20 August, 2016

FAQ – The Preaching of the Gospel, the Promise of the Gospel, the Command for All to Repent and Believe, the Will of God in the Preaching; Is faith a “condition?



FAQ – The Preaching of the Gospel; the Promise of the Gospel; the Command for All to Repent and Believe; the Will of God in the Preaching; Is faith a “condition?”


Q. 1. “What is the Gospel?”

[The] holy Gospel is the glad tidings of God concerning the Promise of God to the seed of the Promise, those chosen by God as heirs of the Promise in the midst of this dark and comfortless, lost world (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “The Gospel, Or, The Most Recent Attack Against the Truth of Sovereign Grace,” p. 82.)

The gospel is the glad tidings concerning the promise. The whole of Scripture is the revelation of the promise and its realization. With a promise it begins: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). This is the fundamental promise implying all promises. While the rich implications of its contents and meaning are set forth and unfolded, it is repeated to the patriarchs and prophets and to Israel, Judah, and David. It is visibly proclaimed in the shadows and types of the old dispensation—in temple and altar and sacrifice, in prophet and priest and king, in the land of Canaan and Jerusalem and Mount Zion. It is fulfilled in Christ—in his death, resurrection, and exaltation at the right hand of God—and in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. It is the promise of salvation—of the forgiveness of sins and everlasting righteousness and life, of the adoption unto children of God and perfect justification, of the resurrection from the dead and heavenly glory, of the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession and the inheritance of the world, of the eternal kingdom of Christ and the tabernacle of God with men, of the heavenly perfection of Jerusalem and Mount Zion on which the Lord Jesus Christ shall reign forevermore
This promise is one and indivisible, meant for the one seed of Abraham, for all the children of the promise, both of the old and new dispensations, for the one people of God, the holy catholic church. Often the Scriptures simply speak of the promise in the singular, to denote its unity, while the plural promises is also employed to express the manifold riches of the one salvation God prepares for those who love him. However, the promise is always the same for all. There are not two sets of promises—one for Israel and the other for the church, the one earthly and the other heavenly in character. There is one promise for all. The saints of the old dispensation lived by faith in the same promise as do the saints in the new dispensation. They saw the promises afar off, for it was the time of shadows; we behold them as they are centrally fulfilled in Christ. Together we still look forward to the final realization, expecting one and the same revelation of Jesus Christ in the day of His coming. (Herman Hoeksema, “Reformed Dogmatics,” vol. 2, pp. 227-228.)

The gospel is good news, announced to sinners by heralds sent by Jesus Christ. The gospel is not a declaration of what man must do. The gospel is not even a declaration of what God would like to do for man. The gospel is a declaration of what God has done. (Rev. Martyn McGeown, “An Answer to Phil Johnson’s ‘Primer on Hyper-Calvinism’”)

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Q. 2. “What is gospel preaching?”

Gospel preaching is the promiscuous proclamation of a particular promise, in which God promises—not merely offers—salvation to whomsoever believes in Jesus Christ (see Canons II:5), and that this promise—not a mere offer—must be preached to all without distinction with the command to repent and believe. (Rev. Martyn McGeown, “An Answer to Phil Johnson’s ‘Primer on Hyper-Calvinism’”)

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Q. 3. “What is God’s purpose in having the gospel preached?”

God’s purpose in the “offer” [i.e. the gospel call] is to accomplish the salvation of the elect, and leave the reprobate without excuse in their sin. The reprobate “stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed” (I Pet. 2:8).  This is God’s sovereign appointment and purpose which is realized through the preaching of the gospel. Thus the Sum of Saving Knowledge declares: “By these outward ordinances, as our Lord makes the reprobate inexcusable, so, by the power of His Spirit, He applies unto the elect effectually all saving graces purchased to them …”  The biblical offer is the means, therefore, through which God calls all men with an outward call to faith and repentance, and through which outward call He executes His purpose according to predestination, namely, to leave the reprobate as a responsible creature without excuse for his despising Christ; while at the same time, through those same means, but now graciously in the hands of the Spirit of Christ, inwardly, irresistibly and effectually to call His elect to saving faith and repentance unto life. (Rev. Christopher J. Connors, “The Biblical Offer of the Gospel”)

When God sends the gospel forth into all the world, presenting Christ crucified to all who hear the preaching and calling all who hear to repent of their sins and believe on that Christ, His purpose is to save the elect and the elect only. The love that sends forth the gospel, like the love that sent forth Christ in the fullness of time, is the love of God for the elect church. This love is sovereign love. As the call to repent and believe goes out, God the Holy Spirit works that repentance and faith in the hearts of the elect in the audience. He gives us what He calls for, and He gives it by the calling. “Come!” He says, and that sovereignly gracious call draws us irresistibly to Christ. (Prof. David J. Engelsma, “Hyper-Calvinism & the Call of the Gospel” [RFPA, 1994], p. 24.)

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Q. 3. “Why can’t the gospel be said to be an offer in the sense of a tender, a proffer, or a proposal?

In the first place, this is already impossible because according to its content it is a promise, and a promise is surely fulfilled by Him who promises. But, in the second place, this cannot be because there is literally nothing in the gospel, whether you consider it from its objective or from its subjective side, which can be fulfilled by man. It is from beginning to end, in its objective realization and in its subjective application, the gospel of God. But it is also a fact that nowhere do we read of such an offering of the gospel in Holy Scripture. And this is not because Holy Scripture does not speak at all of the proclamation of the gospel. On the contrary, Scripture speaks of this often. But always Scripture employs a word which means to proclaim, to preach, to testify, to speak, never a word similar to offer. Of the Saviour we read that He “preached” the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; 26:13). Paul “preached” the gospel among the heathen (Gal. 2:2; I Thess. 2:9); or he “speaks” the gospel to them (I Thess. 2:2); or he “testifies” the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24). Frequently also a word is used which really means to ‘proclaim glad tidings,’ as in I Corinthians 15:1, II Corinthians 11:7, Galatians 1:11, and Revelation 14:6. But always the same idea is expressed: the gospel must simply be proclaimed. Of an offer we read nowhere. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “The Gospel, Or, The Most Recent Attack Against the Truth of Sovereign Grace,” p. 91.)

What is the gospel? The gospel is good news, announced to sinners by heralds sent by Jesus Christ. The gospel is not a declaration of what man must do. The gospel is not even a declaration of what God would like to do for man. The gospel is a declaration of what God has done.
The gospel cannot be offered. What God has done cannot be offered, as if one were trying to sell something. When I offer you something, I give it with the expectation, hope and desire that you will receive it. “Would you like a cup of tea?” “You are invited to my birthday party.” These are offers—in the sense of a tender, a proffer or a proposal. But the gospel is never an offer. God does not tender, proffer or propose something. In the gospel call, God commands. Therefore, the Bible does not use offer language but serious command language. God never comes to sinners with an offer: “Would you like salvation. It is available for you if you would like it, but if you would rather not, that is fine too.” That is the way in which I offer a cup of tea to a guest in my home. Nothing serious is at stake, if my guest declines my offer of tea.
A much better illustration is that of a summons to a court room. The bailiff of the court comes with a document from the judge. The document is not an offer: “You are cordially invited to attend my court room. I would love it if you could attend, but if it is inconvenient to you, there is no urgency to come.” The summons says, “Come!” And the bailiff has the power of arrest, should you refuse to come, and you will go to jail for contempt of court, if you fail to appear at the time appointed.
The classic passage on the gospel call as a command is the “Parable of the Wedding Feast” in Matthew 22. (Rev. Martyn McGeown, “An Answer to Phil Johnson’s ‘Primer on Hyper-Calvinism’”)

[The] word kaleo [in Matthew 22] proves to us that the gospel comes as a command to all who hear, not as a gracious invitation. If I invite you to my birthday party, that is a gracious invitation, which you are free to accept or reject without any serious consequences. When God, the King in Matthew 22, calls men and women to the wedding feast of His Son, Jesus Christ, He is greatly displeased when they refuse. Moreover, we read that He destroys those who do not come (v. 7). That cannot seriously be understood as a gracious invitation to them. (Rev. Martyn McGeown, “An Answer to Phil Johnson’s ‘Primer on Hyper-Calvinism’”)

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Q. 4. “What is the difference between a promise and an offer?”

[A] promise differs from an offer precisely in all these respects. An offer rests for the certainty of its fulfilment with two parties: the one who offers and those to whom it is offered. A promise is as certain as the faithfulness and veracity of him who promises. Applied to our subject, this means that an offer of grace rests in God and man for its certainty; and since a chain is never stronger than its weakest link, the offer of grace is as certain as the faithfulness and veracity of man, sinful man, a hopelessly lost and wicked world. In other words, all certainty is gone, except the certainty that the cause of God is an altogether lost cause, the certainty that the offer will never be accepted. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “The Gospel, Or, The Most Recent Attack Against the Truth of Sovereign Grace,” p. 82.)

[A] promise is an oral or written declaration whereby the one who promises is bound to do something or to bestow something. The gospel of the promise is, therefore, the glad tidings that God has bound Himself to bestow upon the heirs of the promise eternal life and all things … [An] offer is in the nature of the case general and indefinite; a promise is particular and definite. If the gospel is an offer, then it is glad tidings to all men without distinction; if the gospel is a promise, as Scripture teaches, then it is the glad tidings of God to the heirs of the promise only. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “The Gospel, Or, The Most Recent Attack Against the Truth of Sovereign Grace,” p. 83.)

There is a marked difference between an offer and a promise … a difference that consists mainly in this: that the fulfilment of a promise depends upon the one who makes the promise, while the realization of an offer depends upon the acceptance of the one to whom the offer is made. If the latter is true of the gospel, then the Remonstrants are right. But our fathers speak [in the Reformed confessions] of the gospel, not as an offer, but as a promise. God does not offer something but He does promise something. And when He promises something He will also fulfil His promise.” (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “A Power of God Unto Salvation,” p. 37.)

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Q. 5. “What is the difference between a command and an offer?”

[There] is a considerable difference between a command and an offer. I may offer a man fifty dollars if he will cut my lawn; it is up to him whether he does it or not. But that is quite different than saying to a man: “I order you to cut my lawn and you will be punished if you refuse.” So God does not offer salvation to all men; but He does command all men to repent of their sin and believe in Christ … He is God and has the right to issue such a command. And man, creature that he is, must obey or be destroyed. He does not say to a man: “I love you and want you to be saved; please believe in Christ and I will save you;” no, He says to man: “Repent or go to hell.” (Rev. Herman Hanko, “Common Grace Considered,” p. 16.)

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Q. 6. “What is the difference between a call and an offer?

One might illustrate the stark logical distinction between these two terms thus:

1) A soldier is offered a commission to the rank of officer.

2) A soldier is called back to duty suddenly from halfway through his home leave.

In 1) the soldier may safely decline. In 2) hed better not decline, or else ...

In this, we see that the nature of an offer is such that one is given equal right without threat, let or hindrance to accept the offer or reject it. Effectively, to offer someone something is to grant them free personal choice as to acceptance or rejection of what is offered. It follows too, as night follows day, that to introduce into this equation a threat of severe punishment contingent on rejection of the offer, is effectively to tell the subject that really he has no choice, and that your offer is not really an offer, it is a camouflaged ultimatum.
To conceive of the gospel as an offer is intrinsically to say that it is something that individuals may accept or reject without any personal risk or peril. Hence underlying all this talk of a gospel offer is nothing more than naked Arminianism, based on the notion of free will and free choice.And it carries something else ... in common with its Arminian cousin. It carries intrinsic logical hypocrisy, in that what it portrays as an offer is in point of fact carrying a threat of eternal damnation in hell fire if the offer is rejected. In their very moment of free offer glory, Arminianism and its hybrid cousin, modern Calvinism, hypocritically misrepresent both the notion of what an offer logically and necessarily entails, and simultaneously, in substituting this for the scriptural and confessional assertions that the gospel is a call they obscure the truth of the real gospel. For an offer effectively denies the sacred imperative intrinsic to the gospel, that to reject Christ is to insult God, to trample underfoot the sacred blood of the covenant and to incur a worse damnation in hell than one would have deserved if one had never heard the gospel.
On hearing the true biblical gospel, ***no man has any choice at all.*** No man has the right to disobey the divine injunction: [God] now commandeth all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30), and this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ (I John 3:23). No man can possibly have any right whatsoever to disobey such divine injunctions, and where there are no rights, there can be no choices, and where there can be no choices there can be no offers.(H. L. Williams, “British Reformed Journal” [‘The Free Offer Issue,’ part 6, pp. 27-28])

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Q. 7. “If you agree that God can still command sinners and that His commands remain genuine and serious in spite of their inability to obey, why cannot we also say that God ‘well-meaningly offers salvation’ to both elect and non-elect sinners? What is the difference between God seriously ‘commanding’ them to do something, and God seriously ‘offering’ something to them?”

Whilst we have no problem with the idea that God can and does rightfully apply His preceptive will [His commands] to all sinners, elect and non-elect, the idea that likewise this would legitimise the notion that He can apply an “offer” equally to all moves the logic from the realm of moral right to friendly persuasion. And it would make such an offer a mockery (H. L. Williams, “British Reformed Journal,” issue 48 [Winter 2008], p. 24).

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Q. 8. “Does not the word ‘offer’ appear in Calvin, in other Reformed theologians, and in such Reformed creeds as the Canons of Dordt and the Westminster Confession of Faith?”

A careful reading of many of the Puritan divines claimed as support by the proponents of the “well-meant” offer reveals that they held views that so militated against the idea of contradictory wills within God and universal love and grace, that they can not be so claimed. Admittedly they used the term “common grace” but this had a fundamentally different meaning then from what it has now. It meant what we have described as the goodness of God upon His creation as sovereign benevolent Creator. (Rev. Christopher J. Connors, “The Biblical Offer of the Gospel”)

The word “offer” is used in most of the Reformed creeds and has been used by Calvinists since the Reformation itself. But the question is not, “Did they use it?” so much as, “What did they mean by it?” (British Reformed Journal, Issue 9 [Jan - Mar 1995], p. 25.)

The term “offer” has an entirely different connotation today from its original Latin definition. In the Canons, the term “offer” simply means “to present” or “to set forth.” The idea is that of Acts 13:46, where Paul and Barnabas addressed the Jews, and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” To take the simple concept, well understood by the fathers at Dordt, and to add the baggage associated with the idea of a well-meant offer is unwarranted. (Rev. Steven Key, Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 37, number 2, p. 51.)

Although our quarrel with the offer is not a quibbling over words, the word offer should be dropped from the Reformed vocabulary. Not a biblical term, it is so loaded with Arminian connotations today that it is no longer serviceable. Instead of an offer of the gospel, we should speak of the call of the gospel as the Scriptures do. (Prof. David J. Engelsma, “Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel” [RFPA, 2014], p. 48.)

It is true … that sometimes among Reformed theologians the word “offer” was used in this sense. And when it is used in this sense, we have no quarrel with the idea that is proposed by it. Nevertheless, the idea must be distinguished from what is commonly taught by those who maintain a free offer. The latter teach that through the preaching God expresses His desire, willingness and intention to save all that hear the gospel because it is His revealed will to save all—a will that is rooted in some sense in an atonement which is for all. That through the preaching of the gospel the command to repent of sin and believe comes to all is an entirely different idea. (Prof. Herman C. Hanko, “The History of the Free Offer,” Chp. 4.)

[The] term was used in an entirely different way from that use made of it today. It was not used to express the idea of a desire or intention on God’s part to save all who hear the gospel; it was rather used to emphasize the point that the gospel is preached to many more than the elect, and that through the preaching, Christ is widely proclaimed as the One through Whom God has accomplished salvation; and all who hear are confronted with the command to believe and repent. (Prof. Herman C. Hanko, “The History of the Free Offer,” Chp. 8.)

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For more, see the following:

“The Primary Meaning of Offero in English-Latin Dictionaries”


“The Meaning of Offero and Offer

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Q. 9. “How does the ‘confessional’ (biblical) offer differ from the ‘well-meant’ offer?”

As to its content, the confessional offer includes both the clear setting forth of Christ crucified and God’s way of salvation in Him.  The offer presupposes the setting forth of God’s exalted holiness and the law to convince and convict men of sin and to show them their urgent need of Christ.  It sets forth and displays Christ crucified as the blessed and only Saviour in all His glory, beauty, suitability and sufficiency for the chief of sinners.  It authoritatively declares the command and call of God to all men, without exception, to repent and believe as the only way to life.  It beseeches and with the cords of love and grace, tenderly draws the labouring, heavy-laden sinner to Christ and salvation in Him. It promises the Spirit to the elect to make them able and willing to come,  and it proclaims the particular promise of God, that all who come will surely find mercy.  In short, it must herald the good news of the gospel to sinners—nothing more, and nothing less.
The presentation of the gospel—the “offer”—in its totality does not constitute, or even imply, a “well-meant” offer to all. The presentation of the gospel implies no active delight, desire or longing within God toward the salvation of all in the preaching. All that can be rightfully implied from the gospel offer is that God is pleased to save repentant, believing sinners—nothing more. The “well-meant” offer, however, cannot stand without first presupposing a conditional will of God to the salvation of the reprobate, Christ being dead for all, and general grace. These are, of course the most basic premises of Arminianism.  They, and the offer they create, must be rejected. (Rev. Christopher J. Connors, “The Biblical Offer of the Gospel”)

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Q. 9. “To whom are gospel encouragement and the promise of eternal life restricted to in the preaching? To all that hear? Or only to the Elect?”

Only to the elect. This is also the testimony of the following worthies:

John Knox:

True it is that Isaiah the prophet and Christ Jesus Himself with His apostles do call on all to come to repentance; but that generally is restrained by their own words; to those that thirst, that hunger, that mourn, that are laden with sin as before we have taught. (The Works of John Knox, vol. 5, p. 404)

John Owen:

Multitudes of these invitations and calls are recorded in the Scripture, and they are all of them filled up with those blessed encouragements which divine wisdom knows to be suited to lost, convinced sinners, in their present state and condition. (The Glory of Christ, p. 229)

Samuel Rutherford:

It is most untrue that Christ belongeth to sinners as sinners for then Christ should belong to all unbelievers, how obstinate soever, even to those that sin against the Holy Ghost ... He belongeth only to believing sinners. Those thus and thus qualified are to believe and come to Christ. It is true all sinners are obliged to believe, but to believe after the order of free grace, that is, that they be first self-lost and sick and then be saved by the physician. (Trial and Triumph of Faith [Edinburgh, 1845], pp. 128ff.

John Flavel:

The order of the Spirit’s work in bringing men to Christ, shows us to whom the invitation and offers of grace in Christ are to be made; for none are convinced of righteousness, that is, of the complete and perfect righteousness in Christ for their justification until first they are convinced of sin; and consequently no man comes to Christ by faith till convictions of sin have wakened and distressed him, (John 16:8, 10). This being the order of the Spirit’s operation, the same order must be observed in gospel offers and invitations. (The Method of Grace [Grand Rapids, 1977], p. 205)

Flavel [especially] highlights a fundamentally important truth. He is not saying that evidence of contrition of sin is a pre-requisite to freely preaching Christ crucified like the hyper-Calvinist. Rather, he is pointing out that the promise declared in the offer belongs personally to contrite, believing sinners. When this order is observed there is simply no place for a well-meant offer. There is an order of operation of the Spirit in drawing sinners to Christ, which order determines that there may be no universal conditional promise, as is necessary in the well-meant offer.

(Source: Rev. Christopher J. Connors, “The Biblical Offer of the Gospel”)

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Q. 10. “But God promises to all who humble themselves and seek their salvation in Christ the forgiveness of sins, and everlasting life …”

We agree heartily, but we add to this: then again the gospel is not general, but particular, for only those to whom God imparts grace to do this humble themselves, and God gives that grace only to His elect. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “A Power of God Unto Salvation,” p. 25.) 


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Q. 11. “What about the general demand of faith and conversion?”

If I say to someone—say, my servant—what I want him to do, is that an “offer”? And if in Holy Scripture God comes to all who are under the preaching with the demand that they shall humble themselves and seek their salvation in Christ, is He ‘offering’ them something? Or does He [rather] ‘demand’ something of them? You say, of course: that is no offer, but a demand. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “A Power of God Unto Salvation,” p. 24.) 


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Q. 12. “Does not God will that the gospel be preached to all men?”

The question is not whether God wills that the gospel be preached to all to whom He sends it according to His good pleasure without distinction. No, the question is purely: is that Gospel according to its content a well-meant and general offer on God’s part? (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “A Power of God Unto Salvation,” p. 25.) 


This controversy is not about whether the gospel should be preached to all men and that all should be called to repentance and faith and that the promise of the gospel should be made known to all. All agree to the above, but debate is over the will and desire of God in the call of the gospel. (Rev. Lau Chin Kwee, “Protestant Reformed Theological Journal,” vol. 36, no. 1 [Nov. 2002], p. 29)

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Q. 13. “What is the ground or warrant (i.e. foundation/justification) for preaching the gospel to all men, if not a ‘mercy, grace and love of God to all sinners’ or a ‘desire or will of God for all sinners’ salvation,’ or a ‘sufficient death of Christ for all sinners’”?

The sole ground or warrant for men’s act, in offering [i.e. setting forth] pardon and salvation to their fellow men, is the authority and command of God in His Word. We have no other warrant than this; we need no other, and we should seek or desire none! (William Cunningham, “Historical Theology,” vol. II. p. 347, emphasis added.)

Calvinists, while they admit that pardon and salvation are offered [i.e. set forth] indiscriminately to all to whom the gospel is preached, and that all who can be reached should be invited and urged to come to Christ and embrace Him, deny that this flows from, or indicates, any desire or purpose on God’s part to save all men. (William Cunningham, “Historical Theology,” vol. II. p. 396, emphasis added.)

Some have charged that without a love of God for all and a desire of God to save all, there is no warrant, i.e., foundation or justification, for the call to all men in the preaching. But they are mistaken. Nowhere does Scripture indicate that the warrant for the call to all who hear the preaching is the universal love of God. The church brings to everyone God’s call to repent and believe on Christ crucified because God has commanded her to do so. She knows that God will use that call both as a savor of life and a savor of death (II Cor. 2:16). As she goes forth into all the world sounding the call of the gospel to all to whom God sends her, she does not say, “Behold, God loves you: Come to the marriage.” But she says, “All things are ready: Come unto the marriage” (Matt. 22:4). From the viewpoint of the ones who are called, the warrant of the call is that God has perfected salvation in Jesus Christ (Prof. David J. Engelsma, The Standard Bearer, vol. 50, no. 6 [Dec. 15th 1973], p. 135; emphasis added).

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Q. 14. “Cannot a basis or warrant to preach a ‘sincere and well-meant offer’ to the reprobate be found in the ‘infinite sufficiency’ of Christ’s atonement?”

The sincerity of a well-meant offer to the reprobate not only relies upon the atonement of Christ, but more particularly upon the extent of that atonement. A Divine warrant for the well-meant offer of Christ to all, therefore, requires that [a person] prove from Scripture that the extent and nature of Christ’s atonement answers exactly to the extent and nature of his well-meant offer. That is, the redemption purchased by Christ, in all its efficacy, must be shown to extend at least to every sinner who hears the well-meant offer. It will not do [simply] to appeal to the infinite sufficiency of Christ’s atonement; the question has to do with the efficiency and intention of God in the atonement. The redemption provided in the substitutionary atonement of Christ is, after all, what [some] would have us believe God is sincerely offering all who hear the gospel. Full and free redemption purchased by Christ for all who hear the gospel is, therefore, the only basis that will support [such a] well-meant offer” (Rev. Christopher J. Connors, “The Biblical Offer of the Gospel”)

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Q. 15. “Do we not read in the New Testament that the word of God was proclaimed also to those who went lost (e.g. Acts 13:46)?”

Yes, but the question is not whether the gospel must be preached to all who come under it; but the question is whether that gospel is a well-meant and general offer of salvation. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “A Power of God Unto Salvation,” p. 30.) 


This controversy is not about whether the gospel should be preached to all men and that all should be called to repentance and faith and that the promise of the gospel should be made known to all. All agree to the above, but debate is over the will and desire of God in the call of the gospel. (Rev. Lau Chin Kwee, “Protestant Reformed Theological Journal,” vol. 36, no. 1 [Nov. 2002], p. 29)

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Q. 16. “But the preaching of the gospel can also serve as a protection from all kinds of sins for those who are not saved by it, and to that extent are still spared from a greater eternal punishment … The calling through the law and the gospel restrains sin, decreases guilt, and checks the corruption and the misery of mankind.”

That the preaching safeguards from all sort of sins is only true in the sense that it causes sin to develop in a different manner. In other words, it may safeguard from some forms of sin, only to cause the sin to be revealed in another and worse, be it a more refined form. A very refined professor in an unbelieving university probably does not bow before wood and stone, but he tears the Scriptures to shreds and mocks the cross of Christ. That is worse than gross idol worship. Otherwise, how is it possible that someone’s judgment could ever be increased by the preaching of the gospel? Scripture also gives us a different picture of the influence of the preaching of the gospel upon those who perish. Matters become continually worse with them and they gather unto themselves treasures of wrath.  (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “A Power of God Unto Salvation,” pp. 69-70.)


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Q. 17. “All gospel preaching is in any case not merited and always forfeited.”


If the preaching is not grace for the reprobate, but indeed a savour of death unto death, and that according to God’s intent, as the Scriptures plainly teach, then it is not proper to speak in this connection of gospel preaching as undeserved and forfeited. In that terminology is already implied that it is grace for the reprobate when he hears the gospel. This is certainly not the case. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “A Power of God Unto Salvation,” pp. 69-70.)


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Q. 18. “Is the gospel of God’s grace in Christ to be offered to all men?”

If one would be willing to change the word offer in the question into preaching then I can readily answer in the affirmative. The word offer does not fit in that context, for grace is not offered, but given. Apart from that I would have no objection to the proposition that the preaching must be a proclamation of God’s grace in Christ. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, "A Power of God Unto Salvation," p. 76.)


This controversy is not about whether the gospel should be preached to all men and that all should be called to repentance and faith and that the promise of the gospel should be made known to all. All agree to the above, but debate is over the will and desire of God in the call of the gospel. (Rev. Lau Chin Kwee, “Protestant Reformed Theological Journal,” vol. 36, no. 1 [Nov. 2002], p. 29)

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Q. 19. “In the well-meant offer debate, in what exactly do you differ with the opposing side on the subject of the preaching of the gospel?”


Our difference centres around the question, what is the actual character of that preaching, what must be its content, and what is God’s purpose with this preaching both with the elect and the reprobate? And then our difference with [the majority of the church-world] is this, that [they maintain] and we deny that the preaching of the gospel is a well-meant offer of grace and salvation on the part of God for all mankind. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “A Power of God Unto Salvation,” p. 76.)


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Q. 20. “But the gospel must be preached “to every creature” (Mark 16:15) and “all without distinction” (Canons of Dordt, II:5), right?”


The question is not “To whom must the gospel be preached?” To that question we all answer: To all to whom God in His good pleasure sends it, without distinction … The question indeed is: What must be preached? May a preacher say that God well-meaningly offers His grace to every one head for head? May he say, that it is God’s intent to save all? (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “A Power of God Unto Salvation,” p. 76, emphasis added.)


This controversy is not about whether the gospel should be preached to all men and that all should be called to repentance and faith and that the promise of the gospel should be made known to all. All agree to the above, but debate is over the will and desire of God in the call of the gospel. (Rev. Lau Chin Kwee, “Protestant Reformed Theological Journal,” vol. 36, no. 1 [Nov. 2002], p. 29)


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Q. 21. “God promises to save ‘all’ that are labouring and heavy laden, ‘all’ that thirst, and ‘all’ that come unto Him … Is that not a promise for everyone and not only the elect?”

If I preach in my congregation: “I promise ten dollars to all who have no work and are in need, if they come to me,” then that is a general proclamation of a particular promise. The proclamation is general, the promise is particular. It is a particular offer. When God says: To all those who labour and are heavy laden, who come to Me, I will give rest, then that is indeed a general proclamation, but the promise is particular. When God calls: O all ye that thirst come to the waters, then this is proclaimed in general, but the promise concerns only the elect. When God says: Turn ye unto Me, all ye ends of the earth, then it may be remarked in the first place, that all the ends of the earth does not include every one head for head; but in the second place, that God promises salvation to those who turn to Him, who repent, so that also here you have a particular promise. And since it is God Himself who must work the true labouring and thirst and repentance, it is as plain as day that all these passages basically concern only the elect. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “A Power of God Unto Salvation,” p. 76.)


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Q. 22. “Is not the relationship between the general offer of the gospel and the doctrine of election and reprobation a ‘mystery’? Something ‘incomprehensible’ to our finite mind, and therefore cannot be understood or harmonised?”

[There] is no mystery whatever in the teaching that God causes His gospel to be preached to all without distinction in order to save the elect and to harden the others. The calling through the gospel makes the reprobate wicked responsible, places the depravity of his sinful heart in the clearest light and increases his judgment. That is God’s intent. The result answers completely to God’s intent. And God carries out His counsel. He still maintains man’s responsibility and the justice of God. What is so very incomprehensible here? This is the clear teaching of the Scriptures … 

No, the incomprehensible, the nonsense of the presentation is created when you try to bind the Arminian teaching of a general offer to the Reformed teaching of particular grace. Then you say: God desires to save only the elect; Christ brought atonement only for them; God can give His grace and work conversion only in them; but yet God offers His grace well-meaningly, with the intent of saving them, to all mankind; and if this grace is not accepted the result does not answer to the intent!
This is not a “mystery.” It is nonsense. It is so nonsensical, because the latter is not true, while the former is true; the latter is not in harmony with Scripture, the former is: the latter is not Reformed, the former is thoroughly Reformed. You want to join the lie to the truth. Therefore you end up with a so-called “mystery.” (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “A Power of God Unto Salvation,” pp. 76-77, emphasis added.)

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Q. 23. “The church must work in the world, just as a physician does in a city or town where a serious epidemic has broken out. The doctor goes from house to house and writes everywhere a prescription or gives an injection. He does not know whether all the patients will recover. Presumably a certain number will die, and the physician is convinced of that. If he is a Christian physician, he knows that it is determined by God who will die and who will recover, and all his means cannot change the will of God. But he does not reckon with that for a single moment … That will become evident later. He needs simply to apply the means.”

The example of the doctor who goes about the town with his injection instrument to check a severe epidemic has nothing to do with the issue. The preacher is not such a doctor and he does not possess such injection instruments against the epidemic of sin and death. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “A Power of God Unto Salvation,” p. 82.)


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Q. 24. “[In the offer of salvation, God] does not say in that offer what He Himself will do, or whether or not He will give faith. He has kept that for Himself and has not revealed it to us. He only explains what He desires, what we must do, that we must humble ourselves and seek our salvation alone in Christ.”

The latter is absolutely not true. In the proper preaching of the gospel God declares exactly what He has done and what He does, that He has chosen His people, has reconciled them to Himself in Christ, that He draws them out of darkness into His marvellous light, gives them faith whereby they are justified, sanctifies them, and preserves them, finally to give them glory. God proclaims all this in the preaching of the gospel. He who does not preach this, but, on the contrary, preaches what the individual must do, simply does not preach the gospel of God. But it does lie in the very nature of the case that this grace is no offer. You cannot offer reconciliation, but you can preach it. You cannot offer faith, you can call to faith. You cannot present conversion as an offer, but you can demand it. In one word, grace is never something to be offered, but is a gift of God’s Spirit. But it is simply not true, that the gospel only proclaims what we must do, and not what God does. The very opposite is true. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “A Power of God Unto Salvation,” pp. 82-83, emphasis added.)

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Q. 25. “Is not the preaching of the gospel a blessing for mankind in general in that it activates religion and morality, restrains sin, and checks corruption and misery, and decreases guilt?”


This is certainly not in harmony with God’s Word, which teaches plainly that the guilt of those who reject the gospel is increased and they in due time will be beaten with double stripes. Nor is this in harmony with the history of Israel, which makes a point to teach us that no nation is so wicked as the one that in a historical sense abides under the covenant, and yet is rejected. Nor is this in harmony with Christendom, which offers us the same spectacle as that of Israel. Nor is it in harmony with our experience. Sin may take on another form, may present itself to us in a more refined form, but never can we speak of improvement or a restraint of sin through the preaching of the gospel. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “A Power of God Unto Salvation,” p. 83.)


This presentation of the influence of the gospel on the reprobate ungodly is certainly not in harmony with the Reformed confessions. The Heidelberg Catechism teaches that by nature we daily increase our debt, that God is terribly displeased with our original and actual sins, and that he will punish them in his just judgment temporally and eternally. Nor is this presentation in harmony with the teaching of the word of God. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “The Rock Whence We Are Hewn,” p. 380.)

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Q. 26. “One should not look for texts in God’s Word in which it is said to the reprobate expressly and in so many words in the external calling: ‘this means you too.’ God does not incriminate Himself and therefore does not repeatedly defend His sincerity by assuring us: ‘Now I mean what I say.’”

Why should we not look for texts in God’s Word in which God also says to the reprobate in so many words that God also means them, loves them, seeks their good, wills their salvation and well-meaningly offers that salvation? … God the Lord does precisely that in various ways for His elect. He assures them of His unchangeable faithfulness and eternal love, of His covenant which knows no wavering. He even swears by Himself. Why, if He indeed well-meaningly offers salvation to all men, also to the reprobate, should He not also be willing to give them the assurance of His faithful love? The answer is simple enough: that faithful love toward the reprobate simply does not exist. And as little as that faithful love of God toward the reprobate exists, so little does God set it forth in the presentation of the Gospel as though it does indeed exist. And therefore you must not search Scripture for such passages which indeed proclaim such a faithful love of God toward the reprobate. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “A Power of God Unto Salvation”)


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Q. 27. “Is the Gospel an invitation?”

Is [the gospel] an invitation of Christ? Well, only if you understand that an invitation from the King of kings comes as a command. An invitation to a birthday party of a friend you may accept or reject. An invitation from the Lord of heaven and earth is a command that you had better obey—or lose your life!
It is, therefore, a command, without doubt. But it is couched in a way that, in the Lord’s command to come to Him with the burden of sin, He speaks tenderly and with infinite love, for He woos God’s elect to Him by sweet words. He knows how great the burden of the sin of His people can be. He knows how, crushed beneath their sin, they wonder whether God can possibly ever receive them. He knows that they are so ashamed that to come to Christ seems a boldness too great for an unworthy sinner.
The words are calculated to give us courage, courage in Christ’s love for us, a love that is too great for us to comprehend. The Lord does not say to you and me, “Come to Me—or else.” His voice is not harsh and threatening. He comes in His love for poor, chastised, frightened sinners who know their sins make them unworthy even for Christ to take a quick glance in their direction. “Come to Me ... I fulfilled the law for you who cannot keep it. I will give you rest—rest in salvation by grace alone!” (Prof. Herman C. Hanko, Covenant Reformed News, vol. 14, no. 2 [June 2012], emphasis added.)

[Some] might object to the word “invitation” … and point out that, after all, an invitation is subject to the acceptance or rejection of the one who receives it. While this is surely true among men, Christ’s “invitation” is the “invitation” of the King, which one rejects at the peril of his life. (Prof. Herman C. Hanko, “The History of the Free offer,” chapter 8, footnote 93, emphasis added.)

[The] word kaleo [in Matthew 22] proves to us that the gospel comes as a command to all who hear, not as a gracious invitation. If I invite you to my birthday party, that is a gracious invitation, which you are free to accept or reject without any serious consequences. When God, the King in Matthew 22, calls men and women to the wedding feast of His Son, Jesus Christ, He is greatly displeased when they refuse. Moreover, we read that He destroys those who do not come (v. 7). That cannot seriously be understood as a gracious invitation to them. (Rev. Martyn McGeown, “An Answer to Phil Johnson’s ‘Primer on Hyper-Calvinism’”)

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Q. 28. “Is not the idea that the promises of the gospel are ‘limited to the elect only’ a form of hyper-Calvinism?”

This simply is not true. And it is not true because this view is the traditional view of those theologians from the time of Calvin on who have maintained the particular character of salvation and grace. If this is hyper-Calvinism, all the fathers at Dordt were hyper-Calvinists! (Prof. Herman C. Hanko, “The History of the Free Offer,” Chp. 6.)

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Q. 29. “If you aren't desiring the salvation of your hearers you have no business preaching.”

The issue between the well-meant offer, on the one hand, and the doctrine of particular, efficacious grace in the call, on the other hand, is not whether we desire all to whom we preach or witness to come to Christ and be saved, but whether God desires this ... Fact is, that even the natural desire of the preacher and the church that all in the congregation or on the mission field be saved by the work of the preacher and church, in the way of repentance and faith, is consciously subjected to the sovereign will of God in predestination. Paul conducted his ministry “for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (II Tim. 2:10). (Prof. David J. Engelsma, Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 47, no. 2 [April 2014], p. 70, emphasis added.)

[Pastors are to] invite all their hearers promiscuously to repentance and faith as the only way of salvation, and, supposing these, to salvation; and they ought to intend nothing else than the gathering of the church or the salvation of the elect. (Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology 15.2.22, emphasis added.)

Pastors do not know who will benefit from their preaching. They certainly cannot distinguish between the elect and the reprobate. In charity they may wish the best for all; and they dare not judge any person to be reprobate. At the same time, however, their intention is none other than that of the Lord: they intend only the salvation of the elect, whoever they may be. (Dr. Raymond A. Blacketer, commenting on Francis Turretin’s, Institutes of Elenctic Theology 15.2.22, in “The Three Points in Most Parts Reformed”)

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Q. 30. “How does the doctrine of limited atonement/particular redemption pose a real problem for the teaching of the general, well-meant offer?”

[If] Christ died and paid the price of redemption for the elect only, and for none other, then God has no salvation to offer the reprobate. The benefits of the cross were purchased only for the elect. How, then, can it be truthfully said—not only by the human preacher, but by God Himself—that He offers salvation to all and that He desires the salvation of all? Such an offer cannot possibly be bonafide!

[What] kind of God does the offer-theology presuppose? A God who desires the salvation of all, but who does not provide for their salvation? A God who is able certainly to save whomsoever He desires to save, and who claims that He desires the salvation of all and is filled with lovingkindness toward all, but who nevertheless neither redeems, nor calls effectually, nor justifies, nor adopts, nor sanctifies, nor preserves? Among men anyone who would thus conduct himself would be called a cruel fraud and deceiver! And how much more is this true of such a God! Yet this is the God of the offer-theology! (Prof. Homer C. Hoeksema, The Standard Bearer, vol. 49, issue 21 [Sept. 1973].)

He who would attempt to hold on to both particular atonement and the free offer becomes guilty of making God out to be a dreadful, mocking monster. God invites all men to be saved, genuinely wills and desires their salvation, but does not have salvation for all? What is more, He does not even make salvation possible for all? He does not provide payment for all? What kind of God is it who thus teases men, who thus toys with men’s souls? No one has ever made it clear how the offer-theory can be harmonized with the veracity of God, nor with the truthfulness of Him who is the way, and the truth, and the life. And that preacher who proclaims a free offer in the name of God takes upon himself a heavy responsibility, and will have to give account some day of his tampering with the gospel of the Scriptures! (Prof. Homer C. Hoeksema, The Standard Bearer, vol. 50, issue 6 [Dec. 1973].)

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Q. 31. “Is there, indeed, a connection between ‘common grace’ and ‘saving grace,’ in spite of the fact that the theory of ‘common grace’ has historically tried to distinguish ‘common grace’ as having nothing to do with salvation?”

Yes. And our reasons are as follows:

1. Those … who are acquainted with the “first point” of 1924 will recall that the doctrine of the well-meant offer was almost accidentally adopted as a proof for the theory of “common grace” (a supposedly temporal and non-saving grace toward the reprobate). The Synod of 1924, in its desperation to find proof for “common (non-saving) grace” appealed to the theory of the general, well-meant offer of salvation, and then tried to adduce scriptural and confessional proof for the latter theory. 

2. In the “Dekker Case” in the Christian Reformed Church during the 1960s, this same connection was claimed; and there were those who wanted to eliminate any distinction between two different graces.

3. The theory of a non-saving grace of God is actually an impossible theory. Logically it is impossible to entertain. How can God be favourably inclined toward a man, and at the same time be filled with hatred against him, so that He damns that man forever? Or, what kind of grace is it which lets a man go lost? Because of this inherent contradiction, no one can long entertain the theory of a common grace of God before he comes to the conclusion that God also wills and desires the salvation of the reprobate. To be sure, he then still faces the inherent contradiction between this desire to save the reprobate and the decree of eternal reprobation. But that difficulty is solved, of course, by ignoring or denying the latter. What is left, then, is rank universalism.


4. From another point of view, the theory of “common grace” and the theory of the “free offer” are both intrinsically universalistic. They differ as respects their ends, their results, their manifestations. But they have a common origin: a universal favour of God. (Source: Prof. Homer. C. Hoeksema, The Standard Bearer, vol. 50, issue 7, [Jan. 1974].)


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Q. 32. “Did not Dr. Abraham Kuyper want to distinguish his ‘common grace” sharply as having nothing to do with salvation? And when it came to the matter of salvation, he insisted upon sovereign, particular grace? He distinguished between ‘common grace’ and ‘general grace.’”

Yes, but it seems apparent that ultimately such an attempted distinction is doomed to failure. “Common grace” and the Arminianism of the “free offer” have their common ancestor in a universal favour of God which includes the reprobate. (Source: Prof. Homer. C. Hoeksema, The Standard Bearer, vol. 50, issue 7, [Jan. 1974].)

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Q. 33. “So you think that common grace necessarily leads into general grace?”

Grace is grace. And if that grace, favour, or lovingkindness is universal (common) in one respect, what real reason is there to hold that it is not universal (general) with respect to the gospel as well? In fact, if God is at all gracious to the reprobate, how can one possibly avoid the idea that God also wants to save the reprobate ungodly? And the history of doctrine has shown that the latter position has been the inevitable development of the common grace position. This was the case in the Christian Reformed Church in 1924 amid all the confusion of that synod’s delegates. It has been the case in the Netherlands also; in fact, as I have shown in writing about the Netherlands situation, today they even speak of an “anonymous word of promise” that goes out to the non-Christian world. You see, any kind of universalism with respect to God’s grace is an extremely virulent poison! (Source: Prof. Homer. C. Hoeksema, The Standard Bearer, vol. 50, issue 7, [Jan. 1974].)

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Q. 34. “Is God ‘serious’ when He calls or commands all men to repent and believe?”

[This] command or call is serious. God means exactly what He says. He is not joking when He comes to all with this command. He is not saying something in the gospel that is not really true. Quite the opposite is the case. Man was originally created perfect and upright. When man fell in Adam, he fell by his own sinful choice. His depravity which made it impossible for him any longer to serve God becomes his lot in life because of God’s just judgment upon the sinner. But God does not, on that account, require any less of man than He did at the beginning. God is God. He remains just and holy and righteous in all His ways. He does not now say: “Oh, you are such a poor sinner, no longer able to do what I have commanded; I will no longer require of you that you serve me and flee from your sins. It is perfectly all right if you do less than you were originally required to do.” Oh, no! Then God would not be just and righteous. God still insists that this man serve him. And man is confronted with that demand every time the gospel comes to him. (Source: Prof. Herman C. Hanko, The History of the Free Offer, Chp. 3.)

God is serious, in earnest, about this. God is not indifferent to sin and unbelief. God does not say that He does not care whether people believe or not. Will God send preachers but remain indifferent as to whether sinners believe in Jesus? Will God remain unconcerned if sinners despise His Son in unbelief? Of course not! God is so serious about this that He threatens eternal damnation upon those who refuse to believe and to repent! (Rev. Martyn McGeown, “An Answer to Phil Johnson’s ‘Primer on Hyper-Calvinism”)

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Q. 35. “Doesn’t God’s ‘commands’ imply His desire or intention?”

[His] command implies neither the intention of God nor the ability of man. A command only teaches us what our duty is. (Rev. Martyn McGeown, “An Answer to Phil Johnson’s ‘Primer on Hyper-Calvinism”)

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Q. 36. “But if God really is serious and means what He says in the call to repent and believe, doesn’t that mean that God ‘desires’ the salvation of all who hear the gospel? If not, why not?”

[The fact that God is serious in His calling men to repent and believe] does not mean that God earnestly desires the salvation of all hearers. It cannot mean that, because God did not elect all to salvation (in fact, He reprobated many of those who in time hear the gospel); Christ did not die for all men (in fact, God has nothing to offer the reprobate who hear the gospel); and the Holy Spirit does not work graciously in the hearts of all hearers to regenerate them and work faith in them (in fact, the Spirit hardens many who hear the gospel).7 Since the Triune God does nothing for the salvation of the reprobate—He neither elects, nor redeems, nor regenerates them—how could He, then, in the preaching of the gospel desire (even seriously, ardently and passionately desire) the salvation of the same reprobate? …

… [It] is the Arminian—and not the Calvinist—who defines serious (serio) as “a sincere and completely unhypocritical intention and will to save all” who hear the gospel.** (see note below.)

** “The Opinions of the Remonstrants” in Peter Y. De Jong (ed.), Crisis in the Reformed Churches (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformed Fellowship Inc., 1968), pp. 226-227.

(Rev. Martyn McGeown, “An Answer to Phil Johnson’s ‘Primer on Hyper-Calvinism”)

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Q. 37. “So, in order for God to ‘offer’ something to the reprobate, a universal death of Christ is first needed in order for that to be made possible? … that there must be a universal cross of Christ as a basis for such an offer?”

[Yes]. John Piper, another modern “Calvinist,” [also] understands this, which is why he argues that Christ died for all men in some sense, in order to make it possible for God to make a bona fide “offer” of salvation to all men, a scheme which has no basis in Scripture and which certainly falls foul of the Canons of Dordt (especially II:8-9; R:2-4). (Rev. Martyn McGeown, “An Answer to Phil Johnson’s ‘Primer on Hyper-Calvinism.’”)

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Q. 38. “Could you name a few passages that plainly deny that according to God’s intention the preaching of the gospel is grace to all who hear?”

Isaiah 6:9-13
Mark 4:11-12
Matthew 11:25-26
John 12:39-40
Romans 11:7-10
II Corinthians 2:14-15

For an overview of each of the above texts, see the following article:

“Six Texts” (Herman Hoeksema)

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Q. 39. “Can we say to the unregenerate, to the wicked, ‘All things are a curse to you’?”

I answer, most assuredly. I always preach that all things are a curse to them if they do not repent. (Source: Rev. Herman Hoeksema, Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 2, no. 1, Dec. 1968)

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Q. 40. “Why can’t it be said that the free offer of the gospel (the indiscriminate preaching) is a temporary token of mercy upon the reprobate?”

[An] unfounded assumption [is made] here: that the preaching of the gospel is always and everywhere a token of God’s favour to every hearer. But this is simply not the case. Scripture is clear that it will be worse for those who hear and reject the gospel than for those who never heard it. This is clear, for example, from Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:20-24. The point is that the greater the light we have, the greater our guilt and the sorer our punishment if we reject it. Consequently, for the reprobate to hear the gospel and reject it, and for them to receive many good gifts such as food, health and houses, and be unthankful makes their punishment sorer. So, one must ask, how is it that greater guilt and sorer punishment can be favour? Such is a strange favour indeed! (Source: Philip Rainey, “Calvinism Cast Out: The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland and the Free Offer of the Gospel”)

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Q. 41. “Can it not be said that God, in sending the gospel to some people, must be showing these people favor since He gives them a chance to be saved, while to many others the gospel has never even come once in all their lifetime?”

God has His own purpose in sending the gospel to some and not to others. There is no indication of grace in this activity of God, just as there is no indication of grace when God sends rain or sunshine upon the wicked. The grace of God is not in things. (Source: Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 35, no. 2, [April 2002], p.35.)

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Q. 42. “Why cannot ‘repentance’ and ‘faith’ be proclaimed as ‘conditions’ to salvation?”

When repentance and faith are demanded as prerequisites for salvation, they become something outside of the pale of salvation and must be met by a man first before God’s salvation will start operating in his life. What is demanded becomes meritorious for salvation. (Source: Rev. Lau Chin Kwee, Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 36, no. 1 [Nov. 2002], p. 27.)

Evangelical repentance is the gift of free grace; faith is the gift of God. What is God’s, as a gifjt to bestow, cannot be man’s duty to perform as a condition of salvation. Those who are invited to look to Christ, to come to Him for salvation, are very minutely described: they are the weary and heavy laden with sin, the penitent, the hungry and thirsty soul, etc. These are the characters invited to come and believe in Christ, and not all men (Matt. 11:28; Isa. 55:1; Mark 2:17). (Christopher Ness, “An Antidote Against Arminianism” [Huntington, West Virginia: Publishers of Baptist Literature, 1982], pp. 72-73.)

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Q. 43. “Do not the Westminster Standards and the Reformed confessions often speak of ‘faith’ as a ‘condition’?”

[The] Westminster Confession of Faith and the Reformed tradition uses the term condition to express the idea of the necessary means through which God works salvation. Faith as a condition was merited, is promised and bestowed by Christ through His Spirit upon “those whom God hath predestinated unto life and those only.”179 The Synod of Dort dealing with the Arminian heresy of general love and grace, also repudiated the whole idea of faith as a condition in the sense of a “pre-requisite”:

... the Synod rejects the errors of those ... who teach that He chose out of all possible conditions ... the act of faith which from its very nature is undeserving ... as a condition of salvation …

... the Synod rejects the errors of those ... who teach that faith, the obedience of faith, holiness, godliness and perseverance are not fruits of the unchangeable election unto glory, but are conditions180

Faith, within the Covenant of Grace, is not a condition to be met by the sinner in order to be saved. It is a benefit which flows from Christ to the elect. It is not a pre-requisite, but a free gift bestowed upon the sinner as the divinely appointed means of union with Christ. It is in this light that faith is to be viewed in relation to the call and promise of the gospel. God seriously and sincerely calls all who hear the gospel to believe. He promises life to all who believe. He “promises to give the Spirit to all those who are ordained unto life to make them willing and able to believe.”181 He sovereignly and graciously bestows the promised gift, effectually drawing the elect sinner to Christ as He is presented in the gospel. There is no condition within the Covenant of Grace that is not fulfilled in and bestowed by Christ as Mediator of the grace of that covenant.

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NOTES:


180. Canons of Dordt, Head I, Rejection of Errors Section, 3, 5.


181. Westminster Confession, 7:3.

(Rev. Christopher J. Connors, “The Biblical Offer of the Gospel”)

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Q. 44. “You say that there’s a fundamental difference in meaning between the ‘offer’ spoken of in ‘free/well-meant offer’ and the ‘offer’ spoken of in Calvin’s writings and the Westminster Standards/Three Forms etc. Can you provide an illustration that demonstrates the two different meanings of the word ‘offer’?”

Rev. Daniel Holstege (PRCA missionary in the Philippines) gives us the following illustration to teach us the difference between the two meanings:

Meaning number one:
“Jeremiah, I offer you this Psalter. Would you like it? It’s for you. You can take it if you want.”

Meaning number two:

“Jeremiah, This is a Psalter. Take this Psalter. I’m calling you to take this Psalter.”

The difference is as follows:


The one is presenting and ‘calling.’ The other is presenting, but instead saying “If you like it you can take it; if you don’t like it you don’t have to take it. It’s up to you, and there’s really no big problem at all.”


One is a command/imperative. The other is more like an invitation to a birthday party.


The gospel is a “call,” not a mere “invitation.”

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For more, see the following:

“The Primary Meaning of Offero in English-Latin Dictionaries”


“The Meaning of Offero and Offer

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Q. 45. “Does not a denial of the free offer hamper our preaching? Doesn’t it hamstring missions and genuine evangelism?”

We ought to make clear to others and we must be aware ourselves that our denial of the free offer in no way hampers our preaching or hamstrings missions and genuine evangelism. Men lay this charge against those who deny the free offer. In a recent work on hyper-Calvinism, Peter Toon has written:

The combined influence of the Hyper-Calvinists mentioned above was to produce in the churches connected with them, and amongst those whom they influenced, a tendency only to maintain their churches but not to expand them.11

Hulse charges that “hyperism undoubtedly affects preaching and teaching and is very dangerous because it can stultify and destroy the witness and life of a church” (The Free Offer, p. 15). As churches, and as preachers, we are able to preach to the unconverted. We proclaim Christ crucified to them, presenting Christ in the preaching of His Word, always, of course, as the righteousness of God. We pass upon them the judgment of the gospel, that they are by nature guilty and totally depraved, children of wrath, exposed to the damnation of hell except they repent. We call them, in the Name of God, to repent and believe. As we command all men everywhere to repent, we proclaim to all the promise that whosoever believeth in Christ crucified shall not perish, but have everlasting life. This is Reformed preaching.12 This was the preaching and procedure of the apostles.

Let those who intend to be Reformed, and truly Calvinistic, compare the notion of the free offer with the teaching of the Canons of Dordt. The Canons speak only of God’s love for the elect in Christ, of a desire of God that the elect be saved, and of a grace of God that is particular and sovereign. It knows nothing, absolutely nothing, of a love of God for all, of a desire that all be saved, or of a grace, whether in the preaching or elsewhere, that fails to save. But does this imply a weakening of the preaching? Does this mean a hindrance to a serious call by God and by the church to all to whom God sends the gospel? Such has been the accusation of the Arminians from of old. But the Canons give the lie to this accusation, most fully and most clearly. Those who hold to the free offer out of fear that otherwise they lose the preaching must see this. And we ourselves must see this, so that we never apply our denial of the offer wrongly. The Canons begin with the importance of “the joyful tidings” as the means by which men are brought to faith” (I, 3). They stress that the preaching must promiscuously proclaim the (particular) promise “together with the command to repent and believe” (II, 5). They insist that the call of the gospel in the preaching is “serious” (III/IV, 8). They conclude with an encomium to the preaching: “And as it hath pleased God, by the preaching of the gospel, to begin this work of grace in us, so he preserves, continues, and perfects it by the hearing and reading of his word …” (V, 14).

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NOTES:

11. Peter Toon, The Emergence of Hyper-Calvinism in English Nonconformity (London: The Olive Tree, 1967), p. 150.

12. Cf. Canons, II:5.

(Prof. David J. Engelsma, The Standard Bearer, vol. 50, no. 6 (Oct. 15, 1995), p. 136)

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Q. 46. What does the call of the gospel express, inform or reveal specifically to the reprobate that hear it if not God’s ‘love’ for him or God’s ‘desire to save’ him?”

As far as the reprobate unbeliever is concerned, the nature of the call is that it is a demand that sets forth his duty. It does not express God’s love for him nor God’s desire to save him. It certainly does not imply the ability of the one who is called to do what he is commanded to do, any more than God’s demand to fallen men to keep His law implies their ability to do so. But the call expresses the sinner’s responsibility. (Prof. David J. Engelsma, The Standard Bearer, vol. 50, no. 6 (Oct. 15, 1995), p. 135)

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Q. 47. “God must love, be gracious toward and pursue the reprobate with salvation … Otherwise, how can he be genuinely held accountable for his rejection of Christ?

This is to deny God’s sovereign right to command the whole duty of sinners. When God commands, the sinner is obligated to obey. (Rev. Christopher J. Connors, “The Biblical Offer of the Gospel”)

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Q. 48. “In the light of limited atonement, how are the elect to be assured that redemption is for them personally unless the preacher presents the gospel as a well-meant offer to all that hear?”

The elect may be variously named in the preaching: those who repent, they that believe in Christ, that hunger for the bread of life, that thirst for the water of life, that seek, knock, ask, that come to Christ, etc. etc. But they are always the elect … [The reprobate] too, may be called by different names, such as, the impenitent, the wicked, the unbelievers, etc. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “The Clark-Van Til Controversy,” pp. 47-48)

In the biblical offer, Christ promises “rest” to the “weary and heavy laden” sinner, “water and bread of life” to the spiritually “thirsty and hungry” and salvation to the man who sees himself as sick and perishing in sin; never is God’s promise made generally to those who are carnally secure and smugly self-righteous.184 This is so, because it is through the means of the outward call of the gospel Christ effectually calls His sheep by name. They recognize their spiritual name and heed the Shepherd’s call. The elect sinner hears himself described in his spiritual condition: a heavy laden, weary, hungry, thirsty, poor, guilty sinner. Ah!, cries the awakened sinner with wonder: He calls me! Jesus is calling me! I will flee to Him who so graciously calls me, the sinner, to rest and life. For I see Him now as the altogether lovely one, the Saviour of God’s providing who is able to save sinners like me. This is the overwhelming tender kindness of God’s love (Jer. 31:3). It melts the heart, overcomes all resistance and draws the elect sinner to Jesus Christ in wholehearted approbation of God’s way of salvation in Him. The elect sinner sees Christ as the answer to his every need, his all sufficient and blessed Saviour. (Rev. Christopher J. Connors, “The Biblical Offer of the Gospel”)

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Q. 49. “What must the preacher of the Gospel say of God’s intention with respect to the reprobate?”

[I]n the light of Scripture, he should say: God seeks His own glory and justification in preparing the reprobate for their just damnation even through the preaching of the Gospel. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “The Clark-Van Til Controversy,” p. 48)

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Q. 50. “What does true gospel call look like?”

The Reformed preacher will labour earnestly to impress upon every hearer through sound doctrine the perfect sufficiency, suitableness and graciousness of Jesus Christ to save to the uttermost all who flee unto Him by faith. He will call every sinner earnestly, patiently and with tears to repent and believe. He will proclaim without hesitation God’s faithful promise that there is in Christ full and free salvation for every sinner who comes. But, he will not make unfounded assertions that go far beyond his clear warrant of Scripture. He is therefore, both unfettered in his preaching, and free from the insincerity that is inherent in [the conception of the] well-meant offer. (Rev. Christopher J. Connors, “The Biblical Offer of the Gospel”)

We proclaim Christ crucified to [the unconverted], presenting Christ in the preaching of His Word, always, of course, as the righteousness of God. We pass upon them the judgment of the gospel, that they are by nature guilty and totally depraved, children of wrath, exposed to the damnation of hell except they repent. We call them, in the Name of God, to repent and believe. As we command all men everywhere to repent, we proclaim to all the promise that whosoever believeth in Christ crucified shall not perish, but have everlasting life. This is Reformed preaching. This was the preaching and procedure of the apostles. (Prof. David J. Engelsma, “Our Protestant Reformed Position Regarding the Free Offer of the Gospel”)

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Q. 51. “How should the promise of the gospel be preached?”

The biblical offer requires a close and personal applying of the promise of salvation and life in such a way that it reaches out to the convicted sinner to encourage him to come and rest upon Christ in true faith. To the penitent believer there is indeed the assurance that it is God’s desire and delight to give Christ and all the blessings of the Covenant of Grace in Him. The faithful preacher of the gospel proclaims the truth of God’s will, delight and faithful promise to receive all penitent, believing sinners. In the offer of the gospel the love of Christ reaches out in the promise to tenderly encourage and sweetly draw the convicted sinner into His life and rest. This aspect of the preaching in which God draws the convicted sinner unto Christ with bowels of love and tenderness is a vital aspect of the truth of the gospel call. The cords of God’s love are personal and particular and exceeding sweet to the burdened sinner. In the preaching this must be evident. (Rev. Christoper J. Connors, “The Biblical Offer of the Gospel”)

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Q. 52. “How does it imply that God is insincere in the well-meant offer towards the reprobate?”

[T]here are clear evidences of insincerity in the “well-meant” offer … [No] basis [can be shown] in either God’s decree of election—His intention to give—nor [is there a] basis in Christ’s substitutionary and limited atonement—the content of God’s offer and promise. Without a basis in the blood of Christ there can be no sincerity. (Rev. Christoper J. Connors, “The Biblical Offer of the Gospel”)

We do not for a moment question the sincerity of God in the offer of the gospel when the “offer” is rightly understood. Rather, we insist that the “well-meant” offer … cannot be sincere, because it has no basis in the blood of Christ, apart from which there is no salvation to offer.
The sincerity of a “well-meant” offer to the reprobate not only relies upon the atonement of Christ, but more particularly upon the extent of that atonement. A divine warrant for the “well-meant” offer of Christ to all, therefore, requires [proof] from Scripture that the extent and nature of Christ’s atonement answers exactly to the extent and nature of [the so-called] “well-meant” offer. That is, the redemption purchased by Christ, in all its efficacy, must be shown to extend at least to every sinner who hears the “well-meant” offer. It will not do … to [merely] appeal to the infinite sufficiency of Christ’s atonement; the question has to do with the efficiency and intention of God in the atonement. The redemption provided in the substitutionary atonement of Christ is, after all, what [the theory of the well-meant offer] would have us believe God is sincerely offering all who hear the gospel. Full and free redemption purchased by Christ for all who hear the gospel is, therefore, the only basis that will support [the so-called] “well-meant” offer. (Rev. Christoper J. Connors, “The Biblical Offer of the Gospel”)

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Q. 53. “Can it not be said that God’s ground for the well-meant offer of the gospel is ‘essentially mysterious’?”

[This is to say that either] the basis of the universal “well-meant” offer is a contradiction that faith believes, or, [that] there is no basis but [one] refuses to acknowledge it. Either way this response is not to be accepted or allowed to slip quietly past, hidden in a cloud of rhetoric. [One] must show some basis in Christ's atonement for the well-meant offer. (Rev. Christoper J. Connors, “The Biblical Offer of the Gospel”)




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