Reformed Spirituality

Preach the Gospel to Every Creature

By Simon PadburyNovember 14, 2018
In Limited Atonement10 min read
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And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
Mark 16:15.

Our fulfilment of the Lord Jesus Christ’s Great Commission to “preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15)—giving this call to one and all mankind to believe in Christ—brings glory to him.

Speaking of the Christian’s commission and privilege to proclaim the Gospel, the apostle Paul placed it in its ultimately proper perspective: “We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you1 in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).2 For it is God himself who issues the call of the Gospel, providentially. “God…now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30).

By means of spoken and written evangelism we should be like the apostle Paul, who “kept back nothing” that was profitable to his hearers (Acts 20:20)3—we should leave nothing unsaid in our informing all who hear and read that there is salvation for as many as will have “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).

We should always do more than inform “every creature” (i.e. all people) about all these things: we should beseech them—we should urgently appeal, invite, call them—as though God were beseeching them through us. Because he is!

In God’s providence this Gospel call will continue to be extended until the end of history, and it will eventually be preached throughout the entire world—“to the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8; see also Matthew 24:14; Luke 24:47).

It will be totally effective.

All that the Father gives to Christ shall come to repentance and faith in the Gospel. The Lord is even now adding born-again penitent believers to his Church, and he will continue to do so until the fulness of the Gentiles is gathered in and all Israel is saved by the Saviour (John 6:37; Acts 2:47; 13:48; Romans 11:25-27).

Therefore, as the Apostle John was privileged to see in a vision and to reveal to us: “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9,10).

What You Need to Know

We should keep back nothing. God would have you—whoever you are, reader—to know the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. You need to know what the Bible teaches about him. Here are some of those teachings:

  • In fulfilment of numerous prophecies in the Holy Scriptures what we Christians now call the Old Testament, when the fullness of time had come, “God sent forth his Son” (Galatians 4:4).

  • God had previously sent John the Baptist to be, “…him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3; see also Matthew 3:11,12; John 1:6,7,15,19-23.

  • The One whose way John’s ministry prepared for was God himself: “Behold, the LORD God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:10,11).

  • Christ proclaimed himself to be precisely this Good Shepherd (John 10:11-18).

  • God the Father declares concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matthew 17:5). He is the “only begotten of [God] the Father”, and he is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

  • The Lord Jesus Christ is God manifest in the flesh (John 1:1-3,14; 1 Timothy 3:16).

  • Christ affirmed of himself, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30; see also John 1:8; 14:9).

  • Christ created all things, and he shall bring all things to an end (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:2,10-12; Revelation 1:8; 22:13)

  • Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) is the great Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:22; 7:37; see also John 1:1, 14, 17-18; Hebrews 1:2), Priest, (Psalms 110: 4; Hebrews 2:17; 4:14-15; 5:5-10; 6:20; 9:24-28) and King (Matthew 2:2; Mark 15:32; Luke 23:2,34-38; Philippians 2:9-11; Hebrews 1:3, 8, 13; Revelation 19:11-19) of his people.

  • Christ has established the New Covenant in his own blood (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Galatians 3:13-20; Hebrews 8; 9:11-28; compare also with Exodus 24; Deuteronomy 29).

  • Christ also declared of himself, “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him” (John 5:21-23).

  • Sooner or later—willingly or unwillingly—in total worship and gratitude for this “so great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3) or in total resignation and dread at the imminent condemnation—we shall all be brought to kneel before the judgment seat of Christ and confess to God (Romans 14:9-12).

  • But meanwhile, “God…now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30).

  • God himself calls the whole world to “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear” (Isaiah 45:22,23).

  • The Gospel by which we are saved if we believe it is what was clearly laid out for us in the four Gospels (i.e. the eye-witness Gospels are faithful records of many of Christ’s words and deeds and they repeatedly point his fulfilment of the Messianic propecies of the Old Testament: “as it is written” (see e.g. Matthew 2:5; 11:10; 26:24; Mark 1:2; 9:13; 14:21; Luke 24:46; John 6:45; John 12:14-16).

  • The apostle John’s stated purpose is the purpose of all these Gospel records: “…These things are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the [prophesied] Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31).‭

  • And this is the same Gospel as the apostle Paul declared: “‭‭Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;‭ ‭‭By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.‭ ‭‭For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;‭ ‭‭And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures4…” (1 Corinthians 15:1-3).

  • “…God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

  • “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” (1 Timothy 1:15).

  • “…[T]he gospel of Christ…is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…” (Romans 1:16).

  • “Neither is there salvation in any other” than Christ, “for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

  • Believe on this Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved (Acts 16:31).

There’s a lot more to the Gospel besides these gleanings. And all of these things should be proclaimed to you, for God would have you know all that he has inspired and preserved in his Bible.

But do not settle for anyone’s select list or scheme. Ultimately, you must study the Holy Scriptures for yourself.

You will find out that the Lord Jesus Christ cannot be spoken of too highly!

No Ambiguity

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. Or, if you do not, you shall not.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ—or else you never had any part in him. Only those who come to believe in Christ are covered by his great atoning sacrifice.

This is clearly a limited atonement (or, a particular redemption). There is no potential or actual redemption that extends to the entire human race.

Not only do we not offer a Christ who “died for all mankind”, but neither do we hide behind ambiguous statements. God does not call anyone to come to a Christ who is “dead for all”, and neither to we invite you to believe in such a one.

Yes, we know that some who have used this phrase did not reject the doctrine of the limited atonement. And although they never meant by it what Arminians mean when they say “Christ died for all,” yet it does contain an equivocation that can easily confuse people.

And there is no need to say it. It is enough to proclaim that Christ died for his people and that he saves them from their sins, and to issue the Gospel call and its promise: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:21)—“Whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16)—“Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21).

Then we can spend time explaining what “calling on the name of the Lord” involves (See Romans 10:9-13), instead of wasting time and effort trying to explain that “Christ is dead for you” doesn’t necessarily mean that “Christ died for you”!

Neither should we hide the Biblical doctrine of limited atonement under these general statements: “Christ died for sins”; “Christ died for sinners”; “Christ came to save sinners”; etc. We should not leave our hearers or readers uninformed as to what these statements mean. Leave nothing unsaid.

Use Scriptural phraseology as far as you can—there is none better—and use it correctly. In whatever you say in your preaching and witnessing, mean what Scripture means and explain what Scripture says. What God says, in his special revelation.

Jesus Saves

The truth is that Christ died for the sins of particular sinners: God’s elect.

The Lord Jesus Christ, who “was made flesh, and dwelt among us,” lived a life of perfect and entire obedience to the law of God; and then, being the Good Shepherd that he was, he gave his life for his sheep (John 10:11,14-16).

His “sheep” are those alone who come to say truly: “He restroreth my soul: he leadeth me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalms 23:3).

They shall come to be assured that this is true concerning themselves:

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:4-6).

That is how Christians become Christians.

That is why God does not impute our sins to us—he imputed them to his only begotten Son, standing as our Covenant Representative Head.

And as Christ stood for us and remained obedient to God all his life, that obedience—that righteousness—is imputed by God to us.

By God transferring this “righteousness of God” to those who believe, he is “the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:22,26).

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

This great exchange actually occurs: Christ takes our sins, we receive his righteousness—and all by God’s grace alone and through our believing upon Christ alone for our salvation.

It is the same with us as it was with Abraham: “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham…So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham” (Galatians 3:6,9).

The name Jesus means “Jah is Saviour”5 and the Lord Jesus Christ really is the Saviour! “He shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

That blood which Christ shed on the cross at Calvary outside Jerusalem two thousand years ago was the blood of God. John understood who the Lord Jesus Christ is: “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us…” (1 John 3:16).6 Paul likewise understood this, and he emphasised the Divinity of Christ when he urged the overseers of the church at Ephesus to continue their pastoral charge: “feed church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28).

Not one drop of the previous blood of Christ failed to redeem, atone for, purge away the sins of—or, in a word, save—those for whom it was poured out.

Not one drop.

Chapter 12 of God’s Grace In Our Experience.

To be continued.

  1. “We pray you” means we ask you; we request you, etc. The word pray implies the importance and urgency of the request.
  2. Are there any who think that the Great Commission to share the Gospel pertains only to ordained Christian preachers and not to ordinary Christians? It is true that Paul means preachers such as himself and Timothy (see 2 Corinthians 1:1) when he writes of “ambassadors” (and earlier, “ministers of reconsiliation” (v.18))—but this cannot be construed as an argument against ordinary Christians sharing the Gospel; and neither can it be construed as arguing that ordinary Christians are not co-beseechers with God when they are sharing the Gospel (i.e. the same Gospel as Paul and Timothy preached). Any Christian who thinks that he or she is not obligated to share the Gospel with anyone should have a serious think about Matthew 5:14-16, 1 Peter 3:15, Philippians 2:14-16, Colossians 4:5-6 and 1 Peter 2:9.
  3. Paul repeated this later, where he said “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).
  4. By this repeated phrase, “according to the scriptures”, Paul emphasises that Christ fulfilled the Messianic prophecies. It was a common practice of Paul to prove the Gospel to the Jews out of their own Bible: he “reasoned with them out of the scriptures, ‭‭Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ” (Acts 17:2,3).
  5. Jah is God’s name: it means “I AM” (Exodus 3:13; see also Psalms 68:4). By this name, and its longer form “I AM THAT I AM” (often rendered as Jehovah and sometimes as Yahweh), God declares that he is present in every moment—from eternity past to eternity future. This same eternality is true of Christ—see Revelation 1:4-5, 11-18; 21:5-6; 22:12-13, 20.
  6. The words “of God” have been added in the KJV (this is why they are there in italics), to bring out John’s meaning. “Of God” has been supplied from the context (even though we might have expected this to say “of Christ”) because throughout this epistle, John has a lot to say about the love of God, the children (people) of God, and their identifying characteristics. “Of God” has been repeatedly used by John throughout this portion of the epistle that we have marked as chapter 3.

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