03 November, 2019

Five Reasons Why the Gospel Should Not be Spoken of as an “Offer”

Why shouldn’t the gospel be spoken of in terms of an “offer” in today’s parlance? (either explicitly, or implicitly)

Here are 5 reasons:

(1) A Unfulfilled Desire in God
In the first place, there is certainly implied, in the idea of an “offer” (in today’s parlance) the earnest and sincere *desire*, on the part of him who offers, to bestow something upon a certain person or persons. If there is an “offer” of grace on God’s part to all men, then this implies, if it means anything at all: that there is in God the earnest will and desire to bestow grace on all men. If this is not the case, then the “offer” is simply not sincere and honourable. (A desire of God to give salvation to all men, however, is contrary to the decree of predestination, in which decree He desires only ‘some’ [the elect] to be saved, not all).

(2) Universal Atonement
In the second place, the concept “offer,” according to modern-day manner of speech, also includes, if it is to mean anything, that he who makes the offer not only *possesses* that which he offers, but that it is *available*, so that in case the offer is accepted, it can also be granted. Anyone who offers something which is not *available* to all who are offered it, is branded a dishonourable bluff among men. If the gospel is a general “offer” (in today’s parlance), then there must be grace and salvation universally available for all men (which contradicts the Reformed and biblical doctrine that grace and salvation are only available for the elect—for Christ merited those things only for the elect. The ‘cheque of salvation’ issued from the ‘Bank of Eternity’ only has their names on it).

(3) Denial of Total Depravity
In the third place, one who “offers” something to someone (according to the current understanding of the word) either makes the offer “unconditionally” to that person, or “conditionally” (that is, upon a condition **of which he knows that those to whom the offer comes are able to fulfil it**). If I set a delicious meal before someone who is bound hand and foot, offer that meal to him and express my earnest desire that he may do justice to that meal, then I mock him. Applied to our subject, if the gospel of salvation is an “offer” on the part of God to all that hear, there must be, in all to whom the offer is made, **the power to accept** the offer. For to ‘offer’ any good thing to one whom we know that he cannot accept it, is mere mockery. (And according to the doctrine of Total Depravity, fallen man does not possess the ability to accept the gospel. For he is “dead” in trespasses and sins, etc.)

(4) Freedom to Choose Without Punishment
Fourthly, an “offer,” in modern-day parlance, normally entails the moral right or freedom to refuse such an offer without the threat of being punished for doing so. But nobody, however, has such a liberty to reject or ignore the gospel without being sanctioned by divine justice upon and for such a refusal. The gospel call contains an Divine *ultimatum* (aka, “Do this [i.e. repent and believe] or perish everlastingly”). And from this, it follows that to couch the gospel message (as many do today) in words to the effect that it is an “offer” to all is to use lying words, deception, camouflage, a cloak, effectively hiding the real issue at stake. If I issue a warm and kindly written invitation to my friends to come to my birthday party, but secretly plan to destroy them if they refuse to come, that clearly is no “offer” (or even an “invitation”). I would by *lying* to them.

(5) Salvation Dependent Upon the Free Will of Man
Lastly, an “offer,” according to today’s parlance, is something that depends for its ultimate realization upon the wilful acceptance of the one to whom something is “offered.” But with regard to the gospel, this notion is impossible; it simply doesn’t fit. For, according to its content, the gospel is a *promise*—an unconditional promise: “I will save you, My people.” And an unconditional promise depends for its ultimate realization upon the will and determination of him who promises. The notion that the gospel is an “offer” according to modern-day vernacular, is pure Synergism—i.e. salvation as the product of both God *and* man cooperating together; whereas the gospel is a message of a Monergistic salvation (i.e. salvation as the work of God alone). It also separates faith and repentance from the promise, making them *conditions to* the promise, rather than being part of the promise itself.

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If the gospel is not an “offer” or to be spoken of such, how should it be presented to men?

In response to this, Prof. David J. Engelsma of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America, outlines what is known as “the serious call of the gospel”:

“When a minister or a missionary confronts an audience, he sets forth their sin and their dire straits of being subject to the wrath of God. He exposes their sinfulness and their need. Then he sets forth to them Jesus Christ in all His fulness, as the one and only Saviour provided by God for salvation from sin and death. And, having done that, he calls or exhorts or commands (seriously) all in the audience to repent of their sin and to believe on Jesus Christ who is the only Saviour. And he adds to that serious call to come to Jesus Christ the promise that everyone who does so come in true faith to Jesus Christ to be received, forgiven and saved. He also adds the warning that all those who refuse to come to Jesus Christ in true faith will perish in their unbelief and sin. That is the serious call of the gospel, and that’s what a genuine Calvinist or a member of the Reformed church believes and practices—the serious call of the gospel.”


Granted, the Reformed confessions (the Three Forms, the Westminster Standards, etc.) make use of the term “offer.” But we should take note that the word “offer” has undergone a development in meaning over the centuries.

“Offer” was used originally, as per its Latin and Old English etymology, to mean a “presentation,” which intrinsically did not in and of itself specify what the presentation was for. The Oxford Latin Dictionary lists about 8 or 9 usages of the word as being merely “a presentation FOR some purpose or other”.

But today, the word has come to be generally understood in ways that simply do not fit the gospel of Scripture, and, for that reason, ought to be dropped from our Christian vocabulary.


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