A bullet-proof refutation of limited sin-bearing on the terms and grounds of High Calvinist assumptions.1

Part 1:


a) Let forgivable mean something like “able to have forgiveness conferred,” which I think is basic and sound.

b) Without a legal basis, no sin can be forgiven.

The Following syllogism can be constructed:

1) Only those sins imputed to Christ are forgivable.

2) Only the sins of the elect are imputed to Christ.

3) Therefore only the sins of the elect are forgivable.

1) has to follow unless one wants to deny substitutionary atonement and claim that God can forgive sins for which Christ did not bear and suffer.

2) has to follow for the limited expiation/imputation of sin proponent.2

And so 3) is undeniable.

However, God offers forgiveness of sins to all mankind, or at least, to all whom the Gospel comes.3


c) To offer forgiveness of sins, necessarily implies or presupposes that sins of the offeree are forgivable.

d) One must be able to confer what one offers.

The following syllogism can be constructed:

4) All offers of forgiveness of sins necessarily entails that sins are forgivable.

5) God offers forgiveness of sins to all.4

6) Therefore the sins of all are forgivable.

4) has to be true because, one must have the ability to confer what one offers. One cannot offer what one does not have the ability to confer.

5) has to be true for any free-offer Calvinist.

6) therefore has to follow as High and Moderate Calvinists rightly maintain.


1) “Therefore only the sins of the elect are forgivable.”

directly contradicts

6) “Therefore the sins of all are forgivable.”

in the same sense and meaning.

Part 2:


Points of vulnerability: defending the premises and syllogisms:

1) I can’t imagine any way whereby the High Calvinist could avoid the force of the first syllogism.

2) I can’t imagine any way whereby a High Calvinist could credibly claim that one does not have to have the ability to confer what one offers.

3) Roger Nicole’s solution that one can have an offer wider than the provision available to confer what is offered is incoherent. For Nicole, it comes to this: One can offer something which one does not have, and be sincere, as long as: 1) the offeree does not accept the offer, and/or 2) The offeree does not know that the offerer cannot supply the thing offered, and/or 3) that the offerer has a reasonable expectation that not all offerees will accept the offer.

For Nicole, the offer is insincere, if, and only if, one accepts the offer only to find an insufficient supply. Thus one can sincerely offer something one cannot confer if the offeree does not accept the offer.

In response, of course, common sense tells all that to knowingly offer something one does not have to confer is insincere on any terms. It is self-referentially absurd. For example, an offer of a cup of water, where it is known that no water can be conferred is always and everywhere insincere. All the “conditions” above are irrelevant. The expectations of the offerer, or the knowledge of, or acceptance of, or not, by the offeree in no way conditions the sincerity of the offer and offerer.

3) Another point of vulnerability might be to say there is no offer of forgiveness to anyone (eg John Gill). One could say men are only commanded, the facts of forgiveness are “preached,” and as by way of simple conditional statements, God can be said to be “sincere.” Here though one is back in the Hypercalvinist camp and, frankly, I am not interested in having them at the discussion table for this exchange.

Against 3), the following verses are tabled as proof that the offer of forgiveness of sin is part of the Gospel message and teaching:

Luke 24:47: and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Acts 2:38: And Peter said to them, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:39 “For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.”

Acts 13:38: “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.

Isaiah 55:”Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost. “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. “Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you, According to the faithful mercies shown to David. “Behold, I have made him a witness to the peoples, A leader and commander for the peoples. “Behold, you will call a nation you do not know, And a nation which knows you not will run to you, Because of the LORD your God, even the Holy One of Israel; For He has glorified you.” Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth, And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. “For you will go out with joy, And be led forth with peace; The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, And all the trees of the field will clap their hands. “Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up; And instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up; And it will be a memorial to the LORD, For an everlasting sign which will not be cut off.”

Isaiah 1:18: “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.


If limited expiation and sin-bearing are correct, then, God offers to all mankind something he doesn’t have to give: namely forgiveness of sins. Or stated another way, a commitment to sincere well-meant offer precludes limited expiation and limited sin-bearing as a compatible doctrine.

If one wants to maintain a universally sincere and well-meant offer of forgiveness, the only rational option is to deny premise 2). However, to do that, one has to jettison the doctrine of limited expiation and sin-bearing itself.

At this point, I can see or imagine no possible “work-around.”


1The following outline of an argument only works on the assumptions of High Calvinism with its commitment to the free and well-meant offer of the Gospel. High Calvinist is here defined as one who holds to Christ’s limited imputation and sin-bearing. Hypercalvinists, is here defined as anyone who denies that there is any actual offer of the Gospel, For them, there is no true offer, only a bare presentation or declaration of facts and imperatives. Hypercalvinists, therefore, will not feel the force of the arguments tabled in this outline.

2Definition: Limited expiation and sin-bearing Christ only bore the sins of the elect, was only punished and sustained the curse of the law for their sins.

3The Gospel offer is undeniably made to at least some non-elect persons.

4At least, God offers forgiveness of sins to all in the Gospel and so to all to whom the Gospel comes.

This entry was posted on Sunday, April 25th, 2010 at 6:57 pm and is filed under Short Essays, Notes, and Comments. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

Comments are closed at this time.