The Well-meant offer of the Gospel

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by Jan Ziska, Jan 13, 2009.

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  1. Jan Ziska

    Jan Ziska Puritan Board Freshman


    I was wondering what you all thought about the free offer of the Gospel, or the well-meant offer of the Gospel.

    I've realised that a fairly large point of difference between my denomination and most other Calvinist denominations is in this area.

    To me, the position held in this paper Is Denial of the "Well-Meant Offer" Hyper-Calvinism? seems the most common sensical and biblical.

    Can we say to the general populace, 'God loves you'?
  2. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    "God loves you" is a loaded term. We normally hear it in the following phrase: "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." The problem is obvious to all those who hold to the doctrines of grace: God does not love all.

    What gets us in trouble is any attempt to become so specific in preaching the gospel, that we remove any reference to God's love. In my humble opinion that strays towards the hyper-Calvinist position. God DOES love His elect. We can speak with certainty and confidence about God's love in sending His Son to pay the penalty for sin. We need not cringe at the proclamation of John 3:16 that, "God so loved the world." Yes, as Calvinists, we understand the correct interpretation of that passage, but it does not change the fact that God loves.

    What we cannot do is guarantee the sinner that God loves THEM. Imagine the ramifications to God's nature if we turn his love in a capricious form of cruelty. God loves the sinner, but His love may nor may not result in the sinner being converted. We would be guilty of turning God into a malevolent tempter; enticing the sinner with His love, but preventing him from enjoying it. The Lord tempts no one (Jas. 1:13).

    I am comfortable in saying that the Father sent His Son on a mission of mercy and love for those who will believe in Him. I remove the personalization towards the individual and speak of God's love in more perfect terms. It is also, quite accurate. God DID send His Son on a mission of mercy and love. Yes, only the elect will be the recipients of both, but that does not lessen either.
  3. ManleyBeasley

    ManleyBeasley Puritan Board Junior

    I would never tell people whom I don't know that Christ died for them. I would tell them (as the writer of the article says) to repent and believe and that all who do will be saved (knowing they will only repent and believe if God elected them). I've always drawn the line of hyper-calvinism with those who would not exhort people to repent and believe though their election is unknown to us.

    I believe God does have a love for the non-elect but not a salvific love. I don't don't think it's appropriate to use that in the gospel proclamation. I don't see evidence in the NT proclamations of the gospel of telling random people that God loves them and wants to save them. I see the declaration that He will save all who repent and believe. What do you guys think?
  4. discipulo

    discipulo Puritan Board Junior

    I believe this is different from the scope of God’s Love to the elect alone.

    It has to do with the Proclamation of the Gospel to all, and how that Proclamation is defined.

    The expression Well Meant Offer of the Gospel also mentioned as Free Offer of the Gospel, has found some opposition as being unsound and non Calvinistic, a controversy that took place in the 1920s and in the 1940s, till today.

    I actually have David Engelsma book Hyper Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel, , page 91, chapter 4 Is Denial of the Well Meant Offer of the Gospel Hyper Calvinism.

    He tries to prove that sound Calvinism can’t formulate the Proclamation of the Gospel through that expression.

    -----Added 1/13/2009 at 05:36:54 EST-----

    True that refutation has also a relation to objections on the understanding of the doctrine of Common Grace.

    First of all I must say myself, In my humble opinion, I don’t see any theological problem with the expression Well Meant Offer of the Gospel, even if I think it is more consistent with God's immutability and the doctrines of Reprobation and double Predestination, to express the scope of the Kerygma as a Proclamation meant to be made to all.

    Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15 KJV

    Because God chose preaching as a means to call the elect for salvation, and to proclaim the Glory of His Grace to all, and so the reprobate will also be accountable for hearing the Gospel.

    it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe 1 Corinthians 1:21

    The Kerygma is the context in which the Apostle Paul mentions both the elect and the reprobate

    When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ
    For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.
    2 Corinthians 2:12, 15-16 ESV

    So Preaching and Proclamation should very likely not be expressed as an Offer.

    But the truth is that the expression Well Meant Offer is subscribed by several theologians.

    see John Murray and Louis Berkhof on the Well-Meant Offer

    Calvin and Calvinism » Blog Archive John Murray on the Well-Meant Offer

    Calvin and Calvinism » Blog Archive Berkhof on the Will of God for Salvation of All Men

    With all due respect for Gordon Clark, Herman Hoeksema, Klaas Schilder, David Englesma, Herman Hanko, Robert Reymond, who are theologians worthy of all respect, who saw theological inconsistencies in the expression, I don't see any reason to state their refutation as Hyper Calvinism, which is a very different «camp».

    But I also don't see how could be acceptable a counter reaction to question the soundness of the Calvinism of theologians like Charles Spurgeon, Louis Berkhof, John Murray, Cornelius Van Til, Ned Stonehouse, etc…or Abraham Kuyper who, in spite of the Synod of Dort «neutral statement» on the matter, was openly Supralapsarian.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2009
  5. Michael Doyle

    Michael Doyle Puritan Board Junior

    In my experience in open air preaching and one to one evangelism, it has been a continual growth toward preaching the truth. Where once upon a time I would say that Christ died for you (meaning all hearers) and demonstrated His love for you in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (meaning all hearers). Over the last couple of years that has become unsettling as it is inconsistent with the bibles proclamations.

    It is much more consistent to proclaim, "Let him who has ears to hear, let him hear, pray the Lord God would grant you repentance, then turn from your sins and receive the gift of grace which comes through the blood of Christ for all who would believe." When the hearer is granted a softness of heart through the Holy Spirit`s regeneration (which whereby I can never be fully sure, other than a fallen countenance, which may or may not be authentic), I am thereby free to express the Love of God for all who belong to Christ.

    The hard part for me is not wanting to complicate the process of the gospel proclamation. All are respnsible for their sins and thereby commanded to repent but only those whom the Father draws will come to Jesus. :2cents:
  6. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Brother, you preach to all, as though all are capable of believing. I thank God that we do not know who the elect are. Preach to all men, plead with all men, beg all men to be reconciled to Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). The work of conversion belongs to God. We play the part God chooses us to fill by proclaiming His Word to all who will listen.
  7. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

  8. Pilgrim72

    Pilgrim72 Puritan Board Junior

  9. CDM

    CDM Puritan Board Junior

    Thank you Rev. Winzer for the excellent article in the BB. Thanks Chris for linking to it.

    For anyone here who does not adequately understand this topic, I can't recommend Rev. Winzer's article enough.
  10. turmeric

    turmeric Megerator

    It's well-meant to the elect. I think a proper understanding of election would free us of the need to use the term "well-meant". The idea is to prove God innocent of the charge of dangling something in front of someone, then saying "you can't have it", but the fact is, no one wants it unless God makes him willing.

    Note to self; read Rev. Winzer's article.
  11. discipulo

    discipulo Puritan Board Junior

    Being Common Grace (Common to clearly differ it from Special Particular Salvific Grace) clearly off topic, I will skip to make any comment on it.

    In total agreement, Well Meant Offer or Free Offer don’t seem to be precise and may question our right postulates on God’s Love and Salvation being only granted to the Elect.

    In that sense the Article by Reverend Winzer is brilliant, thank you.

    But often theologians that share the same postulates, differ on methodologies and aims for a certain elaboration and we end up concluding from their inference that their postulates differ too.

    Because one matter is subordinate to other, doesn’t make them contradictory, that was a Medieval, Scholastic and later, also a Rationalistic concept.
    An explanation from Peter A.Lillback that helped me greatly.

    God’s Sovereign Decrees anticipate and subordinate the doctrines on the Kerygma, but having that postulate should not make us see the Proclamation of the Gospel to All as a contradiction. It is also God's commandment.

    I wonder if that is not that paradox (an apparent contradiction) precisely the rationalistic trap that makes such a difficult issue from this matter?

    Scott Clark made a new (2008) preface to John Murray’s article: The Free Offer of the Gospel.

    This preface brings a lot of clarity to the nature of the controversy.
    Preface and Article in PDF attached
  12. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Canons of Dordrecht, 3&4.4

    I think anything beyond this statement is up for debate (i.e. not settled, confessional Reformed theology).
  13. Michael Doyle

    Michael Doyle Puritan Board Junior

    Bill, I agree we preach to all but merely trying to be consistent with what we are preaching to all. The gospel is a free offer and a summons for all mankind but I am also aware that I am responsible for my declaration and I am reverant about such things.

    Thank you Bill for your reply. I hope I havent strayed to far...:offtopic:
  14. R. Scott Clark

    R. Scott Clark Puritan Board Senior

  15. brandonadams

    brandonadams Puritan Board Freshman

  16. discipulo

    discipulo Puritan Board Junior

  17. ManleyBeasley

    ManleyBeasley Puritan Board Junior

    It is not misleading to say, "If you repent and believe God will save you." It does seem to be misleading to tell people Jesus died for them and loves them salvifically (is this a word?). I don't see anyone in scripture saying that. Please show me if I'm incorrect about that but I haven't noticed it. Regardless, to say people that don't say "Jesus died for you" are hyper-calvinists is a misunderstanding of what hyper-calvinism is. The hyper-calvinists refused to exhort people to believe because they may be unable. I don't see anyone here supporting that.
  18. CDM

    CDM Puritan Board Junior

    Man, I can't keep up with all the monikers, misnomers, and oh-so-gentlemanly-Christian epithets slung around here anymore. I wonder if this has anything to do with the recent group of members leaving the PB? To some, to deny the "free offer" (as presented by X, Y, or Z—take your pick) you are a hyper-Calvinist or a rationalist. Some would say if you are Supralapsarian you are hyper. For each one that accuses a James White of being hyper you could find another who accuses him of being a "low-Calvinist." If I were to poll the PB about my views, I bet I could get labeled as a rationalist, hyper, low, and high Calvinist! Sheesh. Vanity of vanities.


    Again, I’d like to reiterate my praise for Rev. Winzer’s very useful article, in which, did he not only answer the other view on each point, but did it without the need of appealing to the masses and making caricatures of those who would differ.
  19. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    As far as any of the moderators know, and as far as any has said, it does not. Let's not put 2 and 2 together and get 5.
    Everyone take a breather for a few hours. The mods will review the thread before determining whether to open it

  20. BertMulder

    BertMulder Puritan Board Junior

    I will hold my peace... for now at least
  21. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

  22. discipulo

    discipulo Puritan Board Junior

    After several readings, namely


    Chapter II, Section III, 3 The warrant to believe in Christ.

    The warrant to believe in Christ.

    resources from the site related to the Scottish Puritan James Durham

    James Durham ( 1622-1658 ) and the Free Offer of the Gospel:

    A Case Study on the Meaning of the Westminster Confession of Faith VII:III

    He freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved.

    James Durham Thesis

    and the article I highly recommend, with an important exegetical research on the offer of the Gospel, where Roger Nicole explains why the doctrine of a Definite Atonement and a Universal Well Meant Offer of the Gospel are Not incompatible.

    Covenant, Universal Call and Definite Atonement by Dr. Roger Nicole

    pdf attached below and quote

    As indicated above, it is really the Calvinist who has in his theological approach the best basis for making a real offer, and on that account he should be most zealous in the proclamation of the gospel.

    Definite Atonement

    I can't find any reason to maintain the questions I had on the Proclamation of the Gospel being expressed
    as a Well Meant Offer of the Gospel or a Free Offer of the Gospel.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2009
  23. BertMulder

    BertMulder Puritan Board Junior

    Esteemed discipulo, believe your signature says it best:

    there is no will nor running by which we can prepare the way for our salvation, it is wholly of the Divine Mercy Jean Calvin Institutes II . V. 17

    Salvation is all of grace, and our accepting of an offer is not something we must do to be saved. Thus 'offer of salvation' is, in any case, bad terminology. Yes, I know historically sound theologians used the term. That was generally before the controversy arose...
  24. discipulo

    discipulo Puritan Board Junior

    I do agree with you, and thank you for putting it in a Kind and Irenic way.
    If you read my posts you saw both my reserves and my acceptance of the terms.
    Fisher in the Marrow writes these both paragraphs

    I beseech you consider, that God the Father, as he is in his Son Jesus Christ, moved with nothing but with his free love to mankind lost, hath made a deed of gift and grant unto them all, that whosoever of them all shall believe in this his Son, shall not perish, but have eternal life

    that although some men be ordained to condemnation, yet so long as the Lord has concealed their names, and not set a mark of reprobation upon any man in particular, but offers the pardon generally to all

    Yet I will not question the soundness or strict Calvinism of Edwin Fisher or Thomas Boston.

    This will be a bit off topic, but this thread touches a sensitive area.

    Geerhardus Vos, who was a B. Th., used to say that the Bible doesn’t need Systematic Theology (or Dogmatics for the same reason), we do.

    We, in our finitude, hopefully trembling, we draw with Reverence, from God’s Eternal Word, a doctrinal understanding of the Truth. And we speak of God in the Presence of God.

    When we define the boundaries of our understanding of doctrine, we don’t need to overlap in everything, to recognize each other as Reformed and Biblical.

    Let’s remember that if the devil can’t pull us he will push us.
    Heresies are from the flesh, but so are Divisions in the fellowship of the Saints.

    Forbearing one another in love, we must debate with some forbearing in love, with oil on the junctions of the members of the body, if we don’t want to hurt each other.

    With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:2,3
  25. Jon 316

    Jon 316 Puritan Board Sophomore

    sorry to cut in at this point. I was thinking about this thread earlier today. I agree with election and limited atonement. However this verse did come to me today

    Acts 2: 38Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call."

    Peter seems to infer that those present could consider that the promise was applicable to them. I know it ends with the promise ultimately being 'for all whom the Lord our God will call'. And obviously only the elect respond. However it does not change the fact that Peter makes 'open' the availability of the promise. Not only so, but he personalises it by saying 'you'.
  26. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    I'm still looking for the Greek word translated "whosoever".
  27. Jon 316

    Jon 316 Puritan Board Sophomore

    but is not saying to a crowd of people 'the promise is for you' no diffrent from saying 'Jesus died for you' or 'God loved you'? In this way, the gosple was 'offered'.
  28. BertMulder

    BertMulder Puritan Board Junior

    And saying, as Boston did, that Jesus was dead for all, is saying the same thing as that He died for all.
  29. Jon 316

    Jon 316 Puritan Board Sophomore

    but that doesnt change the fact that Peter actually says 'the promise is for you' to a large crowd of people of which he did not know who among them are the elect and who is not.
  30. BertMulder

    BertMulder Puritan Board Junior

    He also does not say, for you, head for head...
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