LOOKING TO PRAISE AND WORSHIP JESUS THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD. 18 No man has ever seen God at any time; the only unique Son, or the only begotten God, Who is in the bosom [in the intimate presence] of the Father, He has declared Him [He has revealed Him and brought Him out where He can be seen; He has interpreted Him and He has made Him known].

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Woes of the Scribes and Pharisees

”O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”
- Matthew 23:37

I was blessed with the gift of a book titled The Potter’s Freedom by James R. White, given to me by my pastor awhile back. Yesterday, I read something interesting about this particular passage of Scripture that is often used to defend the “free will” of man. I’d like to share with you White’s enlightening exposition of this verse.

“The first fact to ascertain in examining any passage of Scripture is its context. This passage comes in the midst of the proclamation of judgment upon the leaders of the Jews. Matthew 23 contains the strongest denunciations of the scribes and Pharisees in all of the Gospels.

“Who, then, is “Jerusalem”? It is assumed by Arminian writers that “Jerusalem” represents individual Jews…capable of resisting the work and will of Christ. But upon what warrant do we leap from “Jerusalem” to “individual Jews”? The context would not lead us to conclude that this is to be taken in a universal sense. Jesus is condemning the Jewish leaders, and it is to them that He refers here. This is clearly seen in that:

“1. It is to the leaders that God sent prophets;
2. It was the Jewish leaders who killed the prophets…;
3. Jesus speaks of “your children,” differentiating those to whom He is speaking from those that the Lord desired to gather together;
4. The context refers to the Jewish leaders, scribes and Pharisees.

“A vitally important point to make here is that the ones the Lord desired to gather are not the ones who “were not willing”!

“Jesus speaks to the leaders about their children that they, the leaders, would not allow him to “gather.” Jesus was not seeking to gather the leaders, but their children. This one consideration alone renders the passage useless for the Arminian seeking to establish freewillism. The “children” of the leaders would be Jews who were hindered by the Jewish leaders from hearing Christ. The “you would not” then is referring to the same men indicated by the context; the Jewish leaders who “were unwilling” to allow those under their authority to hear the proclamation of the Christ. This verse, then, is speaking to the same issues raised earlier in Matthew 23:13:

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.”

“John Gill added this insight:

“That the persons whom Christ would have gathered are not represented as being unwilling to be gathered; but their rulers were not willing that they should. The opposition and resistance to the will of Christ, were not made by the people, but by their governors. The common people seemed inclined to attend the ministry of Christ, as appears from the vast crowds which, at different times and places, followed him; but the chief priests and rulers did all they could to hinder the collection of them to him; and their belief in him as the Messiah, by traducing his character, miracles, and doctrines, and by passing an act that whosoever confessed him should be put out of the synagogue; so that the obvious meaning of the text is the same with that of verse 13…and consequently is no proof of men’s resisting the operations of the Spirit and grace of God, but of obstructions and discouragements thrown in the way of attendance on the external ministry of the word.””

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Blogger mark pierson said...

White and Hunt covered this ground starting way back in 2000; August, if memory serves.

August 06, 2007 11:21 AM

Blogger Susan said...

Are you referring to James R White and Dave Hunt?
Do you mean they had a debate on it?
I'm a wee bit familiar with White's apologetics (becoming more familiar).
About the same level of familiarity with Dave Hunt. I think he writes for a newsletter that I receive titled the Berean Call. I read it with great interest until about a year or two ago, when I realized his stance on Calvinism. Vociferously against.

August 06, 2007 11:53 AM

Blogger mark pierson said...

Yes, those two. These debates started on a radio program back then. Hunt had his hiney handed to him there, as well as every time since. I've read Hunt's "What Love Is This". It was, um, erum, interesting; yes, that is the word I was looking for...

August 06, 2007 12:48 PM

Blogger Susan said...

There are things that I like about the newsletter for which Hunt writes, but my interest is waning. I don't disagree with him 100 percent, but now that I see where he's coming from, I'm less inclined to read his material. I'd rather stick to what I know to be truth.

August 06, 2007 1:17 PM

Blogger jazzycat said...

I am not sure I understand the issue here. I think Jesus is merely lamenting that the people of Israel did not respond to the external call that he had personally given and verified with miracles. It seems Jesus is just grieving over the fact that even he as the God-man could not break through man’s inability with just an external call. True, the Jewish leaders sought to prevent the people from coming to Jesus, but the people heard Jesus and they were also unwilling as well. They had not been enabled by the Holy Spirit to respond. They had not been given the effectual call. We cannot assert that the Scribes and Pharisees prevented God’s effectual call from being successful and we cannot assert that these people had any ability to respond apart from God’s effectual call. I believe Matthew Henry essentially makes this same point. I think the whole passage strengthens the Calvinist viewpoint and “TULIP.”

It could be that I am missing something and that something has gone over my head. Please let me know if I am doing that.

Also, I believe the hardening that is spoken of many times does not mean that God is causing evil or sin, but rather that God has given them over to be as evil as they desire. IOW he just removes his restraining or common grace.


August 06, 2007 4:03 PM

Blogger Susan said...


I don’t disagree with anything you wrote.

Here is the context of what James R. White is saying in his book The Potter’s Freedom, which is “a Defense of the Reformation and a Rebuttal of Norman Geisler’s Chosen But Free.”

“Throughout his work, Dr. Geisler quotes a set of three verses as evidence that God wants to save all men, but is unable to do so outside of their freely willing it to be so. This set of verses appear repeatedly throughout the text of the work. They are:

Matthew 23:37, “"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”

1 Timothy 2:4, “[God our Savior], who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

“…CBF offers no in-depth exegesis of this passage [Matthew 23:37]. Instead, we are given two sentences that summarize Geisler’s interpretation of it:

Geisler: Also, Matthew 23:37 affirms emphatically that Jesus desired to bring the Jews who rejected Him into the fold but could not because they would not. He cried, ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. God’s grace is not irresistible on those who are unwilling.”

White continues: “We first note that ‘irresistible grace’ is a reference to God’s sovereign regeneration of His elect: any other use of the phrase is in error. Hence, it would seem to be that Dr. Geisler is promoting the following ideas regarding the text:

(1) that Jesus wanted to save the Jews to whom (or about whom) He was speaking in this passage;

(2) That though this was Christ’s desire He could not fulfill His desire;

(3) Christ could not bring these Jews into the fold because they “would not.”

“The conclusion then is God’s grace is dependent upon the will of man. If a man is willing, God’s grace will prevail. But grace cannot change the will of man.”

Finally: “Of course, these are assertions that are not given with any interpretational foundation. No exegesis is offered, just conclusions. How Dr. Geisler arrived at these conclusions, we are not told. Later we are informed that it is the ‘plain meaning’ of the text, and are asked rhetorically, ‘What could be more clear: God wanted all of them , even the unrepentant, to be saved.’”

Since I have seen this same argument of Geisler’s elsewhere, I found White’s exegesis very thorough and convincing.

August 06, 2007 5:45 PM

Blogger jazzycat said...

O.K. I figured I was missing something. Thanks for the explanation.

August 06, 2007 6:27 PM

Blogger J.C. Thibodaux said...

That synopsis is quite incorrect. Christ is referring to Jerusalem collectively and speaking of individuals as its children (a common linguistic idiom). The prophets of God were sent to all of them, not just their leaders; and their blood was on the entire wicked generation, not just those who signed the death warrants. Trying to pawn off the idea that Jesus is speaking only to the scribes and Pharisees instead of to Jerusalem as a whole runs into inherent problems, since Christ's enemies as died in their sins, but Christ says to Jerusalem,

Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed [is] he that cometh in the name of the Lord. (Matthew 23:38-39)

His words in Matthew 23 correlate perfectly with what He said in Luke 19,

41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace, but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."

The city and its children both suffer the same fate for unbelief in their rejecting what God had prepared for their welfare. But despite its destruction, as opposed to those who fell without remedy, Christ's words in Matthew 23 also indicate Jerusalem's eventual repentance and recognition of Him as Messiah.

January 11, 2008 11:58 AM


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