Posted tagged ‘the free offer’

What is the Gospel in John 3:16?

November 22, 2013

Tolerant Reformed: you say that “The gospel is ‘Jesus died for the sins of those who believe.’” It seems like your formulations are a hybrid of gospel and decree.

mark: Except for the part about “for the sins”, I was simply reading John 3:16. It’s not “my formulation”. John 3:16 does not say that God gave His Son for every sinner. John 3:16 says that God gave His son for the world. Yes, there is an Arminian formulation of “world” which assumes that it means “every sinner”. Is your formulation a hybryd of the Arminian view with something else?

Now, I don’t doubt that you can quote some famous “Reformed” people who agree that “world” means “every sinner” (although I would disagree that Spurgeon and DA Carson are “Reformed”) And I could quote many Reformed who say that “world” in John (not only this one verse) means those who will believe and who will not perish.

But my main point is that it’s not fair for you to call what I said “my formulation”. I didn’t use the “desire” word. You did. That’s your “formulation”. With Calvin, I would argue that God obtains what God desires. God desired and desires that those who won’t perish not perish. So they won’t. God gave His Son as the necessary (and sufficient, it’s enough without additional factors, it causes the means, the other factors) decisive reason that these persons will not perish.

So if you want to argue for the Arminian reading of “world”, put out your own formulation, but don’t pose the question as if I am saying something that other Reformed people don’t say, and as if the “obvious natural reading” has something to say about God loving those who perish or God desiring that those who perish not perish.

God commands all sinners to believe the gospel. But the gospel is not that God loves all sinners. If you think that the gospel must be that in order for God to command all sinners to believe the gospel, then make that argument. All of this is me asking you: what is the gospel? Do sinners have to believe the gospel? Or does God save sinners even when they don’t know or believe the gospel? And is not the “as many as who believe” (compare the original text, but I don’t mind if you say “whosoever”) what we find in John 3:16?

I am not importing “the believers” into the John 3:16 text. Are you importing “and also for those who never believe” into the text?

Tolerant Reformed: But the gospel invitation goes out freely, and hearers are invited to Christ.

mark: And what did I say that denied that? It comes back to “what is the gospel”. Are you agreeing with the Arminians that the gospel has to say that God wants to save everybody before we can preach it to everybody? if so, you will find your theology in that section of Dordt in which the antithesis of the gospel is explained and condemned. Again, not my formulation.

Tolerant Reformed: I don’t recall the preaching in Acts being a proclamation of an atonement theory.

mark: I don’t know why people want to rush to Acts when they can’t first argue for their assumptions about John 3:16. Is the conclusion here that there is no “atonement theory” in the gospel? Again, what is the gospel? Is the Gospel simply that Jesus is God, and risen Lord? Are you assuming a Kantian distinction between fact and theory (value, meaning) in which there is atonement in the gospel but not “atonement theory”?

Are you sure that the apostle Paul who wrote Romans 3-6 did not talk about the atonement in Acts? Are you assuming that the apostle Peter who wrote about the atonement in his letters did not talk about the atonement in Acts? Are you some kind of dispensationalist who thinks there are different gospels even in the New Testament? Or, are you saying that the basic simple gospel (all you need to know) is the one you think is in Acts, which has the “fundamentals” without any discussion of the nature (intent, effect, justice) of the atonement?

Tolerant Reformed: Definite atonement and election are comforting truths but how about “come unto me you weak and heavy laden,” and “Christ died for sinners”?

mark: First, I don’t believe you. You don’t find those truths comforting. or you would not be so uncomfortable with them. If you thought they were good news, then you would not want to restrict the preaching of those truths to conferences and seminars and R.C. Sproul on video Sunday School classes. You would invite all sinners to believe in the good news of election. So I don’t think you are being completely honest with yourself when you stipulate they are comforting.

Second, you are pulling two phrases out of context. Unless you are playing a “shell-game’ with lost people, why put stuff into the fine print (strings attached)? When you yourself are comforted by the idea that “died for sinners” really means ‘died for some sinners, died for elect sinners, died for those sinners who believe the gospel”, and the comfort is not in the idea that some are non-elect but in the fact that this means that the death really accomplishes something, that the death means that they will believe, if you are truly comforted by this, why leave it out of the gospel, when the effect of leaving it out means that lose people will simply go on saying, so what? Sure, Jesus died for everybody, and everybody in america knows that, and I don’t deny it, but what does it matter unless I am a good person and go to church?

Third, I did not even use the “elect” word. I merely wrote “for those sinners who believe”. Is that not what John 3:16 says? Not one less than those who believe. Not one more than those who believe. So where’s the problem? Do you have a “formulation” which insists that ‘world” means “everybody gets a chance” and “nobody is condemned for original sin, or even for any sin, except this one sin of not accepting it”. If that’s not your gospel, why would you object to what I said? Why would you put your “desire and decree” formulation on it.


Matthew 11: 25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

John 6: 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast

Acts 2:39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

As many of you as God calls are elect. As many of your children as God calls are elect. As many of all who are far off as God calls are elect. Not more, not less. Would you not agree that this call is not the external command and invitation of the gospel, but the effectual call which comes only to the elect for whom Christ died?

But this promise about election and calling is something that Peter preaches to everybody in the first “sermon” in the book of Acts.