Not everyone will believe the gospel, but everyone should be invited.
We know from Scripture, and experience, that not everyone will trust in Jesus and be saved. In fact, many will not. Many today sitting in churches across this country are cold to Christ, harboring impenitent hearts, deceived into thinking their works will get them to heaven. And even more not in churches. They will refuse Jesus, so why should we invite them to trust him?
Why should the gospel go to everyone? Here are three reasons.
1. We don’t know who will or won’t believe.
This relates to God’s two ways of willing. There is God’s “will of command” and his “will of decree” — that is, what God desires generally (his published will) and what he sovereignty effects (his mostly hidden resolve).
We know two things: 1) that God desires all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), and 2) that God has mercy on whomever he wills and hardens whomever he wills (Romans 9:18).
The latter truth is a secret to us. We cannot look at someone and know whether his or her heart will be hardened. Indeed, the gospel — with its knock-Saul-off-his-horse power — demands we never presume to know that. God desires for all to be saved, and that’s what we are about. J.I. Packer writes, “We are to order our lives by the light of his law [his will of command], not by our guesses about his plan [his will of decree]” (Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, 96).
We offer the gospel universally because as far as we can discern, every person we encounter could believe. God knows whom he will draw (John 6:44). Jesus knows who will hear his voice (John 10:27). We don’t, so we just preach.
2. Jesus really can save anybody.
The invitation to believe the gospel, writes Packer, “is God’s summons to mankind generally to come to the Savior and find life” (92). And anybody who does that — who comes to the Savior — will find life.
“Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). This verse tells us two things about “everyone.” First, it is not simply everyone, but everyone who calls. Everyone will not be saved, but everyone who calls on the name of Lord will certainly be saved. Second, part of the “everyone who calls” can be anyone at all. It doesn’t matter how messed up your life is, or what mistakes you’ve made, or how dismal you see your tomorrow. If you — hardened criminal, zealous abortionist, reckless teen — if you call on the name of the Lord, you will be saved. It doesn’t matter what language you speak, or what color of skin you have, or how much money is in your bank account, if you turn from your sins and trust in Jesus, you will be saved.
And therefore, since Jesus can save anybody, we offer this message to everybody.
3. Everyone can afford free.
This point is another angle on the previous one. The focus there is on the whosoever-ness of faith. The present point is the free-ness of grace.
If grace is free, then it is the market for everyone who can’t pay, and everyone cannot pay. Every human being fits that bill. And therefore, because every human owns the criterion of emptiness, every human is in the condition to hear the offer of free grace. Every soul is thirsty, every soul is broke, and so it goes for every soul when God says, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1).
Grace, in this sense, is the great equalizer. It is the only way that anyone can be reconciled to God. The kid who grows up in church, nourished by a gospel-centered stay-at-home mom, and the strung-out crack addict downtown — if they will belong to God, it will happen by the same way: grace, grace, grace.
We Invite Everyone
These three reasons explain why we invite everyone to believe the gospel. But the root of these reasons is in what Jesus did. We offer this news to everyone because of the foundational certainty that Jesus accomplished. John Piper captures it well:
By his death and resurrection, Jesus has acted out God’s discriminating, definite electing, regenerating, faith-creating, every-promise-guaranteeing, new-covenant love, and thus has purchased and secured irreversibly for his elect everything needed to bring them from deadness in sin to everlasting, glorified life and joy in the presence of God. (Does God Desire All to Be Saved? 54)
Because we don’t know who will or won’t believe, because Jesus can save anybody, because everyone can afford free, today this gospel goes to everyone.