Whether or not a denial of the Well Meant Offer of the Gospel is 'hyper-Calvinism' ? by Professor Hanko of the Protestant Reformed Churches of America [PRCA] in South Wales, 2004

(Transcription and marked divisions are the work of Mr. Andrew Magni.)

Brief Outline of the Lecture

I. Introduction 


I.1. Reading of Matthew 22:1-14 as setting forth the scriptural basis of the PRCA position on the nature of the preaching of the gospel  


I.2. Why the question “ Whether or not a denial of the ‘Well Meant Offer of the Gospel’ is 'hyper-Calvinism'? ” is important of itself and particularly to the PRCA in light of the fact that the denial of the 'Well Meant Gospel Offer' is, in part, the raison d'être of its inception as a denomination.


I.3. False accusation by many, in primarily the British Isles,against the PRCA, that its opposition to the 'Well Meant Gospel Offer' constitutes,necessarily, and, by most, without any appropriate investigation of or response to the PRCA’s argumentation for its position,'hyper-Calvinism'.


I.4 Setting forth of four questions the answering of which shall constitute the substance of the lecture


II. First Question and Answer - "What is 'hyper-Calvinism'? " 


II.1. Inappropriate definitions of and so misapplication of the term 'hyper-Calvinism'


II.2. Historical precedence of 'hyper-Calvinism' in the history of the church, particularly in the British Isles, and the reaction of the 'Marrow Men', the chief proponents of the 'Well Meant Offer', thereto


II.3. Quotations of Welsh 'hyper-Calvinists'


II.4. Explanation of 'hyper-Calvinism'


III. Second Question and Answer - "What is meant by the expression 'The Well Meant Offer of the Gospel'? "


III.1. PRCA does not reject the use of the term ‘offer’ per se, even as it is used in the Canons 3/4:9, & the WCF 10:2, though it does not appear in either the Belgic Confession or the Heidelberg Catechism.


III.2. 'Heart and Core' of the 'Well Meant Offer' summarized


III.3. Necessary implications of the 'Well Meant Offer' and accompanying teachings of the proponents thereof


III.4. Proponents of the 'Well Meant Offer', such as the 'Christian Reformed Church', necessarily maintain a universality to the atoning death of Christ in order to be consistent with the same.


III.5 Proponents of the 'Well Meant Offer' necessarily assert two contradictory wills in God, opponents of the 'Well Meant Offer' strenuously, and carefully maintain the singularity and inner logical consistency of God's will, cp.Calvin in his "A Treatise on the Eternal Predestination of God "


IV. Third Question and Answer - "What in the opinion of the ‘Protestant Reformed Churches’ is the biblical and confessional truth concerning the preaching of the gospel? "


IV.1. PRCA's dogma of evangelism founded upon Matthew 22:1-14 & Canons 2:5


IV.2. Exposition of Canons 2:5's evangelism dogma


IV.3. Canons 2:5's answer to the question "What is the Gospel? "


IV.4. Canons 2:5's dogma of the universality of the application of the command of the Gospel, and the PRCA affirmation and application thereof.


IV.5. Explanation of the historical, orthodox definition and so use of the term "offer ", in relation to evangelism, of which the PRCA affirms, which is founded upon its Latin etymological basis.


IV.6. Explication of the position that the judicial basis for the universality of the evangelical command is founded upon the creation ordinance, contrary to the position of the proponents of the 'Well Meant Offer' who allege that the judicial basis for the universality of the command as an 'offer' in their gospel is in the universal nature of the atonement. Canons 2:8 [ in accordance with Romans 8:32,33 ] is explicit, emphatic and unambiguous in its declaration that the atonement is for the elect, and them only.                     


V. Fourth Question and Answer "Why is the position of the PRCA with respect to the preaching of the gospel crucially important for the welfare of the Church of Jesus Christ ’? " - Because the wellspring of the church's life is out of the clear and consistent preaching of the truths of the one, true gospel, whereas the doctrine of the 'Well Meant Offer' is a denial of the gospel, and thus, by the preaching thereof, the very source of the life of any church is terminated, and so the church , correspondingly, loses its orthodoxy and spiritual vitality and power, and, thus is thereby destroyed.      


V.1. Answer to the subordinate question, "What is the Gospel? "answered by Christ in Mt.22:14, “few are chosen”, that is, the gospel is rooted in the eternal, sovereign, unmerited, predestination of the elect.


V.2. Answer to subordinate question, "Why is the Gospel the power of God unto salvation? "The  preaching of the true gospel is the means whereby God powerfully and unilaterally converts, and sanctifies the saints.


V.3a. Answer to subordinate question, "If the preaching of the gospel is for the conversion and sanctification of the elect, why then does God command the reprobate to repent and believe thereby? "The preaching of the gospel is God's sovereign means to expose and elicit the hatred of the gospel from the hardened heart of the reprobate. 


V.3.b. Notwithstanding the preacher of the gospel desires the salvation of all who hear it to repent and believe in Christ, he is not discouraged by those who refuse to do so and their inflamed animosity against the gospel, for he knows that this reaction of the reprobate to the preaching of the gospel fulfills the righteous purpose of God for evangelism, as 2 Corinthians 2:14-16.


VI. Conclusion


VI.1. Emphatic assertion that there is only one gospel and it alone is to be preached in all places and under all circumstances, as it is always relevant regardless of the physical or spiritual age or development of the hearer, as is the practice of and has been and is true in the life of the speaker.


VI.2. The speaker preaches the one gospel, he'd been explicating , to his audience gathered in South Wales

"Is the Denial of the ‘Free Offer of the Gospel’ hyper-Calvinism?'"
Prof. Herman Hanko

I.1. Please turn to Matthew Chapter 22. As you know, the topic for tonight’s speech is the question “ Whether a denial of the ‘Well Meant Gospel Offer’ is ‘hyper-Calvinism’?” And I want to read this section of scripture which is the parable of the king’s wedding feast because this is the position of the scriptures on that very question, and this is the position which we as 'Protestant Reformed Churches', which I represent here tonight, hold dear. It’s explicitly outlined here. If anyone, because we deny the ‘Well Meant Offer of the Gospel’, charges us with ‘ hyper-Calvinism ’, then our response is, our position is, in this parable of the Lord Jesus Christ [ of verses one through fourteen ]. So let us read it together in that connection: "And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise:  And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment."I might mention, in passing, that the wedding garment in this parable is, according to other passages of scripture, particularly Revelation [19:7-10 cp. Isaiah 61:10 ], the wedding garment of the righteousness of Christ: that's the wedding garment which prepares us for the wedding feast of the Lamb. He found a man having not a wedding garment on, "And he said unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen. "


Thus far we read together from the Holy Scriptures, may God bless His Word to our hearts.


I.2.As I said, I want to speak to you tonight on the question of “ Whether or not a denial of the ‘ Well Meant Offer of the Gospel’ is ‘ hyper-Calvinism ’? ”. That question is very important to me and to those who are members of our ‘ Protestant Reformed Churches ’. That’s an important question in the first place, because controversy over the ‘ Well Meant Offer of the Gospel ’ is in part the explanation for the existence of the ‘ Protestant Reformed Churches in America ’. Nearly eighty years ago now, the spiritual fathers of our denomination were stripped of their offices and expelled from the ‘ Church of Christ ’ because they denied the ‘ Well Meant Offer of the Gospel ’, and because, when they were required by their mother church to sign a statement affirming that doctrine, they refused. That’s the origin of the 'Protestant Reformed Churches'. The denial of the ‘ Well Meant Offer ’ , therefore, is an integral part of our history.


I.3. The subject “ Whether or not the denial of the ‘Well Meant Offer’ is ‘hyper-Calvinism’? ” is also important to us. Almost all those who hold to a ‘Well Meant Offer of the Gospel’, accuse those who deny this doctrine of being ‘hyper-Calvinists’. That’s perhaps true in the United Kingdom, more than it is anywhere else in the world, including in our own country. It is with almost machine gun rapidity and monotony that the charge arises from sectors in the United Kingdom against those who deny the ‘ Well Meant Offer ’  - “ hyper-Calvinists -- hyper-Calvinists ”. We take that charge seriously. ‘ Hyper-Calvinism ’ is a great wrong. Anyone who holds to a‘ hyper-Calvinist ’ position does violence to the scriptures, and is disobedient to the command of Christ in the calling to preach the gospel. We have heard, therefore, the charge, and taken it seriously, and studied the matter carefully, and have come to the conclusion that that charge is unjust. That, indeed, in many instances where the charge is made there is no effort at all to examine the question or to hear out the position which we take with regard to the preaching of the gospel. There is no effort to wrestle with the scriptural passages that are involved in this whole question. There is no effort made to answer the arguments which our churches have repeatedly made in defense of our position, and in condemnation of the ‘Well Meant Offer’. It seems enough, in most circles, to dismiss our position out-of-hand with the charge “hyper-Calvinism”. That’s sad, because we would like nothing better than engage in a serious, heart felt discussion, examination of scripture and Presbyterian and Reformed Confessions on this very question. But no one will take us up on our repeated requests.


Nevertheless, the charge persists. Even in this short time that I have been here in Wales, the charge has been leveled against me, not only in my hearing, but in the hearing of others.“The man who is speaking in South Wales”, it is said, “must be avoided at all costs. He is a ‘hyper-Calvinist’.” I want you, at least,to know, what the position of the 'Protestant Reformed Churches' is in this regard and to put your minds and hearts at rest, concerning this charge which has been repeatedly made and continues constantly to be made. In fact, one almost gets the impression, listening to what is being said today about this question, or reading the literature, that any heresy under the face of God’s heavens is tolerated in the churches and condoned, at least by silence, while anyone who denies the ‘Well Meant Offer of the Gospel’ is branded, immediately, as a heretic. So that it appears that the church, especially in the United Kingdom, knows of only one heresy of any significance, and that is the denial of the ‘Well Meant Offer’.


I.4. I’d like to examine this question with you tonight, by asking, first of all, what is ‘hyper-Calvinism’? Secondly, what is the ‘Well Meant Offer of the Gospel’? Thirdly, what in the opinion of the ‘Protestant Reformed Churches’ is the biblical and confessional truth concerning the preaching of the gospel? And, finally, why is that position so crucially important for the welfare of the ‘Church of Jesus Christ’. That latter part is important to me. I include that latter part because I myself am firmly convinced that the decline in sound doctrine and the wasteland that has become the church of our modern time is due, in large measure, to that heresy of a ‘Well Meant Gospel Offer’. The gospel which is the heart of the life of the church has lost its force, because rather than being what Paul says it is, “the power of the gospel”, it is reduced to nothing more than a mere offer.


II.1. What is ‘hyper-Calvinism’? ‘Hyper-Calvinism’ is a term that has been bandied about a great deal, especially in recent years. ‘Hyper-Calvinism’ is sometimes applied to those, strangely enough, who hold firmly and uncompromisingly, to the five points of Calvinism: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, perseverance of the saints: those who hold firmly to these are sometimes branded as ‘hyper-Calvinists’. Then again sometimes the term ‘hyper-Calvinism’  is applied to those who hold to double predestination: that is, not only election, but also sovereign, unconditional reprobation. Such are also branded as ‘hyper-Calvinists’ ; in which case, of course, Calvin himself would have been the leading proponent of ‘hyper-Calvinism’. If you read his pamphlet “A Treatise on the Predestination of God ”, you will find the doctrine of reprobation outlined carefully, and sharply, in all of its biblical truth. Sometimes supralapsarians are branded as ‘hyper-Calvinists’. The term is used in many instances.


II.2. Nevertheless, I’m not interested in all those misuses of the term. ‘Hyper-Calvinism’ is something that is, in the history of the church, a reality. If you go all the way back to the beginning of the eighteenth century and the Marrow Controversy, the Marrow Men, whom, from a certain point of view, are really the chief proponents of the ‘Well Meant Offer’ and those who made the ‘Well Meant Offer’ popular in the church, nevertheless were objecting to what was a ‘ hyper-Calvinism ’ in the ‘ Scottish Presbyterian Church ’. There was such a thing in the church at that time, a genuine ‘ hyper-Calvinism ’. Their objection to that was valid, although their solution to it was invalid. Since the time of the Marrow Controversy, periodically, there have been those in the history of the church here in the British Isles who have indeed been ‘ hyper-Calvinists ’. There are those today, if I am not mistaken, they are called here in the United Kingdom, primarily, ‘ Strict Baptists ’. We have some of them in our own country too, but in our own country they go under the name ‘ Primitive Baptists ’. They are ‘ hyper-Calvinists ’. I have in my library at home, a few books written by their leading theologians.


II.3.‘ Hyper-Calvinism ’ has also been a characteristic of some in the history of the church of Wales, especially in Welsh Calvinistic Methodism and its controversies. Let me give you a quote from one of these ‘ hyper-Calvinists ’, who was a leading figure in the ‘ Church of Wales ’. This quote is by a book entitled ‘ Atonement Controversies in Welsh Preaching and Literature ’ by Owen Thomas. A rather important book, by the way, and I recommend it. Although the author himself, Owen Thomas, was what I would call a mild or weak Calvinist. Nevertheless, the historical data in that book is valuable. This is what a genuine ‘hyper-Calvinist’ wrote: “There was no true sufficiency in the atonement for anyone but the elect ”[and I’d like to have you notice that because the question of the ‘Well Meant Offer of the Gospel ’ is closely connected to the question of the sufficiency of the atonement]“and no true universality in the call of the gospel.” That God Himself did not call everyone and that the general call of the preacher was justified only [because] his ignorance of the identity of the elect is something which cannot be avoided. One old minister declared plainly` “If I knew who here today were predestined to eternal life, I would not say one word to the rest.” That’s a classic ‘hyper-Calvinist’ statement.


II.4.That means that ‘hyper-Calvinism’ teaches that the gospel, in its address, must be addressed only to the elect. That the preacher, who is a minister in the ‘Church of Jesus Christ’, may, under the solemn injunction of God Himself, preach only to the elect, and address what he has to say, only to the elect. He knows not who they are, in the nature of the case, but if he knew, he would limit his address to them, and he would drive out from the auditorium, or the meeting place of the congregation, all those who were not elect. He would tell them, “This is not for you. You must leave. You must depart. I have no word for you.” On the other hand, from the view point, now, of the hearer, ‘ hyper-Calvinism’ teaches that one who is in the pew, and listening to the preaching, has no right to say, “This gospel is for me.”, unless he knows with the certainty in his heart, that he is the elect. Or, if I may put it a little differently, he must himself become assured of his election, before he can say, “This gospel is for me.:that is ‘hyper-Calvinism’.The ‘Protestant Reformed Churches’ do not, and never have, taught that.


III.1 The next question which we face is: “What is meant by the  ‘Well Meant Gospel Offer’ ? Let me say at the outset, that the ‘Protestant Reformed Churches’ do not object to the term “offer”. As a matter of fact, it is a term which is found in the Westminster Confessions [10:2] {note 1}, not only, but also in our own Canons of Dort. Although, interestingly enough, you will not find it in the Heidelberg Catechism, nor will you find it in the Confession of Faith sometimes called the Netherlands or Belgic Confession. That’s the confession of 1561 written by Guido de Bräs. The term does not appear there, but it does appear in one place in the Canons: [in] Chapters 3 & 4 article 9 {note 2 }` the word ‘ offer ‘ appears. We do not object to the term offer. We do, however, object strenuously and vigorously against a ‘Well Meant Gospel Offer’, that’s something different.


III.2. The very heart and core of a ‘Well Meant Gospel Offer’ is this: that God, in the preaching of the gospel, expresses His desire and longing to save all that hear the gospel. That is the heart of the ‘Well Meant Gospel Offer’: God says to everyone, where ever the gospel is preached, in the established church or on the mission field, “It is my desire, my longing, to save everyone of you who hears the gospel ”, to that the ‘ Protestant Reformed Churches’ object on the basis of scripture.


III.3. Now the whole idea of the ‘Well Meant Gospel Offer’ is not quite as simple as all of that. Just as soon as you say that God desires to save all those who hear the gospel, you have to say one more thing, and that is, what is your answer to this question: is God gracious to all who hear the gospel?  Why does God express His desire to save all, unless He is favorably inclined towards all? Indeed, why does He express His desire to save all, unless He loves all, and unless He’s merciful to all, and unless His loving-kindness extends to all? Is not the very fact that God, the God of heaven and earth, expresses His desire to save all, indicative of the fact that He is gracious to all? The answer of all those who hold to a ‘ Well Meant Gospel Offer ’, is, “ Yes, God loves all. God is gracious to all. God is merciful and kind to all. There is an attitude of God’s favor, which He shows to all who hear the preaching of the gospel. ”


In fact, when ‘Well Meant Gospel Offer’ proponents, defend the ‘ Well Meant Gospel Offer’, they insist on the fact that those who hear the gospel are not only the objects of an attitude of favor on the part of God towards those who hear it, but that God actually confers grace upon them in their hearts. Such a grace, indeed, which gives them, as the ‘Marrow Men’ were insisting upon, and as many Puritans insisted, and as is a fundamental doctrine of all revivalism, such grace is communicated through the preaching of the gospel to those who hear, that they can even become convicted of sin; that they can become sorry for sin; that they can bewail their sins; that they can see that hell lies open before them; that they can see the need for deliverance, and for salvation, but that’s all apart from saving grace, because those same people who are under conviction of sin, and can even cry out in their miseries, they nevertheless never accept the ‘Gospel Offer’.  They may still go lost, or if I may use the expression current among Puritans, they still may not close with Christ, and receive Christ as their Savior.


In other words, what the proponents of the ‘Gospel Offer’ teach in this general or common grace that comes through the preaching of the gospel is this: every man who hears the gospel receives grace to accept the offer or reject the offer: it lies within his own power: it’s a sophisticated aspect of Arminian “free-willism” and rests salvation foursquare on the will of man.


III.4. Another doctrine that is crucial to the ‘Well Meant Offer of the Gospel’, and if you give this a moments thought you can understand why, is the extent of the atonement of Jesus Christ. This is the big controversy that took place in Wales, between the Arminians, the Wesleyans, the Calvinistic Methodists, sometimes known as the ‘Presbyterian Church of Wales ‘, that were consistently torn to pieces by controversies over the doctrine of the atonement, because they were interested in the ‘Well Meant Gospel Offer ’. Let me give you here a couple of quotes: two professors in Scotland in 1841 wrote: “There is a two-fold reference in the death of Christ, that He had died for all in such a way as to establish the basis for a general call and invitation to all mankind without distinction to receive salvation through belief in the gospel, and to remove all obstacles in the path of man’s salvation other than that which is due to his own unwillingness to receive it .” And,at the same time, they held firmly to the view that particular individuals had been given to Him by the Father to be saved: [there were] some given Him of the Father to be saved, [and] others, to whom God [only] expresses His desire of salvation, for whom Christ died, in a certain sense of the word.


Here’s another quote from John Roberts, “The scriptures teach us that temporal blessings are provided for sinners in general through the sufferings of Christ; that only with a view to Christ’s death does God extended a sincere offer of salvation to all sinners in general` that the same relation pertains between the blood of Christ, and sinners in general, as exists between the call of the gospel and sinners in general.”


In other words, if God desires the salvation of all who hear the gospel, there has to be some judicial basis for that. If God loves all men, there has to be a judicial basis for that. God cannot and will not love sinners. He is a holy God, who hates sin, and who hates the sinner. And, by the way, if I may interject that, in parenthesis, that miserable distinction between hating sin and loving the sinners is nonsense, and impossible for you, and impossible for me, and fully impossible for the God of heaven and earth. God hates sin, and God hates the sinner. If He loves them, there has to be a judicial basis for that love. That judicial basis is to be found only in the cross, because there Christ died for sinners and no matter how you cut it, and no matter how you want to express it, and no matter what distinctions you may want to make between efficacy and intention and sufficiency, with regard to the atonement, it all comes down to this, as Owen Thomas’book makes clear: if you hold to a ‘Well Meant Offer of the Gospel’, you must hold to a universality of the atoning death of Jesus Christ.


I remember a number of years ago in the mid-1960's, the same ‘Christian Reformed Church’ which had expelled the leaders of our ‘Protestant Reformed Churches’, were denying the ‘Well Meant Offer’ based foursquare on the doctrine - "For whom did Christ die? " It had come to the synod by way of protest and appeal, because some in the church, in fact a professor in the seminary, was teaching a universality to the atonement, and the case was appealed to the highest judicatory in the ‘Christian Reformed Church ’. I was present at that synod because I was interested in the discussion. The discussion went something like this: many at the synod were simply arguing for an universal atonement, but many were not. They were still Calvinistic. They still understood that a crucial doctrine of Calvinism was limited atonement, or particular redemption. The majority seemed to be that way: “We believe men, we have always believed, in a particular redemption. That’s Calvinism; that’s one of the five points. We can’t have a universality of the atonement.”


And as the debate rocked back and forth, one wondered what the outcome would be, until one minister got up, and in a long speech, because he said many other things, he said this, and I quote, “Brethren of the synod, don’t we believe in a ‘Well Meant Gospel Offer’? ” That was the end of the debate. Universal atonement was approved. You can’t separate the two. That’s impossible, and to this day, the ‘Christian Reformed Church’ teaches a universality to the atoning death of our Lord Jesus Christ.


III.5. In addition to that there is another doctrine implied in the ‘Well Meant Offer’, which is crucial to an understanding of it, and that doctrine is this: does God have one will or two wills? Those who hold to a ‘Well Meant Gospel Offer’, hold to two wills in God. They have to hold to two wills in God if they’re going to maintain any semblance of Calvinism, because Calvinism teaches, and has always taught from the time of the reformation, not only under Calvin, but under Luther, that God wills the salvation of the elect only. It’s fundamental to the doctrine of the reformation. Think, for example, of Luther’s controversy with Erasmus, which was concerning the free will of man, but it involved the whole question, “Is there one will in God or are there two wills in God?”. Think of Calvin’s controversy with [Jerome] Bolsec or with [Albert] Pighius and the same question was at stake, so much so that Calvin addresses that question at length in the pamphlet I mentioned a few moments ago, “A Treatise on the Eternal Predestination of God”.


God wills the salvation of [only] the elect, but God also wills the salvation of all men. How are you going to explain that? You can’t, except by saying that there are two wills in God: God has two wills, one will to save [only] the elect, and another will to save all men. Now don’t you see that by teaching that sort of a doctrine you make not only two wills in God, which Calvin insisted, and the scriptures insist, is not true, but you put those two wills in diametric opposition to each other: ‘God wills to save [only] the elect. No, God wills to save all men. No, God wills to save [only] the elect. No, God wills to save all men. ’Or, ‘What does He will?’‘Both.’  Both? God? The one true and living God, two wills, diametrically opposed to each another? That is serious business. That’s a denial of the unity of God; the doctrine that lies as the very foundation of all religion.


That doctrine is implied. If you confront one who defends the ‘Well Meant Offer of the Gospel’   with that dilemma, with that contradiction, the answer that you get often times is - “That’s a paradox. We can’t understand that. In God there is harmony between those two wills, but it's beyond our understanding. That belongs to the hidden things of God. We can’t deal with that, so we just have to live with paradox ”. That’s not paradox, that’s nonsense. Paradoxes are not nonsense. Nonsense is to say that God has two flatly contradictory wills, and it’s not only nonsense, it’s a denial of the fundamental unity of God. The ‘Well Meant Gospel Offer’ is serious business. It does not touch on the periphery of the Christian faith. It strikes at the very heart of the gospel.


IV.1.What is the position of the ‘Protestant Reformed Churches’ with regard to this question? I want to be as clear as I possibly can. We take our answer to this from the parable which I read, and the conclusion of the parable in verse 14 of Matthew 22: “For many are called, but few are chosen.”


IV.2. We take our position also on the Canons of Dort` Chapter 2, Article 5 {note 3} ; Chapter 2, Article 5 of the Canons teaches that it is God’s will that the gospel be preached, and this is the word that Canons 2:5 uses, “promiscuously”, that is, far and wide, generally, without regard to elect or reprobate. That it be preached promiscuously to all those “to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel.” I don’t know what the percentage is, but I would guess, roughly speaking, that seventy to eighty percent of the world’s population, since the time of Adam, had never heard the gospel. God isn’t pleased to send the gospel to everyone in the whole world. By the time the end of the world comes every nation would have heard the gospel, but what of all the nations in the Old Dispensation that never heard it? What about all the nations that have not heard in the gospel in the New Dispensation, except until our more modern era? God isn’t pleased to send the gospel to everyone to begin with. And so the Canons add, ‘ God wills that the gospel be preached promiscuously to those to whom He in His good pleasure chooses to send it. ’


IV.3. In the second place, Canons 2:5 answers this question, “What is the content of the gospel?”  When Canons 2:5 defines the contents of the gospel, it defines the contents in this way, that the gospel promiscuously proclaims that all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ shall surely be saved. That’s the content of the gospel. Every minister must preach that. He must preach [that] all who believe will be saved: that’s Romans [10 verses 9 and 11], along with many other passages. ‘All who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’[ cp. Romans 10:13] without exception, without regard to nation, or tribe or tongue, without regard to age,without regard to sex, without regard to richness or poverty, without regard to people of high standing or low standing, without regard to kings and rulers or paupers and bums, without regard to those who give millions to philanthropy or to those who are murderers,and thieves, and prostitutes: whoever. Whoever believes in the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved. That’s the content of the gospel. That’s the content of the gospel preached in ‘Protestant Reformed Churches’.


IV.4. The Canons, in addition to that, says that to that promise of the gospel, that whoever believes in the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved, is added, and here we come to a crucial point, enunciated in the Canons, laid bare by our Lord Himself, that everyone to whom the gospel is proclaimed is commanded by God to repent of sin, and believe. Everyone, without regard to elect or reprobate, without regard to believer or unbeliever, everyone who hears the gospel, stands confronted in the gospel with the command: repent, [and] believe. It’s not your choice. It’s the command of the king.


We teach that. We believe that. We preach that. I preach that. I preach that in our congregations. I preach that right here to you now. I preach that to the little children in catechism when I teach them at five years old. I teach that to my children in my own family when they sin. “You must repent. You must believe in Christ. ” I teach that to people who come to me for counseling because their marriage is on the rocks. “ Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the command of the scriptures. Repent of your sins that brought your marriage into trouble. ”We preach that to those who are afflicted with mental problems: depressed, incapable of being assured of their salvation, torn by inner conflict. We bring the word of God, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” “Repent of your sin, believe in Him.” That’s the gospel.


IV.5.Now let me be very specific about this. I want no misunderstanding about it at all. This is the position of the scriptures. This is the position of the ‘Protestant Reformed Churches’. We are not, as I say, opposed to the use of the word offer, but, I immediately add a caveat: when we use the word ‘offer’, when the Westminster Confessions use the word ‘ offer’, when our own Canons use the word ‘offer’ [it is] in the sense of the Latin etymology of that word ‘offere’; which word means,‘to present’, ‘to make known’,‘to hold high’,‘to set forth’ ; in that sense of the word Christ is offered. Paul speaks of that in Galatians Chapter 3 [verse 1]. He says that in so many words, “O foolish Galatians who hath bewitched you that you should not obey the truth before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you.”  So strong is the Word of the preaching, that in the preaching “Jesus Christ is set forth crucified among you” through faith in whom salvation shall surely be given [ cp. Acts 3:16 ].There is no other name under heaven whereby men can be saved but the Lord Jesus Christ[cp. Acts 4:12 ]. Not the god of the Hindus, not the god Buddha, not the god of Judaism, not the god of Islam - Jesus Christ, that’s proclaimed in the gospel. Along with that proclamation is the promise ‘ whoever believes in Him will be saved’. That’s the gospel. In addition to that is the command, that goes to all who hear, “Repent of your sin, and believe.” God commands that.


IV.6. Now I want to say a little bit about that command, because that’s the heart of the issue after all. God is serious when He commands all men to repent and believe. There isn’t one moment when God, if I may put it that way I speak as a man, when God speaks guilefully, or when God speaks without serious intent. God commands all to repent and believe in Christ. What is the basis for that command? That’s the question. All of those who defend the ‘Well Meant Offer of the Gospel ’, who want to make that command of the gospel an offer, say that rests in the cross of Jesus Christ and in the universality of His suffering and death. That’s not so. The simple fact of the matter is that the scriptures teach, and the Canons express emphatically, in Canons 2:8 {note 4} [ cp. Romans 8:32,33 ], Christ died for the elect, and then the Canons add, and for them only. No room to wiggle, no room to squirm, no room to hesitate. It says emphatically, the death of Christ is for the elect, and for them only. In what is the command of the gospel rooted?


The command of the gospel is rooted, and let’s get this straight, in the original creation ordinance. God created man good and upright. God created man capable in all things [to be] willing the will of God, living in obedience to Him. Man fell. As a result of the fall, man became totally depraved. He cannot, and will not, obey God. He cannot obey God in the least regard. He cannot obey God in any of God’s commands. He lost the spiritual ability, because of his own foolishness, and the disaster and catastrophe which he brought upon Himself in Adam. What is God’s reaction to that? Does God, as the Arminian likes to say, look down on poor Adam, and on a poor fallen human race, and say to Adam, and to those who have fallen into sin, the human race at large,“Oh, I feel so sorry for you. I know that you aren’t capable of serving Me. I know that you lost your ability to do what I command. I won’t ask you to do that anymore. Let’s just forget about what I originally commanded you to do. I’m going to be merciful. I’m going to be gracious. I’m going to let bygones be bygones, and give you another chance, a new start.”? Does God do that? Of course not. God is a holy, and just God. And so God maintains His original command that He gave to Adam, “Love me with all your heart and mind and soul and strength.” And if Adam says, “I can’t. I can’t do it.” Does God say “ Oh, okay, we’ll forget it.”? Oh no! God says, “Never mind. It’s your own fault that you can’t. Love Me. Keep My commandments. Repent of your sin. And this above all is My command, believe in Christ.” That’s the command of the gospel rooted in the original creation ordinance.


Let me use an illustration to make that clear. It’s an  illustration I often use. It’s an illustration I use in preaching. I want people to understand this point. Supposing that you were going to build a new house, and say that house was going to cost you a hundred thousand pounds, though really you might not be able to buy much of house with that today, but let’s use the figure. And you contract with the builder, and the builder said to you, “I am perfectly willing to build your house` but I don’t have any money. So in order for me to build your house, you’re going to have to advance me half the price of the house, fifty thousand pounds. You advance me fifty thousand pounds. I’ll build you the house.” So you do that. You agree with him. You give him fifty thousands pounds; you write out a check. So what does he do? He takes that fifty thousand pounds check, and he goes with his wife on a round the world cruise, and visits all the exotic places: Cape Town in South Africa, New Delhi in India, Singapore, other places in the southwest, southeast of Asia, Australia, New Zealand. Finally he comes back after visiting America, and Spain, and you say to him, “Well, are you going to start building my house now? ” And he says, “I’m sorry. I can’t. I haven’t got any money.” Then you say to him, “Yea, but I gave you fifty thousand pounds to get started.” And he says, “I know, but I spent it. I don’t have a dime left.” What do you say to him? “Well that’s okay. Let's let bygones be bygones. Here’s another fifty thousand pounds.” Is that what you say to him? Of course not! You say to him, “ Build my house! That’s the contract!” And if he says to you, “I can’t. I can’t.”, you say, “Never mind. I gave it to you didn’t I? And the fact that you can’t is your fault isn’t it? You are bound to the contract. You build that house. ”>


Now is God going to do anything less than that? Of course not. He maintains the demands that He made upon man in paradise, and man’s inability does not make one particle of difference. The demands of God remain the same. The gospel, with the commands that are attached to it, remind man: ‘God made you capable of serving Him. You were the one that squandered His gifts and now endure the judgment of God. You [are to] obey God, and the fact that you can’t makes no difference, because your inability is your own fault.’


V.1. What then is the gospel? Jesus says the gospel is this, “Many are called` but few are chosen.” “You have to go back to eternity”, Jesus says, “to understand the gospel.” You have to go back to eternity, because in eternity God chose to Himself a people; a people that would be His own peculiar people, that He loves with an eternal, unchangeable love, for no other reason than His own sovereign good pleasure. He gives that people to Christ, His own Son, and He says, as it were, to Christ, “This is a fallen people, dead in trespasses and sins, but it is my purpose to reveal in the salvation of this people all the riches, all the attributes, of my own divine being, the infinite depths of my love, the untold riches of my grace, the multitude of my mercies, to reveal them in the richest and highest possible way. So I lay upon you the responsibility for doing everything that is necessary to be done for the salvation of my people.” Christ goes to the cross, and dies for them, and for them only.


How does John the Evangelist, the gospel narrator, open that gloriously beautiful chapter of John [Thirteen] of the last supper, of the foot washing? With these words: “Having loved his own..., he loved them unto the end.” His own! Those who had been given Him of the Father. For them He died. He died not only to pay for all their sins, all of them, but He died to earn for them all the rich and glorious blessings of salvation to be bestowed upon them in this life ( which is just the beginning)[and] for ever and ever in the glory, in the kingdom which He came to establish. How does He save that elect people? He saves that elect people through the preaching of the gospel. That’s why the gospel goes where God in His good pleasure sends it, because God knows where His elect are. We don’t.


God knows. God knows where they are in the palaces of kings. God knows where they are in the alleys of the world’s cities. God knows where they are in the houses of prostitution. God knows where they are in covenant families, but they’re elect. That’s crucial, and because they are elected, because Christ died for them, the power of the preaching is in the cross of Jesus Christ, and in the eternal decree of election, as revealed in the cross.


V.2.The gospel is not an expression, therefore, to all, “ God loves you. God wants you to be saved. What are you going to do about it? ” No. The gospel, Paul says, is something of which I am not ashamed, and I am not ashamed of the gospel, even though it is “the foolishness of preaching”, as he writes to the Corinthians, [ 1 Corinthians 1:21 ], because the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes [ Romans 1:16 ]. That’s what it is. Why is the Gospel the power? Because along with the outward call of the gospel that includes the command to repent and believe in Christ, comes the inward, irresistible, efficacious call of the Spirit in the hearts of the elect, which they cannot resist, and by the power of that Spirit, as He ties Himself to the gospel, the sinner is brought from a cursing, blaspheming sinner to a humble saint on his knees praying. That’s the Spirit. That’s the cross. That’s the power of the gospel. It brings a prostitute to become the bride of Christ Himself. It brings a fallen, filthy sinner, such as you are, and such as I am, to be one clothed in the white garments of the righteousness of our Savior.


The gospel calls powerfully out of darkness into light as Paul expresses it in Colossians [1:13] “Out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of Jesus Christ”, to stand now not in the service of Satan, but in the service of Jesus Christ. The gospel is that power. The gospel is the power to keep us, and preserve us in the midst of the world, against all the attacks of the enemy, and against all the machinations of the Evil One to drag our souls into hell. The gospel holds us fast. The gospel is that which gives us comfort when we take a loved one to the cemetery, because it points us to the glorious victory of our salvation in Jesus Christ, and the resurrection of the dead.


The gospel is a lamp unto our feet, and a light upon our pathway to show us the way we ought to go in the midst of this world of darkness and sin. The gospel shines into a covenant home, and says, “This is what you teach your covenant children, for I establish my covenant between thee and Me.” And by the power of that gospel preached in the home, and in the church, and in Christian schools, covenant children are prepared for a life of service in God’s world, as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s the power of the gospel. The power [of] it makes the most powerful hydrogen bomb look like the pop of a small firecracker. It makes the world’s worse earthquake seem like a rattle of keys in a man’s pocket, in comparison with the gospel and its tremendous power to bring the cross and its power to the heart of the elect. That’s the gospel. That’s the power.


You can’t be ashamed of that if you’re a preacher. You do tremble. If you’re a preacher, you’re aware of the astounding calling that is laid upon you, and fills you with awe. There are times when I stand before a congregation, and I almost wish I wasn’t there when I ponder the forces that are unleashed through power of the Spirit, through the preaching of the gospel. What Paul calls “ the foolishness of preaching”. It’s a power that is heavenly in origin, and that’s transforming in its greatness. I am not ashamed of that gospel. If I had to preach an offer, I would be ashamed. To stand before an audience and beg of them to receive the gospel, I would be ashamed to preach that. I would be ashamed to present to the ‘Body of Christ’ a god who is helpless to save.“He loves you, and He wants to save you, but is unable to do it, and leaves it up to you.” I would be ashamed of a god whose power is resistible, because I heard a man, internationally recognized as a Calvinist, with my own ears say, “In election unto irresistible grace, there is an irresistible grace that is resistible.” That is nonsense! I would be ashamed to preach such a message, but I am not ashamed of the gospel [because] it’s the power of God unto salvation.


V.3.a. But why then does God command all men to repent? Why does He hold before them the original creation ordinance? Why does He do that? Because God is sovereign. He’s always sovereign. He always does His good pleasure, and election includes reprobation, sovereign reprobation, by means of the gospel, and the command of the gospel to reprobates hardened in their sin, hardened in the way of their unbelief. Haven’t you ever noticed that? Haven’t you seen that? Witness once, witness to the truth of the gospel, what’s the effect? The effect is this, if you witness not in wishy washy, willy nilly, sulky ways of a free offer. Witness to [a man] the truth, and God will use that witness to bring him to repentance, or that man will come to hate you. “That’s enough! Shut up! I do not want to hear it any more. That doctrine which you preach I hate.” That’s what he will do. That’s why there are so many in the church that won’t believe. It mustn’t alarm you. God works His purpose.


V.3.b. But, oh, let me say this, that as far as the preacher is concerned, who does not know who in his audience are elect or reprobate, his desire is that all who hear the gospel would believe. He can’t express God’s desire to save only the elect. He doesn’t know who they are. When I’m preaching to my congregation, and one of those in my congregation goes astray, it breaks my heart. I plead with them, “Repent of your sin. Turn from your evil ways. Believe in Christ. This is the road your walking [on]. Oh! can’t you see that? ” Yet, in the end, I can only say the command of the gospel with all the passion of my heart. God knows those who are His. Remember Paul,when he wrote to Timothy, and he talked about heretics that discourage the soul of Timothy, he said [2 Timothy 2:19 ] “Timothy, you mustn’t be discouraged, the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knows those who are His. ” That’s clear. God uses that gospel to accomplish His purpose. Paul makes it very clear to the Corinthians [ 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 ] [tha ] the gospel is the savor of life unto life, and the gospel is also a savor of death unto death. Paul has, as it were, another response, “Who is sufficient for these things?” When the wicked rise up against the gospel, and turn fury against the church, persecuting the bride of Christ, their wickedness is complete. The wicked have filled the cup of iniquity. God is righteous. In the Great Day of Days the wicked are sentenced to everlasting darkness.


VI.1.That Gospel is the one gospel that is preached everywhere. No revivalism, no gospel of revival, no gospel for the mission field, and a gospel for the church. No morning service in the church that is an exposition of the doctrine, and an evangelistic sermon at night. That’s a denial of the gospel. The same gospel is preached in a church of a hundred years standing, where the church has been faithful to the cause of God. That gospel is preached among the heathen on the mission field. It makes no difference where, and how, and under what circumstances the gospel is preached. There’s only one gospel, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. ”[ Acts 16:31] Repent of your sin, and believe in Christ.


I preach that. I preach that in a congregation where there are people of seventy and eighty years old who have drunk the reformed faith with their mother’s milk and have walked all their lives in the way of obedience and holiness. They too must every day, as I must, repent of sin and turn from my evil way, and believe in Christ, because I am still, though a child of God, and only in principle, nevertheless a wretched, wretched sinner, who has only a beginning of the new obedience, and who must constantly be softened by the call of the gospel: “Turn from your evil way, and believe in Christ.” When I hear that gospel, and hear Christ Himself speaking to me in that gospel, I say, “Oh, I hate my sin.” I turn from my wicked way. I flee to the cross, because in the shadow of the cross is the only place where there is a refuge and a hiding place in this world from sin. And that’s true of me: that’s true of me at seventy-four years old. That was true of me when I was one year old. That was true of me all my life. That’s the same gospel that is proclaimed on the mission field. Do you worship Buddha? Repent. Repent of your sin. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and they will be saved. That’s the gospel I bring in all my pastoring. That’s the gospel I bring to the children in catechism, no matter how young. There is no other gospel that’s the power of God unto salvation. Repent.

VI.2. And I say therefore to you tonight, repent, don’t say to me you have no sin: you’re not Pharisees are you? Repent. Repent of your sin. Turn from your evil way. Believe in Christ. Cast your all upon Him. Cling to Him. Forsake all your good works. Throw them on the ash heap, away with your good works. Believe in Christ. Put your trust in Him in all the circumstances of life. Believe that He will provide you with all things necessary for body and soul, and He will lead you safely into your everlasting habitation to be with Him for ever and ever. You and I, tonight, stand before that gospel. God will take care of the rest. “Many are called, but few are chosen.” Thank you.

1. Westminster Confession of Faith 10:2 This effectual call is of God's free and special grace alone, not from any thing at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.

2. Canons 3/4:9. It is not the fault of the gospel, nor of Christ, offered therein, nor of God, who calls men by the gospel, and confers upon them various gifts, that those who are called by the ministry of the word, refuse to come, and be converted: the fault lies in themselves; some of whom when called, regardless of their danger, reject the word of life; others, though they receive it, suffer it not to make a lasting impression on their heart; therefore, their joy, arising only from a temporary faith, soon vanishes, and they fall away; while others choke the seed of the word by perplexing cares, and the pleasures of this world, and produce no fruit. - This our Savior teaches in the parable of the sower. Matthew 13.

3.Canons 2:5. Moreover, the promise of the gospel is, that whosoever believeth in Christ crucified, shall not perish, but have everlasting life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of his good pleasure sends the gospel. 

4. Canons 2:8. For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of his Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby he confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation, and given to him by the Father; that he should confer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, he purchased for them by his death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot and blemish to the enjoyment of glory in his own presence forever.

Last modified; 22-Nov-2007