God’s Love: Particular in Its Design, Infinite in Its Offer

When considering the love of God towards fallen humanity, one of the greatest challenges is rightly discerning how his particular love for his children (1 John 3:1-2) is distinguished from his universal love towards all people (Matthew 5:45).  On that subject Charles Hodge has provided a couple helpful illustrations in his Systematic Theology.  Listen to what he says, and tell me what you think.  I’d love to know if you think these illustration are helpful or not.

If a ship containing the wife and children of a man standing on the shore is wrecked, he may seize a boat and hasten to their rescue. His motive is love to his family; his purpose is to save them. But the boat which he has provided may be large enough to receive the whole of the ship’s company. Would there be any inconsistency in his offering them the opportunity to escape? Or, would this offer prove that he had no special love to his own family and no special design to secure their safety. And if any or all of those to whom the offer was made, should refuse to accept it, some from one reason, some from another; some because they did not duly appreciate their danger; some because they thought they could save themselves; and some from enmity to the man from whom the offer came, their guilt and folly would be just as great as though the man had no special regard to his own family, and no special purpose to effect their deliverance.

Or, if a man’s family were with others held in captivity, and from love to them and with the purpose of their redemption, a ransom should be offered sufficient for the delivery of the whole body of captives, it is plain that the offer of deliverance might be extended to all on the ground of that ransom, although specially intended only for a part of their number.

Or, a man may make a feast for his own friends, and the provision be so abundant that he may throw open his doors to all who are willing to come. This is precisely what God, according to the Augustinian doctrine, has actually done. Out of special love to his people, and with the design of securing their salvation, He has sent his Son to do what justifies the offer of salvation to all who choose to accept of it. Christ, therefore, did not die equally for all men. He laid down his life for his sheep; He gave Himself for his Church. But in perfect consistency with all this, He did all that was necessary, so far as a satisfaction to justice is concerned, all that is required for the salvation of all men. So that all Augustinians can join with the Synod of Dort in saying, ‘No man perishes for want of an atonement.'” (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 2:556).

For more quotes on this subject, click on Atonement (Extent).

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Biblical Interpretation Requires Both Testaments

At the close of his introduction to The Progress of RedemptionWillem Van Gemeren summarizes the need for including both testaments in our interpretation of the Bible. 

Interpretation also involves equal concern for the Old and New Testaments.  When the two parts of the Bible are held in careful balance, the continual tension between law and gospel, token and reality [VG’s terminology for shadow and substance], promise and fulfillment, present age and future restoration, Israel and the church, and earthly and spiritual only enhances a christological and eschatological focus.”  (Van Gemeren, The Progress of Redemption38)

As you read and study Scripture, be aware that a right understanding of the immediate text requires awareness of what came before it (antecedent theology–types, shadows, terms, and concepts), what time it is (where in the storyline is the passage), and where it is ultimately going (Christology and eschatology).  Only as we relate the trees to the forest will we gain an appreciation for both.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

GK Beale on Biblical Theology

In a footnote in The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism, G.K. Beale offers a helpful explanation for a how a biblical theological approach to hermeneutics  reads the Bible.   He writes,

A biblical-theological approach attempts to interpret texts in the light of their broader literary context, their broader redemptive-historical epoch of which they are a part, and to interpret earlier texts from earlier epochs, attempting to explain them in the light of progressive revelation to which earlier scriptural authors would not have had access.  So one aspect of biblical theology is the reading of texts in an intratextual and intertextual manner in a way not ultimately distorting their original meaning, though perhaps creatively developing it (105).

Well said.  

Sola Deo Gloria, dss