What is the Well-meant Offer of the Gospel?
As the name suggests, those that hold to the Well-meant Offer believe that God offers salvation to all who hear the preaching. They also say that this means God has a favourable attitude towards all humans in general and not just to the elect. The Well-meant Offer is closely linked to another false teaching called Common Grace, but we will not be touching on that error in this article.
At first glance, the Well-meant Offer might not seem to be a serious error. After all, God indeed uses the means of preaching to save His people and He also instructs us to preach the gospel to all nations. But as we will see later on in this article, this error has some serious implications for the believer.
Those that hold to the Well-meant Offer often charge us of being unreformed doctrinally and practically. Listed below are three objections that they use against us (there might be more, but for the sake of this discussion, we will limit it to the three below).
How can God call and command the non-elect to repent and be saved but yet not desire their salvation?
If God does not offer salvation through the preaching, then the preaching of the gospel is rendered powerless.
There is no assurance of salvation if salvation is not offered freely to all who hear the gospel (how can someone be assured of something if it is not offered freely?).
Response to the 1st point
The fundamental error made by those holding to the Well-meant Offer is failing to distinguish between the internal and external call of the gospel. The external call, or call by the preaching alone goes out to all nations. The reason why this external call also goes out to the reprobate is to leave them inexcusable and to harden their hearts.
The internal call is given to God’s elect alone, by the working of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. This internal call works powerfully and irresistibly in the elect to turn them to Christ. So we see that although the external call goes out to everyone, the internal call is only given to the elect; Matthew 22:14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”
The effectual, saving call that comes to the elect consists of the external preaching (external call) accompanied by the inner work of the Holy Spirit (internal call). This must be distinguished from the call to the reprobate by the external preaching alone, unaccompanied by any regenerating operation of the Holy Spirit.
Response to the 2nd point
The question to ask is: does God offer salvation? To this we answer with an emphatic NO! Salvation is the work of God alone. By saying that God offers salvation implies that man is able to choose if he wants to be saved and this gives glory to man rather than to God. Scripture also makes it very clear that this view is wrong, Romans 8:30 “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” The golden chain of salvation is all by the work of God alone, and the calling referred in Romans 8:30 is the effectual, saving call (both external and internal call) that comes to the elect.
The reason why the preaching of the gospel has power is because it is the work of God alone. If salvation is left in the hands of men as what is implied in the Well-meant Offer, then the gospel would indeed be powerless. The saving call (both external and internal call) of the gospel is efficacious (definitely able to accomplish the desired result) because the Gospel is the very Word of God and God’s Word will definitely come to pass; Isaiah 55:11 “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”
This teaching is also clearly stated in the confessions. Canons of Dordt, Head I, Article 8, “There are not various decrees of election, but one and the same decree respecting all those, who shall be saved, both under the Old and New Testament: since the Scripture declares the good pleasure, purpose and counsel of the divine will to be one, according to which he hath chosen us from eternity, both to grace and glory, to salvation and the way of salvation, which he hath ordained that we should walk therein.”
Response to the 3rd point
As mentioned in the earlier point, only this view of the call (where God is sovereign in the calling) gives all glory to God. Only this view gives encouragement to the church, that the preaching of the gospel is the very Voice of Christ and all who are His will hear His Voice, John 10:27 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me”. Only this view gives comfort to the believer; to know that salvation is the work of God alone, that God infallibly draws the believer to Himself, that God who is Jehovah our unchangeable covenant God works mightily in our hearts, Ezekiel 36:26 “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.”
Implications of the Well-meant Offer
Holding on to the Well-meant Offer leads to adopting many other errors as well. As discussed at the start of this article, those that hold on to the Well-meant Offer also hold on to the error of Common Grace where God has a certain favour or grace to all men. They argue by saying – how can God offer salvation to all yet not want them to be saved? This means that Irresistible Grace goes out the window, because holding on to the error means man has the ability to resist the grace of God when they reject the “offered” salvation.
Limited Atonement and Double Predestination (Election and Reprobation) are also attacked. The proponents of the Well-meant Offer say that since God offers salvation to all, He desires to save all. So they say that Christ died for all men head for head and Christ did not die only for the elect (there goes Limited Atonement). And since God wants to save all, how can God choose some to suffer eternal damnation? As a result, Double Predestination is rejected as well.
In fact, all the five points of Calvinism can be rejected by those that hold on to the Well-meant Offer.
Common Grace means that God has a favourable attitude to all men, and so they cannot be totally depraved.
The Well-meant Offer implies that men are able to choose God.
Limited Atonement is rejected as discussed above.
Irresistible Grace is rejected as discussed above.
Perseverance of the Saints
Since men have a part to play in salvation, men are able to lose that salvation.
The Well-meant Offer is nothing but Arminianism at heart and one question that those holding on to the Well-meant Offer are unable to answer clearly is this: Why are some saved by the preaching while others are not? The answer cannot be the sovereign grace of God because they say that the saving call is given to all. There are three possible answers for those that hold on to this error:
1. It is a mystery. God is able to both love and hate the same man. Somehow God both desires a man’s salvation yet decrees his damnation.
Our response: This is an evasion and not a proper response. There are no contradictions in the nature of God and Scripture is also clear that God does not love all men, Romans 9:13 – As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. Scripture also states clearly that God is the one who chooses His elect, Acts 13:48 – And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. )
2. The free will of man.
Our response: This is the Arminian response and clearly denied by Scripture; Romans 9:16 “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”
Universal Salvation. This view means that God’s grace saves everyone in the end.
3. Our response: This is entirely unbiblical in all aspects as Scripture clearly teaches that not all men are saved. This view is the death knell of preaching; why preach when everyone is saved? Why live an antithetical life if in the end everyone ends up in heaven?
We see that one error will lead to more errors being introduced, so may we continue to be diligent in our study of Scripture and ever vigilant in spotting the lie, Soli Deo Gloria!
Written by: Cornelius Boon | Issue 36