To All, But Not For All
Recently, I received a letter from a preacher who was enraged by something he read by me on election. He declared, as many have, “My Bible says we are to go `into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Because of his hautiness and rudeness, I did not bother responding to his venomous attacks. Yet, there are many who truly love Christ and his gospel, who are perplexed by the fact that we are commanded to preach the gospel to all men, though the Scriptures clearly reveal the fact that only the elect shall be saved.
We are clearly commanded to preach the gospel to all men, but not for all men. The Holy Spirit tells us that the preaching of the gospel is, by God’s design, a stumbling block, a rock of offence, and an instrument of everlasting destruction and death to the reprobate (Rom. 9:32-33; 1 Cor. 1:23; 2 Cor. 14-16).
Everything God does is for his elect. Reprobate men and women enjoy the sunshine and the rain and the benefits of it because they live in this world side by side with God’s elect; but the sunshine and the rain are sent for the elect. Indeed, the reprobate exist and are allowed to live in this world for the elect. Long ago, Herman Hoeksema accurately compared the human race to grain, as our Lord often did, saying, “The reprobate shell of the human organism serves the Church of Christ. In the shell of reprobation, the elect kernel becomes ripe.” In other words, God’s purpose of grace, his everlasting love, his gracious designs, and his providence are all in complete harmony. It is utterly absurd to imagine otherwise. The world exists and is upheld by our Savior’s power in order for him to save his elect in the world (Isa. 65:8; John 17:3; 2 Pet. 3:9).
We are not commanded to preach the gospel to all men because there is some sense in which God loves all men. He does not (Rom. 9:13). We are not commanded to preach the gospel to all because God wills and desires the salvation of those whom he has not chosen, his Son did not redeem, and his Spirit shall never call. God almighty always does exactly what he pleases, desires, and wills. There is never a sense in which God’s purpose is not perfectly accomplished (Ps. 115:3; 135:6; Isa. 14:24, 26, 27; 46:9-11).
We are commanded to preach the gospel to all men because God has, in sovereign predestination, purposed to save his elect by this means (Rom. 10:10-17; 1 Cor. 1:21; 1 Pet. 23-25; 2 Thess. 2:13-14). God’s elect are found among all people, in all places. Therefore, we preach the gospel to all for the salvation of God’s elect. As we do, we are absolutely confident that God shall call out his chosen by the irresistible power of his grace. He will, by this same means, expose the wickedness of the reprobate, render them without excuse in the day of judgment, and harden them as “vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.” By their own willful and obstinate unbelief, they display their enmity against God. In the end, they shall “eat of the fruit of their own way” (Pro. 1:31).