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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Reflecting on our Distinctives | Main | Picturing The Absurd »

    Did God Harden Pharaoh's Heart, or Did Pharaoh?

    Colin Smith has written an interesting article (at Dr. James White's web site) regarding who it was who was responsible for the hardening of Pharoah's heart - found here.

    Posted by John Samson on October 14, 2006 01:57 AM

    Comments

    Did God Harden Pharaoh's Heart, or Did Pharaoh?

    ~ The short answer is, yes.

    To all questions of this nature, dealing with God's sovereignty and our responsiblity, the Scriptures teach both, side-by-side without contradiction. Yet, the Bible also teaches the secret things belong to the Lord. Therefore, ours is not to be concerned so much with what God is doing in the heart, rather the question for us is what are we doing with our own?

    David

    I would say, on the contrary, we are to be focused on Christ rather than our own achievements and spirituality. The focus should be on what Christ has done for us, not what we do for Him.

    Shalom

    Shalom,

    Overall, you are correct to say that Christ is the focus of our hope for salvation and that our own achievments and spirituality are a result of the work of the Holy Spirit.

    The distinction being drawn in this post is not dealing with the same context as you mention. The context here is dealing with the hardening or conversely, the softening, of individual hearts. In other words, for the Christian life, all you've said is correct.

    The point of my reply to the post is that when it comes to the work of God upon the hearts of men, those things are "hidden" from our eyes. They are part of the secret things I mentioned. Therefore, the point I was making is that in terms of what we can know or see (the fruit) Pharoah was hardening his own heart.

    We are responsible for what we do in the sight of God, we are accountable for our sin, regardless God's sovereingty over our lives. So, in reponse to what you've said I hope you can see I'm not talking about focusing on ourselves rather than Christ, I was referring to focusing on our accountability before God rather than delving into the secret things of the Lord.

    "God did not instill sin into Pharaohs heart; it was there by virtue of the Fall."

    This begs the question: Did God instill sin into Adam's heart at the Fall? Yes. But it was for a good purpose, ultimately to glorify Christ. I understand that God is holy, but is there a passage of Scripture where God says that it is morally wrong for Him to cause [not tempt] a man to sin? Not that I know of.

    "God did not force Pharaoh to do anything contrary to his natural, unregenerate desires."

    Force is too weak of a word. God is so absolutely sovereign that men cannot resist him at all in any way.

    But God does 'force' some unregenerate men to act contrary to their natural desires when He gives them a new nature and new set of desires. The unregenerate man will never desire a new nature or a new set of desires. He cannot. So God is giving an unregenerate man a new set of desires contrary to the desire of the unregenerate man. And God gets all the glory for it.

    JW

    Yes indeed we are certainly responsible but we are not morally able. If you borrowed $100 million and squandered it in Las Vegas your inability to repay does not alleviate you of respoinsbility. So it is with fallen man.

    God's work in the hearts of particular men are hidden from us, I agree, but the concept itself is revealed in Scripture. For example that a man cannot believe apart from the effectual working of the Holy Spirit in us is true for every man. We are not to judge who but we are to believe that no one can believe in Jesus unless God grants it (John 6:65)

    Grace and Peace
    JW

    JW,

    Right on! Both God's sovereignty and human responsibility are revealed in Scripture. And where our finite minds cannot grasp the infinite, we must use humility.

    Are the two reconcilable? Yes. Can we fully understand it this side of heaven. I can't. Yet God has given us in His Word those things which we are responsible/accountable for. Believing and not hardening our hearts toward Him is one of those things.

    To make an application, I'd say if a person commits a sin of any type, the last thing they should do is shrug their shoulders and say "Oh well, God is sovereign". Rather, in this sense, the focus of our attention should be our own hearts and guarding them from hardness through sin.

    David

    A focus on God's sovereignty, I would argue, does not make us shrug our shoulder and say "Oh well" but rather, it has great value because it strips us of all hope from ourselves, it humbles us so that we recognize that salvation is WHOLLY of God, and only then do we rightly understand our place before God's majesty. That is why the Scripture talks about it so much. God must have a purpose in telling us that He is sovereign so often. So if it is written about so much in the Text we would do well to pay attention.

    It is he who hardens and softens hearts and salvation is not of man's will but of God who has mercy (see Rom 9:15-18) This should humble us to the dust so that we confess that He is God and we are not. So there is great VALUE in focusing of God's work rather than ours, which amounts to nothing. We are responsible, indeed, but utterly impotent to obey so we look to Jesus who alone can save us. A true Christian is one who worships in the Spirit, glories in Christ Jesus and has no confidence in the flesh. This is how Paul defines it in Philippians.

    Nowhere in the Bible does it say we "cannot" understand God's sovereignty and man's responsibility this side of heaven. I have heard some pastors say this but I do not know where in the Bible they drew this conclusion, as if it were eternal truth. They may not have personally understood but to state that no one can understand is not a confession we find in the Bible. The Scripture is our highest presupposition, not philsophy or speculation. And to state it cannot be understood goes beyond scripture.

    Shalom
    JW

    JW,

    Again, I have to say I think your missing the main thrust of this post and my response. For example you write,

    "A focus on God's sovereignty, I would argue, does not make us shrug our shoulder and say "Oh well"

    ~ To which I would reply, many people do shrug their sholders at God everyday, denying Him before men. Their hearts are hardened and they refuse to acknowledge Christ as King. Your right to say we shouldn't respond this way, yet many do and must answer for it.

    You also say,

    "So there is great VALUE in focusing of God's work rather than ours, which amounts to nothing."

    ~ and again, I'm certainly not suggesting we look to ourselves rather than God in the work of redemption. The point of the post is not dealing with this, so neither am I. The focus here should be on acknowledging our sin, confessing it to God, realizing it is but by grace that our own hearts aren't hardened like that of Pharoah, but that even if it was, it is ours, not God's responsibility for it. In other words, when we see the sovereignty of God on display in the hardness of heart manifested in the life of the unregenrate man, such as Pharoah, there is no one to blame but that man. The culpability of our sin does not extend to God even though He ordained it.

    Finally, you say,

    "Nowhere in the Bible does it say we "cannot" understand God's sovereignty and man's responsibility this side of heaven.I have heard some pastors say this but I do not know where in the Bible they drew this conclusion, as if it were eternal truth...The Scripture is our highest presupposition, not philsophy or speculation. And to state it(God's sovereignty) cannot be understood goes beyond scripture." ~ parenthesis mine DM

    ~ Again I'd respond by saying I didn't say we could not understand God's sovereignty in light of man's responsibility. I said, "To all questions of this nature, dealing with God's sovereignty and our responsiblity, the Scriptures teach both, side-by-side without contradiction." And "Can we fully understand it this side of heaven. I can't."

    ~ The key word there is "fully". We can certainly know something of it, for god has revealed it to us. Yet it has pleased God not to reveal all things concerning Himself to men. The Scriptures call these things the "secret (hidden) things" of the Lord.

    The Scriptures are replete with references to God's ways, wisdom, knowledge and power being beyond that which man can fully comprehend. For example, God asks Job,

    "1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, 2 Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. 4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. 5 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest?" (ch. 38)

    And also here in Isaiah,

    "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD." (55:9)

    We stand in awe of God for He is not altogther like man. He is transcendent in many ways. A God we can fully understand and comprehend is no god at all.

    Thank you for your replies.

    David:

    You said >>>>many people do shrug their sholders at God everyday, denying Him before men. Their hearts are hardened and they refuse to acknowledge Christ as King. Your right to say we shouldn't respond this way, yet many do and must answer for it.

    Perhaps we misunderstand one another. That may very well be the case... apologies if it is. But the context of our conversation, as far as I could read, was about Christians, not unbelievers. The impression I received from your post was that Christians should not spend time speaking of God's sovereign work of grace in men's hearts but of man's responsibility. Further, it appeared to me that you were asserting that contemplating God's sovereignty causes CHRISTIANS to shrug and say Oh well, God is sovereign, I might as well continue to sin."

    I was merely replying that on the contrary, when a Christian discovers the glories of God's sovereignty, as revealed in the Texty of Scripture, then and only then, is grace really understood - that salvation is of the Lord, His grace, not our will nor our faith but God's grace which gives rise to our faith.

    Of course unbelievers don't talk about this because they reject the Scripture. But as believers, because it is revealed it is something of great value. The value being that it forces us to conclude that salvation is of the Lord. We have no hope in ourselves. Passing over this doctrine as something we should not speak of, IMHO, is robbing us of the riches of Christ ... of that which he has revealed to us for his own purposes and glory.

    As for FULLY understanding God, no one ever spoke of this. We don't even fully understand ourselves or others, let alone God. That is a given.

    Shalom
    jW

    I think you have pinpointed the place where we were speaking past each other. The content of this post, "Did God Harden Pharaoh's Heart, or Did Pharaoh?" is dealing with an unbeliever, Pharaoh. So, from my perspective, the context of speaking about an unbeliever, rather than the believer was already implied.

    But the same truth applies to both belivers and unbelievers. The condition of the heart, whether regenerate or unregenrate is in that condition based on the sovereignty of God.

    When it comes to questioning why someones heart is hardened, what I'm suggesting is the proper response isn't to look blamefully at the Lord for being sovereign, rather we should look to the hardened heart and deal with the sin therein. This principle holds true both for the believer and the unbeliever.

    David

    We should indeed never look to blame God but rather ourselves for our hardened heart, but looking to God's sovereignty does not necessitate that we look "blamefully" at him for such things. The story was placed in the Bible for a reason so we do not pick and choose what to teach people. The whole counsel of Scripture should be presented.

    Seeing that God is sovereign actually had the opposite effect on me when hearing it as an unbeliever when readin (Rom 9:16). It brought me to an end of myself and my thinking that I was God. Instead of blame, i would argue, that a view to God's sovereignty brings us to utterly dispair of ourselves

    JW

    It doesn't does not necessitate that we look "blamefully" at him for such things, but as in the case of Pharoah it happens sadly enough. The whole counsel of Scripture is in this matter like I've said, It teaches both. So the question becomes how to we respond to the teaching of Scripture? What shall we therefore do? The Pharoah was given the same opportunity to repent and his heart was hardened towards God. This is both the work of God and Pharoah's own doing. Glory be to God!

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