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John Gill and Acts 17:30

June 7, 2007

I am still fascinated by this fixation on John Gill in some circles. For this reason I am going to continue plugging away at Gill with my pellet gun. If you read the following, be sure to read past the Gill’s hypercalvinist code.

John Gill:

If it should be replied, that though the exhortation to repentance is not here made to all men; yet it is elsewhere expressly said, that God commandeth all men everywhere to repent. (Acts 17:30.) Let it be observed, that as this command to repentance does not suppose it to be in the power of man; nor contradicts its being a free-grace gift of God; nor its being a blessing in the covenant of grace, and in the hands of Christ to bestow; so neither does it extend, as here expressed, to every individual of mankind; but only regards the men of the then present age, in distinction from those who lived in the former times of ignorance: for so the words are expressed: and the times of this ignorance God winked at; overlooked, took no notice of, sent them no messages, enjoined them no commands of faith in Christ, or repentance towards God; but now, since the coming and death of Christ, commandeth all men, Gentiles as well as Jews, everywhere to repent; it being his will, that repentance and remission of sins should be preached among all nations: (Luke 24:47.) but admitting that it has been God’s command in all ages, and to all men that they repent; as all men are indeed bound, by the law of nature, to a natural repentance, though all men are not called by the gospel to an evangelical one; yet I see not what conclusions can be formed from hence against either absolute election or particular redemption.

Gill, Cause of God, part 1, section 32:2,

“but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent;” that is, he hath given orders, that the doctrine of repentance, as well as remission of sins, should be preached to all nations, to Gentiles as well as Jews; and that it becomes them to repent of their idolatries, and turn from their idols, and worship the one, only, living and true God: and though for many hundreds of years God had neglected them, and sent no messengers, nor messages to them, to acquaint them with his will, and to show them their follies and mistakes; yet now he had sent his apostles unto them, to lay before them their sins, and call them to repentance; and to stir them up to this, the apostle informs them of the future judgment in the following verse. Repentance being represented as a command, does not suppose it to be in the power of men, or contradict evangelical repentance, being the free grace gift of God, but only shows the need men stand in of it, and how necessary and requisite it but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent; that is, he hath given orders, that the doctrine of repentance, as well as remission of sins, should be preached to all nations, to Gentiles as well as Jews; and that it becomes them to repent of their idolatries, and turn from their idols, and worship the one, only, living and true God: and though for many hundreds of years God had neglected them, and sent no messengers, nor messages to them, to acquaint them with his will, and to show them their follies and mistakes; yet now he had sent his apostles unto them, to lay before them their sins, and call them to repentance; and to stir them up to this, the apostle informs them of the future judgment in the following verse. Repentance being represented as a command, does not suppose it to be in the power of men, or contradict evangelical repentance, being the free grace gift of God, but only shows the need men stand in of it, and how necessary and requisite it and when it is said to be a command to all, this does not destroy its being a special blessing of the covenant of grace to some; but points out the sad condition that all men are in as sinners, and that without repentance they must perish: and indeed, all men are obliged to natural repentance for sin, though to all men the grace of evangelical repentance is not given: is; and when it is said to be a command to all, this does not destroy its being a special blessing of the covenant of grace to some; but points out the sad condition that all men are in as sinners, and that without repentance they must perish: and indeed, all men are obliged to natural repentance for sin, though to all men the grace of evangelical repentance is not given…

Gill, Commentary, Acts 17:30.

David: What is interesting there is how Gill converts the command from God into the commanded duty of the preachers to preach repentance. That’s interesting. What that does is to separate the connection between God’s voice and the preacher’s voice. The Protestant Reformed Churches (aka Herman Hoeksema, David Engelsma and crowd) fudge this as well. In Scripture, God makes his call, invitation and offer in the ministerial call. Thus when the minister speaks to a sinner–with all his well-intentioned compassion–it is also God speaking to that very same sinner–with a corresponding well-intentioned compassion. Hypercalvinists have to maintain this separation in order to deny the well-meant offer to all, for the preacher may desire for the best for all, but he knows that God’s desire is not or may not be coordinate with his human compassion. This of course makes man more human than God. :-( But that is for another day.

Further, note the code words, men are called to repent of their idolatry, to a natural repentance. For Gill, men are not called to saving faith.

But hey, he can’t be a hypercalvinist because he believes the gospel should be preached, right? Those folk who want to define hypercalvinism simply as those “calvinists” who do not evangelise or preach the gospel to all really need to go get some coffee and wake up. These sorts of reductionist claims are used by hypercalvinists to cloak their own true hypercalvinism. (I am thinking of David Engelsma, specifically, along with a few internet hypercalvinists more generally.)

David

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Robert permalink
    February 5, 2009 3:02 pm

    There is a distinct difference between God calling and a preacher calling, and one of the biggest errors in Christianity is the inability of many to see this difference. God’s call is to the heart of the unregenerate and it is always effective in giving life.

    Explain to me how Paul was born of the Spirit. Was it through the gospel, through a preacher, etc? Or was it by the direct operation of the Spirit of God without man being in the process. One minute he is breathing out threatenings and slaughter against discicples of Chirst, the next he is being told he will preach to the gentiles.

    If God calls along with the preacher calling, then which denomination does God work with? The Arminian? The free grace beleiver? The part grace part works believer? What doctrine must be preached in order for God to call and effect the salvation of one? Belief only, or belief plus baptism? Total dependance on Jesus Christ or some need for works as well?

  2. Flynn permalink*
    February 5, 2009 5:08 pm

    Hey Robert,

    1) God calls through the ministerial preaching of the Word. God regenerates through the Word of God.

    NIV 1 Peter 1:23-25: For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you.

    2) God works in and through many Christian denominations.

    Thanks for dropping by,
    David

  3. Robert permalink
    February 18, 2009 10:33 am

    I Peter 1:25 says this: “But the word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”

    There is a word that is preached by the gospel. It doesn’t make sense to say the gospel was preached by the gospel. This can only be the living Word, the second person in the Godhead, Jesus Christ. What is the gospel? It is the good news and glad tidings of a warfare accomplished. It brings the news of what Jesus has done. In II Timothy 1:10 the purpose of the gospel is clearly stated when Paul writes concerning Jesus Christ, “who hath abolished death and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Life and immortality were not brought through the gospel but rather were brought to light through the gospel. The words of the Word were preached by the gospel and thus regernated people were made aware of what had been done for them by the Lord Jesus on the cross.

    God calls independant of the gospel. Jesus says in John 5:25, “the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” Notice what gives life to the dead alien sinner: the voice of the Son of God. Not the words, not the voice of the preacher, but the very voice of God.

    Now, if God regenerates throught the gospel, what did people do on the other side of the globe shortly after the ascension of Jesus? The apostles didn’t get there. Did these people perish because of the inability of man to reach them with the gospel? People speak of election being unfair, of the sovereign, efficacious call of the Spirit of God being unfair, but that system seems unfair to me. To restrain God to have to work through the preaching of man, which is suspectible to human frailty, dishonesty, heresy, etc. moves God down a few notches from the high, heavenly, sovereign, righteous, omnipotent position He currently holds.

    One last question: what happened to people that passed away between the birth and the death, burial, ressurection, and ascension of Jesus? How were they saved?

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  1. Spurgeon Commenting on the Hypercalvinism of John Gill « Theology Online

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