Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Gospel is NOT a Well-Meant Offer of Salvation to All of Humanity

Primitive Baptists do not believe that the gospel is a well-meant offer of salvation to all of humanity (WMO). The primary reason is because the atonement was both explicitly substitutionary (Isaiah 53:5) and utterly effectual (Hebrews 10:14). By explicitly substitutionary we mean that the Lord Jesus Christ died for a particular people (John 10:11), chosen before the foundation of the world in the covenant of election (Ephesians 1:4-5) and none other in any way shape or form (John 10:26). By utterly effectual we mean that Jesus Christ met all of the conditions of the covenant of salvation and that all of God's children will be in glory with God based on the work of Jesus Christ on their behalf plus absolutely nothing else. (Colossians 2:10)

God's Purpose in the Atonement

God's payment never falls outside of God's purpose. If I went to a restaurant and had a $100 meal and excellent service, I might decide to leave $100 to pay for the meal as well as a $100 tip for the waiter's extraordinary service. It seems many theologians would assert that because of the size of my tip, it is therefore possible to extend a "free meal offer" to someone. But the tip was given with a specific purpose in mind, namely to reward a particular person, the waiter, for excellent service. To assert that someone else might be provided a "free meal" as a result of the large gratuity is to disconnect the tip from its purpose. Hebrews 10:29 upbraids men who would refer to the blood of the covenant as an "unholy thing" (koinos - literally a "common" thing). Those who say such things about the atoning work of Christ fail to recognize God's explicitly stated purpose and are thus guilty of regarding the blood of the covenant as a common thing. All of which is wrong.  Stated bluntly - the value of the payment has absolutely NO BEARING on its intended purpose

The Often Mis-Used "Lazarus Account"

We see this all-too-common disconnect between the purpose and work of God in many sermons. I cannot count how many preachers I have heard say that "Had Jesus not said 'Lazarus' when he issued the command to 'come forth' that the cemetery would have brought forth every dead body buried there." But this is to place a power in the "word" of God that is disconnected from the purpose of God. If God's purpose is to bring Lazarus forth, then only Lazarus will come forth, whether he says his name, doesn't say his name, or doesn't say anything at all. The bible's testimony in this regard is crystal clear - "So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereunto I sent it." (Is 55:11)

WMO is Neither Explicitly Substitutionary Nor Utterly Effectual

I will not spend time here supporting the effectual nature of the atonement - those who are in doubt regarding this point should spend some time considering the ramifications of Romans 8:30-39. Once the doctrine of the explicitly substitutionary nature of the atonement is established and set alongside the effectual accomplishment of the atonement - the so-called well-meant offer of salvation to all of humanity vanishes. The gospel is not a well-meant (sincere) offer because salvation cannot be sincerely offered to a people for whom no provision has ever been made for their sins, nor ever will be. Likewise, the gospel is not an offer of salvation at all, because the atonement has already accomplished the work of putting away the sins of a particular people. It follows that calling the gospel a WMO of salvation is identical to saying that the atonement is neither explicitly substitutionary nor utterly effectual. Stated more plainly, it is a denial of the doctrine of salvation by sovereign grace taught in the scriptures.

Salvation by Sovereign Grace

Regarding the gospel, I do not believe it is either an offer or a command. It is not an offer because it proclaims a monergistic, finished work. It is not a "command" per se because depravity insists that no man is ever saved as a result of exercising obedience to a command. Obedience to a command is a "work of righteousness" and we are saved "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy" (Titus 3:5). That mercy comes to us before we ever perform a work of righteousness in obedience to God's commands. This is why it is so critical to understand faith as a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22) rather than as an effectuating grace. By the time the squad car of faith and obedience arrive on the scene, the "crime of grace against man's free will" (as many would regard it) has already been committed. This is the hallmark of salvation by sovereign grace - the recognition that God's work in the new birth, which imparts eternal life, occurs before the exercise of faith, obedience, repentance or any other evidence of spiritual life. 

It follows then that while the scripture is full of manifold commands to obey, repent, believe, etc., that no one is ever eternally saved by doing any of these things, because dead men do not obey, do not repent, and do not believe. The gift of salvation comes to men who are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1). Moreover their salvation was accomplished for them when they were "yet without strength" and "ungodly." (Romans 5:6) Thus any act of faith, obedience, repentance, asking, seeking or knocking, is too late to the party to take any credit for the impartation of eternal life to God's people - any credit whatsoever. All these are the fruit of a salvation already imparted in the new birth by the sovereign mercy of God.


  1. Amen, very clear and well written. Scripture has been rightly divided, God bless

  2. Question, as a primitive baptist myself I’ve always had this question
    Since we know that the scripture declares that Jesus atoned for a particular people (particular redemption), how do we proclaim the gospel in the public sphere seeing that we don’t know who the elect are? And since we don’t know who they are? Don’t we have to “broadcast the message?” In other words proclaim it to people whom we do not know for certain are “elect”? It seems that understanding that the atonement was particularly for the elect as got me
    Confused about how we
    Take the gospel to the public sphere (school, work, the gym etc)

  3. It is a pretty common question, not just among PBs but also among those who do not understand our take on the nature and purpose of the gospel message. Those questions are addressed in a couple of other places on my blog and YouTube channel:

    What is the Gospel?

    The Gospel and the New Birth

    I'll quickly address your questions here also:

    ANON: How do we proclaim the gospel in the public sphere seeing that we don’t know who the elect are?

    TETH: We don't have to know who they are. We declare what God has done for his covenant people and that those who believe this message are among them. From there we exhort them to follow the Lord Jesus Christ in discipleship through the waters of baptism and participation in the Lord's NT church, the kingdom of God.

    ANON: And since we don’t know who they are?

    TETH: We don't have to know who they are. The gospel is not offering eternal life to all, it is declaring eternal life to those who believe.

    ANON: Don’t we have to “broadcast the message?”

    TETH: Yes. We should preach the gospel indiscriminately to all who will listen. The gospel does not declare potential salvation for all men provided they decide to believe; it declares the finished work of salvation on behalf of the elect who are identified by their belief of the declaration. As Elder Sonny Pyles used to say, "The gospel locates the regenerate."

    ANON: In other words proclaim it to people whom we do not know for certain are “elect”?

    TETH: Yes PROCLAIM not OFFER. A proclamation of the salvation of SOME people does not offer salvation to ALL people. "Jesus saved his people from their sins, and all who believe are among them" is true irrespective of any particular audience member's state of grace.

    May God bless our studies and understanding of his word,

    1. Thank you for that, this Helped a lot 😊