In the sermon entitled, “Unbelievable Unbelief”, we saw how the children of Israel refused to receive Christ as their Lord and Saviour, despite the perfect preaching and great works that were done among them by Christ. This made their obdurate rejection of Christ simply astounding.  Concerning these men, Christ said in Matthew 13:14-15, “And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”

That God is involved in the hardening of the hearts of men, can be seen in the example of Pharaoh during the time of Moses. See especially Romans 13:17-18, and the narrative account in Exodus 5-14. Yet, we are told in the Scriptures that God is a merciful God who desires the salvation of men (2 Pet. 3:4). How then should we rightly understand this topic of divine hardening, such that it does not contradict this truth?

I have hereby extracted and reproduced the teachings of Frances Turretin, John Calvin and Timothy Tow, to help us understand this subject. I pray that we will take this time of  “circuit-breaker” retreat, to meditate on this truth for our edification and advancement in comprehending the various aspects of the will of God.


(Extracted from Institutes of Elenctic Theology Vol. I, Sixth Topic: The Actual Providence of God)

How Hardening and Blinding are Ascribed to God

God is said to blind and to harden men not only negatively (by not enlightening and softening) and privately (by withdrawing his grace whatever it may have been after men have abused it) and permissively (by not hindering), but also positively. Not by bringing in blindness or hardness (which is natural to man), but both objectively by presenting external objects to them which although ordained to another direction by their own nature, yet he knows will be drawn in a different way by their vice; and judicially by smiting them internally with blindness (the light which they abused being taken away or extinguished); and by loosening the reins to their lusts and delivering them up and enslaving them to Satan; and acting in many other inexplicable ways by which he exercises judgement of just blinding and hardening upon the contumacious (Editor’s note: i.e. the obstinately disobedient). Yet this does not hinder the wicked also from blinding and hardening themselves by the abuse of those things by which especially they ought to be softened (such is the longsuffering and kindness of God, Rom. 2:4). The light of the word and the sweetness of the gospel, which becomes to them “a savour of death unto death” (2 Cor. 2:16), and the very castigations of God by which they ought to be corrected, making them more obstinate – “O LORD . . . thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; . . . they have made their faces harder than a rock . . .” (Jer. 5:3). So one hardening is culpable on the part of men who harden themselves; just and penal on the part of God who hardens them by his righteous judgement for the punishment of previous sins.

JOHN CALVIN ON DIVINE HARDENING (Extracted from An Abridgement of Calvin’s Institutes, Book II,  Chapter IV: The Operation of God)

On this topic, the operation of God in the hearts of men, there is that action described in Scripture called “hardening and blinding”. . . . I say that, when Scripture says that God blinds and hardens the reprobate, He does more than merely foreknow or permit. His action of hardening and blinding operates in two ways.

First, He removes His light so that nothing remains but darkness and blindness. When His Spirit is withdrawn, our hearts harden into stones. Second, for the execution of His judgements, He, by means of Satan, the minister of His wrath, directs their counsels to what He pleases. Thus, when Moses relates that Sihon would not grant a free passage to the Israelites, because God “hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate,” he immediately subjoins the end of God’s design, “that he might deliver him into thy hand” (Deut. 2:30). Since God willed his destruction, the obscuration of his heart, therefore, was the Divine preparation for his ruin.


(Extracted from The Clock of the Sevenfold Will of God)

That God is not the chargeable cause of the loss of the lost the Scripture makes clear! “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should dies? saith the Lord God; and not that he should return from his ways and live? For I have no pleasure in the death of him who dieth, saith the Lord God; wherefore turn yourselves and live ye.” (Buswell, Systematic Theology II, p.154, 155).

Yes, Judas was one of the privileged Twelve to be chosen (as an apostle), who lived with his Master and saw all the miracles that He did. Nevertheless, Jesus called him a devil because of his disbelief and wilful turning from the Truth.

The decretive will is a high mystery of Divine Sovereignty and human responsibility. It may be illustrated by this famous moot question discussed in the schools of law. Suppose I invite you to come to my party. On the way you trip on a banana skin and break your kneecap. Who is to blame? You or I? Can you sue me at law?

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew