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 comment:

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