In the link below, hosted at The Gospel Coalition, you will find a sermon preached by Sinclair Ferguson on the Free Offer of Salvation. In it, Dr. Ferguson gives a brief exposition of 2 Cor 5:11-21 and the centrality of preaching Christ. He briefly talks about the errors of both Arminians on the one hand, and those that repudiate Arminian errors by going to the opposite extreme – hyper-Calvinism. A few notes are given below.
2 Cor 5:11-21
Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences. …And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
A question those that believe in God’s Sovereignty and God’s Free grace as being the origin and cause of our salvation must ponder is: how can we freely proclaim God’s grace to sinners when salvation is presented in the New Testament in a way that is particular, distinguishing, and effectual?
The Apostle Paul, after all, presents to us a robust and rich doctrine of grace consisting in:
- The Depravity of Man – Romans 3
- Unconditional Election – Ephesians 1
- Definite Atonement and Efficacious Grace – 2 Cor 5
- The Nature of the Gospel
- The Manner in Which it is Offered
- The Marks of Those Who Preach It
The Gospel is the story of God ‘reconciling the world unto himself.’ This reconciliation is based upon the dual imputation of my guilt upon Christ, his bearing away it’s curse, and Him imputing His righteousness to me (Rom 5:12-19, Rom 4:22-24, etc.). In the Apostle Paul’s preaching, we do not see him offering the benefits of grace to his listeners, but rather he preaches Christ. He preaches Christ Himself, crucified, buried, risen, ascended, ruling, and coming again! Paul says, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor 2:1-2).
We should preach as John the Baptist who said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29), and we should herald as Paul, “be ye reconciled to God.”
Dr. Ferguson counters two great errors that abound regarding the offer of salvation: 1) the Arminian/Dispensationalist who offers the benefits of Christ apart from Christ. You cannot have the saving benefits of Christ and not have Christ. “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: “…For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord” (2 Cor 4:3-5); that is – “as the Lord”. The overcorrecting extreme, then, is 2) to claim that election is the only warrant for preaching the gospel. To this, Ferguson states simply that a) every man is a sinner in need of a Saviour, b) Jesus Christ is the only Saviour (Acts 4:12), and c) He has promised to save to the uttermost all who come to Him for salvation (and he clearly invites all to come, I might add).
To Dr. Ferguson, we do not preach the gospel in order to expound the mysteries in the order and cause of salvation, but rather to expound the glory of Christ and Him crucified for sinners.
Let the Scriptures Be Heard
– “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” (1 Tim 1:15)
– “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
But they have not all obeyed the gospel.” (Rom 10:13-16)
Yes, my friends, the gospel must be obeyed!
“Freely ye have received, freely give.”