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Charismatic Puritan

Right doctrine leads to right thinking, and right thinking leads to right living.

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Location: Gaithersburg, MD, United States

Jealous for the truth, beauty and majesty of our glorious risen Savior.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Hardening Hearts

Romans 11.7,8 “What then? Israel failed to obtain it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written ‘God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.’”

Deuteronomy 29.4 “But to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.”

How is this hardening, then, not God forcing us to sin? How is God not responsible for our sin and how can He hold us accountable for our sin if He hardens a heart into sin? Can God be just when He hardens a heart?

1. The inclination to sin is in each one of us. It is an inherent part of our fleshly existence that will be manifest in one form or another. God directs and restrains the manifestations of sin in each individual person, but the sin nature was already present and active. When God hardens a heart, He is simply confirming and making permanent the determination of a situation already in effect. Pharaoh was not a godly and just man whom God transformed into wickedness; on the contrary, he was a thoroughly wicked man that God even restrained from performing as much evil as he could have. God simply pronounced a final decision upon Pharaoh by hardening Pharaoh’s heart and eternally confirming the previously extant condition of his soul through Pharaoh’s continued evil actions. Pharaoh was evil; God made it a permanent condition. This is how God hardens the heart practically.

2. The judgment for sin and the legal, federal declaration of guilt for sin comes from Adam and is handed over to every human being, probably at conception, but certainly by birth. We are born as Adam’s seed and bearing the fullness of his guilt. That is the same type of federal relationship that God has established for us in Christ. If we deny the former, we must deny the latter, but since this representation is perfect and declared so by God, we can tremble at the wrath we deserve as Adam’s heirs, and endure that fear, because we can also stand firm in the knowledge of justification and adoption as joint heirs with Christ because He, as our federal representative, took the wrath in our place.

Romans 5.18,19 “Therefore as one trespass led to condemnation for all, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience, many will be made righteous.”

If we accept our permanent justification through Christ, which is a free gift to the elect, then we must accept the condition of condemnation that is permanent to the reprobate (but is obviated by God’s sovereign grace in election, regeneration, justification). It would be intellectually dishonest and logically duplicitous to accept the federal representation of one condition – righteousness through Christ – without accepting the other when both are clearly delineated, and in opposition to one another, in scripture. Because of the permanent forensic condition of sin and condemnation that is a character of the natural human condition as Adam’s lineage, then God is perfectly just in confirming that condition by hardening the hearts of those in that condition and withholding his free gift of grace for their salvation. This is how God hardens the heart legally.

3. Finally, God hardens the heart epistemologically. Romans 1.18-32 is probably the most definitive doctrinal exposition of this phenomenon of God’s giving sinful and ignorant humans over to their prideful and self-glorifying but grossly inadequate knowledge and reasoning. We assume ourselves the measure of all things and our intellects to be the arbiters of truth rather than humbly seeking God’s gifts of discernment and wisdom to be shown the fullness of His truth. We have a natural knowledge of God but transfer our intellectual and spiritual fidelity to worship of the creature in willful ignorance of the creator. That is our natural tendency. God, in His mercy, opens the minds and hearts of His elect (Luke 24.25-35) to see the truth clearly so as to bring them to repentance, forgiveness and adoption. To the natural man, the reprobate, He gives them up completely to their debased minds, bringing a hardening of their reasoning such that it no longer regards or cares for the truth. This is how God hardens the heart epistemologically.

Fortunately, these are natural conditions that are then supernaturally fixed. We in Christ Jesus, however, are no longer natural but are supernatural and then supernaturally fixed there. God has put His Spirit in us to break the stony ground of our hearts and to remake us in the image of His Son. By grace, God grants life abundantly to His elect, for His glory. Thanks be to God for His miraculous mercy to save even one of us who richly deserve to be hardened and rejected, yet we know that He will surround us with that great cloud of witnesses to testify that He will fulfill His promise of salvation.


Blogger Paul Schafer said...

Here's quote I found on the Fire and Ice website, "The most tremendous judgment of God in this world is the hardening of the hearts of men."

18/5/05 14:07  

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