Sunday, October 19, 2008

A False Interpretation of Matthew 23:37

(v.37) Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Matthew 23:37

Many Arminiansitic interpreters have sought to refute God's unconditional election and sovereign irresistible grace upon his elect, by citing this passage of Scripture. The undemonstrated assumption is that the Jesus is saying that "Jerusalem" resisted his will to come to salvation, even though God wanted this to come to pass. Jesus tried to gather the Jews to himself that he wanted to save, but they "would not". Thus it is supposed to prove that God's will can be resisted by the independent free volition of sinners.

What is often assumed, but often missed is that the words of the text, when allowed to speak for themselves, in no way support this Arminian/synergystic view of God's grace. Look carefully at who Jesus says he wanted to gather. It is "THY CHILDREN" who are the objects of Jesus' gathering effort. Most people read the verse with their own ideas imposed on the text, so they think it means that Jesus wished to gather those he calls Jerusalem, but he does not say that.

The context of Matthew 23 is the judgment of the Jewish leaders who so often opposed Jesus during his ministry. Jesus came to save his people from their sins. He came to gather all that the Father had given him. There is no way that Jesus would or could fail in this effort. After noting the distinction between "Jerusalem" i.e. the Jewish leaders, and "thy children" i.e. the people whom they were to lead, we can see that Jesus was simply rehearsing the wicked leaders' legacy of apostasy and persecution of God's prophets to the nation of Israel.
Earlier in his denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees, he says :v. 31"Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets".

So Jesus was condemning the leaders, and stating that they resisted him when he would have gathered his people.

There is a further idea that has to be seen for what it is here. Lawrence Vance, in his anti-Calvinist book The Other Side of Calvinism, on p. 483 says of this verse "And though he(John Gill) correctly points out that the ones that Christ would have gathered are not the ones who resisted as it is sometimes interpreted by non-Calvinists, the fact remains that someone was able to thwart what Christ desired to accomplish. thus it is evident that men can and do resist the grace of God in various ways." (emphasis mine).

Nobody denies that sinful people are enemies of God, and do not seek God. But this is what Calvinists already believe because of total depravity. Calvinists do not deny that sinners can and do resist God. In fact, that is what we emphatically believe that sinners are expected to do until God regenerates them. But further to this verse, the scribes and Pharisees did resist God as Jesus gathered his elect. Their resistance did not prevent Jesus from saving anyone. All the verse says is that "ye would not". It does not say that Jesus was frustrated in his ministry, that he failed to gather his elect because of his enemies.

What the verse means is that as Jesus wanted to gather his people to Himself, the leaders of the nation opposed him, and thus merited the coming judgment of God on themselves.

As Jesus said in John 6 :37 "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

38For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.

39And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day".

Thank God that our salvation is so sure and secure in God's decree that no man can thwart the gathering of ALL of God's people to Christ.