We continue in this issue our answer to the question posed in the last issue: "Why does the minister exhort the congregation not to harden their hearts when in fact the work of redemption is solely one of God's election?" In that issue we said that it was necessary both for the unbelieving and for those who are saved that this command and others like it be faithfully preached. Now we must explain why.
(1) As far as all those who are unbelieving are concerned this command maintains their responsibility. Where there is no law (no command) there is no sin (Rom. 5:13). The commands of God, revealed either through the things that are made (Rom, 1:19, 20) or through the gospel, are the ground on which all are judged, and these demands and commands God always maintains.
(2) Also as far as the reprobate unbelieving are concerned, such commands as these actually accomplish God's purpose with them. We must remember that it is GOD who tells them not to harden their hearts in His Word. And when He so speaks to them, their hearts are in fact hardened and God's purpose in their destruction is accomplished.
This is very evident in the case of Pharaoh. God did not harden his heart directly and without means, but through the exhortations of Moses (cf. Ex. 9:30; 10:3, 4), until finally he commanded Moses to go away and not return under pain of death (Ex 10:28). This is always the case, and we often see it ourselves, when the commands of the gospel anger and provoke the ungodly.
(3) Finally, with the elect who are not yet saved, these commands are the means by which God saves them from their rebellion and hardness of heart. The preaching of these commands is God's "hammer to break the rock in pieces" (Jer. 23:29). This is what we refer to as the "efficacious" or "effectual" call, what Augustine spoke of long ago when he said, "The command is the grace."
But it is also important also for the sake of God's saved people that this command be preached. It is them especially that the Word of God has in mind when it gives these commands in the Psalm 95:8 and Hebrews 3:8, 15 and 4:7. Both for their preservation and for their restoration they must hear this command and others like it.
(1) For them, this word of God is the means by which they do not harden their hearts. When they are preserved from the sin of hard-heartedness it is by such commands as these that they are preserved. We ought never forget that when the gospel is preached, God's people hear Christ calling them, and it is He, through the gospel and its demands, who preserves them from such sins. For that reason God's people should be diligent in hearing and applying to themselves such commands as these.
(2) Also, we should remember that because God's people still have much sin left in them, it is possible that they do harden their hearts against God. Not finally and to eternal damnation, but to their own grief and guilt, they do rebel against God and refuse or neglect to do what He requires of them. For this reason also they very much need the grace that comes from God through such commands as these! And God mercifully uses such commands to restore them again. For them also the Word is a hammer to break their stubbornness and hardness of heart and so to restore them to obedience.
Do you hear and obey?
- Volume: 7
- Issue: 21
Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)
Ordained: November 1979
Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/
Address317 North Park St.
State or ProvinceWA