17 November, 2016

The History of the Free Offer: Chapter Eleven: “Analysis and Positive Statement”

Prof. Herman C. Hanko

We have now reached the end of our historical survey of the doctrine of the free offer. It remains for us to point out the errors of the free offer and set forth the truth of Scripture over against it.

A great deal of confusion is present in the ecclesiastical world concerning this matter of the free offer. There are those who insist that any denial of the free offer is in fact hyper-Calvinism. This has become so common a notion that people who hear of anyone who denies the free offer, instinctively and with a knee-jerking reaction, brand such a one as a “hyper,” who refuses to preach the gospel to all men, but insists that it can be preached only to the elect.

There are hyper-Calvinists in our day; and they do indeed take the position that it is proper and right to limit the preaching to the elect only. Such are the Gospel Standard people in England, e.g. And they are also to be found in this country.110 But a denial of the free offer does not automatically place one in the hyper-Calvinist camp. We who deny that the preaching of the gospel is a well-meant or free offer, emphatically assert both that the gospel is preached to all who hear and must be preached to all who hear. In fact, this very truth is incorporated in the Canons of Dordt, to which Confession we whole-heartedly subscribe. Canons II, 5 emphatically asserts:
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.

And in III & IV, 9 the Canons speak of those who reject the gospel which is preached to them:

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 (Matt. 13).

This truth is also clearly taught in Scripture. There is a powerful passage in Ezekiel 3:17-19 which places the blood of those who go lost upon the head of the preacher who does not warn the wicked of his evil way, and only by warning the wicked can a preacher escape the possibility of being responsible for his destruction.

Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

Indeed how much clearer would a man want it than the very words of our Lord when He commanded His Church: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

But several things are to be noticed about this general proclamation of the gospel.

In the first place, according to Canons II, 5, the gospel is the general proclamation of a particular promise: the promise, according to this article is only to those who believe and repent, i.e., the elect in whom God works faith and repentance. While it is indeed publicly proclaimed, it is the public proclamation of a particular promise that God makes only to His people and which is theirs in the way of faith and repentance.

In the second place, when the Canons use the word “offer,” as they do in III & IV, 9, they use it in the sense of “present, proclaim,” which meaning is the meaning of the Latin word offere as it was used in the original Canons. Christ is publicly and promiscuously presented in the gospel and proclaimed as the One in Whom God worked the great work of salvation. But such a proclamation and presentation of Christ in the gospel is not a Christus pro omnibus, a Christ for all, but a Christ in Whom God wrought salvation for those who believe in Him and repent of their sins. Thus He is publicly presented as the One in Whom God wrought salvation for His people.
In the third place, this is entirely in keeping with the character and nature of the gospel. According to Scripture, in Romans 1:16, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe. The gospel is not a mere lecture on a theological subject. It is not a learned dissertation on some given text. It is emphatically preaching. And preaching is the means that God is pleased to use to call His people out of darkness into salvation in Christ. Preaching is God’s means, sovereignly and efficaciously, to bring salvation and heavenly glory to those who belong to Christ.

To make the preaching an offer robs the gospel of this great power. It reduces the gospel to a mere expression on God’s part to save all those who hear. When it reduces the gospel to this kind of expression, it robs the gospel of its saving power. It makes the gospel nothing but some kind of pleading, begging, seeking on God’s part for the sinner to turn from his way and to accept the salvation offered in Christ. God stands helplessly by, waiting to see what man will do. God wants to save all. The gospel expresses His intention and desire, His earnest longing to save all who hear. But God can do very little about it. He must wait to see what man will do. If man accepts the gospel, then indeed salvation is granted him. But he may very well reject it, and thus his reaction to the gospel stands outside God’s power and sovereign determination.

This sort of notion about the gospel is thoroughly Arminian. It is Arminian because it denies the truth of irresistible grace. It is Arminian because it ascribes to man the power to accept the gospel; thus it denies man’s utter depravity and inability to do any good. It is Arminian because it makes salvation dependent upon the free will of man. And let it never be forgotten: Ultimately these questions are questions of Who God is. Is the sovereign God of heaven and earth, the Maker and Sustainer of all, the God Who gives us our life and breath, Who upholds us every step of our earthly sojourn, a helpless god who cannot save? Such a view of God is an idol, the creation of men’s fevered and proud imaginations. Such a view destroys the God of the Scriptures and reduces Him to a pleading beggar. This is a terrible sin and brings down the wrath of God upon those who make Him such a weak being that He is as putty in the hands of man.

It is, of course, true that those who want to maintain the free offer of the gospel and still go under the name of Calvinism or Reformed try to get around this terrible evil by assuring us that the faith and repentance, which are necessary for us to receive Christ, are gifts worked by God in the hearts of His people. They say: Christ is offered to all. God wishes to save all. His intention and desire is to bring all to salvation. The gospel expresses this truth forcibly. But actually and in fact, God works the faith necessary to receive the gospel only in the hearts of the elect. So only they in fact are saved and only they really receive the salvation offered.

But this kind of evasion will never do. On the very surface of it, we have, in this conception, a strange idea of God. Think of how this actually works. God wants desperately to save a man; He expresses His desire and the deep longing of His soul to save the man; He earnestly and longingly does everything He can to make that man accept Christ as His Savior. But He does not give to that man the faith that is necessary for salvation. What kind of a God is this? Can anyone imagine a God Who so deeply and passionately wants to save a man, but withholds from him the one thing necessary to be saved, namely faith? It is after all, within God’s power to give faith. But He refrains. What kind of a husband would I be if I earnestly longed for the health of my wife who is dying from cancer, when I had in my power to restore her to health, but refused? I would be branded by all men a monster and would probably be hailed before the courts of the land indicted on a charge of negligent homicide at least. Yet so it is that men present God.

But there is more. The gospel is the promise of salvation in Christ. The burning question is: Does God promise, as a part of that salvation, faith and repentance? Or, to put it a different way, are faith and repentance part of salvation and therefore part of the promise? If they are, then through the gospel as the power of God unto salvation, all of salvation is worked, including faith and repentance. But when one makes the promise of the gospel dependent upon the conditions of faith and repentance, one separates faith and repentance from salvation and makes them prerequisites to salvation. But if they are not a part of salvation, then they are the work of man. One cannot have it both ways. Either faith and repentance are part of the promise, worked sovereignly and irresistibly through the gospel, or they are conditions to the promise, therefore not a part of the promise, and thus the work of man.

It is important to understand in this connection that a general and well-meant offer must also be conditional. It must be conditional because every one who maintains it, freely admits that not all to whom the gospel is proclaimed are actually saved. While God desires the salvation of all, there are always those who reject the gospel. Thus, the free offer is conditional, dependent upon faith and repentance. And thus faith and repentance are the works of men. The free offer is inherently Arminian and a denial of all that has ever been true of the Calvin Reformation.

It is no wonder then that those who have held consistently to a free offer have inevitably drifted into the Arminian camp. Here again one need only consult history. Wherever the free offer has been maintained, Arminianism has raised its ugly head. This was true of the Arminians who were condemned by the Synod of Dordt, for they alone were the ones who maintained a conditional salvation.111 This was true of the Amyrauldians, whose influence extended to England, Europe and the Netherlands.  This is true in the history of the Reformed Churches also in this country. That such a conditional salvation has led to Arminianism in the Christian Reformed Church is evident, e.g., from the failure of this denomination to condemn a form of universal atonement as it appeared in the Sixties. We can come to only one conclusion: the necessary conditionality of the free offer is essentially Arminian and a denial of Calvinism.

It might be well to spell this out a bit more in detail, because such a discussion will quite naturally lead to another aspect of the idea of the free offer.

Anyone acquainted with the so-called “five points of Calvinism” will know that they are often remembered by the memory device: TULIPtotal depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints. The free offer leads to a denial of them all.

The free offer leads to a denial of total depravity because salvation is made dependent upon the will of man. The best illustration of this that we can offer is the position of the Christian Reformed Church in this matter. Already in the “Three Points of Common Grace” total depravity was explicitly denied, for these three points112 teach that because of a general operation of the Spirit in the hearts of all men, sin is so restrained that the sinner is capable of doing good. This denial of total depravity has often been expressed in Christian Reformed literature by a distinction that is made between total depravity and absolute depravity. The latter is intended to refer to complete depravity so that the sinner is incapable of doing any good and able to do only evil. The former, which the Christian Reformed Church professes to believe, is interpreted to mean that the sinner is depraved in all parts of his nature, though in every part are some remnants of good. By this distinction the truth of total depravity is denied. Yet it is essential for the doctrine of the free offer because the natural man must not only be able to do good, but he must also be able to respond to the gospel offer. If I offer one thousand dollars to ten corpses, people will think I am crazy. But Scripture defines the sinner as dead in trespasses and sins. Only when this spiritual death is less than death can the free offer make any sense.

The free offer of the gospel leads to a denial of particular atonement because a salvation that is intended for all must also be a salvation that is purchased for all. If God, through the gospel, offers salvation to all who hear along with the intent and expressed desire to save all, this salvation must be available. If it is not, the whole offer becomes a farce. If I offer one thousand dollars to each of ten people, if they will come to my house to pick it up, I had better have it somewhere in the house, or I am in trouble. If I do not have all the money that might be needed in the house, I am making a farce of the offer and really lying. If God offers salvation to all who hear and really earnestly desires their salvation, He had (I speak as a man) better have that salvation available. If He does not, the offer becomes a farce. God offers that which He does not have. This makes God a liar and the offer a fake. Hence, the only sense one can make out of the offer is to teach a salvation which was earned by Christ on the cross for everyone. Thus the cross of Christ and the redemption that He accomplished becomes universal in its extent. It is not surprising that Dekker argued in the Sixties within his denomination that because the love and grace of God were general, the atonement was also general.

The free offer leads to a denial of irresistible grace. When the offer expresses only God’s desire to save all and offers salvation to all, then the grace of the preaching is not irresistible, but resistible. Men may choose to resist it and refuse to accept the offer. God cannot accomplish that which He wills. His intentions and desires are frustrated and His purpose is made of no effect because of man’s resistance.

Ultimately the free offer also makes the perseverance of the saints a doubtful matter. It stands to reason that if man can either accept or reject the gospel offer, he can at one time accept it, at another time reject it, and yet again accept it. But because his salvation is dependent upon what he does, his salvation hangs by the thin thread of his own free will. Thus his final salvation is always in doubt. He can fall away from the faith, and he can, while once having accepted Christ, still spurn Him in the future. It is undoubtedly this general Arminian teaching that is the basis for revivals and recommitments to Christ through the invitation.

But of particular concern to us is the truth of unconditional predestination. While it is true that the “U” of TULIP speaks only of unconditional election, reprobation has also always been a part of the truth of predestination. The free offer denies both. The free offer denies reprobation first of all because if God’s sovereign purpose is not to save some, including some who hear the gospel, God’s purpose in offering them salvation is nonsensical. On the one hand, God purposes not to save; on the other hand God purposes to save. On the one hand it is God’s will not to save; on the other hand it is God’s will to save. The result is that in those circles reprobation is finally denied.

This is, in fact, what has happened in the Christian Reformed Church. The truth of reprobation is hardly ever preached, if at all; and Harry Boer made a specific attack against this doctrine in the late Seventies and early Eighties, when he asked the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church to strike the doctrine of reprobation from the Canons. While Synod refused to do this, it put its stamp of approval on a report of a committee appointed to study the matter, which report contains a definition of reprobation which is completely out of keeping with the historic definition of the doctrine and with the truth as it is taught in the Canons. Synod, in effect, approved of a conditional reprobation, the very view which the Arminians maintained and which our fathers at Dordt repudiated.

But if reprobation is denied, then also election falls by the way. They are two sides of one coin, two parts of one truth.113 But the free offer cannot bear the truth of election for the same reason that it militates against reprobation. On the one hand, God purposes to save only His people chosen in Christ; on the other hand, He purposes to save all. One will is to save some; another will is to save all. And because the two are so flatly contradictory, they cannot both be maintained. So, the truth of sovereign election is sacrificed on the altar of the free offer.

A discussion of the relation between the idea of the free offer of the gospel and the counsel and will of God leads us to a point which needs to be made. Those who hold to a free offer and still want to retain some semblance of being Calvinistic and Reformed make a distinction at this point between the will of God’s decree and the will of His command; or, as is sometimes said, between God’s decretive will and His preceptive will. According to this strange notion, God’s decretive will purposes the salvation only of the elect, while God’s preceptive will purposes the salvation of all who hear the gospel. Thus God has two wills that are in direct conflict.

The conflict is so obvious that even the supporters of this view (and their number is legion) find it a bit difficult to swallow. So in justification of this, they fall back on a sort of last line of defense and plead “apparent contradiction.” They piously assure us (and it sounds truly pious) that God’s ways are so much higher than our ways that we cannot fathom them. What to us seems to be contradictory, to God is a perfect harmony. All we can do is hold the two apparently contradictory propositions in proper tension.

We cannot go into this matter of apparent contradiction in this article; but it ought to be apparent to all that this sort of argumentation ultimately leads to theological skepticism. If there is contradiction possible at such a critical juncture of the truth, then there is contradiction possible at any juncture of the truth. Then man can be both totally depraved and relatively good. Then grace is both resistible and irresistible. Then God is both triune and not triune. Then justification is both by faith alone and also by faith and works. Then the atonement of Christ is both efficacious and ineffectual. And so one can go on. But this makes any knowledge of the truth impossible and mires one in the slime of subjectivism and skepticism.

Nevertheless, this doctrine of two wills in God is an invention. Any Reformer, including Calvin, who reprobated the idea in the strongest possible terms, has never held it. It is sheer human invention that masks an attempt to be both Arminian and Reformed at the same time.114 This does not mean that the distinction itself is not valid. It is certainly true that Scripture indicates to us that, within the one will of God, we may distinguish between the God’s will of decree and God’s will of precept. The danger of evil enters when we set these two over against each other in such a way that these two not only indicate two separate wills of God, but two wills which are in conflict with each other. But the distinction must be maintained because it has importance for our present subject.

We indicated above that those who deny the free offer of the gospel nevertheless maintain that the gospel is preached and must be preached to all creatures to whom God in His good pleasure is pleased to send it. That is, the gospel is and must be preached to many more than those whom it is God’s purpose to save. We must now face the question of why this is important.

In the first place, we must be clear about the fact that throughout the history of the world the gospel has by no means been brought to every person. This too, in a certain sense, is a problem that can hardly be satisfactorily answered by the advocates of a well-meant offer. If God expresses His desire to save all who hear the gospel, and this desire is serious, well-meant, truly an expression of God’s love and grace, it would seem only appropriate to the nature of God to express this desire to all men and not only those to whom the gospel comes. Yet the fact is that the gospel by no means comes to everyone. This was already true in the Old Testament during which only a relatively few heard the gospel. Far and away the majority of people who lived never received the gospel at all, for the gospel was bound up in the types and shadows of Israel’s ceremonial life and was, therefore, limited to the nation of Israel which dwelt in Palestine. Only to them did the gospel of Christ come. But the same is true of the New Dispensation. Although the Church, from the very beginning of her history, was busy in obeying the command of Christ to go into the entire world and preach the gospel, nevertheless, in the nature of the case this could not be done immediately. And, in fact, even today we are told that there are remote tribes here and there who still have never heard the gospel preached. This is because, in the final analysis, God sends the gospel where He pleases. Our Canons are right when in II, 5 they say that this promise, together with the command to repent and believe, must be preached and proclaimed to all those to whom God in His good pleasure is pleased to send it. God determines where His gospel is to be preached. And He does that today just as certainly as He did this when the Holy Spirit forbad the gospel to be preached in Asia on Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 16:6).

But while this is true, we have not yet answered the question why it is important for the gospel to be preached to more people than the elect. Some have answered that it is only a kind of inevitable “fall-out” from the preaching. They point to the fact that it is simply impossible for the gospel to be preached to the elect only. Human men, after all, preach the gospel. They must preach to audiences of mixed people. They do not know who in these audiences are elect and who are reprobate. They must of necessity preach to all. Therefore, while it is really not important or necessary that the gospel come to more than the elect, there is little or nothing any one can do about it, and it is fundamentally unimportant, for the reprobate cannot believe the gospel anyway.

This is a terribly wrong and evil caricature of the idea of preaching. Never must we take this position, for it implies that God really cannot do anything about the fact that the gospel is preached to all, although it would be preferable that things be different. It is also a denial of the Canons that tell us that the promise of the gospel “ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously” (II, 5). I.e., the gospel must be so preached. It is a divine must. It is God’s will.

But we must be careful that we do not go to the opposite extreme and say that this is true because all men must have a chance to be saved. This is the kind of language that fits in perfectly with the idea of the free offer; yet it is so commonly heard today that it seems almost ingrained in the thinking of people. The idea is that God cannot justly send anyone to hell unless he at least has the opportunity to hear the gospel and reject itor accept it. But this simply is not true. The Scriptures plainly teach on the one hand that all men are guilty in Adam apart from any guilt that they may accumulate because of their own sins, and this guilt in Adam is itself sufficient to send every man to hell. This is taught clearly, e.g., in Rom. 5:12-14:

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin: and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (for until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.

But on the other hand, apart from that guilt, the wicked who never hear the gospel are confronted daily with the obligation to love God and serve Him alone by the things in the creation, which clearly testify of God’s eternal power and Godhead (Rom. 1:18ff). It is true that no man can be saved apart from the gospel, but this does not alter the fact that all men know, through the creation, that God alone is God and that He alone must be served. That they cannot serve God is not due to anything but their own total depravity for which they are themselves responsible in Adam.

It is God’s will that many more than the elect hear the gospel proclaimed. Why is this?

The answer to this question is that God is pleased to have all who hear the gospel confronted with Christ and with the specific command to repent from their sins and believe in Christ. Not only the elect but also the reprobate who hear the gospel must be specifically and concretely commanded to turn from their evil way and to believe in Christ. They, of course, cannot do this apart from God’s work of regeneration and conversion; but they must nevertheless. This is why, throughout this series of articles we have always insisted that the original meaning of the word “offer” is entirely Biblical. Christ is presented in the gospel. He is presented to all who hear. He is presented and proclaimed not only to the elect, but also to the reprobate. It is God’s will that this be so. And God so wills this because, it is through the presentation of Christ as the only One in Whom is salvation that all men who hear the gospel are placed before the solemn obligation to repent and believe. This is why Peter, in his great Pentecostal sermon, exactly preached repentance and faith to all who heard him on that day (Acts 2:38).

But, in the second place, we must carry this point a bit further. The question is still: why is it God’s purpose to confront all those who hear the gospel with the command to repent and believe? Why must those whom God has purposed not to save be commanded to repent and believe as well as those whom God does save?

Again, the answer is not that these select people are given an opportunity to be saved, that for some unspecified purpose, God gives them a chance that is not given to those who never hear the gospel. This is again to introduce into the preaching of the gospel an Arminian element that is completely antipathetic to the teaching of God’s holy Word. God does not give people a “chance” to be saved of whom He knows that they cannot and will not believe.

The answer to this question is first of all to be found in the fact that God always maintains the demands of His law. God originally created man upright and capable of doing all things that God required of him. Although man fell and by his fall brought upon himself total depravity so that he can no longer keep the law in any respect, God does not and cannot change His demands. This would be out of keeping with the holiness of God.

To make this clear we can use a figure. Suppose that I contract with a carpenter to build a house for me at a cost of $50,000. Suppose also that he informs me that he cannot proceed with building until I advance him the total cost of the building. I may do this in order that he can proceed with building. But it is also possible that he, rather than use that money for building, leaves on a round-the-world trip in which he spends every dime I gave him. Upon his return, I have the right to insist from him that he build my house. He may object to my insistence and plead that he is unable because he no longer possesses the necessary money. But this does not alter my demand in the least. I will tell him: “I gave you all that was necessary to build my house. You squandered the money in your own pleasures. That is not my fault; it is yours. Now build my house.” I would have every right to insist on this. This is not less true of God. God gave us, in Adam, all that we needed to serve Him. The fact that we are incapable of doing this is not God’s fault, but ours. He must, according to His own holiness and justice, insist that I do this. And because of sin, this demand of God to serve Him now involves the command to repent of my sin and believe on Jesus Christ. For God to do anything less than this would be a denial of His own justice and holiness.

It is characteristic of the Arminians that they always identify obligation with ability. God may obligate man to do that only that he is able to do. But this is very far from the truth. Our Heidelberg Catechism states the matter succinctly:

Q. 8. Does not God then do injustice to man, by requiring from him in his law, that which he cannot perform?

A. Not at all; for God made man capable of performing it; but man, by the instigation of the devil, and his own willful disobedience, deprived himself and all his posterity of those divine gifts.

So in the first place, the command to repent from sin and believe in Christ is only rooted in God's original command to Adam and to all men to obey Him. This command God continues to maintain.

But there is more. In the second place, it is through the command of the gospel that comes to all who hear that God accomplishes His purpose. We must look at this matter from two different sides. On the side of man, his refusal to obey the command of the gospel places him unmistakably in a position where he is justly sentenced to everlasting condemnation in hell. Not as if he does not deserve hell already because of his sin in Adam and because of his refusal to obey the testimony of God in the things that belong to the creation. But the command comes ever so much clearer through the gospel. And it comes clearer through the gospel because in the gospel God presents Christ as crucified to accomplish salvation. To repent of sin and believe in Christ is the way of salvation. When man refuses to do this, he shows how deep is his sin and how bitter his enmity. He demonstrates unmistakably that he hates God and His Christ, that he will have no part of God’s salvation, that he despises all that is of God and His truth, that he prefers an eternity in hell to repenting of his evil way which he loves. When, therefore, he is cast into hell for his terrible sin, no one can say that this is not just. He receives what he wants and what he has justly coming to him.

And if it be objected once again that he is incapable of believing in Christ and turning from his evil way, then the answer is once again: but who is to blame for that? Is not the sinner himself to blame? His sin and depravity are not God’s fault, but his own.

Or, if the question be asked: what difference does it make that the gospel comes to such a man when he already shows his hatred by refusing to worship God after knowing him through the things which God created? Why does God want him also to hear the gospel? The answer is: sin must appear completely as sin. It must be evident that sin is really the terrible power that it is. Perhaps it might be objected that, after all, the command to repent and serve God is not clear enough in creation to understand precisely what God means. But in the preaching of the gospel the command to repent and believe in Christ is so clearly set forth that no mistake about it can any longer be made.  And when the demand to repent and believe in Christ is still rejected by the ungodly, it becomes unmistakably clear that man is so wicked that he will disobey God’s command no matter how clearly it comes to him. Sin is so terrible that when Christ, God’s own Son is sent for salvation, wicked man will take Him in his filthy hands and nail him to a cross. And when that cross is preached as God’s way of salvation, man will trample underfoot the blood of the covenant and crucify the Son of God afresh (See Heb. 6:4-6). God does all that is necessary, apart from man’s sin, to make salvation clear and unmistakable. When Isaiah writes in chapter 5 of his prophecy what God has done with His vineyard, he concludes with the words of God: “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: and I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it" (vss. 3-6).

But we must look at this matter also from God’s point of view. This is necessary because, after all, God always accomplishes His own sovereign purpose. Nothing is outside His will and nothing takes place without His sovereign determination. That is, with respect to our subject, the decree of reprobation must be accomplished. By means of the command of the gospel that comes to all who hear, God accomplishes His purpose in reprobation. God has determined from all eternity to save a people. But God has also determined from all eternity to damn the wicked to eternal hell in the way of their sins.

This requires just a bit of explanation. Reprobation cannot be separated from the sins of the wicked. Yet, while we say this, we must be careful that we understand it. The sins of the wicked are not the cause or condition of reprobation, so that God reprobates on account of sin and unbelief. This is the position of the Arminians that is emphatically refuted by the fathers of Dordt in the Canons. It is a conditional reprobation that the Scriptures abhor because it detracts from the absolute sovereignty of God. Nor must it be asserted that the decree of reprobation is the cause of the sin of the wicked. This makes God the Author of sin, something that the Canons brand as blasphemy. Rather we must insist that reprobation is decreed and accomplished in the way of man’s sin so that, while God is sovereign in His decree, man goes to hell because he and he alone has sinned and must bear the responsibility for sin.

We are fully aware of the fact that this difficult question involves the whole relation between God’s sovereign counsel and man’s sin for which he alone is responsible. And we are not at all ashamed to admit that a mystery is present here that our feeble minds can never begin to fathom. But Scripture is clear enough on the point that also sin lies within the scope of God's decree and purpose. Yet God so decrees and works that man remains forever responsible. 115

However all this may be, what needs emphasis now is the fact that through the preaching of the gospel, with the command to repent and believe, God accomplishes His sovereign purpose. The gospel is intended by God, not only to save His elect, but also to harden the reprobate. And it is exactly this command of the gospel that comes to all which serves as God’s means to harden in sin. Because the gospel presents Christ as the way of salvation, and because all men everywhere are commanded to believe in Christ, the gospel exactly works as God’s power to damn the wicked in the way of their sin and impenitence. Scripture clearly teaches this two-fold power of the gospel. Paul speaks of this in II Cor. 2:14-17:

Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: to the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?  For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.

This is why Peter writes, in I Peter 2:8, that Christ preached is “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed." And this is why John writes in 12:37-41:

But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: that the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.

When therefore, the gospel is preached generally and all who hear are placed before the command to repent and believe, God accomplishes His sovereign purpose in their refusal to believe and their terrible disobedience. It is important therefore that the gospel be preached to all.

We must at this point remind ourselves of the truth that this command of God that comes to all who hear the gospel is serious. God is not playing games with men when He commands them to repent and believe. God is not merely toying with their emotions and eternal estate. God means exactly what He says. He is so serious about it that refusal ends in eternal death. Our Canons also emphasize this in III & IV, 8. Unfortunately, the translation of our English version is not correct on this score. This reads:

As many as are called by the gospel, are unfeignedly called. For God hath most earnestly and truly declared in his Word, what will be acceptable to him; namely, that all who are called, should comply with the invitation. He, moreover, seriously promises eternal life, and rest, to as many as shall come to him, and believe on him.

The problem centers in the second sentence of this article, which, at least on the surface, seems to suggest some kind of well-meant offer. However, the correct translation of this sentence is: “For God has most earnestly and truly declared in His Word what is acceptable to Him, namely, that those who are called should come unto Him.” You will immediately notice the important difference.116

The point which the Canons are making is that God calls to repentance and faith seriously and unfeignedly. He means exactly what He says.

But this brings up another question that has sometimes troubled some. If when God seriously and unfeignedly calls the reprobate to repent of sin and turn to Christ, is this not after all an expression of God’s will and desire to save all men? What is so different in this from the well-meant offer?

The difference is great and crucial. A bit earlier in this chapter we mentioned the fact that it is not necessarily wrong in itself to make a distinction between God’s decretive will and God’s preceptive will, God’s will of decree and God’s will of commandas long as these two aspects of God’s will are not so placed in contradiction with each other that they really become two separate wills.  Bearing this in mind, it is certainly correct and according to Scripture to say that God’s will of command is that all men obey Him, keep His commandments, walk in His way, love Him with all their hearts and minds and souls and strength. And if they sin, as they always do, this will of God’s command surely means that men turn from their evil ways, repent of their sins and seek their salvation only in Christ. But this command of God is His morally perfect will for men. Surely, because God is supremely holy and without sin, because He loves only that which is right and good and according to His own law, He delights only in the good and hates all that is of evil. When therefore, He insists that all men serve Him alone as God, repent of their sins and seek their salvation only in Jesus Christ, this is His good and morally holy will. He can do nothing else, for He is the Holy One of Israel. It would sully and stain His holiness for God to say: It is quite all right with Me if you continue in your sins. In fact, it is quite my will for you to walk in sin, live lives of rebellion against Me, and trample under foot My righteous ways. No man would ever say that this is God’s will. His will is as He is: holy, just, good, righteous and perfectly right.

This command therefore, which comes to all men to repent of sin and turn to Christ is the expression of God’s holy and just will for the sinner. There is fundamentally (and I speak in all reverence) nothing else that God can do but to demand holiness of men. It is His morally holy will that men do what is right. And this is in perfect harmony with the will of His decree because it is exactly through this morally holy will of His command that God sovereignly executes His eternal will of reprobation. If His will were anything less than morally holy, the decree of reprobation could never be executed through it.

But this is a far cry from the well-meant offer, for the well-meant offer teaches us that God desires and intends the salvation of all who hear. It is His love and grace shown to them that offers them Christ as their salvation. And it is His purpose and will to save such. This is Arminian in every respect and a resurrection of the ancient heresy of Amyrauldianism that destroys all the truth of the gospel.

There is one more point to which we must still address ourselves. It is true that this point is not directly related to the well-meant offer, but nevertheless stands closely connected to it. I refer to the fact that the whole concept of the well-meant offer gives a decidedly wrong idea of Scripture. Scripture is sometimes presented as if the whole of it is nothing but such a well-meant offer. In proof of this a number of texts are quoted which are supposed to prove that God sincerely desires the salvation of all, texts that prove nothing of the kind. I refer to such texts as Is. 55:1-3, Matt. 11:28, Rev. 22:17, etc. Perhaps it would be well to have at least these texts before us before we comment on them.

Is. 55:1-3: Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.

Matt. 11:28: Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Rev. 22:17: And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

As we said, Scripture as a whole, and these texts in particular, are often presented as one large offer of the gospel. Because the Scriptures are preeminently the revelation of Christ, Christ in the whole of the Scriptures is said to be offered to all. And these texts are often quoted as proof.

Yet nothing could be more wrong.

The address of these texts, even on their very surface, is very particular, limited to a select group of people. Is. 55:1-3 is specifically addressed to those who are thirsty and who have no money. Matt. 11:28 is specifically addressed to those who labor and are heavy laden. Rev. 22:17 is specifically addressed to him that heareth, to him that is athirst, to whosoever will.

Now it is possible, of course, so to interpret these texts so that they refer to every one in the world, or at least to every one who hears the gospel. But this interpretation can only be made from a totally Arminian viewpoint. That is, if every one thirsts, is without money, is laboring and heavy laden, wills to come to Christ, then everyone is capable of seeking salvation by himself. He has the power within himself to seek Christ, thirst for Him, will to come to Him. Then the totally depraved sinner, apart from Christ’s work of salvation, is capable of doing good, exercising his own free will and coming to Christ by his own power. But this Arminian conception puts all the responsibility of salvation upon man, ascribes to him powers that he does not have, and makes God dependent upon the sinner’s choice and power.

When the texts are specific in their address, they are such because they mean to be Christ’s Word only to specific people. But because no man can of himself thirst for Christ, come to the water, be burdened by his sin and guilt, will to come, these spiritual virtues are dependent upon the work of the Holy Spirit. Only the Spirit can work these powers within a man. But the Holy Spirit works these powers only in those who are God’s elect, for whom Christ died, and who are efficaciously called by the Spirit in their hearts. By virtue of the Spirit’s work, these people thirst for Christ, are heavy laden under the load of their sins, will to come, etc.

We may well ask the question why Christ works this way, i.e., first working in His people a longing for salvation, and then calling them to Him.

The answer to this question is first of all that God always deals with his people as rational and moral creatures, and not as stocks and blocks. God does not take His people along the pathway of this life to glory in the same way as a child pulls a mechanical toy or a quacking mechanical duck along the floor. Or as one minister once expressed it, God’s people do not ride to heaven in the lower berth of a Pullman sleeper. God wants His people to know and experience their salvation. He wants them to be conscious partakers of His grace so that they may praise and bless His name for the salvation that He gives to them.

In the second place, God’s people, while in this world, are not yet perfect. They are indeed regenerated and converted, but this work of salvation is only in principle. They are still in the flesh, and in their flesh dwells no good thing. There is much sin in them that strives for mastery in their life, pulls them in the direction of the things of this world, and often causes them to fall deeply into sin. With this evil in their flesh, they must constantly struggle; and when they fall into sin, they must repent of their sin and turn again to Christ.

In the third place, it is only through repentance and sorrow for sin that they can come to know their salvation in Christ. Without a deep consciousness of their sin and an overwhelming awareness of their own unworthiness, they have no need of Christ, no consciousness of their utter dependence upon Him, no sense of the truth that salvation is to be found only in Him.

It is in this way that God deals with them through the gospel. He addresses them in this life, in their struggles and sins, in their need and trouble, in the consciousness of their sin and helplessness. He addresses them in such a way that, through His call to them, He brings them back to Himself, restores them to grace and favor, shows them His great love and mercy, and gives them His full and free salvation so that they are conscious of it.

Thus the elect in whom the Spirit works are the ones who thirst, for they, wallowing in their sins, thirst again for God as a hart pants for water brooks. They are without money because they know their own hopeless state, their utter inability to save themselves, their total dependence upon God. They are laboring and heavy laden because the burden of sin has become intolerable, too heavy to bear, too great to carry as they walk the pathway of this life. They will to come because they have seen the total futility of life apart from God and the hopelessness of the wicked world that so often attracts them to its pleasures and lusts. But all these things are true of them because the Spirit of Christ has put these characteristics in their hearts and lives.

Thus we must remember that the Scriptures are, after all, a book addressed to God’s people, not to all men. The Scriptures are the infallibly inspired record of the revelation of Jehovah God in the face of our Lord Jesus Christ, as the God Who saves His people from their sins.  And because Scripture is this, it is God’s Word of hope and promise to them. It is the lightthe only lightthat shines in this dark world of hopeless despair. It is God’s great grace and mercy revealed in Christ to those whom He has chosen to be His own inheritance. It is, if you will, Christ the Bridegroom’s love letter to His elect and chosen bride for whom He died and to whom He comes tenderly and compassionately to save them.

But Christ addresses His bride in her sins, her struggles, her troubles and afflictions. Sometimes He encourages her; sometimes He sharply reprimands her; sometimes He comforts tenderly and compassionately; sometimes He calls to her with all the sweetness of His loving voice. But always His purpose is to lead her to Him and to bring her to the joy of the salvation He has prepared for her.

Thus He calls His people by their spiritual names.

In John 10 Jesus speaks of this under the figure of a shepherd and his sheep. In that connection, Jesus speaks of the fact that “the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name (literally, name by name)” (vs. 3); that He is the Good Shepherd Who gives His life for the sheep, Who knows His sheep, and am known of those who are His sheep (vv. 11, 14). These are the spiritual names, therefore, of the people of God who belong to Christ. They are called by Scripture the ones who thirst, who are laboring and heavy laden, who mourn, who hunger and thirst after righteousness, etc.

And Christ uses these spiritual names to address them in Scripture and in the preaching of the Word because, when the preaching is, through the minister, addressed to Christ’s people under these names, the Spirit of Christ so works in the hearts of God’s people that they recognize themselves as hungering and thirsting, as laboring and heavy laden; and recognizing themselves as such, they know that Christ is calling them, and they hear His Word. Rejoicing, they come to Him Who is the fountain of all their life and the source of all their strength. They hear the Word of the gospel: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden; and I will give you rest.” As Christ works in their hearts in such a way that they see the heavy burden of sin which weighs upon them and crushes them, and seeing this and knowing it, they hear Christ call to them and recognize it as the call of their Lord: Come to me; I will give you rest. Joyfully and full of hope they flee to Christ and receive the rest promised them.

We stress again that this is the character of Scripture. It is not a book addressed, in its fundamental nature, to all men, or even to all who hear the gospel. It is a love letter addressed by Christ to His elect bride.

This does not mean that when that Scripture is preached, and preached, as it must be, promiscuously, that by it all men are not confronted with the obligation to repent of sin and come to Christ. They surely are, for many are called, though few are chosen. And all men stand solemnly before the command to obey God, walk in His ways, and keep His commandments. We have noticed earlier how important this also is. But it must never be forgotten that that very command to repent and believe is the command that Christ uses, through His Spirit, to bring His own people to repentance and faith in Him. The power of that Word of the gospel, the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16) is, even when it comes in the form of a command, the very power by which repentance and faith are worked in the elect. In other words, when the command of the gospel goes forth to come to Christ, all who come under the preaching hear that command. This not only lies in the nature of the preaching, but it is also God’s purpose. But that one command, heard by all, has a two-fold effect. As it places the reprobate before the obligations of God’s holy Word, it serves as the means to harden them in their unbelief. But that same command is heard by the elect in whom Christ has begun His work of salvation and grace. And they, hearing it, obey with willing hearts, made willing by God’s gracious operations within them. Both the willing and the doing are worked in them by God (Phil. 2:13).

To reduce the preaching, therefore, to a well-meant offer is to rob the preaching (and the Scriptures) of their beauty and power, of their comfort and hope as these Scriptures are the only light we have in the midst of the world. How wonderful it is to have the very voice of Christ our Savior speak to us. How wonderful it is to hear His voice addressed to us, calling us name by name. How wonderful it is to hear His great mercy and love, His grace and compassion addressed to us personally. He is full of pity towards us in our sins, tender and compassionate even when we stray from Him, moved to tears at our waywardness and foolishness. His love shines through when He rebukes, for it is for our good. His patience with us knows no end, for we are all like sheep that have gone astray. He lifts us up and carries us back to the fold though we deserve nothing of such great grace. His encouragement to us in all the difficulties of life comes as cooling streams in the parched wasteland of this world. His promise that He will be with us always and take us finally into His Father's house of many mansions lightens our darkest moments. His assurance that no man can pluck us out of His hand gives us courage and puts steel in our spines when we face the hordes of our enemies who are so much stronger than we. Who, understanding this, would want to reduce Scripture to a mere offer? It is incredible that anyone, having tasted the good things of the gospel, can deal so disparagingly with that most blessed of all books.

Finally, there are a few classic texts that are quoted in support of the free offer; and we ought to take a look at them. After all, in the final analysis, the whole question of the free offer turns on the point of whether or not it is taught in Scripture. If it is, all else falls by the wayside: we must bow before Scripture and receive it, whether we like it or not.

As we have mentioned earlier there is a kind of prima facie case that can be made against this. Scripture is so full of passages which flatly and explicitly contradict and reprobate any idea of the free offer that it would be extremely strange, to say the least, if there were other passages which taught it. God’s Scriptures are a unity, a harmonious whole, and a single revelation of God in Christ. If these Scriptures indeed contradict themselves, teach exactly opposing ideas, we could not have any confidence in them at all and we would be reduced to theological agnosticism.

Nevertheless, our study can hardly be complete without taking a look at the most important texts that have been quoted in support of the free offer.

The first such passage is Ezek. 33:11 (with a similar passage in 18:23). This passage reads:

Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

Now it ought to be clear that no matter how this passage is really taken, there is no offer of salvation in it. God, in fact, swears an oath as the living God that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. His pleasure is to be found in the fact that the wicked turn from his evil way. Even if God’s reference to “the wicked” is interpreted to mean all men, there is still no offer. There is indeed the command to turn from evil. And as we have noticed before, God, in all sincerity, places before all men the command to repent from sin and turn from their evil way. God’s moral will is of such a kind that He has no pleasure in sin, but rather demands holiness from men.

But the fact is that this text is not addressed to all men without distinction. The text itself as well as the context makes this very clear. The text itself is addressed to “the house of Israel.” And the words of the text are an answer to what the children of Israel were deeply worried about: “If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?” (v. 10). In other words, the children of Israel had departed from the ways of God’s covenant and had made themselves worthy of God’s wrath and displeasure. In the agony of their sin, they wondered whether they would ever be received back into favor. They knew they rightly deserved to die, and they were deeply troubled by how they would again be restored to life. In fact, they wondered whether indeed they ever would be restored to life. They know how undeserving of this they were. What child of God, after falling deeply into sin and coming again to the consciousness of how terrible his sin was before God has not asked the same question? He wonders in the agony of his soul whether there is any way out of his sin to life; whether God could ever receive him again. And if there is some way, what can this way be?

To this God says: I have no pleasure in your death, but that you turn from your evil ways and live. And God’s gracious promise to such as turn from their ways and repent of their sin is precisely that they will be restored to life once again.

Another such text is Matt. 23:37 (see also Luke 13:34):

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the Prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

Here too it is immediately evident that there is nothing even faintly resembling a well-meant offer of the gospel. It is not even so very easy to understand exactly why the proponents of the well-meant offer quote this text. Presumably, their argument goes something like this. Jesus wanted to gather to Himself all the people of Jerusalem, but was prevented from doing this by their stubborn rebellion. Hence, Jesus expresses here His divine desire and intention to save all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but was foiled in this attempt by the terrible unbelief of these stubborn Jews. If therefore, Jesus wanted to save all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, He surely offered them salvation.

If this is the argument, it is immediately apparent that the offer as such is assumed. The text itself says nothing about it. But apart from this, is it really true that Jesus expresses here His divine intention and purpose to save all the inhabitants of Jerusalem? The answer must be an emphatic No. The very language of the text refutes that notion. Jesus does not say, “How often would I have gathered thee together …;" He says, “How often would I have gathered thy children together …” This is quite different. This means, in the first place, that by “Jerusalem” Jesus does not mean the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but the city as the center of all Israel’s political and ecclesiastical life. In more than one place in Scripture this city is pictured as a mother who brings forth children (cf. e.g., Gal. 4:24-27). In the Old Dispensation Jerusalem was the Church of God. In Jesus’ time it was the Church that had become apostate and corrupt. It was the Church from the viewpoint of her temple and sacrifices, her priesthood and ceremonies, her feast days and cleansings, but as all these were polluted by the wicked Scribes and Pharisees. Jesus expresses in this text the desire to save Jerusalem’s children. But the Scribes and Pharisees fought bitterly against this at every step of Jesus’ way. They resisted His efforts to do this so fiercely that they finally nailed Him to the cross. But does all this mean that Jerusalem’s children were never gathered by Jesus? Far from it. Jesus accomplished His purpose in spite of the wickedness of Jerusalem’s leaders. We have only to read of the thousands of Jerusalem’s children who were saved after Pentecost to understand that Jesus did what He purposed to do. Here Jesus is emphasizing the terrible sin of Jerusalem, which is almost ripe for destruction and which will presently be razed to the ground for all her sins. They not only themselves rejected Christ, but they did all in their power to prevent their children from coming to Christ. Therefore, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Matt. 23:38).

Finally we call attention to II Peter 3:9:

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Again, it is not so easy to see exactly how this text is supposed to teach the well-meant offer. One would suppose that the argument goes along these lines. Since God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, God wants all men to be saved, and therefore, God also offers His salvation to all men.

But again, it ought to be noticed that the text itself says nothing about an offer. Even if one interprets the words “any” and “all” as referring to all men, there is, every one will be forced to admit, no mention whatsoever of an offer.

But again, is it true that the words “any” and “all” refer to all men in this passage? They most emphatically do not, and no amount of twisting or semantic gymnastics can make them refer to all men.

Consider first of all the context. Peter is speaking of the fact that scoffers shall come in the last day denying the second coming of Christ (v. 4). The basis for their argument is what modern evolutionism calls the “Uniformitarian Theory:” “All things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” Peter first proceeds to show that their basis is wrong: all things do not continue as they were from the beginning of the creation, for the ante-deluvian world was “standing out of the water and in the water” and was destroyed by water (vv. 5, 6). But “the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment …” (v. 7).

Apparently, however, the Church of Peter’s day, hard-pressed as it was by persecution, was somewhat inclined to be persuaded by these scoffers. And their tendency to allow the scoffers to influence their thinking was born out of their idea that the Lord did not come back immediately, when they expected any day His return. And so they thought that the Lord was “slack concerning his promise.” Peter assures them that this is not the case. The people of God must remember that time as we know it does not govern the purpose and counsel of almighty God. One day is with the Lord as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day.  Even if the Lord should delay the coming of Christ for one thousand years, this would be but as a day with Him.  But emphatically the Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some men count slackness.  There is a good reason why Christ does not come back immediately. And that reason is simply this: there are many elect who must still be saved.  If the Lord would come back too early (so to speak) there would be elect who would never be born and saved, for the return of Christ means the end of history, and thus also the end of marriage and the bringing forth of children. But God does not want any of His elect to perish, but wants them all to come to repentance. And so Christ will not come back until that has happened.

It is clear therefore, that the “any” and “all” of the text must refer to the elect and not to all men.  But this is also clearly indicated in the text itself. The “any” and the “all” must be interpreted in the light of the “us-ward.”  God is long-suffering to us, not willing that any of us should perish, but that all of us should come to repentance. This is so clearly the meaning of the text that it is difficult to see how anyone could interpret it in any other way. Consider that the manifestation of God’s long-suffering is exactly this that God wants all to come to repentance. Yet the text is emphatic about it that God’s long-suffering is only towards us, not towards all men.

All this is further strengthened by the fact that in verse 15 of the same chapter the apostle writes:  “And account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation.” God’s long-suffering is salvation.  The apostle does not say that God’s long-suffering desires salvation, or wants salvation, or even intends to give salvation. This wonderful attribute of God is itself salvation. Now if the well-meant offer people want to make God’s long-suffering an attribute of God shown to all men, then they will have to admit also that, because long-suffering is salvation, all those towards whom God is long-suffering are also saved. Not even the most ardent defenders of the well-meant offer would want to go that far. There is no other conclusion: God’s long-suffering which is salvation is shown only to us-ward. The result is that Christ does not return until all those for whom He died, given to Him of the Father from all eternity, are born and brought to repentance. Then Christ will surely come again to destroy this old world, create a new heavens and a new earth, and give to His saints the everlasting inheritance of that glorious creation.

And so we come to the end of our study. There can be no doubt about it but that both history and Scripture stand opposed to the whole concept of the free offer. That it is so generally received in our day can only be indicative of the sad state of affairs in today’s churches.  Arminianism and Pelagianism have made devastating inroads. How sad it is that the truths of sovereign grace are no longer maintained and taught. How sad it is that God is robbed of His power and man is exalted to God’s throne. There is a terrible price to pay for this, for all Arminianism is incipient Modernism.  And those churches that have chosen the Arminian way have clearly shown the truth of this. For already Modernism has made its inroads. And Modernism denies the Christ, tramples under foot the blood of the covenant and makes all that is holy an unholy thing. Upon such a church rests terrible judgments.

It is our hope and prayer that all who love the truth of Scripture and the precious doctrines of sovereign grace may see the error of the free offer and reject it.

May God bless these efforts to His glory and the cause of His precious gospel in the midst of the world.


110. For a detailed discussion of this subject, see Engelsma, op. cit., in which book the hyper-Calvinists are identified and their position analyzed.

111. 1t is interesting to note that the word “condition” never appears in the Canons, except in the mouth of the Arminians. See e.g., I, B, 5 and II, B, 3.

112. Cf. above for the text.

113. It is striking that our Canons take this same position when in I, 6 they say: “That some receive the gift of faith from God, and others do not receive it proceeds from God’s eternal decree (notice the singular, “decree” and not the plural, “decrees.”) … According to which decree, he graciously softens the hearts of the elect, however obstinate, and inclines them to believe, while he leaves the non-elect in his just judgment to their own wickedness and obduracy.” The one decree, therefore, includes both election and reprobation.

114. For a detailed examination of this question see the series of articles in the Journal, which contain a translation of a book by Rev. H. Hoeksema written to demonstrate the unbiblical character of this conception.

115. The Scripture passages here are too numerous to cite and one can, for proof, consult any good book on Calvinism. We refer here only briefly to such passages as Ex. 7:3, II Sam. 16:10, II Sam. 24:1, Prov. 21:1, Amos 3:6, John 10:26, John 12:37-41, Rom. 9:13-21, and I Pet. 2:8.

116. The official Latin version reads here: “Serio enim et verissime ostendit Deus verbo suo, quid sibit gratum sit, nimirum, ut vocati ad se veniant.And the official Dutch translation reads: “Want God betoont ernstiglijk en waarachtigelijk in zijn woord, wat Hem aangenaam is; namelijk, dat de geroepenen tot Hem komen.

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