Being “Confessional” Is not Enough if You Won’t Preach Christ’s Effectual Death

The ultimate way we can tell people that the gospel is “outside of
you” is to tell them that the gospel they MUST believe excludes even
this believing as the condition of salvation. The only condition of
salvation for the elect is Christ’s death for the elect.

No debated language about the objectivity of “covenants” or “sacraments” should be allowed to obscure this gospel truth. Unless
you preach that Christ died only for the elect, no matter how confessional or sacramental or “covenantal” you are, you will end up encouraging people to make faith into that little something that makes the difference between life and death!

I am not looking for another discussion about Calvin and Luther on the extent of the atonement. I am not even looking for something
“classical” enough for influential people to sign in alliance.

I am asking us if we believe that the glory of God in the gospel means that all for whom Christ died will certainly be saved. Or is that doctrine too “rationalistic” for us? Would that doctrine perhaps take the grace of God out of the hands of those who hand out the “means of grace” and locate grace with the Father who has chosen a people and given them to Christ? (Romans 11:4-6)

Remember, at this time, I am not disputing various positions on baptism and the Lord’s Supper. But I am asking now about God’s love being found in the propitiation accomplished by Christ. Out there, back then!

Election is God’s love. When the Bible talks about God’s love, it talks about propitiation. I John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” If all we only stipulate that the appeasement of wrath will not work without our faith, then it’s not enough to add on that God sent His son to purchase our faith. The nature of the cross as a propitiation will not be proclaimed.

Since there is only one propitiation, a propitiation for the elect which is also the same thing for the non-elect, amounts to nothing. Does the Neo-Calvinist love the gospel of election, or does he hate the doctrine and suppress it? Yes, Christ loved the church, but the church in the non-election way of talking is not individuals written in the lamb’s book, but a class of people who put their trust in a “jesus who died for everybody”.

The Neo-Calvinist does not talk about Christ not dying for the non-elect. He won’t even talk about Christ not dying for those who don’t put their trust in Him. The Neo-Calvinist wants you to give yourself to Christ without knowing anything about election.

The Neo-Calvinist will even defend this non-election gospel as being the only perspective possible to us. We have to know we believe, before we can know if we are elect. I agree that knowing our election before we believe is impossible. Knowing our election is NOT our warrant to believe. (See Abraham Booth’s wonderful book against preparationism– Glad Tidings).

But this is no excuse for leaving the Bible doctrine of election out of the doctrine of propitiation by Christ’s death there and then on the cross. We can and should teach the doctrine of election. The Bible doctrine of election does not teach unbelievers that they are elect, nor does the Bible doctrine of election teach unbelievers that they can find out if they are elect without or before believing,

The glory of God does not depend on human decisions, and the gospel
must not become a hostage to collaborations with evangelicals who in
the name of universal atonement condition salvation on what God does
in the sinner.

I reject the priority of regeneration (or Christ indwelling by the Spirit) over justification. I reject the idea that regeneration is the condition of justification.

There is a true either-or between propitiation out there back then and our time and our place. Propitiation is not INSIDE the person who is elect, loved by God. Nor is the propitiation in the Roman Mass. Once, and then Christ sat down at the right hand in heaven.

We must not confuse the propitiation with the application of the propitiation. Romans 6 teaches that God in time places the elect into the death of Christ, and there is a resulting transition from wraath to favor. Free from righteousness, then free from sin, not under the law. But this is legal application of the atonement, not the atonement itself. This is God’s imputation, not regeneration or the indwelling of Christ.

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4 Comments on “Being “Confessional” Is not Enough if You Won’t Preach Christ’s Effectual Death”

  1. Kenneth Hurst Says:

    Put very concisely and understandable.

    Thank you

    Ken Hurst

  2. David Bishop Says:

    Amen, Mark. The more I learn about the Reformers, the more unappealing I find the confessions. These guys did not engage each other in polite, civil, well-mannered debates. Rather, they were often at each other’s throats. Publishing nasty opinions about each other at book fares, and casting them all but into eternal condemnation for even the most trivial of viewpoint. And why do we have so many confessions? They can’t even agree with each other! And I’m supposed to agree with them? Actually, it’s like you say, it’s idolatry to tell someone they’re not a believer unless they agree with the confessions.

  3. markmcculley Says:

    The way that John Calvin talked to papists in his sermons on Galatians is simply unacceptable—-
    Our sin effects our judgments about truth, even spiritual truth. The perfect gospel is therefore, known only to God. We may have a good understanding of God’s grace (if we have read enough of Turretin and Meredith Kline) , and that understanding may continue to grow until we die; but our understanding will never be perfectly complete until the resurrection. ”
    “With this in mind, we should not be quick to throw people out of the kingdom simply because they have an Arminian understanding of the gospel. Just because we may have accepted the doctrines of grace does not give us the right to believe that those who have not are not our brothers. In fact, there may be some matters of truth they see more clearly than we do, and so we should be willing to learn from them, as well as share the more consistent understanding of God’s grace that we have been fortunate enough to have learned.
    “It would be arrogant to claim some kind of infallible certainty that assumes perfect knowledge of the truth. Those people who imply Arminians are not “true Christians” need a good dose of humility, and should take the log out of their own eye, before they try to remove the doctrinal speck from their brother’s eye.”

    An argument begs the question when it assumes the conclusion it is trying to prove. —
    “Our sin affects our judgments about truth, even spiritual truth.”
    If this statement is true, if our sin affects our judgments about truth, then the statement may, in fact, be false, for our sin affects our judgments about truth.
    The argument assumes human sovereignty in the matter of knowledge and truth, for it assumes that our sin does not affect our judgment about our sin nature our judgment.
    The Bible opposes this self refuting line of reasoning, for the Bible judges truth not by the ability of man to know it, but rather by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. Truth does not depend on us or our ability to judge it or know it. Rather, truth depends on whether God has said it. We do not affect truth by our knowledge of it, therefore, our sin has not one wit of affect upon truth. We can know God is able to reveal Himself clearly and unambiguously to his creatures, not because we have judged we can know this, but rather because He has said it

    John 18:37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice
    1 John 2:20-21 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.

    John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
    John 16:13-15 When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things are to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you.

    The basic skepticism of the sneering at TRs and “cage stage folks” assumes human sovereignty in the matter of knowledge and truth, and calls this assumption ‘humility’…..since one can not have an infallible conviction about truth; therefore, one should temper the judgments he makes about the doctrinal claims of someone else with the understanding that “nobody’s perfect”. This line of reasoning is consistently opposed in the Bible. Skepticism about truth is only possible if the assumption is granted that “truth” depends on us, and our interpretive faculty makes truth what it is: ” We own our lips; who is our master?” (Psalm 12:4).
    According to the Bible, we do not understand and submit to the truth of the gospel by the power of our own minds. Rather, truth depends on the revelation of God, and he has created all reality by His own Word. God is able to reveal himself clearly and unambiguously to his creatures, and God will judge according to the standard of his truth . Christ’s sheep know his voice and follow Him…


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