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Calvin and Calvinism » The Well-Meant Offer

Archive for the ‘The Well-Meant Offer’ Category

De Jong:

This love of God comes to sinners as members of the world which God so loved in Christ. It is a carried to them in the proclamation of the gospel. Christ is administering his work. He carries on the ministry though his heralds. As we saw previously it is Christ himself the world-Savior who stands behind the herald and is present in the proclamation99 There is the one message which is addressed to all sinners and it is addressed to them as sinful members of a sinful world which Christ redeemed. It is not addressed to them in their specific quality as either chosen or rejected in God’s world plan. It is a message in which the Christ himself calls sinners to live in him. It is a call to faith. And it is the proclamation which relates all sinners to the work of Christ. The redemptive universality of the New Testament is a kerygmatic universality which calls the sinner to repentance and faith. The Son of God’s love, the Savior of the world, now meets the sinner who lives under the wrath of God and summons him to salvation. It is the sinner where he is, that is as member of a world in the process of being saved by the reigning Christ, who is called to live in Christ. It is the sinner as a redeemable son of the first Adam who is confronted by the Second Adam and summoned to faith. It is the transgressor of the Old Adamic covenant who is offered salvation by the Mediator of the new and better covenant (Hebrews 8). He offers this sinner salvation in the way of faith because God keeps his word and deals with the post-lapsarian sinner in the same way as he dealt with him in the pre-lapsarian situation of Paradise. Man must believe.

If we see the offer of salvation in term of the call to faith we can understand that preaching is not in the first moment the communication of a certain group of logically interrelated doctrines. It is a beneficent and uniquely effective summons to share in Christ’s victory over sin. Hoeksema tends to obscure this latter fact because of his unfortunate, competitive polarity motif. At no costs can the preacher tell the sinner what he must do. He says that whoever proclaims "wat de mensch moet doen, verkondigt eenvoudig niet het Evangelie Gods,"100 Preaching, gospel preaching. receives a predominant intellectual emphasis in Hoeksema’s theological reflection. It tends to become an explication of certain dogmas and the decision required is a choice for or against these truths.

The emphasis is clearly discernable as we read, "Twee dingen gaan in de historie des Heiligen Evangelies altijd samen: God vervult de Belofte en verklaart aan de erfgenamen der Belofte wat Hij doet, dat is, Hij verkondigt hun het Evangelie."101 We notice here the unique equation of gospel proclamation with an explanation to the heirs of the promise concerning that which God does. The intellectual note comes to expression in his view of Holy Baptism as a seal "op deze waarheid, dat Hij het geloof voor gerechtigheid rekent."102 This same emphasis is found in the Protestant Reformed Declaration of Principles. We read that gospel preaching is "an oath of God that he will infallibly lead al the elect unto salvation and eternal glory though faith."103 There is in Hoeksema’s theology a subtle mutation of preaching into a report of an objective and fixed set of circumstances.

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De Jong:

Hoeksema’s competitive polarity motif lies at the root of his objections to the idea that gospel preaching can ever be considered as an offer. For implicit in the concept of offer is the idea of conditionality. The concept conditionality involves decision, moral response. Hoeksema believes that the Biblical emphasis of total depravity renders conditional presentation an impossibility. Since no sinner by nature is able to accept an offer of salvation or an invitation to accept salvation "vervalt ook absoluut de mogelijkheid van een aanbod.”68 Hoeksema argues thus because he conceives of the gospel offer in terms of an human offer. The very fact that he argues against the term offer by employing analogies of a human offerer betrays the fundamental misconstruction we ca the competitive polarity motif.

In speaking about the gospel offer we must ever bear in mind that (u>it is God who makes the offer. Because it is God in Christ who meets the sinner in the situation of gospel preaching we can accentuate the offer motif.

The concept offer with its implicit corollary of conditionality accentuates a truth which is. as constitutive of the genius of the Reformed faith as the soteric significance of our predestination in Jesus Christ. It is the truth of human responsibility which comes to its sharpest focus when we consider the sinner’s moral response to the gospel. In the preaching activity of the Church, God in Christ meets the sinner on the moral level. The fact of the gospel offer creates the highly charged dynamic situation when the redeeming Lord meets the redeemable sinner. At this point of soteric confrontation we must sensitively articulate our theological concepts so that we neither prejudice the comforting fact of free, unmerited grace nor the equally comforting fact that we are human beings, not senseless stocks and blocks. Here the dangers of a subtle emergence of various synergistic errors are more than imaginary. The history of Christian theological reflection attests this truth. However, the sensitivity to these synergistic perversions of the gospel ought not’ to force us to create a mechanical construction of the divine-human encounter which takes place when the redeeming Lord offers his saving gospel to sinners. Although it is no easy task to delineate with conceptual precision the full truth at this point of the divine-human confrontation as it comes to focus in the term offer, we must not hesitate to call the sinner to decision.

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The Scriptures, therefore, in the most explicit terms teach that the external call of the gospel is addressed to all men. The command of Christ to his Church was to preach the gospel to every creature. Not to irrational creatures, and not to fallen angels these two classes are excluded by the nature and design of the gospel. Further than this there is no limitation, so far as the present state of existence is concerned. We are commanded to make the offer of salvation through Jesus to every human being on the face of the earth. We have no right to exclude any man; and no man has any right to exclude himself. God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Hun might not perish but have everlasting life. The prediction and promise in Joel ii. 32, “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered,” is repeatedly renewed in the New Testament, as in Acts ii. 21; Romans x. 13. David says (Psalm lxxxvi. 5), “Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.” The prophet Isaiah lv. 1, gives the same general invitation: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price.” Our Lord’s call is equally unrestricted, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. xi. 28.) And the sacred canon closes with the same gracious words, “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.” (Rev. xxii. 17.) The Apostles, therefore, when they went forth in the execution of the commission which they had received, preached the gospel to every class of men, and assured every man whom they addressed, that if he would repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ he should be saved. If, therefore, any one holds any view of the decrees of God, or of the satisfaction of Christ, or of any other Scriptural doctrine, which hampers him in making this general offer of the gospel, he may be sure that his views or his logical processes are wrong. The Apostles were not thus hampered, and we act under the commission given to them.

Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 2:642-643.

[Credit to Eugene Norton for the find.]


The Lord knows full well that men’s hearts are so full of enmity, that they will never seek for reconciliation first, though they have good cause, because they have offered the wrong, and therefore he stands not upon terms, but offers love first,, without which he knows they are forever undone! O therefore receive it, accept of it when it is offered to you, and lose thy life rather than his love.

For the farther opening of this point, I shall show three things.

1. That Christ does offer his love in the gospel.
2. Upon what terms.
3. Motives.

3. Motives to accept it, and answer objections accepting of it.

First, that the Lord does offer, and how he does offer his love in the gospel: and this I shall clear, because nothing can draw a soul to accept of love but this. For the better understanding of which, you must conceive that the love of Christ in the gospel, is diversely manifested unto men; either to men after they be in Christ, and are brought home by it, and this is a love of delight in them. Psal. 45:10-11. Or it is the love of good-will to men not brought home, as it is husbands before their affections be set upon any, they make love; as it is, 2 Thess. 2:10, “The received not the love of the truth,” because the truth made love to them. Luke 2:14, “Good-will towards men,” and this love, I say, is offered, this love makes unto you, stand amazed at it, that after all your sins, wrongs done him, nothing but love is offered, even his dearest love, for though there is patience, power to help, wisdom to guide, though there is terror in him, yet, “Take my love,” says he, John 3:17. And hence, Heb. 2:3, it is called “Great salvation,” or love. It is offered, else how could men be said to reject it or neglect, which he warns them of? A man may as well question whether there be a gospel, as whether love be offered there, for as the law is nothing but the manifestation of sin, the hand-writing of death unto all men, writ with the finger of God; the gospel is the manifestation of grace, the hand-writing of grace and peace to all men, written with the blood of God, and hence the gospel is that which brings “live and immortality to light,” 2 Tim. 1:10. Not that there is life absolutely for al, but there it is for all that shall by faith accept it. More particularly.

First, it is offered universally to all wherever it comes, and therefore personally to every man, the words are plain, Mark 16:15, “Preach the gospel to every creature;” and not only to them that do belong Christ, and shall believe; for though it is offered with power of it effectually to these, yet offered it is also unto those that never shall have God, and hence, Luke 14, the Lord of the feast invited those that never came in; and Christ himself, 1 John 11, “He came to his own, and they received him not;” “he would have gathered them under his wings and they would not;” not only to them that be humbled (though none will care for the gospel but such) but to them that be unhumbled, Rev. 3:18,20, does the gospel come. There be many object, “Yes the Lord offers love to them that are his, but not to me?,” yes to thee; there is not a man here, that can exempt himself. And I would make no doubt to go to every man particularly, and say, “The Lord entreats thee to be reconciled, nay if there be one man worse than another, though his hands have been imbrued in the blood of the prophets, and is soul stained with the most crying guilt of the most hideous sins that ever the earth bore, or sun saw, yet the Lord makes love to him; the price is paid for him, if he will accept it, and the Lord would have him so do; neither does this universal offer infer universal redemption; for the gospel, in the offer of it, does not speak absolutely that Christ has died for all, and therefore for thee, as the Arminians maintain; but it speaks conditionally, it is for thee, if ever the Lord gives thee a heart to receive that grace there, therefore consider of it, there is not one here present, but the Lord would have you receive his love, and consider this one reason, thou shalt be condemned for refusing it; hence it is God’s command, and Christ’s desire you should receive it, John 3:19. If not thy duty to receive it, it is not thy sin to refuse it; but it is such a sin, that all men that perish under the sound of the Gospel, are principally damned for.

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Thus far, we have described the Gospel and shown the difference between the Law and the Gospel. But all this will be illustrated when we speak of justification, faith, and works. Now only one part, as it were, needs to be added, namely this: just as it is necessary to know that the Gospel is a gracious and free promise, so also it is necessary to know that the Gospel is a universal promise, that is, that reconciliation is offered and promised to all people.

We must retain this universal promise against dangers we might imagine regarding predestination, so that we do not argue that this promise pertains only to a certain few others, but not to ourselves. There is no doubt that this thought troubles the minds of all people. From this have arisen many useless controversies by writers on the subject of predestination. But we must make up our minds that the promise of the Gospel is universal. For just as the preaching of repentance is universal, so also is the preaching of the remission of sins universal. Under this heading belong the various statements of Scripture pertaining to the universality of the Gospel, such as John 3:16: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish . . . ” Likewise in Paul, “God has imprisoned all under sin that He might have mercy upon all” [Rom. 11 :32; cf. Gal. 3:22). This is sufficient instruction for the moment. But below, under the locus on predestination, we must speak again regarding this universal promise.

That not all obtain the Gospel promise comes from the fact that they do not all believe. For the Gospel, even though it promises freely, yet requires faith; it is necessary that the promise be received by faith. The term “freely” does not exclude faith, but it does exclude our worthiness as a condition, as we have said above; and it demands that we accept the promise, and this cannot take place except through faith.

Philip Melanchthon, Loci Communes, trans. J.A.O. Preus (St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House, 1992), 84.

Credit to M. Lynch for the find.