Reformed Theology and the
Free Offer of the Gospel
by Michael Krall
There are many in Reformed
circles holding to the free and sovereign grace of God that go to great pains to make it
known that they believe in the sincere free offer of the gospel. They state that the
gospel comes to sinners as sinners and that it is every man's duty to savingly repent and
believe the gospel even though God has only elected certain sinners to salvation.
If one happens to believe that those called to Christ are always those that have been brought to see their lost condition such as the thirsty, the weary and heavy laden etc...they are labeled one of those dreaded hypercalvinists. Those that say that only the sensible convinced sinner has warrant to come to Christ are accused of preaching preparationism.
This article is not written to defend this so called "hypercalvinist" position since it needs no defending. The Scripture is clear that the gospel is not an offer but a proclamation and salvation is not a gift offered but a gift bestowed. The gospel with all its promises, comforts and consolations are pearls that should not be cast before swine. To treat these gospel promises which are holy things and give them to dogs is in violation of the teaching of our Lord. But what this article is about is the inconsistency of those that claim to hold to the free offer and yet betray themselves by their own actions.
Take the situation of the church member that comes to the conviction through some heart searching preaching that he is in fact not in a state of grace. This is a situation that happens a lot in Reformed circles because of the strong pointed preaching. This member goes to see his elders and confesses to them as to the pattern of his life and hands in his resignation. In most cases these elders, if convinced this persons is not in a state of grace, will counsel him or her to stay under the means of grace by a continuous attendance at church. Now we believe that this is the proper thing to do but is it consistent with a belief in the free offer of the gospel to sinners as sinners and duty faith and duty repentance? We say an emphatic NO!
Why have not these elders asked this man why he wasn't saved and what he was waiting for? What should have been done right on the spot was to tell this man that salvation is freely offered to him as a sinner right where he was sitting and that he was COMMANDED TO REPENT AND BELIEVE! These same men will defend their duty faith position with such texts as Ez. 18:31 (a text to national Israel under the Old Covenant) where Israel is told to make themselves a new heart but will not say the same thing to the lost. If this is what these men believe they are obligated to press those things home to the conscience of this person right there and then.
We are told in Psalms that when God speaks "it is done and when he commands it stands fast". Aren't all the commands of God to be carried out with immediate urgency? But I seriously doubt many will ever tell such a sinner to make himself a new heart. These elders should have been faithful to what they believed and not let that man leave until he got saved or left never wanting to hear anything about it again. After all he must have been concerned for his soul else why even talk to the elders and resign from the church? Why not just leave and go back into the world as many do?
The reason they will not do that is they are afraid of decisionism and rightly so. But the fact that these men would tell him to stay under the means of grace is admitting that this man had to be brought to a state of seeing his need of Christ.
Is this preparationism?
In a sense yes but it is
biblical preparationism where God does the preparing. Anything less is decisionism. Do we
really want people to come to Christ who have never been brought to see they are sinners?
Churches are filled with such. It is this very thing that is the essence of decisionism.
One comes to Christ with a mental assent to the facts of the gospel never seeing his need
to throw himself down upon Christ. Those are not the ones Jesus came to save because He
did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.
It may be argued that the elders normally attempt to resolve the problem first before advising the individual to continue to stay under the means of grace. We do not doubt that that may be the policy. But once the individual has not savingly embraced Christ what reason would there be for having him sit under the "means of grace"? The only reason would be that there is something that this sinner still lacks. What is that? It is the effectual work of the Holy Spirit upon his soul and that is the sovereign work of God alone that no one but God can initiate.
But suppose these elders upon approaching the sinner in such a manner the person says "but I thought I repented and believed what lack I yet? Why am I not saved?". What kind of answer can be given? When one commands, begs and pleads with sinners to believe, (something never done by the apostles to the lost), there is then no answer for the nominal professor who asks this question. After all he was just responding to the pleas and exhortations of the preacher. In many cases it was a mere moving of the emotions but nonetheless to him he was exercising an act of faith. All such nominal decisioned professors have one thing in common- they were never quickened by the Holy Spirit whereby they are brought to see their need of Christ. In such a case there is no warrant to call that sinner to Christ. What that sinner should have been told was to seek God "if PERHAPS they MIGHT feel after Him and find Him" Acts 17:27. Or we can say to him what Peter said to Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8:22 "Repent therefore of thy wickedness, and pray God, if PERHAPS the thought of thine heart MIGHT be forgiven thee". In both these cases it is not evangelical repentance or saving faith that the sinner is exhorted to perform.
May I say a closing word to any pastors that may read this? If you do believe that the gospel is freely and sincerely offered to all sinners as sinners indiscriminately and that it is the duty of such to savingly repent and believe then you MUST approach any such church member that way. You also must approach any prospective member who has no credible profession of faith the same way. It your duty and responsibility to do so. You should never counsel any sinner to sit under the means of grace since you believe it is his duty to urgently give himself a new heart, repent and believe the gospel right here and now. To tell them to sit under the means of grace is to either say that saving faith and evangelical repentance are not duties of dead sinners to perform but instead that they are covenant promises to the elect of God (as do us "hypercalvinists") or it is to misrepresent God as to as to the urgency of His command.
But be warned my brother if one such sinner makes a false profession in response to your pleas and free offers and ultimately proves to be a reprobate his blood will be upon your hands.