Is The Gospel For All People Or Only Some People? -- By: Adam Harwood

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 11:2 (Fall 2014)
Article: Is The Gospel For All People Or Only Some People?
Author: Adam Harwood


Is The Gospel For All People Or Only Some People?

Adam Harwood

Adam Harwood is Associate Professor of Theology, occupying the McFarland Chair of Theology; Director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry; Editor, Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Introduction

The goal of this article is to address the question: “Is the gospel for all people or only some people?” The answer to this question undergirds one’s theology and practice of evangelism and missions. By the word “gospel,” I am referring to the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus for our sins (1 Cor 15:3-4). By asking whether the gospel is for all people, I am not asking whether it should be announced to all people, but whether it concerns all people. One’s view of whether the gospel is for all people or only some people is revealed by one’s answers to the following questions:

1. Who does God love salvifically, all people or only some people?

2. Did Christ die for the sins of all people or only some people?

3. Who does God desire to save, all people or only some people?

I assume the three questions above are valid for answering the main question. It seems legitimate to offer the possible answers of “all people” or “only some people” to the questions because there are no other reasonable answers. The reply of “no one” does not seem to be a viable answer for any of the questions. What Christian theologian argues that God loves no one salvifically, that Christ died for no one, or that God desires to save no one? The only possible answers to those questions seem to be “all people” and “only some people.”

Also, I assume that the answer to the three questions are related to and will assist in revealing one’s answer to the main question. For example, one who affirms that Christ died for only some people and God desires to save only some people seems to believe that the gospel is for only some people. It would seem inconsistent for one to answer “only some people” to two or three of the questions then affirm that the gospel is for “all people.” In what way would the gospel be for those people whom God does not desire to save and for whose sins Christ did not die?

The investigation can be illustrated as follows:

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