In connection with our articles on hyper-Calvinism, one reader has responded as follows: "I found your articles on Hyper-Calvinism very good.... My reservation re the Hyper articles is your denial of the free offer of the gospel (see attached cutting from ‘Calvin's Wisdom' by Graham Miller) as by denying the free offer you are yourself a Hyper-Calvinist (but not as high as some)!"
It is indeed true that we reject the so-called "free offer of the gospel," or "well-meant offer," as we prefer to call it. We would emphasize, however, that our objection is not so much to the word "offer" as to the theology behind that word.
We have no difficulty, for example, with the statement in the Westminster Confession of Faith, that God "freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ" (VII, 3). This is, however, further defined there as God's: "requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe."
Here the "offer" of the gospel is understood to refer to (1) the gospel call to faith and repentance; and (2) the promise of God (to the elect only) that He will be gracious to them and give them what He requires. The word "offer" may not be the best word to describe this, but we are not going to quibble about the word itself.
What we object to is the theology that lies behind the common use of the word "offer" today. When today people speak of the offer of the gospel they mean something far different from the Westminster Confession of Faith.
The word "offer" today is usually used to teach that God loves all men without exception, and in that love "holds out" salvation to them with the desire that every one of them receive it. God, it is said, wills the salvation of all men and expresses in the gospel the desire and intention that all without exception be saved. To this we object.
Some even go that step further and say that God actually has something to "offer" them. He sent Christ to die for all without exception, and therefore salvation is available to all and can be offered to all. To this also we object.
Such notions conflict with the Biblical doctrines of predestination, limited atonement, and irresistible grace. If God willed the salvation of some only in eternity, how can He will the salvation of all in the gospel? If Christ did not die for all, what does God have to offer to all? If God's grace is all-powerful and He desires the salvation of all without exception, why are all not saved?
That theology was also rejected by Calvin, though he often used the word "offer." To give just one quote, Calvin says, "After this, Pighius, like a wild beast escaped from his cage, rushes forth, bounding over all fences in his way, uttering such sentiments as these: ‘The mercy of God is extended to every one, for God wishes all men to be saved; and for that end He stands and knocks at the door of our heart, desiring to enter'" (Treatise on Predestination, p. 152).
- Volume: 7
- Issue: 6
Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)
Ordained: November 1979
Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/
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