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Friday, November 04, 2005

David Heddle and the Salvation "Offer"

David Heddle (http://helives.blogspot.com) in a recent post was wrestling with the idea of hyper-Calvinism in the context of evangelism, with a personal interest in one particular "flavor" of hyper-Calvinism of which he has been accused: "the denial that the gospel is a 'sincere' offer of salvation made to all persons." He was wondering if it's possible to understand and articulate God's offer of salvation as authentically sincere. Specifically, he wants to know "whether God Himself makes a sincere offer of salvation to everyone." He received a variety of comments in response to this and it made me think, How would I respond?

I believe my answer would have been, "No, he doesn't." And I say this because I am convinced that God doesn't offer salvation to all in the first place, much less sincerely. He doesn't offer salvation to all persons; rather, he efficaciously saves his sheep. I don't particularly favour the practice of describing salvation as an "offer," mostly because it seems to suggest that Christ's atoning work only made salvation 'possible' and is therefore accessibly 'offered' to all, that the will of the sinner is the ultimate sine qua non of his salvation, that God's grace is only penultimate. It smacks of Arminianism (with its roots buried firmly in semi-Pelagianism). Since Christ died for all men without exception, the 'offer' of salvation goes out 'sincerely' to all persons and they should 'make a decision for Christ' and grab hold of that.

It's not that salvation is offered to all. This, I feel, is incorrect. Rather, it's that the gospel is proclaimed to all—and that quite sincerely! With passion, conviction, and boldness, we proclaim sincerely the good news of reconciliation for all who believe. We scatter the seed indiscriminately, but whether it takes solid root and grows is up to God and his most wise and righteous purposes (1 Cor 3:6-7; Act 13:48; 16:14). "I lay down my life," Jesus said, not for all persons but "for the sheep." There are some, like those Jews to whom he was speaking, who do not believe because they are not his sheep (Joh 10:26), nor do they hear the message of Christ because they do not belong to God (Joh 8:47). "All that the Father gives me will come to me," Jesus proclaimed. He came to do the will of the Father, which is "that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day" because the Father "granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him" (Joh 6:37-39; 17:2).

Salvation is not offered to all, sincerely or otherwise. However, the gospel of peace is indeed proclaimed to all, and very sincerely. The gospel is about salvation but is not itself salvation. 'Salvation' is a multi-faceted rubric of which the gospel is a part; other facets are sanctification, justification, regeneration, election, etc. Salvation is God's jurisdiction alone. Proclaiming the gospel, with sincerity to all persons, is our jurisdiction. It is in fact our great commission. And great joy.