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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Heralding the Gospel in Times of Crisis: Covenant Enforcement | Main | Reformed Righteousness by Rev. Charles R. Biggs »

    The Gospel: Offer or Command?

    John Samson showed me this piece on seperate blog entitled
    "I don't want to be a hyper-Calvinist
    "

    Here are a few of my comments on it:

    The author of this piece is struggling with the following question: If the gospel is an offer how can it really be sincere since only the elect will be regenerated?

    Response: According to the witness of Scripture itself, the summons to believe the gospel is nowhere clearly presented as merely an offer, but as a divine command. There is no clear indication from the Text anywhere that we are simply "offering" the gospel to people. We, rather, plead with people to obey the Divine command to believe in His Son.

    To be clear, the gospel itself is not an imperative, but an indicative; not a condition to meet, but an announcement of what Christ has accomplished for sinners. However, the Divine summons to believe the gospel is an imperative (Acts 17:30, Matt 17:5, 6, 1 John 3:23) ... a command stony hearted men refuse to believe (John 3:19, 20) unless God mercifully turns our heart of stone to a heart of flesh (Exek 36:26).

    There is explicit Scriptural evidence that the Gospel summons is a command. Here are some key texts:

    "Truly these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent." -Acts 17:30

    "And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ..." - 1 John 3:23

    Not only do these texts explicitly affirm that the gospel is a command, but we should take note that the Gospel has every characteristic of a command. Just like commandments throughout the Bible, the command to believe the Gospel is accompanied by covenant blessings for obedience and covenant curses for disobedience. And like a biblical covenant it is accompanied by the shedding of blood. On the other hand, a gift held out as a mere offer does not usually threaten consequences for refusing it.

    The other article also expressed concerns of the genuiness of an offer/command if we were unable to obey/receive it ourselves. But as we know, God gives us commands all the time that we are unable to carry out (Love God will all our hearts, obey the 10 commandments, believe in Jesus >John 6:65). The purpose of the Divine legislation is to reveal our sin and inability(Rom 3:19, 20), not our ability. "Through the Law comes knowledge of sin." In other words, the Law simply reveals our spiritual impotence. And this passage in Romans does not make us any less accountable to obey. What we "ought" to do does not equal the "ability" to do it. The purpose of the "ought" is actually to reveal our "inability".

    Do you recall the rich young ruler who went away sad because he will unwilling to depart from his covetousness to follow Jesus?

    Jesus said it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven then for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. The apostles respond correctly by wondering out loud, "then who can be saved?" In other words, if God's standard is so high then no one can have any hope to live up to it. That is exactly what Jesus wanted them (and us) to understand for He says, "What is impossible with man, is possible with God." But what is Jesus speaking of that is impossible with man? Answer: repentance & faith - Only God can give it (2 Tim 2:25, John 6:65, Phil 1:29) but man is still culpable for his response of willful autonomy. That is what this passage and encounter with the Rich Young Ruler was all about.

    Consider in our every day world, if someone squanders a huge sum of money they borrowed, (say $10 million) their inability to repay it does not alleviate them of their responsibility to do so. Right? In the spiritual world this kind of moral inability is, likewise, inexcusable and thus God requires it of us even though we are unable to do it. If we were physically blind and were told to read something, we would not be blamed for saying we could not. But moral inability is a different matter altoghter.

    Those who are spiritually blind are bent willfully and beyond repair (like a debt we cannot repay), and thus culpable. Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind...if you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, 'We see,' your guilt remains." We are impotent to repay our debt and our downfall is that we often proudly think we can, but thanks be to God, in Jesus Christ God does for us what we could not do for ourselves. This is the most humbling news any of us could hear and it is only GRACE ITSELF that makes us humble enough to embrace this. The natural man does not accept the humbling terms of the gospel so it requires the intervention of the Spirit. So God is quite sincere in commanding us to obey the Gospel, to believe in His Son, even though we will not do so apart from the grace of Christ who raises us from spiritual death by His Holy Spirit.

    Posted by John on October 25, 2005 01:53 PM

    Comments

    Amen! I have argued that same point on my blog. There are many instances in the Bible where we are required to do something that we are not able to do in our fallne nature. God created man to be able to obey and for Him to accept our second best is an affront to His ultimate value. Instead, we are to look to the only man able to fulfill the law and find our righteousness in Christ alone.

    Thank you! That's always how I respond. First, I ask for the text that show it is an offer and an invitation alone. Scripture says it is an offer and an invitation the same way that a command is an offer and an invitation. What makes it a sincere offer is the same sincerity that lies behind God's commands. Those who do not respond do so because of their own love of evil, the same reason they are unable to do everything that God commands. If a man says, the offer is not sincere, then he must also say God's command we obey Him is not sincere because we cannot obey.

    Excellent post, John. I think another stumbling block people struggle with related to this is due to how the "gospel" is presented in most places. Isn't it so often preached like so: "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life" "Christ died for the sins of every single human being"? If someone comes from the background of always hearing "Christ died for the sins of every human being" as being the gospel, and then is exposed to the reformed doctrine, they're very likely to stumble... i.e. How can God command someone to believe something that isn't true? That is, if Christ died only for the sins of His elect, as I believe the Bible teaches, and God is commanding us to believe the gospel (Christ died for the sins of every single human being is the gospel most people are used to hearing), there's a discrepancy there, not in reality but due to traditions. For me, this issue was actually more challenging to wretle through than God commanding something I'm not capable of. Traditions are often a huge blinder and obstacle to understanding the truth.

    As I was reading Gene Bridges comment, I can see the confusion some people have. The well-meant offer that most of us disagree with is that God really desires all to be saved by this offer, Elect and reprobate. I don't believe in this two wills of God theory either. The Gospel is strictly a command, not a desire for every single person to be saved.

    Since this is in response to my post, I’ll just point out what I did not say:

    I did not say that the gospel should not be preached to everyone.

    I did not say that God does not desire all men to be saved (He does, in the same sense He desires all of us to obey His law.)

    I did not say that God actively hardens hearts.

    What I did say was that, in effect, people are sloppy and dogmatic when they say “if you deny the gospel offer is a sincere to all men, then you are a hyper-Calvinist.”

    They are sloppy because they do not define sincere. And what they mean by sincere is much closer to universal.

    By sincere, in its common usage, we mean that the receiver has the ability to accept the offer. But the whole idea of election is necessitated (and thankfully taught in scripture) on the basis of man’s inability to respond to the gospel.

    So in the usual sense of the word sincere, as used as an adjective to an offer, the gospel offer is most decidedly insincere (consistent with, as many have pointed out, the fact that it is more of a command than an offer.) It is, however, universal.

    In response to Davids post:

    It should be preached to all as a command. It is our command to preach to all.

    God does not desire the salvation of all otherwise they would be saved. We can see in Jesus' priestly prayer (John 17) that He does not pray for the world.

    And last, God does actively harden mens hearts. Romans 9 I believe shows this. There are some who have correctly analyzed the use of the passive voice for the word "fitted' and the active voice for the word "prepared". A faulty analysis of the "Passive" voice is made when associating the "passiveness" with God. The passive voice is used to describe the passiveness of the vessel of destruction.

    I am coming from the view of a Supralapsarian Calvinist.

    John

    John [Gipson],

    You wrote: "God does not desire the salvation of all otherwise they would be saved."

    Well, I can see you make no distinction between God's sovereign and preceptive will. Because otherwise you cannot conclude that if God deires all men to be saved, then all men would be saved.

    Does God not desire that all men refrain from sin? Or do you also argue that God does not desire that all men refrain from sin, otherwise all men would, in fact, refrain from sin?

    I will just agree to disagee over whether God actively hardens hearts. It is active in the sense that God actively removes his restraint; it is not active in the sense that God introduces evil into the hearts of the reprobate.

    I am curious about the definition of "Calvinism" used here. Does it mean agreement with Calvin just in the limited TULIP sense, or does it imply agreement with Calvin on a wider range of theological issues, for example, the sacraments?

    David,
    Calvin is the label hung on me because I follow the doctrines of Grace so it keeps it simple. Some call me Hyper.

    To your post:
    Some people teach that God actively elects some for salvation, but he only "allows" withdraws his restraints from the reprobate. However, the Bible teaches that God actively creates some people to be among the elect and actively creates other people to be among the reprobates. Neither the elect nor the reprobates appear by themselves, out of nothing. Thus God has decreed the identities of those whom he would save and those whom he would damn, without regard to any foreknown conditions in them, since any so-called foreknow conditions would be foreknown because God himself would have been the one who decreed these conditions in the first place.

    So the elect have been chosen for salvation not because God knew that they would have faith; rather, the elect receive faith from God because they have already been chosen by God for salvation even before creation.

    Election and reprobation are pre-fall thus the word supra laps. It has nothing to do with as you say introducing evil in their heart. The nature is already their for God to sovereignly move as He sees fit. Thus God says to Pharoah "For this very purpose I raised you".

    So I will ask you:

    Was the fall part of God's purpose or did this happen and God permitted it?

    My apologies to John for taking his blog comment section and using it as a forum.

    John Gipson,

    This will be my last post, I don’t want to be a troll on this blog.

    You seem to be making points that are not in dispute. Calvinists who believe that God does desire the salvation of all men do not deny election. We do not deny that there are vessels of mercy and wrath prepared ahead of time. That is not the issue.

    In regeneration, God actively changes a person’s heart, in such a way that the regenerated person will freely seek God. The issue is whether hardening means that God actively changes a person’s heart by further disposing it to do evil or whether He simply releases a person to carry out more of the wickedness already present.

    I am still curious about the question I asked:

    If, by your reasoning, God does not desire all men to be saved otherwise all men would, in fact, be saved, then do you also believe that God does not desire men to refrain from adultery, otherwise all men would, in fact, refrain from adultery?

    I’m just trying to make the point that suggesting God has only a sovereign will and not a preceptive will (let alone a permissive will) would appear, to me, to lead to a whole host of difficulties.

    How does one understand 1 John 2:2 to say anything but that Jesus died for the sins of all?

    Tom Greeley

    Thanks for your inquiry. Good question. It is important to note that the text in 1 John 2:2 does not say that Christ died for all. Read it carefully:

    "...and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world."

    Early first-century Christianity was doing something very novel in its era. Something that is spoken of frequently in the New Testament ...that is, not only are Jews included in the covenant, but Gentiles were now included as well. So John is essentially saying that Jesus death is not only effectual for Jews but for the sins of the whole world, Jews and Gentile. He is not saying it is for every person without exception, but rather, every person without distinction.

    If we were to read the Text in the way you have been reading it it becomes highly problematic for it says that Jesus is the propitiaton for our sins. Propitiation means that God's wrath has indeed been satisfied. Let me ask you then, is God's wrath satisfied for everyone in the world? If so then why isn't everyone redeemed? Are you saying that Christ did not die for the sin of unbelief? That all other sins are taken care of but we need to take the last step apart from Christ's help. That God places a condition on those He came for?

    No, if you carefully condsider, you are reading your own hermeneutic into the text, for nowhere does this passage say anything about belief making God's work kick in. No, God effectually brings His people to belief. An unregenrate person cannot and will not see the beauty and excellency of Christ. This takes a supernatural work of the Spirit.

    Can one come to faith in Christ apart from the Holy Spirit?

    SDG

    David Heddle,
    To your post:
    I actually find more difficulties in trying to assign all these wills to God.

    There is no scriptural basis for distinguishing God's will as desiring (wishing)from His will as purposing. If God desires something, it is equivalent to saying He wills or purposes it..God does not wish like men. There is nothing conditional or hypotheticdal about God's willing, purposing or desiring to do something. (Job 23:13)

    It is not scriptural then to make a sharp distinction between God's desire and decree. They are never at odds with one another!

    I see only one will (purpose) of God in scripture which is to Glorify Himself through His Son Jesus Christ by bringing many sons to Glory (Heb. 2:10), and to show His manifold wisdom through the church to all heavenly creatures (Eph. 3:10). All other things are means to this end. By His laws He hardens some and enables others through the Holy Spirit to obey those laws. (Ezek.36:26-27) See Rom. 11:32 and 1 Peter 2:8-9 as other examples.

    His desire is the same throughout history---to glorify Himself. We see:
    God putting a lying spirit in the mouths of prophets (1Kings 22:19-23). We see God causing people to wander from His ways (Isa. 63:17).We see God has bound all men over to disobedience (Rom. 11:32). We the sin of David numbering his army which God sends Satan to accomplish (2 Sam. 24:1, 10; 1 Chron. 21:1,7). And finally God kept Abimelech from sinning against Him (Gen 20:6).

    Summary: The double-will of God theory is unsound. It creates a confused God who acts contrary to what would actually please Him. And the strong term "boulomai" (Will) clearly denotes that God's sovereign purpose is in view, not some unfulfilled wish.

    Thanks David for conversing with me on this subject. And thank you John Hendryx for tolerating this sidebar.

    John Gipson

    An observation: the discussion on this thread, like so many on many blogs, centers on what seems to me to the watershed issue in Christian theologies. Is man, in some sense, free from God’s control? (This issue may never be explicitly stated, nevertheless the implication is there.) If the question is answered in the affirmative, then it also seems to me there ought to be Scriptures which either explicitly state this or from which it can be deduced by good and necessary consequences. Yet, and although this has been an issue for hundreds of years, I have never seen such list or even heard of the existence of such a list. What I’ve heard is affirmation based on human intuition or begging the question from Scripture. A classic of this latter is the story of Joseph and his brothers. The Bible speaks of the brothers’ anger, hatred and jealousy towards Joseph, but does not say that the ultimate cause of these was that the brothers were, in any sense, free from God’s control. Yet many teach they were based on the scripturally unproven assumption that man, is some sense is free from God’s control.

    One has to wonder why we cannot put aside man-made constructs and work on what Scripture actually teaches, for there is much to be done there.

    Gordon Woods

    You said >>>>The Bible speaks of the brothers’ anger, hatred and jealousy towards Joseph, but does not say that the ultimate cause of these was that the brothers were, in any sense, free from God’s control. Yet many teach they were based on the scripturally unproven assumption that man, is some sense is free from God’s control.

    Response:
    Thanks for the post Gordon. Appreciated...

    Just to set the record straight, no contributors at Reformation Theology Blog or here at Monerigsm.com believes man is EVER free from God's control. That would be absurd, I agree. The story you provided from Genesis is a perfect example of compatibilism, however. Like in Proverbs, in man is the plans of the heart, but God determines the steps.

    In compatibilism, a voluntary choice never means man is free to do otherwise. He will always choose what God has decreed. Man can never thwart that. What compatibilists mean when they say that "voluntary" choice is compatible with God's sovereignty is that man will always choose what he wants/desires most. He cannot choose otherwise ... he is determined to choose according to his disposition and it is God who gives us this disposition and puts the situations before man and directs man in his steps. As in Acts 2 & 4 man chooses to crucify the Lord and at the same time God also is said to ordain it. The evil men who made such a choice did so voluntarily, not involuntarily. It wasn't against their desires and will. They wanted such a thing to happen and exercised their will to do so. At the same time, God decreed it to happen. They could not have chosen otherwise. It was voluntary because they wanted it.

    In the story of Joseph that you brought up, speaking of the brothers who sold him into slavery, it says "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

    Here we see that Joseph's brother acted upon their intentions. i.e. they willingly, voluntarily desired to sell Joseph into slavery ... YET God decreed this would happen and it could not be otherwise.

    "Freedom to do otherwise" is exactly the opposite of compatibilism (which is deterministic) and rather comes from a theory called libertarian free will, which we outright reject.

    Shalom
    John

    Some things I am thankful for this year is this Reformation Theology Blog and the Monergism site. I confess to not searching scripture deeply and carefully enough for many years to defend what I believed. These sites, as well as some others, have helped wet my appetite to better understand Reformed Theology. I am now more able to use scripture authoritatively with men who are questioning God's absolute sovereignty. Today, in particular, I thank both John Hendryx and SDG for the instruction on 1 John 2:2.

    David,

    You wrote, "By sincere, in its common usage, we mean that the receiver has the ability to accept the offer. But the whole idea of election is necessitated (and thankfully taught in scripture) on the basis of man’s inability to respond to the gospel."

    I don't think sincere means what you take it to mean here. A sincere offer doesn't necessitate the reciever's ability to recieve the offer. It only necessitates that *if* the reciever of the message did respond then the person would be saved.

    For example Paul teaches ""Truly these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent." -Acts 17:30 Jesus first words preaching were, "Repent and believe the Gospel."

    We know that God commands *all* men to repent and believe, including the elect and non-elect. This means that the atonement is available to all who will repent and believe.

    So, why are the many of the non-elect condemned? Because they have heard the message refuse to repent and believe the Gospel.

    "Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles." Acts 13:46

    This is the word of faith which we preach, that if you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

    So, I can say to anyone whether I know they are elect or not "Jesus died for your sin, if you will repent and believe the gospel, you will be saved.

    Alan

    In response to the original post:

    It seems that the original post was submitted in joint support with John Samson of the gospel being a command rather than an offer. I checked out John Samson's web site at http://effectualgrace.com/about/ and found it to say this about him:

    "John is a Reformed pastor, Bible teacher and author with a passion for the local Church and for the free OFFER OF THE GODPEL to be proclaimed far and wide."

    Have I misunderstood the post or has John Samson changed his view on this since then?

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