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.

We must accentuate the decision-demanding nature of the offer. When God offers his gospel to sinners they must decide. Here we must be sensitive to some very essential distinctions. The sinner confronted with the gospel offer must decide. But this necessity is a necessity laid upon him by the Creator who never deals with his creatures on a sub-moral level. God never forces man to do anything against his will. Nor is the required decision made in the easy going atmosphere of a tea-parlor. God never offers his gospel on a “take it or leave it” basis. To reject the overtures of the gospel is a grievous sin, the gravity of which can never be over-emphasized. We must stress the quality of high seriousness as implied in the concept of the gospel offer. God’s gospel promises. The gospel offer is the historical confrontation of the redeeming God and the redeemable sinner which sets in motion that wholly unique sifting process in which the sovereign Lord and the responsible sinner move on to the final consummation of the ages. This is one aspect of the Lords triumphal march through history.

The gospel offer, as it creates the dynamic situation of decision, is such a serious matter because the offer is part of the minister of reconciliation in which Christ and the Spirit of Christ are daily engaged. The offer is not par of the reconciliatory work itself as if the believing response of the sinner were man’s contribution to Gods program of reconciliation. Much less does reconciliation come to pass through the apostolic word. In the offer of the gospel, one of the constitutive aspects of the ministry of reconciliation, it appears as if man alone were speaking. Actually it is God who speaks. "We are ambassadors therefore on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us: we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God."69 God in Christ speaks through his heralds, his ambassadors, his prophets. What the Savior said to the seventy whom he sent out to preach the gospel is valid today. "He that hears you hears me; and he that rejects you rejects me; and he that rejects me rejects him that sent me."70 In gospel preaching, and in the offer as one aspect of this activity, Christ comes to sinners. For this reason the messengers are called heralds.71 Behind the herald stands the sender. In so far as the herald loudly proclaims the sender’s message the sender himself speaks and addresses the sinner in the gospel offer. In this awareness Paul thanks God that the Thessalonians received the word of his preaching "not as the word of men, but as it is in truth the word of God which works. in you that believe."72 The Lord God offers his gospel and thus brings us to the point of genuine decision.

This means that the offer made by Christ in and through gospel preaching possesses the same unique power which marked Christ’s words on earth. While on earth our Lord said, "It is the spirit that gives lie; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life."73 The flesh of which Jesus speaks in this passage refers to his flesh and blood. In the synagogue of Capernaum he said to the Jews: "He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life (vs. 54)"; and he "abides in me, and I in him (vs. 56)” In order to release his hearers from their confused questionings as to the possibilities of literal physical mastication he points them to the Holy Spirit. He makes the sinner spiritually alive. He does this by employing the words of Christ. These are his instruments. The Lord emphasizes this by declaring that his words are spirit and are life. Here he identifies his word with the Holy Spirit, The Holy Spirit, God himself, carries the word, the speech, to the sinner and thus the word becomes pregnant with life. Grosheide says that Jesus’ word "staat met het werk des, Geestes in het allernauwste verband, fa valt darmede samen."74 Peter understood the unique coalescence. In reply to Jesus’ question, "Would ye also go away?"75 he answered, "Lord to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life."76 The Holy Spirt speaks the word of Christ.

God’s word possesses the same character under the Old Covenant. As soon as one comes into contact with the word he comes into contact with the Spirit of God. Isaiah brings this into sharp focus. In reminding Israel of the marvelous ways of the covenant Lord the prophet mentions "the loving-kindness of Jehovah, and the praises of Jehovah, according to all that Jehovah hath bestowed on us . . . he was their Savior. In all their affliction he was afflicted and the angel of his presence saved them."77 We notice how the prophet characterized Israel’s sin. "But they rebelled. and grieved his Holy Spirit."78 The Israelites refused to rest in the will of the Lord which was made known to them in his word. As the prophets presented God’s word as normative for their lives those Israelites came into personal contact with the Holy Spirit. The situation of the pre-advent Israelite was not materially different with respect to this matter of God’s Spirit and God’s word.

Nor has the physical ascension of Christ fundamentally changed the situation. The Holy Spirit brings to the disciples a remembrance of all of Christ’s words. Concerning the paraclete the Savior said: "(T)he Spirit of troth . . . shall guide you into an the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things soever he shall hear, these shall he speak: . . . he takes of mine and shall declare it unto you."79 The gospel message inclusive of the gospel offer are Christ’s words and so the Spirit’s words. As such they are full of power and always fulfill the purposes of God. Stephen accentuated this unique conjunction of the word and the Spirit when he preached before the council of Jerusalem. In the sensitive awareness that God’s word and the Holy Spirit are so inseparably associated he said: "Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in hear and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so do ye."80 He explicated the nature of this resistance by mentioning the persecution of the prophets and the failure to keep God’s law. God’s word is the speech of the Spirit. To reject the word is to reject the Spirit. Luke informs us that it was precisely the leaders’ failure to oppose the Spirit which occasioned Stephen’s seizure by these leaders. Some of those of the synagogue "called the synagogue of the Libertines, and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and Asia"81 debated with Stephen, the servant of God, full of grace and power. But they could not win the argument. Luke says: "And they were not able to withstand the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spake."82 In debating with Stephen they debated with the Spirit. Small wonder that they failed so miserably! Theirs was the folly of sin in trying to conquer God’s powerful and, ever effective speech. Stephen experienced the personal realization of the Savior’s promise when he said: "And when they lead you to judgment, and deliver you up; be not ‘anxious beforehand what ye shall speak: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye; for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Spirit,"83 The gospel message as promise, demand, admonition, warning, comfort. and encouragement is as living and powerful as the Spirit whose speech it is.

We mention a few more examples of this emphasis in Scripture. When the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews quotes from Jeremiah’s prophecy he says, "And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after he hath said. . . ."84 Unqualifiedly he says that Jeremiah’s words were the words of the Spirit. The words of Psalm 95: 7 ff. are denoted as the speech of the Spirit. "Wherefore, even as the Holy Spirit says, . . . "85 The messages which came to the seven churches were seriously bound upon the hearts and consciences of .the hearers (readers) with this admonition: "He that . hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."86 The word is the speech of the Spirit. Prof. C. Veenhof pointedly assert: "Want Hij IS altijd zijn woord. Hij is het altijd zelf die in zijn woord de menschen aanspreekt en aangrijpt en aan henvolbrengthet welbehagen van den Vader."87

This material is sufficient for our purposes God’s word as it comes to the sinner as’ God’s offer is always pregnant with the power of God. It always accomplishes the purposes of his good pleasure. “For as the rain comes down and the snow from heaven, and returns not thither, but waters the earth, and makes it bring forth and bud, and gives seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I send it."88 As the Spirit’s word the gospel offer also "is living, and active, and sharer than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.”89

As soon as the offer of the gospel is considered in the light of this context the objections of Hoeksema fall away. With that wholly unique both-and construction we mentioned earlier we can meet and overcome one of Hoeksema’s principal objections to the fact of a general, well-meant gospel offer. God both calls for and calls forth a decision which is perfectly synchronized with and integrated into his counsel. The redeemed are saved by grace alone and rest in the marvel of predestinating grace. Those who persistently reject–and thinking of a man like Manasseh we ought not to anticipate God’s final. rejection ,and thus seriously prejudice the power of the gospel–do so because they want to reject, and not because they were passed by and left by God in their sinful misery. This latter truth need sharp emphasis lest we fall prey to conceiving of Gods predestination of some in Christ with its corollary of preterition in terms of logical causalism. The decree of preterition is not the cause of unbelief and impiety.90 Why God decreed to predestinate only some in Christ Jesus and why he left others in their just condemnation rests completely in Gods good pleasure. It is a matter which brings us into the atmosphere of awe-inspired silence of adoration. Here we humbly bow with Calvin who says: "For the will of God is the highest rule of justice, so that what he wills must be considered just, for this reason, because he wills it. . . . But if you go further, and ask why he so determined, you are in search of something greater and higher than the will of God, which can never be found."91 The decree of the predestinating God of grace as impenetrably integrated in the moral responses of al gospel hearers calls forth the manifold nuances of gospel effects. These observable effects range from Lydia’s open-hearted response of faith (Acts 16) to Agrippa’s rejection (Acts 26); from Timothy’s early unfeigned faith (II Tim. 1) to Hymenaeus’ and Alexander’s shipwreck of unbelief (I Tim. 1.) The decisions called for and called forth by the gospel offer are as multifarious and delicately shaded as the number of personalities who have reacted to the speaking Spirit throughout al of human history. So understood the gospel offer fr no. way obscures or depreciates the Biblical truth of man’s radical sinfulness. By considering the gospel offer as one of the constitutive aspects of gospel preaching and relating this to what Scripture says about the word and the Spirit we can not only avoid Hoeksema’s objection; but point up the grievous character of sin. As Christ through the Spirit uses the means of the gospel offer, we can place in clear relief the root character of sin as "theofugal."92 Rather than obscuring the significance of total depravity we can accentuate it in our preaching activity. A.C. de Jong, The Well-Meant Gospel Offer: The Views of H. Hoeksema and L. Schilder (Franeker: T. Wever, 1954), 100-107. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; footnote content and values original; italics original; and underlining mine.]

[Note: The Scripture verses de Jong cites in the notes are outstanding and should be carefully and thoroughly reviewed.]


68GGA, p. 13. Cf. above chap. II, pp. 42, 43.

69II Cor.. 5: 20.

70Luke 10: 16. Cf. Matt. 10: 40; John 13: 20.

71I. Tim. 2: 7. Cf. G. Kittel, Th. W. B., III, 652 ff. sub sub voce κᾔρυξ.

72I Thess. 2: 13, Notice the unique characterization λὁγον ἀκοἣϛ τοὕ θεοὕ which Schippers in Van den Dienst de Woords (Goes, 1944), p. l8, translates as “het Godsword van zijd prediking.” The word order points up the truth that it was Paul’s labor, his preaching, and yet it was no less than the word of God.

73John 6: 63.

74Grosheide, Johannes II, (van Bottenburg, 1950), p. 483. Italics mine.

75John 6: 67.

76John 6: 68.

77Isaiah 69: 7-9.

78Isaiah 63: 10.

79John 16: 13 and 15.

80Acts 7: 51.

81Acts 6: 9.

82Acts 6: 10.

83Mark 13: 11.

84Heb. 10: 15.

85Heb. 3: 7. Cf. Heb. 9: 8.

86Rev. 2: 1, 11,17, 29; 3: 6, 13, 22.

87C. Veenhof, Het Woord Gods in den Brief aan de Hebreeen, (Temeuzen, 1946), p. 42. For Calvi’s view anent uis matter se S. van der Linde, De Leer van den Heillgen Geest bij Calvijn, (Wagenlgen, 1943), pp. 57 ff. Bavinck, op. cit. p. 503 says: "Het woord Gods . . . heeft geen bestand in zichzelf . . . het woord Gods is altijd en overal een kracht Gods, een zwaard des Geeestes; semper huic verbo adest praesens Spiritus Sanctus."

88Isaiah 55: 10, 11.

89Heb. 4: 12.

90Cf. Canones, Conclusio where the framers of the confession reject the idea: “Eo de modo, quo electio est fons & causa fidei ac bonori operum, reprobatione esse causam infidelitatis & impieatis.”

91Institutes, (Allen Translation), III, XXI, 2, p. 201.

92Cf. N. Snaith, The Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament, (London, 1953), pp. 60 ff. to whom I am indebted for this highly expressive term.

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