must admit, as a man of faith, that I’m growing increasingly uncomfortable with the array of athletes and coaches announcing through a microphone their euphoric gratitude to God moments after an athletic victory over their opponents. My discomfort has nothing to do with bringing God into the sports world—he’s there anyway, kudos to those who acknowledge reality. My discomfort stems more from the message that seems to be subtly communicated by such public expressions of divine adulation.

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Coronavirus: Thoughts on God’s Responsibility & Purpose

These are sobering, uncertain, and anxiety producing times. I can recall nothing this severe in my lifetime. The coronavirus is a danger unlike anything our nation has faced for many decades. Some have likened it to conditions during World War II, and I can well imagine that to be the case. Nearly everyone is concerned about scarcity of supplies as they survey empty store shelves. Many are afraid of sickness and possible death. Others are panicking about the sudden evaporation of their retirement accounts. Fortunes have vanished in a moment. Some fear the break-down of law and order with rioting and looting. Gun sales have soared over the past several weeks. News report usually begin with pandemic updates along with accusations, finger-pointing, and blame-shifting. As Christians, we need to listen less to the voices around us, and more to the wisdom of God. Thinking biblically is the best remedy for our fears.

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We May Be Confused, but God Isn’t

"There is so much that we don’t understand. There is so much that we are incapable of understanding. So rest is found in trusting the Father. He is not confused, and he surely does have your best interest in mind. Yes, he will ask you to do hard things and he will bring difficult things your way, but he is worthy of your trust and he loves you dearly." - Paul David Tripp

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The Well-Meant Offer: God Begs the Wicked to Repent (Ezek 33:11), Part 5

Two Practical Applications

What bearing do our exegetical conclusions from Ezekiel 33:11 have for our understanding of God’s disposition toward the lost and the well-meant offer of the gospel?

God Prefers Mercy Over Judgment

The Scriptures clearly teach that God angry with the wicked every day (Psa 7:11), and he will eventually judge every impenitent sinner (Rom 2:5-16; 6:23; Rev 20:11-15). Moreover, when the Lord Almighty enacts justice, he finds a holy and righteous satisfaction (Exod 34:7; Deut 28:63; Jer 9:24; Ezek 5:13; Rom 2:4-16; 3:24-26; Rev 15:3; 16:7).

Nevertheless, Ezekiel 33:11 teaches us that God’s wrath and judgment are his “strange” or “alien” work. In contrast, God’s love and salvation are his “proper” or “more natural” work. God prefers the repentance and salvation of wicked over their demise. “In a vehement protest,” says Leslie Allen,

Yahweh objects to being cast solely in the role of punitive destroyer. It does not express his ultimate will, which is to bestow life on those who turn from the bad lifestyle that occasioned the punishment. The judgment was a means to this very end.20

The Preacher’s Compassion is Not Blind!

In an article entitled “The Language and Theology of the ‘Free Offer,’” Paul Helm disagrees with John Murray support of the well-meant offer, and he sides instead with John Gill. Helm asserts,

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The Well-Meant Offer: God Begs the Wicked to Repent (Ezek 33:11), Part 4

Read the series. 

The Objections Answered

As noted in the introductory lecture, some Calvinists object to the idea that God may desire what he does not decree. We shouldn’t be surprised to find them objecting to the conclusions we’ve drawn from Ezekiel 33:11. Not only do they object to the idea that God may have desires that he doesn’t decree, but some of them also decry that view that God is really offering salvation to the non-elect. God may issue commands, but he’s not making offers! Thus, to avoid the conclusions we’ve drawn from the passage, they usually redefine one or more of the following: (1) the meaning of divine pleasure, (2) the identity of the wicked, and (3) the nature of the repentance and the life.

God Commands the Nation to Reform

John Owen identifies God’s pleasure in this passage as his preceptive will. Then he insists that God’s preceptive will only defines the duty of the wicked. In no way does it define God’s disposition.

Moreover, Owen argues that God’s directive is not directed to the nations but to the nation of Israel, that is, to the physical seed of Abraham. Therefore, we cannot apply this passage to the wicked in general.

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The Well-Meant Offer: God Begs the Wicked to Repent (Ezek 33:11), Part 3

Read the series. 

An Impassioned Entreaty

Having provided an oath-bound affirmation of his preference for mercy over judgment, God now turns to the wicked and entreats them: “Turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11b, ESV).

1. We should view this entire response as an entreaty.

Some commentators and preachers divided the second half of Ezekiel 33:11 into two parts: an entreaty and a question. Syntactically, that’s correct. First, God gives a double imperative: “turn back, turn back from your evil ways.” Then, God asks a question, “For why will you die, O house of Israel?”

However, the question in this case is rhetorical. When God says, “Why will you die, O house of Israel?” he is using a question to tell them quite emphatically, “I do not want you to die!”

This kind of rhetorical question is found elsewhere in Scripture. In Numbers 32 Moses urges the Reubenites and the Gadites to help their brothers take the land west of the Jordan. He uses two rhetorical questions:

But Moses said to the people of Gad and to the people of Reuben, “Shall your brothers go to the war while you sit here? Why will you discourage the heart of the people of Israel from going over into the land that the Lord has given them?” (Numbers 32:6–7, ESV)

The question “Why will you discourage the heart of the people” is equivalent to “Don’t do that! Don’t discourage their hearts!”

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The Well-Meant Offer: God Begs the Wicked to Repent (Ezek 33:11), Part 2

Read the series. 

God instructs Ezekiel to respond to the people’s complaint, and the Lord’s response has two parts: first, God makes an oath-bound affirmation; second, he issues an impassioned entreaty. Let’s consider each of those in turn.

An Oath-bound Affirmation

Yahweh begins his response to the people’s complaint by swearing an oath. In the ancient Near East, people would sometimes swear by the life of their deity or by the life of the king to add solemnity to what they were about to say. They also did it to underscore the absolute truthfulness of their affirmation. It was roughly equivalent to the modern practice of placing one’s hand on the Bible and saying, “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” We would think it sufficient to say, “I will tell the truth.” How in the world is “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” more truthful than just the “truth”?! It’s like saying, “I promise to be completely honest” instead of saying, “I promise to be honest.”

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