Another AOMin email that I thought you’d enjoy. Below is the second email I received from “Dee” about some various Reformed issues and the gospel:
I am still confused about a few things but thank you for your very important time to answer my inquiries. Can you help me with two things that boggle my mind:
1. Why would God ask you to share the GOSPEL, which means good news, right, I think, if it can not be understood by an atheist? Isn't that God asking you to do something that is pointless. Is that what kind of God he is, a pointless God.
2. You said you trust God to save whom he wills...does that mean He does not will for all people to be saved? Because that makes me think he does not will for me to be saved. Why would he not want me? That confuses me. Other Christians have told me that he loves everyone and died on the cross for them. Is this true or have been lied to? Help me! Thank you again.
Glad to hear from you again Dee,
I will do my best to answer both of your questions.
You said: "1. Why would God ask you to share the GOSPEL, which means good news, right, I think, if it can not be understood by an athiest?"
If I understand you correctly, you are asking the following: "If an unbeliever cannot believe the gospel, why preach to them?" First, it is important to remember that every single human being is born a sinner, incapable of believing the gospel. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Rome:
Romans 8:7-8, "7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (NASB).
Every mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God, does not subject itself to God's law, and is unable to subject itself to it. The one hostile toward God cannot please God. This brings me to your question: If unbelievers cannot believe the gospel in an of themselves, why preach to them?
To properly answer this question, I'd like to first introduce two theological concepts. First, Christians are commanded to preach the gospel to all men everywhere (Matthew 28:18-30). This is what is called the "General Call" of the gospel. The General Call of the gospel is seen in a parable found in Matthew 22:1-14. In this parable, there is a wedding banquet held for the King's Son. The King sends out his servants to all who were invited, but they weren't willing to come. Again, the King sends out his servants, and the invited guests kill the servants! The King is enraged and sends his armies to kill the murderers. The King then tries one final call to anyone on the highways, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. During the feast, the King saw a man at the party not dressed for the occassion, and threw him out to outer darkness. The parable is concluded with: "For many are called, but few are chosen." The idea is that though many are invited/called to the gospel, only a few are chosen.
The second theological concept is referred to as the "Effectual Call." Robert Reymond defines the "Effectual Call" as: "it is God himself, in the church's proclamation of his Word, who outwardly summons all classes of people to repentance unto life and to faith in Christ" (Reymond. A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith). So as God's people proclaim the gospel to all people, God effectually calls some to the gospel. This is a divine work. The Effectual Call is seen in John 6:
John 6:44-45, "44 "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 45 "It is written in the prophets, 'AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me." (NASB).
No man has the ability to come to Christ in faith unless the Father draws him. And those drawn by the Father are raised up on the last day. Also, those who have spiritual hearing and learning from the Father come to Christ in faith.
Nooow, back to your question =). If unbelievers cannot believe the gospel in and of themselves, why preach to them? Because through the preaching of the gospel, God calls people unto Himself, effectually. One must be effectually called by God, and not just generally called. It is the effectual call of God that raises the sinner, dead in his sins, to spiritual life.
Now that we've established that God effectually calls sinners through the preaching of the gospel, we should now focus on the effect of the Effectual Call itself: regeneration from death to life. Notice Paul's words to the Ephesians:
Ephesians 2:4-5 "4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)" (NASB).
Though we were spiritually dead in our sins, God made us alive with Christ. Consider also these words from Ezekiel 36:
Ezekiel 36:24-27, "24 "For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. 25 "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances." (NASB).
Verse 26 summarizes the work of regeneration in the life of believers: God removes the heart of stone and gives a heart of flesh. He changes the spiritual condition of men.
The result of a regenerated heart is belief/faith and repentance. The Apostle John wrote in his first epistle:
1 John 5:1, "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him." (NASB).
All who are believing that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God. Did you catch that I rendered "is born" as "has been born"? The reason I'm rendering it that way is because the Greek word for "is born" is a perfect tense. The perfect "describes an action that was fully completed and has consequences at the time of speaking" (Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek). So in 1 John 5:1, all those who believe in Christ have already been born of God. Faith follows being born-again/regeneration. Another way of saying this is: regeneration precedes faith.
I mentioned last time that faith and repentance are granted to us by God (Philippians 1:29, 2 Timothy 2:24-25). This makes sense because the natural man cannot and will not believe. God must change our heart. God must raise us to spiritual life. God must cause us to be born-again, or regenerated. Then God must grant to us the ability to repent and believe.
To summarize: salvation is wholly of the Lord. God saves, and He saves alone. He alone effectually calls sinners unto Himself. He alone causes men to be born again. He alone grants faith and repentance. Therefore I say with confidence that God's will will be done in the proclamation of the gospel to all men. God saves whom He wills, and He saves perfectly and to the uttermost.
You continued: "Isn't that God asking you to do something that is piontless. Is that what kind of God he is, a pointless God."
God accomplishes His purpose in the proclamation of His gospel:
Isaiah 55:11, "So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it." (NASB).
Your second question: "2. You said you trust God to save whom he wills...does that mean He does not will for all people to be saved?"
An excellent question =). I believe there are two aspects to God's will: (1) His moral will, and (2) His decreed will. By God's "moral will" I simply mean that God has righteous standards that all men are commanded to obey. One of these standards is the command that men turn from their sins in repentance:
Acts 17:30, "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent" (NASB).
God's "decreed will" is what God actually decrees to happen. But God does not always decree that His moral will be obeyed. In fact, God decrees things that are in accordance with His moral will; He also decrees things that are against His moral will. An example of God decreeing something that was against His moral will was predestining the death of His Son:
Acts 4:27-28, "27 "For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur." (NASB).
But what about God's will with regards to people? Well, God demands from all His creatures that they repent. But God has not decreed that all repent. The Scriptural message is that God has decreed to save a particular people unto Himself:
Ephesians 1:3-12, "3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory." (NASB).
In verse 3, who was blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ? "us." Who is the "us"? The "us" are the believers Paul was writing to, as well as himself. I believe the "us" can be extended to all believers, including us today.
In verse 4, who was chosen before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before Him? "us" once again.
In verse 5, who did He predestine to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself? "us"
In verse 6, who did He freely bestow this gift upon? "us"
In verse 7, who has redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace? "we"
In verse 8, who did He lavish these riches upon? "us"
In verse 9, who did He make known the mystery of His will? "us"
In verse 11, who obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will? "we"
The point I'm driving home is that God blessed believers, God chose believers before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless, God predestined believers to adoption as sons, God lavished this inheritance on those who were predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will. You will not find in Scripture that God predestined every human being who ever lived, or ever will live to be adopted as sons. God has chosen to save a particular group of people, and He accomplished His purpose in Christ.
Next, you said: "Because that makes me think he does not will for me to be saved."
I wouldn't waste any time worrying about who God has predestined, because that information is for God alone.
Deuteronomy 29:29, "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law." (NASB).
The secret things belong to God. We know what God has revealed to us. Rather than trying to decide if God has decreed to save you or not, ask yourself if you have truly turned from your sins unto faith in Christ? If yes, then you have Biblical reasons to believe you are a Christian. God does desire for His people to have assurance of their salvation:
1 John 5:13, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life." (NASB).
If you do not have faith, and have no turned from your sins to Christ, then ask God to show you mercy, that He might change your heart.
You then said: "Christians have told me that he loves everyone and died on the cross for them. Is this true or have been lied to?"
I would say you have been somewhat misinformed =).
Just as you and I have various types of love, so does God. I love you differently than I love my family, differently than I will love my future wife (assuming God has predestined me to get married one day =)), differently than I love my friends. In the same way, God has different types of love. He shows love to rebellious sinners every single day. He gives all men moments of happiness, joy, rest, comfort, love, friends, food, clothing, shelter, and countless other mercies - all more than guilty sinners deserve. Matthew 5:45 talks about God's giving this common grace to all men.
But God also has a special love for His elect people. He reserves His special love to those whom He chooses. Romans 9:6-18 talks about God's special love for His people.
I hope this clarifies some things. Please let me know if you have any more questions. I'd be glad to help.
Saved by the perfect work of Christ,