Some of the Practical Implications of Particular Redemption, Part 3: Evangelism

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by Dr. Bob Gonzales, Dec 1, 2009.

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  1. Dr. Bob Gonzales

    Dr. Bob Gonzales Puritan Board Junior

  2. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks Dr. G for this post. As a Calvinist who is currently responding to the call to go into frontier missions, I need to be reminded of these precious truths - the necessity and relevance of the doctrines of grace - especially when I can almost guarantee that most of my colleagues on the field will not be doctrinally like-minded.

    I've struggled with this topic a bit and would like to interact with you a bit and ask some questions that may help us to sharpen the use of this doctrine even further...

    While the doctrines of grace do indeed propel us to evangelize, it remains impossible to know which ones are elect, for whom Christ had died. So it seems that our certainty in the efficacy of our gospel preaching could only be truly certain if we knew that the person we are preaching to is elect. Why I think so many missionaries are Arminian, is that they have hope that they possess the "power" so-to-speak to genuinely influence every person toward the gospel regardless of whether people are elect (of course to them, no one is elect, everyone has an equal opportunity). The Calvinist believes that God will certainly move in the heart of an elect person, but he is not sure who within a given group is elect.

    Given these two systems, I honesty don't see a HUGE advantage of one over the other, missiologically speaking. I could see Calvinism obliterating the alternatives IF we had confidence that God not only elected, but guided us toward those who are elect, rather than leaving us to sweep through the multitudes to find them.

    do you believe that God not only elects, but also directs the evangelist/missionary to the ones for whom Christ died?

  3. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist

    Dennis -

    I would STRONGLY suggest you get a hold of Packer's Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. It is very helpful on this issue.

    You do NOT have to "sweep through the multitudes to find" the elect. You are not responsible to "find the elect". That is God's job. Yours is to proclaim the Gospel to all. Proclaim it clearly and faithfully, and you will have succeeded as a missionary.

    The Gospel does NOT convert all to whom it is preached. Some it hardens. Some it converts. It ALWAYS does one or the other, for the Word does not return void, but always accomplishes the purpose for which God sent it - for some that purpose is to harden, and for others that purpose is softening of the heart unto conversion.

    God directs the process without a doubt - whether he directs the missionary to the elect, or the elect to the missionary is not relevant for you to consider. Don't worry about it. We spend way, way, way too much time trying to figure out "God's perfect will for me" instead of paying attention to providence, and making the most of opportunities set before us. If you feel drawn to go to a particular land, and have the ability and the calling of the church and the training from the church, then go. The elect will hear the Gospel and respond. NO elect one is lost. There will be NONE that the missionary fails to get for whom God had intended a particular missionary to be the one planting the seed of the Word in them. You needn't be concerned about "finding the elect". Just preach the Gospel.
  4. Dr. Bob Gonzales

    Dr. Bob Gonzales Puritan Board Junior


    Two things. First, I didn't actually write the article but just posted the link. The author is a professor in the seminary at which I teach. Of course, I believe in particular redemption and also that a belief in "particularism" can engender courage and confidence in the evangelist/missionary. But I'm actually tied up at present with some other seminary duties and can't engage in a lengthy discussion. You've raised some good questions, and I think the author, Jeffrey Smith, would be willing to interact with you if you'd post your comments on the blog where the article appears.

    Second, I would second Todd Peddlar's recommendation. J. I. Packer does a find job in his book Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God in demonstrating how a commitment to God's sovereignty in salvation in no way hinders evangelistic enterprise but actually promotes it. Indeed, some of the greatest missionaries have been 5-point Calvinists. I would also add another recommendation. Read the chapter on missions (ch. 9) in John Piper's Desiring God. In that chapter, he tries to show how "universalism" actually undermines missionary enterprise and how "particularism" promotes it. He expounds, as a key text, John 10:16, and draws the following points:

    1. Christ does indeed have other sheep outside the present fold!
    2. Christ is under a divine necessity to gather his own sheep.
    3. The sheep He calls will surely come.

    I found the exposition along with the illustrations and applications he drew to be very compelling.

  5. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    I'm acquainted and in full agreement with Packer and Piper's argument. Being a Calvinist has been a major factor for me to respond to the call to missions.

    The reason why I'm preparing to do Bible translation and church planting among a never-reached group is because of my confidence that among a new tribe, God has certainly elected a church to be planted among them to be one day represented around his throne (Rev 7:9).

    But take for example, missionaries who go the middle east or Japan, where a church of some sort already exists in that people group. Some spend their lives evangelizing only to see a few conversions. In no way do I diminish their great service and God-honouring sacrifice, but both the Calvinist and the Arminian missionary will generally see the same results.

    If we assume that God is not providing any special revelation to the missionaries as to who to preach to, it brings up the question, from a missiological standpoint, whether Calvinism provides more or the same amount of confidence than Arminianism.
  6. Dr. Bob Gonzales

    Dr. Bob Gonzales Puritan Board Junior


    Here's a reply to your comments from the author of the post, Jeff Smith (which he also posted on RBS Tabletalk). I hope it provides some clarification:
    Indeed, you are right Dennis that the Calvinistic view does not assure evangelistic success AT EVERY GIVEN TIME OR PLACE OR PERSON TO WHOM the gospel is preached. That was not what I was arguing. It does, however, insure the ultimate success of gospel work. All for whom Christ died will be saved and they will be effectually called to faith by means of the prayers and evangelistic endeavors of God's people. Here is the difference as I perceive it. With an Arminian system it is at least hypothetically possible that no one will be saved by the death of Christ. Furthermore the Calvinist view enables a pionier missionary like Adoniram Judson to labor on for many years with no success assured that he is not on a fool's errand because God HAS revealed this much...that he has a people among all the people groups of the world, including those Judson labored among who had yet to be exposed to the gospel, and due time they will be effectually called to faith through the evangelistic and missionary endeavors of the church of Jesus Christ of which his labors were at least a part.

    Furthermore there is great comfort to the gospel laborer from the doctrines of grace when he meets with difficulties and even rejection in his gospel witness. Note how Jesus himself comforted himself in this way. In Jn. 6:35-36 Jesus is speaking to unbelieving Jews and he says, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst". He then says, "But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe". So our Lord was face to face with rejection and unbelief in those he was speaking to. However this did not deter him or shake his confidence. He immediately comforts himself with the reality he asserts in the next verse, v.37, "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will in no wise cast out". You may not believe, you may reject my words, but there is a people who will come to me. I'm not on a fool's errand. I'm not wasting my time and effort. There is a people who were given to me by the Father and in due time they will come to me and when they do I will not cast them out. The God-man comforts his soul and maintains his confidence in his work by reminding himself and us of what we call the doctrines of sovereign grace.

    Thanks for the interaction.

    Every Blessing In Christ,

    Jeff Smith
  7. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks Doc. I wrote him another response and would like to hear your comments as well.

    There are some other minor implications of limited atonement on the preaching of the gospel.

    1. The evangelist is no longer free to say “Jesus loved you and died for you.” This has been the trademark way of evangelism in the western world for years, and there is a certain effect this makes on the listener. With limited atonement the wording needs to be adjusted to, “Jesus died to pay the price for sin.” Speaking psychologically for a moment (for we know that God uses natural means), do you think this less personal presentation lessens the affective impact of the gospel on the listener?

    2. If the gospel is to be offered freely to all, but Christ only died for some, is there not a SENSE in which Christ did die for all? In which sense did Christ die for all?

  8. Prufrock

    Prufrock Arbitrary Moderation


    That has, indeed, been an unfortunate and tragic trademark of recent American evangelism. Unfortunately, telling people falsehoods does nothing for anybody, no matter what the temporary psychological benefits may be. But further, we can say more than just, "Jesus died to pay the price for sin." We can tell all that there is a savior for them if they will but turn and believe. Externally, the gospel call is a conditional promise promulgated to all -- Jesus, indeed, stands ready and able to save all who will come unto him!
  9. TeachingTulip

    TeachingTulip Puritan Board Sophomore

    Mr. Korte,

    I know what you are teaching here, but I believe this needs to be clarified and expanded a bit.

    What is "conditional" is the Law. All men who hear the gospel come under the Law of Faith and are required to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for life.

    However, grace is not "conditional" for it is bestowed according to the Unconditional Election of the father.

    Thus, after declaring what the conditions of the Law contain, the gospel message must also contain the fact that no man can fulfill the Law of Faith.

    No man will believe the gospel apart from the free grace of God.

    And the good news is: By the grace of God, the elect sons of God are gifted with the necessary faith to believe and repent from their sins.

    We can incorporate Unconditional Election and Irresistible Grace into our message without fear, by simply saying, " Jesus Christ died for the sins of His people, and by His grace, they will all believe in Him for righteousness."

    My :2cents:
  10. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    The "conditional promise" that Prufrock of speaking of is the free offer of the gospel to all.

    We all affirm God's gracious unconditional election, but the offer of the gospel is freely given and is the proximate cause (if I can use that term) along with faith, which are the ordained means used to bring someone to salvation.
  11. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    If you truly believe that God has His Elect among every tongue, tribe and nation, then you can tell that gathered tribe, whichever tribe you go to, "God cares about this tribe."

    Also, remember that there will be a "great multitude which no man can number" who are the Elect, and you will have the chance to preach the Word to some of these.

    Also, I get very discouraged and the work is mentally oppresive. If I did not know that God was sovereign, I would have quit even the first year. There IS a GREAT comfort in these doctrines. WE CANNOT FAIL.

    Finally, I do not believe that God has called most of us to "hardening ministries" but I have seen some Gospel success, and I expect to see more Gospel successes.

    I have never been tempted to say "Smile God loves you" or "Jesus died for you." Usually I tell people that God delights to show mercy and that all who are heavy and heavy-laden will not be rejected if they come to Christ, He will receive them. Or, that God has died for sinners, and that all who know their sin and need their Saviour can come to Him.

    Christ's particular atonement corresponds perfectly to the "whosoever will" of John 3. Whosoever will can come, and Jesus will receive all penitent sinners to Himself.

    Yes, God saves through His Word. That is why we should be all the more vigorous in getting that Word out.

    -----Added 12/2/2009 at 01:20:52 EST-----

    Jesus came to be a propitiation for the whole world. That means that His blood is not restricted to merely the Jews. The whole world is now our arena...all nations (Mattthew 28). In that sense, Christ died for all.
  12. TeachingTulip

    TeachingTulip Puritan Board Sophomore

    The Latin "offero" (Canons of Dordt, III & IV Main Points, Article 9)of the gospel denotes a proclamation; a "setting forth" of truths; a "presentation."

    Indeed, the gospel is to be "set forth" to all. But that "offer" is not meant as a plea or a choice to be made on the part of the sinner.

    It is my belief that faith and subsequent belief in the gospel, is "caused" by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, who has already given the sinner spiritual ears, by which he can hear, discern, and believe the "presentation" of the gospel (Word of God) when it is brought to him. (Romans 10:17)
  13. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    Would you say, though, that there is a sense in which Christ died not only for all nations, but for each person?

    -----Added 12/2/2009 at 01:43:23 EST-----

  14. TeachingTulip

    TeachingTulip Puritan Board Sophomore

    This is an Arminian claim. This is the wrong teaching of Universal Atonement.
  15. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

  16. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    Of course atonement is made for the elect alone, but are there any benefits from the cross that reprobates can enjoy as well? I believe yes. For one thing, Jesus died for them (not substitutionarily) to give them a free offer of the gospel.

    in hyper Calvinism the gospel cannot be rightly offered (or proclaimed) to all because Christ did not die for all, but this has been rejected.
  17. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist

    HyperCalvinism aside, Christ still did not die for all.

    All that is required for the good news (that Christ died to save sinners and saves all who come to him in faith) is that Christ died.

    The intent of the atonement and its extent have EXACTLY ZERO bearing on whether the Good news can be proclaimed to all men. And it should be.
  18. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist

    Careful here - faith is not a cause of salvation, but an instrument given to a person as a gift - the instrument through which they grasp Christ and his benefits. The cause is not faith, though.

    Also, the "offer of the gospel" (whatever that means) is not the cause, per se - it is the gospel, the news itself, the good Word spoken by Christ into the heart of man (by means of preaching it)
  19. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    Yes. "Christ saves all who come to him in faith". But in order to make it a legitimate gospel offer or challenge to an individual, we must say, "If YOU believe, you will be saved." This is a conditional promise; it is what makes it a legitimate offer. From a human perspective, or the way things seem to people, Jesus' death does make possible the salvation of all. In other words, it is sufficient and can potentially save all. Note, I do NOT say that salvation is ACTUALLY possible for all, but from our perspective, this is what is implied in the gospel.

    Jesus did not die savingly for all. But his death has provided at least one thing for all: an offer, a gospel presentation which is sincere in what it promises. If his death has done absolutely nothing for the reprobate, ie. insufficient for all, then no offer is possible, and no gospel can be presented to him.

    Agreed, the gospel and faith are not causes, but they are decreed and dispensed as gifts and means which are necessary elements in God's salvific plan.
  20. TeachingTulip

    TeachingTulip Puritan Board Sophomore

    I challenge this wording of this gospel message. In my opinion, there should be no "ifs" in our language. Rather, we tell men they MUST believe in Jesus Christ, to live.

    When we proclaim Christ to sinners, we begin with the Law, which makes this very demand, and then we explain the sinful condition which precludes a single soul from obeying this command. Then, we present the good news, that the grace of God provides faith in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, who fulfilled ALL Law on behalf of His people.

    This reflects an Arminian mindset; making the gospel proclamation to be contingent upon the actions and willful choices of sinners.

    Then you believe in preaching an Arminian gospel.

    Jesus Christ did not die so that an offer of a "possible" salvation could be provided for the reprobate. Jesus Christ died to purchase a surety of salvation for His elect people.

    The same gospel message, that brings the sons of God to faith in Christ, acts as Godly judgment against the reprobate, further condemning them for their unbelief. (John 3:18)

    Reprobates receive no grace or supposed chances to redeem themselves from God. Such is the very definition of reprobation.
  21. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    Ok you're misrepresenting and misunderstanding my point completely. Do you deny your humanity, or the tendency to think like a human? Saying that I have an Arminian mindset ... that's a big charge that people around here don't take very well. But hey, turn the other cheek ...

    here's the Apostle Paul, take your challenge up with him.

    But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That IF you confesswith your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. - Romans 10

    -----Added 12/2/2009 at 03:50:03 EST-----

    If I'm an unbeliever and I hear a gospel presentation - whether you use ifs or not - I'd ask,

    "So, you're saying if I believe in Jesus and trust in him alone for my salvation, he'll do that for me?"

    Then, I'd ponder on that and muse, 'Hmm.. Jesus made it possible for me to be saved."

    Is that a false statement? It might be minimalistic and needs to be elaborated on with greater truths, but it's certainly not a lie.
  22. TeachingTulip

    TeachingTulip Puritan Board Sophomore

    The "if" here does not denote a conditional choice, but signifies "since" and "when", for such teaching would contradict other soteriological passages throughout the Bible.

    Confession of faith is not the cause of salvation; it is the result and evidence of salvation.

    Sinners are not saved because they believe, but they believe because they are saved.

    Confession of faith is evidence of being born again (regenerated) by the Holy Spirit.

    The elect sons of God are spiritually regenerated and given spiritul capacities to discern and "hear" the Word of God (gospel) proclaimed, and the result and evidence of their being brought to new life in Christ, is that they faithfully confess Jesus Christ as Savior.

    Jesus taught ". . Unless one is born again, he cannot see (comprehend) the kingdom of God." (John 3:3)
  23. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    Well, "since when" did "IF" not denote conditional action? :p It is by definition a conditional part of speech. Do you not envision a human being somewhere in your equation? Who's the subject performing the verb "believe" and "confess"? Does God believe in your heart and confess in your mouth?

    Again, take it up with Paul,
    Dude, I know where you're coming from, but you're drowning out the plain and perfect words of scripture and chopping things up so finely that there's nothing left.
  24. TeachingTulip

    TeachingTulip Puritan Board Sophomore

    You have presented a gospel that is contingent upon the sinner doing something (aka "works") in order to obtain favor and salvation from God, in a future tense.

    You obviously have not presented a sound gospel about what actually occurred and was achieved on the cross in the past tense.

    It is an inaccurate assessment of the true gospel message.

    The cross work of Jesus Christ is a surety of everlasting life, worked on behalf of the sons of God. It is not a mere possibility of life made available to the world at large.
  25. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist

    Why not? What is the Gospel?

    It is NOT

    "Jesus died for you"

    The Good news, the Gospel, must be presented in the context of the Bad news, which
    is "All men are dead in trespasses and sins, and the wrath of God is upon them."

    The Good news, the Gospel, then follows: "Jesus died for sinners, and atones for the sins of those who put their trust in Him." The Gospel is a historical fact, not a personal offer.

    One can then very clearly, sincerely, correctly and honestly say "If you repent of your sin and trust in Christ for salvation, you will be saved."

    NONE OF THE ABOVE depends on Christ having done or accomplished ANYTHING for the reprobate.

    I don't understand the reason for the hangup here.
  26. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    The NT examples we have of evangelism is that men are called to faith and repentance. We are not told of the mechanics of this, and we need not even speak of this in evangelism. The main points in NT examples of evangelism are that, we are sinners, Christ is Messiah and will come back to judge the world, so repent and come out of your sins. This can be told to all creatures and should be, because all are sinners.

    Other notes:

    We need not even offer the Gospel. I prefer the terminology that we proclaim the Gospel. And we proclaim it to all.

    Our terminology in evangelism is not so much about possibilities and offers, but of our sinful state and the way of salvation. I have never uttered the phrase "Jesus has made it possible for you to be saved." I usually speak of our need of Jesus and that you must repent and believe before acceptance before a holy God is possible.

    Limited atonement has never restricted my evangelistic message.

    We do plead for people to believe, and we need not guess upon God's eternal decrees. Christ has died for sinners, and Christ has died for all kinds of sinners, and this can be proclaimed. But again, I have never needed to restrict my message due to concerns on the 4th point of calvinism...."Christ might have died for you, if you are the Elect..." has never come out of my mouth, but "Whosoever will may come.." has comeout of my mouth, because we know that only the Elect are the whosoever will of Scripture.
  27. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Exactly, Todd.

    The message does not have to be "gift-wrapped" and have a "personal note" attached in order for it to be good news, objectively, for all who take it as such.

    I liked Horton's news-analogy I once heard on the WHI. The people are going crazy in Times Square, NYC. A photographer captures two strangers, a sailor and a woman passerby, locked in a passionate embrace and joyus kiss. Why this insanity? Because of the announcement that half-a-world away, on another continent, with completely different people involved, in far less party-atmosphere, War with Germany (VE Day) has just come to an end.

    No one had to engrave a personal edition of the newspaper, and address it to these people. If someone heard it, and said, "my life doesn't change; why should I even care?" then... what? It's still good news, it's still true, it still affects the hearer, and it's his loss if he ignores it.
  28. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    Brothers, I am in FULL agreement with everything you are saying. I am. While a general proclamation (without the personal touch) is essentially what a euangelion is, this is not to say that a personal touch is somehow wrong, or cannot be used, or unecessary, or theologically dangerous. When we use the imperative "Repent and Believe", the personal element is implied. We are saying "You must do X, and IF you do, then Y."

    I only bring to our discussion the point of view of an unbeliever, who upon hearing the gospel, will naturally conclude: "Jesus has made/or is making salvation possible for me, right now." In one sense, he is able to affirm that Jesus has died to make salvation possible (although we know much more to the story). What the Holy Spirit does or doesn't do in that unbeliever's heart is wholly God's choice.
  29. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist

    If the unbeliever says to himself "Jesus made salvation possible for me, right now," then he is wrong. The statement is false. NEVER in Scripture, anywhere, is such an incomplete picture of the atonement EVER presented. Such a thought eviscerates the Gospel. Jesus did NOT merely make salvation "possible" for anyone, but actually died and atoned for sin for ALL the elect.

    If such a person only thinks that Christ died to make salvation "possible", why would he ever turn to Him? Mere "possibility" is a very shaky ground to present to people, and if that's what people think when they hear the Gopsel faithfully presented as an accomplished work (! this is CRITICAL) then I just don't see why anyone would come in faith to Christ who didn't do everything necessary.

    The chief mark of election is a truly contrite heart, recognizing the absolute destitution of its owner in the eyes, and a desperate crying out in trust to Christ, "God be merciful to me, a sinner!" Such a person KNOWS that Christ died to SECURE the salvation for those who put their faith in Him. If those thoughts (not in so many words, of course, but in fact nevertheless) are not present in the heart of the person who is being evangelized, he is not saved. If those thoughts are not invited by the evangelist - if those thoughts are not the chief hope for every person he shares the finished work of Christ on the Cross for His people - then the evangelist is being *unfaithful* to his calling.
  30. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    Remember, that I proposed the unbeliever's PERCEPTION, not a denial of our precious dogma. I don't see how he can be wrong in a personal perception, how things seem to him. It's like denying that the sun rises and falls. In actually this is false, but the perception is acceptable enough.
    There, you yourself said, "MERELY". I agree that he did not merely make salvation possible, but from one perspective, in one sense he has accomplished as much.

    It happens all the time. Arminians preach to unbelievers this shallow gospel all the time, and by God's grace, many come to faith.

    Fellas, I have not denied anything that you're saying. I affirm it completely. Once again, let me emphasize, that I'm only positing one possible conclusion that an unbeliever may perceive is happening, that is, that Jesus has made salvation possible for him. I believe that there is a sense in which that perception is true.
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