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Quotes on Ezekiel 18:23, 32 and 33:11


Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562): "Therefore, by this will, which we call the signified will, he does not will the sinner's death. Rather he provokes them to repentance [Eze. 33:11]. As to the other will, which they call the will of his good pleasure (beneplacitus), if by it he wills that no one perish, then surely no one would perish. As Augustine says, there is no will so perverse that if he wishes to, God cannot make it good. According to this will he has done all things he wished. This is a simple and plain interpretation. If our adversaries will not accept it, but insist on contending that the prophet's words are to be understood of the absolute will of God, and the will of his good pleasure, then we answer that the statement does not relate to all sinners universally, only to those who repent. They are the elect and predestined, to whom God, according to his purpose, gives faith and calling, and repentance" (Predestination and Justification [Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2003], p. 46).

John Calvin (1509-1564):

[1] "Since, therefore, repentance is a kind of second creation, it follows that it is not in man's power; and if it is equally in God's power to convert men as well as to create them, it follows that the reprobate are not converted, because God does not wish their conversion; for if he wished it he could do it: and hence it appears that he does not wish it. But again they argue foolishly, since God does not wish all to be converted, he is himself deceptive, and nothing can be certainly stated concerning his paternal benevolence. But this knot is easily untied; for he does not leave us in suspense when he says, that he wishes all to be saved. Why so? for if no one repents without finding God propitious, then this sentence is filled up. But we must remark that God puts on a twofold character: for he here wishes to be taken at his word. As I have already said, the Prophet does not here dispute with subtlety about his incomprehensible plans, but wishes to keep our attention close to God's word. Now, what are the contents of this word? The law, the prophets, and the gospel. Now all are called to repentance, and the hope of salvation is promised them when they repent. this is true, since God rejects no returning sinner: he pardons all without exception: meanwhile, this will of God which he sets forth in his word does not prevent him from decreeing before the world was created what he would do with every individual: and as I have now said, the Prophet only shows here, that when we have been converted we need not doubt that God immediately meets us and shows himself propitious" (Comm. on Eze. 18:23).

[2] "A passage of Ezekiel's is brought forward, that 'God does not will the death of the wicked but wills that the wicked turn back and live' [Ezek. 33:11 p.]. If it pleases God to extend this to the whole human race, why does he not encourage to repentance the very many whose minds are more amenable to obedience than the minds of those who grow harder and harder at his daily invitations? Among the people of Nineveh [cf. Matt. 12:41] and of Sodom, as Christ testifies, the preaching of the gospel and miracles would have accomplished more than in Judea [Matt. 11:23]. If God wills that all be saved, how does it come to pass that he does not open the door of repentance to the miserable men who would be better prepared to receive grace? Hence we may see that this passage is violently twisted if the will of God, mentioned by the prophet, is opposed to his eternal plan, by which he has distinguished the elect from the reprobate. Now if we are seeking the prophet's true meaning, it is that he would bring the hope of pardon to the penitent only. The gist of it is that God is without doubt ready to forgive, as soon as the sinner is converted ... Let us therefore regard the prophet's instruction that the death of the sinner is not pleasing to God as designed to assure believers that God is ready to pardon them as soon as they are touched by repentance but to make the wicked feel that their transgression is doubled because they do not respond to God's great kindness and goodness. God's mercy will always, accordingly, go to meet repentance, but all the prophets and all the apostles, as well as Ezekiel himself, clearly teach to whom repentance is given" (Institutes 3.24.15, pp. 982, 983).

"The prophet's words of universal promise [in Ezekiel 18:23] do not refer [according to Calvin] to the eternal counsel of God, nor do they set the universal promise of the gospel against the eternal counsel as a different will. Rather God always wills the same thing, presumably, the salvation of the elect, albeit in different ways, namely, in his eternal counsel and through the preaching of the gospel ... unlike Amyraut, Calvin is not referring to two revealed mercies. Indeed, Calvin specifically states that these two apparent ways of willing are actually ways in which God wills one and the same thing. Where Amyraut has begun to move toward an argument concerning two divine mercies and wills, Calvin insists on a single divine volition ... Calvin's rather strenuous objections to a notion of two wills, specifically to a view that would place the universalizing promise of the gospel into some ultimately secret, and unfulfilled divine will ... What Calvin in no way countenanced was a notion of a double will in God, one hypothetical to save all, the other absolute to save the elect: there was in Calvin's view, one divine will and one will only, and that, to save the elect ... Calvin's intention was to identify, on the one hand, the particularity of God's [saving will] and, on the other hand, the universality not of a distinct will to save but of the preaching of salvation" (Richard A. Muller, "A Tale of Two Wills? Calvin, Amyraut, and Du Moulin on Ezekiel 18:23," in Calvin and the Reformed Tradition on the Work of Christ and the Order of Salvation [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2012], pp. 114, 116, 122).

"In the view of Amyraut's indefatigable opponent, Pierre Du Moulin, Calvin never hypothesized two divine wills and certainly not 'conseils de Dieu frustratoires' ... Du Moulin indicates [that] Calvin never spoke [in connection with Ezekiel 18:23 or anywhere else] of 'general Predestination, or of a first and second mercy, or of frustrated counsels of God'" (Muller, "A Tale of Two Wills?" pp. 109, 120).

John Knox (c. 1514-1572): “But here you say, that God wills the death of no creature [Eze. 33:11], but that he wills all men to be saved [I Tim. 2:4]; which last words being understand as you do urge them, must destroy the former nature of God, and take away his justice. For if he absolutely wills the death of no creature, then wills he no punishment to follow sin. And if he will no punishment, then willeth he his justice to cease, and so, consequently, must one of the properties of his godly nature cease. Study for an answer, to make your former words and latter words better agree, or else you will be compelled to confess, that God, for some respect, willeth both death and damnation to come upon some creatures ... Now it resteth to declare how violently you wrest the words of the Prophet and of the Apostle. The Prophet, speaking in the person of God, saith, ‘I will not the death of a sinner, but rather that he convert, and live.’ And the Apostle affirmeth, that God will all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Hereupon you conclude, God will the death of no creature: this is your first violence which you do to the text. For the Prophet saith not, ‘I will the death of no creature,’ but saith, ‘I will not the death of a sinner.’ You are not ignorant, I suppose, what difference there is betwixt a universal negative and an indefinite, or particular. Where you say, God willeth the death of no creature, you speak generally and universally, excepting none. But so doth not the Prophet, for he saith not, ‘I will the death of no creature,’ neither yet ‘I will the death of no sinner,’ but simply saith, ‘I will not the death of a sinner.’ I wonder that you consider not that as there is difference betwixt creatures and creature, so that also there is difference betwixt sinners and sinner. Some creatures are appointed to death, for the use and sustentation of man. And dare you say, that this is done against God’s will! We be taught the contrary by his own mouth. If you correcting your generality, shall say, that you mean only that God will the death of no man. And I fear not yet to join with you, and against you to affirm, that God hath willed, doth will, and shall will the death of some men. The Holy Ghost, speaking of the sons of Eli the high priest saith, ‘But they did not hear the voice of their father, because the Lord would kill them’ [I Sam. 2:25]. And Moses saith, ‘Sihon king of Heshbon would not suffer us to pass through his country for the Lord thy God did harden his mind, and strengthen his heart, that he should give him into thy hands’ [Deut. 2:30]. How often doth Moses and Joshua declare unto the people, that God would kill, root out, and destroy, those wicked nations from before the face of his people! And were all those kings, whom Joshua did kill, killed against God’s will! The Holy Ghost affirmeth the contrary. For it is written, ‘the Lord did trouble them before Israel, and he did strike them with a great slaughter. And while that they did flee before the Israelites, and were in the descent of Beth-horon, the Lord cast down upon them from heaven great stones; and many more perished by the hail stones that were slain with the sword of the children of Israel’ [Josh. 10:10-11]. If the destruction, slaughter, and death, of these wicked men, and of the great host of Sennacherib, was not the will of God, I can not tell how man shall be assured of his will. For the plain word did before promise, that the Lord should destroy them; and the fact doth witness the constancy and performance of his will. And the same thing doth God this day, and shall do to the end of the world, when he shall adjudge the reprobate (as before is said) to the death perpetual; and that not against his will, but willingly, for the manifestation of his just judgments, and declaration of his own glory [Rom. 9:22-23]. And therefore, I say, that your proposition, saying, ‘God willeth the death of no creature,’ is manifestly false, as it that repugneth to God’s justice and to his evident Scriptures. The minds of the Prophets was to stir such as had declined from God, to return unto him by true repentance. And because their iniquities were so many, and offences so great, that justly they might have despaired of remission, mercy, and grace, therefore doth the Prophet, for the better assurance of those that should repent, affirm. ‘That God delighteth not, neither willeth the death of the wicked,’ but of which wicked? Of him, no doubt, that truly should repent, in his death did not, nor never shall God delight. But he delighteth to be known a God that sheweth mercy, grace, and favour to such as unfeignedly call for the same, how grievous soever their former offences have been. But such as continue obstinate in their impiety, have no portion of these promises. For them will God kill, them will he destroy, and them will he thrust, by the power of his Word, into the fire which never shall be quenched” (On Predestination, in Answer to the Cavillations by an Anabaptist [1560], pp. 406, 408-410; spelling and punctuation modernized).

Pierre du Moulin (1568–1658): "Ezekiel 18.23. God saith in these words; I am not delighted with the death of a sinner, but that he should be converted, and live. These words [contrary to the Arminians] say nothing else than that God will[s] not the death of that sinner who is converted: But if he be not converted, Arminius himself will not deny, but that God doth will his death; as the judge doth will the punishment of him that is guilty. God is not delighted with the death of a sinner, as he is a man, but yet no man can deny, but that God loveth the execution of his justice" (Anatomie of Arminianism [London: T. S. for Nathaniel Newbery, 1620], p. 250).

"As to the interpretation of Ezekiel 18[:23], the text clearly indicates that God 'desires not the death of a sinner,' but Du Moulin notes that this in no way declares that God is regretful or reluctant or that there is any change in the divine decree. Indeed, 'it is without regret, and with a full approval, that God wills that a sinner, if he repents and returns, he will live and not perish.' Those who continue in their sinful and impenitent state, however, will be punished, as the prophet Ezekiel himself declares in several places—'justice,' Du Moulin declares, is also a 'virtue of God: and God does not exercise any of his virtues with regret' ... In accord with Calvin's interpretation [of Ezekiel 18:23], Du Moulin also indicated that the required repentance did not reflect a hypothetical intention to save the reprobate or an alteration in the divine decree" (Muller, "A Tale of Two Wills?" pp. 120-121).

The Geneva Theses (1649), drafted by Theodore Tronchin (1582-1657) and Antoine Léger (1594-1661), approved by Geneva's Venerable Company of Pastors and signed on their behalf by the moderator, Joannes Jacobus Sartorius (1619-1690): "Rejection of the error of those: Who teach that ... most especially the places of Scripture (Ezek. 18:21 etc. and 33:11; John 3:16; I Tim. 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9) ought to be extended to each and every man and by these the universality of love and grace ought to be proved" (quoted in James T. Dennison, Jr., Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, vol. 4 [Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014], p. 421; cf. p. 417).

John Owen (1616-1683): “'God willeth not the death of a sinner,' is either, 'God purposeth and determineth he shall not die,' or, 'God commandeth that he shall do those things wherein he may live.' If the first, why are they not all saved? why do sinners die? for there is an immutability in the counsel of God, Heb. vi. 17; 'His counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure,' Isa. xlvi. 10. If the latter way, by commanding, then the sense is, that the Lord commandeth that those whom he calleth should do their duty, that they may not die (although he knows that this they cannot do without his assistance) ... I have often admired how so many strange conclusions for a general purpose of showing mercy to all" (The Works of John Owen [Great Britain: Banner, 1967], vol. 10, pp. 387, 388).

Francis Turretin (1623-1687): "When God testifies that 'he has no pleasure at all in the death of the sinner, but that he should return from his ways, and live' (Eze.18:23), this does not favour the inefficacious will or the feeble velleity of God because the [Hebrew] word chpts (which occurs there) does not denote desire so much as delight and complacency. Thus God may be said not to delight in the punishment of the wicked inasmuch as it is the destruction of the creature, although he wills it as an exercise of his justice. So he is said to will the repentance of sinners approvingly and preceptively as a thing most pleasing to himself and expressed in his commands, although with respect to all of them he nills it decretively and effectively ... Although God protests that 'he has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but in his conversion and life' (Eze. 33:11), it does not follow that from eternity he willed and intended under any condition the conversion and life of each and every man. For besides the fact that conversion cannot be intended under any condition (because it is itself a condition), it is certain that here is treated the will of euarestias and of complacency, not the will of good pleasure (eudokias) (which the verb chpts proves, meaning everywhere to be pleased and to hold as grateful, to imply that God is pleased with the conversion and life of the sinner as a thing grateful to him and agreeing with his perfectly merciful nature, rather than with his destruction, and therefore exacts it from man as a bounden duty to be converted if he desires to live). But although he wills not (i.e., is not pleased with the death of the sinner, as it denotes the destruction of a creature), yet he does not cease to will and intend it as an exercise of his justice and as the occasion of manifesting his glory (Prov. 1:26; 1 Sam. 2:34). Take, for example, a pious magistrate who is not pleased with the death of the guilty, yet does not cease justly to decree their punishment in accordance with the laws. Nor is it the case that if God does not properly intend their repentance and salvation, does he to no purpose say to the reprobate who are invited to repentance, 'Why will ye die?' For he rightly shows them by these words what they must do to avoid death and that by their voluntary impenitence, they alone are the cause of their own destruction, not God. For although by the decree of reprobation, he had passed them by and determined not to give them faith, yet no less voluntarily do they sin and so obstinately bring down their own destruction upon themselves" (Institutes of Elenctic Theology [Phillipsburg, NJ; P&R, 1992], vol. 1, pp. 229-230, 408).

"Francis Turretin (1623-87), who held the chair of theology at the Genevan Academy from 1653 until his death, was a great synthesizer and defender of Reformed orthodoxy. He frequently defends and exposits the declarations of the Synod of Dort in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology His interpretation of the Canons and his exposition of the Reformed doctrine of the calling of the reprobate shed a great deal of light on this subject and demonstrate the coherence of this doctrine. At the same time, he leaves no room for the well-meant offer of salvation as it is presented by the [Christian Reformed Church's] 1924 synod [which cited Ezekiel 18:23 and 33:11] and its defenders. In his discussion of the calling of the reprobate, Turretin repudiates two assertions: First, that the reprobate are 'called with the design and intention on God's part that they should become partakers of salvation;' and second, that it follows from this that 'God does not deal seriously with them, but hypocritically and falsely; or that he can be accused of some injustice.' Turretin states the Reformed position as follows: 'we do not deny that the reprobate ... are called by God through the gospel; still we do deny that they are called with the intention that they should be made actual partakers of salvation (which God knew would never be the case because in his decree he had ordained otherwise concerning them). Nor ought we on this account to think that God can be charged with hypocrisy or dissimulation, but that he always acts most seriously and sincerely'" (Raymond A. Blacketer, "The Three Points in Most Parts Reformed: A Reexamination of the So-Called Well-Meant Offer of Salvation," Calvin Theological Journal, vol. 35, no. 1 [April, 2000], p. 59).

Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635-1711):

[1] "When God is said to desire something which does not occur, such as when He states, 'O that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear Me ... that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!' (Deu. 5:29), or, 'O that thou hadst hearkened to My commandments! then had thy peace been as a river' (Isa. 48:18), He is speaking in the manner of men. Strictly speaking, such can never be said concerning the omniscient, omnipotent, immovable, and most perfect God. Rather, it indicates God's displeasure against sin and how He delights in holiness. It indicates that sin is the reason why those blessings are withheld from them—blessings which they, according to His promise, would have received as a reward upon godliness. The promises are made upon condition of obedience which is granted to the elect according to God's immutable purpose. When God says, 'Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should turn from his ways and live?' (Ezek. 18:23), this does not suggest that God's will is impotent. Rather, it indicates that God has no pleasure in the destruction of men, inasmuch as they are His creatures. He has pleasure in the exercise of righteousness and godliness, and in blessing the godly" (The Christian's Reasonable Service, trans. Bartel Elshout, vol. 1 [Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1992], p. 117).

[2] "To propose that there is a universal will to save all men implies that God wills contrary to His will. He who truly, sincerely, and fervently wishes to accomplish a task, will execute it if at all possible. God is able to actually save all men, but it is not according to His will. This is confirmed by the outcome of events. If, however, it is God's desire to save all men, then He necessarily has willed to do so, which is also true for the reverse argument ... Then God would fervently and earnestly desire something which He simultaneously knows with certainty will never come to pass. If God were to universally will the salvation of all men, He would fail in His purpose and would be deprived from accomplishing His will, since He wills something which does not occur. He wills the salvation of all men; and nevertheless, they are not all saved. It is quite different, however, when God commands something and declares that obedience to it would be pleasing to Him ... Objection #1: 'As I live, saith the LORD God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live' (Ezek. 33:11). Answer: The decree of God, which most certainly will be executed and whereby God always accomplishes His purpose, is not discussed in this text. It speaks rather of God's delight in the conversion of man whereby man is again restored in the image and likeness of God; also that God, by virtue of the fact that man is His creature, is displeased with both man's failure to repent as well as His damnation" (The Christian's Reasonable Service, trans. Bartel Elshout, vol. 1 [Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1992], pp. 224-226).

James Henley Thornwell (1812-1862): "The next which I shall notice is Ezek. xxxiii. 11: 'As I live, saith the Lord God, I have not pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his ways and live; turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways, for why will ye die, O house of Israel?' The remarks of Turretin on this passage are so just and appropriate that I cannot forbear to translate them: 'Although God here protests that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked should turn from his ways and live, it does not follow that God willed or intended, upon any condition, the conversion and life of each and every man. For, besides that conversion cannot be conditional, it being the condition of life itself, it is certain that the prophet is here speaking of God’s preceptive and not His decretive will. The word [chaphets], which is here used, always denotes complacency or delight. The passage simply teaches that God is pleased with, or approves, the conversion and life of the sinner, as a thing in itself grateful to Him and suited to His merciful nature. God is pleased with this rather than the death of the sinner, and therefore enjoins it as a duty that men be converted if they expect to be saved. But although God takes no delight in the death of the sinner, considered merely as the destruction of the creature, it does not follow that He does not will and intend it as an exercise of His own justice and as an occasion of manifesting His glory. A pious magistrate takes no delight in the death of the guilty, but still he justly decrees the punishment demanded by the laws. The interrogatory, "Why will ye die?" is added because God would show to them in these words how death was to be avoided, and that they, by voluntary impenitence, were the sole authors of their own ruin'” (The Collected Writings of James Henley Thornwell [Edinburgh: Banner, 1974], vol. 2, pp. 168-169).

John Kennedy of Dingwall (1819-1884): "Nor is it by concluding that because God is love, therefore He loveth all, that you can have before you the view of His character presented in the text. Beware of being content with a hope that springs from believing in a love of God apart from His Christ, and outside of the shelter of the cross. It may relieve you of a superficial fear. It may excite a feeling of joy and gratitude in your heart. It may beget in you what you may regard as love to God. This love, too, may be the mainspring of very active movements in the bustle of external service; but it leaves you, after all, away from God, ignoring His majesty and holiness, dispensing with His Christ, and enjoying a peace that has been secured by a cheating, instead of a purging, of your conscience. The time was when men openly preached an uncovenanted mercy as the resort of sinners, and laid the smoothness of that doctrine on the sores of the anxious. 'Universal love,' in these days in which evangelism is in fashion, is but another form in which the same 'deceit' is presented to the awakened. This is something from which an unrenewed man can take comfort. It is a pillow on which an alien can lay his head, and be at peace far off from God. It keeps out of view the necessity of vital union to Christ, and of turning unto God; and the hope which it inspires can be attained without felt dependence on the sovereign grace, and without submitting to the renewing work of God the Holy Ghost. 'God is love;' but when you hear this you are not told what must imply the declaration that He loves all, and that, therefore, He loves you. This tells us what He is, as revealed to us in the cross, and what all who come to Him through Christ will find Him to be. It is on this that faith has to operate. You have no right to regard that love, which is commended in the death of His Son, as embracing you if you have not yet believed. It is only with the character, not at all with the purpose, of God that you have in the first instance to do. What right have you to say that He loves all? Have you seen into the heart of God that you should say He loves you, until you have reached, as a sinner, through faith, the bosom of His love in Christ? 'But may I not think of God loving sinners without ascribing to Him any purpose to save?' God loving a sinner without a purpose to save him! The thing is inconceivable. I would reproach a fellow-sinner if I so conceived of his love. Love to one utterly ruined, and that love commanding resources that are sufficient for salvation, and yet no purpose to use them! Let not men so blaspheme the love of God. 'But may I not conceive of God as loving men to the effect of providing salvation, and to the effect of purchasing redemption for them, without this being followed out to the result of His purpose taking actual effect in their salvation?' No, verily. For the love of God is one, as the love of the Three in One. The one love of the One God is the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. If that love generated in the person of the Father a purpose to provide, and in the person of the Son a purpose to redeem, it must have generated in the person of the Holy Ghost a purpose to apply. You cannot assign one set of objects to it, as the love of the Father, and a different set of objects to it, as “the love of the Spirit.” And there can be no unaccomplished purpose of Jehovah. 'My counsel shall stand,' saith the Lord, 'and I will do all my pleasure.' 'The world,' which the Father loved and the Son redeemed, shall by the Spirit be convinced 'of sin, righteousness, and judgment,' and thus the Father’s pleasure shall prosper, and the Son’s 'travail' be rewarded, through the efficient grace of God the Holy Ghost. You have no right to attempt to look in on the relation of Divine love to individuals till first you attain, through faith, to a place among His children. 'Secret things belong unto the Lord;' do not, then, try to share them with Him. In considering the doctrine of the text you have nothing to do with the question — 'Does God love the wicked?' It is on the character of God that you are called to look, as He hath revealed this in the cross of His dear Son. You have no right to be influenced in judging of Divine procedure by preconceived ideas of Divine counsels, or of God Himself, but by the glory of His name, as He hath been pleased to reveal it. He does not tell me that He loves the wicked; but I am assured, when I look on Him as 'He is love,' that He hath no pleasure in his death. The fullest exhibition of His character, and the overwhelming proof of His having no pleasure in the death of the wicked [Eze. 33:11, are given to us in the cross of Jesus Christ. 'Yes,' you say, 'but it is in fulfilling a sovereign purpose of grace that He has revealed Himself there.' True, but it is infinite love which He has revealed. It is by this display of His love that you are to judge of the way in which it shall fare with you, if you come to Him in response to His call. Faith has infinite love on which to operate, in order to your encouragement. For, whatever be His purpose, it is abundantly evident that 'God is love.' That is the character of Him to whom you are called to return. That is the view presented to you of Him to whom you are called to return, and it is with this that you have to do. And when you think of the special purpose in fulfilling which He has so revealed Himself, you may be all the more encouraged to return; for it is this which assures you that a salvation both free and sure awaits you when you come. The 'purpose according to election, while casting no shade on the infinity of the love, is a guarantee for the certainty of the salvation which you are called to accept. For a people, whom, in providing salvation for them, He accounted worthy of death, He gave His only begotten Son, that, buying them by His blood, He might save them by His power. You are called to meet that love in the Son as Jesus the Christ, and to present yourself on His blood as a suppliant for all the blessings of the covenant of grace. What more can you desiderate? What element of encouragement is wanting, in this form of doctrine, which any of the systems of evangelical theology, or all of them together, can supply?" (Sermon on Ezekiel 33:11).

Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965): "Q. But do not Ezekiel 18:23 and 33:11 teach that God is gracious in the preaching of the gospel to the reprobate wicked? This is surely the interpretation of the synod of 1924, as well as of Professor L. Berkhof in his booklet written in defense of the Three Points. But notice, with regard to these two texts, which are essentially the same in meaning:

a. That in neither of these passages is there any offer of grace or salvation at all, as far as the form of the texts is concerned. In both passages we have a direct statement by the Lord, the God of Israel, that He hath no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but therein that he turn and live. In the text from chapter 33 this statement stands in the form of an oath. It is, therefore, no offer, but a most emphatic divine assertion.

b. That in both the texts it is the house of Israel that is addressed. The Lord, therefore, through His prophet does not address the wicked in general, but the church, those who are called His people, those whom He chooses, but who have departed from the way of the covenant of the Lord. This certainly does not plead in favor of the interpretation that would apply this text to the reprobate wicked, or to elect and reprobate alike. it is His people whom the Lord assures of His forgiving mercy. 

c. This is corroborated by the context, especially of the text in chapter 33:11. There the assertion of forgiving grace by the Lord is an answer to the complaint of the people of God: "If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?" They were conscious of their sin. They felt that they were worthy of condemnation and death because of their transgressions. And they did not see a way out. they did not understand that the Lord is abundant in tender mercy and forgiving grace. They pined away in their sin, and they must surely die. To these people the Lord answers that there is abundant hope. For He hath no pleasure in the death of His people, even when they have departed from His ways. He will have mercy on them and forgive. Therefore, let them turn, and He will pardon, and they shall live.

d. Finally, notice that the Lord has no pleasure in the death of the wicked that turns and lives. Scripture elsewhere frequently testifies that the Lord does have a holy pleasure in the destruction of the wicked [Prov. 16:4]. For He hates all the workers of iniquity [Ps. 5:5; 11:5], and He shall laugh in their destruction and hold them in derision [Ps. 2:4; 37:13; Prov. 1:26-27]. But the Lord does have pleasure that the wicked turn from their evil way. And when they turn from their wicked way and are wicked no more, He delights in their life, and gives it unto them abundantly by His grace.

From all these elements it ought to be very evident that the texts cannot be applied to the reprobate wicked; and, surely, that there is no general offer of grace in these passages from Ezekiel" (Ready to Give and Answer: A Catechism of Reformed Distinctives [Grandville, MI: RFPA, 1997], pp. 87-88).

John H. Gerstner (1914-1996): "Murray and Stonehouse insist that, though God truly desires the salvation of the reprobate, He does not decree that. Rather, He decrees the opposite. They recognize theirs as a very dangerous position and appeal to great mystery: 'We have found [e.g., in Ezekiel 18:23, 32 and 33:11] that God himself expresses an ardent desire for the fulfillment of certain things which he has not decreed in his inscrutable counsel to come to pass. This means that there is a will to the realization of what he has not decretively willed, a pleasure towards that which he has not been pleased to decree. This is indeed mysterious, and why he has not brought to pass in the exercise of his omnipotent power and grace, what is his ardent pleasure lies hidden in the sovereign counsel of his will.' However this is not "mystery" but bald contradiction ... The question facing us here is whether God could "desire" that which He does not bring to pass. There is no question at all that He can desire certain things, and these things which He desires He possesses and enjoys in Himself eternally. Otherwise, He would not be the ever-blessed God. The Godhead desires each Person in the Godhead and enjoys each eternally. The Godhead also desires to create, and He (though He creates in time) by creating enjoys so doing eternally. Otherwise, He would be eternally bereft of a joy He presently possesses and would have increased in joy if He later possessed it—both of which notions are impossible. He would thereby have changed (which is also impossible) and would have grown in the wisdom of a new experience (which is blasphemous to imagine). If God's very blessedness means the oneness of His desire and His experience, is not our question (whether He could desire what He does not desire) rhetorical? Not only would He otherwise be bereft of some blessedness which would reduce Him to finitude, but He would be possessed of some frustration which would not only bereave Him of some blessedness, but would manifestly destroy all blessedness. This is clearly the case because His blessedness would be mixed with infinite regret. Our God would be the ever-miserable, ever-blessed God. His torment in the eternal damnation of sinners would be as exquisite as it is everlasting. He would actually suffer infinitely more than the wicked. Indeed, He would Himself be wicked because He would have sinfully desired what His omniscience would have told Him He could never have. But why continue to torture ourselves? God, if he could be frustrated in His desires, simply would not be God" (Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth: A Critique of Dispensationalism [Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 2000], pp. 143-144, 145; italics Gerstner's).

William Young (1918-): "In Ezekiel 33:11 as in 18:23,32, while the Hebrew verb may be translated by 'desire,' the rendering 'have no pleasure' gives the proper sense, i.e. the Lord is pleased when the wicked repents, and is not pleased when he does not. The text does not assert that the Lord is pleased that the wicked should repent even when he does not. If the latter is given the sense that repentance as such is always approved by God, this truth could imply that God is pleased that the devil should repent. But surely no sober Christian would want to say that God desires the salvation of Satan. The general remark that the non-literal anthropomorphic ascription of desire is unobjectionable in itself applies also to these passages. But the widespread representation of this desire as an intention aiming at the salvation of all renders the expression undesirable, especially when the desire is viewed as an irrational urge. These passages powerfully present the sinner's duty, while they do not treat of his ability to obey or of the Lord's secret counsels. Nor is there a valid reason for supposing a contradiction implied between the will of decree and what is pleasing to God" ("The Free Offer of the Gospel").

Richard A. Muller (1948-): "Where Calvin resolved the issue of the universal call and particular election by simply declaring a resolution in the fact that, as promised, the repentant are saved [in Ezekiel 18:23], Amyraut indicated a double divine intentionality. Du Moulin was quite correct in this particular criticism: neither the passage itself, nor Calvin's reading of it, had anything to do with two wills in God ... Calvin in fact stated that it was 'absurd to suppose a double will of God'" ("A Tale of Two Wills?" p. 123; italics added).

David J. Engelsma: "The correct, orthodox explanation of Ezekiel 18:23 and of Ezekiel 33:11 is that God is not the kind of God who takes pleasure in death, not even the death of impenitent sinners that He justly inflicts, and that He has eternally decreed. God is the God who has delight in life, life that is given by Him in the way of the sinner's turning from sin back to God in true repentance. That God is the God who is pleased with the life of sinners in the way of repentance, and not a god who takes delight in the death of sinners, is the truth that provides needful assurance to sinners whose turning to God is hindered by the notion that God, after all, delights in the death of sinners and, therefore, will not forgive and save the sinner regardless of the sinner's turning. The truth of Ezekiel 18 and Ezekiel 33 is not a truth that flatly contradicts predestination and sovereign grace" ("Hyper-Calvinism, the Well-Meant Offer, and Matthew Barrett," Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 47, No. 2 [April, 2014], p. 69).

Sean Gerety: "First, the verse teaches us that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, which makes sense even if one thinks in terms of a human judge. A judge may in accordance with the rule of law justly sentence a murderer to death, but unless he is a sadist, it would be extremely odd for a judge to take pleasure in handing down the death sentence. God is not a sadist. Second, the verse merely tells us what we ought to do (repent and live), not what we can do or even what God will do or desires to do. That's because nothing can be inferred in the indicative from something written in the imperative, or what Turretin calls 'God's will of commanding.' As Dr. Elihu Carranza observes propositions alone 'are the premises and conclusions of arguments' simply because only propositions (which are the meanings of declarative sentences) can be either true or false. Commands, like the one found in Ezekiel 18:23 & 32 ('Therefore, repent and live'), questions (with the exception of rhetorical questions which are intended as propositions), and exhortations 'are neither true nor false.' How well-meant offer advocates think they can infer anything from a command, much less God's universal desire for the salvation of all, is indeed a mystery. Consequently, the verse does not tell us is that God desires the salvation of the reprobate. Like the Arminians before them, well-meant offer advocates are guilty of reading too much into these verses. More importantly, notice that Calvin's exegesis does not end in an impenetrable paradox, but rather he tells us the 'knot' that some see in the verse 'is easily untied' and creates no tension, no conflict, no 'mystery of paradoxes' with the rest of Scripture. That's because unlike many today, Calvin was a theologian faithful to preserving the harmony of Scripture and was interested in resolving and answering, not maintaining and promoting, the so-called 'apparent contradictions' of Scripture. This was, after all, the hallmark of all the great Reformed theologians—something one would have thought even a professor of theological and church history would have recognized. However, and in no small part thanks to Van Til, most Reformed theologians today are no longer interested in untying the 'knots' of Scripture, but instead seek to maintain them in a perverted sense of Christian piety even imagining that their failure to harmonize their own contradictory doctrines is to think in submission to Scripture and is even a sign of their faithfulness to the Reformed tradition. Another reason I find the exegetical position of well-meant offer advocates so offensive is that they simply ignore the centrality of the cross. God always views all of his chosen and adopted children from Adam onward through the prism of Christ's shed blood on the cross. It is only on basis of Christ's finished and propitiatory cross work that God's promised mercy expressed throughout the Scriptures to his fallen creatures finds its intended recipients; those particular individuals given to the Son by the Father and those alone. The Gospel always comes, whether expressed in the Old or New Testaments, and in passages like those found in Ezekiel, as the sweet smell of life to those who are being saved. But, to those who are perishing, the Gospel comes as the rancid smell of death and both aromas, sweet and foul, are pleasing to God [II Cor. 2:15-16]. This is true whether the Gospel is preached to all men everywhere or is limited geographically to the confines of that small speck of a country, Israel" ("Janus Alive and Well: Dr. R. Scott Clark and the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel," The Trinity Review [June-July 2011], Number 300, pp. 6-7).

Raymond A. Blacketer: "The substantial error committed by [Christian Reformed Church's] 1924 synod [which cited Ezekiel 18:23 and 33:11] was its acceptance of the Arminian definition of the sincere call—a definition that is clearly rejected by Canons III/IV.8 ... The concept of a well-meant offer of salvation may have its origin in the teachings of William Heyns and Jan Karel van Baalen—an issue that deserves further study. Heyns, who taught Practical Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary, proposed a view of the covenant and of divine grace that was clearly out of step with the Reformed confessions. Heyns spoke of a subjective covenant grace that, because it also imparted an intrinsic capacity (innerlijke vatbaarheid), was sufficient to bring covenant children to salvation if they made good use of the means of grace. Even A. C. DeJong, who defends the well-meant offer, recognizes that 'Heyn's view of an innerlijke vatbaarheid can scarcely be distinguished from the Remonstrant Limborch's concept of some sinners as being very receptive to the working of saving grace.' This fact, combined with the acceptance of the Remonstrant definition of the serious call, adds weight to the charge that the 1924 synod added Arminian elements to Reformed soteriology ... There was a rush to judgment in the case of Hoeksema and Danhof that contributed to a serious ecclesiastical schism as well as the introduction of the rather dubious doctrine of the well-meant offer of salvation. Berkhof, and later Hoekema, seem to realize that it is not logically compatible with the doctrines of limited atonement and divine election and reprobation, but they feel compelled to affirm it nonetheless. In so doing, however, they are saying something quite different from what our confessional standards affirm" ("The Three Points in Most Parts Reformed: A Reexamination of the So-Called Well-Meant Offer of Salvation," pp. 64, 65).

John Bolt: "I share Randy Blacketer's reservations in his article ["The Three Points in Most Parts Reformed: A Reexamination of the So-Called Well-Meant Offer of Salvation"] in this issue of CTJ about [the Synod of] Kalamazoo's first point [concerning the free offer and its supposed proof in Ezekiel 18:23 and 33:11]" ("Common Grace and the Christian Reformed Synod of Kalamazoo (1924)," Calvin Theological Journal, vol. 35, no. 1 [April, 2000], p. 36).

Christopher J. Connors: "God deals with sinners as rational, moral creatures from the ethical view point. The passages [i.e., Eze. 18:23, 31-32; 33:11] speak of the wicked who turn and the wicked who do not turn. For all the wicked it is true that life can be found only in the way of turning. Turning and living are in the highest sense pleasing to God, as we have seen. For in the turning sinner God's precept and decree meet and agree. However, it is clear that it is only the wicked who turn who shall live and have life bestowed upon them according to the delight of God. 'The prophet's instruction that the death of the sinner is not pleasing to God is designed to assure believers that God is ready to pardon them as soon as they are touched by repentance, but to make the wicked feel that their transgression is doubled because they do not respond to God's great kindness and goodness. God's mercy will always, accordingly, go to meet repentance, but all the prophets and all the apostles, as well as Ezekiel himself, clearly teach to whom repentance is given' [Calvin, Institutes 3.24.15]. The passages reveal the glory of the goodness of God: 'I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth' (18:32). And again: 'As I live saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked' (33:11). The passages do not teach that God has an active pleasure, delight or desire that all men should receive life through repentance. Such an active principle of delight within God Himself would necessarily remain unfulfilled, for the majority of Judah did not repent. This would mean that God is less than perfectly blessed in Himself, which can never be. Therefore, it is not correct to say, as does Rev. Stebbins, that there is a principle 'in' God whereby He delights that all sinners should actually turn and live. The passages do clearly teach, however, that the God of the everlasting Covenant of Grace reveals Himself in a way that is full of encouragement to burdened and guilty sinners. Does God really delight in bestowing life in the way of repentance? The answer is yes. How is it possible that can God do this? Because God is life and the source of all life in and of Himself. As such He actively and necessarily delights in life and only in life, never in death, and is pleased to open up a way to life for sinners through faith and repentance. That God delights in life means firstly, that God delights in the perfect, all blessed life of communion with Himself. This is all blessed life and delight in life that God has in and of Himself as Father, Son and Holy Ghost. This life lacks for nothing. This life is the possibility of the life offered to unworthy sinners through the gospel of God's wondrous grace. Secondly, and importantly for our text, it is into this life of blessed communion that God delights to bring lost sinners as adopted sons alone through Jesus Christ, and alone in the way of repentance and faith. Oh, yes! God delights in life, and the fearful sinner under the conviction of sin and deep sense of his unworthiness may be assured that God delights abundantly in bestowing eternal life upon every sinner who turns. The Lord delights in this with a perfect and righteous joy and the heavenly hosts join their rejoicing to that of Jehovah. Thirdly, and in the highest sense of the word, God delights in bestowing heavenly life upon the redeemed, sanctified and glorified sinner. Thus He brings His adopted children into the fruition of creaturely blessedness in communion with Himself through Jesus Christ. This delight is in the life of the glorified saint as a precious son or daughter with whom God fellowships and communes. This life in the experience and fruition of all good in Him is the realization of man's chief end in the enjoyment of God forever. Life for sinners is possible exactly because God delights in life. That is, God delights that the sinner who turns should live. God delights in bestowing life upon the sinner who turns. God's delight in the life of those who turn is in perfect harmony with his delight in the administration of the penalty of death as demanded by His righteous justice. However, when we speak of God's delight in life and His delight in justice, it is to be insisted that life and death meet and are perfectly reconciled in the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is the death of the Mediator which purchases life for every elect sinner. He it is who satisfies the justice of God by enduring the infinite wrath of His offended justice in their stead. God's delight in life, therefore, is displayed to sinners only through the person and work of Jesus Christ on behalf of His elect. Christ and His elect body cannot be separated. God's delight in life is focused upon the living of His elect people in Christ. Still God is one, as is His purpose, as is the object of His delight. The passages are therefore, full of sweet comfort and encouragement to any and every guilt-laden sinner who longs for deliverance. The way is clearly set before every sinner. All who repent will find God to be abundant in mercy, and may be assured that they like the prodigal son will be met by the open arms of their heavenly Father. These verses are fashioned by the sweet grace of God to draw labouring and heavy-laden sinners through the doorway of faith and repentance into that blessed rest and life laid up for them by Christ in communion with God. The verses, however, say nothing of a delight within God for the salvation of those who do not turn. If they did, then the encouragement that is here for all who turn and believe becomes nothing more than an ineffectual wish of God" (The Biblical Offer of the Gospel [Youngtown, Tasmania: The Magazine and Literature Committee of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia, n.d.], pp. 19-21; italics Connor's).

Likewise, Fulgentius of Ruspe (468-533) (Francis X. Gumerlock, Fulgentius of Ruspe on the Saving Will of God: The Development of a Sixth-Century African Bishop’s Interpretation of I Timothy 2:4 During the Semi-Pelagian Controversy [Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2009], pp. 68, 153; cf., e.g., 4, 96, 99, 110-120); Gottschalk (c.808–c.867) (Victor Genke and Francis X. Gumerlock [eds. & trans.], Gottschalk and a Medieval Predestination Controversy: Texts Translated from the Latin [Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 2010], pp. 181, 196-197; cf. 57-59, 66-67, 111, 120-121, 135, 139, 144-145, 173, 176-177, 179); William Perkins (1558-1602), John Dove (1561-1618) (Jonathan Moore, English Hypothetical Universalism: John Preston and the Softening of Reformed Theology [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007], pp. 47-55, 63-67); John Gill (1697-1771) (The Cause of God and Truth [Grand Rapids, MI: Sovereign Grace Publishers, 1971], pp. 24-26); Gordon H. Clark (1902-1985) (Predestination in the Old Testament [Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1978], pp. 41-42); David J. Engelsma (Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel [Jenison, MI: RFPA, 2014], pp. 135-136, 146-147); W. Gary Crampton ("The Myth of Common Grace," The Trinity Review [March/April, 1987]); the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia ("Universalism and the Reformed Churches: A Defense of Calvin's Calvinism" [Youngtown, Tasmania: The Magazine and Literature Committee of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia, 1997], pp. 14-39); Matthew Winzer ("Murray on the Free Offer: A Review," The Blue Banner [October/December, 2000], vol. 9, issue 10-12, pp. 16-18); and Richard Bacon ("In this Issue," The Blue Banner, vol. 9, issue 10-12 [October/December, 2000], pp. 1-2, cf. 16-18); do not agree with and/or oppose that exegesis of Ezekiel 18:23, 32 and/or 33:11 that proposes an unrealized or unfulfilled desire in God to save the reprobate.