January 18, 2007

Various Confessions and the Gospel Offer

Some think that important Reformed confessions do not make much (or even nothing at all) of a desire or will in God for the salvation of all. Since an offer by God is by definition sincere or "serious", then the confessions that speak of God's indescriminate offer of salvation are by implication addressing a wish or desire in God for the salvation of all. Moreover, how could "grace" be "offered" by God and it not be well-meant? I simply cannot see how some can think there is a serious offer of grace to any whom God does not desire the salvation thereof, etc. Thus, it seems to me that a denial of a wish or desire in God for the salvation of all is virtually the same as denying God's well-meant offer of grace, which is an aspect of hyper-Calvinism. However, let it be known that I reserve the label "hyper-Calvinism" for those who explicitly deny a well-meant gospel offer by God in the external call. It just seems to be the case that some want to deny a desire in God in the gospel offer and yet maintain that they are not denying the well-meant gospel offer. They wish to be reckoned within the pale of Reformed orthodoxy. Frankly, if I denied that God desired the salvation of any non-elect person, I would see the obvious implications of that and deny that there are well-meant gospel offers made to them. Nota Bene: A command by God implies or presupposes a desire or wish for compliance, and He's commanding all men everywhere to repent.

Just as the confessions address "duty-faith" implicitly, so they address the "well-meant gospel offer" or (the desire or wish of God for the salvation of all) by implication.

Dort: 3-4: 9

It is not the fault of the gospel, nor of Christ offered therein, nor of God, who calls men by the gospel and confers upon them various gifts, that those who are called by the ministry of the Word refuse to come and be converted. The fault lies in themselves; some of whom when called, regardless of their danger, reject the Word of life; others, though they receive it, suffer it not to make a lasting impression on their heart; therefore, their joy, arising only from a temporary faith, soon vanishes, and they fall away; while others choke the seed of the Word by perplexing cares and the pleasures of this world, and produce no fruit. This our Savior teaches in the parable of the sower (Matt. 13).

3-4:14

Faith is therefore to be considered as the gift of God, not on account of its being offered by God to man, to be accepted or rejected at his pleasure, but because it is in reality conferred upon him, breathed and infused into him; nor even because God bestows the power or ability to believe, and then expects that man should by the exercise of his own free will consent to the terms of salvation and actually believe in Christ, but because He who works in man both to will and to work, and indeed all things in all, produces both the will to believe and the act of believing also.

French Confession:

Art: XIII. We believe that all that is necessary for our salvation was offered and communicated to us in Jesus Christ. He is given to us for our salvation, and 'is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:' so that if we refuse him, we renounce the mercy of the Father, in which alone we can find a refuge.

Westminster:

10:2: This effectual call is of God's free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man,who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.

Shorter Catechism:

Q31: What is effectual calling?
A31: Effectual calling is the work of God's Spirit, whereby convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.

Shorter Catechism:

Q86: What is faith in Jesus Christ?
A86: Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.

Larger Catechism:

Q68: Are the elect only effectually called?
A68: All the elect, and they only, are effectually called; although others may be, and often are, outwardly called by the ministry of the word, and have some common operations of the Spirit; who, for their wilful neglect and contempt of the grace offered to them, being justly left in their unbelief, do never truly come to Jesus Christ.

LBC London Baptist 10:2

This effectual call is of God's free and special grace alone, not from anything at all forseen in man, nor from any power or agency in the creature, being wholly passive therein, being dead in sins and trespasses, until being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit; he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it, and that by no less power than that which raised up Christ from the dead.

Savoy, 10:2

This effectual call is of God's free and special grace alone, not from any thing at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.

Second Helvetic:

Chapt 17: What Is the Church? The Church is an assembly of the faithful called or gathered out of the world; a communion, I say, of all saints, namely, of those who truly know and rightly worship and serve the true God in Christ the Savior, by the Word and Holy Spirit, and who by faith are partakers of all benefits which are freely offered through Christ.

39 Articles, Art 7:

The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.

LC 67:
Q67: What is effectual calling?
A67: Effectual calling is the work of God's almighty power and grace, whereby (out of his free and special love to his elect, and from nothing in them moving him thereunto) he doth, in his accepted time, invite and draw them to Jesus Christ, by his word and Spirit; savingly enlightening their minds, renewing and powerfully determining their wills, so as they (although in themselves dead in sin) are hereby made willing and able freely to answer his call, and to accept and embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein.

Berne Theses: published and revised later by Zwingli, written by Berthold Haller and Francis Kolb.

Article 3

Christ is the only wisdom, righteousness, redemption, and satisfaction for the the sins of the whole world.

Translated in Schaff Creeds of Christendom, vol 1, p., 365.

If Christ is the redemption of the whole world or suffered for the sins of the whole human race, then it certainly stems from the fact that God in the revealed sense wills/wants/wishes/desires their salvation. The same can be argued from the following confession.

Heidelberg Catechism, Question #37:

Q. What does it mean that He suffered?

A. That all the time He lived on earth, but especially at the end of His life, He bore, in body and soul, the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race, in order that by His passion, as the only atoning sacrifice, He might redeem our body and soul from everlasting damnation and obtain for us the grace of God, righteousness, and eternal life.

6 comments:

David Ponter said...

Hey Tony,

You forgot LC 67, where the LC uses the words offer and invite interchangably.

Thats actually very important.

David Ponter said...

Here it is:

Q67: What is effectual calling?
A67: Effectual calling is the work of God's almighty power and grace, whereby (out of his free and special love to his elect, and from nothing in them moving him thereunto) he doth, in his accepted time, invite and draw them to Jesus Christ, by his word and Spirit; savingly enlightening their minds, renewing and powerfully determining their wills,so as they (although in themselves dead in sin) are hereby made willing and able freely to answer his call, and to accept and embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein.

David

YnottonY said...

Thanks David. I put it in the main post section now.

David Ponter said...

Well if you are gonna go Berne, you might as well include the lovely comment from Bullinger in the Second Helvetic where he says Christ died for the sins of the world, etc. Then put that back to back with his comment about Christ dying for all men of all ages, in all places, to clearly demonstrate authorial intent. :-)

And more, the offer comment from the Second Helvetic, how that death for the sins of the world, which was for all men in all times in all places is offered to all.
:-)

We have three fairly weighty confessions in our favour, the Second Helvetic, The Heidelberg Catechism, and the 39 Articles, as well as the lesser known comments, such as the Berne theses. But those three creeds still continue to influence churches and folk today. Eg., among the eastern european Reformed, the Second Helvetic is still the dominant Reformed Creed in many places.

And we know that the Hiedelberg is part of the 3 forms of unity, and te 39 articles, well you know that.

Take care,
David

David Ponter said...

Bullinger:

The Second Helvetic Confession:

Imputed Righteousness. For Christ took upon himself and bore the sins of the world, and satisfied divine justice. Therefore, solely on account of Christ's sufferings and resurrection God is propitious with respect to our sins and does not impute them to us, but imputes Christ's righteousness to us as our own (II Cor. 5:19 ff.; Rom. 4:25), so that now we are not only cleansed and purged from sins or are holy, but also, granted the righteousness of Christ, and so absolved from sin, death and condemnation, are at last righteous and heirs of eternal life. Properly speaking, therefore, God alone justifies us, and justifies only on account of Christ, not imputing sins to us but imputing his righteousness to us. [Chapter XV Of the True Justification of the Faithful.]


Lets be crystal clear here. By sins of the world, Bullinger means all the sins of all the world, no exception:

To be short, when we say and confess that Jesus Christ is the priest or bishop of the faithful people, we say that; that Christ is our chosen and appointed teacher and master, to govern and teach his universal church, to make intercession for us, and to plead all our suits faithfully before the Father in heaven; which is the only patron, mediator, and advocate of the faithful with God; who by the sacrifice of his body is the perpetual and only satisfaction, absolution, and justification of all sinners throughout the whole world...

He never sacrificed in the temple at the holy altars either of incense or of burnt-offerings. He never used priestly garments, which were figurative; whereof I spoke when I expounded the ceremonial laws [Heb. 8]. Therefore, when he would sacrifice for the satisfaction of the sins of the whole world, he suffered without the gate, and offered himself a lively and a most holy sacrifice, according as in the shadows or types, prophecies and figures foreshewed in the law of Moses: whereof in like manner I have entreated in the discourse of ceremonial laws... And that only sacrifice is always effectual to make satisfaction for all the sins of all men in the whole world... Christians know that the sacrifice of Christ once offered is always effectual to make satisfaction for the sins of all men in the whole world, and of all men of all ages: but these men with often outcries say, that it is flat heresy not to confess that Christ is daily offered of sacrificing priests, consecrated to that purpose. Decades, 4th Decade, Sermon 7, vol 2, pp., 285-286, 287, and 296. [His reference to these men is to Rome’s priests and to the Mass.]

And this satisfaction is offered to us.

YnottonY said...

Synod of Dort

Article 8

As many as are called by the gospel, are unfeignedly called. For God hath most earnestly and truly shown in his Word, what is pleasing to him, namely, that those who are called should come to him. He, moreover, seriously promises eternal life, and rest, to as many as shall come to him, and believe on him.