Mr. David Cloud, in today’s News Notes, shared with his subscribers a small article called “God Can Be Limited?” In it, Mr. Cloud speaks of Psalm 78:41 and from it draws the conclusion that Calvinist must be in direct contradiction to the Scriptures. But is this really so?
These Friday Church News Notes are sent out weekly as a part of Mr. Cloud’s Fundamental Baptist Information Service, which he states is purposed “to provide information to assist preachers in the protection of their churches in this apostate hour.” Awesome. Incidentally, that could be said to be one of the goals of Timothy’s Burden, as I very strongly believe Colossians 2:4-8. I also believe that Jesus Christ must be worshiped in truth because He is the Truth. I believe that when David Cloud speaks on matters such as Calvinism (or music or Bible versions), he does so perhaps not dishonestly but certainly errantly. Such errors, especially when they are widespread, must be corrected, and because I do not have access to his mailing list to send this to his subscribers, I will share this here for the benefit of the few people who visit.
The quoted text is used in accordance with American copyright law, which allows fair use of material for critical examination.
“Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of IsraelÃ¢â‚¬? (Psalm 78:41). According to Calvinism, if man can resist God or thwart His purposes then God is no longer a Sovereign God and man must be Sovereign.
Absolutely correct. We know from Scripture that the Lord’s will is always accomplished; Isaiah 46:10 establishes this beyond question. In other words, if it is God’s “counsel” and “pleasure” to do something, He will do it. If something can prevent Him from doing what He desires, that something must be more sovereign than He is.
Thus they claim that it is impossible that man could accept or reject GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s salvation.
The regenerated man, quickened by the Holy Spirit and imparted faith by the Father, is 100% able to believe in Jesus Christ — and indeed, he will. The unregenerate man not only isn’t able to believe in Jesus Christ, he has no desire to do so. This is why salvation isn’t “of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy” Romans 9:16, NKJV. I can’t even boast that I had faith in Jesus Christ, for that faith is not of myself but is of God who shows mercy.
Psalm 14, Psalm 53, and Romans 3 make it abundantly clear that no man desires God, nor does anything good in His eyes. If my faith is of myself and is something good in His eyes, those whole chapters fall as lies.
But the fact is that the Bible says man does resist and reject God, and this has been going on since the earliest days of his history. Adam rejected GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Word. Cain rejected it. NoahÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s generation rejected it. The men gathered at the Tower of Babel rejected it. When the Psalmist recounts the experience of Israel in the wilderness, he describes them as “a stubborn and rebellious generation” (Psa. 78:8) who “refused to walk in his law” (Psa. 78:10).
No argument there. Man is totally depraved, completely without the will to cooperate with God. It is this inability or bondage of the will that requires salvation — if there is to be a salvation — to be wholly of God. Man does not desire Him or His Christ.
The Psalmist then makes this amazing statement: “THEY LIMITED THE HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL” (Psa. 78:41). According to Calvinist thinking, this is not possible and if it were possible it would mean that God is not sovereign, but it is obvious that Calvinism is wrong on both counts.
It is not possible, and if it were possible it would mean that God is not sovereign. Here is Mr. Cloud’s point of contention. However, this contention is not caused by an inability to understand what is being read — indeed, Psalm 78:41 in the King James Version does indeed state that the Holy One of Israel was limited. How can that be? It’s simple. The King James Version’s translation of this verse is less than perfect. I realize Mr. Cloud believes the King James Version to be the best English version available and that he will follow it without deviation as he is able to do so. My preferred version, the New King James Version, follows suit and uses “limited” here as well.
However, the problem comes into focus when comparing this verse in other translations. John Darby translated the word as “grieved”; the English Standard Version says “provoked”; the Literal Translation of the Holy Bible reads “pained”; the Modern King James Version also reads “pained”; and the New International Version gives “vexed.”
Indeed, looking up the word in Strong’s Concordance, the word in question, taÃŒâ€švaÃŒâ€šh, only has the meaning of “to limit” if definitions of the word are somehow confused. These definitions include the ideas of “to grieve,” “to mark out,” or “to scrape.”
Because of the temptation of God, He was grieved. This is consistent with the rest of Scriptures when man’s rebellion is in view. God was certainly not limited when “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and … every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” Genesis 6:5, NKJV. Rather than being limited, He was provoked to take drastic measures, up to and including the xenocide of the giants and near xenocide of humanity.
For God to make man in His own image with a will and an ability to make real choices and for God to allow man to exercise his will even in the matter of receiving salvation does not make God any less sovereign than had He created a robot.
No, of course not. However, to assume that the will of man is capable of overriding the will of God makes man more sovereign than God. We know that God can override the will of man. He does this every time He removes the heart of stone of an unbeliever, replacing it with a heart of flesh both capable of and invariably inclined to faith in Jesus Christ. It was not of man who wills, but of God who has mercy. God’s will overrode that of man.
If God had decided to grant man absolute free will to man, including in salvation, no man would ever be saved. Apart from the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, we have no desire to seek or to know God or His Christ. If man had free will in this matter, God would never be glorified by vessels of mercy prepared for glory; He would only be glorified by vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. His glorification would be incomplete, in exchange for a little bit of vain free will on the part of man.
And it will not do to allow that man can resist God in some things but not in the matter salvation. If man can resist and reject and limit God in any way and God can still be God, then God can still be God if He offers salvation to all and some receive it and some reject it, as the Bible so plainly says. Ã¢â‚¬Å“And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freelyÃ¢â‚¬? (Rev. 22:17).
Revelation 22:17 does not specify who those are who will drink freely. Only those whom the Father gives to Christ and drags to Him are capable of drinking of the water of life that Christ offers.
Man cannot limit God. He has already determined the end of all things from the beginning, and all things which have yet to be done. His will is perfect, and it will be done. It’s a biblical certainty.