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Connecting the Gospel Dots
The student of Paul’s inspired writings cannot help but notice the logical manner in which he presents gospel truth, so that certain conclusions may be drawn from his linguistic constructions that are inevitable, unavoidable, and indisputable. At the top of the list is the gospel itself.
I am somewhat bewildered by the efforts of some within the Southern Baptist Convention to find common gospel ground upon which both Calvinists and Biblicists can stand. The problem with these efforts is that the gospel ends up being redefined as, and reduced to, the offer of salvation (“believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved”) rather than its basis (“Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures”).
The most prominent transgressor in this regard is Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY under the direction of President Albert Mohler. Southern Seminary runs its ads in many SBC state publications as teaching the authentic gospel. But this is false advertising. The authentic NT gospel has always consisted of the cross (i.e., the good news that God in Christ did something to atone for our sins) as the basis for believing in the Lord Jesus. It is therefore a virtual impossibility for any Calvinist to preach the authentic gospel.
What was the gospel that Paul preached? If we are able to define it according to scripture, should it not be the one gospel that is consistently held to and preached? Let’s connect the gospel dots.
The book of 1 Corinthians is a good place to begin. In Chapter 1, Paul provides an absolutely convincing set of dots. In 1:17, he affirms that to preach the gospel is to preach the cross of Christ. In 1:18, he states that the preaching of the cross is the power of God. If we compare this statement of Paul with his letter to the Romans, where he declares that the gospel, of which he is not ashamed, is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16), we may conclude that the central theme of gospel preaching is the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul follows up these affirmations by recounting “Christ crucified” as both the core of his gospel preaching and its power (1:23-24). And again in 2:2, he affirms that “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” was the central theme of his preaching to lost Corinthians from which he refused to be deterred. Now, if Paul subscribed to and taught limited atonement as Calvinism would have us to believe, just what was it about the cross that he preached? No amount of contorted reasoning from the Calvinist can gainsay the fact that Paul preached the cross as the all-inclusive atonement for the sins of man both God-ward and man-ward. To argue otherwise is to misrepresent the apostle Paul’s own testimony, and to exhibit intellectual dishonesty in the handling of gospel truth.
When Paul gets to Chapter 15, he recounts the gospel he preached to the Corinthians while they were yet in their sins. His method is meticulous. He states: “I declare unto you [in this epistle] the gospel which I preached unto you [before you believed]” (15:1, brackets / italics mine). It is the gospel you received and by which you are saved, unless you believed in vain (15:1-2). That gospel [good news] is that “Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures” (15:3). He was subsequently buried, raised from the dead on the third day, and seen by many, including me (15:4-8). Could Paul have been clearer about the all-inclusive nature and scope of the atonement? Did he not connect the gospel dots in such a way as to eliminate any and every other gospel pretender?
The gospel of the apostle Paul (and that of the Biblicist) is not the gospel of Calvinism. It’s not because the Calvinist is a heretic. It’s simply that the philosophical speculations of Calvinism, which include a false theory of limited atonement, hamstring the Calvinist with half a gospel. He or she is able to declare with conviction that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will bring salvation to the believer, but lacks the ability to preach the cross of Christ as the all-inclusive good-news basis upon which God in Christ is able to save to the uttermost all that come to God by Him.
If you are one that has been hoodwinked by the speculations of Calvinism, it is our prayer that this simple exercise of connecting the gospel dots will serve to liberate you from Calvinism’s half-gospel trap. If Christ did not die for all, what assurance can any individual have that the Lord Jesus died in his or her place? Is not the Lord Jesus incapable of saving any sinner for whom he did not die? Is not the preaching of the gospel to every creature, as Jesus commanded, impossible without an all-inclusive atonement for sin?