Ezekiel 18:23

Ezekiel 18:23 (see also Psalm 115:3Ezekiel 33:111st Corinthians 1:212nd Peter 3:9)
Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord GOD, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?” 

​Ezekiel 33:11 similarly states: “Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord God , ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’

​Question: When the wicked perish, is God’s will being done?

Adrian Rogers: “God did not say that some people can be saved and other people cannot be saved, that some are in a select group. No! There is no respect of persons with God. None whatsoever. The Lord is not willing that any should perish. If you go to hell, a broken-hearted God will watch you drop into hell. It is not God’s plan that you die and go to hell. The Lord is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (The Christ of the New Testament: Acts 10:43)

Adrian Rogers: “Some people submit to the will of God, some people do not. All are called, but not all respond. Those who do not say to God, ‘Not my will, but thine,’ will one day in hell hear God say to them, ‘Not My will, but thine be done.’ What a terrible way to end, resisting God.” (Foundations For Our Faith, Vol.II, A Study In Romans Chapters 5-9, p.94, emphasis mine)

​So, God would rather that the wicked turn to Him and live, and at the same time, they are allegedly excluded from a Limited Atonement, which would be the only means of their salvation. Calvinism simply doesn’t work with the Bible. 

​Question: Can the wicked deny God the pleasure of redeeming them, through their refusal to turn to Him?

Answer: Ezekiel 18:23 teaches that God takes pleasure when the wicked turn from their sins and He heals them, and so God is denied this pleasure by the refusal of the wicked, but God also takes pleasure in the Gospel plan of salvation, and so the ultimate fulfillment of God’s pleasure, in this regard, is when the wicked positively respond to the plan of salvation and turn to Him.

Hosea 7:13: Woe to them, for they have strayed from Me! Destruction is theirs, for they have rebelled against Me! I would redeem them, but they speak lies against Me.

This is reminiscent of Jeremiah 18:1-13 and Matthew 23:37. The bottom line is that God is good, and is willing. Now what all of this boils down to is this: God takes pleasure when the wicked turn to Him, but God also takes pleasure in the Gospel plan of salvation, and so the ultimate fulfillment of God’s pleasure, in this regard, is when the wicked positively respond to the plan of salvation and turn to Him.

John Calvin: “That He does not will the death of a sinner is to be believed on His own oath where He says by the prophet: As I live, I do not will the death of a sinner, but rather that he may be converted and live (Ezek 18:23, 33:11). But I contend that, as the prophet is exhorting to penitence, it is no wonder that he pronounces God willing that all be saved. ... God demands conversion from us; wherever He finds it, a man is not disappointed of the promised reward of life. Hence God is said to will life, as also repentance.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, pp.105, 106, emphasis mine)

​In other words, Ezekiel 18:23 is speaking only of a Revealed Will to receive all, instead of a Secret Will to receive only Calvinism’s elect. If true, wouldn’t you expect to see that clarification spelled out in the Bible, where a Secret Will is explicitly defined in that manner? One cannot claim to follow the Bible and then invent things outside what of the Bible actually states.

John Calvin: “So again with the promises which invite all men to salvation. They do not simply and positively declare what God has decreed in His secret counsel but what He is prepared to do for all who are brought to faith and repentance.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.106, emphasis mine)

​At what point do you charge John Calvin as a liar?

John Calvin: “But, it is alleged, we thereby ascribe a double will to God, whereas He is not variable and not the least shadow of turning falls upon Him.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.106, emphasis mine)

John Calvin: “Now this is not contradictory of His secret counselby which He determined to convert none but His elect. He cannot rightly on this account be thought variable, because as lawgiver He illuminates all with the external doctrine of life, in this first sense calling all men to life. But in the other sense, He brings to life whom He will, as Father regenerating by the Spirit only His sons.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.106, emphasis mine)

However, this does call into question sincerity. In other words, if God wishes that they would turn and live, but refuses to offer spiritual aid, then what does that say of the sincerity of the depth of desire? Consider James 2:15-16: “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” Thats the problem with the Calvinist portrayal. At best, its a shallow desire. Moreover, 1st John 3:17 states: “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against himhow does the love of God abide in him?” It is troublesome when God explicitly states that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that they should repent and live, and Calvinism renders it into an insincere desire, worse yet, is when John Calvin completely contradicts it:

John Calvin: “...God has chosen to salvation those whom He pleased, and has rejected the others, without our knowing why, except that its reason is hidden in His eternal counsel.”  (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.53, emphasis mine)

John Calvin “Those therefore whom God passes by he reprobates, and that for no other cause but because he is pleased to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines to his children.”  (Institutes, Book 3, Chapter 23, Section 1, emphasis mine) 

The Calvinistic, Westminster Confession of Faith: “III. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.” Additionally, it states: “VII. The rest of mankind, God was pleased, according to the unreachable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy, as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power  over his creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice.” (Westminster Confession of Faith, III. Of God’s Eternal Decree, emphasis mine) 

​In other words, God’s well-wishing of the non-elect is not overturned by the fact that He passes them by, since it is fallen man, rather than God, who is under duty and obligation. If true, then God would be setting a poor example, which we know is completely absurd, if not total insanity.

Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer: “Similarly, he desires that all men be saved. Yet, on the other hand, he allows the greater part of humanity to perish. We simply do not know why he has chosen to forego his desire to see all men saved. We can be quite sure, however, that there is some ultimate purpose, for the Scripture says, ‘The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil’ (Prov. 16:4).” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.197, emphasis mine)

Therefore, it appears that Calvinism must rely upon a Secret Will interpretation of Ezekiel 18:23.

One Calvinist points out concerning Isaiah 48:14: “If, indeed, it is argued that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked in any sense, then God Himself contradicts Himself here by saying He would carry out His ‘good pleasure’ by punishing Babylon and the Chaldeans.”

What if both statements are true, without any Secret Will? Isaiah 48:14 states: “Assemble, all of you, and listen! Who among them has declared these things? The LORD loves him; he will carry out His good pleasure on Babylon, and His arm will be against the Chaldeans.” This goes right back to the principle that if you remove yourself from the universally kind will of God (Ezekiel 18:23), that you will  receive His just judgment. (Isaiah 48:14) When comparing Ezekiel 18:23 with Isaiah 48:14, I conclude that when God’s pleasure, which desires mercy, is exhausted, now God’s reluctance to punish is in effect. In other words, God’s pleasure to judge Babylon was not His desire all along.

However, the Calvinist reasons: “If one ultimately agrees that God does whatever He pleases (Psalm 115:3), then one cannot but conclude that those who are not included in salvation are not included by God’s good plan and, therefore, ultimately, His good pleasure. Moreover, how is it possible that a Sovereign God, about whom Scripture plainly says He does what ‘He pleases’ (Psalm 115:3), would fail to save those whom He wants to save?” 

First of all, as Dave Hunt comments: “Of course, God ‘does whatever He pleases’ (Psalm 115:3), but it doesnt please Him to damn anyone.” (Debating Calvinism, p.59) Second, God never said that it was His good pleasure to save everyone unconditionally. If He had, and someone perished, only then could you say that His promise had failed. However, God’s promise of eternal life at John 3:16 clearly has a condition, and that condition is based upon faith in Christ. That’s what it pleased God to do, that is, to bestow eternal life in His Son, so that all who believe in Him, would not perish but having eternal life. All who remain unsaved, do so while spurning God, just like how the Israelites had spurned God’s mercy, according to Isaiah 65:2.

​In other words, God is not pleased in the death of the wicked, but He is pleased with the greater good that their death brings about. Problem: God specifically said that He would rather that they both “turn” and “live.”

Calvinists can speak of God having Two Wills, but the problem is that the “decretive will” utterly undermines the reliability of the “revealed will,” because it contradicts it in precisely opposite ways.

​Here is a link to Calvinist, R.C. Sproul, addressing Ezekiel 18:23. R.C. Sproul got into trouble the moment he gave an analogy. In other words, the judge despairs over having to condemn his guilty son, but yet according to deterministic Calvinism, who scripted, fixed, determined and decreed for man to fall into sin in the first place that God is now despairing over?

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians: “It seems to me that Sproul, and many other contemporary Calvinists, either forget, or want readers to forget, their doctrine of meticulous providence, when it comes to explaining God’s regret at having to pass over the reprobate (i.e., condemn them to Hell, when He could save them, because salvation is unconditional). Their analogies don’t work when you take into account what they say about divine providence. God is the one who controls all things, including every thought and action of every human being. People sin because God predestined sin, and rendered it certain by withdrawing the grace sinners would otherwise need in order to not sin. So sin and evil are all part of the divine plan and purpose, even if God regrets that it has to be so. Then, under the doctrine of predestination, they claim that God regretfully allows the reprobate to go to their deserved condemnation out of his justice. (What kind of justice is that, when He is saving many others who are in the same situation?) But how can God be regretful about his decision to pass over a multitude of people created in his own likeness and image, when He is the one who predetermined and rendered certain, their sinful decisions and actions? If all of this is glorifying to God, then why would He be regretful?

Continuing: “John Piper uses the analogy of an alleged incident in Revolutionary War history when General George Washington regretfully signed the death warrant of a young soldier who acted in a cowardly manner. The soldier had a wife and children, so Washington expressed deep regret that he had to have the soldier hanged. But he had to do it because the soldier deserved it, and Washington had to make an example of him, in order to prevent further acts of cowardice among the troops. What this analogy totally overlooks is that Washington did not in any way cause or render certain that the soldier would act in a cowardly manner. And it overlooks that Washington did not grant amnesty (so far as we know) to another soldier who acted in a cowardly manner at the same time. The analogy totally breaks down when one examines it just a little. It doesn’t even take a bright mind to see its problems. Yes, all analogies have points where they break down, but this one (and all like it) are simply absurd; they are not analogous at all to the Calvinist belief about God and the reprobate.