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“Does God sincerely offer salvation to the non-elect?”
Sovereign Grace Mens Fellowship
Sovereign Grace Mens Fellowship
December 9, 2017
December 9, 2017
Pastor Mark Piles
Pastor Mark Piles
It is necessary to get a grasp on the subject of the will of God in order to answer whether salvation is offered freely by God to all people.
But I want to make a very important point before we take this journey together today. The journey takes us on 2 paths; the path of God’s eternal election and the path of God’s desire for all men to be saved. There are 2 paths in the minds of most people which they see as going in different directions. But I want us to see today that though they very well may be 2 paths in our eyes they are paths that are not headed in different directions, but which are almost parallel, meeting together again further down the journey of theological understanding
On the path of God’s eternal election we know that He has
predestined certain ones whose names He wrote in the Lamb’s book of
life, given to the Son to be HIs bride before the foundation of the
world. These people the Lord foreknew, or set His love upon beforehand
in eternity past. And Christ assured us in John 6:39, “This is the will
of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose
nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.”
So this is the decretive will of God that of all that He gave the Son none of them can be lost.
On that other path we have Scriptures which show us that God
has a will which is mysterious to those who believe the truth of the
decretive will of God. It confuses many, though really it shouldn’t. On
this path we learn that God “has no pleasure in the death of the
wicked...” (Ezek. 33:11).
The paths all imply that God decrees one state of affairs while also willing and teaching that a different state of affairs should come to pass.
I want us to understand today that what seems like 2 wills of God are not conflicting wills at all, but they make up who God is. His will is one will.
I. Scriptural references to address concerning the will of God.
A. God’s will as expressed in blessing the wicked.
“(43) You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’
(44) But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for
those who spitefully use you and persecute you, (45) that you may be Sons of your Father in heaven; for He
makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
God’s loving-kindness is enjoyed by even the evil ones, the unjust ones. In God’s great kindness He allows those
who reject His Son and deny and hate Him to nevertheless
enjoy His blessing in a temporal and earthly way. The
blessings they enjoy do not include spiritual blessings, of course. But as His creatures they enjoy a measure of His
blessing simply because of who He is; out of His love for His creatures. It is a Creator to creature love. God loves
His enemies and so His sons are to do the same.
John Murray states;
This informs us that the gifts bestowed by God are not simply gifts which have the effect of good and blessing to
those who are the recipients but that they are also a manifestation or expression of loving-kindness and goodness
in the heart or will of God with reference to those who are the recipients.
B. God’s will as expressed toward the non-elect.
“Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!”
Murray once again states:
Since they did not fulfill that which was optatively expressed in 5:29, we must conclude that God had not decreed that they should have such a heart. If God had decreed it, it would have been so. Here therefore we have an instance of desire on the part of God for the fulfillment of that which he had not decreed. in other words, a will on the part of God to that which he had not decretively willed.
Theodore Beza (in 1582) wrote:
Nothing happens... without God’s most righteous decree, although God is not the author of or sharer in any sin at all. Both His power and His goodness are so great and so incomprehensible, that at a time when He applies the devil or wicked men in achieving some work, whom He afterwards justly punishes, He Himself nonetheless effects His holy work well and justly. These things do not hinder but rather establish second and intermediate causes, by which all things happen. When from eternity God decreed whatever was to happen at definite moments, He at the same time also decreed the manner and way which He wished it thus to take place; to such extent, that even if some flaw is discovered in a second cause, it yet implies no flaw or fault in God’s eternal counsel.
It is pointed out by Albert Barnes that in all of the commands expressed by the Lord to the people not one is to walk in sin; not one statement that God desires that they should sin or that He wishes the death of a sinner. Rather, His commands are expressed as imperatives toward repentance and righteousness.
“Oh, that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!”
“Oh, that you had heeded My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and
your righteousness like the waves of the sea.”
“Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?’ says the Lord GOD, ‘and not that he
should turn from his ways and live?”
“For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,’ says the Lord GOD. ‘Therefore turn and Iive!’’
“0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!
How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”
“saying, ‘If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your
peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”
2 Peter 3:9,
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is Iongsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
1 Timothy 2:4,
“...who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
John Piper in his booklet, stated this
purpose for writing it.
Therefore, as a hearty believer in unconditional, individual election, I also rejoice to affirm that there is a real sense in which God does not take pleasure in the perishing of the impenitent, that he desired to gather all the rebellious inhabitants of Jerusalem, and that he has compassion on all people. My aim is to show that this is not double talk.
And he does it well in his booklet.
II. Conclusions drawn from Scripture concerning the will of God.
A. Is there a contradiction in God’s election?
Our awesome God alone is able to decree something and then to assure it’s coming to pass by willing certain things that seem to go against that same decree. In other words, God can move the hearts of men to do that which He Himself forbids in order to accomplish His decretive will. So though God has decreed that only those He chooses will be rescued from their sin, He nevertheless desires that all men everywhere repent. His desire that they repent comes out of His Creator-love for man. His election comes from His filial love for His elect.
God accomplishes His purpose in all things. No one and no thing can thwart that purpose. Yet the heart of God is revealed to us in Scripture concerning the fate or death of the wicked. He takes no pleasure in it. He does not execute His wrath on the wicked with vengeance like ours, filled with sinful hatred; but with a sadness of heart mingled with His justice satisfied.
I. Howard Marshall says, “We must certainly distinguish between what God would like to see happen and what he actually does will to happen, and fthatj both of these things can be spoken of as God’s will.”
“If it is proper to say that God desires the salvation of the reprobate, then He desires such by their
repentance. And so it amounts to the same thing to say “God desires their salvation” as to say “He desires their repentance.” This is the same as saying that He desires them to comply with the indispensable conditions of salvation. It would be impossible to say the one without implying the other.”
B. Is there a contradiction in what God wills in one sense yet disapproves in another sense? The greatest example is
the death of Christ.
God willed the death of His Son but in making it come to pass also willed the greatest sins ever committed by man. Now we must grant that the Scripture makes it clear that any sin is rejected by and unacceptable to God. He is never the Author of any sin in any situation. Yet, in order to accomplish the purpose for which He sent His Son He orchestrated certain things to happen which required sinful acts to be committed.
Jonathan Edwards says:
“It implies no contradiction to suppose that an act may be an evil act, and yet that it is a good thing that such an act should come to pass... . As for instance, it might be an evil thing to crucify Christ, but yet it was a good thing that the crucifying of Christ came to pass.”
other words, the Scriptures lead us to the insight that God can will
that a sinful act come to pass without willing it as an act of sin in
Because God has revealed His moral
commands to man it is clear that it is His will that man obey His moral
law. We know it was not the “will of
God” that Judas, Herod, the Jewish crowds, Pilate, and the Gentile
soldiers disobeyed the moral law of God by sinning in delivering Jesus
up to be crucified. But we also know that it was
the will of God that this should come to pass. Therefore, we
know that God wills in one sense what he does not will in another sense.
Another example of this is the war waged
against the Lamb in Rev. 17:16-17.
“(14) These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.”
(16) And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire. (17) For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.”
It is a great sin to make war with the Lamb. Yet God wills (in one sense) to influence the 10 kings to do what is (in another sense) against His will.
Another example: God’s hardening of the hearts of men to sin against Him.
Probably the best known example is the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart in Ex. 8.
“But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My
name may be declared in all the earth.”
“And the LORD said to Moses, ‘When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders
before Pharaoh which I have put in your hand. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.”
The good thing that God commanded (“Let My people go”) He prevented. And the thing He brought about (Pharaoh’s hardness of heart) involved sin.
This illustrates why theologians talk about the “will of command” (“Let my people go!”) and the “will of decree” (“God hardened Pharaoh’s heart”).
Lastly, Christ’s decision to speak to the Jews in parables near the end of His earthly ministry.
“And He said to them, ‘To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, (12) so that “SEEING THEY MAY SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE, AND HEARING THEY MAY HEAR AND NOT UNDERSTAND; LEST THEY SHOULD TURN, AND THEIR SINS BE FORGIVEN THEM.””
So God’s will is that people turn and be
forgiven (Mark 1:15), but he acts to restrict the fulfillment of that
“(31) even so these also have now been
disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain
mercy. (32) For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He
might have mercy on all.”
God wills a condition (hardness of heart)
that he commands people to strive against (“Do not harden your hearts”
Heb. 3:8, 15; 4:7).
Yet He does this (willing a condition that is against His own command) that His will of decree will indeed come to pass!
III. The definition of “offer” as used in modern English.
Does God then offer men something that He never intended to give them?
I believe that the answer comes down to this...Does God hold out to the non-elect the possibility of salvation or does He hold out to them the proclamation of salvation?
Today, when some Christians (especially Arminian believers) speak of the “offer of salvation” they are speaking of, as Ronald Panko puts it, “the belief that God loves all men without exception, and in that love ‘holds out’ salvation to them with the desire that every one of them receive it. God, it is said, wills the salvation of all men and expresses in the gospel the desire and intention that all without exception be saved.
So, in other words, He holds it out in a manner which leaves the decision in the hands of men rather than the sovereign choice of God and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.”
Panko further adds that “some even go that step further and say that God actually has something to ‘offer’ them. He sent Christ to die for all without exception, and therefore salvation is available to all and can be offered to alL”
The Westminster Confession states that God “freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus
Christ” (VII, 3). This is, however, further defined there as God’s: “requiring of them faith in Him, that
they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy
Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe.”
The modern English definition of “offer” is to present or proffer something for someone to accept or reject as so desired; to express readiness to do something for someone; to make available for sale; to provide access or opportunity.
If by offer we do not mean the English definition then we must make clear what we mean by offer. If
by offer we mean to proclaim a truth to all then we should call it that.
I have taught the folks at Grace that the
gospel is not an offer but a proclamation.
I have yet to see the gospel ever presented in the Scriptures as an offer. The gospel is a command.
Never do we see Christ or any of His
apostles holding the gospel out as an offer, as if it is powerless to
save until the hearer chooses to respond.
We do see Christ as He weeps over Jerusalem. But was this because they had rejected the offer of salvation? Indirectly, yes. But they were actually guilty of rejecting Christ Himself.
Panko also says,
Such notions conflict with the Biblical doctrines of predestination, limited atonement, and irresistible
grace. If God willed the salvation of some only in eternity, how can He will the salvation of all in the gospel? If Christ did not die for all, what does God have to offer to all? If God’s grace is all-powerful and He desires the salvation of all without exception, why are all not saved? That theology was also rejected by Calvin, though he often used the word “offer.” To give just one quote, Calvin says, “After this, Pighius, like a wild beast escaped from his cage, rushes forth, bounding over ailfences in his way, uttering such sentiments as these: 7he mercy of God is extended to every one, for God wishes all men to be saved; and for that end He stands and knocks at the door of our heart, desiring to enter”
We must all agree that the gospel always falls on deaf ears when we preach it unless the Spirit quickens the dead spirit of the sinner. When we preach the gospel we are largely preaching to a graveyard. I don’t know about you, but I do not offer a dead man anything because he cannot respond to any of my offers. Rather I proclaim the truth of the gospel while awaiting the work that only the Spirit can do...the work of regeneration, giving birth to the sinner from above, resurrecting him from death unto life.
Our responsibility is to proclaim the gospel; command men to repent. And then the Spirit will do His work in the heart of the elect sinner. If He does not, none can be saved.
So when we preach the gospel to a crowd with non-elect people in it, are we offering them something that they can choose? No. They cannot choose it. We are simply relaying the message which we have been given by our Savior. We are simply speaking for Him in His absence.
IV. My conclusion concerning the “offer of salvation”.
Theologically we would all agree today that salvation is of the Lord and that all that He effectually calls to salvation will come to Him... then where is the offering? We must never be guilty of making the gospel proclamation arbitrary and up to the acceptance or refusal of man. Since man is truly depraved and to be converted he must be quickened in order to see his need of the Savior, can he also contemplate the offer and then refuse it? Then the doctrine of regeneration as taught by Jesus Christ was for what purpose?
In my mind, the doctrine of regeneration does not make room for the notion of salvation being offered. So then, is the gospel ever depicted or represented in the Scripture as an offer? If so, I have yet to find it. The gospel must never be seen as a product.
The question to be asked is this, is the gospel “offered” to the elect? I would answer no. Never is the gospel offered; only preached, proclaimed, commanded.
Christ commands men everywhere to repent. It seems to me that a command and an offer are polar opposites.
If the salvation of a soul was contingent upon what man does with the gospel message preached, then the offer would be a very appropriate word. But for those who sincerely believe that the Bible teaches the sovereignty of God in salvation and that one cannot believe the gospel without first being regenerated, as Christ taught Nicodemus in John 3, there is no room left for the describing of this as an offer. The elect are saved as a result of the foreknowledge of God, choosing them in Christ before the foundation of the world and the particular redemption of Christ on the cross and the regenerating work of the Spirit thru the gospel proclamation. There is no offer, only a proclamation. And the proclamation only results in conversion when it falls upon a new heart, a quickened, regenerated heart.
So if it was not offered to the elect, how then can it be an offering to the non-elect? If the elect can scarcely be saved, how can the non-elect? If the elect cannot receive the gospel without regeneration, then the non-elect are incapable also and will treat the gospel as a joke; something to be rejected and scoffed at.
When one offers something of great value
to another, he does so 1) because he actually has or
possesses something of value that they can actually
receive, and 2) they have every intention of giving it to the one to
whom t is offered. But what keeps the offerer from giving it to the one
to whom he offers it? The rejection of the one to whom it is offered. It
alt rides upon man’s choice. Yet Christ paid a ransom for many, for His
sheep, for the elect. So if the ransom is not paid for the non-elect, is
Christ offering them that gift? If He was, He would be offering them
something they could never receive because payment was never made for
Rather, because of His righteousness, He proclaims the gospel to the world thru His church, not because of the possibility that they might actually be saved, but to vindicate the veracity of God and to manifest His grace and mercy so that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father.