27 November, 2016


The Preaching of the Gospel

The true basis for the preaching of the Gospel is stated by William Cunningham in the following terms:

The sole ground or warrant for men’s act, in offering pardon and salvation to their fellow­men, is the authority and command of God in His Word. We have no other warrant than this; we need no other; and we should seek or desire none; but on this ground alone we should consider ourselves not only warranted, but bound, to proclaim to our fellow men, whatever be their country, character, or condition, the good news of the kingdom, and call them to come to Christ that they might be saved.

Three errors at least persist.

1. Some otherwise orthodox divines have based the free offer to all on the logic, that since Christ’s death was of infinite worth, it is sufficient for all, but efficient only for the elect. While the idea of sufficiency for all may be a valid deduction, it has no theological application. If the preaching of the Gospel is based on the idea, that the atonement is sufficient for all, but effective only for the elect, there is the implication that Christ died for all, with an absolute intention for the elect, and a conditional intention for the reprobate, as with the Amyraldian system.

2. and 3. There are two kinds of universalists, those who base the offer of the Gospel on a universal atonement, and those who, as modern modified Calvinists, attempt to embrace the orthodox and universalistic positions at the one time, by basing their offer of the Gospel on a notion of a universal love of God, and a desire in Him for the salvation of all men.

Let us recapitulate some of the things which belong to the gospel of modern modified Calvinism.

1. Since there is a loving-kindness in God toward every man, the doctrine of total depravity is overthrown, because in every man there is something desirable to God.

2. Because of that loving-kindness of God toward every man, Christ is said to belong to every man.

3. The basis of the preaching of the gospel of modern modified Calvinism is comprised of three notions which have nothing to do with bringing a sinner to Christ. They are:

a) God loves every man.

b) He desires to save every man.

c) Christ belongs to every man.

1. Since the proclamation of the gospel in this system involves telling all men that God loves and desires to save them, and since the redemption purchased by Christ satisfied all the demands of the law on behalf of the elect only, the law is divorced from the preaching of the Gospel.

2. Thus the outward call of the Gospel does not include the preaching of the law, which is the schoolmaster to bring men to Christ. Since it is assumed that Christ belongs to every man, sinners are not brought to Christ by showing them their transgressions, but by an offer of the Gospel which tells them that Christ is there for the taking. They are thus invited to receive Christ without conviction of sin, and therefore without a need of the Great Physician. The love of God, not His fear, is made the beginning of wisdom. In other words, it is a Gospel which offers Christ to all without conditions.

3. Sinners are not, therefore, shown the true nature of the estate into which they are fallen. It is by the preaching of God’s Word that the Spirit of God convicts of sin and of righteousness and of judgment to come, without which the sinner will not turn and be converted.

4. The Gospel of modern modified Calvinism consists of a shallow believism, because it is not rooted in the commandment and the preaching of the law. It forgets that the whole purpose of the Gospel is that men may be conformed to the image of Christ in His human nature. Conformity to Christ is through conformity to His law, by the preaching of His Word and the work of His Spirit.

5. Since men are not brought to Christ by showing them their transgressions, the notion of total depravity, a term often used by modern modified Calvinists, consists mainly in not maintaining a right attitude or disposition towards Christ.

6. Modern modified Calvinism gives much exhortation to the exercise of the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. It cannot, however, lay the principles by which the Spirit of God produces these fruits in the heart, because of its ambiguous and contradictory system of doctrine. Its doctrine of sanctification is, therefore, a doctrine of works, in other words, an attempt to imitate Christ.

Calvin’s Calvinism is in distinct contradiction to this system. Firstly, the free offer of the gospel rests on the commandment of God. Secondly, it is offered on condition of repentance and faith as set out in the Larger Catechism No. 32:

The grace of God is manifested in the second covenant in that He freely provideth and offereth a Mediator, and life and salvation by Him; requiring faith as the condition to interest them in Him, promiseth and giveth His Holy Spirit to all His elect, to work in them that faith, with all other saving graces.

Thus we say that the offer of the Gospel is made to them which hunger and thirst, “Ho, every one that thirsteth” etc., “Blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness.”

The gospel of Calvin’s Calvinism is based on the commandment because no sinner will hunger and thirst after righteousness unless he has seen his lost and undone condition. That he cannot do until he has had the law of God laid to his conscience and has learned that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Romans 1:18). Without this preparation the gospel is of none effect, because the mercy of God in Christ is set over and against sin’s penalty. It is by the preaching of these means that the Holy Spirit is come to convict of sin and of righteousness and judgment to come (John 16:7, 14). Only when these things are wrought in the heart of the sinner, in some degree, will he comprehend the true nature of his fallen estate and flee to Christ. Having learned that he possesses no righteousness of his own, he will hunger for the righteousness of Christ. In the gospel call and invitation he will find that in Christ there is “a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).

Only when the sinner has closed with God’s offer of mercy in Christ, however haltingly, has he a hope and a right to assume that the wrath of God is removed from him and that Christ has died for him. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Nevertheless, he will see in the declarations of God’s wrath against sin and unrighteousness a warning against his committing of sin and his grieving of the Holy Spirit.

As previously stated, the modern modified Calvinist concept of the free offer of the gospel affirms that God, in loving every man, desires to save them, and so offers Christ on the basis that He belongs to every man. In denying that this concept implies a universal redemption as to purchase, it cannot say that all that is offered in the gospel is a purchase of the death of Christ. It has been said by some, that Christ is not offered as a Redeemer, but only as a friend.

Calvin'’ Calvinism teaches that all that was purchased by the death of Christ is offered to sinners. Thus the offer of mercy includes the embracing of Jesus Christ and in Him the partaking of the benefits of justification, adoption, sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from them. (Refer Shorter Catechism No. 29-32). Justification and peace of conscience are the first things which the regenerate sinner enjoys. Regeneration is sanctification commenced in the soul, and by it he is made a child of God. It is relevant to note that John the Baptist, regenerate from his mother’s womb was the greatest prophet of repentance in preparation for the ministry of the Lord Jesus in the world and in the hearts of men.

Calvin has shown that there is no inconsistency between the fact “that God by an eternal decree, fixed the number of those whom He is pleased to embrace in love, and on whom He is pleased to display His wrath,” and the fact “that He offers salvation indiscriminately to all” upon certain conditions. He says,

I hold that they are perfectly consistent, for all that is meant by the promise is, just that His mercy is offered to all who desire and implore it, and this none do, save those whom He has enlightened.

This offer, though it is made upon conditions of repentance and faith, is wholly free and without price, because it is God who also gives repentance and faith.

When the offer according to the Scripture is made outwardly to them that hunger and thirst, it is in its inward effect, a calling out of those who receive the effectual operation of God’s Spirit. It also fulfils God’s purpose in separating the elect from the reprobate. Those who refuse the offer and call are not mocked, for they have no such desires. There can therefore be no question of insincerity on the part of God, if there is not in Him a desire for the salvation of all men.

Our opponents, who have done away with the commandment as the basis of the offer and the condition of faith and repentance, must of necessity conclude that there is an intention in the offer for the salvation of all. Under their offer they are saying, “Here is Christ, take him,” “Go tell every man Christ is dead for him,” so that under their conception of the offer, God to be sincere, must desire the salvation of all men.

In attempting to preserve the sincerity of God in their notion of the offer, they have made him to be insincere, because He, in desiring to save all, does not grant all men the means of repentance and faith. It is the height of insincerity to stand on the pier and watch a man drowning, while desiring that he might be saved, yet not throwing the lifeline which is held in hand.

An accusation laid by modern modified Calvinists against those who maintain the true preaching of the gospel, is the nonsense statement, that they offer the gospel only to the elect, who before they are effectually called are known only to God. They also claim that the annexation of a condition to the free offer is an attempt to measure repentance and faith. To call men to the exercise of faith and repentance is not to measure them, but to command them. Faith the size of a mustard seed cannot be measured, yet it will move mountains. The weakness of faith is not to be despised either, for our Lord has declared, “A bruised reed he will not break,” but will strengthen it that it may become as cedar in the courts of our God. The smoking flax he will not quench, but will blow it into a flame.

The doctrine of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia concerning the free offer of the gospel is fully stated in The Sum of Saving Knowledge which is annexed to the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. That statement is contrary to the concept of the gospel held by modern modified Calvinists and was actually rejected by the Marrowmen for the same reason.

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