The Free Offer

Another objection raised against particular redemption is derived from the free offer of the gospel. The pressing question here is, How can we invite and call each and every man to be saved if Christ did not die for each and every man? This is a difficult question involving deep mysteries, but enough is clear to remove the immediate difficulty. The problem is not to be solved by denying the free offer of the gospel to everyone who hears the gospel. The idea has been spread by some that particular redemption makes men deny the free offer. This is false. Most people who believe in particular redemption also believe in the free offer. I emphatically am one of them. God not only commands but also desires the salvation of everyone who hears the gospel, whether they are elect or not. This view is embedded in the Canons of Dort themselves (third and fourth heads, Article 8): “As many as are called by the gospel are unfeignedly called. 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. He also seriously promises rest of soul and eternal life to all who come to Him and believe.”

The solution to this difficulty is to be found in realizing that a common manner of preaching the gospel has no biblical warrant. The free offer of the gospel does not require us to tell men that Christ died for them. Yes, it is true that this is the way the gospel is commonly preached. It is so commonly preached in this fashion that it may seem incredible to think that this way of preaching is utterly without biblical precedent. The fact is, however, that the gospel does not present men with a theory about the extent of the atonement. It presents men with Christ Himself in His all-sufficient ability to save. Of course, if the free offer of the gospel meant telling unconverted sinners, “Christ died for you,” then particular redemption would be inconsistent with the free offer. But nowhere in the Bible is the gospel proclaimed by telling unconverted sinners that Christ died for them. Never, for instance, do the apostles do this in the book of Acts. The Church is told that Christ died for her but not the unsaved recipients of the gospel offer. The assurance that Christ died for me is never presented as the reason I should take Christ as my Savior. Instead, the assurance that Christ died for me is presented as the triumphant conviction of one who already possesses assurance of his salvation (Gal 2:20).1

Samuel Waldron, “The Biblical Confirmation of Particular Redemption,” in Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue, ed., E. Ray Clendenen and Brad J Waggoner, (Nashville: Tennessee, 2008), 149-150. [Footnote value modified, and underlining mine.]


1Murray (Ibid. , 65) responds to the objection that particular redemption undermines the free offer of the gospel by saying, “This is grave misunderstanding and misrepresentation. The truth really is that it is only on the basis of such a doctrine that we can have a full and free offer of Christ to lost men.” Murray proceeds to argue that only particular redemption enables us to offer men what is actually offered in the gospel. I agree with Murray but also want to admit that there are mysteries involved in the relation of the free offer and particular redemption which I do not fully understand. The fact that I do not understand these mysteries is, however, no reason for me or anyone else to reject either side of this tension. There are also mysteries in the doctrine of the Trinity, for instance, but no evangelical thinks the doctrine of the Trinity should therefore be rejected.

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