The OPC and the “Free Offer” (4)

We now continue to demonstrate from the Westminster Confession of Faith that the offer-theology set forth in the Murray-Stonehouse pamphlet,The Free Offer of the Gospel, is inconsistent with our Reformed confessions. 

In Chapter III, 5 we read (and again, I insert the references to the Scriptural proofs, which the Confession quotes in full):

Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, bath chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory

Eph. 1:4, 9, 11; Rom. 8:30; II Tim. 1:9; I Thess. 5:9,

out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto

Rom. 9:11, 13, 16; Eph. 1:4, 9:

and all to the praise of His glorious grace.

Eph. 1:6, 12

This article teaches that God’s grace and love were toward His elect in Christ from eternity. And, in the light of what this same Confession teaches concerning reprobation, it teaches that God’s grace and love are for the elect exclusively. The Murray-Stonehouse pamphlet teaches that God is filled with lovingkindness toward the reprobate. It teaches a grace for all that is revealed in the gospel. And no amount of mental gymnastics can harmonize the two or even persuade a man that both positions are possible. 

For note that in Chapter III, 7 the same Westminster Confession states the following:

The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extendeth or withholdeth mercy, as He pleaseth, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice.

Matt. 11:25, 26; Rom. 9:17, 18, 21, 22; II Tim. 2:19, 20; Jude 1:4; I Pet. 2:8

Now let us notice, for the purposes of this discussion, that this article speaks infralapsarian language: for it speaks of the passing by of the reprobate. This only strengthens our argument, and it prevents anyone from claiming that the controversy about the offer is one ofsupra against infra. This has been claimed upon occasion in the past, as though basically infra is more sympathetic to the Arminian position than is supra. Anyone who claims this either does not understand infralapsarianism as over against Arminianism—and at the same time betrays little knowledge of the history of doctrine (it is the infralapsarian Canons of Dordrecht, after all, which controvert the Arminian heresy!)—or he is deliberately twisting the truth. No sound and consistent infralapsarian could possibly agree with the offer-theology of the Murray-Stonehouse pamphlet. 

Notice, secondly, that for all its infra language, this article emphasizes very clearly that reprobation is sovereign and unconditional: 

1) It speaks of God’s good pleasure: God “was pleased . . .” 

2) It speaks of the fact that God extendeth or withholdeth mercy “according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will.” 

3) It speaks of the fact that He reprobates “for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures.” 

4) And note very carefully that it speaks of the fact that God was pleased “to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin.” Notice, please, that the phrase “for their sin” does not belong with the words “to ordain.” That would be conditional reprobation: reprobation on the basis of foreseen sin. That is the Arminian position. And that is the only consistent position which the offer-theology can take with respect to reprobation. But the words “for their sin” belong with “dishonor and wrath.” This also explains how the Confession can add at this point: “to the praise of His glorious justice.” 

Now the position of offer-theology is in direct contradiction of the above article of faith. The protagonists of this position may expostulate again and again that when they speak of the offer of the gospel, they are not referring to the decretive will of God, while at the same time they claim that they are not referring simply to “the bare preceptive will of God.” This is a ruse by which no one—least of all, they themselves—can be convinced. The fact remains that they attribute to the will of God two totally contradictory desires: 

1. God wills the damnation of the reprobate: He has ordained them to dishonor and wrath.

2. God has a real disposition of lovingkindness toward the reprobate, according to which He wills their salvation. 

And it is impossible for any rational mind to hold both positions. 

Next we call your attention to Chapter III, 6:

As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto.

I Pet. 1:2; Eph. 1:4, 5; Eph. 2:10; II Thess. 2:13

Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ

I Thess. 5:9, 10; Tit. 2:14,

are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified

Rom. 8:30; Eph. 1:5; II Thess. 2:13,

and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation.

I Pet. 1:5

Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.

John 17:9; Rom. 8:28-39; John 6:64, 65; John 10:26; John 8:45; I John 2:19

This article connects the whole of our salvation, both objective and subjective, with the decree of election. The foreordination of the elect includes not only their appointment unto glory but also “all the means thereunto.” And these means include the work of Christfor us, that is, His redemption, and the work of Christ in us: calling, faith, justification, adoption, sanctification, and preservation. Notice, too, that there is a strict limitation in this article, in the form of an exclusion: “Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.” (emphasis added) This is worthy of special note. Sometimes it has been claimed that this element of exclusiveness is not found in the Westminster Confession. But this is obviously not correct. 

But an article such as this presents insurmountable difficulties for the offer-theology. In the first place, if the redemption of Christ through the cross is for the elect only, it is evident that there was in God no desire to save all men and no disposition of lovingkindness toward all men when He gave His only begotten Son: for then He would certainly have redeemed them all, something which He did not do. In the second place, if Christ died and paid the price of redemption for the elect only, and for none other, then God has no salvation to offer the reprobate. The benefits of the cross were purchased only for the elect. How, then, can it be truthfully said—not only by the human preacher, but by God Himself—that He offers salvation to all and that He desires the salvation of all? Such an offer cannot possibly be bonafide! In the third place, what kind of God does the offer-theology presuppose? A God Who desires the salvation of all, but Who does not provide for their salvation? A God Who is able certainly to save whomsoever He desires to save, and Who claims that He desires the salvation of all and is filled with lovingkindness toward all, but Who nevertheless neither redeems, nor calls effectually, nor justifies, nor adopts, nor sanctifies, nor preserves? Among men anyone who would thus conduct himself would be called a cruel fraud and deceiver! And how much more is this true of such a God! Yet this is the God of the offer-theology! 

This concludes our quotations from Chapter III of the Westminster Confession.