Does Luke 19:41-44 Support the Well-Meant Offer?
Prof. Herman Hanko
when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept
over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at
least in this thy day, the things which belong unto
thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.
For the days shall come upon thee, that thine
enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass
thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and
shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy
children within thee; and they shall not leave in
thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest
not the time of thy visitation (Luke 19:41-44).
asks, "How do some people try to use this text to
say that God weeps over the destruction of the
similar passage is found in Matthew 23:37: "O
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the
prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee,
how often would I have gathered thy children
together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under
her wings, and ye would not!" The biblical key
to the right interpretation of this text is to
note—as did Augustine—the distinction it makes
between "Jerusalem" (whose religious leaders were
the unbelieving Pharisees) and Jerusalem’s
"children" (the true, spiritual, elect Jews) whom
Jesus desired to, and did, save. For more on
this, see "Does
Matthew 23:37 Teach the Well Meant Offer?"
texts are wrongly cited as proof for the notion that
the gospel is a gracious expression of God’s love
for all men and of His desire to save all men,
including the reprobate. It is so adamantly
promoted by its proponents that anyone who disagrees
is the object of some nasty name-calling:
"Hyper-Calvinists! Unable to do evangelism!"
argument that finds a gracious and well-meant gospel
offer in these texts is this: If Jesus was sorrowful
at the impending judgment of Jerusalem, which would
leave Jerusalem lying in heaps of rubble, His sorrow
must have been born in His desire to save the
inhabitants—and His failure to do so. He was
stymied in His desires and failed to accomplish His
purpose in spite of His best efforts. Thus
some, claiming to be Calvinists and claiming,
therefore, that God always accomplishes His purpose,
have no other recourse available to them than to
conclude that a sovereign God failed to save those
whom He loves and desires to save. No appeal
to "apparent contradiction" or "higher logic in God
than in us" can escape the conclusion that our Lord
was bitterly disappointed that His best efforts to
save Jerusalem were stymied by Jerusalem’s unbelief.
also been argued that Christ, according to His
divine nature, willed and desired the salvation of
the elect only but that according to His human
nature He desired the salvation of all men. This
interpretation was offered in an important church
case in Australia. But the one who taught this
view was rightly charged with Nestorianism, that is,
the error, condemned already by the church at the
Council of Ephesus in 431, that our Lord had two
persons. When this heresy of Nestorianism is
applied to the gracious and well-meant gospel offer,
the result is confusion. Our Lord Jesus
Christ, who is personally the Second Person of the
Trinity, and who is (to use the words of the
Nicene Creed) "true God of true God," was fully
sovereign in all that He did, especially in His
salvation of the elect for whom He died. But
that same Lord Jesus Christ was also a human person
who earnestly desired the salvation of all men and
in love and mercy for all sought their salvation.
Our one Lord Jesus Christ living in a state of
constant contradiction! How can that be?
Scripture does not teach such "paradoxes" and
"apparent contradictions," and those who claim that
it does, do so only because they have an axe to
grind: they want to spread abroad the notion that
God loves all men and would save them all if He
reason for our Lord’s sorrow is relatively easy.
Jerusalem was the capital of Israel. Israel
was the one people that God had chosen to be His own
possession and to whom He had given special gifts
(cf. Rom. 9:4-5). Furthermore, Jerusalem was
filled with pictures of Christ Himself: the throne
of David and Solomon, the temple, the many
sacrifices that were made daily in the temple, the
feasts celebrated in the holy city and Mount Zion
itself, beautiful for situation and the joy of the
whole earth (Ps. 48:2). All these pictures had
served a very good purpose throughout the entire old
these beautiful pictures of Christ were marred badly
by the wicked scribes and Pharisees was the reason
for Christ’s sorrow. Is not this
understandable? Would you not be grieved if
some wicked person took your best photograph and
spoiled it so terribly that you looked like a
monster? Would you not be very sorrowful if
someone in hatred painted a beard on a photograph of
was like us in all things, sin excepted. He
was also a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,
who could weep over the death of His beloved
Lazarus—even though He knew He was going to raise
Lazarus from the grave.
pictures were hopelessly ruined, with no chance of
proper restoration. Our Lord could see
Jerusalem in all its splendor as it pointed to
Himself. He was saddened by what was about to
happen to it.
was also angry. When He saw the temple, a picture of
His own blessed body, made a den of thieves, He was
infuriated. In His anger, He drove out the
buyers and sellers and the animals that were sold
within its precincts (John 2:13-22).
certainly is not strange that Christ, Himself true
God of true God, was grieved at the sin that made
Jerusalem the ugly spectacle that it had become. God
certainly was grieved with Israel when they
constantly rebelled against Him in the wilderness
(Heb. 3:10, 17; Ps. 95:10). Surely, there is
no one who would dare to say that God delights in
the sin of man, much less His own people.
Surely, no one would hold to the position that God
is filled with joy when the church corrupts His
truth and makes a caricature of His sovereignty.
The very idea is blasphemous.
conclude from God’s anger with sinners and His
abhorrence of sin that He desires to save all men is
a monstrous corruption of simple logic. The
truth of Scripture is that God loves His elect with
a love revealed in the cross of Christ and God so
greatly abhors the sinner that He punishes the
sinner with eternity in hell.
gracious, well-meant gospel offer claims that God
desires the salvation of all men (including the
reprobate). The preaching of the gospel is,
according to that view, intended to demonstrate
God’s love, mercy and grace to everybody in the hope
that men might be persuaded to forsake their wicked
ways and believe in Christ. According to that
view, Jesus’ weeping over the city in Luke 19 is
evidence of His disappointment that all He had done
for the city had ended in failure.
serious objections can be brought against the
well-meant gospel offer, not the least of which is
that the omnipotent God in Jesus Christ is unable to
accomplish that which He wishes: He wishes to save
all, but is successful in saving only some. Some
theologians, more inclined than others towards the
teachings of Calvinism, have had to cope with two
wills in God: one will of election according to
which God wills to save only some, and another will
according to which He desires to save everybody.
Not only does God have two wills in this view, but
the two wills are contradictory!
to remind ourselves that Jesus’ tears over Jerusalem
are explained in the text, not as tears of
disappointment because He failed in His attempt to
save the city. His tears were over the
imminent destruction of the city for its unbelief.
Verses 43 and 44 teach us that: "For the days shall
come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a
trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep
thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with
the ground, and thy children within thee; and they
shall not leave in thee one stone upon another;
because thou knewest not the time of thy
also to note that the destruction of Jerusalem was
according to God’s eternal purpose. This too
is taught in the text. Jesus bemoans the fact
that Jerusalem’s destruction would not have taken
place, "If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in
this thy day, the things which belong unto thy
peace!" These things that belong to Jerusalem’s
peace are "hid [by
God] from thine eyes." This is sovereign
connection with the clear teaching in the text of
the doctrine of reprobation, we must emphasize that
reprobation does not cancel out man’s accountability
before God for his sins. God accomplishes His
eternal decree of reprobation in such a way that man
is culpable for his sins and deserves eternal
damnation for them. While God had hid from the
leaders in Jerusalem the "things which belong unto
thy peace," these things were also well-known to the
leaders who were guilty of rejecting them.
Jesus says, "If thou hadst known, even thou ..." He
refers not to the mere formal knowledge
of the Old Testament Scriptures, which the Jews
surely possessed, but to the saving knowledge that
gives the spiritual ability to believe these things
and act accordingly. The distinction is the
same as Paul uses in Romans 1:18ff. The wicked
know that God is the only true God and that He must
be served, but they suppress the truth in
unrighteousness—and in this sense do not know it.
Jerusalem was to be destroyed because the Jews did
not know (and believe) the things that belonged to
Jerusalem’s peace. The things that belonged to
Jerusalem’s peace were Jerusalem’s status as the
capital of the nation and the centre of God’s
worship in the temple as these things in Israel’s
life signified, typified and pointed ahead to the
Messiah, the Christ, the One who had now come to
fulfill all these types. They wanted no part
in the Messiah and clung firmly but foolishly to the
pictures, despising their reality in Christ.
They were like a man who worships the photograph of
his wife while treating her with cruelty and being
unfaithful to her. But if Jerusalem’s
destruction because of Israel’s unbelief was God’s
sovereign work, why did Jesus weep when He saw the
city’s unbelief and its subsequent destruction?
completely in harmony with God’s Being and with
Christ’s divine nature to say that sin makes God
"sad"—as it made Christ sad and brought about His
tears. The decree of reprobation as it is
sovereignly carried out in the way of man’s sin does
not preclude God’s hatred of sin and His "distress"
at man’s refusal to obey Him. God has no
pleasure in the death of the wicked but that he turn
from his evil way (Eze. 33:11). God has no
delight in disobedience to His law and takes no
pleasure in man’s rebellion. It is difficult for me
to imagine that anyone would teach this hateful
an opposite position would mean—would it not?—that
God is pleased with man’s sin and rubs His hands in
glee when men transgress. Reprobation is
sovereign, but man is accountable for his sin, and
his iniquity brings down upon him God’s judgment.
If God would not punish man for his sin, then He
would not be God—holy and true, righteous and
spotless, rejoicing in purity. We belong to
and worship the one true God who takes pleasure in
holiness and rejoices in uprightness.
was sad because Jerusalem had rejected Him to whom
the whole Old Testament pointed for He was the one
who had come to fulfill it all.
sovereignty, also in reprobation, must not obscure
His hatred of sin and His just punishment of the
sinner. That Christ, also in His divine
nature, was sad because of Jerusalem’s wickedness
must not be interpreted as disappointment or
frustration—as with the well-meant gospel offer.
It must be interpreted as God’s hatred of sin and
determination to maintain that which is pleasing to
him, namely holiness.