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.