August 19, 2007

An Edwardsian Invitation

At the end of Jonathan Edwards' sermon on The Wisdom of God, Displayed in the Way of Salvation, he begins to exhort unbelievers to come to Christ. Here are some of his concluding remarks:
And if all this be not enough to draw us, the wisdom of God has ordered more. It has provided us a Savior that should offer himself to us in the most endearing relation. He offers to receive us as friends. To receive us to an union to himself, to become our spiritual husband and portion forever. — And the wisdom of God has provided us a Savior that woos in a manner that has the greatest tendency to win our hearts. His word is most attractive. He stands at our door and knocks. He does not merely command us to receive him, but he condescends to apply himself to us in a more endearing manner. He entreats and beseeches us in his word and by his messengers.

III. The wisdom of God has contrived that there should be all manner of attractives in the benefits that Christ offers you. There are not only the excellencies of the person of Christ to draw you to him, but the desirable benefits he offers...
Jonathan Edwards, "The Wisdom of God, Displayed in Salvation," in The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1992), 2:156.

Notice carefully how Edwards speaks of God himself offering through Christ and His messengers. When we indiscriminately preach the gospel, the main point is that God himself is offering salvation to all through us. In this offer of salvation that God gives, he "entreats," "beseeches, "woos," "draws," "provides" and "knocks." In other words, He himself is sincerely offering Christ to all that hear the external call of the gospel. Neither does Edwards make a false either/or dilemma fallacy by saying that the gospel is a command, not an offer. To his mind, it is both a command and an offer, since scripture also portrays God as condescending to beseech and entreat sinners to come to himself and close with Christ's proposals.

A tendency among some hyper-Calvninists is to complain about others (such as myself) appealing to men in church history to demonstrate their Calvinistic orthodoxy. They claim they only want to discuss the bible. Then, after you speak as Edwards does above about the gospel call, they say "you're an Arminian," or close to being one. That is an historical claim. They do not want to be challenged on their historical assertions when they make them (because they're without a defense), so they quickly seek to change the subject and piously say, "we just need to discuss scripture," even as they continue to make historical claim after historical claim.

While discussing the well-meant gospel offer, they also like to change the subject to their own willingness to preach the gospel to all, since they don't know who the unbelieving elect are. That's a very common evasive move. The main point is that God himself, who knows the difference between the unbelieving elect and the non-elect, is making sincere offers of Christ to all of them, even seeking their compliance to the proposal (i.e. their ultimate well-being).

As a final note, our own indiscriminate gospel proclamations and offers should not be grounded in our ignorance as to who is elect and who is not. We are to evangelize because it is God's will that all obey or comply with the gospel commandments. It is the knowledge of God's revealed will that should drive our evangelistic endeavors, not our ignorance of His secret will. Our missionary activity should be a way of conforming ourselves to the very heart of God's own missionary interests. If we want unbelievers to repent and be saved, especially those we most love, it is only because the Holy Spirit first moved us to desire such a thing. This is the same Spirit that moved Paul to say:

NKJ Romans 10:1 Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.

He's talking about all of Israel, and not merely the elect within Israel. To desire the salvation of all is a godly or God-like quality to which we should be conforming ourselves. Seeking the salvation of the lost glorifies God because we're displaying His virtuous qualities to one another and to the lost world. This is a part of what it means to be fruitful and to multiply.

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