07 September, 2018

Acts 13:26—“… to you is the word of this salvation sent”

Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent (Acts 13:26).

The gospel is not only “good news” (i.e., the meaning of the word itself) but is also a “word of salvation.”
The argument which makes its appeal to this verse, is basically, “How can the gospel be ‘a word of salvation’ to all that hear, unless (1) God is favourably disposed towards all that hear (reprobate included), and (2) salvation in Jesus Christ is universally available for all men?”


Q. 1. “According to Acts 13:26, the gospel is a ‘word of salvation’ sent to sinners, and not just to the elect (‘Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent’). Those addressed in Acts 13 were not all elect.”

Q. 2. “The word ‘gospel’ means ‘good news.’ To define it as ‘bad news’ to some is to reinvent the very meaning of the word itself. It is to alter the meaning of the Word of God. What was proclaimed to sinners, whether elect or not elect? Answer: good news!”

(a) Prof. David J. Engelsma:

The answer to both questions is basically the same.  The gospel itself is good news, great good news.  It is this when it comes to the impenitent unbeliever, for example, Judas Iscariot, as it is this when it comes to an elect believer.  This makes the unbelief of the impenitent unbeliever such great sin.  He rejects good news.  He rejects the good Jesus Christ, who is presented in the gospel.  Indeed, he rejects and despises God Himself, who *is* goodness, who comes to him and calls him in the gospel.  The guilt of the ungodly in the day of judgment is that he foolishly rejected Christ and God in the gospel.  That the gospel did not profit them is not the fault of the gospel, as though it were a thing of badness, but their own fault that they despised God, Jesus, salvation, and goodness. 

The issue is not whether the gospel is good or bad, or whether the fault of rejecting it is that of the unbeliever and of him only.  Hebrews 4 implies that the fault is their own:  they do not believe. 
But the issue is whether the rejection of the gospel by some takes place according to the will of God as He comes to them with the gospel.  Hebrews 4 clearly implies that this is the case.  The word preached does not profit some because it is not mixed with faith in them.  And where does faith come from?  Is it the natural ability of all, or is it the gift of God to some, the elect, as Ephesians 2:8 teaches.  When the good gospel is preached to all, God mixes it with faith as a gift to some, the elect, but withholds faith from others.  The result, which is also God’s purpose in reprobation, is that the others remain unbelieving and in fact are hardened by the good gospel.  If God willed that all be saved by the gospel He would give faith, with the gospel, to all hearers.
The good word profits only those who believe, and faith is God’s gift only to some, not to others. 
There is nothing wrong with the gospel.  The evil is in the hearers:  unbelief. 
Note well, that to teach that in the gospel God wills the salvation of all hearers is to teach that what accounts for the salvation of some and not of others is the will of the sinner.  This is heresy.
As for Acts 13, in addition, one explanation might well be that the word in itself is a word of salvation, regardless of those to whom it comes.  In itself, it is this.  But another explanation is suggested by the text itself.  The apostle restricts the recipients as those “who fear God.”  He limits the recipients as concerns the saving purpose and power of the gospel.  It is sent with a saving purpose and effect only to those who fear God.

(DJE, 07/09/2018)

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