John 3:16 and God's Love for the World

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by Travis Fentiman, Jul 4, 2014.

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  1. Travis Fentiman

    Travis Fentiman Puritan Board Freshman

  2. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Travis, I think that site has led you astray.

    As you have a place for John Kennedy of Dingwall on your site, may I recommend his book, Man's Relations to God, and especially the chapter dealing with man as evangelised. He provides the biblical balance that is needed to put your article back on the right track.

    As for Samuel Rutherford, why not quote his precisely stated views on John 3:16 as found in Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners to Himself, pp. 484-488. It is available at Google Books and will well repay a perusal. He states very clearly, "This world is the only believing elect world, the loved world, John 3:16, the world saved, v. 17, the world of which Christ is Saviour, John 4:42, the world that Christ giveth his life unto, John 6:33, and for which life he giveth his life, v. 55." (Pp. 487-488).
  3. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    George Gillespie, 'Treatise of Miscellany Questions,' in Works 2:119-120:

  4. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Am I a bad Calvinist if I believe that God loves the entire world?

    John Calvin on John 3:16,

    "[Two] points are distinctly stated to us: namely, that faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish."
  5. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    James Durham, Commentary on Revelation (1739 ed.), 300:

  6. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    What do you mean by "the entire world?"

    God's love for the human race is shown in that He did not leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery.
  7. Travis Fentiman

    Travis Fentiman Puritan Board Freshman


    Thank you for the quotes by Rutherford, Gillespie and Durham. I appreciate the recommendation to Kennedy's Man's Relations to God, which I have read, as well as his other writings.

    In regards to the website Calvin and Calvinism, I am very aware of the webmaster's Amyraldianism, which I do not agree with, though he has much helpful information on the site.

    With respect to your interpretation of John 3:16 as meaning the elect world, what do you make of the 4 or 5 arguments in my article under section 2, which directly addresses that interpretation?
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2014
  8. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Travis, unconvincing, I must say.

    First, as you can see from the quotations from the Scottish divines, they argue from the Gospel of John itself and the surrounding context of John 3:16. It is incorrect to portray this position as arguing from "other books" of Scripture and importing it into the text.

    Secondly, the attempt to divorce the word of salvation from the deed of salvation might be "well-meant" but in the final analysis it will prove destructive. Scripture as a whole does not know of a salvation in word only. The context in John 3 makes it plain that this salvation is accomplished, not simply offered. By universalising salvation you make it something other than an accomplished fact.

    Thirdly, what love is this if it is ineffectual to save? You are holding out a love that is conditional on the will of man and has been powerless to save the multitude of sinners who suffer eternal torment. That is not much of an encouragement to a sinner to cast the weight of his soul's salvation on this love.

    The universal offer of the gospel is not an offer of universal salvation. The gospel is stated in indefinite terms so as to preserve the particularity of the salvation and the wide extension of the offer. I urge you to "seriously" consider the true reformed and puritan gospel. It is the gospel of the blessed God, not the God of wishful thinking.
  9. Travis Fentiman

    Travis Fentiman Puritan Board Freshman


    Thank you for your feedback. I'll respond to just one point you made:

    "the true reformed and puritan gospel. It is the gospel of the blessed God, not the God of wishful thinking."

    All three of the men you quoted above, Rutherford, Gillespie and Durham, all held to the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel in addition to limited atonement, and speak of it clearly, continuously and at length throughout their writings. Volumes could not hold the amount of quotes from the writings of the reformers and puritans (not to mention all the people that came after them) expressing the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel.

    How can you claim that your denial of such is "the true reformed and puritan gospel"? The opposite, it seems, is surely the case.
  10. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    If by "sincere" is meant that God desires the salvation of all men, it is an error. These men counteracted the doctrine, as will be seen from their writings. They rejected the idea that the fulfilment of God's desires depends upon the free will and choice of man. Man should not make God speak in respect of want. He is perfectly blessed in Himself. He satisfies the desire of every living thing, and must surely be able to satisfy His own desire!

    Consider Rutherford's adamant stance against the doctrine:

  11. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    Consider this line now stolen by me.
  12. Travis Fentiman

    Travis Fentiman Puritan Board Freshman

    Matthew, or anyone else:

    If one takes world to mean the elect world, how is it that one must equivocate on the meaning of the "world" just a few verses later (with no contextual indicators) to mean reprobate in verses 19 and 20, and why would the hypothetical be posited about Christ coming into the world to condemn the elect in verse 17, as related in point 2 of my article?
  13. convicted1

    convicted1 Puritan Board Freshman

    Brother Travis,

    This is something in my studies that I have truly struggled with. I have wondered does He, in fact, love all mankind, or only those He chose from before the foundation of the world? I am leaning heavily towards the latter, and not the former.

    If the Arminian view of the atonement rings true, then there wasn't really any one in particular Christ died for. He died for everyone, called everyone, pleaded/pleads with everyone, and sits backs and waits for them to complete the salvation process. In this schema, fallen, sinful creatures control their own destiny.

    If the Calvinist view of the atonement rings true, you have a definite atonement, for a definite people...insert sheep here, and He then goes and calls His sheep out from the goats. He will accomplish salvation in their lives, seeing He actually propitiated their sins. The Arminians rip 1 John 2:2 to rags, btw.

    So God only has love for His sheep, in my opinion......
  14. Travis Fentiman

    Travis Fentiman Puritan Board Freshman

    Regarding the sincerity of John Kennedy's offer of the gospel to the reprobate:

    “Whatever your case may be, however unpromising, however different from every other case on the face of this earth, though you should feel that yours is an utterly hopeless case, do not hestitate, but pass it into the hands of Him who says “I will in no wise case out.” It is the desire of his heart and the cause of his glory, as it is the promise of his word, that everlasting salvation in Himself should be yours, to the glory of His Father’s name, to the praise of His rich grace, and to your joy throughout eternity. Oh, do not leave this house to-night without seeking to leave your spirit in the hands of the Lord Jesus, and may the gracious Spirit help you so to do.”

    Sermons, “The Precious Deposit,” Note that Kennedy draws a connection between God’s desire (disposition toward all sinners) and the promise found in God’s revealed Word.​

    “God, calling you to His Annointed, speaks to you from His throne go grace, and invites you to Himself as His is seated there . . . And think of the love which God hath commended in the gift and in the bruising of His own beloved Son, as His Lamb. It is to receive the embrace of that love that the call of the text invites you . . . There is the mistake of hampering your faith by conceiving of the purpose of God as fettering His love, instead of being guided by the revealed character of God, as it appears in the cross. The love of God, as “commended” in the gift and death of Christ, is love to sinners. It is on that revelation your faith has to act, and it is to the bosom of that love you are called to come through Christ crucified . . . while, because believing it to be love to sinners, I perceive it to be such that its provision must be free to such as I am, and that I may reckon, which I come to God, on such being his character, that He shall certainly embrace and bless me. I have to do with the revealed name, not with the secret purpose of God, in dealing with the call of the gospel, and no sinner who comes to Him in response to His call, has any cause to fear that he shall be cast out. “Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” Here these words, sinner, and ask God to write them no your heart… The divine call of the text is addressed to you – and to you because it is addressed to sinners… God’s voice is always speaking through the written word…”​

    Sermons, “Jehovah’s Call to Sinners,” Note that again Kennedy is rooting the free offer of God’s love in the gospel with the revealed character of God found in His Word. ​

    These words indicate what Christ would fain have. He would fain have sinners coming unto Him in faith for the salvation of their souls. How different this is from coming to crave signs and wonders in order to a bodily cure! This was the errand of the nobleman. This Christ would have, because he would fain be acknowledged as the Annointed and Son of God, because He had delight in salvation, and because He would have God honoured by a simple faith in His testimony. How the heart of Christ rejoiced in faith! How intensely He craved it! How painful to Him was the want of it!”

    Expository Lectures, on John 4:43-54, p. 80, Note that Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “fain” as: to be happy, pleased, desirous, compelled, willing, inclined.”​

    Just in case anyone would like to read these quotes later, I put them up in a more permanent place on the internet here:

    John Kennedy on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel | Reformed Books Online
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2014
  15. Travis Fentiman

    Travis Fentiman Puritan Board Freshman

    That Matthew's Samuel Rutherford quote above was out of context, referring to the Arminian scheme of salvation and not to the sincere free offer of the Gospel, I provide this:

    Rutherford observes that objections justly raised against the deficient Arminian view of God's decree are not pertinent respecting God's revealed will, because it does not purpose to effectuate anything.

    (Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners to Himselfe, London 1647, pp. 443-45 [irregular pagination: colophon lll2-lll3] and 440-42 [colophon: Kkk4-Lll1])

    It's much worthy of observation, how that sweet evangelic invitation is conceived, Isa. 55:1, Ho, everyone that thirsts, come to the waters, and he that hath no silver, come buy, and eat: as if the Lord were grieved, and said, Woe is me, Alas that thirsty souls should die in their thirst, and will not come to the water of life, Christ, and drink gratis, freely, and live. For the interjection, Ho, is a mark of sorrowing, as ah, or woe, everyone that thirsts. It expresseth two things, 1. A vehemency and a serious and unfeigned ardency of desire that we do what is our duty, and the concatenation of these two, extremely desired of God, our coming to Christ and our salvation. This moral connection between faith and salvation is desired of God with his will of approbation, complacency, and moral liking, without all dissimulation, most unfeignedly [margin: What the revealed will of God is]; and whereas Arminians say, we make counterfeit, feigned, and hypocritical desires in God, they calumniate and cavil egregiously, as their custom is. 2. The other thing expressed in these invitations is a sort of dislike, grief, or sorrow (it's a speech borrowed from man, for there is no disappointing of the Lord's will, nor sorrow in him for the not fulfilling of it), or an earnest nilling and hating dislike that these two should not go along, as approved efficaciously by us, to wit, the creature's obedience of faith and life eternal. God loveth, approveth the believing of Jerusalem and of her children, as a moral duty, as the hen doth love to warm and nourish her chickens; and he hateth, with an exceeding and unfeigned dislike of improbation and hatred, their rebellious disobedience and refusing to be gathered: but there is no purpose, intention, or decree of God, holden forth in these invitations called his revealed will, by which he saith he intendeth and willeth that all he maketh the offer unto shall obey and be saved. But it's to be observed, that the revealed will of God, holden forth to all, called voluntas signi, doth not hold forth formally that God intendeth, decreeth, or purposeth in his eternal council, that any man shall actually obey, either elect or reprobate; it formally is the expression only of the good liking of that moral and duty conjunction between the obedience of the creature and the reward, but holdeth forth not any intention or decree of God, that any shall obey, or that all shall obey, or that none at all shall obey.

    And what Arminians say of Christ's intention to die for all and every one, and of the Lord's intention and catholic good will to save all and every one, to wit, that these desires may be in God though not any be saved at all, but all eternally perish, which maketh the Lord's desires irrational, unwise, and frustraneous -- that we say with good reason of God's good will, called voluntas signi, it might have its complete and entire end and effect though not any one of men or angel obey, if there were not going along with this will of God another will, and eternal decree and purpose in God, or working by free grace in some chosen ones what the Lord willeth in his approving will.

    Now this desire of approbation is an abundantly sufficient closing of the mouth of such as stumble at the gospel, being appointed thereunto, and an expression of Christ's good liking to save sinners. Expressed in his borrowed wishes, Deut. 5:29. O that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep my commandments. Ps. 81:13. O that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel walked in my ways. Which wish, as relating to disobeying Israel, is a figure, or metaphor borrowed from men, but otherwise showeth how acceptable the duty is to God, how obligatory to the creature. But the Lord's expostulations, Ezek. 18:31. Why will ye die, O house of Israel? Verse 32. For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies. In the Lord's crying to sinners, Prov. 1:20. Wisdom cries, she uttereth her voice in the streets. The word is to cry with strong shouting, either for joy, Ps. 81:2, or sorrow, Lam. 2:19, which expresseth Christ's desire to save sinners.

    [Margin: No lip-love, nor any empty love in God, but that which is effectual and real to work the good he desireth to the party loved.] We are hence taught to acknowledge no love to be in God which is not effectual in doing good to the creature; there is no lip-love, no raw well-wishing to the creature which God doth not make good. We know but three sorts of love that God has to the creature, all the three are like the fruitful womb; there is no miscarrying, no barrenness in the womb of divine love.

    [Margin: A threefold love in God effectual.] He loves all that he has made, so far as to give them a being, to conserve them in being as long as he pleaseth. He had a desire to have sun, moon, stars, earth, heaven, sea, clouds, air. He created them out of the womb of love and out of goodness, and keeps them in being. He can hate nothing that he made.

    There is a second love and mercy in God, by which he loves all men and angels, yea, even his enemies, makes the sun to shine on the unjust man as well as the just, and causeth dew and rain to fall on the orchard and fields of the bloody and deceitful man, whom the Lord abhors, as Christ teacheth us, Matt. 5:43-48. Nor doth God miscarry in this love. He desires the eternal being of damned angels and men; he sends the gospel to many reprobates, and invites them to repentance and with longanimity and forbearance suffereth pieces of froward dust to fill the measure of their iniquity, yet does not the Lord's general love fall short of what he willeth to them.

    [Margin: Christ's love of election cannot miscarry.] There is a love of special election to glory; far less can God come short in the end of this love. For the work of redemption prospereth in the hands of Christ, even to the satisfaction of his soul; saving of sinners (all glory to the Lamb) is a thriving work and successful in Christ's hands.​

    It is also posted here on the internet, along with quotes from Francis Turretin to the same effect:

    The Will of God and the Gospel Offer: Robert Murray M'Cheyne, John Duncan, William Cunningham, Charles Calder Mackintosh, James MacGregor, John Kennedy and Hugh Martin - The Westminster Presbyterian
  16. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    N.B. Matthew's quotation comes from the discussion of the third type of God's love (electing) which Rutherford posits, p. 442.
    3. There is a love of special election to glory; far lesse can God come short in the end of this love: For 1. the work of redemption prospereth in the hands of Christ, even to the satisfaction of his soule; saving of sinners, (all glory to the Lamb) is a thriving work and successfull in Christ’s hands, Esa. 53.10, 11. “He shall see of the travell of his soule and be satisfied. 2. Christ cannot shoot at the rovers and misse his marke: I should desire no more, but to be once in Christ’s chariot paved with love, Cant. 3. Were I once assured I am within the circle and compass of that love of Election; I should not be affrayed that the chariot can be broken or turned off its Wheels; Christ’s chariot can goe through the red Sea, though not dryed up: he shoots arrows of love and cannot miss, he rides through hell and the grave, and makes the dead his living captives and prisioners. 3. This love is natively of it self active; Ezechiah saith in his song, Esia. 38.17, “Behold for peace I had bitterness, but thou hast in love to my soule (delivered) me from the pit of corruption,” but in hebrew [sic; Hebrew in margin] it is, “thou hast loved my soule out off the pit of corruption, because thou hast cast all my sinnes behind thy back;” he speaketh of God’s love [margin: Christ’s love active], as if it were a living man with flesh and bones, armes, hands, and feet, went down to the pit, and lifted up Ezechiah’s soul out of the pit; so has the love of Christ loved us out of hell, or loved hell away to hell, and loved death down to the grave, and loved sinne away, and loved us out of the armes of the Devill; Christ’s love is a persuing and a conquering thing; I shall never believe that this love of redemption stands so many hundreth miles aloof on the shoare; and the bank of the river, and laek of fire and brimstone, and cryes afar off and wisheth all mankind may come to land & shoar, and casteth to them, being so many hundreth miles from them, words of milk, wine and honey, out of the Gospel, and cryeth that “Christ loveth all and everyone to salvation;” and if wishes could make men happy, Christ earnestly wishes and desires, if all men were alike well-minded to their own salvation, that all and every one might be saved, that there were not a Hell; but he will not put the top of his little finger in their heart to bow and incline their will, and Christ cryeth to the whole world perishing in sin, I have shed my blood for you all, and wish you much happinesse; but if ye will not come to me to believe: I purpose not to passé over the line of Arminian decency or Jesuiticall congruity, nor can I come to you to draw your hearts, by way of efficacious determination, if yee will do for your selves and your own salvation, the greatest part of the work, which is to apply redemption, by your own free-will (though I know you cannot be masters of your selves, of one good thought, and are dead in sinnes) as I have done the other lesser part, purchased salvation for you, or made you all reconciliable and savable, its well; otherwise Ilve the salvations of you and every one; but I will not procure it, but leave that to your free-will; chose fire or water, heaven or hell as the counsels of your own heart shall lead you; and I have done with you; Oh such a love as this could never save me! If the young heire had wisedom, he should pray that the wise Tutor lay not the falling or the standing of the house on his green head and raw glassie and weather-**** free will; we shall cast down our crowns at the feet of him that sitteth on the Throne, because he has redeemed us out of all nations, tongues and languages and left these nations to perish in their own wicked way: sure in heaven I shal have no Arminian thoughts as now I have, through corruption of nature. I shall not then divide the song of free Redemption between the Lamb and free-will: and give the largest share to free-will; my soule enter not into their counsels or secrets, who thus black Christ, and shame that faire spotless and excellent grace of God.

  17. Travis Fentiman

    Travis Fentiman Puritan Board Freshman

  18. Travis Fentiman

    Travis Fentiman Puritan Board Freshman

    Also, to demonstrate that the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel is the "the true reformed and puritan gospel. It is the gospel of the blessed God," please see here:

    The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel | Reformed Books Online

    This is only a fraction of the hundreds of articles and documentation that I will put up in the future regarding the majority, historic reformed view, but it should be a start.
  19. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    There have been previous threads on whether the universal offer of the gospel must posit desires in God for the salvation of the nonelect. I thought there were more but the below is what I found with a brief search. Matthew Winzer's paper critiquing the Murray-Stonehouse view can be found at the last links.
    Murray on the Free Offer: A Review
    The Blue Banner, Volume 9 Issue 10-12. October-December 2000 (PDF).
  20. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Samuel Rutherford is quite clear in his remarks. It can only lead to confusion to fail to maintain his insistence on the efficacy of divine love. The voluntas signi/beneplaciti distinction to which he alludes is also critical. The voluntas signi is effectual because it makes binding our duty, whether we keep it or not. His voluntas beneplaciti is effectual because it is always fulfilled - Isaiah 46:10, Psalm 115:3, Psalm 135:6.
  21. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    I don't think it's right to include Dabney on this issue as representing the "historical" view. Since I don't have a lot of time, the best I can do is appeal to the footnote on the website you linked to, which suggests it (although it also suggests in the parentheses that perhaps Turretin is not inconsistent):

    "Fourth topic, seventeenth question, "Can there be attributed to God any conditional will, or universal purpose of pitying the whole human race fallen in sin, of destinating Christ as Mediator to each and all, and of calling them all to a saving participation of his benefits? We deny." Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 3 vols. (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1992), 1:395-417. Here Dabney subtly criticizes one of his favorite theologians for dealing with this question in an imbalanced and incomplete way. Turretin was somewhat inconsistent on this question. (Or at the very least this section of Turretin ought to be read in light of what he wrote elsewhere, in which case it is mitigated by Turretin's other convictions, which make it clear that he would not be sympathetic with the views of modern high-Calvinists who oppose even the notion of common grace.) Turretin clearly saw the necessary distinction between the preceptive will and the decretive will of God (Third topic, fifteenth question, 1:220ff). He further taught that God shows a general mercy to all (1:12); that the external call of the gospel is a bona fide and sincere proposal of salvation to all (1:415); that there is a general love and philanthropy from God to all His creatures (1:396); and that God does not delight in the destruction of the wicked (1:229-30)." God's Indiscriminate Proposals of Mercy

    Here's an old thread on the two wills of God:
  22. Travis Fentiman

    Travis Fentiman Puritan Board Freshman

    For your reading pleasure, here is more Rutherford on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel, expounding on God's desire for the salvation of gospel hearing reprobates:

    The Trial and Triumph of Faith

    p. 302-303, 1845 edition

    3. Faith can stand upon one foot, even on a general word; hence, this is a gospel word in the Prophets, which requires faith, Turn to the Lord for He is merciful, (Jer. 3:12; Joel 2:13; John 4:2). And because a general promise received with heart-adherence and confidence gives glory to God; and if it be held forth to a humbled soul, who is now within the lists and bounds of grace, and, for anything that the person thus laden with sin knows on the contrary, (for the secrets of election and reprobation belong to the Lord) Christ minds and intends to him salvation, therefore he is to believe.

    4. This would be considered, that unbelief breaks with Christ first, before Christ break with the unbeliever; and the elect of God finds no more, nor any higher favor in the kind of external means to open the Lamb’s book of life, which is sealed and closed with God’s own hand, than the commandment of believing. Now, when our Lord makes offer of the kingdom of sons, to slaves, and casts his jewel of Christ offered in the gospel, in the lap and bosom of a bastard, whatever be the Lord’s secret decree and purpose in so doing, the bastard is to take God as his word, and to catch the opportunity of God’s love in so far; and if he do it not, the gospel offer to the reprobate being a treaty of peace, then the treaty breaks off first upon his side; for Christ comes within a mile of mercy, to meet the sinner, and the sinner comes not the fourth part of a mile, yea, not half a step of love and thankful obedience, to meet Christ; and so, Christ kills the unbeliever with the sweetness of the preventing courtesy of offered mercy.

    5. But if the sinner be wearied and laden, and sees, though through a cloud only, Christ only must help and save; if not, he is utterly and eternally lost. What is there upon Christ’s part to hinder thee to believe, O guilty wretch? Oh, (saith he,) I fear Christ only offers Himself to me, but he minds no salvation to me? Answer: Is not this to raise an evil report and slander on the Holy One of Israel? For Christ’s offer is really an offer, and in so far, it is real love, thought it cannot infer the love of election to glory, yet the total denial of this offer opens up the black seal of reprobation to heathens without the church. And therefore it is love to thee, if thou be humbled for sin; 2. And have half an eye to the unsearchable riches of gospel mercy; 3. And be self-condemned; 4. And have half a desire of Christ: thou mayest expound love by love, and lay hold on the promise, and be saved. An error of humble love to Christ, is no error.

    A Sermon

    Preached to the Honorable House of Commons, Jan. 31, 1643, p. 28-29

    “God’s decree of election or his intention to save me is not the proper object of my faith, but rather of my sense and feeling; we go mightily beside the line, in the method of believing, when we got to believe at first God’s intention to save me. The order is, being humbled for sin, we are to adhere to the goodness of the promise, not to look to his intention to persons, but to his complacency and tenderness of heart to all humble sinners; so Paul, I Timothy 1:15, embraceth by all means that good and faithful saying, Jesus Christ came to save sinners; before he put himself in as the first of these sinners, as the condemned man believeth first the king’s grace and clemency to all humbled supplicants, who sue for grace, before he believe grace to himself; and if this were not, the method of applying Christ were unreasonable. The woman diseased with the bloody issue heard of Jesus, and therefore came and touched the hem of his garment. What had she heard? Nothing of his exorable kindness and tender mercy towards herself, but towards others, and upon this believed; so a rope is cast down in the sea to a multitude of drowned men, and all are bidden, for their life, lay hold on the rope that they may be saved, it were unseasonable and foolish curiosity, for any of these poor men, now upon death and life commanded to hold fast the rope, to dispute whether did the man who cast down the rope intend and purpose to save me or not, and while my mind be at a point in that, I will not put out one finger to touch the rope; but fool, dispute with hands and arms, and lay hold on the remedy, and do not thou begin a plea with Christ, and leave that question to another time. A prince proclaimeth a free market of gold, monies, fine linen, rich garments, and all precious jewels to a number of poor men, upon a purpose to make honorable courtiers and officers of estate, all these men are now not to dispute the king’s secret purpose, but to repair to the market, and to improve their prince’s grace, and buy without money. Christ holdeth forth his rope to drowned and lost sinners, and layeth out an open market of the rich treasures of heaven; do thou take it for granted, without any further dispute, as a principle after to be made good, that Christ hath thoughts of grace and peace concerning thee, and do but now husband well the grace offered, lay hold on Christ, ay while he put thee away from him, and if there be any question concerning God’s intention of saving thee, let Christ first move the doubt, but do not thou be the first mover.”​

    For more quotes from Rutherford on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel, feel free to visit the newly created page devoted to such:

    Samuel Rutherford on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel | Reformed Books Online
  23. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior


    I think it's clear both that Rutherford affirmed, as you put it, "a sincere free offer of the gospel" and that he did not believe that kosmos ("world") in John 3:16 meant every person in the world. This demonstrates, at least in part, that one's interpretation of "world" in John 3:16 is not decisive for affirming the sincere free offer of the gospel.

    I heartily affirm the well-meant free gospel offer. I believe, with Murray, that such is biblically justified and grounds the warrant for faith. I understand that Matthew W. constructs things differently and we differ on this matter. As I understand his position from his criticism of Murray, he does, on other grounds, affirm a vigorous gospel proclamation. We need not agree on all points of exegesis in affirming vigorous gospel preaching. I tend to agree that however we understand "world" in John 3:16, the question of the extent of the atonement is not most immediately in view in that verse.

    With respect to the atonement and its extent, safety lies, biblically and theologically, in putting it like the Synod of Dort did in the Second Head of Doctrine, Articles 3 and 8: "Christ's death is of infinite value and worth, more than sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world." At the same time, "it was God's will that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which he confirmed the new covenant) should effectively redeem from every people, tribe, nation, and language all those and only those who were chosen from eternity to salvation and given to him by the Father."

    This is the Reformed position: the Westminster Divines looked to this international Reformed Synod as a model and the Westminster Standards do not decisively and directly address the question of the extent of the atonement (I think it is implied but much scholarship has focused on the Assembly's refusal directly to address the question of the extent of the atonement). I don't think that Dort or Westminster rule out all other constructions of this (anymore than they rule anything other than infralapsarianism out, while taking infralapsarian positions).

    The whole Second Head of Dort should be carefully read, as it is the fullest Reformed confessional statement on how we should understand both the extent of the atonement and how the gospel ought to be freely preached (Article 5 and elsewhere).

    I greatly admire your and Rob McCurley's vigorous preaching of the sincere free offer of the gospel. I think that such "Marrow" preaching, if I may put it that way, is sorely needed in all of our churches.

  24. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    I am admittedly not nearly as learned as many others on this board who have already commented, however I will venture to say that this entire argument is rather pointless. Unless we confess universalism, which I would pray that none of us on this board do, then it is clear that there is a distinction between the general love of God towards the entirety of his creation, and the particular love that God has for his elect. We know from Scripture that God loves even those who hate and curse him and that he causes his rain to fall on the just and the unjust, but this should not be construed to suggest that God has the same kind of love for all of his creatures. One could argue that the first half of John 3:16 has the general love of God toward humanity in view as his motivation, however it is clear that this general love is manifested in a particular way to a particular group of people, regardless of how those people came to find themselves the object of such love.
  25. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    The problem is that a vital distinction in Rutherford's thought is not being preserved. On whichever side one comes down, the positions of individual theologians should be accurately represented.
    Every person who subscribes to the Westminster Standards by that act has professed a belief in the free offer of the gospel. But when other qualifiers are added (sincere, well-meant) the intention is sometimes to convey that God really wants non-elect persons to be saved. Whether or not one is willing to live with the further issues that view raises, it is clear just from the quotes posted from Rutherford's writings on this thread that he did not adopt that approach.
    There are three positions portmanteaud into one in the language of sincerity and well-meantness. One is the question of a universal presentation of the gospel; another of the conditional presentation of the gospel; a third as to what this says about God's desires. The Standards commit us to a particular answer on the first two points; but if they commit us to an affirmative answer to the question of God desiring what will never happen, then Rutherford could not have approved them on that point.
    For Rutherford, God's love is so powerful that it is always effectual. So he would rather assert that God effectually loves those who are already in hell than say that God's love could ever be ineffectual. Where, in that scheme of universal efficacy, is there room for a wishing or velleity or unfulfilled desire or non-executive volition on God's part? This is why Rutherford's own precise references (e.g., to the voluntas signi) have to be carefully remarked.
    It is perfectly possible to preach the gospel promiscuously and feelingly as Rutherford did without taking the line that Dabney and Murray, among others, confidently argued.
  26. InSlaveryToChrist

    InSlaveryToChrist Puritan Board Junior

    From the site, Calvin was quoted,

    “…so we must see whence Christ came to us, and why he was offered to be our Savior. Both points are distinctly stated to us: namely, that faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish.”

    I'm just curious about Calvin's wording here. Did he actually think God desires the salvation of the whole human race in some sense?
  27. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior

    I agree that Rutherford believed in promiscuous and ardent gospel proclamation without necessarily adopting all that might be conveyed by later writers who add qualifiers like "sincere" and "well-meant" to the free gospel offer. And we ought to be careful, as I noted in my post at #23, not to attribute to theologians positions that they didn't hold (as has been noted by several with respect to Rutherford).

    My concern in this discussion at this time is not what any particular theologian holds, including Calvin or Rutherford. None of them is binding. The doctrinal standards are (the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Standards). We can contend, as some have called the positions, for a "high Calvinism" or a "moderate Calvinism," though it is simply not the case that with respect to the issues under discussion either Dort or Westminster teach Rutherford's or Murray's position with respect to God's desires. I do not believe that they rule out such positions, any more than I believe that they rule out supralapsarianism, although they do rule out, as some have rightly suggested, any position contrary to the imperative to preach the gospel to all mankind alike and to call every single listener who hears such gospel proclamation to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and to repent of his sin.

    Neither Travis nor Matthew would disagree with that last statement (the gospel is to be preached to all without distinction and every hearer called to believe and repent). My concern is that we don't attribute to Rutherford something that he didn't teach about John 3:16 and that we don't call our brand of high-Calvinism "the true reformed" gospel when such is not taught explicitly by the Reformed Standards (nor Calvin for that matter), though it may be taught by various Calvinist theologians.

  28. Travis Fentiman

    Travis Fentiman Puritan Board Freshman

    I have a question for anyone who wants to take a stab at it:

    Was everyone in the crowd Jesus was speaking to Elect in John 6:32?

    "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven?"​

    Surely not, because in John 6:66 it says "From that time many of His disciples went back and walked no more with Him."

    Yet, the text says that the Father gave Christ, not to the elect only, but to the world, including the unbelieving reprobate.

    Was the woman at the well Elect?​

    If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.​

    Of course whether the woman at the well was Elect or not is irrelevant, God gave His Son not only for the Elect, but for all sinners indescrimately, elect or not. "Gift" has no meaning if God does not intend to give the gift to the recipients.

    As the text says, Christ is a conditional gift to the world: a gift non-meritoriously, and instrumentally conditioned upon the person (elect and reprobate) receiving the gift by faith, as the text says: "If thou knewest the gift of God... thou would have asked of Him and He would have given thee living water." If the said condition is supplied through the electing purposes and love of God, then the intended blessing is bestowed.

    These two passages follow immediately from John 3:16 and help to explain it, demonstrating that John 3:16, as argued in the article above, is God's gift ("gave His only begotten Son") not to the elect alone, but to the world of sinners as human-sinners, stemming from and being a token of His love for the human race, the gift being well-meant and intended to be received by faith.

    If someone can answer my questions several posts above:

    Why Christ be sent into the world to condemn the elect, John 3:17?​

    And how can John equivocate on the word "world" and only mean the Elect in v. 16, and then mean the reprobate in verses 19 through 20, without giving any contextual indicators that he is equivocating?​
  29. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor


    John 3:16. The ultimate referent is the elect world in the eternal counsel of God. This is insisted upon against Arminianism. The proximate reference point so far as the temporal outworking of God's gracious purpose is concerned is the world of mankind sinners indefinitely. This is the doctrine of the Marrowmen. There is no definite reference to all men, but only a general reference to sinners as such. Exegetically, I take "world" in context to refer to the universal expansion of God's purposes beyond Israel in contrast to the particularist nationalism which characterised Dr. Nicodemus and the College of Pharisees. They expected the world to be destroyed with the coming of the Messianic kingdom and for Israel to be exalted above the nations. I am also inclined to agree with people like John Murray that "world" has an ethical quality of opposition to God. In this latter sense it is used in v. 19, and this should answer your query on that usage. Concerning v. 17, "the world" cannot be taken to mean "all men" without nullifying the condition of v. 16, "whosoever believeth."

    Samuel Rutherford. I concur that he was refuting Arminian universal redemption, but the foundation of the Arminian doctrine was "catholic [universal] goodwill to save all." In refuting universal redemption Rutherford demolished the argument from "catholic goodwill." Those who include "catholic goodwill" in their view of a well-meant offer will find themselves in the firing line of his sharply pointed arguments. He was directly opposed to it regardless of what quarter it came from.

    Concerning the quotation from Trial and Triumph, this only shows what he explicitly states in Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners, namely, that there is a general, conditional, and indefinite offer of salvation to all men in the gospel. Any attempt to conclude from his statements that he held to an universal, unconditional, definite desire in God for man's salvation is an unwarranted imposition on his words and directly contrary to his stated views.

    John Kennedy. The same applies to John Kennedy. By removing the conditionality with which he offered the gospel one can make him speak contrary to his own mind. When the condition "him that cometh to me" is understood, the invitation falls in its place. Again, I recommend the section on Man as Evangelised in Man's Relations to God. There is also a sermon on the Father's Drawing which should be available online somewhere. Likewise, his remarks on the United Presbyterian Declaratory Statement show clearly that he rejected the doctrine of universal love and will.

    Francis Turretin expressly rejects the doctrine of universal will as Amyraldian. Such respected theologians as R. L. Dabney, James Willson, and William Cunningham represented him as such. William Cunningham utliised his arguments against the Amyraldians to refute the teaching that God has an inefficacious will.

    John Murray. While I dissent from Prof. Murray's view on two contrary wills in God I can appreciate that he kept his view within very strict limits. He did not adduce texts like John 3:16 and 1 Tim. 2:4 to support his position. These lead in an overt Arminian direction when taken in an universalist sense.

    The Confession and Catechisms do not teach or countenance the doctrine of contrary wills, or of an inefficacious universal will in God. Hence the Declaratory statements which were made towards the close of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries in order to add this sentimental universalism to the teaching of the subordinate standards. Consitutionalist Freechurchmen saw that this form of universalism was in fact detrimental to and subversive of the clear scriptural teaching of the standards and therefore opposed it. To quote Dr. Kennedy,

    I might also add that the teaching of WCF 2.1, following holy Scripture, which says, "working all things after the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will," and the teaching of Shorter Catechism answer 24, "the will of God for our salvation," directly counteracts the teaching of two contrary wills in God, or of an inefficacious will dependent on the free will of man, or of the attempt to separate the Word and Spirit in the offer of salvation.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2014
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