Archive for June 6th, 2015

Note: I am overseas at the moment and will not have any internet.  This is a guest post byMike Iliff.  He’s a British brother in Christ who have been a friend of our blog for years.  Mike’s blog can be found HERE.


The Free Offer of The Gospel or ‘Man’s Responsibility and the Sovereignty of God’ is one of those topics that always seems to come back. Just when you think, as a topic, it’s been put to bed and sorted, up it pops again. I mentioned this to a dear friend of mine (Now in his 80’s, and sat under the ministry of Lloyd-Jones at Westminster Chapel). He said ‘it’s been the same for 300 years, it keeps coming back’. On the plus side it keeps coming back because people, hopefully, are thinking. The objections are pretty much always the same. This makes me wonder if people are reading their Bibles. They go to churches that seem to have a good statement of faith, some of them even subscribe, in their constitutions at least, to one of the historic Reformed confessions. What is taught in these churches? Is any doctrine taught at all! Is there no desire to understand the Scriptures? I do wonder.

We were sitting around kind of talking about the topic in a roundabout sort of way and a Christian in their mid-twenties, brought up in a Christina home, says something along the lines of: ‘but God is outside of time and knows the beginning from the end and knew who would believe…’. I jumped in at this point and said ‘no, that isn’t it at all. That would make our Salvation conditional’. I recommended they read a good solid book on the topic. They agreed, but by all accounts that’s the end of it. Sadly, they will most likely carry on believing as before. The good thing, for me anyway, about this topic coming back is that I’m reading The Potters Freedom by James White, and enjoying it immensely. I recommended this book to the young man in question because it deals with all the issues. It’s a bit pricey, but I reckon it’s worth it. I have it on Kindle which makes it a bit easier on the wallet.

Being involved in open air preaching for several years – admittedly a while ago now – the question of just what we are to tell unbelievers was incredibly important if a) we wanted to honour God in our ministry, b) we wanted to tell sinners the truth, c) we did not want to deceive anyone, d) we didn’t want to give false hope and e) wanted their salvation to be grounded in what God has done and not a decision that made them feel good at the time. Our ministry and conversations must be God-centred, not man-centred. We must be like John the Baptist and point sinners away from us, and to ‘The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). A book I read a while ago was God Centred Evangelism (BoT) by R. B. Kuiper. Another helpful resource is a primer on The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen (Grace Publications No.1 ‘Life by His Death’). Speaking of Owen, J. I. Packers Introductory Essay on The Death of Death is also extremely helpful. On page 69 of Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (IVP) by J. I. Packer we read this:

‘The Gospel is not, ‘believe that Christ died for everybody’s sins, and therefore yours,’ any more than it is, ‘believe that Christ died only for certain people’s sins, and so perhaps not yours.’ The Gospel is, ‘believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for sins, and now offers Himself as your Saviour.’ This is the message which we are to take to the world. We have no business to ask them to put faith in any view of the atonement; our job is to point them to the living Christ, and summon them to trust in Him.’

I read that a good while ago and at the time underlined it in red! As you go on as a believer that does get nuanced a bit (with a few footnotes thrown in for good measure) but that in essence is what we are to tell people. But what if, as happened to me, thankfully just the once, someone asks you ‘did Jesus die for me? What do we say then? I believe we have to be honest and not try and fudge the question. The Bible is clear. Christ died only for His people and we do not know who they are.  But here is someone asking me a direct question. That must have been at least 25 years ago but my answer today would be the same. ‘I don’t know. But I know this; if you repent of your sins and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ you WILL be saved. You must be saved God’s way and that is to trust in His Son.’ I suggest that is rare to be asked outright like that.

On another occasion a group of us were talking about the sovereignty of God and man’s responsibility and one brother put it like this: we have a 200% religion. If we said it was 100% God that would be Hyper-Calvinism, if we said it was 100% man that would fall into another error. We have to keep the balance, so it’s a 200% religion: it’s 100% God and 100% man. I’d never heard this before and people found it helpful. I could see ‘the penny drop’ but I wasn’t so sure so kept thinking (still am) about it over the next few weeks. [In fact, it’s the reason I bought The Potters Freedom.] In terms of Gospel presentation I see the point. But I’m still unhappy about the way it’s stated. To me, it gives man a foot in the door. And that worried me about the ‘penny dropping’. I should say; I’m not a Hyper-Calvinist. And you’ll see that as we go on – I hope you will anyway.

At the heart of the problem is this: if God is truly Sovereign then what part does man play. That’s the issue. The glory of man is the issue – we want some or all of it. And we can’t have it. We dare not have it. Jonah summarised it like this – Salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:4). Negatively, this cuts both ways in terms of what we preach, or say to the unbeliever, and, the feeling that it cuts the legs from under us in terms of the evangelistic imperative. But the reality is, a full understanding of what God has done will give the evangelist not only a confidence in God to evangelise but will equip you with the most amazing and full Gospel message filled with certainty.

And so, dear reader. You have happened on this page. What can I say to you? You have read this far. You are intrigued, maybe annoyed, or just curious. You are not yet a Christian and you know it. Maybe no one else knows. You have many questions. But listen, the message of the Gospel to you is very simple, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. How can I say this with such confidence? It’s very simple. Because Salvation is of the Lord He has done all that is necessary for salvation. It is God that has sent His Son into the world. It is Jesus that has died on the cross as a sacrifice for sin. It is Jesus that has risen from the dead demonstrating the sacrifice is accepted by God the Father. It is Jesus that sends His Spirit into the world to convict men & women, boys & girls of their sin. It is God that awakens the sinner. It is God that grants faith and repentance. It is this Sovereign Gracious God that now calls upon you to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. Will you believe on The Lord Jesus Christ?

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