A Particular Gospel!

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The way, the truth and the life!

The act of preaching is a general proclamation of a particular gospel.

“Any departure from the strict view of the extent of the atonement is to be seriously dreaded because it almost uniformly indicates a lurking tendency to call into question the sovereignty of divine grace altogether. Here it is invariably found to open a door for the influx of the entire tide of the Pelagian theory of human ability, in the train of that Arminian notion of the divine decrees which is apt to be its precursor” (Dr John Kennedy). But a departure there has been in our modern theologians and preachers. Not only has Amyraldianism crept iin but also Arminianianism. The Calvinism espoused in Western evangelicalism is a soft, even effeminate Calvinism.

Preaching is a general proclamation of a particular gospel. The Reformed church has ever insisted that the particular promise of God must be promiscuously preached so that all who hear may know that promise. In the preaching of the gospel God promises salvation only to those who believe, God does not, and will not promise salvation to unbelievers. Neither does God promise salvation to those whom he does not intend to save. The promiscuous preaching of God’s particular promise is accompanied by the command for all men to repent and believe in Christ, “but now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30). He, in whom alone is salvation to be found, “neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The promiscuous preaching of God’s particular promise is not hyper-Calvinism.

It is important to know and remember that the earlier Reformed theologians and preachers used the word offer in their proclamation. But what’s of equal importance is to know and remember what they meant by the use of that word. They did not mean to express a desire or intention on God’s part to save everyone who hears the gospel. Rather that through the preaching of Christ widely proclaimed, that all the hearers would be confronted with the command to repent and believe. “But in that proclamation, only those chosen and ordained to be redeemed by Christ will actually repent and believe the gospel. They alone are so called that they are attracted and created new and begotten. They alone are those for whom God not only strikes their ears by his word preached through men but also attacks their hearts, opening them, writing his law in them, changing them and inflaming them to love him” (Heinrich Heppe). And, “there are no decrees of God which men or any creature can frustrate. They are altogether effectual and have a most definite outcome” (Heinrich Heppe).

The preaching of the gospel is a means, a means God uses to save his elect, but also to bring judgment on the unbelieving. Hardening is in God’s hand and will, just as much as mercy is (Romans 9:14ff). Furthermore, it is unlawful for the clay to quarrel with its Potter, “nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour” (Romans 9:20)? And, “every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (Matthew 15:13). If that is not a sign of reprobation, then what is?

“Indeed many, as if they wished to avert a reproach from God, accept election in such terms as to deny that anyone is condemned. But they do this very ignorantly and childishly, since election itself could not stand except as set over against reprobation. God is said to set apart those whom he adopts into salvation; it will be highly absurd to say that others acquire by chance or obtain by their own effort what election alone confers on a few. Therefore, those whom God passes over, he condemns, and this he does for no other reason than that he wills to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines for his own children. And men’s insolence is unbearable if it refuses to be bridled by God’s word” (John Calvin). The general proclamation is enough to take away any excuse from the reprobate, although it is not enough for salvation. Reception of the gospel and rejection of the gospel take place on the basis of God’s will, not man’s will or works.

The act of preaching is a general proclamation of a particular gospel.

(© James R Hamilton, 24th May 2017)
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