In Expository Thoughts on Luke, J.C. Ryle discusses the great divine paradox that exists between God’s sovereign election and man’s responsibility. Reflecting upon Luke 13:31–35, Ryle affirms the reality of both, and as such urges sinners to repent and trust in Christ alone for salvation.
It grieves the Lord Jesus Christ to see sinners going on still in their wickedness. “As I live,” are His words, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked,” (Ezek. 33:11). Let all unconverted people remember this. It is not enough that they grieve parents, and ministers, and neighbours, and friends. There is one higher than all these, whom they deeply grieve by their conduct. They are daily grieving Christ.
The Lord Jesus is willing to save sinners. “He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” (2 Peter 3:9). “He would have all men saved and come to the knowledge of the truth,” (1 Tim. 2:4). This is a mighty principle of the Gospel, and one which sorely perplexes narrow-minded and shallow theologians. But what says the Scripture? The words before us, no less than the texts just quoted, are distinct and express. “I would have gathered thy children,” says Christ, “and ye would not.” The will of poor hardened unbelieving man, and not the will of Christ, is the cause why sinners are lost for evermore. Christ “would” save them, but they will “not be” saved.
Let the truth before us sink down into our hearts, and bear fruit in our lives. Let us thoroughly understand that if we die in our sins and go to hell, our blood will be upon our own heads. We cannot lay the blame on God the Father, nor on Jesus Christ the Redeemer, nor on the Holy Ghost the Comforter. The promises of the Gospel are wide, broad, and general. The readiness of Christ to save sinners is unmistakably declared. If we are lost, we shall have none to find fault with but ourselves. The words of Christ will be our condemnation: “Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40).
Let us take heed, with such a passage as this before us, that we are not more systematic than Scripture. It is a serious thing to be “wise above that which is written.” Our salvation is wholly of God. Let that never be forgotten. None but the elect shall be finally saved. “No man can come unto Christ except the Father draw him (John 6:44). But our ruin, if we are lost, will be wholly of ourselves. We shall reap the fruit of our own choice. We shall find that we have lost our own souls. Linked between these two principles lies truth which we must maintain firmly, and never let go. There is doubtless deep mystery about it. Our minds are too feeble to understand it now. But we shall understand it all hereafter. God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility shall appear perfectly harmonious one day. In the meantime, whatever we doubt, let us never doubt Christ’s infinite willingness to save.
J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, vol. 2, (The Banner of Truth Trust: 1998), 140–142.