A Critique of the "Free Offer of the Gospel"
as held by the Reformed Presbyterian Church
in Ireland and Others
Four main points will be considered:
1) For Whom Is the Gospel Good News?
2) The Call and Promise of the Gospel
3) The Meaning of Isaiah 55:1-3
4) The Serious Errors of Those who Hold the "Free Offer of the Gospel"
1) For Whom Is the Gospel Good News?
a) The Biblical
What is the gospel? It
is the good news that God has given His only begotten Son to be the
Saviour of His people. "Thou shalt call his name Jesus: for He shall
save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). This promise for God’s
particular people runs through the whole of Scripture:
The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his
feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the
people be (Gen. 49:10).
his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell
safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR
RIGHTEOUSNESS (Jer. 23:6).
Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people, and upon thy
holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins,
and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting
righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the
most Holy (Dan. 9:24).
Him hath God exalted with his right hand, to be a Prince and a Saviour,
for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins (Acts
Is the gospel "good news" for every man? No. It
is only "good news" for (or, to the advantage of) God's elect people.
For example, in Luke 2:10 the angel proclaimed the tidings of great joy
"to all people." "All people" means all people without distinction; not
all without exception. This is clear from other Scriptures:
Genesis 12:3. "And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse
him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth
be blessed." The promise of God to Abraham was that he would be a
blessing to those that blessed him; but God would curse those who cursed
Abraham. The promise of God would be a blessing—good news—to those who
received it; to those who rejected God and His ways and cursed Him there
was no good news.
Psalm 72:17. "… and men shall be blessed in him: all nations
shall call him blessed." This means that men in every nation shall be
blessed by Christ. This is confirmed in Isaiah 2.
Isaiah 2:2-3. "And all nations shall flow unto it [i.e. the
LORD's house] … And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and
let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of
Isaiah 49:13. "Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break
forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted his
people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted." In this
verse, the joyful news is based on the promise of the Messiah announced
in the preceding twelve verses. The Messiah comes to comfort "his
people." The good news is for God’s afflicted people, elect
Jews and Gentiles in the context. Ultimately, their affliction is
their own sins. This is clear from verse 9: "That thou mayest say
to the prisoners, Go forth ..." The good news is for God’s people
who are troubled by their sins.
Acts 13:47-48. Those Gentiles ordained to eternal life received the
good news; it was for them. "For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying,
I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be
for salvation unto the ends of the earth. And when the Gentiles heard
this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many
as were ordained to eternal life believed."
Romans 15:8. Jesus Christ confirms the gracious promises to His
people. The promises of salvation are all particular. "Now I say that
Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God,
to confirm the promises made onto the fathers."
Luke 2:11. "For unto you is born this day ... a Saviour." Who is the
"you?" John 3:16-18 tells us: Jesus was given for "whosoever believeth"
and for them the gospel is "the power of God unto salvation" (Rom.
The gospel is grace only to the elect:
For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and
I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion (Rom. 9:15).
Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to
our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given
us in Christ Jesus before the world began (II Tim. 1:9).
The preaching of the
gospel is a "savour of death to some" (II Corinthians 2:15-16), and its
purpose is to render them inexcusable and to harden them:
But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed
not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled,
which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the
arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because
that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their
heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with
their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said
Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him (John 12:37-41).
Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he
hardeneth (Rom. 9:18).
Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be
disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made
the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence,
even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto
also they were appointed (I Peter 2:7-8).
As the grace of God to
the elect, the gospel is good news only to those who believe:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God
unto salvation to every one that believeth (Rom. 1:16).
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but
unto us which are saved it is the power of God (I Cor. 1:18).
The elect believe the Christ of the gospel only
because of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts:
"But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved
of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation
through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" (II Thess.
b) What Supporters of the Free Offer
Supporters of the free offer hold that
the gospel is good news to every person to whom it is preached.
According to them, it is good news and "tidings of great joy" (Luke
2:10) to the unregenerate also. It is a blessing and good news to those
who are cursed by God and are being cursed ("And I will bless them that
bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall
all families of the earth be blessed;" Gen. 12:3). But that is not what
the Scriptures say. For the ungodly there is in fact only bad news: "God
is angry with the wicked every day" (Ps. 7:11).
The point here is that
the unregenerate are under the curse of God. They have no desire for
God. They do not hear the gospel as good news because it is the selfsame
gospel that pronounces such awful woes upon their unregenerate, godless,
unbelieving condition. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be
saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16). But, if
and when, by the almighty power of God they are once made aware of their
awful condition by regeneration then and only then does the gospel
become "good news." In fact, it is the only good news that that soul
Those who hold and
teach a grace of God for all in the preaching of the gospel—supporters
of the free offer—are trying to "help" God along. They are saying more
than they are authorized to say by God. They are conveying good news of
grace, blessing, and great joy not only to God's people, but also to the
wicked ungodly. They are saying that the promises of peace and salvation
are for all men without exception, no matter whether they are God's
people or not. How can God sincerely offer the gospel's blessing to a
man in a state of enmity with Himself while at the very same time hating
that man with all of His being? (See Appendix.)
If and when a man
believes, or thirsts for righteousness, i.e. is spiritually awakened,
then the gospel is good news for him. But not before then! If we
say it is good news for him before that time, then we are overstepping
the way of salvation as revealed in Scripture.
2) The Call and Promise of the Gospel
a) The Biblical Teaching
The gospel call is a
call to all men without exception. It calls all men who hear it to
"repent," "believe" and "come," but it is, as the Westminster
Confession states, an effectual call only to the elect (9:1). Those
elect are in God's time, regenerated and enabled to answer the call and
to come savingly to Christ. The call of the gospel is clearly set out in
the parable of the wedding feast (Matt. 22:1-14), to which we shall now
In this parable there
were but two classes of people: those who came to the wedding feast and
those who did not. There was one and the same general call to all. This
was a serious call: Come to the wedding feast!
First, the king's
servants went forth and called all of them who were bidden to come. They
did not want to come and they did not come. We are told that they "went
their ways" (v. 5). Some of them even murdered the servants! What was
God's response? It was wrath (v. 7). Only wrath is mentioned in
connection with such subjects.
It is worthy of note
here, that we read of "my dinner," "my oxen," etc. (v. 4). It is not
"your dinner" or "our dinner." This declares the king's kingship—his
absolute rule, his dominion, his sovereignty. And God is the King of
Kings who does as He pleases and in the manner He pleases. He bestows
His choice pearls upon those whom He has chosen to receive.
Second, as many as the
servants came across, those were bidden to come to the wedding (v. 9).
So the servants went out and made the call and "gathered together all,
as many as they found, both good and bad; and the wedding was furnished
with guests" (v. 10). This latter call was an effectual one to all those
"gathered together." The teaching here is that there is one and the same
general call to all and all are bidden to come (vv. 3, 9). Everyone to
whom the gospel is preached is "bidden to the wedding." In some,
however, the Holy Spirit takes the preached gospel and effectually calls
that sinner by applying the call of the gospel—the Word—to their hearts.
There is one gospel
call, but for some it is made effectual; for others it is not.
We must remember the
purpose of gospel preaching: to call God's elect from every nation and
tongue and people unto Jesus Christ. The Reformed preacher knows that
God will use his preaching to affect His own purpose. Therefore, he is
absolutely assured that God will, in His own good time, certainly draw
His elect unto Christ by the preaching of the gospel.
This does not mean that
we say in the preaching of the gospel that one must know he is elect
before he can come. We do not say that the external call is only to the
elect or that the command to repent is only to them. We do not preach
the call to "repent," "believe" and "come," only to those who show signs
of regeneration. We address the call to all who hear, leaving the Holy
Spirit to apply the word savingly to the elects' hearts.
If one asks, "How is
this gospel call to be made in the preaching?" then the answer, briefly,
is as follows. First, the Reformed preacher brings the truth of man's
utterly hopeless and helpless sinful condition. He expounds the doctrine
of total depravity. He sets forth the condemnation that awaits the
wicked: temporal and eternal miseries, etc. Second, he preaches the
person and work of Jesus Christ for His people in all generations. He
preaches the message of Jesus and Him crucified. The wonderful
righteousness achieved by Christ, through His shed blood; the
justification achieved by His resurrection is all expounded. Thirdly,
the Reformed preacher presents the call of the gospel to all who hear
it—"repent," "believe," and "come to Jesus Christ."
The Reformed preacher
does full justice to the tender, gracious promise of the gospel: he
unreservedly promises mercy to the penitent, like Peter in Acts 2:37-39,
when sinners "pricked in their heart … said unto Peter and to the rest
of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?" The Reformed
preacher assures all who believe that they have everlasting life and
shall not perish; that those who come to Christ will in no wise be cast
out (John 6:37). He will make it clear that these gospel cordials and
promises are only for those who believe and who come.
The call of the gospel
is universal: the promise of the gospel is particular. God
promises salvation only to the spiritually awakened sinner, who, full of
penitence, desires the only medicine that can heal his sin-sick soul,
and cries out with the publican of old, "God be merciful unto me, a
sinner" (Luke 18:13). The gospel publishes glad tidings for "whosoever
believeth" that God's only begotten Son laid down His life for His
people. This is the precious balm for the hearts that "labour and are
heavy laden" (Matt. 11:28) under the overwhelmingly crushing burden of
sin; and it is made only to those who are "athirst" for the "water of
life" (Rev. 21:6).
Thus Pierre du Moulin rightly explains
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden"
(Matt. 11:28): "those that are ... so thirsting, and so
laden, were not unregenerate. For that very desire of
salvation and the grace of God, and the sighs of the
conscience, panting under the weight of sin, by which we are
compelled to fly to Christ, is a part of regeneration"
of Arminianism [London: T. S. for Nathaniel Newbery,
1620], p. 321; spelling and punctuation
The question arises as
to what more the Reformed preacher ought to say. Anything less would be
irresponsible and sub-biblical; anything more would be extra-biblical.
But the latter is exactly what those who preach the "free offer of the
gospel" are doing. They are saying more than they are called to say.
b) How Supporters of
the Free Offer Add to God's Plan of Salvation
Confession sets out the benefits of the covenant of grace in chapter
7. These benefits are made over to those who are included in the
covenant. They are those who are promised the Holy Spirit and His
blessings (7:3). In chapter 10, "Of Effectual Calling," the
explains how those included within the covenant of grace are regenerated
and efficaciously called by His Spirit and Word. The Confession
is emphatic: "All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those
only, he is pleased in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to
call, by his word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in
which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ ..."
(10:1). The gracious call of the gospel and its benefits are only for
those "predestinated unto life," for those included within God's
covenant of grace.
Those who preach "the
free offer of the gospel" are preaching a grace of God for all men
head-for-head. They say more than the Scriptures. They add to the
doctrine of effectual calling by declaring that, even when a man is in a
state of nature, there is grace and mercy for him; that in such a state
there is a loving, gracious, and merciful promise for him (or, to
his advantage), no matter what his state is. Yet alongside of this and
at the same time, God hates that man and is angry with him each day (see
Appendix). Not only is this highly confusing; it is unscriptural.
Those who engage in
such teaching claim a well-meaning and sincere desire on God's behalf to
save all who hear the gospel; to sincerely offer grace and salvation to
everyone in the gospel; at the very least to enlighten the unregenerate
somewhat in order they might partake of the gospel benefits
well-meaningly offered them. The seriousness of such teaching is this:
you cannot sincerely and well-meaningly offer someone something that you
do not actually have. Therefore, to teach a well-meant offer of the
gospel to all men is also to teach a gracious provision for all men. To
say (or even to hint) that there is a death of Christ for all is an
outright denial of the Reformed faith, which teaches particular
atonement. If the supporters of the free and well-meant offer are
alluding to this, then they will have to reject much of the Bible. If,
on the other hand, they are not teaching such a gracious provision to
all men, then their "free offer of the gospel" is nonsense, even a lie.
Let it be clearly said,
grace and Christ are inseparable. No one can receive grace apart from
Christ, the one "full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). A grace of God
that communicates nothing of Christ's righteousness is not truly grace
because "grace reign[s] through righteousness" (Rom. 5:21).
The sum of the teaching
of those who hold the well-meant offer is that they even before a man is
regenerated there is grace and gospel privileges for him. Therefore,
grace, the benefits of salvation, the promises of salvation, the food
and drink of salvation, are well-meaningly offered to everyone who hears
the gospel; everyone is told that these things are "for you." God is
willing, God sincerely longs, that you might have these privileges; if
you accept them, then they are yours.
3) The Meaning of Isaiah 55:1-3
a) A Misinterpretation of Isaiah 55:1-3
Recently a Reformed
Presbyterian minister in N. Ireland gave the following interpretation of
Isaiah 55:1-3. He began by drawing attention to those who, at the end of
the seventeenth century, "limited the call of the gospel to those who
showed signs of regeneration." He said that, in this view, only those
who are referred to as being thirsty in Isaiah 55:1 were called by the
gospel. This was, and is, wrong, according to the preacher. The truth
is, according to this man, that "everyone thirsteth" means all men
without exception. All men are thirsty and all men are trying to satisfy
their thirst by spending money on that which is not bread etc. (v. 2).
The preacher went on to
say that every person is in some way thirsting for God, but that the
thirst mentioned in Isaiah 55:1 is not a thirst for righteousness.
Everyone is engaged in trying to satisfy this inner longing for God.
They are spending "money for that which is not bread," and labouring
"for that which satisfieth not ..." (v. 2), and so the call of the
gospel comes to all men and calls them to "eat ye that which is good and
let your soul delight itself in fatness." They are called to "incline
your ear, and come unto me" (v. 3).
We see how this line of
reasoning ties in with the previous point, that the supporters of the
free and well-meant offer add to the Scriptures. For all men there are
gospel privileges and good scriptural food and drink. Furthermore,
according to this preacher, "there is a God-shaped void within every
man" that leads them to, in some way, seek God and to thirst for
something better than that which they are at present experiencing in
their lives. This sense of unfulfilment and unhappiness can only be
satisfied by the gospel. All men are athirst, all men are called by
these words, all men are well-meaningly offered such gospel privileges.
There is absolutely no limit to either the call or the provision. All
men thirst for God; all men are provided for.
This teaching is
erroneous. The unregenerate are not in any way thirsty for God. In his
unregenerate state, the wicked man does not want to come to Christ; he
is not aware of his lost condition; he is satisfied with the pleasures
of sin and the world and its food and drink; he is not seeking God. He
does not even want to seek God. This is the clear teaching of Scripture:
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they
have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The LORD
looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were
any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are
all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one
it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that
understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone
out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none
that doeth good, no, not one (Rom. 3:10-12).
The wicked are full—full of unrighteousness. They
are not hungry; they are satisfied by their own evil lusts; they "eat up
my people as they eat up bread, and call not upon the LORD" (Ps. 14:4).
They are thirsty for unrighteousness and hungry for the sweetmeats of
the devil—"having eyes full of adultery ..." (II Peter 2:14). They are
those that "walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness" and those
who "loved the wages of unrighteousness" (II Peter 2:10, 15). The wicked
are full of unrighteousness:
And even as they did not like to retain God in
their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those
things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness,
fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy,
murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of
God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient
to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural
affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that
they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same,
but have pleasure in them that do them (Rom. 1:28-32).
As far as such people
are concerned, they are getting along nicely. They do not see any need
of being justified before God. They do not thirst for righteousness. The
gospel is foolishness to such a person, for "the natural man
receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness
unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually
discerned" (I Cor. 2:14). In the same way, the gospel was
foolishness to the ungodly in Noah’s day before the flood. We read
in II Peter 2:5 that Noah was a "preacher of righteousness." Evidently,
Noah preached to the people of his day, but to them it was foolishness
and they just carried on in their wicked ways. God tells us about man’s
total depravity in Noah’s day (and today):
And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that
every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually
and the LORD said in his heart … the imagination of man’s heart is evil
from his youth … (Gen. 8:21).
The natural man is full
of evil. Continually full of evil!
b) The True
Interpretation of Isaiah 55:1-3
This will be considered
under the following headings:
i) Who is here addressed by the prophet?
ii) What is their
iii) What is the nature
of the call and the benefits conferred therein?
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. Wherefore do ye spend
money for that which is not bread? And your labour for that which
satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat that which is good,
and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come
unto me; hear, and your soul shall live, and I will make an everlasting
covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David (Isa. 55:1-3).
i) Who is here
addressed by the prophet?
"Every one that
ii) What is their
They are thirsty for
God and his righteousness. This is clear from the preceding
chapter: "This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their
righteousness is of me, saith the LORD" (Isa. 54:17). In Isaiah 54:1-16,
God comforts His church with gracious promises, even declaring, "In
righteousness shalt thou be established" to those who were "afflicted,
tossed with tempest, and not comforted" (v. 11).
The spiritual condition
of those "that thirsteth" is that they are thirsty for God’s
righteousness—the "living water" (John 4:10)—and hungry for "that meat
which endureth unto everlasting life" (John 6:27). They do not
have anything to contribute to their satisfaction (no
self-righteousness), hence the gracious provision is for "he that hath
no money" (Isa. 55:1). Indeed, as Mary testified, "He hath filled
the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away" (Luke
1:53). There are some that God sends away empty; for them there is
no gracious provision.
iii) What is the nature
of the call and the benefits conferred therein?
It is an effectual
call. The prophet calls all those "that thirsteth" to "come, buy, and
eat." The call is to come to the gracious provision that God has made,
and to be satisfied. Money gives means to someone; with money they have
the means to attain that which is desired. But, those "that thirsteth"
do not have any money; they do not have anything of themselves which
will satisfy their thirsty souls. That is not to say that they do not
have literal money; or that they do not have the means to attain some
form of self-satisfaction or self-righteousness. Judas Iscariot bought
himself what he thought was satisfaction by betraying the Lord; but he
was very far from having satisfaction. Our first parents, after their
fall, tried to stitch up a righteousness of their own, for "they sewed
fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons" (Gen. 3:7). They tried
to get away from God and His righteousness, until the Lord issued that
gracious call in Genesis 3:9: "And the LORD God called unto Adam, and
said unto him, Where art thou?" Then God clothed them with "coats of
skins" (3:21), a type of the righteousness of Christ.
Isaiah 55:2 simply
means that those "that thirsteth" were engaging their own strength and
means in carnal religion—labours that could never satisfy them—just like
the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22. They were partaking of the
religious dross which Paul calls "dung" (Phil. 3:8). All the things that
Christians do in their own carnal strength are the things that the
prophet is speaking of in Isaiah 55:2.
The benefits conferred in this gracious call are
the privileges and the promises of the gospel: the water and the bread
of life. The benefits are "the exceeding great and precious promises"
(II Peter 1:3-4).
This is also the interpretation of Isaiah 55:1-3 (and
Matthew 11:28) of Scottish Reformer and father of
Presbyterianism, John Knox. Listen to his rebuke of his
Anabaptist and free-willist adversary:
And wonder it is, that in the words
of the prophet and in the words of our master Christ Jesus
also, you see not a plain difference made, for the prophet
calls not all indifferently to drink of these waters but
such as do thirst [Isa. 55:1-3]. And Christ restrains his
generality to such as did travail and were burdened with sin
[Matt. 11:28]; such, I say, he confesses himself to call to
repentance, but to such as were just and whole, he affirms
that he was not sent [Mark 2:17] (On Predestination, in
Answer to the Cavillations by an Anabaptist , p.
118; spelling and punctuation modernized).
Later, Knox sets forth this truth positively:
That we thirst to do good, that we
have some power to execute the same, this proceeds from the
supernatural grace, by the which we are regenerate and newly
born to a better and more godly life. Behold then what God
works in his children: first, putting away their perverse
nature [as to its dominion], he conducts and guides them by
his Holy Spirit in obedience to his will (On
Predestination, p. 177).
Likewise, in his great work against Arminianism, French
Reformed theologian, Pierre du Moulin, writes,
They [i.e., the Arminians] scatter
some little motives [i.e., appeal to certain texts?], as that Isaiah 55:1. They that thirst
are invited by God, that is, those that are desirous of
reconciliation with God, and of salvation. And that Matthew
11:28. They that are heavy laden are called, Come unto me ye
that are weary and heavy laden: By those that are laden, are
noted out, those that are pressed down with the conscience
of their sins, and sighing under the burden of them:
Therefore (say they [i.e., the Arminians]) they were already desirous of
salvation, and were pressed down with the conscience of
their sins, before they were [externally] called, and regeneration is
after calling: And therefore in the unregenerate there may
be a saving grief, and a desire of remission of sins; but I
affirm that those men so thirsting, and so laden, were not
unregenerate: For that very desire of salvation and the
grace of God, and the sighs of the conscience, panting under
the weight of sin, by which we are compelled to fly to
Christ, is a part of regeneration: And that beginning of
fear (if it be acceptable to God) is an effect of the Holy
Spirit moving the heart: For what hinders, that he who
thirsts after the grace of God, hath not already tasted of
it, and as it were licked it with his lips? What hinders
that he who is commanded to come to Christ, should not
already move himself and begin to go, although with a slow
pace? Doth Christ as often as he commands men to believe
in him, speak only to unbelievers? Yea, this exhortation to
believe and to come to him, doth especially belong to them,
whose faith being new bred, and weak, doth strive with the doubtings of the flesh (Anatomie
4) The Serious Errors of Those Who
Hold the "Free Offer of the Gospel"
a) It Is Extra-Biblical
It is after the spirit of Uzzah, who
would "help" God's work. II Samuel 6:6-7 says, "And when they came to Nachon's threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and
took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the LORD was
kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there
he died by the ark of God."
b) It Results in a Failure to Declare
the Full Counsel of God Against the Ungodly
The Bible declares woeful tidings against
God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness
and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness (Rom.
The free offer teaching promises grace
and gospel benefits to all who hear the gospel, including the
impenitent. The Scriptures are clear—the only message to those who
continue impenitent is one of God’s wrath. Ironically, the free offer
men only succeed in confirming impenitent sinners in their natural
complacency. After all, if such people are assured that God loves
them, yearns to save them and has made a gracious provision for them,
then, naturally, they will think their plight is not so bad after all!
c) It Universalizes the Gracious
Promises of the Gospel
The free offer teaches
that since all men without exception are somewhat spiritually thirsty,
then this spiritual food and drink is in some measure for them. Since
the gospel call is a well-meant and a gracious offer to all who hear it,
then the precious promises are also appended to this offer. Listen to
Psalm 53:2-3: "God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to
see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one
of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none
that doeth good, no, not one." This makes it clear that no one in their
natural state seeks God. The promise is always particular. Thus Peter
preached, "For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all
that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call"
(Acts 2:39). The free-offer men promise grace and gospel benefits to
those who are not coming to Christ. This is the essence of their
position. They are saying to everyone: "The gracious call and privileges
are for you, and God wants you to have it; God wills you should have
it." One could well ask the question, Where is the urgency in coming to
Christ if in some measure a person already has the grace of God and
access to gospel food and drink?
By By universalizing the
gracious promises, it destroys the particular promise to the believer,
and thereby fails to comfort the child of God in all of his struggles
and trials. How can I be sure that my faith is true if everybody
experiences a thirst for God and receives gracious news from heaven?
Maybe my experience of salvation is just some general kind like that of
many others? The comforting call and promise to the child of God
contained in Isaiah 55:1-3 (which the Reformed Presbyterian minister
universalized, as discussed under point 3 above) is lost.
d) It Makes Faith a
Condition of Salvation
The gospel is
well-meaningly offered to all, and if they trust in Christ then they
will be saved. Faith becomes a condition, either implicitly or
explicitly. Therefore the sinner may either accept or reject the
well-meant and free offer of salvation; he may either accept or reject
Christ. The point is that, in this matter at least, the sinner has the
power within himself to do one thing or another. If those who reject the
gospel had accepted it, then they would have been saved, because, after
all (according to the free offer men), God really wanted them to obey
the gospel and be saved.
If the gospel was
preached faithfully, sinners would be told they do not, neither can
they, have faith. This would be the case if the doctrine of total
depravity was faithfully proclaimed. In the call of the gospel, God is
not bringing some possibility of salvation to men which is dependent
upon them exercising faith, and which contains the contingent
possibility that such men might very well choose not to do so. There is
absolutely no degree of indeterminacy present in the gospel call.
The only conclusion
that can be deduced from the well-meant offer of the gospel is that, to
some extent, the sinner's salvation depends upon his own choice. The
impression is given that it is Christ AND me in salvation. Of course,
the sinner is active in conversion, trusting in Jesus Christ alone. But
even in this matter the word of God makes it clear that "it is God which
worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil.
2:13). Faith is given to the elect in order they should believe in
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on
him, but also to suffer for his sake (Phil. 1:29).
And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word
of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed (Acts
The act of trusting in Christ must not be
presented as being, in some way, detached from God's revealed plan of
For whom he did foreknow, he also did
predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be
the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate,
them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and
whom he justified, them he also glorified (Rom 8:29-30).
It must not be
presented as being dependent upon the natural man himself. If it is—and
with the offer-men it is—then the whole gospel of free grace is
undermined, and the great truth that the apostle contended for against
all those who sought to corrupt the gospel—"it is not of him that
willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy" (Rom.
e) It Denies the
Doctrine of Total Depravity
If one holds to the doctrine of total
depravity then it is impossible to hold the well-meant and free offer of
the gospel. The man who is in a state of nature is described correctly
in the Westminster Confession 6:6 as "bound over to the wrath of
God, and the curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all
miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal." This should be preached
making it clear that this is the state of all who are unregenerate, and
that the promise of mercy is to those, and those only, who repent. The
only message for those who continue in their sins is the wrath of God:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and
unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness (Rom.
God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day
But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of
the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes
which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon
thee, and overtake thee (Deut. 28:15).
It is also worth
remarking that the idea that the unregenerate man thirsts for God is
explicitly condemned by the Canons of Dordt as as contrary to the
truth of total depravity:
... the Synod rejects the errors of those ... Who teach that the unregenerate
man is not really nor utterly dead in sin, nor destitute of all powers
unto spiritual good, but that he can yet hunger and thirst after
righteousness and life, and offer the sacrifice of a contrite and broken
spirit, which is pleasing to God. For these are contrary to the
express testimony of Scripture. Ye were dead through trespasses and
sins (Eph. 2:1, 5); and: Every imagination of the thoughts of his
heart was only evil continually (Gen. 6:5; 8:21). Moreover, to
hunger and thirst after deliverance from misery and after life, and to
offer unto God the sacrifice of a broken spirit, is peculiar to the
regenerate and those that are called blessed (Ps. 51:10, 19; Matt. 5:6) (III/IV:R:4).
At best, the Reformed
Presbyterian minister’s teaching on Isaiah 55:1-3 is confusing; a man
either thirsts for God or he does not. At worst, it is the Arminian
heresy condemned by our Reformed forefathers.
The teaching of the
"free offer of the gospel" as held by Reformed Presbyterianism and
others is a significant departure from the Reformed faith as expressed
in the Westminster Confession and the Canons of Dordt. The
free offer of the gospel is to be rejected for what it is: error.
God does not, of course, hate His elect,
not even when they are in an unregenerate state. God eternally loves His
But because the LORD
loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto
your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and
redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king
of Egypt (Deut.7:8).
The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee
with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn
thee (Jer. 31:3).
have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us?
Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob (Mal.
it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated (Rom. 9:13).
It is true,
nevertheless, that all men are wicked and sinful, are by nature children
of wrath and are subject to all miseries (spiritual, temporal and
Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts
of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and
were by nature the children of wrath, even as others (Eph. 2:3).
And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in
thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son (Luke 15:21).
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me
Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God
through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their
heart (Eph. 4:18).
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye
cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels
God eternally and
unconditionally elects some and reprobates others (Westminster
Confession 3:3-7). All men are indeed subject to the wrath of God by
nature. But because of believers' eternal election in Christ their
mediator (Westminster Confession 8:1), God does not burn against
them in His holy wrath. He suffers us lovingly, like the father in Luke
15, until He brings us to repentance: "The Lord is not slack concerning
his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to
us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to
repentance" (II Peter 3:9). For all the rest of mankind, however, what
is stated in this discourse holds true: God does burn against them in
all of His holy wrath and hatred.