Candidates For Grace? An Offer But You’ve Got to Make it Personal For You?

Jesus Christ either already died personally for you, or He did not.  All those for whom Christ died will believe the gospel, but their believing is NOT what makes Christ’s death “personal for them”.

The gospel is not an invitation for you to “write your name in the blank” . The gospel  tells about Christ’s death being the death of those who will be justified.  This is the verything that  the false gospel does not and cannot say.

The false gospel has to talk only about “candidates for grace” because the false gospel  in rebellion against God wants to tell sinner that grace is conditioned on the “candidate”   It says “our guilt CAN be taken away, and we COULD be counted righteous.”  The “could be” means  “might or might not”, depending on the decision of the sinner: “Jesus suffered the penalty due our sins so that we DON’T HAVE TO.”

That’s the same false gospel I have been hearing all my life.  All our lives we have been hearing Arminianism, and most people who profess to be Christians profess that what Jesus did (in death and resurrection) sets up a plan which makes it possible for you to give him your sins and then for Him to save you.

The Arminian idea is that God has a “plan” or a “proposal” that has “potential” if you opt in. Or to say it the way they sometimes say it, if you don’t opt out. Arminians start with the assumption of the universal fatherhood of God, of God’s love for everybody. But then if something goes wrong with the relationship with their god that their god “made possible”, it’s your fault.

There was potential, but what you did (or didn’t do) was the “deal-breaker”.  The more traditional Arminians think that their god saw the train coming (your opting out or not opting in), but there was nothing their god could or would do to change anything. The more modern arminian god is simply surprised that things didn’t work out.  But in both cases, you are flattered as the one who gets to make the deal, as the one who gets to put your sins on their god or not. You are seen as the final exchanger and imputer.

II Corinthians 5:15 does not teach that Christ died for our sins so that we don’t have to; it says that those for whom Christ died also died with him.  That is substitution, and you cannot teach substitution  unless you describe which sinners Christ died for.  To teach substitution, you actually have to say that all for whom Christ died will definitely and justly go free!

If Christ died for every sinner but some of these sinners will perish,  then that may be some sort of “substitution” but it not a saving substitution.  II Corinthians 5:15 does not use the word “elect”, but the only ALTERNATIVE way to understand the identity of the “for” and the “with” is to teach an universalism in which every sinner has died to sin and will be justified.

I think most “ tolerant Calvinists would rather live as practical de facto universalists then  dare talk about election in connection with II Corinthians 5.   They fear any good news which teaches that the elect have already died to judgment when Christ died for them will cause moral problems down the line.

The advantage for most evangelicals in not talking about election in II Cor 5 is that they can take the phrase “live for Him who died for them” and use it to lay duties on every sinner they meet. But there is no point in talking about any such duties until a sinner has obeyed the true gospel and repented from the dead works of the false gospel. Until after that, we are all simply guilty, born in guilt, dead in guilt.

Some teach that “we are saved not only by believing the fact that Christ died for our sins, but by union with the crucified and risen Jesus.”  The idea is that the decision of the sinner (after she is regenerated) will make the union happen. But the gospel does not tell sinners who the elect are; the gospel tells sinners about election, and that some already are elect and some are not.

It IS a fact that there was one kind of “union” of the elect in Christ so that already at the cross, long before (or after) they are justified, Christ paid by death for their sins. Faith does not make this aspect of the union happen.

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6 Comments on “Candidates For Grace? An Offer But You’ve Got to Make it Personal For You?”


    from Blocher, p 564, From Heaven he Came

    Some of the Reformed have denied the universal love of God. though they quote verses such as Malachi 1:3 (Esau I have haged) and Psalm 5:5, their denial is so opposed to the drift of Scripture that I rule it out of court.

    So Blocher teaches universal love but not ‘egalitarian love which smacks of humanism”

    So he disagrees with Barth and the Torrances when they claim that “any attribute necessary to God is necessarily exercised by God equally on all of whom it is logically possible to exercise it.”

    Blocher praises the “beautiful essay” by Andrew Swanson, “The Love of God for the Non-Elect”, Reformation Today, May 1976

    p 565 “I choose to speak of God’s will of desire (which generates precepts) and God’s will of decree.”

    “The permissive character of the sovereign decision over the vessels of wrath makes it possible to coexist with the salvific desire and universal love. Yet it is no rational decision solution. I cannot understand why the Lord of Lords so decides about men and women he loves.”



    the difficulty of “offering” one thing, when two things are needed

    the slippery word “provision”

    making the cross necessary but not sufficient “by itself”

    since those who “offer”
    don’t think Christ’s death is enough (insufficient sufficiency!) alone
    they don’t think it works unless you repent and make it work

    and the “offer Reformed” teach that
    the non-elect are unable to repent
    and since they are non-elect, God has no plan to give them repentance
    they can’t ever get what’s “offered”

    since they can’t get that second thing, the first thing is useless
    of no account

    Galatians 2:2 1 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness[c] were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

    God commands faith in the gospel, even though God knows which ones will not and cannot ever have faith in the gospel

    so it’s not only a matter of our being ignorant of who will or won’t believe the gospel


    Turretin, As if this were the design of Christ— I wish to obtain redemption for all to the end that it may be applied to them, provided that they believe, and yet to multitudes I am resolved neither to reveal this redemption, nor to give to those to whom it is revealed that condition without which it can be applied to them ( ie, I desire that to come to pass which I not only know will not and cannot take place, but also what I am unwilling should take place because I refuse to communicate that without which it can never be brought to pass as it depends upon myself alone). Now if this were not becoming in a wise man, how much less in Christ, supremely wise and good?
    Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 2:467


    it will always be said that the problem here is merely semantics, and that we need to remember that God has “two wills” and that we must use the word “will” in two senses. But the truth of it is that people who advocate the “free offer” are intentionally use the word “will” in a double sense so as to sneak in their assumption without making an argument for it. God’s law does not depend on the ability of humans to keep it for that law to be legitimate. Of course God can and does command all sinners to believe the gospel. The Arminian argument is that inability to keep the law would mean that we have no duty to keep the law. But Hoeksema nowhere makes this argument Offer folks assume that God loves all sinners. When we denies that, we are accused of making duty dependi on ability.

    This is doing exactly what Andrew Fuller did, which is confusing the gospel with the law. It was not Hoeksema but Andrew Fuller who ultimately made duty depend on ability, because it was Andrew Fuller who said that if God commanded all sinners to believe the gospel, then we must make some kind of distinction between “moral inability” and “natural inability” so that we can say that all sinners can be told that God loves them. Fuller got this from the New England Theology (and Jonathan Edwards). Instead of merely saying that God commands all sinners to believe the gospel, the “offer”folk turn this command into the “will of God” and then confuses this “will of God” with the non-biblical idea that God “wants and wishes and desires” to save all sinners. It comes down to the idea that, since God commands you to believe the gospel, then that must mean that God wishes (unsuccessfully in many cases) that you would believe the gospel, and that those who deny this are being “insincere” when they call people to believe the gospel.

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Richard Muller—“Use of the language of personal relationship with Jesus often indicates a qualitative loss of the traditional Reformation language of being justified by grace alone through faith in Christ and being, therefore, adopted as children of God in and through our graciously given union with Christ. Personal relationships come about through mutual interaction and thrive because of common interests. They are never or virtually never grounded on a forensic act such as that indicated in the doctrine of justification by faith apart from works – in fact personal relationships rest on a reciprocity of works or acts. The problem here is not the language itself: The problem is the way in which it can lead those who emphasize it to ignore the Reformation insight into the nature of justification and the character of believer’s relationship with God in Christ.

    Such language of personal relationship all too easily lends itself to an Arminian view of salvation as something accomplished largely by the believer in cooperation with God. A personal relationship is, of its very nature, a mutual relation, dependent on the activity – the works – of both parties.

    (“How Many Points?” Calvin Theological Journal, Vol. 28 (1993): 425-33 Riddelblog)

  6. markmcculley Says:

    What Elements Are Implied in the Idea of an Offer?”
    Herman Hoeksema

    What, if we do not play with words, is the idea of an offer? What are the various elements implied in that term?

    In the first place, there is certainly implied the earnest and sincere desire, on the part of him who offers, to bestow something upon a certain person or persons. If there is an offer of grace on God’s part to all men, then this implies, if it means anything at all, that there is in God the earnest will and desire to bestow grace on all men. If this is not the case, if the defenders of this doctrine deny this, then the offer is simply not sincere and honourable. But the defenders of this theory even emphasize this point when they add that this offer is well-meant.

    In the second place, the concept offer also includes, if it is to mean anything, that he who makes the offer actually possesses that which he offers, that it is available, so that in case the offer is accepted, it can also be granted. Anyone who offers something which he does not possess is branded a dishonourable bluff among men. If therefore the general offer of grace and salvation is to mean anything, if one does not play with words when he uses that term, then there must be grace and salvation for all men.

    In the third place, there is implied in an offer the idea that that which is offered is recommended to another. He who offers manifests his earnest desire that that which is offered shall be accepted; and for that reason he highly commends it. With a view to our subject, this implies that God manifests the earnest desire that all men shall be saved—everyone, head for head and soul for soul. For in the presentation of such a general offer it is precisely emphasized that this well-meant offer exactly does not pertain only to the elect, but to all men who come under the preaching of the Gospel. And not carefully, the doctrine is not that the Gospel must be preached to all men by the preacher, but that God Himself offers His grace to all men and thereby manifests the earnest desire that it shall be accepted by all.

    In the fourth place, the idea of such a general and well-meant offer of grace and salvation implies that the one who offers either makes the offer unconditionally or upon a condition of which he knows that those to whom the offer comes are able to fulfil it. If I set a delicious meal before someone who is bound hand and foot, offer that meal to him and express my earnest desire that he may do justice to that meal, then I mock him. Applied to our subject, the well-meant offer of grace and salvation implies that God knows that all men can accept it. Unless you are playing with words, you shall have to concede this.
    Everyone will have to concede that all these elements are implied in the idea of an offer.

    Do not say now that we again want to comprehend things, that we are putting reason on the foreground. For such bogey-men have no effect on us. We are not engaged in trying to harmonise one thing with another before our rational understanding. We are simply discussing the ordinary meaning of the words which are used by those who speak of a general offer of grace. When we use words, then those words have meaning. We cannot simply inject into them a meaning as it pleases us or as it may best suit us. And without any danger of contradiction we can indeed establish that all that we have written above is indeed included in the notion of an offer.

    None of the four elements mentioned can be eliminated. If you nevertheless exclude one of them, you have no offer left. We say this the more freely because the entire term “well-meant and general offer of grace” never occurs in Holy Scripture. It is a term of human invention. And in the paragraphs above we have done nothing else than to analyze the term in order to understand what we are discussing.

    Now thus understood, the entire notion of a general, well-meant offer of grace militates at every point against the biblical, Reformed conception of God’s grace.

    For as far as the first point is concerned, the Reformed doctrine is not that there is with God the earnest will and desire to bestow grace upon all men; but grace is particular according to God’s decree and intention. God does not will in any single sense of the word that all men, head for head and soul for soul, shall be saved. He wills to bestow grace upon the elect, and upon none other. This is the clear scriptural, Reformed doctrine. And not only has He determined to bestow grace only upon some; He has also determined to bestow no grace on others. There is therefore also a determinate will in God to bestow no grace upon some men. And with this, the first essential element of a general offer is already ruled out and simply made impossible. You cannot be Reformed and speak of a general offer of grace on God’s part.

    With respect to the second point, namely, that he who makes an offer must possess that which he offers, the Reformed doctrine is that Christ has not made satisfaction for all men, that the satisfaction of Christ is particular, pertains only to the elect, that grace for all men was never merited by Christ, and that therefore it simply does not exist. With this, according to Reformed standards, the second essential element of such a general offer of grace and salvation falls away. Everyone shall have to concede that I cannot offer what I do not possess. Every Reformed person will concede that there is in Christ no grace for all men. And every rational person will also grant that either the Reformed position or that of a general offer of grace and salvation must fall.

    As far as the third point is concerned, namely, that he who offers must clearly manifest that what he offers is sincerely intended for all to whom it is offered, it is the Reformed doctrine that this is precisely not the case. No Reformed preacher may ever say that God has intended grace for everyone. But herewith the third essential element also falls away. God simply does not offer grace to all, i.e., He Himself teaches us most clearly that He wills to bestow grace only on the elect. Also in this respect the one view literally militates against the other.

    Finally, it is the Reformed doctrine, in contrast with the fourth point which we mentioned as an essential element of every offer, that no natural man can accept grace in Christ, that grace is precisely not a matter of offer and acceptance whatsoever, but of the irresistible operation of the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hence, if one presents things as though grace in Christ is an unconditional offer on God’s part to sinful man, then this conflicts with the Reformed position: for there is no man who would by nature be willing to accept God’s grace. And if you propose that salvation in Christ is an earnest offer of grace on condition of faith, then this is equally not in harmony with the Reformed position: for no one is in a position to fulfil that condition.

    In one word, it is Reformed to say that there is no one among men who even possesses in himself the very least of that whereby he would be able to accept an offered salvation. But with this position also the possibility of an offer falls away absolutely. For what sense does it have to speak of an offer of something to men of whom one is certain that they cannot accept that which is offered?

    It is plain, therefore, that at every point the idea of a general, well-meant offer of grace and salvation militates against the Reformed truth. The one is simply a denial of the other.

    The two exclude one another. For that reason we said that we consider the idea dangerous. It is misleading. Therefore it is even more dangerous that plain and simply Arminianism.

    And in order to do this they have to accomplish the juggling act of maintaining two mutually exclusive ideas and forcing these upon faith. And if then one points out that this cannot be, that you can never demand this of a reasonable faith, then they tell you that this belongs to the mysteries and that you may not try to penetrate further into this. As if we make ourselves guilty of spiritual intrusion when we ask that they make plain to us how it can be true that God offers something which He does not want to bestow, that He wills that which He does not will (“will” taken here in the same sense both times), that black is white, that yes is no, or, according to the presentation of the “double-track” philosophy of VanBaalen, how can a train run at the same time on two sets of rails in two opposite directions.

    But it finally comes down to this, that men consider Reformed what is purely Remonstrant, and delude the congregation into thinking that they are proclaiming the Reformed truth while they nevertheless do nothing else than proclaim and strongly defend Arminianism.

    (Herman Hoeksema, “A Power of God Unto Salvation Or Grace Not An Offer,” [RFPA, 1932], pp. 1-3)

    [See for more information.] Thanks to David Hutchings on Facebook, for this!

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