The following article is taken from a free publication called Content for the Faith by Providence Strict Baptist Assembly in Canada. It is somewhat controversial but we believe it is a message that needs to be sounded in Christendom today. With all the carnal flesh pleasing methods of evangelism used today this message is ever so important. Anyone wishing to get on their mailing list can do so by contacting Gery or Mike Schmidt at 104-1138 Yates Street Victoria British Columbia Canada V8V 3M8. MK
Is the gospel something to be offered to the unregenerate? A great many Christians believe so. It has long been maintained that Christ himself, or eternal life, is to be offered unto the lost for their acceptance or rejection. However, we are convinced that the very concept of the gospel being an offer made unto the unregenerate represents a departure from the Scriptures in at least the following four things: first, what the gospel is; secondly, the purpose or utility of the gospel; thirdly, the doctrine of total depravity; and fourthly, a proper understanding of God's justice.
First, the notion that the gospel is an offer represents a misunderstanding and perversion of what the gospel is. The word gospel represents the greek word euaggelion, which literally means "good news." But what is the good news? Essentially, the good news is that Christ Jesus came into the world to save his people from their sins. (Mt. 1:21, Lk. 2:10,11; 1 Tim. 1:15) The very heart of the gospel is the person and work of Jesus Christ. And the gospel itself declares that the incarnation of the Son of God had a definite end in view, namely, the salvation of the elect, and none else. Yet the view that the gospel is an offer contravenes this Scriptural fact. Underlying the premise that the gospel is to be offered unto the unregenerate for their acceptance or rejection is the belief that the atoning work of Christ had no definite end in view. That is, Christ's death on the Cross was not intended to procure the salvation of any, but simply to make salvation possible for all. Thus, the concept of the gospel being an offer is Arminian in nature, and hence is founded upon an anti-scriptural view of the atonement. Clearly, how can the gospel be an indiscriminate offer unto all since the atonement is restricted in God's word to the elect? Ultimately, the offer conceptof the gospel rests upon a false gospel.
Secondly, since the concept that the gospel is an offer represents a misunderstanding and perversion of what the gospel is, it naturally follows that this same concept misunderstands and perverts the purpose or utility of the gospel. Such who hold to the offer concept are under the impression that the preaching of the gospel is the means by which the unregenerate become elect or reprobate, whether it is the one or the other depends entirely on their use or abuse of their imagined free will. Christ and eternal life are offered by gospel preachers to sinners for their acceptance or rejection. However, nowhere in the New Testament can it be shown that the good news of Jesus Christ was ever offered unto sinners. The good news, as earlier noted, is that Christ Jesus came into the world to save his people from their sins. In examining the various sermons and speeches in both the Gospels and Acts, it is demonstrated throughout that the gospel is not something offered, but rather something which is proclaimed and explained. It ought also to strike the reader that to offer Christ and eternal life unto sinners is something not committed to preachers.
Such who proclaim the gospel are ambassadors of Christ. Their business is simply to declare the facts of the good news. Christ and eternal life are not in the hands of preachers to offer unto any. Eternal life is a gift residing solely with God, and such a gift is not offered but is given to all his elect before the foundation of the world, and made manifest to each at the appointed time. The preaching of the gospel is the means by which God gathers his elect unto himself in time. The proclamation of the good news was never intended to alter the status of the elect or reprobate, nor so much to be the means by which sinners could become elect or reprobate. Many, of course, stumble over what the Lord intended when he commanded that the gospel should be preached unto every creature. (Mk. 16:15) To preach the gospel unto every creature does not entail that salvation is possible for all, but rather that the apostle's mandate now extended beyond the Jews unto the Gentiles, and that no gospel preacher can distinguish the elect from the reprobate while the former are still unregenerate. The intention of the true gospel preacher is to call forth the elect unto repentance. And the apostle Paul well understood this fact when he wrote, "Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect in order that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory." (2 Tim. 2:10)
Thirdly, the view that the gospel is an offer is a denial of the doctrine of total depravity. The very practice of offering the gospel to the unregenerate for their acceptance or rejection clearly implies an ability within the unregenerate to exercise saving faith prior to regeneration. Invitations to the ungodly "to close with the tenders of the gospel" not only denies total depravity, but also undermines the very necessity of God's grace in salvation. If an unregenerate man can savingly believe in Christ, what need of grace is there? Yet the Scriptures represent unregenerate man in an entirely different light than do the proponents of the offer system. In Romans 8:7,8 the apostle Paul notes that "the fleshly mind is enmity against God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not able to; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Yet the offer system completely contradicts Paul's statements. While Paul declares the unregenerate are hostile toward God, the offer system implies some are not at enmity with God. Paul declares the unregenerate cannot please God, while the offer system implies some can please God by accepting the gospel offer. The offer concept is ultimately synergistic in its view of salvation, that is, it views salvation as a cooperative effort between God and man where man must take the initative. Such a view destroys outright the Scriptural truth of sola gratia (solely by grace), and is clearly a denial of total depravity.
Many, of course, will set forth texts like Matthew 11:28 and Revelation 22:17 as proof that the gospel is to be offered. Yet these texts, and whatever other ones might be added, will never support the notion that the gospel is an offer or invitation. Let us consider Matthew 11:28. It is interesting to note first of all that the word "come" is imperative, and thus represents an exhortation or command. But just who is it that the Lord exhorts to come unto him? Not anyone and everyone, but such who are "weary and heavy-laden." Weary and heavy-laden over what? Sin. But how does a sinner, while unregenerate, become weary and heavy-laden over sin? Such cannot have a true sense of their sin who have not had their eyes opened, their ears unstopped, and their hearts of stone removed by the Spirit in his regenerating work. The Lord is addressing his sheep, for such only match the description "weary and heavy-laden." The same can be said for Revelation 22:17. The exhortation is restricted to such who "hear" and "thirst." None while unregenerate have any ability to hear and thirst for the water of life. For if such could hear and thirst prior to regeneration, how did their ears become unstopped, or how could they thirst for something they were simultaneously hostile to? The only answer could be that such sinners are only partially depraved. Thus, the very notion of the gospel being an offer Is palpably self-condemning in that it contradicts the Scriptural doctrine of total depravity.
Fourthly, the offer concept represents a misunderstanding of God's justice. Many argue that the gospel must be offered so that God will be just in condemning to hell those who reject the gospel. Such a notion has surprisingly been espoused by many, yet it is an utterly ridiculous view. First, if the gospel is to be offered to all so that God will be just in condemning to hell all who reject it, what is the logical conclusion concerning such who never heard the gospel, and thus never rejected it? God is not just in condemning them. This alone demonstrates the puerility of the offer concept. The fact is, sinners are worthy of damnation from the moment of conception when original sin is imputed to them. Infants die before committing any actual sin, and the scriptures make it quite clear that "the wages of sin is death." (Rom. 6:23) Sinners in Old Testament times never heard the gospel; the Lord set them go their own ways. (Acts 14:16) The same can be said for multitudes who have lived and died from the first century to now. Is it to be surmised that God is unjust in damning such? The offer concept answers this question in the affirmative. Further, rejecting the gospel is all that the unregenerate can do; indeed, the reprobate will always reject the good news of Jesus Christ. Their rejection of the gospel is one sin which aggravates their condemnation, but such a rejection does not represent the ground of their condemnation. In the end, God will be found to be just and holy in all his dealings with the reprobate, whether they have heard the gospel or not.
In conclusion, there is a need for all professors of Christ who believe the gospel is an offer to study afresh the Scriptural teachings concerning man in his unregenerate state, what the gospel is, and what the purpose and end of the good news is. Since Christ became incarnate in order to save his people from their sins, then everything which proceeds from this fact must be co-extensive with it, and this includes the very preaching of the gospel.