Vol.XVII No.XI Pg.7
January 1981

? You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

How could a just God harden Pharaoh's heart (Rom. 9:17), or send some a "working of error" (2 Thes. 2:11)?


We could add, "or hide the truth from some (Matt. 13:11)?" The Exodus record shows that God hardened Pharaoh's heart by asking something of him that he did not want to do. His heart was stubborn (7:14, 9:7), his magicians imitated God's signs and hardened his heart (7:22, 8:19; and Pharaoh hardened his own heart (8:15, 8:32, 9:34). Truth is hidden from all who close their eyes to truth (Matt. 13:15), or "receive not the love of the truth" (2 Thes. 2:10). God is not willing that any should perish (2 Pet. 3:9), but man must repent to be saved.

Look more carefully at 2 Thes. 2: 8-14. The deceiver is Satan and His coworkers. Satan's lying wonders and deceit works on "them that perish; because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved." (Cf. 2 Cor. 4:3-4) Their attitude or "spirit" was wrong in the first place, and they "had pleasure in unrighteousness." The demands of God "harden" such a heart, being seen as a hindrance to "doing their own thing." Fire hardens clay, but the same fire softens wax; the difference being in the substance, not in the fire.

2 Thes. 2:13 begins, "But..." which is an adversative — here is the other side of the coin — there were those whose "spirit" was set apart unto God, who believed the truth. God, through His Spirit, provides the motive and means of sanctification (true righteousness is possible only through the forgiveness made possible by Christ) but the "spirit" in this passage is our spirit. The right attitude is being contrasted with the wrong. Man is not a pawn, with no will in this matter. God made him capable of choice, then appeals to him with sufficient evidence to generate faith, and move man to "give himself" back to God.

God gave Pharaoh sufficient proof of His power, and confirmation of the source of Moses' message, so that the responsibility for rejection was upon Pharaoh, not upon God. God's foreknowledge of what would happen is not to be confused with predetermination, apart from the will of Pharaoh.

We notice an increase of questions along this line, and feel it must be assigned to an infiltration of evangelical (Calvinist tinted) error. It is very possible that our emphasis on obedience (faith which works) has led to a de-emphasis and lack of appreciation for our dependence upon grace and mercy. Unfortunately, some of the current "grace" advocates — who could have done us much good — have loaded their guns from evangelical arsenals, and are firing rounds they poorly understand. When grace or indwelling Spirit become "enabling power" we are already trapped in a system that, consistently followed, denies free will, human implementation, etc. Individual election and preservation are fruits of this line of thinking, whether they intended it that way or not.

God sets the cost of discipleship (Lu. 14:26-f). This "hardens the heart" of all who love self more than God.