One of the great preoccupations of preachers is how we urge our hearers to respond to the Gospel. We do not believe in “altar calls” or other techniques which might pressurise our hearers into premature or superficial decisions. Yet we are also aware of the dangers of hyper-Calvinism, allowing our reformed theology to restrict us in our offer of the Gospel, or restrain us as we plead with sinners to repent and believe.
Donald John MacLean’s new book All Things are Ready (CFP) helpfully takes up this theme. After setting out what the Gospel is, and a robust exposition of the sovereignty of God in salvation (including the specific case of Pharaoh), the author turns to Gospel invitations. He points us to a number of Scriptures, including Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22, Jesus’ invitation to come and rest in Matthew 11:28ff, and Paul’s ministry of reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5. We see that the Gospel is presented as an Invitation, an Entreaty, Standing and Knocking, a Command, a Warning, a Promise, and a Sale. I smile as I consider that last image, remembering my pastoral ministry and a zealous young convert, saved out of a somewhat dubious business background, telling me that Gospel preaching is a matter of “closing the deal”. While I had hesitations about some elements of his case, his argument was not only well meant but well made. Our Gospel invitations are not faithful unless they are expressed with the urgency and pleadings of the Lord Himself. It is after all the Lord who makes the invitation through us to all sinners to come to Him.
Given our understanding of the sovereignty of God, and that not all will be saved, we must ask if a universal offer of the Gospel is sincerely meant. MacLean distinguishes between God’s will of decree, and His will of command. There is mystery here which we cannot fully grasp, but we should not seek to set one against the other. While God’s decree is secret, His revealed will is that He desires all to repent and find salvation. The author helpfully takes us through both Old and New Testaments, revealing the heart of God for sinners, and the general love of God for all. We are helped to overcome any reluctance or hesitation in our earnest offer of the Gospel. A chapter is devoted to answering objections.
May many preachers be emboldened in our Gospel preaching by this helpful little book.