Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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Psalm 69 Versus the Free Offer

Rev. Angus Stewart


Part 1

In the very first sentence of his article, "The Free Offer of the Gospel," John Murray succinctly identifies the key issue in the debate: "It would appear that the real point in dispute in connection with the Free Offer of the gospel is whether it can properly be said that God desires the salvation of all men" (Collected Writings, vol. 4, p. 113; italics Murray’s).

"All men" includes the elect and the reprobate, those whom "God was pleased … to pass by, and to ordain … to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice" (Westminster Confession 3:7).

"Salvation" surely includes the blessings of union with Christ, regeneration, calling, justification, adoption, sanctification, preservation, and glorification (blessings given only to the elect; Rom. 8:29-30).

John Murray rightly argues that if God desires to give the reprobate the end (the blessings of salvation), He must also desire to give them the means to that end, namely repentance and faith: "It amounts to the same things to say ‘God desires their salvation’ as to say ‘He desires their repentance’" (p. 114).

Thus the question is: Does the true God desire to save the reprobate? That is, does God desire to unite the reprobate to Christ and regenerate, call, justify, adopt, sanctify, preserve and glorify them? Does He desire to give the reprobate repentance and faith: What saith the Scriptures?

Matthew 27:34, 48 (and the parallel passages in the other gospel accounts) prove that Jesus Christ is speaking in Psalm 69:21: "They gave me vinegar to drink." Christ proceeds to pray against the reprobate or non-elect (v. 28). He prays. "Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not" (v. 23; illumination or knowledge is part of faith [Eph. 3:17-19]). "Add iniquity unto their iniquity: and let them not come into thy righteousness" (v. 27; righteousness is a gift in justification and in sanctification). He prays to God for their everlasting ruin: "Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them" (v. 24). So far is Jesus from desiring the salvation of the reprobate that He prays that they not be justified or sanctified (v. 27), and that they be damned for their sins and not glorified (v. 24), and that they not be given faith (v. 23).

Remember, these prayers (which oppose the error of the Free Offer) are placed upon our Saviour’s lips as He hung upon the cross, when "they gave him vinegar to drink" (v. 21).


Part 2

Some who hold to the free offer agree that Psalm 69 presents Christ’s will that the enemies of the Messiah be destroyed. Thus they believe that that God desires to condemn the reprobate, and He desires to save them (but does not). Yet Job says of God "what his soul desireth, even that he doeth" (23:13). If "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways" (James 1:8), what about a double minded god who desires two contradictory things? Advocates of the free offer respond that the (alleged) "two ‘wills’ in God" are at two "levels." But God has only one will and there are no "levels" in Him, for He is one and in no respect two (Deut. 6:4).

Those who believe that God desires to save the reprobate argue for their position from Christ’s prayer in Luke 23:34: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." But did this include the reprobate? Some of Christ’s oppressors had sinned against the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:31-32). Christ could not have prayed for them, according to I John 5:16. Earlier Christ had prayed, "Father … thou hearest me always" (John 11:41-42). Did God, who always heard Christ, fail to answer His prayer of Luke 23:34, even in part? Moreover, Christ said just hours before the cross, "I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me" (John 17:9). Christ’s intercession, like His atonement upon which it is based, is always particular and efficacious (Rom. 8:34). His prayer of Luke 23:34 was answered in the salvation of the penitent thief and thousands in Jerusalem (Acts 2:41; 4:4).

The Christ of God loves, desires to save and died for His church (Eph. 5:25), and wills the destruction of the reprobate (Ps. 69:22-28). This Christ must be preached and all must urgently be exhorted to repent and believe in Him.