“Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11; underlining mine).
“Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:34).
“Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:17-18; underlining mine).
“From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” (Matthew 16:21-23; underlining mine).
“And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou [wilt]…He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done” (Matthew 26:39, 42; underlining mine).
“Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec” (Hebrews 5:7-10; underlining mine).
Herman Witsius, from his Sacred Dissertations, writes (my comments interspersed):
“It is somewhat more difficult to understand the prayers of Christ, and to show their consistency with his wisdom and his piety.”
What is perhaps even more difficult is why Witsius (and a host of other Reformed persons) appear unaware of Hebrews 5:7. Jesus Christ WAS HEARD of His Father since He is ALWAYS HEARD of His Father (cf. John 11:41-42). The Father DID LET THE CUP PASS from Christ and He DID “SAVE HIM FROM DEATH” (Hebrews 5:7). Jesus Christ — the God-Man Mediator — drank the cup of damnation dry for all whom He represented, and was raised from the dead on their behalf and makes intercession for them as their great High Priest after the order of Melchisedec (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 5:6, 10).
To ACTUALLY DRINK the cup of damnation dry for all whom He represented at the cross and to be “raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father” (Romans 6:4) IS the passing away of the cup and the salvation from death for which Christ prayed, and was in fact “HEARD in that He feared” (Hebrews 5:7). Certain God-haters who believe Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception necessarily imply that Jesus Christ never ceases drinking the cup, and thus the cup NEVER “[passes] away from [Him], except [He] drink it” (Matthew 26:42). In short, they DENY Christ made satisfaction for ALL for whom He died; they DENY that Christ is the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of world (John 1:29).
More from Witsius:
“What wisdom appears in so earnestly, and no less than three times, soliciting the removal of that cup, which, in conformity with the decree of God and thine own engagement, thou knewest it was necessary for thee to drink to the bottom, and which thou didst come into the world to drink? What piety, also, is discernible, in showing such a desire of obtaining thine own will, as may seem diametrically contrary to the Divine counsel and will? And how can it be pretended that no mistake was committed, since Christ, by correcting himself in the last part of his prayer, confesses that he had exceeded due bounds in the first? But even here we are at no loss to vindicate our Lord; and indeed no vindication would be necessary, if we were disposed to form our opinion of his actions with becoming wisdom and piety on our own part…Here three volitions fall to be distinctly considered — two on the part of the man Christ Jesus, and a third on the part of God — which are directed in different ways, but all of them in a wise and holy manner, to their respective objects.” [underlining mine]
Witsius sets forth some hypothetical objections or concerns regarding Christ allegedly “correcting himself in the last part of his prayer.” No vindication would be necessary if Witsius had duly considered Hebrews 5:7. Witsius then attempts to explain or to vindicate (which he need not do if he carefully read Hebrews 5:7) Christ’s prayer to the Father by “three volitions” to be “distinctly considered — two on the part of the man Christ Jesus, and a third on the part of God.” Witsius continues:
“The first is a volition of Christ as a true man, namely, a natural inclination for his own good, and for exemption from all evil. The understanding of Christ formed a just and enlightened estimate of the dreadfulness of those evils that were coming upon him, with a sense of which he already began to be affected.”
Witsius attempts to “protect” Christ from his own careless and cavalier twisting of the text of Scripture. Was it not Peter’s natural desire or inclination for Christ’s “own good” to be exempt from the cross (Matthew 16:23; cf. Hebrews 12:12)? Did Christ Himself not rebuke Peter for
“a just and enlightened estimate of the dreadfulness of those evils that were coming upon [Him]”?
In any case, Witsius cannot legitimately abstract or “separate out” any natural desire for “exemption from all evil” from exemption from the cross. Witsius is working very hard at explaining HOW he is NOT slandering and blaspheming Jesus Christ, the spotless Lamb of God.
“God is the author, too, of that propensity of human nature by which we are prompted to dread and shun evils, so far as we know them to be grievous to ourselves. Nor would Christ have been in all things like unto his brethren, and, consequently, a real man, unless he had dreaded those terrible evils abstractedly considered.” [Underlining mine]
Witsius’ reasoning is that Christ — in reality and concretely considered — dreaded in such a way or manner as to desire exemption from finishing the Father’s work and obeying His commandment (John 4:34, 10:17-18).
“Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me” (Matthew 26:38).
A real and true man as seen in Matthew 26:38. A true and “real man” does NOT necessitate the wickedness that Witsius thinks.
“He discovers this natural inclination of his will, when regarding the cup as extremely unpleasant and bitter, he prays that, if it were possible, it might pass from him. This inclination is at once wise and holy, as it is agreeable to nature, to reason, and to God the author of both. ‘For no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it.'”
As noted above (e.g., Hebrews 5:7) it DID pass from Him, Witsius. Witsius misapplies a portion of Ephesians 5:29 to Christ’s alleged “natural inclination” to shrink back from obeying His Father (“‘abstractly’ considered,” of course).
“But, besides being contemplated as grievous and distressing, the evils which were coming on Christ might be considered in another light; to wit, as the means which God had appointed for the promotion of his own glory in the salvation of the elect; and, in this view, they were not evil, but good and desirable. Hence arose another volition of Christ, different from the former, though not opposite to it;” [underlining mine]
For some time Witsius has been waxing a bit convoluted. Here he reveals his wicked unwarranted assumption that Christ’s initial volition was exemption from the Father’s commandment (we witnessed his fanciful attempt to shore-in that blasphemy with illegitimate abstractions). Witsius now shines another light on Christ’s second volition, which is “as Thou wilt.” Witsius explains further:
“because the object now presented itself to his understanding and will under a different aspect. The same thing, which, viewed merely as an evil, he beheld with dread and aversion, when regarded as the means Divinely appointed for attaining the highest good, and thus agreeable to the will of God, was the object of his voluntary choice.”
When the cross is viewed under the abstract aspect of a “mere evil” the natural desire or inclination is a disobedient aversion. But when this same cross is “regarded as the means Divinely appointed for attaining the highest good, and thus agreeable to the will of God,” it then becomes “the object of his voluntary choice.” In brief, Witsius slanders Christ with a bit of ambivalence with regard to His mission.
“Can it admit of a doubt, that in willing it in this view, he acted in a manner consonant to the dictates of wisdom and holiness? It is the part of wisdom, cheerfully to make use of means, how difficult soever, for the attainment of a great good; and particularly, if they be the only means, and singularly conducive to the end.”
And Witsius could have saved time and ink (at the very least) if he had duly, soberly, deliberately, wisely, and carefully considered Hebrews 5:7 (and other crucial passages, besides).
“It is the part of holiness, to bring all the affections of nature into subjection to the will, and service, of God…It is not foreign to the point before us to take an example from the conduct of the afflicted. If one offer a sick person the bitter juice of worm wood, he can scarcely help trembling at the unpalatable cups of medical men, and is unwilling to drink them. When he reflects, however, that the potion will prove beneficial for restoring his health, he returns thanks to the physician, buys the nauseous draught at a great expense, and causes the appetites of nature to submit to the dictates of reason. In like manner, Christ, considering the cup presented to him as bitter, wishes it to pass from him. But regarding the same cup as conducive to the salvation of his people, he by no means desires to be excused from drinking it.” [underlining mine]
For Witsius there was an (alleged) initial disobedient aversion to the cup, and thus to glorify His Father on the earth; but when viewed in another respect, this initial aversion dissipates and “another volition” emerges and desires to drink the cup, and thus to glorify His Father on the earth and to finish His work.
“These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:1-5).
Witsius makes yet another similarly vain attempt to ameliorate or lessen his already sufficiently blasphemous reasoning with a “subtle” or “nuanced” distinction between a will that is “conditionate” and a will that is “absolute” (despite this “careful nuance” it is asinine and adds nothing new to Witsius’ evil and vain surmisings).
“He thus limits his conditionate will, namely, the will of nature, which shuns evil as grievous, by his absolute will, that is, the will of reason, which attends to all the circumstances of the case, that both may be consonant to the will of God…It is truly a vain and quite puerile cavil, to allege, as an evidence that some mistake must have been committed, the terms of correction, but, nevertheless; which, according to the Evangelists, Christ employed. It is unfair to gather from a rhetorical, that which may be justly inferred from a logical or moral, correction. A logical correction substitutes what is true for what is false; a moral, what is good for what is bad. But a rhetorical correction is not the emendation of that which is improperly expressed; for the art of rhetoric prohibits every improper expression: it is only the addition of that which is more explicit, and forcible, and precise, to that which is less exact and less apposite. Of this we have an instance in the following words of Paul: ‘I laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.’ The correction here does not substitute what is true for what is false, but explains and limits that which had been truly, though less fully asserted; for Paul had himself in reality laboured, yet through the aids of divine grace.
In like manner, in the place under consideration, the correction made by our Lord, is not the rectifying of a mistake, but the withdrawing of a condition formerly proposed; and an express declaration that the conditionate will, which prompted by a just self-love shrunk from the bitterness of sufferings, was subjected to the will of the Father — by that absolute will, which, having duly considered all circumstances, chose to suffer.” [underlining mine]
Wow. Witsius is quite the assiduous fellow. He presents Paul as an instance of a rhetorical correction (as compared with moral or logical corrections). According to Witsius a rhetorical correction involves
“the addition of that which is more explicit, and forcible, and precise, to that which is less exact and less apposite.”
Did Witsius’ blasphemy against Christ (with the alleged two different volitional responses to drinking the cup and obeying His Father) involve a mere “addition of that which is more explicit, and forcible, and precise, to that which is less exact and less apposite”?
Is the subsequent subjection (obedience) to the Father’s will really a “more explicit, and forcible, and precise” addition to the initial shrinking (disobedience) from “the bitterness of sufferings”? Come on, now.