Fifth Sermon on Romans 11:33

In keeping with the passage that he is expositing, Amyraut’s sermon on Rom 11:33 again sustains a pervasive doxological emphasis. In response to God’s free creation, his general revelation of his patience, and forbearance in nature and providence, and his particular revelation to the Jews and in Christ, efficaciously applied in some, the only appropriate response is to cry, “Oh the depths of the riches of the wisdom of God!” As a result, Amyraut’s purpose in his exposition of the passage is primarily to speak of the freedom of God. He observes the circumstances of Paul’s words and several conclusions, particularly of a twofold election.69

The epistolary context of Paul links his praise of God’s wisdom with his discourse on his dealings with Jews and Gentiles. Paul has described how God allowed Israel to fall so that opportunity may be given to extend grace to Gentiles. Yet, the Jews will be called back in the future. This transfer of the center of God’s saving activity confirms that all are placed in rebellion so that God might have mercy upon all. But, this does not mean that God saves every person. According to his first kind of mercy he does, providing that they believe. But, according to the second kind of mercy that creates faith in its recipients, he does not desire for every person to be saved. On one hand, all men are not saved because many refuse God’s offered salvation, but on the other hand, they could have been saved, but their corrupt natures made it impossible for them to believe.70

To each group, Jew and Gentile, God acted differently before the manifestation of the gospel. To the Gentiles, God gave only the revelation of himself through nature and his providence. Even this revelation was often despised, and so God allowed Gentiles to fall into infamously licentious behavior as judgment. At the same time, in Judea there were two different groups. Some faithful ones held to the promises of the Messiah and did so by the Spirit’s inward power. Others were restrained in their outward behavior from reprehensible living, while sinful passions continued to writhe within them. This apparent contrast in outward behavior between Jews and Gentiles could seem to provide a contrast in the working of God’s salvation. If Jews behaved better than Gentiles, were they saved by their works? And now that the gospel had come to Gentiles, were they saved in a different manner, by grace? To avoid this possible confusion and to emphasize God’s mercy above all other considerations, God largely removed the light of salvation from Israel for a time. This focus upon the Gentiles could then confirm his mercy.71

In response, reason cannot accuse God’s justice. Throughout this process, none of his elect have been lost. Rather, hypocrites who were only holy in their outward behavior were revealed in their rejection of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In manifesting his mercy and justice in this way, God did no wrong. As Paul remarks concerning Pharaoh in Romans 9, God disposed with his creatures according to his good pleasure, when all alike were a corrupt and condemned mass. In fact, the consistent dismissal of his glorious justice and mercy vindicates God’s actions. “It does not come from his wisdom to suffer that these virtues are misconstrued or despised.72 God’s concern for his glory is similar to a generous Prince who would not suffer false reputes impugning his character. While God’s nature is beyond our comprehension, he uses such images to reveal to us the least shadow of his nature, so far as we can understand it.

Here, Amyraut introduces Calvin’s distinction of two different kinds of election encompassed within the scope of the preceding passage. First, there is precise, absolute and unconditional election of particular people. Second, there is universal or general election of entire peoples. For example, God elected the Jews as a people through his promises to Abraham. Now, following the death and resurrection of Christ, God has likewise elected the Gentiles as a people. This general election is not election to faith, but to participation in the proclamation of the word and promises of the Redeemer. That the gospel is preached to new nations is a great grace, but God still requires faith in response. The first kind of election is to the calling of the Spirit and the second to the external calling of the word.73

Amyraut further expounds these two election with particular reference to the illustration of the olive tree and olive branches. If the olive tree is considered as the promises of the Redeemer, then the branches would represent men. Since the mysterious body of Christ may be considered in two ways, then the illustration also suggests two different types of planting. On one hand, there are those planted by true faith. When considering them, the invisible body of Christ is in view. On the other hand, some are planted in the body of Christ only as far as hearing the external preaching of the promises and making external profession of faith. With regard to them, the illustration is of the visible church. Different possibilities are present depending upon the two different kinds .of planting. Branches, or men, are never removed with respect to the first, particular kind of election, but may be removed in the second, general election.74

The removal of branches in the second kind of election has frequently been observed, whether with reference to the Jews, as Paul mentions, or later as churches have flourished in some places for a time, to nearly pass away entirely in later generations. The Reformation itself has been unequally distributed among the nations of Europe. Plus, the advent of navigation has allowed the gospel to be carried to distant peoples who for generations past had dwelt in complete darkness. But, even then, the gospel may be carried to one distant nation and not to another. In those cases, various factors may contribute to the direction that those bearing the gospel take: the winds may blow one direction rather than another, one harbor may be more welcoming than another. Whatever secondary causes may direct the path of the gospel, the only ultimate explanation is God’s good pleasure. No nation can claim to be more worthy to receive and hear the gospel than their neighbors.75

What is the relationship between general and particular election? Amyraut concedes that at a certain level general election is principally for the purpose of facilitating the particular election of those eternally predestined. Christ came in order to provide propitiation for the sins of all men, providing that they believe. But, the elect are necessary because men will not believe because of their corruption. Without the elect, it would be possible that there would be no effect from Christ’s propitiation. As a result, it is possible to say that Jesus came only for the elect. In fact, God does not send the gospel where there would not be any of the elect to be called. It is contrary to the wisdom of God that he should send his word somewhere that it would prove to be entirely without effect.76

In Paul’s treatment of the subject, Amyraut observes that he mixes these two elections, thereby illustrating their interrelationship. The visible church is a diverse assembly with both of these two elections operating, though in different ways. So, only in general election would branches be removed. But, only in particular election are the branches united by faith. According to both kinds of election, wild vines may be grafted onto the cultivated tree. Paul’s warning against arrogance also addresses each group, but differently in each situation. To the particularly elect, it serves to confirm and sustain faith. To those only generally elect, it is a warning against their arrogance and a threatening of their fall since their profession is only external.77

Returning to the conclusion that the preaching of the gospel only occurs where God has some of his elect, Amyraut observes the changes through history of which nations God calls through general election. The church began in Palestine and blossomed early in Asia Minor when the Gauls were completely ignorant of the gospel. Now, Islam predominates there, while France enjoys the clear proclamation of the gospel. But the time of gospel preaching in France may be limited, and God may soon send his word to the newly discovered lands of America or Guinea. We are thereby reminded continually of God’s sovereign liberty that is beyond our wisdom. To seek a reason for his different distributions to different nations and times would be to sin against his will. In fact, God demonstrates two kinds of wisdom. The first kind of wisdom is displayed in the wonders. of the natural order and creation. We can understand it as we learn about his wisdom there and praise him for it. The other kind of wisdom infinitely exceeds our intelligence. While one can be grateful that God has foreknown us before creation, we can offer or claim no reason for his mercy. No merit, either ‘ actual or foreseen, provides a grounds for boasting over our individual or national neighbors.78

Harmon, Matthew Paul, “Moyse Amyraut’s Six Sermons: Directions for Amyrauldian Studies.” (Th.M. thesis, Westminster Theological Seminary, 2008), 50-56.  [Bold original; footnotes and values original; and underlining mine.]

[Notes: 1) This thesis is an important contribution to the literature on Amyraut. For while Harmon is highly critical of Armstrong, he clarifies Amyraut’s theology on a number of important points. 3) The concepts of general and twofold Election have their roots in Calvin and Musculus, and others. 4) Copies are available for purchase from Curt Daniel’s Good Books (2456 Devonshire Road, Springfield, IL. 62703, USA).]


69Amyraut, Sermons sur divers Textes, 212-214.

70Ibid, 214-216.

71Ibid, 216-219.

72Ibid, 222. ” … pource qu’il ne conviens pas à sa sagesse de souffrir que ces vertus soient

ou mesconnues, ou mespnesees.”

73Ibid, 224-226.

74Ibid, 227-229.

75Ibid, 231-234.

76Ibid, 235-237.

77Ibid, 237-239.

78Ibid, 240-244.

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