Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

FREE OFFER - Addendum, Part 1

This is an addendum to a recent post describing the Biblical and theological case for the free offer of the Gospel. Here, I will briefly address a few philosophical points. In the next post, I will add some needed textual support to the Biblical case. First, let's clearly state what the free offer does not mean:

1. The free offer does not imply "libertarian free will," or the idea that sinful man has the ability to choose to receive Christ without special assistance from the Holy Spirit. Nor does it suggest the Arminian idea of "prevenient grace."
2. The free offer does not imply that divine election and predestination are invalid.
3. The free offer does not imply that the atonement is universal in the sense that Christ has salvifically died for all individuals.
4. The free offer does not imply that sinners can effectively or ultimately resist sovereign, saving grace.
5. The free offer does not imply that the human will is the decisive factor in salvation.

These are unbiblical and man-centered notions, so the Reformed concept of a free offer must never be confused or co-mingled with them.

The free offer is not a man-centered doctrine at all. Rather, it is a reflection of the nature and heart of God, Who is aflame with mercy and Who passionately desires the good of all His creatures.

The free offer implies four distinct, but closely related, realities:

1. In some sense, God wills the salvation of all people, elect & non-elect.
2. In some sense, God loves all people, elect & non-elect.
3. God invites all people, elect & non-elect, to Himself.
4. God commands that the Gospel be proclaimed to all people, elect & non-elect.

It should be noted that we have no way of telling who is elect and who is non-elect, until we see "things that accompany salvation." So, we can only know (to some extent, not infallibly) that certain individuals are elect, and this only after they have become believers. From our human standpoint, everyone else must be viewed as potentially elect. No individual can be called "non-elect."

If you are an Arminian Christian considering the four aspects of the free offer, you probably don't appreciate the vague qualifiers I have used (e.g., in some sense). Minus the qualifiers, you would probably agree with all four statements, perhaps adding a re-definition of the term "elect" as a caveat. In essence, you would take the Biblical heart out of Reformed theology and leave God begging.

If you are a Reformed Christian, as I am, your mind is probably in a whirl trying to figure out how all of this can be true. This is good! You are trying to balance certain things you know are true of God according to Scripture with other things you also know are true of God according to Scripture. Take heart, for God has ordained the struggle.

Here's another way a Reformed believer might articulate the free offer:

1. God wills the salvation of all people - especially the elect.
2. God loves all people - especially the elect.
3. God invites all people to Himself - especially the elect.
4. God commands us to preach the Gospel to all people. Period.

God desires the salvation of all sinners, but He only effects the salvation of some. Does this mean some of God's desires are frustrated? Certainly not. God does not have frustrated desires, for it is He Himself Who chooses not to effect some of His desires. God accomplishes all that He pleases, but He does not accomplish everything that might please Him. The key point here is, it is not God's hatred, divine snobbery, or a failure on God's part to elect that causes sinners to perish. On the contrary, the condemnation of sinners results from their stubborn refusal to comply with His REVEALED desires for them. All people have rebelled; God turns some sinners back to Himself.

In the next post, we will turn to the Scriptures to discover deep and undeniable Biblical support for the four aspects of the free offer . . . without losing any real Calvinism along the way.


  1. Great post!

    This sermon goes along with your thoughts.

    Many (even in my church!) don't like it...but I believe it is biblical.


  2. Steve,

    Thanks for the link. I've started listening to the sermon, and it sounds great. Your pastor sounds a bit like mine - quietly preaching truth (even hard truth) in a gentle way that is spiritually impactful.

    If you search my site for "Lutheranism," you will find a post about a Lutheran church I visited last Novemeber. Having grown up in a more liberal Lutheran tradition, I was pleasantly shocked and my pre-conceptions were demolished as I heard the Gospel preached without compromise! In studying Reformed theology, I've discovered we share a lot of common ground - and you've just given me a little more.

    Thanks again for the link and the encouragement.

    Grace & peace,
    Derek Ashton

  3. 1. God wills the salvation of all people - especially the elect.
    2. God loves all people - especially the elect.
    3. God invites all people to Himself - especially the elect.
    4. God commands us to preach the Gospel to all people. Period.

    Haha. Didn't read the rest of the post but I loved that part :-)

    Your blog-skimming friend,


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