Does God Desire what He does not Decree?
1 Timothy 2:4 says that God desires all men to be saved. Calvinists explain this verse in one of two ways.
1) “All men” does not mean each and every single person, but it means people from every tribe, tongue and nation. It means Gentiles, not just Jews (cf. 2:7)
2) God desires what he does not decree.
Now I believe that #1 rightly explains this particular verse. But I still believe that #2 is true and is necessary to explain verses like these:
Ezekiel 33:11 As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?
Luke 19:41-42 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
As Calvinists, we believe that God does not set his electing, covenant love upon everyone. But we still affirm that there is a general love of compassion that God has for all those created in His image as seen in these verses:
Matthew 5:44-45 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Mark 10:21-22 Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Last week I learned to my dismay that there are a few Calvinists who deny this distinction between God’s desire and God’s decree. They therefore say that there is no sense in which God desires the salvation of any but the elect and so they deny that there is a “sincere offer” of the gospel to anyone but the elect. This seems impossible to me. God must desire things that he does not decree. For example, when you sin, was it God’s will for you to sin? In a “from all eternity God did unchangeably ordain all whatsoever comes to pass” sense, yes it was. But is there not any sense in which it was not God’s will for you to sin? Does God desire you to sin?
Here’s an article by John Piper titled “Are there two wills in God?”
And here’s a verse for your further study:
Deuteronomy 29:29 The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
What do you think are the secret and revealed things in the context of Deuteronomy 29-30?